Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
Photo of the Week.. A glorious sunrise features the
June 8, 2004 transit of Venus, the black dot of the planet seen at
far right against the solar disk. The Sun is "flattened" as a
result of refraction in the Earth's atmosphere, while the colors
come from looking through layered ground haze.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 11, 2004.
The Moon, having passed its third quarter last week, now wanes in its crescent phase
toward new, which it will reach during the middle of the day on
Thursday, June 17. It will not have cleared the Sun enough to be
visible that night, but be on the watch for it in evening twilight
on Friday the 18th.
Venus, now completely invisible, has made its long-awaited transit
across the disk of the Sun. Photos galore follow. The planet is
now on the morning side of the Sun. Moving quickly against the
stars and Sun, the planet will begin to be visible in the dawn sky
toward the end of the month. In the meantime, we are losing
Saturn to evening twilight, while
Mars now sets as twilight comes to an end. After the grand
planetary show of the last months, we are pretty much left with
Jupiter, which all by itself still puts on a fine show as it
slowly courses through southern Leo. The brightest thing in the evening sky (after of
course the Moon), Jupiter does not set until local midnight (1 AM
Perhaps with "ancient" planets mostly gone, it is time to recognize
the outer ones.
Uranus, in Aquarius, began its
retrograde motion last Thursday, the 10th, while that distant
Pluto passes opposition to the Sun as the week begins, on
Friday the 11th. The tilt of the planet's orbit is so great that
it can quite leave the Zodiac. For years, Pluto has been ensconced
within southern Ophiuchus (the
Serpent Bearer). Only within the past year or so has it
finally changed its starry home, as it has now crossed the border
over into Serpens (the Serpent).
Serpens is the only constellation broken into two non-contiguous
parts, Serpens Caput (the Head of the Serpent) and Serpens Cauda
(the Tail). Moving at a leisurely rate of just under 1.5 degrees
per year, Serpens Cauda will be Pluto's home for the next few
years. The little body, only 2/3 the size of our Moon, is as much
a part of the extended Kuiper
"debris" belt as it is a planet.
Serpens and Ophiuchus are now approaching evening visibility. Well
up now in the far northern hemisphere is Ursa Major, which contains the Big Dipper. Well to the west of the Dipper is the set
of stars that comes to a bit of a point that makes the head of the
Bear. Western Ursa Major is to the northern hemisphere as Carina, the Keel of Argo, is to residents of the southern
hemisphere, who see the latter slipping inexorably to the west as
we approach northern hemisphere summer and southern hemisphere