Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. Planet Earth. Is there anything else like us? (Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, Patagonia, photo courtesy of Lauren Brewer, with thanks. See full resolution.)

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, June 17, 2016.

The next skylights will appear July 1.

The Moon starts off toward the end of its waxing gibbous phase, which abruptly ends at full Moon the morning of Monday, June 20, about the time of Moonset in North America. It then reverses itself in the waning gibbous phase, which terminates at last quarter on Monday the 27th, after which we see it as a waning crescent. The night of Friday the 17th, the Moon will shine to the northeast of Mars and to the northwest of Saturn, above the line that connects the two planets and above Antares in Scorpius. The following night the Moon will appear just to the left of the ringed planet, the Moon, Saturn, and Antares falling into a nice line.

Jupiter, well to the west as the sky darkens, sets shortly before 1 AM Daylight Time as we open our fortnight and about midnight as we conclude. The Big Show is off to the south, where in mid-evening we can see astonishingly bright Mars (though fading, still nearly as bright as Jupiter) followed by Saturn to the east and Antares down below. It's a remarkable sight, especially in a dark sky, which allows one to see Scorpius and the Milky Way. Be sure to note the strong color contrast between the yellow-white Jupiter/Saturn pair and reddish Mars. The color of the two giant planets comes from reflection of sunlight off ammonia clouds floating in a hydrogen- helium atmosphere loaded with hydrocarbons, whereas Mars's color comes largely from iron oxide: rust. The group begins to set around 3 AM.

At 5:34 PM CDT (6:34 EDT, 4:34 MDT, 3:34 PDT) on Monday, June 20, the Sun passes the Summer Solstice, when and where it is as far to the north as it can get, 23.4 degrees north of the celestial equator. On that day the Sun rises and sets as far to the north of east and west as possible, is overhead at the Tropic of Cancer, and the midnight Sun stretches as far to the south of the North Pole as the Arctic Circle. In the northern hemisphere, daylight hours are longest and night is shortest. The Sun thereafter begins its slow trek to the south toward the Autumnal Equinox, which it will pass on the first day of autumn.

With the Sun at the Summer Solstice, the Winter Solstice will cross the celestial meridian to the south at local midnight, the main figure of Sagittarius to the east (the Solstice within its border) and Scorpius to the west. North of Scorpius stands great Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, while farther north we find Hercules, who needs no introduction and who stands between orange Arcturus (to the south as the sky darkens) and almost-as-bright Vega to the northeast. To the right of the Hero is the charming semi-circular pattern of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.
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