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. Remebering Jupiter.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 21, 2013.

Summer has arrived. The night of Thursday, June 20, the Sun crossed the Summer Solstice in classical Gemini 23.4 degrees north of the celestial equator. By the time of sunrise Friday morning, the season will have commenced, with the Sun rising and setting as far to the north of east and west as possible. This special day of Friday the 21st will be the longest of the year, the nights of the 20th and 21st the shortest. Enjoy the show, because the Sun is now moving southward toward its next major crossing at the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo. Nevertheless, with the Sun only slowly changing its north-south position, summer will keep getting warmer until perhaps late August, when the southerly solar crawl begins to make itself felt in cooler temperatures.

Number two in the skies, the Moon, begins the week in its fat waxing gibbous phase, which ends at full Moon (the "Rose Moon," "Flower Moon") the morning of Sunday the 23rd near the time of Moonset in North America. With the Sun near the Summer Solstice, the full Moon will be close to the Winter Solstice in Sagittarius, and will thus be the most southerly and lowest full Moon of the year. Behaving opposite to the Sun, it rises in the southeast at sunset and sets in the southwest at sunrise, giving us the shortest full-Moon viewing time of the year. The Moon then enters the waning gibbous phase, which will occupy the remainder of the week. Just an hour before formal full Moon, the Moon passes perigee, where it is at its closest point to the Earth, the coincidence resulting in especially high and low tides at the coasts.

The western evening sky features Venus (with Mercury below and descending out of sight). Though it's near its latest setting time of the year, Venus is still visible only in twilight, so remains a difficult catch and requires a clear horizon to see. Beyond Venus, we have much more visible Saturn. After twilight ends, look just to the west of the southern portion of the meridian for the brightest "star." About a dozen degrees to the west lies slightly fainter Spica in Virgo, toward which Saturn is sluggishly moving while in retrograde against the stellar background (the result of the Earth passing between it and the planet). With Arcturus high to the south, Saturn and Spica make a giant letter "L." The planet is then with us until well after midnight, not setting until 2:30 or so AM Daylight Time. In the dawn sky, neither Mars nor Jupiter is readily visible.

"June is busting out all over"... and so are its stars. Once the Moon has moved out of the way, later at night we get to admire the southern Zodiac's Sagittarius and Scorpius, which lie in the heart of the Milky Way. The most prominent part of Sagittarius is its upside-down Little Milk Dipper, while Scorpius really does look like the scorpion it was named after.
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