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


Photo of the Week. Hull-down on the horizon, a pair of ships shows that the Earth really is curved.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, June 24, 2011.

Our circling Moon fades away this week as a waning crescent as it heads toward its new phase on the morning of Friday, July 1. Your last view of it (difficult at best) will be the morning of Thursday, June 30. On the morning of Sunday the 26th, look for the Moon to pass five degrees to the north of Jupiter. The morning of Tuesday, June 28, the Moon will then be part of a memorable stack of rising objects, from top to bottom the Pleiades of Taurus, the crescent aglow with Earthlight, Mars , then farther down the vee-shaped Hyades cluster with the star Aldebaran (which outshines similarly-colored Mars by half a magnitude). The following morning, the thinner crescent will appear down and to the left of Mars (and to the left of the Hyades), between the red planet and rising Venus.

Mars makes a bit of a transition in that it now rises in a dark sky around 3:30 AM just before the start of twilight. Much brighter Jupiter, up at 2 AM (Daylight Time), beats it by an hour and a half. We get a longer evening view of Saturn. Well into the western sky as darkness falls, the ringed planet does not set until half an hour after local midnight (1:30 AM Daylight time), half an hour before Jupiter rises, preventing both from being visible at the same time.

In evening twilight, at the end of the week Mercury makes a bit of an appearance to the left of Gemini's Castor and Pollux, which point more or less at it (the three a difficult sight). Back into the morning, Venus, which has been with us all year, is essentially gone (though spottable with a clear eastern horizon). Finally, at the rim of the planetary system, Pluto (set against the Milky Way in Sagittarius), passes opposition to the Sun on the night of Monday the 27th.

Saturn and Virgo's Spica make a fine pair of similar brightness, the planet to the northwest of the star and right next to third magnitude Porrima (Gamma Virginis). Follow the two on a line down and to the left, and they point at bright (but to northerners underappreciated) Lupus, the Wolf, which lurks down and to the right of Scorpius.
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