Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Sky Reflection

Photo of the Week.. Sometimes we look down to look up, here at the reflection of the sky in a pond.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 4, 2003.

Happy Birthday. Skylights is presented a day early this week.

We begin the week just barely past aphelion, where the Earth is farthest from the Sun, a distance of 152.1 million kilometers, 94.5 million miles, 1.7 percent farther than average.

Closer to home, the Moon waxes through its late crescent phase very early in the week, and then passes first quarter the night of Sunday, July 6, about as twilight ends in North America. The remainder of the week sees it waxing through its gibbous phase toward full, which will be attained next week. Watch the Moon as it passes through prominent Scorpius the night of Thursday the 10th, appearing just up and to the left of bright Antares, which will be all but swamped in moonlight.

Jupiter is now setting about as astronomical twilight ends (when the sky if fully dark). Though slowly disappearing into the evening glow, it remains quite visible in the west after sundown. But not for long. In the morning sky, Jupiter's near twin, Saturn, is clearing the Sun, though it is still less than readily visible. The morning of Tuesday the 8th, Saturn will be in close conjunction with Venus , the ringed planet passing less than a degree to the south of our brilliant nearest planetary neighbor. Proximity to the Sun will render the sight difficult to see however, as they rise less than an hour before sunrise. Venus's inner partner, Mercury , nicely visible not long ago, is now well on the other side of the Sun, and passes superior conjunction with the Sun on Saturday the 5th. That pretty much leaves the sky to Mars, which continues to brighten as it plows eastward through southern Aquarius. Look for it to rise in the southeast shortly before midnight, its bright reddish glow quite unmistakable. Mars is on its way to historical glory. It will begin its westerly retrograde motion toward the end of the month, and then heads toward closest approach on August 27, when it will be closer to us than at any time in recorded history, a "favorable" opposition to beat all others.

As northern summer progresses, Arcturus, the northern hemisphere's brightest star, nightly slips slowly to the west. It is being replaced by the north's second brightest, brilliant white Vega, the luminary of the constellation Lyra, the Harp that in mythology was played by the greatest of musicians, Orpheus. To the east of Vega is Deneb, at the tail of Cygnus the Swan, and south of the two lies bright Altair in Aquila, the Eagle, the three stars making the fine Summer Triangle through which passes the band of the Milky Way. Far down below Vega, close to the southern horizon for mid-northerners, is Sagittarius, which holds the brightest part of the Milky Way and the center of the Galaxy, which itself contains a massive black hole from which light cannot escape.
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