Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured six times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Saturn and Mars

Photo of the Week. In evening twilight of June 13, 2006, four days before conjunction, Mars (the fainter of the two bright objects) moves up on Saturn (the brighter). Cancer's Beehive Cluster can just be seen between the two. Delta Cancri is down and to the left of Saturn, while Gamma lies above Mars.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 7, 2006.

Skylights' "Picture of the Week" for February 24 was recently featured on the Earth Science Picture of the Day .

The week of the full Moon -- the "thunder Moon," or "hay Moon" -- is now upon us, the phase reached the night of Monday, July 10, shortly after Moonrise in North America. At the start of the week, the Moon will be in its waxing gibbous phase, while after full it gibbously (not a real word) wanes. The full Moon closest to the beginning of summer is always the lowest, most southerly, of the year, as was that of last June 11. This one though comes close, as it bottoms out in eastern Sagittarius just to the east of the winter solstice. Seen through a thick, sometimes humid and hazy atmosphere, low summer full Moons take on a soft light and a charm of their own.

The night of Friday the 7th (really the morning of the 8th, just after midnight), the waxing gibbous makes a close pass just to the south of bright Antares of Scorpius, the event made rather difficult to see by the lunar brightness. The Moon will actually occult the star as seen from New Zealand and parts of Australia, the 7th such covering so far this year, the orbit of the Moon now being such as to hit the star each month. Then on Wednesday the 12th, the Moon will pass south of nearly invisible Neptune, which lies in far eastern Capricornus near the border with Aquarius.

Mars , moving rapidly eastward against the stellar background, continues to separate from Saturn, the ringed planet now setting in late twilight, the red planet just as twilight comes to a close, making the two difficult to see. The night really belongs to Jupiter. Standing to the east of Spica, the giant planet dominates the southern and southwestern skies until it finally sets around 1:30 AM Daylight Time. After a short hiatus with no bright planets, Venus then lofts itself above the horizon just after 3:30 AM, the classic "morning star" still tracking the beginning of dawn.

Few constellations capture the imagination like the Zodiac's Scorpius, which looks for all the world like a deadly scorpion that for northerners tracks along the southern horizon. When the Moon is out of the way, look for bright Antares, then to the northwest for the three-star head, and then to the southeast for the graceful curve of the body that ends in a two-star "stinger." To the west and south is Lupus, the Wolf, to the east, Sagittarius and the immense and striking Milky Way.
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