Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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


Photo of the Week.. Morning peace.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 8, 2005.

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule.

The Moon having passed its new phase last July 6, the week belongs almost entirely to the waxing crescent, the first quarter not reached until Thursday the 14th. Though astronomically, "new Moon" occurs when the Moon is as close to lying between us and the Sun as possible (for a given round of phases), culturally "new Moon" commonly also relates to the first sighting of the slim crescent in western twilight. Watch for Earthlight on the lunar nighttime side, the glow fading as the phase proceeds.

The Moon and planets continue their dance. On the night of Friday the 8th, look for the crescent directly above Venus and Mercury, Venus (the brighter) seen up and to the right of its fainter brother planet. The two will be a mere two degrees apart. The Moon will then nightly move up and to the left, through and past the sickle of Leo, as it heads toward its quarter.

As the week moves along, Venus will become ever more visible, while Mercury -- reaching its greatest eastern elongation (where it is as far to the east of the Sun as it will get) on Friday the 8th -- will descend quickly into evening twilight. The Moon then takes on Jupiter around noon on Wednesday the 13th (the event invisible without a telescope, which allows the planet to be seen in the daytime), the lunar disk passing just to the south of the giant planet. As a result, the now-fat crescent will appear to the west of Jupiter the night of Tuesday the 12th and to the east of the planet the following night.

Jupiter, in the southwest at nightfall, is now in direct motion, and you will see it slowly approaching Spica in Virgo. Now fully an evening object, Jupiter sets just after midnight daylight time just before Mars rises in the east. Moving swiftly eastward against the stars of Pisces, the red planet has now passed into the sky's northern hemisphere. For all practical purposes, Saturn is gone.

Various mythical beasts roam the nighttime sky, among them the two Bears of the northern hemisphere, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. The ancients gave us fish and birds as well, while the "modern astronomers" of the 17th and 18th centuries gave us not just more of these, but also smaller creatures, including the far north's Lacerta the Lizard of late summer and autumn, and, of all things, two flies, Musca Borealis (the northern fly) and Musca Australis (the southern fly). The former was long ago removed from the formal sky (though you can still find it appropriately north of Aries, the Ram), while the southern one (now just called "Musca") still holds on to its part of the deep southern sky to the south of Crux, the Southern Cross.
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