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Photo of the Week. A chilly sunrise to cool your summer day.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 9, 2010.

We start the week off with a very thin waning crescent Moon, though one that will still be visible in twilight the mornings of Friday, July 9, and Saturday the 10th. It will be gone by the morning of Sunday the 11th, however, as it prepares to pass new later in the afternoon and completely out of sight. And too bad, because this will be one of the few times when new Moon is actually "visible," as it will cross the face of the Sun for a total solar eclipse: sadly, one that is not visible in North America, the eclipse track tracing a long looping path across the south Pacific. Even Hawaii misses the large area where the eclipse will be seen as partial.

However, take heart, as the following waxing crescent will make a nice showing for us as it passes the evening's line-up of planets. While the ultra-thin crescent will be visible the early evening of Monday the 12th, the first fairly easy sighting takes place the following night, when the Moon will show up to the left of Mercury, which is beginning to make an evening appearance. The following evening, the Moon will then make a nice pairing with Venus, the classic crescent down and to the left of the brilliant planet. The NEXT night (Thursday the 15th), it's Mars's turn, the Moon now down and to the left of it. At the same time, look for Saturn UP and to the left of the Moon.

Rather obviously, most of the ancient planets are on a memorable string, and moreover in order of distance from the Sun, beginning with Mercury close to the twilight horizon, then running through Venus (which sets shortly after the end of evening twilight), then Mars up and to the left of it (setting less than an hour after Venus), and concluding with Saturn, which is holding its place between Regulus (which appears in close conjunction with Venus the night of Friday the 9th) and Spica in Virgo.

The only one left out is Jupiter. Still opposite Saturn (the giant planets not moving very quickly against the stellar background), Jupiter rises in western Pisces almost exactly as Saturn sets, now just before midnight Daylight Time. But Jupiter has its own "companion," more distant Uranus, which lies a bit to the west of it, and at sixth magnitude is barely visible to the naked eye. As has been the case for some time now, Saturn and Jupiter still closely mark the equinoxes, Jupiter the Vernal, Saturn the Autumnal.

The Summer Triangle is rising now in full glory in the northeastern sky. In mid-evening, look for its three bright stars, Vega in Lyra at the northwestern apex, followed by Cygnus's Deneb, with Altair in Aquila to the south. To the west of Altair and Aquila lie the northern portions of the sprawling figures of Ophiuchus and Serpens.
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