Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured eight times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Photo of the Week. Distant Sunrise.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 11, 2008.

The Moon brightens this week from waxing gibbous through full, that phase reached as our week comes to an end the morning of Friday, July 18. Look the evening of Thursday the 17th to see the not-quite-there- yet-full-Moon rising just barely before sunset. The waxing gibbous passes apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth, the night of Sunday the 13th. With the Sun now descending the ecliptic within the confines of Gemini, this full Moon (the "Thunder Moon," the "Hay Moon") will be just a bit higher in the sky at midnight than it was last month.

As the Moon waxes, it passes barely south of Antares in Scorpius the morning of Monday the 14th. When the two rise the evening of Tuesday the 13th, the Moon will therefore be just to the west of the star, while the night of Monday the 14th, the situation will be reversed. Almost exactly three days after the Antares encounter, the brightened Moon takes on much brighter Jupiter, passing three degrees to the south of the planet the morning of Thursday the 17th, less than a full day before the full phase. As the Moon climbs the sky the night of Wednesday the 16th, it will appear to the west of the planet, while again the night of Thursday the 17th, it will have flipped to the east of Jupiter.

Mars -- visible in evening twilight -- begins the week just to the south of somewhat brighter Saturn, both lying in Leo to the east of Regulus. Moving rapidly, Mars will quickly shift to the east of the other two, much more distant Saturn (4.5 times farther away than Mars) moving easterly at a much slower pace. By the end of the week, the red planet will be nearly four degrees to the east of the ringed one.

As Mars and Saturn descend the twilight sky, both gone from view by 10:30 PM or so (Daylight), Jupiter, which now rises before sunset, makes its glorious appearance in the far southeast still to the northeast of classical Sagittarius. While the bright Moon blocks most of the constellation from view, Jupiter shines on. And whatever happened to Venus? Having passed superior conjunction with the Sun early last June, the planet is slowly working its way up the western sky, but is still too close to the Sun and horizon to be seen. Give it another couple months.

Constellations differ greatly in size. To the south of (and more or less parallel to) the Big Dipper's handle is a pair of neighborly stars that make most of Canes Venatici, the Hunting Dogs, while north of Scorpius lies Serpens, whose two parts bracket giant Ophiuchus and take close to three hours just to rise and set.
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