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Blue sky

Photo of the Week. Blue sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 12, 2013.

It's rather a short week. In the metaphorical sense. It still has seven days in it (the number of days in the week probably coming from the seven moving bodies of the sky, the Moon and Sun plus the five bright planets). But not much is to happen, which is quite appropriate for lazy summer days. We do, however, get to see a convenient and bright Moon that begins as a fat waxing crescent that moves easterly against the stars toward first quarter, which is hit the night of Monday, July 15, when it will pass very close to Spica in Virgo The following evening, after the Moon has entered its waxing gibbous phase, it will glide three degrees south of Saturn. The growing gibbous then runs through the rest of the week, full Moon not taking place until next week, on Monday the 22nd.

Ever so slowly, Venus is working its way upward in the western evening twilight sky, but still sets half an hour before the sky is fully dark, making it yet a difficult find. On the other side of the sky, though getting higher in the east in dawn's light, Jupiter and Mars are still washed out by brightening morning twilight. So once again, we are left with Saturn, which of course is not so bad. Quite obvious in the southwest in early evening and still a dozen degrees to the east of Spica, the ringed planet is with us until it sets at local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time), following which the sky is planetless until dawn. That is, unless you count the two outer planets, Uranus and Neptune, plus Pluto, which bridge the gap. In Pisces to the east of the Vernal Equinox, Uranus begins its retrograde motion on Wednesday the 17th.

Look nearly overhead around midnight for bright Vega, the luminary of small but lovely Lyra, the Lyre or Harp, which is defined by an exquisite parallelogram to the southeast of the star. Lyra is sandwiched between Hercules to the west and Cygnus (with first magnitude Deneb) to the east, Vega, Deneb, and Altair (in Aquila, the Eagle, to the south) making the famed Summer Triangle. Dropping to the south of Hercules we pass through Ophiuchus (the Serpent Bearer) and then to Scorpius, the eponymous Scorpion, which in one legend killed Orion, who will not appear until Scorpius has gone down. In the other direction, the Little Dipper of Ursa Minor stands high in early evening while the Big Dipper of Ursa Major begins its descent into the northwest.
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