Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week.. Off-shore rain from a broken sky.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, July 14, 2017.

The next Skylights will be presented Friday, July 28.

Our fortnight pretty much fits between the quarters of the lunar phases, with third quarter taking place on Sunday, July 16, and first quarter on Sunday the 30th. In between, the Moon is in the waning crescent phase in the eastern morning sky from Sunday the 16th until Sunday the 30th, when it graces the western evening sky as a waxing crescent. New Moon, of course, is right in the middle of the time-period, on Sunday the 23rd. During the first week, the Moon plays with Taurus. The morning of Wednesday the 19th, it will rise west of the Hyades and Aldebaran (with the Pleiades above), while the following night the Moon will have flipped to the other side of the stars. Even better, the crescent will take up a near-classic position just down and to the right of brilliant Venus the morning of Thursday the 20th. After new Moon, on the western side of the sky the slim waxing crescent will appear down and to the right of Mercury and the star Regulus on Monday the 24th, while the following evening it will lie up and to the left of the pair. You'll need a flat horizon to see the trio in bright twilight. Then it's Jupiter's turn, the Moon just above the giant planet he evening of the 28th. In the middle of our session, on Friday the 21st, the Moon will pass through perigee, where it is closest to Earth (by about five percent).

The planets have their own business to mind. In the middle of the second week, as presaged above, you can find Venus (by far the brighter) to the east of Aldebaran in Taurus. In the evening of the second week, Jupiter (in Virgo to the northwest of the bright star Spica), dominates the western sky, not setting until local midnight, shortly after Saturn transits the meridian well to the south between Scorpius and Sagittarius (technically within the confines of southern Ophiuchus). Mercury sets about as late as possible during this round (but still in twilight), while in the morning, Venus (impossible to miss) rises about as early as possible, around 3 AM Daylight Time. On Wednesday the 26th, Mars is finally in conjunction with the Sun.

Prepare now for what may be the event not just of the year but of the century, when the Moon eclipses the Sun on August 21, the path of totality going from the American northwest to the southeast across the US. Do NOT look at the bright part of the Sun. Heavily filtered eclipse glasses are readily available from the Web or from your local planetarium.

We finally made it to the dead of the Summer sky as Arcturus begins to slide down the southwestern sky, Antares shines far to the south, and Vega is nearly overhead. With the Moon out of the way, the sky just becomes alive with stars. To the southwest of Antares is a fine loop of stars that represents Lupus, the Wolf, while to the south of Scorpius's tail lies Ara , the Altar.

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