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. Planet Earth. The towering Andes, raised by a gigantic continental collision, thrust their peaks to the sky. Glacier National Park, Argentina, Patagonia, photo courtesy of Lisa Zak, with thanks. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, July 15, 2016.

The next skylights will appear June 29.

As we open up the fortnight, the Moon is in its waxing gibbous phase, heading toward full the evening of Tuesday, July 19, when (known as the Thunder or Hay Moon) it will rise just barely after sunset in North America. The evening of Friday the 15th, the Moon will lie above Saturn with Mars to the right and Antares in Scorpius down below, while the following night it will shine to the left of the ringed planet. After passing third quarter the night of Tuesday the 26th (before moonrise in North America) the Moon turns into a waning crescent, the phase ending at new Moon on August 2. The morning of Thursday the 28th, the crescent will make a fine triangle with the Pleiades up and to the left and the star Aldebaran in Taurus below the famed cluster of the Seven Sisters. The morning of Friday the 29th, the thinning crescent Moon will appear tight against the star Aldebaran, and will actually cross over or occult it as seen from the southern and eastern US, though for most sites in twilight. The event takes place at roughly 5 AM CDT, but depends considerably on the exact location. The Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to Earth, on Wednesday the 27th, the event not really sensible to the eye.

As evening falls, Jupiter still dominates the deep early-evening western sky, though by the end of our two-week term it will set about at the end of twilight, when the sky becomes fully dark. So we look to the other planets that grace the sky, Mars then Saturn as augured above. Only slowly falling behind the orbiting Earth, Mars sets around 1 AM Daylight Time, Saturn following roughly an hour later. Now moving to the east against the background stars, Mars is slowly catching up with the ringed planet, the two coming into conjunction with each other on August 25, Mars's motion obvious almost from night to night.

Toward the end of July the Delta Aquarid meteor shower comes to its vague peak, producing a few meteors per hour while in competition with other minor showers going on at the same time. Meteor showers are named after their apparent points of origin, which is a perspective effect, the meteoroids actually travelling on parallel paths as they strike Earth's atmosphere.

Saturn is directly above Scorpius, which along with Sagittarius to the east (recognizable by its upside-down "Little Milk Dipper, both in the heart of the Milky Way ) are the southernmost constellations of the Zodiac, the figures that embrace the apparent path of the Sun. To the west of Scorpius lies Libra, whose two most prominent stars (Zubelelgenubi and Zubeneschamali) are the Scorpion's outstretched claws. Farther east, as the sky darkens find bright Spica, the luminary of sprawling Virgo, which holds the autumnal equinox, where we find the Sun on the first day of Fall.
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