Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 23, 1999.

The Moon heads towards full early this week, the phase reached on Wednesday, the 28th. At that time, on the morning of the 28th, the Moon will clip the top of the shadow of the Earth and we will see a partial eclipse of the Moon. At maximum, about 40% of the lunar surface will be covered by the Earth's curved shadow. The event, which takes place near moonset in the early morning hours for North America, will not be visible on the east coast. Observers in the central US and Canada can see the Moon enter the shadow in twilight at 5:22 AM Central Time, but the Sun -- then opposite the Moon -- will rise before central eclipse. On the west coast nearly the whole eclipse will be visible, beginning at 3:22 AM PST, ending at 5:46. In a dark sky, the eclipsed portion is always visible because of light cast into the shadow by the Earth's atmosphere. The next lunar eclipse, which will be total and beautifully visible in North America, will take place the night of January 20, 2000.

The Sun has been catching up to Venus ever since its greatest elongation on June 11. It will now catch up much faster as Venus reverses its direction against the background stars. The night before the eclipse, on Tuesday the 27th, Venus enters its retrograde or westerly motion as it prepares to swing between us and the Sun on August 20. Now visible low in the west near the end of twilight, the planet will disappear quickly from the nighttime sky only to pop up just as quickly in the morning sky. Red Mars, however, is still nicely with us in the southwestern sky as it moves away from Spica in Virgo and toward its namesake Antares in Scorpius. The evening also holds Uranus, visible as a dim sixth magnitude starlike object in eastern Capricornus. Just a bit to the west of it lies telescopic Neptune, which will be in opposition to the Sun on Monday, the 26th. The morning hours are now glorious with Jupiter and Saturn below and to the left of the Great Square of Pegasus.

Though the full Moon will wipe out the sky's fainter stars, those of first magnitude still shine through. In the evening, look for the orange giant star Arcturus in the west, blue-white Spica to the southwest, and to the south the great red supergiant Antares. To the east in the evening the Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair climb the sky, Vega only a hair dimmer than Arcturus, the two ranking number four and five in apparent brightness, the three brightest (Sirius, Canopus, and Alpha Centauri) denizens of the southern hemisphere.
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