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

Filigree clouds

Photo of the Week. Filigree clouds are framed by the blue sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 24, 2009.

The waxing crescent Moon climbs out of twilight during the early part of the week, culminating in first quarter on Tuesday, July 28th, shortly before sunset, allowing you to see the near-perfect phase during the late daylight hours with the Moon approaching the meridian to the south. It will thereafter begin to wax in its gibbous phase as it heads toward full phase late next week. On the evening of Friday the 24th, the crescent will appear several degrees below Saturn, while the following evening it will shine to the left and a bit down from the ringed planet. On the evening of Thursday the 30th, look for the Moon to the west of Antares in Scorpius.

Saturn, setting just after twilight ends, is slowly being lost to the evening sky. We make up for it with bright Jupiter, which is now rising unmistakably in the southeast before twilight draws to a close. Moving slowly retrograde in northeastern Capricornus, the giant planet is just a couple degrees north of third magnitude Deneb Algedi (Delta Capricorni), which is a prominent part of the figure.

Then stay up late to watch the 2 AM rising of Mars followed an hour later by that of Venus. The two planets are now in a wonderful setting of the sky. On the morning of Monday the 27th, the red planet will pass five degrees north of Aldebaran in Taurus, and of course will during the week be seen north of the Hyades cluster and to the southeast of the Pleiades as well. At the other end of Taurus, Venus makes a close pass to third magnitude Zeta Tauri, the star that marks the eastern horn of the celestial Bull. The color contrast between Venus and Mars is remarkable, as is the similarity between that of Mars and Aldebaran.

Back in the evening, Mercury is making a dim appearance very low above the western twilight horizon.

The celestial Scorpion, which the Moon will pass through at the end of the month, is one of the few constellations that really does look like its name. If you have a clear southern horizon, look for the curve of stars that lies to the south of Antares that swings up again in the tail, which ends at a little two-star asterism called "the Stinger." Down and to the right of the Scorpion, note the bright blue stars of Lupus, the Wolf.
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