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


Photo of the Week. Moon with clouds.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 29, 2011.

With new Moon taking place on Saturday, July 30, and with the ecliptic rather flat against the western horizon, the first decent look at the thin waxing crescent (in western evening twilight) will be the night of Tuesday, August 2. It then heads toward first quarter, the phase not reached until Saturday the 6th. Mid-week sees some nice pairings. Look the evening of Wednesday the 3rd to see the crescent gliding several degrees beneath Saturn, then the following evening to see the Moon below, but much closer to, Virgo's Spica. As the crescent grows, watch the fading of the Earthlight on the Moon's nighttime side (sunlight reflected from Earth to the Moon and back). On Tuesday the 2nd, our Moon passes perigee, where it comes closest to Earth.

Saturn has now moved seriously into the west. Though it does not set until 11 PM Daylight Time, that is but an hour past the end of evening twilight, so look early, the ringed planet appearing well to the right of Spica. If you have binoculars, look for the fainter star Porrima (Gamma Virginis) just to the right of the planet. Jupiter does much better, the giant of the Solar System making a transition to evening by rising near midnight Daylight Time. It's unmistakable as it cruises the sky below the classic figure of Aries. In the early morning hours, Mars enters the scene, the red planet up by around 3 AM. Just barely first magnitude, Mars is moving swiftly eastward between the classical figures of Taurus and Gemini. Compare its color to the colors of Aldebaran in Taurus and Pollux in Gemini (the latter the southeastern and brighter of the Castor-Pollux pair). Close to the Summer Solstice, the planet is about as far north as it ever gets.

'Tis the season for the Summer Triangle. Seen high in the east in early evening hours, crossing the meridian around midnight, it is made of Vega in Lyra at its northwest apex, Deneb in cyg-p.html">Cygnus at the northeast, and Altair in Aquila at the southern extension. Falling between Cygnus (see the Swan upside-down as the Northern Cross) and Aquila find a pair of exquisite ancient figures, Sagitta, the Arrow (which indeed looks like what it is supposed to represent), and Delphinus, the Dolphin (which appears more as a human hand with a finger pointing south).
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