Scout Report Selection SpaceCareers Selection Webivore Selection

Skylights featured on
Astronomy Picture of the Day

Orion Nebula

Photo of the Week.. The great Orion Nebula graces the middle star of Orion's sword. It is an illuminated "blister" on the front of the dark giant Orion Molecular Cloud. The oddly-shaped patch to lower right is an internal reflection in the optics. (University of Illinois Prairie Observatory).

Astronomy news for the two-week-plus period starting Friday, August 2, 2002. The next Skylights will appear Sunday, August 18.

In this extended summer Skylights, the Moon passes two of the quarterings of its orbit, new Moon on Thursday August 8th, and first quarter, when we see half Moon's daylight side, on Thursday, the 15th. Shortly before new Moon, on the morning of Monday August 5, the waning crescent will be seen just to the east of Saturn, which has now nicely cleared morning twilight in Taurus. On the other side of new, you might be able to catch the slim waxing crescent to the right of Mercury the evening of Friday, the 9th, though bright western twilight will make the passing very difficult to see. Much easier to see will be a nice alignment of the larger crescent with Venus on the evening of Sunday the 11th, the brilliant planet 6 degrees to the south of the Moon.

The planets offer their own events. Mercury will undergo a near- invisible conjunction with the star Regulus on Monday the 5th. Not long ago, the bright outer planets were aligned in the west. One after the other they disappeared in twilight. Saturn and Jupiter passed their conjunctions with the Sun, and now it is Mars's turn, the planet passing beyond the Sun on Sunday, August 10. While slow-moving Saturn and Jupiter emerge from morning twilight quickly (Jupiter now rising in early twilight), Mars, moving rapidly east, following close behind the Sun, takes much longer, and will not be visible in morning skies until September.

The big event of the fortnight is the occurrence of the famed August meteors, the Perseid meteor shower, which will peak the morning of Tuesday, August 13, though its meteors can be seen up to a week before and a week after that. We are blessed this year with a waxing crescent Moon, which will set long before the meteors are at their best, which is always after midnight. In a dark sky expect to see one or two per minute, and though the meteors seem to come out of the constellation Perseus, the best place in the sky to look is always overhead. The meteors are the debris of Comet Swift- Tuttle, which has a 120-year period and last visited the vicinity of the Earth about 10 years ago.

As evening descends, those in middle northern latitudes see a stack of fine constellations, beginning with the head of Draco a bit to the north of overhead, and descending to the south through Hercules, Ophiuchus, and Scorpius. Those farther to the south might see Ara, the Altar, underneath the Scorpion. To the east shine the stars of the Summer Triangle, Altair in Aquila, Vega in Lyra, and Deneb in Cygnus. If you wait up to watch the Perseids, you can catch Orion rising in the east, reddish Betelgeuse marking his right shoulder, three bright stars marking both his belt and the celestial equator, all bringing visions of the winter to come.
Valid HTML 4.0!