Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Summer Sunrise

Photo of the Week. Summer Sunrise.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 8, 2008.

Welcome to the week of 08/08/08. It means nothing of course; just fun to see.

The Moon begins our week in its first quarter, then continues to expand and brighten as a waxing gibbous as it heads towards full next week on Saturday the 16th, when it will undergo a partial eclipse, one unfortunately not visible from North America. Europe, Asia, and Africa, however, will get a fine view. As the Moon moves along its orbit, it will be seen to the west of Antares in Scorpius the evening of Saturday the 9th, then just to the east of the star the following evening. It will also just have passed apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth. The Moon then takes on Jupiter, appearing to the west of the planet and in the middle of Sagittarius's "Teapot" the night of Tuesday the 12th. The Moon then passes south of the planet during the following day, appearing to the east of it the night of Wednesday the 13th.

A couple other pairings make for difficult viewing. On Saturday the 9th, Mercury passes Regulus in Leo, but bright western evening twilight will make the event near impossible to see even with binoculars. Then on Wednesday the 13th, Venus and Saturn come into close conjunction, passing just 0.2 degrees apart during the daytime. Venus is coming out of the murk in bright twilight and might be visible to the naked eye, but Saturn will not be. Neither will Mars, the planet setting in twilight.

That leaves us again with Jupiter, which is making more and more of an impact on the early evening sky. The giant planet is well up in the southeast in early evening, and crosses the meridian to the south around 10:30 PM Daylight Time. Even binoculars (steadily held) will allow a view of its bright moons. Looking to the outer part of the Solar System, Neptune passes opposition to the Sun on the morning of Friday the 15th.

Closer to home, mid-August hosts the most famed of all meteor showers, the Perseids, which seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus. The leavings of Comet Swift- Tuttle (which last passed us on its 130-year orbit in 1992), the shower, which typically produces more than one meteor a minute in a dark sky, is best visible the morning of Tuesday the 12th. Look after Moonset, around 3 AM or so. You might also spot meteors from lesser showers, the North Delta Aquarids and the Kappa Cygnids.

Almost mid-way between Arcturus (in Bootes) and Vega (Lyra), the hero Hercules stomps the sky, the most prominent part of which is the four-star "Keystone." Scan around the area with binoculars to see if you can spot a fuzzy patch, a grand globular cluster called Messier 13. To the north of the Hero is the head of Draco, to the south Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer.
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