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Photo of the Week.. White on blue on green.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 10, 2012.

The Moon begins our week just past its third quarter, which took place on Thursday, August 9. It will then spend the rest of the week as an ever-thinning waning crescent until it hits new Moon on Friday the 17th. Your last decent view of it will be on the morning of Wednesday the 15th. The morning of Saturday the 11th, the crescent will appear up and to the right of Jupiter with the Hyades and Aldebaran below it, while the following morning, the Moon will lie down and to the left of the bright planet. Meanwhile you might spot Venus down and to the left of both of them. Venus then becomes highlighted the morning of Monday the 13th, when the thin crescent will be just up and to the right of it. Both Jupiter and Venus will be occulted by the Moon, both during daylight hours. While the occultation of Venus is visible throughout most of the continental US, that of Jupiter is not. Finally, the mornings of Tuesday the 14th and Wednesday the 15th finds the Moon moving downward between Venus and Mercury.

Both morning and evening present us with remarkable planetary sights. Venus starts us off by going through its greatest western elongation relative to the Sun (46 degrees) on Wednesday the 15th, the brilliant planet rising somewhat before 3 AM Daylight Time. Lesser, but still very bright, Jupiter precedes it by about an hour and a half, the giant planet making somewhat of a transition by rising around local midnight (1 AM Daylight) to the northeast of the Hyades of Taurus. Far to the other side of Venus, rising just about as morning twilight begins, Mercury (a difficult sight) goes through its own greatest western elongation of just 19 degrees relative to the Sun on Thursday the 16th.

The evening does even better. The nights of Monday the 13th and Tuesday the 14th, watch for Mars as it passes between Saturn (to the north of it) and Spica (to the south), the three making an unusually tight configuration, all in a nice more or less straight line. Mars will then rapidly move to the east of the Saturn/Spica pair, the motion easily visible from night to night.

This is the long-awaited week of the annual Perseid meteor shower, the leavings of Comet Swift- Tuttle, which has a 130 year orbit and last came by in the early 1990s. The light from the crescent Moon will not much interfere, and the night of Saturday the 11th (actually the morning of Sunday the 12th) you can expect to see one or two meteors per minute appearing to emanate from the constellation Perseus.

This is the prime season for viewing Scorpius, the celestial Scorpion, which looks remarkably like what it is supposed to be. Far to the south, its luminary Antares takes its name from the Greek version of Mars. Of similar color, Mars will pass it the middle of next October. To the northwest, evening's Big Dipper begins to round the pole.
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