Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

Skylights featured six times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6

Winter Sunrise

Photo of the Week. Cool off with a beautiful winter sunrise.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 11, 2006.

Skylights' "Picture of the Week" for February 24 was recently featured on the Earth Science Picture of the Day .

Sometimes we get those quiet weeks in which not much goes on, which allows us just to go back to enjoy the peaceful sky. This is one of them. The ever-present Moon< /a> of course continues its monthly round, this week beginning in its waning gibbous phase, then going through its third quarter (the name from the quartering of the orbit since "new") on the night of Tuesday the 15th. The last of the week sees it waning as a fat crescent in the morning sky far to the north of the celestial equator in the neighborhood of the classical figures of Taurus and Auriga. Interestingly, the third quarter is not as bright as the first quarter, the result of the concentration of dark maria on the "third-quarter side." These dark areas, easily visible to the naked eye, are ancient lava flows, many of which fill huge, circular impact basins (hence the "man in the Moon" and other fanciful figures).

The planetary evening is still dominated by bright Jupiter, which is obvious in the southwest as the sky darkens. Look at it even with binoculars to see its largest moons. To the west of it, find the bright star Spica in Virgo, to the east Antares in Scorpius. Setting ever earlier, the planet is now down by 11:30 PM Daylight Time. The morning sky is similarly dominated -- as it has been nearly all year -- by brilliant Venus, which still lies above much fainter Mercury. Venus now begins its slow slide into morning dawn, as it will rise ever later after the start of morning twilight until it finally disappears as fall begins. Take heart, however, as it will pop up in the evening sky at years' end.

Perhaps you will see a few of the Perseids, meteors that come out of the constellation Perseus, which are best this year the morning of Sunday the 13th. Unfortunately, the bright Moon will get in the way, limiting us to only the brightest of them. But if you are out at 4 AM, at least look overhead to see the debris flaked off Comet Swift- Tuttle, which with its 130 year period last passed near the Earth in 1992, bringing more Perseids with it and to a peak of some 200 per minute.

We are in the midst of "Milky Way" season. At 9 PM, Vega shines nearly overhead in mid-northern latitudes. Look for Deneb in Cygnus to the east of it. From Cygnus, the Milky Way - - the combined light of the billions of stars in the disk of our Galaxy -- flows down through Auriga past Altair (completing the Summer Triangle), then plunges in two streams through Scorpius and Sagittarius, the latter holding the center of the Galaxy. From a dark sky, the view is glorious indeed, with bright stars set into the flowing milky circle.
Valid HTML 4.0!