Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Cloud Shadows

Photo of the Week.. The Sun and clouds combine to send a beautiful ray pattern in the the air.

Astronomy news for the nine day period starting Friday, August 15, 2003.

Skylights will next appear on Sunday, August 24.

The Moon wanes through its gibbous phase the early part of the week, passing third quarter the night of Tuesday, August 19 amidst the stars of Taurus in the neighborhood of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster. Just a day before, it passes through apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth. As it moves through its waning crescent phase, our companion glides to the north of Saturn the morning of Saturday, the 23rd, amidst the bright stars of Gemini, the two bodies making a beautiful sight, the ringed planet now rising around 2:30 AM Daylight Time. The next morning the thinning crescent will be to the right of the star Pollux.

This is a week for the three brightest planets, two of which are quite invisible. On Monday the 18th, Venus passes its superior conjunction with the Sun, where it is on the other side, the Sun in the middle. If you could see it, the planet would appear in its full phase, the daytime side fully visible. Then on Friday the 22nd, Jupiter also passes conjunction with the Sun. Though seemingly together behind the Sun, Jupiter will be almost four times farther than Venus. It is Mars that really makes the impact on the nightly sky, however, as the planet is now third in brightness, behind only the Sun and Moon, and considerably brighter than the brightest star. Now rising in the southeast during evening twilight, the planet is nearing opposition to the Sun on its retrograde path through Aquarius, the tilt of its orbit taking it rather well below the ecliptic. The actual opposition, marginally the closest in tens of thousands of years, will take place on Thursday, the 28th, the actual closest approach on Wednesday, the 27th. As Mars rises, Mercury (almost as invisible as Venus) sets.

This is the season of the Dragon, portrayed by Draco, whose head is at its highest point as evening falls. Look for the two stars (Rastaban and Eltanin) that represent its eyes, the rest of the constellation sprawling to the northwest as it winds between the Big and Little Dippers. South of Draco lie the two great figures of Hercules and Ophiuchus, who is wrapped by another winding figure, Serpens, the Serpent, while farther down stalks Scorpius, the Scorpion, which is filled with bright blue and hot stars that make part of a huge loose "association" of them that were born more or less at the same time. On the opposite side of the sky, Orion is made much the same way from stars that loosely associate with one another.
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