Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

Seagull in blue sky

Photo of the Week.. Soar like an eagle (or maybe a seagull) in a perfect blue sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 19, 2005.

The week begins with the full Moon, the phase reached about noon on Friday the 19th. By Friday evening, the Moon will be a few degrees to the east of the point opposite the Sun, just beginning its waning gibbous phase, and will rise just after Sunset. During the remainder of the week it will continue to wane toward the third quarter, that phase reached next Friday the 26th, again during daylight hours. On Saturday the 20th, the Moon will pass a couple degrees south of Uranus, while on Wednesday the 24th it will make a far grander passage to the north of Mars, the two about six degrees apart as seen in the nighttime sky. The following night, on Thursday the 25th, look for the Moon near the Pleiades cluster in Taurus, the rising of the "Seven Sisters" a hint that fall will soon be in the air and winter not far behind.

By the time Mars rises, around 11 PM Daylight Time, it is the only one of the ancient planets to grace the sky, as well as the brightest body to be seen other than the Moon itself. As it slowly approaches opposition with the Sun next November 7, it continues to brighten, and in the stellar realm is topped only by Sirius. Note that there is a rumor circulating in cyberspace that on August 27 Mars will be at its closest in some 50,000 or so years. Pay no attention. It is a news release from two years ago that has taken on a life of its own and refers to August 27, 2003! During this year's closest approach on October 29 (which because of the ellipticity of the Martian orbit does not quite coincide with opposition) Mars will be 0.464 Astronomical Units (70 million kilometers, 43 million miles) away, 0.091 AU farther than it was at the 2003 approach. The culprit is again orbital eccentricity, which takes the planet on a 17 year cycle of varying distances from Earth at successive oppositions (which average 2.1 years apart).

The early evening on the other hand belongs to Jupiter and Venus as the two approach each other for a conjunction on September 2, both visible in western twilight, Venus the brighter and lower of the two, Jupiter still to the west of Spica in Virgo. The separation between the pair is visible from night to night. In parallel, morning twilight holds Saturn and Mercury, the latter (below Saturn) reaching greatest western elongation on Tuesday the 23rd.

By 9 PM Sagittarius, the most southerly of the zodiacal constellations, is nicely visible to the south, the view better once the Moon is out of the way. To the right is Scorpius, to the north the modern constellation Scutum (the Shield), while below it lies the graceful curve of Corona Australis, the Southern Crown.
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