Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Photo of the Week. One of the radio telescopes of the Very Large Array in New Mexico "watches" the Universe.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 26, 2011.

We go through new Moon this week the evening of Sunday, August 28th, the night skies for a couple days before and after then fully dark. Prior to that invisible event, the morning of Saturday the 27th you might admire the very thin waning crescent to the east in the light of early dawn well below Castor and Pollux in Gemini and, if you have a good horizon, above climbing Mercury. Mercury and the Moon will then pass each other that night out of sight. Your next view of the Moon, as a thin waxing crescent, will be in western evening twilight the evening of Tuesday the 30th. Watch then as it grows toward first quarter next Sunday, September 4, its nighttime side, lit by Earthlight, fading away.

Saturn is now setting at the end of twilight and is effectively gone. Jupiter, most assuredly, is not, the bright planet now seen rising in the east by 10:30 PM Daylight Time, less than an hour after the sky is fully dark. Up all night, the giant planet (just north of the Aries-Cetus border) does not even transit the meridian to the south until the first glimmers of dawn. That then is the time to look for Mercury, which is now making a fine appearance, rising just after the start of morning twilight. In between, you can admire Mars. First magnitude and slowly brightening, the red planet is mixing it up with the stars of eastern Gemini, passing close to the modest star Delta Geminorum.

With the Moon out of sight, late August/early September is a prime time for early-evening viewing of the Milky Way. Falling from nearly overhead in Cygnus, filled with dark star-forming clouds (seen best in the northern hemisphere as the "Great Rift" that divides the starry stream in two), it brightens majestically toward the southwest, reaching its maximum brightness and width around the center of the Galaxy in Sagittarius, the true and optically- invisible Galactic Center containing a four-million-solar-mass black hole. In between, the Milky Way passes by Altair in Aquila, then a bit to the southwest of the star brightens in a prominent patch in the modern constellation of Scutum, the Shield.
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