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Canadian sunset

Photo of the Week. Deeper Canadian sunset.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, August 31, 2007.

Skylights will resume its normal weekly schedule on Friday, September 14.

The Moon spends much of the fortnight going through the latter part of its phase cycle. Beginning with the waning gibbous, it passes third quarter the morning of Monday, September 3, then wanes in the crescent phase until it passes new on Tuesday the 11th. The night of Wednesday the 12th, you might get your first view of the thin waxing crescent in evening twilight.

Eclipses of the Moon and Sun come in pairs. We had a lunar eclipse at the last full Moon, and this new Moon will eclipse the Sun. But don't look for it here. The eclipse, only partial, will be seen only in South America and Antarctica.

The morning of the quarter, Monday the 3rd, watch the Moon visit the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus; then the following morning it passes few degrees to the north of Mars, these two and Aldebaran making a nice triangle. Then the morning of Saturday the 8th, the waning crescent will rise up and to the left of Venus , which is now beginning to make an appearance. The morning of Sunday the 9th, you might catch an even thinner crescent lying above Saturn and Regulus, which will be separated by only a degree or so. These two will actually both be occulted by the Moon, but not as seen from North America.

Though setting ever earlier, around 11:30 PM Daylight Time, Jupiter still dominates the evening. Look for it in the southwest still above Antares in Scorpius. Mars, rising in Taurus between Aldebaran and Elnath (Zeta Tauri) shortly after Jupiter sets, is getting less lonely now that Venus is moving back into view. As the fortnight begins, Venus rises at just as dawn begins, while by the end of the period it will have become much more visible, rising an hour before the beginning of morning twilight. At the beginning of our period in retrograde, Venus begins its direct easterly motion relative to the stars on Friday the 7th. For some time to come, for the rest of the year and into 2008, the planets that bracket the Earth -- Mars and Venus -- will share the morning sky.

Oddly enough, on the same day that Venus goes into direct motion, so does Pluto. Closer to us, and barely visible to the naked eye in Aquarius, Uranus passes through opposition to the Sun, when it is up all night and crosses the meridian at local midnight, on Sunday the 9th.

Sandwiched in the western sky between Bootes and Hercules, look in early evening for the lovely semi-circle of stars that makes Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Then if you have a good southern horizon, see if you can find its counterpart down below and a bit to the left of Sagittarius, Corona Australis, the Southern Crown, which lies within the southern Milky Way, the two at least in some myths honoring Ariadne and Sagittarius himself.

And now, in response to Skylights' two-week period, here are two Stars of the Week.
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