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Photo of the Week.. A peaceful evening.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 31, 2012.

We start the week with the Moon opposite the Sun, formal full Moon taking place the morning of Friday, August 31, just after Moonset in North America. The entire week is thus spent in the waning gibbous phase, third quarter finally achieved on the morning of Saturday, September 8. There is not much "in the way" as the Moon rides upward roughly following the northerly path of the ecliptic through dim Pisces and south of Aries. The night of Sunday the 2nd, the Moon does trek north of Uranus, but it's not much of an event. Far better is the view the morning of Friday the 7th, when the Moon will lie to the west of bright Jupiter and between the Hyades and Pleiades of Taurus. The night of Thursday the 6th, the Moon goes through apogee, where it is farthest from Earth in its monthly round.

Getting difficult to catch, Mars and Saturn now set shortly after the end of formal twilight. Saturn will then disappear quickly, while the setting time of closer Mars (which falls only slowly behind the pace of Earth) will more or less parallel the end of twilight for the rest of the year. The first of the two big risings is that of Jupiter, which now comes up over the horizon shortly before midnight Daylight Time to the northeast of Taurus's Hyades. Next up is far brighter Venus, which rises about 3 AM in southeastern Gemini. The early part of the week finds it passing several degrees south of Pollux and Castor.

As August transitions to September, and the Moon gets out of the way, the early evening, at least in a dark sky, belongs to the Milky Way, which is sadly lost from town. But you can still imagine its path as it cascades out of Cygnus (nearly overhead at 11 PM) then down through Aquila (marked by bright Altair) and into Sagittarius to the south, the constellation best marked by the five- star upside down Little Milk Dipper. Farther south and close to the horizon lies the gentle curve of stars that makes up Corona Australis, the Southern Crown, whose northern version, Corona Borealis, is now slipping into the northwest, following the Big Dipper and Arcturus of Bootes.
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