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. Good morning!

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, Sepember 4, 2009.

The fortnight features a total Moon-fade, which starts on Friday, September 4 with the full Moon and ends on Friday the 18th with the Moon going through new, when it is more or less between us and the Sun (though not directly, as otherwise we'd have an eclipse). In between, it wanes first through its gibbous phase, then passes third quarter on Friday the 11th (thus splitting our two-week period), then at last goes through the ever- thinning waning crescent.

The night of Saturday the 12th, the Moon will be seen to the west of Mars, while the following night it will be to the east of the red planet. In between, the Moon will actually occult it, though the event takes place in the daytime and is not visible from North America. Much better is the near-classic pairing of the waning crescent with Venus the morning of Wednesday the 16th, when the brilliant planet will be just down and to the left of the Moon. Leo, climbing out of twilight, adds to the show, as first magnitude Regulus will be below Venus, the three -- Regulus, the Moon, Venus -- making a fine triangle. The last view of the thin crescent then comes on the morning of Thursday the 17th.

In less-visible news, Mercury begins its retrograde (westerly against the stars) motion on Saturday the 6th, the Moon passes north of Uranus on Saturday the 5th, and the Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to the Earth, on the morning of Wednesday the 16th. By odd coincidence (or in astronomy, not so odd, as these things happen a lot), Uranus goes through opposition to the Sun on Thursday the 17th only eight hours before Saturn, which has been disappearing into twilight, goes through solar conjunction. More invisibly, Pluto, now in far northwestern Sagittarius, ceases its little retrograde movement on Friday the 11th.

After all this, the big show is in the evening, with Jupiter now well up in the southeast at the end of twilight, crossing the meridian to the south around 11 PM Daylight Time, then setting just before morning twilight begins to light the sky. By that time, Venus is up in the east, rising around 4 AM and beating twilight by a good hour. In between, Mars becomes a sort-of evening object by rising at local midnight (1 AM Daylight). Jupiter still resides in far northeastern Capricornus, Mars moves along in southern Gemini, and Venus lights the sky southeast of Cancer's Beehive Cluster.

It's Vega season, in mid-northern climes Lyra's brightest star and the northeast anchor of the Summer Triangle passing nearly overhead in mid-evening. The big triangular pattern is fulfilled by Deneb of Cygnus at the northwest apex and Altair of Aquila at the southern, the constellation of the Eagle the gateway to the southern Milky Way as it pours through Scutum and into Sagittarius.
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