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

Lake Michigan

Photo of the Week.. Morning sunlight reflects from the waters of Lake Michigan, appearing as an upside-down sunpillar.

Astronomy news for the two week period starting Friday, September 9, 2005.

Skylights is presented for two weeks, and will resume its regular weekly schedule on Friday, September 23.

The Moon begins the week just shy of first quarter, that phase reached on Sunday, September 11. It then waxes through gibbous to full the night of Saturday the 17th (about the time of Moonrise), after which it wanes through gibbous toward third quarter (which does not take place until the night of Saturday, the 24th). The night of Friday the 9th finds the Moon a bit to the west of Antares in Scorpius, while the following night, it will be just to the east of the bright star. Our companion then takes on Neptune and Uranus, gliding five degrees to the south of former the night of Wednesday the 14th, then two degrees south of the latter on Friday the 16th. The Moon then makes a fine conjunction with Mars the night of Wednesday the 21st, at the same time falling just to the west of the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus. The night of Thursday the 22nd, the Moon will pass to the north of the Hyades, also in Taurus.

The red planet, rising around 10 PM Daylight Time, remains in extreme eastern Aries. Meanwhile, Saturn is making a nice impact on the morning sky, rising around 3 AM just to the southwest of the Beehive Cluster in Cancer. Mercury then invisibly passes superior conjunction with the Sun (when it is on the other side of the Sun) on Sunday the 17th.

The real show still belongs to the early twilight evening as Jupiter and brightening Venus continue to part from each other, Jupiter setting in mid-twilight, Venus (shifting to the south) not setting until the sky is fully dark. On Wednesday the 21st, Jupiter, now moving easterly, finally catches up with Spica in Virgo, passing three degrees north of the star.

The Earth makes its quarterly report at 5:23 Central Daylight Time on Thursday the 22nd (6:23 EDT, 4:23 MDT, 3:23 PDT), this time passing the autumnal equinox in Virgo, at which moment astronomical autumn begins in the northern hemisphere (and spring in the southern). At that time, the Earth's axis is perpendicular to the line to the Sun, the Sun is on the celestial equator, is overhead at the Earth's equator, (at least technically) rises due east, sets due west, is up for 12 hours, down for 12 hours (the interval of daylight actually extended by a few minutes because of the Sun's half-degree angular diameter and refraction in the Earth's atmosphere), sets at the north pole, and rises at the south pole.

Now is the time to admire the Summer Triangle, which in mid evening lies high to the south and consists of Vega in Lyra (the brightest of the three stars), Altair in Aquila, and Deneb in Cygnus (the faintest). Nearly in the middle is the famed double star Albireo, Beta Cygni.
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