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 -- Full List Restored!

Orange clouds

Photo of the Week.Orange sunset from above the clouds.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 19, 2014.

The Moon fades away this week in its waning crescent phase, new Moon passed the morning of Wednesday, September 24. The crescent goes five degrees south of Jupiter the morning of Saturday the 20th, the two making a fine pair. Then look for the rising crescent below the planet and to the right of Regulus in Leo the following morning, that of Sunday the 21st. Your last look at the ultrathin crescent will be the morning thereafter, that of Monday, the 22nd, when it lurks well below Leo's luminary. You'll not see our companion again this week, not until the early twilit evening of Friday the 26th as the new Skylights begins. The Moon goes through apogee, where it is farthest from Earth on its more or less elliptical orbit, on Saturday the 20th.

Saturn, still in Libra just to the east of Zubenelgenubi, sets ever earlier, now just half an hour or so after the end of evening twilight. Mars, though only slowly falling behind Earth in orbit, is not a lot better, going down only a bit over half an hour after Saturn. East of Saturn, the red planet is slowly approaching its namesake Antares in Scorpius (the two of similar color) and will pass only three degrees north of the star on Saturday the 27th. West of Saturn, Mercury makes a particularly poor appearance in twilight even though passing its greatest eastern elongation on Sunday the 21st. In even less of a show, Pluto ceases retrograde motion against the Milky Way in Sagittarius and begins to creep once again to the east. On the other side of the sky, bright Jupiter is up by 3 AM, while Venus sinks ever farther into morning twilight, becoming very hard to see.

The biggest event involves our own planet, as at 9:29 PM Central Daylight Time (10:29 EDT, 8:29, MDT, 7:29 PDT) on Monday the 22nd the Sun crosses the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo, and autumn begins in the northern hemisphere, (spring in the southern). Aside from details like the extended disk of the Sun and atmospheric refraction, on that date days and nights are of equal length, the Sun rises and sets due east and west, rises at the south pole and sets at the north pole. It's an event that can't be missed whether you look for it or not.

After dark we now see the upswing of the ecliptic as it passes through dim Capricornus and then Aquarius, the latter lying north of the stellar harbinger of fall, Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. North of Scorpius and Mars find the giant pentagon than makes much of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, the two parts of the snake, Serpens Caput and Cauda (the head and tail), lying to either side. Above Ophiuchus is Hercules, the great Hero of ancient times, while to the east enter the constellations of the Andromeda myth.

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