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!


Photo of the Week. A powerful hidden electrical discharge lights the clouds of a thunderhead 60 miles away, See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, September 29, 2016.

The next skylights will appear October 7, 2016.

The Moon begins in its third quarter the morning of Friday, September 23, and after slimming as a waning crescent it passes new at the end of the month, then grows through its waxing crescent phase, which does not end until first quarter on the evening of Saturday, October 8. You can see a marvelous pairing of the thin waning crescent with Mercury in eastern twilight the morning of Thursday the 29th, the planet a bit to the left. On the other side of the sky, the waxing crescent will make a similar, though not as close, a pair with Venus, the bright planet down and to the left of the Moon. The following evening finds the growing crescent between Venus and Saturn, and then on the evening of Wednesday the 5th the moon will be directly to the right of the ringed planet, with the star Antares below. The Moon then heads towards Mars, which it will pass as our next fortnight begins. The Moon goes through apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth, on Thursday the 4th.

While Venus, Saturn, and Mars make a lovely progression up and to the left in the southwestern evening sky, after a long and beautiful run through southern Leo, Jupiter finally goes through conjunction with the Sun on Monday the 26th. We'll soon see it in the eastern morning sky. Mercury reaches its greatest western elongation on Wednesday the 28th, when it rises just as morning twilight begins, while at the far reaches of the Solar System, Pluto ceases retrograde motion against the background stars of Sagittarius and begins moving slowly eastward. Once Mars sets around 11 PM Daylight Time, the sky is free of ancient planets until dawn.

As the Big Dipper descends into the northwest, the Little Dipper stands high on its handle balanced on the North Star, Polaris. Between the two lies the tail of Draco, the Dragon, which, after winding around the Little Dipper, looks to the south with its fearsome head examining the region between Hercules and Vega in Lyra, rather oddly in the direction in which the Sun is moving through the swarm of local stars.
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