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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .


Photo of the Week.. Just before sunrise, faint shafts of rose light shine upward, caused by shadowing light clouds beyond the horizon.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 24, 2004.

This is the week of the full Moon, which takes place on the morning of Tuesday, September 28, just about the time of Moonset in North America, and since the full Moon is opposite the Sun, about the time of sunrise as well. With the Sun just having passed the Autumnal Equinox in Virgo, this full Moon will lie just past the Vernal Equinox in Pisces. The September full Moon is famed as the " Harvest Moon." Because the actual time of the full Moon is in the late morning hours, the rising "Harvest Moon" gets two dates, the night of Monday the 27th (when the Moon is just short of actual full phase) and the night of Tuesday the 28th (when it is just past full). At this time of year, the ecliptic (which the Moon closely follows) lies fairly flat against the early-evening eastern horizon. As a result, the delay in nearly-full-Moonrise from one night to the next is short, a mere half an hour, causing the early evening to be flooded with moonlight, which in older times allowed one to work the harvest after sundown.

Other than that, the week's action involves the distant nearly-twin planets Neptune and Uranus, the Moon passing five degrees (about the separation between the two front bowl stars of the Big Dipper, which point nicely to Polaris) south of the former on Friday the 24th, and the same angle south of the latter the next day, not that it matters much as bright moonlight would make any observation difficult.

The planetary sky, as over the past weeks, now really belongs to the morning, with Saturn (in Gemini) rising just past local midnight (1 AM daylight time), and Venus coming up about 3:30 AM Daylight Time. The view of our sister planet, the second out from the Sun, at 5 or 6 AM is glorious. If you get up early enough to admire Venus, be sure to look south for a fine view of Orion and the stars that will, before long, grace the winter sky.

It is, however, the autumn that now is in full swing, and time once more to look at Cassiopeia (the Queen) climbing the northeastern sky, its "W" wonderfully prominent opposite the Big Dipper. Right between Caph (Beta Cassiopeiae) and Polaris (in Ursa Minor) is the northern star of Cepheus (the King), Errai (Gamma Cephei), which hosts a Jupiter-like planet. The rest of Cepheus, spreads downward in a large pentagon, and includes such wonders as the variable Delta Cephei and Herschel's Garnet Star (Mu Cephei). Farther south is the jagged set of dim stars that make the obscure modern constellation Lacerta, the celestial Lizard.
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