Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

Earth Shadow

Photo of the Week.. A panoramic view of the western morning sky sees the Earth's shadow setting in the west, a prelude to Sunrise.

Astronomy news for the short week starting Saturday, September 27, 2003.

Skylights will resume its regular schedule on Friday, October 3.

Having passed its new phase on Thursday, September 25, the Moon waxes through its crescent phase the early part of the week toward its first quarter, which will be reached on Thursday, October 2 about the time of Moonrise in North America. With the Sun just having passed the autumnal equinox in Virgo, this first quarter will be just past the winter solstice in Sagittarius. Given the tilt of the lunar orbit that now sends the Moon below the ecliptic (just as it sent the last third quarter above it), this first quarter will be not only the most southerly of the year, but even lower (from the North American viewpoint) than usual.

Other than the Moon, the evening sky is still dominated by Mars, which is well up in the southeast in twilight, its orange-red color playing nicely against a fading blue-grey sky. Now crossing the meridian to the south at 10:30 PM Daylight Time, the red planet is now setting before 4 AM. In the act of fading some as the Earth pulls away from it, Mars also ceases its retrograde motion on Monday, September 29, and begins once again to move in its normal easterly direction against the starry background of southwestern Aquarius, not far from the Capricornus border. A little over an hour after Mars transits, Saturn comes up over the horizon within the confines of Gemini. The other bright planets bookend the evening. Venus might be barely glimpsed in the west southwest in bright evening twilight, while Jupiter, in Leo, is now rising over an hour before dawn. Closer to the horizon, one might even see Mercury.

Beginning October is a perfect time for Cygnus (the Swan), which around 9 PM flies directly overhead for mid-northerners, with first magnitude Deneb at its tail, fainter Albireo at its head. Tip the Swan upside down to see it as the Northern Cross, the boreal counterpart to the austral Southern Cross (Crux), which is really decently visible only from south of the Tropic of Cancer.

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