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Photo of the Week. Billowing clouds.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 27, 2013.

The Moon starts off our week just past third quarter, which took place the night of Thursday, September 26. By the night of Friday the 27th, rather by early morning of Saturday the 28th, it will have slipped into its fat waning crescent phase that will slim during the week as it rises ever later until it finally passes through new on Friday, October 4. Your last glimpse of the ultrathin crescent will be in late dawn the morning of Thursday the 3rd.

The morning of Saturday the 28th, the Moon will make a nice pairing with Jupiter, as it passes five degrees south of the giant planet. Then the morning of Monday the 30th, the waning crescent will appear up and to the right of Mars. The next morning it will make a fine triangle with reddish Mars and the star Regulus in Leo, which will appear to the left of the Moon. The morning of Monday the 2nd finds the Moon well below (to the east of) the star.

Venus glows brilliantly low above the western horizon in evening twilight, but you have to catch it early, as it sets just after the sky gets fully dark. Saturn, farther down, is a difficult sight at best, the ringed planet effectively gone for the season. Once Venus sets, the show continues after a break with Jupiter, which rises just before local midnight (1 AM Daylight Time) within Gemini to the southwest of Castor and Pollux. Mars then quite obviously rises around 3 AM in eastern Leo between Cancer's Beehive Cluster (to the west) and Leo's Regulus (to the east). By dawn the two planets will make a fine sight as they climb the eastern sky.

With the Moon out of the way, from a dark sight the Milky Way becomes wonderfully visible in early evening as it cascades from Cygnus (nearly overhead) down through Aquila (and Altair) and Scutum (the Shield) into Sagittarius, after which it drops below the horizon. Note how as it passes through Cygnus it splits into two streams separated by the "Great Rift," which is caused by a thick layer of interstellar dust in the central plane of our Galaxy. It is there, within the cold interstellar clouds, that stars are born. To the northeast, find the rising "W" of Cassiopeia, then Perseus and Auriga, the latter with bright Capella, not far behind her.

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