Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured five times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Thin Moon

Photo of the Week.. A remarkably thin waning crescent Moon, just 30 hours from new, rises in eastern dawn, the ghostly disk of earthlight on the Moon's nighttime side appearing just above it.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, September 30, 2005.

We pass (rather the Moon passes) through its new phase during the week, on Monday October 3. Prior to that you can see it as a thin waning crescent (see above) at dawn, and by the night of Tuesday the 4th and thereafter as a thin waxing crescent in evening twilight. The best lunar viewing of the week will take place the night of Thursday, October 6, when the Moon will couple with Venus, appearing down and to the right of the brilliant planet.

Unmistakable in evening twilight, Venus now sets a quarter hour or so after twilight ends and by the middle of the week will set just as Mars rises in the east as the red planet graces western Pisces just to the northeast of the head of Cetus. Before long, both planets will be visible in the evening sky, one nearly opposite the other. Mercury then holds forth with two other passages, coming into conjunction with the star Spica on Tuesday the 4th and into conjunction with Jupiter on Thursday the 6th, both planets now in bright twilight and both quite invisible. Though Jupiter is out of sight, you can still nicely admire Saturn, which rises around 2 AM Daylight Time within the confines of dim Cancer, the Crab, just south of the Beehive cluster.

As the Moon passes new on Monday the 3rd, it also passes in front of the Sun to produce an eclipse that will unfortunately miss the Americas altogether. Having recently passed apogee (last Wednesday, September 28), the Moon will be too far away to cover the Sun completely, which will create an "annular eclipse" in which a ring of sunlight will seem to surround the darkened Moon. The remaining sunlight is so bright that the solar corona will not be visible at all. The path of annularity runs from the mid-Atlantic, across Spain, then northeastern Africa, and out into the Pacific. Nearly all of Europe and Africa will witness various degrees of partial eclipse. If you are in the partial or annular path, do NOT look directly at the Sun, which is bright enough to burn the eye. Use either professionally-made filters or observe by projection, in which the sunlight is cast through a pinhole onto a screen, or even onto the ground. Solar and lunar eclipses appear in pairs, and sure enough there will just barely be a partial eclipse of the full Moon on the morning of Monday the 17th that will be visible in central and western North America and in Hawaii.

Look in the northeast in late evening past Perseus to see the ascension of Capella of Auriga, the most northerly of first magnitude stars, and sixth brightest in the sky. A good counterpart in the southern hemisphere would be Achernar at the end of the river Eridanus. Between it and the south celestial pole lies the modern constellation Hydrus, the "Water Snake," one of the many "fearful serpents" of the sky.
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