Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

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

Trees and Sky

Photo of the Week.. Trees exalt the contrasting sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 1, 2004.

Our Moon, having just passed full, spends most of the week in its waning gibbous state, rising ever later after sundown, while not reaching third quarter until the morning of Wednesday, October 6. Less than a day before the quarter, it passes apogee, where it is just over five percent farther from us than average (the effect not noticeable with the naked eye). With the Sun still not far from the Autumnal Equinox, the third quarter will be just a bit beyond the Summer Solstice, in Gemini, and will be seen quite high in the sky around the time of sunrise.

The morning sky still hosts the visible planets, though Saturn now actually rises just before local midnight (1 AM daylight time). Watch the Moon pass to the north of it the morning of Thursday the 7th. Only a month ago, Saturn passed conjunction with Venus. Though both are moving east against the stars, Venus -- keeping close pace with the Sun -- is moving much the faster, causing the two planets to separate in angle. While Saturn rises ever earlier, Venus rises ever later, not coming up now until around 3:30 AM Daylight Time (still plenty early enough to be high in the east in growing morning twilight). And while Saturn is in Gemini, Venus has shifted a full constellation over. Around noon on Sunday October 3 Venus will pass conjunction with Regulus in Leo. Watch in the dark hours before dawn that same morning to see the two only a quarter degree apart (half the angular diameter of the Moon), Venus vastly the brighter.

And while Venus takes top honors, Mercury hides, passing superior conjunction with the Sun on Tuesday the 5th. Jupiter is still obscured by the Sun's glare as well, but will soon be making a morning appearance.

Early October evenings still feature the grand Summer Triangle. Deneb (in Cygnus), at the northeastern apex of the Triangle, is nearly overhead in moderate latitudes, while bright Vega in Lyra shines a bit off to the northwest, and Altair (in Aquila) to the south. Among the most exquisite of constellations, Lyra is primarily made of a nearly perfect parallelogram of stars. Off by just a small angle to the northeast of Vega is the famed double-double star Epsilon Lyrae. If you can see the widely spaced pair (each of which is again seen double in a telescope), your vision is exceptionally good. Three fainter constellations cascade to the south more or less in between Aquila and Cygnus: faint modern Vulpecula (the Fox), Sagitta (the Arrow), and Delphinus (the Dolphin), the latter again made of a parallelogram with a fifth star sticking out to the southwest, making the figure look like a hand with a finger pointing down toward Sagittarius.
Valid HTML 4.0!