Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Photo of the Week. Glorious sunset.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 1, 2010.

Another quiet week, for two in a row. But then the sky is always a peaceful place to visit, on matter what is going on. With the last quarter having taken place last Thursday, September 30, the week belongs to the Moon's waning crescent, which stops at new Moon on Thursday, October 7. Your last view of it will be in dawn on Wednesday, October 6. The morning of Monday the 4th finds the Moon a bit up and to the right of Regulus in Leo, which is now clearing the horizon. The following morning look for our companion almost directly below the star. Just over a day before new phase, the Moon passes perigee, its closest point to the Earth, thus setting off particularly high tides (the strength of the tide dependent on the inverse cube of the Moon's distance from us).

Venus is now leaving us, setting between sunset and the end of twilight. On Thursday the 7th (almost exactly as the Moon passes new), Venus enters retrograde -- westerly motion against the background -- after which it disappears from view. But early risers take heart, as by mid-November, the planet will be popping up in the morning skies. Though Mars sets later than Venus, it's pretty much invisible in bright western twilight. And Saturn, having gone through conjunction with the Sun at the end of last week, is completely out of it until we see it again in the morning toward the end of the month.

That of course leaves us with the second brightest of planets (with the exception of Mars under the most favorable of oppositions), Jupiter. Rising before sunset, the planet is gloriously visible in the southeast after evening darkness falls, and now makes a sort of transition by crossing the meridian to the south at midnight Daylight Time. Look for it low in the west before dawn.

While the summer constellations are slipping away to the west, they will still have an evening presence for some time, reminding us of warmer days. And though they are dominated by the three figures of the Summer Triangle (Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila with Deneb, Vega, and Altair), we should not neglect the set of smaller ancient figures. Between Deneb and Altair (closer to the latter) find Sagitta the Arrow, which actually looks like what it represents. Toward the southeast swims Delphinus, the Dolphin, which looks more like a hand with a finger pointing southward. Farther down in the same direction is faint Equuleus, the Little Horse, which then leads us to southwestern Pegasus and the constellations of autumn.
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