Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

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


Photo of the Week. An evening rose looks to the sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 9, 2009.

The Moon begins our week in the last stages of its waning gibbous phase, then passes third quarter on the morning of Sunday, October 11, when it is climbing the eastern sky as seen from North America. We then see it slip into the waning crescent phase as it heads towards new the night of Saturday the 17th. On Tuesday the 13th, the Moon passes through perigee, where it is closest to the Earth, some 5.5 percent closer than average and thus appearing 5.5 percent larger than average, though the effect is not noticeable to the eye.

Just after the quarter, the night of Sunday the 11th, the Moon will pass about a degree south of bright Mars, making for a fine sight indeed. It's a great chance to locate the red planet. Then the morning of Friday the 16th, look for the slim crescent (your last chance to see it before new phase) just to the southwest of Saturn and very obvious Venus.

These two planets then put on their own small show, as Venus passes just 0.6 degrees south of Saturn the morning of Tuesday the 13th, the Moon seen well to the west. Since Venus is so obvious, it's a good chance to catch Saturn, which -- though a bright first magnitude -- will still be 100 times fainter than Venus. With both of them now rising half an hour before morning twilight begins (about 5:30 AM Daylight Time), the view will be within a brightening sky, making Saturn difficult to see.

The evening provides its own show. Jupiter, crossing the meridian to the south about 9 PM, dominates, the giant planet not setting until 2 AM. Since mid-June Jupiter has been in retrograde motion, to the west against the stars of northeastern Capricornus, caused by the faster-moving Earth passing between it and the Sun. That ends on Tuesday the 13th, when the king of the planetary system stops and turns around to resume its normal easterly motion as it heads towards residency in Aquarius next year.

It's then not a long wait until Mars climbs above the northeastern horizon just after midnight. The red planet is in a fine setting to the east of classical Gemini with Castor and Pollux pointing downward (as it rises) more or less right at it.

Two nice asterisms are waiting for you to find. With the Moon now out of the way, look about 20 degrees up and to the left of Jupiter (to the northeast) to locate the Y-shaped "Water Jar" of Aquarius, then more to the east and a bit north to catch the ragged circle that makes the "Circlet" of Pisces. Below them (to the southeast of Jupiter), first magnitude Fomalhaut of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish, floats above the horizon.
Valid HTML 4.0!