Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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

Wild Sky

Photo of the Week.. Clouds -- lacy cirrus far above the low curmulus -- go wild across a striking blue sky.

Astronomy news for the eight day period starting Friday, October 15, 2004.

The next Skylights will appear Saturday, October 23.

The Moon begins the week in its waxing crescent phase, then passes through first quarter the evening of Wednesday, October 20, when it is seen gliding low above the southern horizon about the time of Sunset in North America and to the east of Sagittarius. Three days before, it passes perigee, the point at which is closest to the Earth. The nights of Saturday the 16th, and Sunday the 17th, the Moon will present a pretty sight with twilight Scorpius, to the right of Antares the 16th, to the left the 17th. As the Moon waxes through gibbous toward full (reached the night of Wednesday, October 27, when there will be an excellent total lunar eclipse), it will pass to the south of Neptune (in central Capricornus) on Thursday the 21st, then south of Uranus (in Aquarius) the night of Friday the 22nd.

For real beauty, check out the morning sky, which is still dominated by brilliant Venus. Though the planet has been rising later (now around 4 AM Daylight Time), sunrise and morning twilight fall later too as the Sun heads south, such that Venus has seemed to maintain nearly the same altitude above the horizon as the sky brightens. Though twilight is slowly catching up with our "sister planet" (so-called only because it is about the same size as ours, and in spite of its extreme surface conditions of heat and high atmospheric pressure), Venus will not rise as twilight begins until the end of the year. Saturn , now rising in Gemini before midnight Daylight time, lies well above Venus, while Jupiter, far below Venus, is just beginning to be visible.

While admiring Venus, be sure to look to the south for Orion, Sirius, and the rest of the gang that make the stars of evening winter. The morning of Thursday the 21st marks the peak of this year's Orionid meteor shower, which will not be marred by Moonlight. Along with May's Eta Aquarids, the Orionids are the flaked-off debris of Halley's Comet, picked up as the Earth comes close to its orbit. They typically produce about 20 meteors a minute that, because of perspective effects, seem to come from the direction of that constellation.

In early evening, Cygnus the Swan, nearly overhead, flies down the soft path of the Milky Way, which streams from the northeast out of Cassiopeia, through Cygnus and Aquila, and then brightens in the star-cloud of the modern constellation, Scutum (the Shield). The Milky Stream really then takes on its glory within Sagittarius, best seen from the climes of the southern hemisphere.
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