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

Jupiter and Uranus

Photo of the Week. In early October of 2010, Jupiter, Uranus, and the Vernal Equinox lay all in a nice row within western Pisces. While seeming neighbors, Uranus was actually 4.8 times farther away from us, Jupiter at 3.97 Astronomical Units (the AU the distance between Earth and Sun).

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 15, 2010.

Having just passed first quarter on Thursday, October 14, the Moon begins our current week in the early part of its waxing gibbous phase. Watch as it then grows towards full, which is finally attained the night of Friday the 22nd. The night of Tuesday the 19th finds the Moon passing several degrees above Jupiter , and of course then above much dimmer accompanying Uranus (see the picture of the week) as well, the latter planet quite washed out by bright Moonlight. The following night with the Moon to the east of Jupiter will present us with a fine sight as well. Near the Vernal Equinox, the nights from Tuesday the 19th to Thursday the 21st find the Moon drifting to the south of the Great Square of Pegasus. Somewhat earlier, on Monday, the 18th, the Moon passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth on its monthly round. Earlier yet, on Sunday the 17th, the Moon goes by (to the north of) Neptune, which fares even worse than Uranus.

The planetary sky pretty much consists of Jupiter. Mars and Venus are lost to evening twilight, Mercury passes superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other side of it) on Saturday the 16th, and Saturn has not yet cleared dawn's light. But the "big one" may be enough to keep us occupied for a time. Just to the southwest of the Vernal Equinox in Pisces, Jupiter is well up in the east in twilight, crosses the meridian to the south around 11 PM Daylight Time, and does not set until shortly before the beginning of eastern morning twilight.

Another meteor season is upon us, this time leading with the Orionid shower, which stretches over the week, peaking the mornings of Thursday the 21st and Friday the 22nd. Under a dark sky we might expect some 20 meteors per hour coming from the direction of Orion. Unfortunately, at the showers' peak, the sky will be awash with moonlight, rendering these leavings of Halley's Comet hard to see. Halley's is alone in generating not one, but TWO showers, the other the Eta Aquarids in early May.

As fall deepens, it's time for the constellations of the Andromeda myth, among the most beloved of which is autumn's great harbinger, Pegasus (the Flying Horse) and its Great Square. Rising north of Jupiter like a great diamond, the Great Square crosses the meridian high in the sky around 11 PM. Coming off its northeast corner is the main star stream that makes most of Andromeda herself. Above her, find the "W" that represents the major portion of her Mom, Queen Cassiopeia.
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