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. The setting full Moon glides just above the lowering shadow of the Earth, cast upon the morning air.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 16, 2009.

We start the week with the Moon in its waning crescent phase, last visible as Skylight's week starts on the morning of Friday, October 16. By the next morning, the Moon will be quite invisible as it heads toward new on Saturday the 17th. It will thereafter wax as an evening crescent the remainder of the week, not passing first quarter until Saturday the 25th. You should get your first look at the crescent in western twilight the evening of Monday the 19th. Not much happens between new and quarter other than the Moon passing north of Antares in Scorpius during daylight on the morning of Wednesday the 21st. The waxing crescent will then be seen to the west of the star the evening of Tuesday the 20th, then to the east of it the following night.

But there are other things to see. Though Venus drops lower in early morning, its rising around 5:30 AM still beats twilight, making it yet a glorious sight in dawn. If you have a clear eastern horizon, you might spot Saturn a bit to the west of Venus, the ringed planet rising about half an hour earlier. By then, Mars, rising at midnight Daylight Time, appears high in the sky in Cancer to the east of Gemini. Mercury, moving fast, is effectively gone. In the evening, we admire Jupiter , which is now crossing the meridian well to the south around 8:30 PM, not setting until 1:30 AM.

The big event, and yes there is one, is the Orionid meteor shower, which peaks the morning of Wednesday the 21st, with Orion high in the sky. The Orionids are the debris that has flaked off Halley's Comet, which hit us twice, the other the Eta Aquarids of early May. Under a dark sky you might spot one every couple minutes or so.

The Andromeda myth is climbing the sky, led by Queen Cassiopeia, whose "W" or "Chair" is now rising in the northeast as the Big Dipper sets toward the horizon in the northwest. To the west lies Cepheus, the King, while to her east is Perseus, the hero who slew Cetus, the Sea Monster, who was about to devour Cassiopeia's daughter Andromeda, whose graceful curves of stars begins now to rise in late evening. Watch them all, be taken back into the past, when the stories were written upon the clear dark skies.
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