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 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week., taken July 8, 2016. Mars (halfway to the right), Saturn (up and to the left of center), and Antares (below Saturn), dominate this extraordinary configuration in Scorpius. Dschubba (Delta Sco), an erupting hot star, lies at dead center. It's the center of the vertical trio that makes the Scorpion's head. The "Stinger" is at the lower left corner. Compare with the configuration seen a month earlier on August 26.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, October 21, 2016.

d The next skylights will appear November 4, 2016.

The Moon fades away during the first week of our fortnight, beginning at third quarter on Saturday the 22nd, then slimming away as a waning crescent until it disappears in morning twilight on Saturday, October 29, new Moon passed the next day. Two days later, the Moon passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth on its more-or-less elliptical orbit.

Flipping to the other side of the sky, the now-
waxing crescent will appear above the star Antares the early evening of Tuesday, November 1, bright twilight making the sight a difficult catch. The early evening of Wednesday the 2nd it will be much easier to see the growing crescent above Saturn, with Venus to the left. The following evening finds the Moon up and to the left of the bright planet. First quarter finally puts an end to the crescent on November 7, just after our current period ends.

Be sure to look for the "stack" of objects vertical to the horizon in twilight the evening of Thursday the 27th, which features Saturn on top, Venus (the brightest of them) in the middle, and fainter Antares below. The configuration will stick around for a couple days. By the time the Moon gets into the act, Venus will have shifted well to the left, as noted above.

Mars, moving eastward against the stars to the east of the Little Milk Dipper of Sagittarius, heads for Capricornus, reliably setting just after 10:30 PM Daylight time. At least Jupiter is back, the bright planet now rising just before dawn. Mercury, now gone from the sky, passes superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other side of the Sun) on Thursday the 27th.

Orionid meteor shower, which comes from the debris of Halley's comet and emanates from the constellation Orion, peaks around the mornings of October 20-21, but is active for a few days on either side of these dates. Unfortunately, moonlight gets in the way. We get hit again by the stuff in early May.

Look to the far northwest to see the falling stars of the Big Dipper. For most of us it's near-circumpolar. The famed configuration is replaced by the prominent "W" of Cassiopeia, the Queen of the Andromeda myth. To the west is the dim pentagon that makes Cassiopeia's husband, Cepheus, the King.

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