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

Central Scorpius

Photo of the Week. Central Scorpius with its globular clustersabove, open clusters below, now gone for the season.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 22, 2010.

We begin the week with the bright full Moon, which takes place the evening of Friday, October 22, shortly after the sky is fully dark, allowing us to see the near- perfect phase face-on. It's a beautiful sight even if it does block out the much fainter starlight, full Moonlight about a millionth as bright as full sunlight. The Moon then immediately begins to wane in the gibbous phase, rising ever later each night. Watch early in the week as it plows through Taurus and past Aldebaran. The night of Sunday the 24th is especially good as the Moon will be seen passing to the south of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) star cluster, though you will need binoculars, as the lunar brightness will make the stars difficult to see. Closest approach will take place in the morning hours of Monday the 25th before dawn.

While the Moon passes through opposition with the Sun (the full Moon rising at sunset), Venus does just the reverse, as it finally passes through inferior conjunction with the Sun on Thursday the 28th, rendering it very difficult to see. Though it will be between us and the Sun, it passes nearly 7 degrees to the south, completely missing a transit (the next one taking place June 6, 2012 and then not again for a long long time, not until December of 2117).

Mercury and Mars are out of sight as well, though with some diligence you might spot Saturn, which rises about as dawn begins to light the morning sky. The ringed planet is now moving through Virgo to the south of Porrima (Gamma Virginis) well to the northwest of Spica. That once again leaves us with Jupiter, whose glory and visibility more than make up for any other planetary lack. Well up in the east in evening twilight, Jupiter now crosses the meridian high to the south around 10:30 PM, as it moves slowly south of the Circlet of Pisces almost exactly on the Pisces-Aquarius border. Look with binoculars for much fainter Uranus about three degrees to the northeast of it.

The range of the stars of the Andromeda myth is huge, running tens of degrees across the sky. The story begins at the western end with Pegasus and its Great Square, which is nicely visible north of bright Jupiter. The set of figures then climbs to the northeast through Andromeda, finishing at the eastern end with the star-streams of Perseus. To the north, find Cassiopeia with her prominent "W," to the south Cetus, the Sea Monster, which swims into the depths of the sky's southern hemisphere.
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