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 .

Mars and Fomalhaut

Photo of the Week.. Mars lies in Aquarius above first magnitude Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 17, 2003.

The week begins with the Moon practically at its new phase, the Moon passing a bit above the Sun the morning of Saturday, October 25. Watch for it the evening of Sunday, the 26th, as a thin crescent in southwestern twilight. As the week progresses, the crescent will climb ever higher as evening descends, the Moon's nighttime side glowing softly with Earthlight until the first quarter approaches, that phase reached next Friday, the 31st. The evening of Sunday the 26th, the Moon will be just to the left of Venus, allowing the bright planet to be readily located. The following night, Monday the 27th, the crescent will be nicely placed among the stars of Scorpius, to the right of the star Antares. Venus will actually be occulted be the Moon as seen from Hawaii.

Venus's "inferior" partner Mercury (Venus and Mercury called the "inferior planets" because they are interior to the Earth's orbit) is completely out of sight, as it passes superior conjunction with the Sun (when it is on the other side of the Sun) on Saturday, the 25th. Obvious Saturn, now rising around 9 PM Standard Time, also passes an orbital milestone, as it ceases its direct easterly motion against the stars of Gemini, and begins to move retrograde, to the west (the effect only an illusion as the Earth prepares to pass between it and the Sun). About an hour before Saturn rises, Mars crosses the meridian to the south. Though near the end of the month Mars is 60 percent farther from us than when it was at its close approach last August 27, the planet is still brighter than all stars but the brightest, Sirius. About half an hour after Mars sets (around 1:30 AM), Jupiter rises south of the classic figure of Leo.

Note that on Sunday, October 26, most of the US and Canada move from Daylight Time back to Standard by setting the clocks back by one hour. Daylight time is an artifice in which we move one time zone forward to make the Sun appear to set and rise an hour later than it really does.

The stars of autumn are now full upon us. Look for the Great Square of Pegasus high to the south around 9 PM. Below it and sprawling to the east is one of the dimmer constellations of the Zodiac, Pisces, the Fishes, along with Capricornus and Aquarius a reminder of an ancient wet season. Immediately south of the Square is Pisces' most prominent part, the "Circlet," which lies almost directly east of Aquarius's Y-shaped "Water Jar." Running up from the upper left corner of the Square is a stream of stars that makes part of Andromeda, the home of the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye, the Andromeda Galaxy, a massive spiral galaxy much like our own that lies some two million light years away.
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