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red sunrise

Photo of the Week. Red sunrise.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 24, 2008.

As quiet as last week was, this one is busy. We begin with the Moon in its waning crescent phase heading toward new, the Moon disappearing more or less in front of the Sun on Tuesday, October 28. The morning of Saturday the 25th finds our Moon just to the south of Saturn. You can get your last glimpse of the waning crescent in dawn the morning of Monday the 27th with the Moon to the southwest of Mercury, the two invisibly passing conjunction later in the day. With the evening ecliptic flat against the horizon, the first sighting of the waxing crescent will be delayed until at least the evening of Thursday the 30th.

The two inner planets make a pair of nice passages as well, though in twilight they will be difficult to see. On Sunday the 26th, Venus -- now brilliant in southwestern dusk -- will pass three degrees north of Antares in Scorpius (actual conjunction taking place that morning), while on Thursday the 30th, Mercury and Spica (in Virgo) get together, the planet four degrees north of the star.

Mercury rises at the start of morning twilight, while Venus, becoming ever brighter and climbing ever higher, now sets just a bit after evening twilight comes to a close. Next up, well to the east of Venus, is bright Jupiter, which dominates the dark of early night until it sets around 10:30 PM Daylight Time (here a good moment to note that Daylight Time does not end until Sunday, November 2). For the next five hours the sky is bereft of ancient planets until the 3:30 AM rising of Saturn to the southeast of Regulus in Leo.

While the ancients are gone, you might contemplate Uranus and the brightest Asteroid, Vesta. Uranus, in far northern Aquarius just south of the Circlet of Pisces, is faintly visible to the naked eye, while Vesta is just under naked eye visibility (but a good binocular object) as it hits opposition to the Sun on Wednesday the 29th just to the southwest of the head of Cetus.

The summer gang to the south -- Scorpius and Sagittarius -- moves off into twilight to be replaced by the autumn crew. But by looking early you can still harken to warmer times by noting the two birds of Summer, Cygnus (the Swan) to the northwest, and Aquila (the Eagle) which spans the celestial equator.
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