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Photo of the Week. Blown by the winds.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 25, 2013.

It's a morning Moon this week, at least for the most part. The night of Friday, October 25, we'll see the Moon in its waning gibbous phase just shy of third quarter (and near apogee , where it is farthest from Earth), the quarter itself passed on Saturday the 26th. The Moon thereafter fades away as a waning crescent until it disappears as new Moon next week on Sunday, November 3, when a minimal partial eclipse can be seen at sunrise from the eastern seaboard of the US and Canada. Having passed beneath Jupiter during our week's opening day, the Moon will appear to the southeast of the planet the morning of Saturday the 26th (with Castor and Pollux above them both). Dismissing Jupiter, the Moon next takes on Mars. Look for it to the southwest of the red planet the morning of Tuesday the 29th, then to the southeast of it the following morning.

It's "inferior planets' week," but with the pair closest to the Sun at opposite ends of the visibility scale. On Friday, November 1, Venus passes its greatest elongation of 47 degrees to the east of the Sun. Though as far in angle from the Sun as possible, its visibility in western evening skies will keep getting better and better, Venus now setting almost an hour after the sky gets fully dark. At about the same time, Mercury passes inferior conjunction with the Sun (on the near side of it) and is completely invisible. Look for it in the morning toward the middle of November.

Encroaching ever more into evening skies, Jupiter (still in Gemini south of Castor and Pollux) is up by 11 PM Daylight Time. Look for it high nearly overhead as morning begins to light the sky. By that time, Mars, rising at 2:30 AM, is well up in the east. While distant Jupiter pretty much maintains its position against the background, nearby Mars is moving quickly to the east, and is now south of central Leo to the east of first magnitude Regulus, the two about the same brightness though of notably different color.

If you see a bright meteor while out, it is probably part of the Taurid stream of debris related to Comet Encke of notably short period. The Taurids, which seem to emanate from the zodiacal constellation Taurus, are on display from the end of October throughout most of November.

This week we celebrate an astronomical holiday of sorts, Halloween. It's often taken as one of the "cross- quarter days" that approximately mark the half way points between the solstices and equinoxes and that include Groundhog Day. Winter is on its way.

While in early evening summer's stars still blaze away from overhead into the west, look now to fall and to "November's Star," Fomalhaut in Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish, as it crawls across the southern meridian in mid to late evening. Above it are the stars of Aquarius, which are best marked by the "Y" shaped "Water Jar" that lies practically on the celestial equator.
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