Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Photo of the Week.. Mars climbs through the trees last March, led by the Sickle of Leo above it. Regulus is up and to the right of Mars, while Denebola is near the lower right edge.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 26, 2012.

Our Moon brightens the sky this week. Starting off in its waxing gibbous phase, it goes through full during the daylight hours in North America on Monday, October 29. The night of Sunday the 28th, it will therefore rise just shy of full shortly before sunset, while the evening of Monday the 29th, it will rise a bit past the exact phase and slightly later than sunset. It then spends the remainder of the week fading in the waning gibbous phase.

The only lunar encounter of note, and it is a good one, is with Jupiter. Look the night of Wednesday the 31st to see the Moon nicely to the west of the bright planet with the star Aldebaran a bit south of a line between them. The following night, that of Thursday, November 1, the Moon and Jupiter will be dramatically closer, but with the Moon flipped to the other side, to the east of the planet. The two will rise very close together with Jupiter on top. Shortly before the rising, the Moon will actually have occulted the planet as seen from part of South Africa. An encounter of little note is with Uranus on Saturday the 27th, the Moon going several degrees to the north of the seventh planet from the Sun. Leaving the Moon, note only that it passes its apogee from Earth on Thursday the 1st.

With that as an introduction, Jupiter is now placing itself beautifully in the evening sky by rising around 8 PM Daylight Time in pretty much its usual place in central Taurus, retrograding (moving to the west against the background stars) a bit to the west and closer to Aldebaran and the Hyades, which lie to the southwest of it. Jupiter then dominates the sky until around 4:30 AM, when brighter Venus launches itself above the eastern horizon, by which time Jupiter has crossed the meridian to the south (though not by that much). Moving rapidly to the east against the background, Venus finds itself near the celestial equator in western Virgo well to the southeast of Leo's Regulus as it slowly catches up with the Sun. Back in the evening, Mars remains nearly invisible but steady, setting its usual half hour after the end of twilight, just about as Jupiter rises. While Mercury passes its greatest eastern elongation to the Sun on Friday the 26th, the ecliptic is so flat against the horizon that the planet is practically invisible (as is Saturn).

Though the bright Moon blots out the fainter stars, you can still see such prominent figures as Cassiopeia, as her "W" stands nearly overhead in late evening. And of course there is faithful Polaris, which you can find due north at an angle above the horizon equal to your latitude. Then well to the south, look for "November's Star," bright but lonely Fomalhaut, "the Fish's Mouth (of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish), a true harbinger of the chilly days to come.
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