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Photo of the Week. Memory of summer.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 28, 2011.

The Moon starts off our week just barely into its waxing crescent phase, our first look the evening Friday the 28th within the glow of twilight. Thickening as it moves to the east against the starry background, it does not reach first quarter until Wednesday, November 2 about the time of Moonrise in North America, after which it enters the waxing gibbous phase. The evening of Friday, October 28th, the crescent will shine well to the right of Antares of Scorpius. Then look down and to the right of the Moon, and if the sky and horizon cooperate, you might glimpse Venus, though it will be a difficult sight as the planet sets half an hour before twilight's end.

Whatever other celestial sights there may be, the week belongs to Jupiter, which on the night of Friday the 28th stands in opposition to the Sun, when it rises at sundown, crosses the meridian to the south at local midnight (roughly 1 AM Daylight Time), then sets at sunup. Deep in southwestern Aries, just northeast of the point where Aries, Cetus, and Pisces all meet, Jupiter is now in the middle of its slow retrograde (westerly against the stars) crawl. Then less than an hour after Jupiter transits south, up comes Mars in a fine location in western Leo just a few degrees to the northwest of notably fainter Regulus, the blue-white star contrasting nicely with the Martian red (actually more orange). As the month of October gives way to November, Saturn passes due south of Spica, the planet now rising just as dawn begins to light the sky.

Look for November's Star, first magnitude Fomalhaut of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish) as it crosses the meridian far to the south around 9 PM Daylight Time, the planet- holding star a true mark of middle-autumn. Above it lie the stellar curves of Aquarius topped by the Water Bearer's Y-shaped Water Jar. To the immediate east-northeast of the "jug" find the Circlet of Pisces, which falls right below the Great Square of Pegasus. If you are far enough south, look to the southwest of Fomalhaut to admire the modern constellation of Grus, the Crane, as it stalks along the southern horizon. Wait a couple hours then and see the "W" of Cassiopeia circling nearly overhead, at least for those at mid-northern latitudes.
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