Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9


Photo of the Week. Sunrise.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 28, 2009.

The week begins with our viewing the Moon rather late in its waxing gibbous phase as it heads toward full during mid-daylight on Monday, November 2. The Moon will then be just shy of full the evening of Sunday the 1st (rising just before sunset), and just past the phase the following night (rising just after sunset). It then wanes in the gibbous over the remainder of the week.

As the Moon makes its rounds it also glides through some nice passages. Though its brightness will hamper the event, on the night of Tuesday the 3rd, just after full phase, the Moon will pass through the Pleiades of Taurus, while by the following night it will have moved into central Taurus to the northeast of the Hyades cluster. Then the night of Thursday the 5th, look for it between Taurus and classical Gemini.

With Daylight Savings Time ending on Sunday, November 1, all times below are Standard. During the early evening hours you can admire bright Jupiter, which now transits the meridian to the south right at the end of twilight, around 6:30 PM. Now setting just before midnight, the giant planet has become fully an evening object as it makes its way to the east against the stars of northeastern Capricornus. Then around 10:30 PM, up comes Mars. In a fine setting in Cancer, the red planet (2 magnitudes fainter than Jupiter, a factor of 6 in brightness) crashes through (really, against) the Beehive cluster around Sunday the 1st, the sight quite lovely in binoculars or a small telescope.

In the morning sky, we are slowly losing Venus, which rises at 5 AM, just as formal twilight begins to light the sky. Look for it to the southwest in dawn's brightening light. On Sunday the 1st, with Mars visiting the Beehive, Venus passes 4 degrees north of Virgo's Spica. The dark morning hours thus belong to Saturn. Rising to the east at 3 AM, the ringed planet is now in Virgo just a couple degrees north of the Autumnal Equinox, between Spica and Leo's luminary, Regulus. In invisible news, Neptune ends retrograde motion (westerly against the stars) on Wednesday the 4th, and Mercury passes superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other side of it) the following day.

The Zodiac, through which all the planets move (only Pluto, if you wish still to call it a planet, significantly deviating), is quite a mix of figures, some bright and beautiful, others dim and hard to see. Cancer, noted above and flagged by Mars, is one of the latter. So are the three constellations of the "wet quarter" now visible, Capricornus (the Water Goat), Aquarius (the Water Bearer), and Pisces (the Fishes), although in a dark sky they will still stand out for you.
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