Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured three times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 .

Aegean Sunset

Photo of the Week.. Aegean sunset.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, October 31, 2003.

The Moon begins the week in its first quarter, the phase reached the evening of Friday the 31st with the Moon amidst the dim stars of Capricornus. It then waxes through its gibbous phase to not-quite-full by next Saturday, November 8. Plan now to attend a nicely-timed total eclipse on that date. It will reach its peak for those in the eastern and central US and Canada in early evening. Those in the far west will see the Moon rising during the event. As it moves through the southern portion of the ecliptic, our lunar companion takes on three planets. The night of the first quarter, Friday the 31st, it will pass a few degrees south of Neptune, and then during daylight hours on Sunday, November 2 (with the Moon out of sight for North America) similarly south of Uranus . More interesting, the Moon will approach Mars the night of Sunday, November 2, appearing somewhat to the west of the red planet, the following night (Monday, the 3rd) to the east.

Try now to find Venus in the south. You have little time to look, as the planet is still setting early, only about an hour after sunset and within twilight. The planet on the other side of the Earth, Mars, is however still quite glorious, as it crosses the meridian to the south within the confines of southern Aquarius in mid-evening, about 9 PM, just a little over half an hour before Saturn rises. The ringed planet is at its best just before dawn, for those mid-latitudes gliding high to the south, close to overhead, in central Gemini. Look then to the east to see Jupiter well up in the eastern morning sky just to the south of the bright stars that make the classic figure of Leo the Lion, south of the line that connects first magnitude Regulus at the Lion's heart with second magnitude Denebola at his tail. A telescope easily shows the planet's four large satellites. No telescope? Try steadily held binoculars, and you can still see them.

Mid-fall is "Fomalhaut" season. Watch the star that represents the "fish's mouth" of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish) cross low to the south in early evening below Aquarius. Fomalhaut and the Fish are flanked by a pair of modern constellations. Respectively east and west lie dim Sculptor (the Sculptor's Studio) and Microscopium (the Microscope). Below Piscis Austrinus, however, is one of the prettier of the moderns, Grus, the Crane. From mid- latitudes it looks for all the world like a giant bird stalking the horizon, the "feet" formed by two fine second magnitude stars, Alpha and Beta Gruis.
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