Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured five times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5


Photo of the Week. Country road sunrise.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, November 4, 2005.

Skylights will resume its normal weekly schedule on November 18.

Skylights' fortnight holds two lunar phases "of the moment" in its embrace, the first quarter the night of Tuesday, November 8 (taking place during mid-evening), and full the night of Tuesday the 15th (just after moonrise). Before first quarter we see a fat waxing crescent, between first and full a fatter waxing gibbous, and following full the reverse, a waning gibbous, as each night the lunar day- night division creeps to the left.

We also see two lovely planetary passages. The evening of Saturday the 5th, the crescent Moon will partner brilliant Venus and will be seen just to the left of the planet, which now does not set until an hour after twilight ends. Then the evening of Monday the 14th sees the near-full-Moon rising just above bright Mars. On Tuesday the 15th and Wednesday the 16th, our companion will bracket the Pleiades cluster of Taurus, while earlier in the week it will rather invisibly take on Neptune and Uranus, passing south of the former (in Capricornus) on Tuesday the 8th then south of the latter (in Aquarius) on Thursday the 10th. Uranus then ceases retrograde motion on Wednesday the 16th.

While Venus still dominates the far southwestern evening sky, early November really belongs to Mars, which passes opposition with the Sun just after midnight (in North America) the night of Sunday the 6th, allowing you to watch. That night the red planet will rise at sundown, cross the meridian at midnight, and set at sunrise. Close to us, at this time even closer than Venus (Mars about 70 million kilometers away), the planet is twice as bright as the brightest star, Sirius. After admiring Mars, watch for the rising of Saturn about an hour and a half before midnight (the same time as that of Sirius). Finally, as dawn breaks, Jupiter rises in Virgo now to the east of Spica, about as Saturn transits the meridian and just before Mars sets.

The morning of Thursday the 17th marks the peak of the Leonid meteor shower (which appears to radiate from the constellation Leo). The debris pack (from Comet Tempel- Tuttle) that causes it has moved well past the Earth, however, and the shower has long passed its peak. A bright Moon will thoroughly mess up what little remains.

Look to the south in early evening to see the great autumn star Fomalhaut of Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. Below it glides the striking figure of Grus, the Crane, the constellation fully visible only from south of about 40 degrees north latitude. Farther down and out of sight for most northerners are Tucana (the Toucan), Hydrus (the Water Snake), and Octans, the Octant, which surrounds the South Celestial Pole.
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