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 -- Full List Restored!

Waxing Moon

Photo of the Week.A waxing crescent Moon is surrounded by a colorful diffraction corona produced by interference among light waves as they pass through thin clouds.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, October 31, 2014.

The next Skylights will appear Friday, November 21.

Having passed full the evening of Thursday, November 6 the Moon wanes through its gibbous phase during the first week of our fortnight, which ends at third quarter on Friday the 14th with the Moon descending the daytime western sky. The second week features the waning crescent, whose last view will be the morning of Thursday the 21st as slim as can be seen, new Moon passed the following morning. The morning of Friday the 14th, the near-quarter will glide under Jupiter, while the following morning it will appear beneath Regulus in Leo, the trio making a fine sight. Friday the 14th, a busy day, sees the Moon going through its apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth.

The planetary sky remains dominated by Jupiter (in Leo to the east of Regulus), which rises half an hour before midnight at the start of our term, an hour and a half before by the end of it. At the opposite ends of the nighttime sky we find Mars and Mercury. In the evening, the red planet persists in setting at 8 PM as it runs through northern Sagittarius, north of the Little Milk Dipper. At the start of our period Mercury shines in morning twilight. The little one then quickly disappears. With us during much of the year, Saturn finally goes through conjunction with the Sun on Tuesday the 18th to become a morning object, rising at the start of dawn in mid- December. In a minor note, Neptune ceases retrograde motion on Sunday the 16th.

The Taurid meteor shower, which is the debris of short-period (3.3 years) Comet Encke, is still active, to which we add the Leonids the mornings of Monday the 17th and Tuesday the 18th. While capable of huge numbers of meteors, the Leonids (from 33-year Comet Tempel- Tuttle) are well off their peak, and will produce a mere dozen or so meteors per hour.

In the evening, the Zodiac climbs from a southwestern low in Sagittarius, which holds the Winter Solstice, to the east through Capricornus, on to Aquarius with its distinctive Y- shaped Water Jar, then to dim Pisces, which wraps itself south and east of Pegasus and contains the Vernal Equinox. To the southeast of Pisces, we find Cetus, the Sea Monster, one of the numerous constellations of the Andromeda myth. Then look up to see another, W-shaped Cassiopeia, who represents the myth's ancient Queen.

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