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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!

Comet Hyakutake

Photo of the Week. No, it's not Comet ISON, but Comet Hyakutake of 1996 with its fine blue ion tail pointing away from the Sun. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 8, 2013.

Our perpetual Moon starts off the night of Friday, November 8, in its fat waxing crescent phase just shy of first quarter, which is passed the night of Saturday the 9th. It will make a fine sight low in the southwest, set against the dim stars of Capricornus. Over the rest of the week it then goes to the north in the waxing gibbous phase, which is terminated at full Moon next week on Sunday the 1y7th. Having left Venus behind, it visits only Neptune on Monday the 11th and Uranus on Wednesday the 13th, the latter planet in Pisces just a bit to the northeast of the Vernal Equinox. On that same day (Wednesday the 13th), Neptune ceases retrograde motion and resumes its stolid easterly trek against the stars of far western Aquarius.

Venus shines brightly in the early evening southwestern sky and now gets to spend an hour in the dark after the end of twilight before it finally sets. With Venus setting later and Jupiter rising earlier, we lack a bright planet for only somewhat over an hour. Rising around 8:30 PM in Gemini still to the south of Castor and Pollux, the giant planet passes nearly overhead shortly before dawn begins to light the sky. While Jupiter barely seems to move against its stellar background, Mars, rising just before 1:30 AM, is zipping along south of central Leo east-southeast of first magnitude Regulus and southwest of second magnitude Denebola, the two white stars providing a nice color contrast to more reddish Mars. Then it's back to dawn and Mercury , which is making a brief appearance in morning's twilight running not far ahead of the Sun. The elusive little planet has but an 88 day revolution period about the Sun, and relative to the moving Earth makes alternate appearances in the morning and evening skies every 58 days, so it's here today, gone tomorrow, quite the opposite of its brilliant neighbor, Venus.

The constellations of summer evening (Cygnus with its Northern Cross and the like) drop ever farther to the west, while those of autumn are ascendent. Look for the Great Square of Pegasus high to the south at 8 PM with Andromeda streaming off its northeast corner and the Circlet of Pisces below it (though for that we will have to wait until the bright Moon is out of the way). By late evening Andromeda's mythical mother, Cassiopeia, represented by her upside down "W" crosses the meridian high to the north.
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