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 .


Photo of the Week.. The Moon approaches totality during the eclipse of November 8, 2003. (The reddish color comes from light scattered and refracted into the Earth's shadow by our atmosphere.)

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 14, 2003.

The Moon sails through the sky past its last quarter the night of Sunday, November 16, the total eclipse of last Saturday but a memory. Prepare now to go to Antarctica to see the related eclipse of the Sun at the next new Moon (eclipses of the Moon and Sun commonly taking place back to back) on Saturday the 23rd (nothing whatever to be seen in North America). You can, however, see the Moon to the northeast of giant Jupiter the morning of Tuesday, the 18th, and to the northeast of it the morning of Wednesday, the 19th, the waning crescent, bright Jupiter, and the constellation Leo making a fine sight in the pre-dawn sky.

In the evening, keep an eye out for Venus low in the southwest in twilight, the planet still a bit elusive. Mars, however, is not, as it continues to dominate the southern evening sky. Though the Earth is steadily pulling away from Mars, the difference in orbital speed between the two planets is not all that great, which will allow the red planet to linger as an evening planet for the remainder of the year and then some. Even by the turn of 2004, Mars will not be setting until just after midnight. Moving inward in the Solar System, Mercury is invisibly in conjunction with Antares in Scorpius on Tuesday, the 18th. In the excitement of eclipses and solar storms, Uranus's transition to moving from retrograde to direct motion on Saturday the 8th was quite overlooked. In between all this action lies Saturn, which now rises at about the same time as Betelgeuse in Orion, around 8 PM, turning it into a fine evening telescopic object. Even a small 40 power telescope will show the rings, and at higher power they are magnificent, accompanied by Saturn's easily-visible large Satellite, Titan (number two in size in the planetary system after Jupiter's Ganymede).

If you have never seen the Great Nebula in Andromeda, the galaxy known also as M 31, now is the time. If in moderate northern latitudes, look nearly overhead around 9 PM for a modestly bright, elliptical fuzzy patch that does not resolve into stars. You are looking some two million light years away at a huge galaxy comparable to our own, and the most distant thing you can see with the naked eye. At the same time, of course, admire the graceful sweeps of stars that commemorate the celestial princess Andromeda, Queen Cassiopeia (her mythological mother) to the north, Pegasus, the winged horse with which she was rescued from Cetus (the Whale or Sea Monster) by Perseus to the southwest. Perseus himself rises in the northeast, holding the winking star (the eclipsing double) Algol.
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