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Astronomy Picture of the Day

Airplane Sunrise

Photo of the Week.. The Sun rises brilliantly over high altitude clouds (another in a series from 35,000 feet).

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 11, 2002.

The Moon moves toward full the early part of the week, reaching the phase, when it is opposite the Sun, on the night of Tuesday, the 19th. That night witnesses a "penumbral" eclipse of the Moon, which takes place when the Moon passes through the partial shadow of the Earth (as opposed to a "partial eclipse of the Moon," when PART of the Moon moves through the TOTAL shadow of the Earth). If you were on the Moon at the time, only part of the Sun would be cut off by the Earth. Penumbral eclipses only barely dim the Moon, not darkening it at all, and are barely worth a look. All one can at best see is a little shading on the lunar disk.

On the morning of Friday, the 22nd, the Moon will lie just to the northwest of Saturn, which is now rising around 6:30 PM just as twilight ends, Jupiter following 4 hours later, around 10:30 PM. The morning, on the other hand, is now graced by Venus, which ends her retrograde motion on Monday the 18th. Watch as it pulls away from the morning Sun, climbing higher each day and now rising before dawn.

Comet Temple- Tuttle is once again on the scene through its debris, which creates the famed Leonid meteor storm. The comet and its following cloud of rocks and dust have a 33-year period. When (rather, if) the Earth passes through the debris, we get a meteor storm of vast proportions, tens of thousands of meteors screaming through the sky per hour. The debris, however, is in ribbons, so we may intersect it, or we may not. The past two years have given us good events, and this one may as well. Look the morning of Tuesday the 19th in the hours before dawn, and you may get a good show; then again, maybe not. Unfortunately, the nearly full Moon will wipe out the fainter meteors. On the other hand, the Leonids -- which seem to come out of the constellation Leo, a perspective effect -- are known for their big ones, which would easily be visible. Unlike the penumbral eclipse, the potential meteor shower, even storm, is worth a look. The best place to watch from is a dark location away from town lights, and the best place to look in the sky is always straight overhead. While outdoors, you might also admire the rising of the great figure of Leo itself, with bright Regulus at the end of the "Sickle" that marks his head, the Sickle the seeming origin of the meteors.

The evening sky offers two rather faint, though fine, asterisms of larger constellations. Look a bit over halfway up the sky around 8 PM to see the Circlet of Pisces, a lopsided pentagon (or hexagon if you want to add yet another star to it), which lies just to the northwest of the Vernal Equinox. To the right of it, and smack on the celestial equator, is the "Y-shaped" Water Jar of Aquarius.
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