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!

Comet Hale-Bopp

Photo of the Week. This isn't Comet ISON either, but Comet Hale-Bopp of 1997 with its white dust and blue ion tails. Central Perseus is above the comet. Algol (Beta Persei) is just up and to the left of the comet's head, while the Double Cluster is about halfway to from the center to te right hand edge. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 15, 2013.

Our week starts off with the Moon in a fat waxing gibbous phase just short of full, which is passed during the day on Saturday, November 17. Rising near sundown, setting near sunup, the "Frosty Moon," the "Beaver Moon," is actually seen Saturday night slightly past the phase more or less between the Pleiades and Hyades of Taurus, which it will nearly blot out with its silvery brightness. The remainder of the week finds our companion in the waning gibbous phase, in which it will fade until third quarter is reached next week on Monday the 25th.

The night of Thursday the 21st, the Moon will make a fine passage five degrees south of Jupiter (about the span between the front bowl stars of the Big Dipper), both bodies appearing just to the south of Castor and Pollux in Gemini, all coming up roughly around 8 PM. The pairing provides a good opportunity to see the Moon's motion to the east against the background of the far more distant planet and stars. At about the same time, the Moon will be passing apogee, where it is farthest from the Earth, just over five percent more distant than average.

Earlier in the evening, it's hard to miss Venus, which shines brightly in the southwest in twilight and for well over an hour after the sky is fully dark. The planet is now setting around 7:30 PM, as late as it will be during this round of visibility, and a bit over half an hour before Jupiter lofts itself up in the northeast. By the time Jupiter crosses the meridian to the south (around 3:30 AM), Mars, rising just after 1 AM south of Leo, is well up in the southeast. Then you might catch Mercury. Reaching its greatest western elongation relative to the Sun on Sunday the 17th, the little planet is making one its best appearances of the year. Look to the east-southeast in early twilight.

At the same time, you might spot Comet ISON. While rising later each morning, it is brightening as it approaches its rendezvous with the Sun on November 28. If you can't see it, try binoculars. While rising later each morning, it is brightening as it approaches its rendezvous with the Sun. The family of comets is the source of most of our meteors when their debris hits the atmosphere of Earth. November is host to one of the most famed of showers, the Leonids, which peaks the morning of Sunday the 17th. But don't expect much as we are well past the maximum of the shower, which appears every 33 years when comet Tempel-Tuttle is close to the Sun. Besides, the bright Moon will wipe out most of the 20 or so an hour that would appear in a dark sky.

The bright Moon also washes away the stars. Nevertheless, in mid evening look for Cygnus descending in the northwest and Pegasus with its Great Square high to the south. Far down, Fomalhaut of Pisces Austrinus, the Southern Fish, crosses the southern sky. By early morning you can then admire Orion with its retinue of bright stars.
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