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


Photo of the Week. A rising crescent Moon, less than 3 days from new, peeks through autumn branches.

Astronomy news for the two-week period starting Friday, November 19, 2010.

Skylights will resume its normal weekly schedule on Friday, December 3.

During the upcoming fortnight, the Moon goes through nearly half its cycle, beginning in the fat waxing gibbous phase, then going through full on Saturday, November 21. It then enters its waning gibbous phase, passing through third quarter on Sunday the 28th, after which we will see the waning crescent thinning toward new on Sunday the 5th. As the month ends, the Moon passes perigee, where it is closest to the Earth.

The evening of Sunday the 21st finds the rising full Moon just down from Taurus's Pleiades, though to see the cluster in the lunar glow you will need binoculars. The following evening, the Moon will rise to the left of Aldebaran. Toward the end of our period, the waning crescent will then present us with a set of lovely sights. The morning of Wednesday, December 1, it will appear down and to the right of Saturn, while the next morning, that of Thursday the 2nd, the Moon will similarly pair with Venus. The morning of Friday the 3rd will be almost as good, with the star Porrima (Gamma Virginis), Saturn, Spica, Venus, and the thin crescent all in a ragged row descending down and to the left toward the dawn horizon.

Rising ever earlier, Saturn, just to the southeast of Porrima and rather well to the northwest of Spica, is now up by around 3 AM. Venus unmistakably follows about an hour later to the east of Spica, which it quite overwhelms. As our two-weeker ends, the planet is just one day shy of its greatest brilliancy. A telescope will show a nice crescent.

Resuming direct, easterly, motion on Friday the 19th, Jupiter pretty well holds its position on the Pisces-Aquarius border to the southwest of Uranus and the Vernal Equinox. Transiting the meridian to the south around 7 to 7:30 PM, the planet is now setting within an hour after midnight. Earlier in the evening, Mercury makes a relatively poor twilight appearance, passing greatest eastern elongation from the Sun on Wednesday, the first of December.

In early evening, Cassiopeia glides high, nearly overhead, Andromeda and Pegasus (with its Great Square) to the south of it. The legend of the "Flying Horse" quite overwhelms its near-neighbor, ancient Equuleus, the Little Horse, a tiny box-like figure that lies well to the southwest of the Square. It's far easier to admire Orion and the rest of the winter gang, which are now rising in the east, Betelgeuse coming up about as giant Jupiter crosses the sky to the south.
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