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 .

Silver Linings

Photo of the Week.. A silver-lining tryptich, as we first watch the Sun hide behind clouds, then peek through, and finally throw its glory to the sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 21, 2003.

We begin the week with the Moon far into its waning crescent phase as it prepares to take on the Sun in eclipse when it passes new on Sunday, November 23. But unless you are a research scientist, an incredibly dedicated tourist, or perhaps a penguin, you will not see it, as the path of totality is confined to Antarctica and a small piece of adjoining ocean. At least most of Australia, New Zealand, and the southern tip of South America will see the partial phases. Oddly, perigee, the point of the Moon's closest approach to the Earth (5.5 percent closer than average), will be passed at the same hour as the new phase and the eclipse, rendering the time of totality relatively long (as the shadow spot projected on Earth is the largest). More significant, for those on the coasts, the combination of lunar proximity and the new phase will render ocean tides especially high.

Shortly after Skylights' week begins, the Sun enters the most southerly constellation of the Zodiac, Scorpius, for its short 5-day stay. Even though the Winter Solstice is in Sagittarius, the classical figure of Scorpius is more to the south than that of Sagittarius; the ecliptic just slices Scorpius's most northerly promontory.

After passing new, the Moon will become barely visible in southwestern twilight the night of Monday, the 24th, while the next night, Tuesday, the 25th, it will make a very nice evening twilight pass to the left of Venus, which is becoming quite noticeable, at least to those with a clear southwestern horizon. Then if you find Venus, look for elusive Mercury, which will lie down and to the right of its far more brilliant sister. If you have had enough of elusiveness, then wait until dark to admire still-bright and obvious Mars, which is nicely high to the south as night descends. Then only a few minutes after Mars crosses the meridian to the south, about 7 PM, Saturn rises in the northwest in Gemini. And then if you wait a few hours until half an hour after midnight, up comes unmistakable Jupiter in Leo.

Famed is Pegasus, Perseus's Flying Horse, which is now high to the south at 8 PM. Hardly known at all is the Little Horse, Equuleus, made of a small box of stars that lies off the southeast corner of Pegasus adjoining the great horse near Enif (Epsilon Pegasi). Many such tiny constellations are found between the large, best loved ones. To the northwest of the Great Square of Pegasus, nearly opposite from Equuleus, find Triangulum, the Triangle, which looks exactly like its name, the Triangle tucked just south of the sweep of stars that makes the most prominent part of Andromeda.
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