Astronomy news for the two-week period starting Friday,
November 21, 2008.
The next Skylights will appear December 5, 2008.
To all those in the US, and for those abroad, a Happy
The Moon slowly disappears during most of the first week of
our fortnight within its waning crescent
phase, as it heads toward new Moon on
Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 27th. The remainder of our period
finds it as a waxing crescent, which ends
with the first quarter on Friday, December
5. Your last view of the waning crescent will be in dawn's light
on the morning of Wednesday the 26th; then look for the first
glimpse of the waxing version in bright twilight the evening of
Friday the 28th. The Moon passes apogee, where it
is farthest from the Earth, on Saturday the 29th.
The middle of our two-week interval will witness a superb gathering
Jupiter, and the Moon. The two planets have been approaching
each other since Venus first became visible in evening's dusk, with
Jupiter moving only slowly to the east in northeastern Sagittarius, Venus rapidly gaining on
it. Watch as they converge on each other, and then pass
conjunction on Sunday, November 30, when they are but two degrees
apart, brighter Venus to the south of the giant planet within a
beautiful setting to the northeast of the Little Milk Dipper. Venus will then rapidly whip to
the east of Jupiter, the two providing a wonderful example of
planetary motion. The conjunction of course is just along the line
of sight, as Jupiter will be nearly 6 times farther away!
Then the Moon gets into the act by passing the two, unfortunately
during the day in North America. (The crescent actually occults
Venus as seen from Europe.) The evening of Sunday the 30th
thus finds the Moon down and to the right of the pair, while the
following evening, that of Monday, December 1, will provide us with
a beautiful triangle, the growing crescent up and to the left of
the planetary duo. You won't see another display like this one for
some time. After all this activity, you can relax until you see
Saturn rising in southern Leo to
the east of Regulus within about
an hour after midnight.
As an anticlimax, the Moon then goes north of
Neptune on Wednesday, the 3rd. In the rest of the invisible-
Uranus also celebrates Thanksgiving by ceasing
retrograde motion on Thursday the 27th, while
Mercury passes superior conjunction with the Sun (far on the other
side of the Sun) on Tuesday the 25th.
As one great celestial hero, Hercules, descends into northwestern twilight, another,
great Orion (the Hunter), makes
himself prominently visible by rising shortly after the end of
evening twilight. Climbing ever higher as the evening progresses,
he crosses the meridian to the south
about 1 AM with Taurus up and to the right, brilliant Sirius in Canis Major down and to the left, Gemini and Auriga over his head, all announcing the closeness of