Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured five times on Earth Science Picture of the Day:
1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5

Feathery cloud

Photo of the Week. Looking upward from 30,000 feet, a feathery cloud highlights a deep blue sky.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 25, 2005.

Our lonely Moon (though we've looked for others, none has ever been found) spends most of the week in a waning crescent phase, then finally passes through new on Thursday, December 1, bringing the ancient cycle and the week to a close.

Rising around 4:30 AM, Jupiter has now nicely cleared twilight. Smack on the boundary between Virgo and Libra, the planet is now well to the east of Spica. The morning of Monday, November 28th, finds the waning crescent between the two (but closer to Spica), while the following morning the thinning crescent will be to the south of the giant planet. Try to spot the very slim crescent near the eastern horizon in twilight the morning of Wednesday the 30th. Perhaps you can also spot Mercury, which will then be up and to the left of the Moon.

The evening hours now feature a trio of ancient planets. Venus, far to the southwest as the sky darkens, tops the list, shining so brightly that in a fully dark location it will cast shadows. As November turns to December, this second planet out from the Sun sets as late -- around 7:30 PM -- as it is going to during this particular apparition. It will keep brightening until December 9, and will then rather quickly disappear from the evening sky. More or less in the opposite direction, to the east, find very bright Mars, which now graces southern Aries to the west of Taurus. The red planet transits the meridian to the south around 10 PM, just half an hour after Saturn (in Cancer) rises, while the ringed planet transits to the south about as Jupiter rises (4:30 AM) and Mars sets.

Several birds flock the mythical sky. Chief among them are the northern hemisphere's Cygnus the Swan -- seen far to the northwest in early evening -- and Aquila the Eagle. The southern hemisphere is a better aviary, with ancient Corvus (the Crow or Raven), to which are added the modern figures of Apus (the Bird of Paradise), Columba (the Dove), Grus (the Crane), Pavo (the Peacock), Phoenix (the mythical Firebird), and Tucana (the Toucan), Apus, Pavo and Tucana all circumpolar from mid-southern-hemisphere latitudes.
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