Skylights featured three times on Earth Science
Picture of the Day: 1
Photo of the Week.. As winter approaches, a reminder
of the beauty of fall and its blue skies.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, November 28, 2003.
The Moon passes through its first
quarter early in the week, on Sunday, November 30, near the
time of Moonrise in North America. As the Moon waxes through its
phase toward full (the phase not reached until Monday, December
8), watch the "terminator," the day-night division, slowly move
across the lunar surface, exposing progressively more of the dark
"maria," the lava-filled impact basins that make
the "man in the Moon" and other fanciful figures. The night of the
quarter, look for bright
Mars just to the northeast of the lunar disk, the two making a
fine sight: the only body we have travelled to visiting the one we
will most likely go to next (Mars actually 325 times farther away).
The night of Monday, December 1, finds Mars to the west of the
Moon. Earlier in the week, our lunar companion will pass south of
Neptune during the day on Friday, November 28, and beneath Uranus the following afternoon, the events hardly
What IS now very visible in early evenings is brilliant Venus,
which is climbing quickly out of bright southwestern evening
twilight. Over the next few months, it will both brighten and loft
itself higher until it is seen in full darkness. Once Venus is
located, you might also glimpse Mercury
down and to the right of it, as the little planet moves toward
its greatest eastern elongation from the Sun next week.
As November turns to December, we have a "crossing" of sorts, when
just as Mars transits the meridian to the south (just before 7 PM),
Saturn (deep in Gemini) and
Orion's Betelgeuse rise. Not content to
be left out,
Jupiter (in Leo) makes its
passage into the evening sky, when toward the end of the week it
begins to rise before midnight. Look high to the south to find it
While the winter stars begin to encroach on us, those of autumn are
still there to admire, especially with the Moon out of the way.
Around 8 PM look about half way up the sky near the celestial
equator to find two beloved asterisms -- informal constellations --
the round "Circlet" of Pisces (which anchors the western
end of the constellation) and the "Water Jar" or "Urn" of Aquarius, a "Y"-shaped configuration
just to the west of the Circlet. The remainder of Aquarius sprawls
to the southwest of the Water Jar (where we find Sadalmelik and Sadalsuud, respectively Alpha and
Beta Aquarii) and then dimly to the southeast, where the figure
falls as a mythical stream of water out of the Urn toward first
magnitude Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish.