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 .

Autumn Tree

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 gibbous 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 visible.

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), both 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 at dawn.

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.
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