Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

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Skylights featured nine times on Earth Science Picture of the Day: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 -- Full List Restored!


Photo of the Week. Reddish Mars, just down and to the right of center, lies in near-conjunction with Regulus the morning of November 6, 2011, the Sickle of Leo stretching toward the upper left. See a labelled version and full resolution. The planet moves quickly; compare with its position on November 2.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, December 2, 2011.

Skylights now resumes its normal weekly schedule.

The Moon begins our week right at its first quarter, the phase passed the morning of Friday, December 2, with the Moon not yet risen in North America. By that afternoon and evening, the Moon will thus be very slightly into its waxing gibbous phase, which will then grow toward full on Saturday, December 10, when it will be eclipsed for western and central North America in the morning near Moonset: more about that next week.

The evening of Tuesday the 6th, the waxing gibbous will make a neat appearance several degrees to the northeast of Jupiter. By the night of Thursday the 8th, the Moon will pass to the south of the Pleiades of Taurus, which will be much obscured by bright Moonlight. Not that it matters a lot, but earlier in the week, the night of Saturday the 3rd, the Moon goes several degrees to the north of Uranus. Two days later, the Moon then passes apogee, where it is farthest from Earth. Speaking of Earth, Thursday the 8th marks the earliest sunset of the year (the offset from the Solstice the result of the tilt of the Earth's axis and orbital eccentricity).

Jupiter, close to where Pisces, Cetus, and Aries all meet (to the northwest of Cetus's head and south of Aries' classical configuration), climbs higher in the eastern sky each night at dusk and is seen crossing the southern meridian by 9 PM. It then spends the rest of the night in the western half of the sky until it sets around 3:30 AM well in advance of dawn, about half an hour after Saturn (just to the northeast of fainter Spica) rises. Back in the west, Venus is making a brilliant appearance low in southwestern evening skies. But look early, as the planet sets shortly after twilight draws to a close. Mercury, however, is not making any appearance at all, as it passes inferior conjunction with the Sun (on the near side of the Sun, but not in front of it) on Sunday the 4th, after which it moves into the morning sky for a good appearance late in the month. Between evening dusk and morning dawn, at about half an hour before midnight, Mars rises, nearly transiting the meridian as morning twilight begins. Watch as it continues its trek south of classical Leo to the southeast of Regulus.

'Tis the time to admire Cassiopeia, which glides nearly overhead in mid-evening around 8 PM, the constellation instantly recognizable by its "W" shape. To the east if it, find the streams of stars that make the Hero Perseus, who in mythology rescued and married fair Andromeda, who resides to the south of her Queenly mother.
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