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