Skylights featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day

Scout Report Selection Webivore Selection SpaceCareers Selection

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

Greenland 12

Photo of the Week. In honor of winter, Skylights presents the first of a 12-part "flight across Greenland," going from east to west. See full resolution.

Astronomy news for the two weeks starting Friday, December 20 2013.

The next Skylights will appear Friday, January 3. Happy Holidays and clear skies to all.

And the Season is celebrated nicely by the Moon. It begins our fortnight in its waning gibbous phase, which ends at third quarter on Christmas morning, after which it fades in the waning crescent until New Moon on New Years' day. Christmas night, the quarter will be seen a few degrees south of Mars, while the following night it will be to the north of the star Spica in Virgo. Then the morning of Saturday the 28th, the Moon will shine just to the west of Saturn, while the following morning it will have switched to the east of the planet. By the morning of Monday, December 30, you'll find the thin crescent to the north of the star Antares in Scorpius. After new, the evening of Thursday, January 2, we get to see a wisp of the waxing crescent in western evening twilight well above Venus, which is dropping quickly down toward the horizon as evening falls and the month proceeds.

Venus is nicely replaced by Jupiter. Rising around the end of twilight, the giant planet dominates eastern skies, then crosses the meridian to the south shortly after midnight and just after Mars rises in the east well into Virgo. Mercury celebrates your author's birthday (thank you thank you) by passing superior conjunction with the Sun (on the other side of it) on Sunday the 29th.

The double week starts off nicely with the Sun crossing the Winter Solstice in Sagittarius at 11:11 AM CST (9:11 AM PST, 12:11 PM EST, etc.) on Saturday the 21st, whence beginneth astronomical winter and the Sun starts moving north. But as Grandma said, "as the days begin to lengthen, then the cold begins to strengthen," at least in northern climes. New year's day is busy, as we have not only new Moon, but we find the Moon passing perigee (closest to Earth) and Pluto in conjunction with the Sun. Moreover, the Earth passes perihelion, where it is closest to the Sun on its slightly elliptical orbit (1.7 percent closer than average), early next week on Saturday the 4th. The combination will bring especially high tides to the coasts (though not to the midwest).

In late evening, Orion hunts about halfway up the sky. Look carefully at the colors of his two brightest stars, reddish Betelgeuse (at upper left) and blue-white Rigel (at lower right), both of which are evolving supergiants. Both are destined someday to explode as supernovae. Coming off Rigel to the west meanders one of the longest constellations of the sky, Eridanus, the River, which ends deep in the southern celestial hemisphere at brilliant Achernar.
Valid HTML 4.0!