Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday January 4th through Sunday the 10th.
The moon is at third quarter on Thursday January 7th so we will have a waning gibbous moon for the first few days of the week, followed by a waning crescent.
Jupiter is still visible in the evening skies shining brightly in the west-southwest and is setting around 9 p.m. Mars is now up in the east by 8 p.m. as it re-emerges into our early evening skies. Mars will be growing slightly larger and brighter through January as we head towards its closest approach to earth at the end of the month. Saturn is rising at 11:45 p.m. at midweek. Look for the moon alongside Saturn on the night of the 5th in to the morning of the 6th.
Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on Monday the 4th and will then emerge in to the morning skies over the next few weeks. Venus is still very close to the Sun and will be in conjunction next week. Both planets can be spotted on the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory’s coronagraph images, which you can see at their website: sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov
On January 3rd, the Mars Exploration Rover “Spirit” celebrated its sixth Earth year on Mars where it was joined by its twin “Opportunity” a few weeks later. The original mission was only for 90 days, but it has been extended repeatedly as the rovers have remained functional. “Spirit” is currently still trapped in an area of soft soil nicknamed “Troy” and you can follow the efforts to free “Spirit” at the JPL website: marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.
Public viewing on the UT campus telescopes will resume in late January 2010 after the start of the UT spring semester.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report and Happy New Year!