skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for January 7th through the 13th.

The new moon is on January 13th.

The two largest planets in our solar system will continue to dazzle as the new year begins. Saturn is still near the red star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus. The ringed planet lies at the end of the upper part of the "V" shape that makes up the head of Taurus the bull. Saturn is high in the east at sunset and is visible through most of the night.

Jupiter lies just to the left of the constellation Orion as they rise in the east a little before sunset. Jupiter was at opposition on New Year's Day and is up until morning twilight begins.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation east on the 11th, so this is a good time to see if you can catch the elusive planet low in the west at sunset. Try to find a good unobstructed view of the western horizon. If you have a compass handy, it would be helpful in spotting Mercury, which is almost directly west-southwest.

Mars is still visible high in the southwest as evening twilight ends. It is now much smaller and dimmer than we saw it at opposition last year.

Uranus and Neptune are also both still in our evening skies, so with a little patience and planning, you can see 6 of the planets in the solar system in one night. Pluto rises at about 4:30 in the morning, but can still be observed with a medium sized telescope and some star charts. Venus is currently very close to the sun from our point of view, which makes it the only planet that can't currently be seen at some point during the night.

Public viewing nights on UT telescopes are on hiatus for the semester break. Viewing will resume in mid-to-late January.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' report and happy new year!