skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 7th to Sunday January 13th.

The first new moon of the new year occurs on Friday January 11th so we will have a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies for the first part of the week and a slim waxing crescent moon visible in the west just after sunset for the weekend.

Mars continues to hang out low in the west-southwest after sunset and is setting at 7:30 p.m. at midweek.

Jupiter is high in the east as night falls and is setting at 4:25 a.m. Jupiter is located in Taurus between the Hyades and Pleiades open star clusters. The constellation Orion follows below Jupiter and is well up in the east in the early evenings.

Saturn continues to climb higher each day and is now rising at 2:10 a.m. although it will still be several months until we see it back in the early evening skies.

Venus is gradually sinking back towards the sun and is rising at 6:10 a.m. at midweek. Look for a very thin crescent moon next to Venus on Thursday morning. Mercury is heading towards conjunction with the sun next week and therefore will be close to the sun all week, up just a few minutes before sunrise.

The peak of the current 11-year sunspot cycle is due to occur sometime later this year or into the start of 2014 and the sun is starting off this year will lots of active regions and sunspots. If you want to follow the solar activity and the progress of the solar cycle, the best place to start is at spaceweather.com which has a daily count of sunspots and the chances of solar flares associated with the current active regions. You'll also find links to the current space missions that study the sun and real-time data.

Spring semester public viewing nights on UT campus telescopes will resume in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned for details on exact starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.