skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 11th through Monday January 18th.

The moon reaches first quarter for the first time in 2016 late on Saturday night so we'll have a waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies for all of this week.

Mercury is in inferior conjunction with the Sun on Thursday when it will pass between the Earth and the Sun and will move from our evening skies into our early morning skies.

Jupiter is rising at 10:20 p.m. at midweek. This year Jupiter will be visited by the Juno spacecraft, which is set to arrive at the gas giant in July 2016. Juno will be the second spacecraft to orbit Jupiter, after the Galileo spacecraft, but will be the first to be in a polar orbit.

Mars is rising at 1:40 a.m. at midweek. There are currently two rovers and five orbiters studying the Red Planet, with the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter from the European and Russian Space Agencies due to join them later this year after an expected March 2016 launch.

Saturn is rising at 4:30 a.m. at midweek and is still under the watchful eye of the Cassini Spacecraft which arrived in orbit around the ringed planet in July 2004. The Cassini mission is expected to end in September of next year when the spacecraft will be deliberately de-orbited into Saturn's atmosphere to avoid any potential biological contamination should the spacecraft crash into any of Saturn's moons.

Venus is rising at 5:00 a.m. and continues to shine brightly as our 'morning star'. The Japanese Space Agency's Akatsuki spacecraft is currently the only mission at Venus.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday January 15th marks 10 years since the Stardust capsule returned to earth carrying samples of cometary and interstellar dust.

Public viewing on UT campus telescopes will resume in late January. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.