Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Tuesday January 16th through Sunday January 21st.
The new moon for the month of January is late on the night of Tuesday the 16th and we'll have a waxing crescent moon in the western early evening skies for the rest of the week.
Venus is beginning to emerge from conjunction with the sun but is still too close to the sun to see. Jupiter is rising at 2:30 a.m. at midweek and is followed by Mars just 25 minutes later. Saturn is rising at 5:45 a.m. so it isn't very well placed for observing yet. Mercury is up at 6:30 a.m. as it moves back towards the sun.
As we start into 2018, this is the prime viewing time for the winter constellations, including Orion the Hunter, one of the best-known formations in our night sky. Orion is high in the south at 10 p.m. with the bright star Sirius to the left and another bright winter star, Canopus, skirting the southern horizon. The famous Orion Nebula is pretty easy to spot with binoculars or a small telescope, even from fairly light-polluted areas. To find it, look for the three stars of Orion's belt and then scan down towards the horizon. The nebula will be a fuzzy patch around the stars of the sword or scabbard hanging from Orion's belt. The Orion Nebula, also known as M42 in the Messier Catalog, is a well-studied star forming region and observations with the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered over 150 protoplanetary disks within the cloud of gas and dust.
Public viewing on UT campus telescopes will resume next week. Please check back next week for details on dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.