skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Tuesday January 18th through Sunday January 24th.

The full moon for the month of January is on Wednesday the 19th and we will have a waning gibbous moon for the remainder of the week after that. This full moon is known as the Old Moon, the Moon After Yule and the Wolf Moon.

Jupiter is high in the southwest at nightfall and is setting at 10:30 p.m. and Uranus is still nearby at a little over two degrees to Jupiter's lower right.

Saturn is rising at 11:45 p.m. at midweek and is visible for the remainder of the night. Venus is rising a little after 4 a.m. and is visible into the morning twilight. Mercury is up shortly before the sun at 6 a.m. at midweek. Mars is very close to the sun and will be in conjunction in a couple of weeks.

Last week at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, a team of astronomers led by UT's Karl Gebhardt announced their finding of the most massive known black hole in our part of the universe. The supermassive black hole is in the galaxy M87 in the Virgo Cluster and is about 50 million light years away. The mass of the black hole is measured at 6.6 billion times the mass of our sun. You can read more about the discovery at mcdonaldobservatory.org

Sunday the 24th marks the 25th anniversary of the Voyager II spacecraft's fly-by of the planet Uranus. To date Voyager II is the only mission to visit the 7th planet, and there are currently no firm plans for a future mission to Uranus. After the fly-by 25 years ago, Voyager II continued its grand tour and did a fly-by of Neptune in 1989. Both Voyager II and its twin Voyager I are now in an extended mission to detect the outer edges of our solar system. Voyager I reached a point in 2010 where the velocity of the solar wind was zero and is expected to hit the heliopause in about four years, at which point it will be considered to be in interstellar space. You can keep up to date with the Voyager missions at voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

Public viewing on UT telescopes will resume next week. Please call back next week for information on days and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.