skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Tuesday January 20th to Sunday the 25th.

The moon was at third quarter on the night of Saturday the 17th and won’t reach new until late on the 25th. Things will be aligned for a solar eclipse with this new moon, but this will be an annular eclipse, meaning that the moon will not completely block the sun. The moon is at apogee a few days before the eclipse, so it is close to its farthest point from the earth in orbit. Because of this, its angular size isn’t quite enough to completely cover the disc of the sun, and will leave a ring of sunlight around the moon. The annular eclipse will mostly be visible from the Indian Ocean, but western Indonesia will also have a view. The partial eclipse can be seen from the southern third of Africa, all of Madagascar, parts of Antarctica, all of Australia (except Tasmania) and parts of India, southeast Asia and Indonesia.

Two planets are in conjunction with the sun this week – Mercury on Tuesday the 20th and Jupiter on Saturday the 24th. Both planets will re-emerge in the morning skies over the next few weeks. Mars is just starting to peek out of the morning twilight, rising about 45 minutes before the sun. Venus is high and bright in the southwestern skies at sunset. Saturn is rising at 9:45 p.m. and is visible for the rest of the evening.

Sunday the 25th marks the fifth anniversary of the landing of the Mars rover Opportunity, which landed three weeks after its twin Spirit. You can see all of the accomplishments of the mission and their plans for continuing research at marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of plumes of methane on Mars, indicating that the Red Planet is active either geologically-speaking or biologically-speaking, or both. Future missions to Mars will be better equipped to determine what is producing the methane. You can learn more at www.nasa.gov

Public viewing on UT campus will resume next week. The RLM telescope will be open on Wednesday nights and the Painter Hall telescope will be open on Fridays and Saturdays. Please call back next week for information on time and directions to the telescopes.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.