skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Tuesday January 22nd to Sunday the 27th.

The first full moon for 2008 is on Tuesday the 22nd. This full moon is known as the Old Moon, the Moon after Yule or the Wolf Moon.

The Messenger spacecraft completed its first flyby of Mercury last week and the first photos are being posted to the mission’s website at messenger.jhuapl.edu This is the first close-up look of some parts of Mercury, since the last mission to examine the inner planet, Mariner 10 in the mid-70s, only saw about 45% of the planet. Messenger will eventually enter into orbit around Mercury in 2011. If you want to see Mercury with your own eyes, look low in the west-southwest after sunset. Mercury’s greatest elongation is Tuesday, so it will start sinking back to the horizon soon.

Mars is high in the east as the sky darkens and Saturn is rising at about 8:25 p.m. at mid-week. Look for the moon alongside Saturn on the 24th.

Venus and Jupiter, the two bright objects low in the southeast before sunrise, are slowly drawing close together and will make a beautiful pairing in the beginning of February.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. RLM is located on the southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway. Take the elevator to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.

Public viewing at the 9 inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday and Saturday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower. To get to the telescope, take the elevator to the 5th floor and exit to the left. Follow the 5th floor hallway to the end and take the staircase through the double doors on the left. Once you reach the 6th floor, go to your right and follow the signs up to the telescope.

All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Note that viewing times and availability change throughout the year. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 60 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.

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