skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday February 2 to Sunday the 8th.

The moon is at first quarter on Monday the 2nd. February 2nd is also Groundhog Day, which is one of the four cross-quarter days. Cross-quarter days are days that fall halfway between a solstice and an equinox.

Look for the moon to pair up with the Pleiades open star cluster on Tuesday night. They will be almost straight overhead as the sky darkens.

As in the past several weeks, many of the planets are clustered around the sun, making them difficult to see. Mercury is up in the morning about an hour and a half before the sun, with Mars following about half an hour later and Jupiter is up only 30 minutes before sunrise. Venus is still dominating the west-southwestern skies after sunset and it shining at magnitude -4.5. Saturn is rising almost due east at 8:45 p.m. at mid-week.

The Space Shuttle Discovery is due to launch next week to install the fourth and final set of solar panels to the International Space Station. The increased electricity from these arrays will help to support the station’s increase to a crew of six in May. The mission will also drop off the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s first resident station crewmember. You can learn more about the mission at www.nasa.gov

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently 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 currently 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 when a viewing is cancelled.

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