skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 8th through Sunday February 14th.

The moon is new on Monday February 8th and won't reach first quarter until the following Monday, so we'll have a waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies for all of this week. This new moon marks the Lunar New Year based on the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which combines the cycles of the sun and moon. The Lunar New Year is marked by the new moon closest to the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.

Jupiter is rising at 8:20 p.m. at midweek and is visible for the remainder of the night. Mars is rising at 12:55 a.m. so it is now visible for several hours in dark skies. Saturn rises about two hours later at 2:50 a.m. and Venus is up at 5:35 a.m. Mercury is up at 5:50 a.m., still over an hour before sunrise so you should be able to find it with a good view of the eastern horizon.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday February 12th marks the 15th anniversary of the soft landing of the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft on the asteroid 433 Eros. The spacecraft was deliberately de-orbited onto the asteroid and because it landed undamaged and continued to operate for a few weeks after landing, it became the first spacecraft to soft-land on an asteroid.

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 so please check the schedule before planning a visit. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 512-232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.