skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday February 15th through Sunday the 21st.

The moon is at first quarter on the night of Sunday the 21st, so we will have a waxing crescent moon all of this week. Look for the moon early Monday evening when it is a very thin crescent above Jupiter and Venus, which are close to one another low in the west shortly after sunset. The two bright planets will be at their closest to one another on Tuesday evening.

Mars is up high in the east as night falls and Saturn is rising just a bit before 9 p.m. this week. Above the Red Planet are the twin stars of Gemini - Castor and Pollux. The constellation of Orion the Hunter is in the south at 9 p.m.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory launched successfully from Cape Canaveral, Florida Thursday morning onboard an Atlas V rocket. SDO will eventually settle into a geosynchronous orbit and will begin observations in about two months. Once fully up and running, the spacecraft will transmit 1.5 terabytes of data a day. You can learn more about the spacecraft and its mission at www.nasa.gov/sdo

Astronauts from space shuttle Endeavour and the International Space Station have now added the Tranquility Node and the new cupola to the Station, making the station now 90% complete. One more spacewalk is planned to finish the installation on Tuesday.

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.