Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday February 16th through Sunday the 22nd.
The moon is at third quarter on Monday the 16th. Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are still only visible in the morning skies, rising about an hour before the sun. Mars and Jupiter will be about half a degree apart early in the week.
Venus is still dominating the skies after sunset and is at magnitude -4.6. If you look at Venus with even a small telescope, you will see that it has phases, a phenomenon that was first noticed by Galileo 400 years ago.
Saturn is rising at 7:45 p.m. at midweek. If you look at Saturn right now with a telescope, you might be surprised that its rings are not as easy to see as at other times. This is because the relative angle between Earth and Saturn changes over time and at some points in this cycle we see the rings edge-on, just as we do now.
As a lot of people have seen or heard by now, a bright fireball was seen over Texas around 11 a.m. on Sunday the 15th. Initial reports linked the fireball to debris to last week’s collision of two satellites, but the speed of the object seen on video indicates that it was actually a small asteroid, probably around 3 feet across. If you want to report your own observations of the fireball, you can submit them at spaceweather.com
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.