skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 18th through Sunday the 24th.

The moon was at first quarter on Sunday the 17th and won't reach full until Monday the 25th, so we will have a waxing gibbous moon for all of this week.

Mars and Mercury are still low in the west right after sunset with Mars setting about 45 minutes after the sun. Mercury is now moving back towards the sun after greatest elongation last weekend and is setting at 7:40 p.m. at midweek.

Jupiter is still overhead in the early evening and will be joined by the moon on Monday night. Some lucky observers in southern Australia saw an occultation Monday morning, when the moon passed in front of Jupiter from their viewing angle. Jupiter sets at 1:40 a.m. at midweek.

Saturn is rising at 11:25 p.m. at midweek and is visible for the remainder of the night. Venus is now rising just 20 minutes before the sun and is lost in the sun's glare.

Last Friday saw the unlikely coincidence of a predicted close pass by a small asteroid and the unpredicted impact of a large meteoroid, making a busy day for astronomers who study space rocks. The latest estimates of the size of the impact over Russia on Friday morning was an object 55 feet across, weighing 10,000 tons and that broke apart at 12 to 15 miles above the Earth's surface. The rock was going approximately 40,000 miles per hour and the energy released was equivalent to 500 kilotons of TNT. The shockwave hit the ground a few minutes after the break-up and shattered glass over a wide area, resulting in over 1000 injuries. About 16 hours later, the small asteroid 2012 DA14 passed safely by the earth. Because of the different trajectories, it can be determined that the Russian meteoroid and DA14 are unrelated. You can learn more about NASA's Near Earth Object Program at neo.jpl.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.