skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday February 25th through Sunday March 2nd.

The moon is at third quarter on Thursday night. Since the weather didn’t cooperate for central Texas to see last week’s total lunar eclipse, you might want to check out the photo galleries on Spaceweather.com

Mars is high overhead as the sky darkens after sunset and Saturn is rising at about 6 p.m. at mid-week. If you saw Saturn a lot in recent years, you might be surprised to see how it looks now. Over the course of several years, the relative angle of the rings to observers on earth changes, so at times we see them more face-on when they are at their most spectacular in a telescope. Over time, the rings move to an edge-on view and the rings will mostly disappear from our point of view. Right now we are a lot closer to the point where we see them edge-on, so they aren’t as wide and bright as they have been in past years. Thankfully we also have the Cassini spacecraft sending back magnificent images of Saturn, which you can see at saturn.jpl.nasa.gov

To see the rest of the naked-eye planets you’ll have to get up early. Jupiter is rising at 4 a.m. and Venus and Mercury follow at around 5:45. The two planets between the sun and us will be one degree apart from one another on Wednesday morning.

The space shuttle Atlantis landed safely last week after a mission to install the European Space Agency’s “Columbus” science module on the International Space Station. The space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to launch in mid-March to deliver Japan’s Kibo laboratory to the space station.

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

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