skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday March 1 to Sunday March 7.

The moon is at last quarter on Sunday the 7th, so we will have a waning gibbous moon all of this week.

Venus is still climbing a little higher each evening but is still pretty low in the west after sunset and Mars is high in the east as the sky darkens after sunset. The planet Saturn is now rising around 8 p.m. and is alongside the moon on the night of March 1st. The moon is just past full that evening so it will be very bright.

Jupiter is just past conjunction with the sun so it is not easily visible to earth telescopes at the moment. Mercury is up about half an hour before the sun at the beginning of the week but is gradually moving closer towards the sun as it nears conjunction next week.

For the first time in about three years, we finished a month that had sunspots for every day of that month. This is a sure sign that the sun is continuing the increase in activity that started last December after a prolonged quiet solar minimum. Over the next few years we can expect an increase in solar activity, including sunspots, flares and coronal mass ejections. The activity for this cycle is due to peak sometime in 2013 before it gradually falls back down for the remainder of the 11-year cycle. You can keep up with solar activity at spaceweather.com

The space shuttle Discovery was joined to the external tank and solid rocket boosters and will be rolled out to the launch pad this week. Discovery is scheduled to launch on April 5 for its mission to the International Space Station.

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.