Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday March 7th through Sunday March 20th.
The moon is at first quarter on the night of Saturday the 12th so we will have a waxing crescent moon for almost all of the week. The full moon for the month of March is on Saturday the 19th, so that week will mostly have a waxing gibbous moon. The full moon of March is known as the Lenten Moon, the Sap Moon and the Worm Moon.
The vernal equinox occurs at 6:21 p.m. Central Time on Sunday the 20th. This is the point where the sun crosses the celestial equator into the northern hemisphere and day and night are roughly equal. Contrary to popular legend, there is nothing special about the day that will allow you to balance an egg on end - you can actually do that any day of the year.
Jupiter is sinking low into the evening twilight and is setting at 8 p.m. on the 12th. Mercury is slowly gaining visibility in the western skies after sunset as it heads towards greatest elongation later in March. Mercury and Jupiter will be about two degrees apart on the evening of the 16th.
Saturn is rising at 8:15 p.m. on the 12th and will soon be the only bright planet in the evening skies. Venus is rising a little before 5 a.m. and is visible in the east-southeast before dawn.
The Messenger spacecraft is due to finally enter orbit around Mercury on March 17th after its launch in August 2004. The spacecraft has already made several flybys of the innermost planet before it becomes the first mission to ever orbit Mercury this month. You can learn more about the mission at messenger.jhuapl.edu
And finally, don't forget to set your clocks forward an hour on the night of the 12th (or on the morning of the 13) as we go on to Daylight Saving Time.
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday the 9th 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. There will be no RLM viewing on March 16th.
Public viewing at the 9 inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday and Saturday the 11th and 12th 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. There will be no Painter Hall viewing on March 18th and 19th.
Please note that starting the week of March 21st, all public viewing times will change to 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. for the remainder of the semester.
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.