Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday March 9th through Sunday March 22nd.
The full moon for the month of March is late in the evening of Tuesday the 10th. This full moon is known as the Lenten Moon, the Sap Moon or the Worm Moon. The moon is at third quarter on Wednesday the 18th.
There is still a cluster of three naked-eye planets up before the sun in the morning skies. Jupiter is now up almost two hours before the sun, with Mars following about an hour before the sun. Mercury is currently in the group, but is gradually sinking back towards the sun for the rest of the month. Neptune, which requires a telescope to see, is also in the mix of the other three planets.
Venus is still bright in our western skies, but it is headed towards conjunction with the sun, so it will be setting a little closer to sunset each night. Uranus is in conjunction with the sun on the 13th and will pass into the morning skies. Saturn is rising at 7:15 p.m. on the 10th and will be rising by 6:30 p.m. on the 21st. Look for the moon above Saturn on the 9th and a little below Saturn on the 10th.
The spring, or vernal, equinox occurs at 5:45 a.m. central time on Friday March 20th. On this day, the sun crosses the celestial equator into the northern hemisphere. For our friends down under in the southern hemisphere, this marks the beginning of autumn.
The Kepler spacecraft successfully launched on Friday the 6th on its mission to look for earth-sized planets around other stars. You can learn more about the spacecraft and its mission at kepler.nasa.gov
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 8 to 10 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 8 to 10 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.
Please note that there will be no public viewing the week starting Monday March 16th due to Spring Break.
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.