skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday April 13th through Sunday the 19th.

The moon is at third quarter for the month of April on Friday the 17th.

Saturn is high in the southeast as the sky darkens after sunset and doesn’t set until after 5 a.m. Mercury is setting a hour and a half after the sun by the end of the week, so this is a good time to try to catch it if you have a good view of the western horizon. The rest of the planets are up in the morning over the few hours before dawn. Look for a waning crescent moon alongside Jupiter on the morning of the 19th.

As we head further in to spring, the constellations of the winter sky, such as Orion and Taurus are now pretty far into the west as the sun sets. Over in the east, the constellations of summer, such as Hercules are now rising by about 10 p.m.

If you’ve been following sunspot activity lately, you may have noticed that is has been very quiet, even for the minimum of the 11-year sunspot cycle. 266 of 2008’s 366 days had no sunspots, the lowest percentage in 95 years. So far in 2009 87% of the days have had no sunspots, meaning that are experiencing a deep solar minimum. You can learn more about this solar minimum at science.nasa.gov and follow the current sunspot count at spaceweather.com.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 8:30 to 10:30 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 8:30 to 10:30 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.