skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday April 20th through Sunday the 26th.

The moon is new late on the night of Friday the 24th, so there will be a waning crescent moon for most of this week. This crescent moon will be with a couple of planets before dawn on the 22nd. For most of us here in North America, we will actually be able to see the moon occult, or move in front of, the planet Venus. Here in Austin the occultation will be shortly after dawn, but you might still be able to see the event, especially if you have binoculars.

This is a good week to look for Mercury low in the west-northwest shortly after sunset. The inner planet will reach its greatest elongation east on Sunday and then will start to gradually start sinking back towards the sun. Saturn can be seen high in the southeast as the sky darkens after sunset.

If you were planning to get up early to see the Venus occultation on Wednesday morning, there is an added bonus – the Lyrid meteor shower. This shower sometimes produces up to 90 meteors an hour, but usually averages around 20. The meteors will appear to come from a point in the small constellation Lyra, which includes the bright star Vega. The particles that cause this shower come from Comet Thatcher and the shower has been noted in astronomical records dating back 2600 years.

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.