Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday June 27th through Monday July 4th.
The moon is new on Friday July 1st so we will have a waning crescent moon in the morning skies for the first part of the week and a waxing crescent for the holiday weekend. The last new moon brought a partial solar eclipse and the last full moon brought a lunar eclipse and this new moon will also technically have a partial solar eclipse since the earth, moon and sun are still aligned. However, the area of the earth that will be able to see the eclipse is a tiny patch off the coast of Antarctica south of the continent of Africa. Also, the amount of the sun that will be eclipsed by the moon is only about 10% so anyone willing to brave winter in the Antarctic Ocean wouldn't see much.
Mercury is setting about an hour and a half after the sun, so you might be able to find it if you have a good view of the western skies. Saturn is in the southwest at nightfall and sets at 1:30 a.m. at midweek. Jupiter is rising about an hour after Saturn sets, followed by Mars at 4:20 a.m. Look for a very thin crescent moon above Mars on the morning of the 28th. Venus and the moon will pair up on the morning of the 30th but may be hard to see in the dawn twilight.
On Monday a roughly school bus-sized asteroid 2011MD made a close pass by the Earth at about 7500 miles, although there was no danger of it actually hitting our planet. An object this size comes this close to the Earth about ever six years and is a good test of our ability to spot potentially dangerous objects before they hit the earth. For more information about Near Earth Objects log on to neo.jpl.nasa.gov
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. this summer. 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 from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. this summer. 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 start time when a viewing is cancelled.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report and have a happy and safe Fourth of July holiday.