skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday July 7th through Sunday the 13th.

The moon is at first quarter on Thursday the 10th, so we will see a waxing crescent in the western skies for the first half of the week and then will become a waxing gibbous moon.

Mars and Saturn are still close together in the western skies after sunset, but have moved farther away from the star Regulus. At the end of the week, Mars and Saturn will be about 7/10ths of a degree apart. The pair will set a little after 11 p.m. this week.

Jupiter is at opposition on Wednesday the 9th, so on that day it will rise as the sun sets. Venus is slowly moving away from the sun and into our evening skies, but is still only 8 degrees away from the sun. Mercury is rising at 5:15 a.m. at midweek, about an hour and 15 minutes before the sun.

The first set of research publications from the first flyby of the Messenger spacecraft of Mercury have been published and have already revealed at least one unexpected result – the presence of water in Mercury’s thin atmosphere. The mission has also now confirmed the presence of past volcanic activity on Mercury. The Messenger spacecraft will make more fly-bys of the planet before it settles into orbit on March 18, 2011. You can learn more about the mission at messenger.jhuapl.edu

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. 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. 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.