skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday July 11th through Sunday July 17th.

The full moon for the month of July is on the morning of Friday the 15th. This full moon is known as the Hay Moon and the Thunder Moon.

Mercury is visible low in the west after sundown and is setting at 10 p.m. Saturn is still up in the southwest at sunset and is setting at 12:45 a.m. at midweek. Jupiter is up at 1:45 a.m. followed by Mars at 4 a.m. and Venus at 6 a.m., just 40 minutes before the sun.

The Dawn spacecraft is due to enter orbit around the asteroid Vesta this Saturday and then will spiral down to its survey orbit in August. Dawn will study Vesta for a year and then will leave orbit to fly to the asteroid Ceres, the largest body of the main asteroid belt. The spacecraft is expected to enter orbit around Ceres in February 2015. You can learn more about the mission and see the images Dawn has already taken of Vesta at dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the discovery of the planet Neptune - one Neptunian year, that is. The 8th planet was observed in September 1846 and has just now completed one orbit of the sun since it's official discovery. Galileo actually observed Neptune in the early 17th century but thought it was a star, so it would be over 200 years before it was observed and recognized to be the 8th planet in our solar system. Voyager 2 flew past Neptune in 1989 and is the only spacecraft to visit the planet.

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.