skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday August 2nd through Sunday August 8th.

The moon is at third quarter on the night of Monday the 2nd so we will have a waning crescent moon for most of this week.

Four planets are still clustered in the western skies after sunset. Venus is the brightest and easiest to spot. Mercury is below and to the right of Venus and reaches its greatest elongation east on Friday night. Above and to the left of Venus are Mars and Saturn, which are still close to one another this week. As the week progresses the pair will move closer to Venus, setting up a nice conjunction for early next week. All four of the planets set before 11 p.m. this week. Jupiter rises at 10:45 p.m. and is visible for the rest of the night.

The sun is continuing to wake up from the long solar mimimum of the past few years. In addition to increasing sunspot numbers this year, the sun has recently produced some interesting flares, prominences and coronal mass ejections. The current solar cycle is due to peak in 2013, so we should expect to see this increase in solar activity over the next few years. You can keep up with this solar activity and the observations from several spacecraft that study the sun at spaceweather.com

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. This week will be the final summer viewing for this telescope so we can do maintenance before the fall semester.

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. The final summer telescope viewing for Painter Hall will be Saturday August 14th.

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.