Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for August 6 to the 12th.
The moon is at third quarter on Sunday the 12th. Mars is still the highlight of the evening skies. Jupiter and Venus reached their closest point to one another on Monday morning, but they will still make an interesting pair for the rest of the week. The two bright planets can be seen low in the east before dawn. Saturn is higher and to the right of Jupiter and Venus and still close to the star Aldebaran.
As regular meteor observers know, this coming weekend is the peak of the summer's best shower, the Perseids. Unfortunately, this year the waning moon will interfere with observations. The peak hours of the Perseids have become complicated over the past few years and up to three times of maximum activity have been reported in the past decade. The best time for North American observers will probably be on the morning of Sunday the 12th in the hours between midnight and dawn. Mornings for the next few days may be good as well, especially since the moon will be rising later and later each day.
The Perseid meteor shower comes from the earth intercepting the debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle and appear to come from the constellation Perseus which rises in the northeast at about 11:00 p.m. A good Perseid shower can produce over 60 to 100 meteors to an hour if sky conditions are favorable.
Wednesday night public viewing is held at Robert Lee Moore Hall and will begin at 9:00 p.m. The building is located at the southeast corner of Dean Keeton (formerly 26th street) and Speedway. Take the elevators to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope. Next week will be the last star party for the summer, but viewing will resume in September.
Viewing at the Painter Hall telescope for the general public is on Saturdays from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. and Friday nights are open for UT students, faculty and staff from 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe.
All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Observing events are weather permitting.