skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday August 8th through Sunday August 14th.

The moon is at first quarter on Wednesday the 10th, so we'll start the week with a waxing crescent moon and finish with a waxing gibbous moon.

This week is another good opportunity to see all five of the naked eye planets at one time if you have a good view of the western horizon shortly after sunset. Venus is the lowest of the planets but is also the brightest which is a good aid for finding Mercury, which is higher but fainter. Jupiter is up a little higher to the left, so look along the line between Venus and Jupiter to find Mercury right about halfway in between the two much brighter objects.

Venus is setting an hour after the sun, followed by Mercury about 15 minutes later. Jupiter is setting at 10 p.m. at midweek.

Mars and Saturn are now a little west of due south as the sky darkens after sunset. Look for Mars below the moon and Saturn to the left of the moon on Thursday evening. Mars is setting at 1:15 a.m., followed by Saturn at 1:55 a.m.

The peak of one of the year's best meteor showers, the Perseids, is on Friday the 12th, although it is worth looking on both Thursday and Friday nights for activity. The shower occurs when the Earth passes through the debris of the comet Swift-Tuttle and the particles burn up as they enter our atmosphere. These particles appear from the constellation Perseus, which rises around midnight. To observe the shower you don't need any special equipment - just find a safe, dark place, throw down a blanket and look up!

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 so please check the schedule before planning a visit. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 512-232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.

This week will be the final week of public viewing on UT campus telescopes for the summer session. Fall semester viewing will start in a couple of weeks. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.