skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday August 10th through Sunday the 16th.

The moon is at third quarter on Thursday the 13th.

Mercury and Saturn are both visible low in the west after sundown this week. Mercury sets at about 9:30 and Saturn follows at 9:45 p.m. On the other side of the sky in the east-southeast, Jupiter is rising at 8:15 p.m. at mid-week. Jupiter is at opposition on Friday, so it will rise in the east as the sun is setting in the west on that day. Although it is very low for our telescopes, if you take a look at Saturn on the 11th, you will notice that something is missing – namely its famous rings. Saturn’s rings are very thin when seen edge-on, so about every 15 years during the Saturnian equinox, the rings will seem to disappear.

Venus and Mars are still morning planets, with Mars rising at 2:30 a.m. and Venus is up a little after 4 a.m. Mars will be a few degrees above the moon on the morning of Sunday the 16th.

The peak of one of the best known and most reliable meteor showers, the Perseids, is this week, although shower activity has been reported for about two weeks already. The shower occurs when the earth travels through the debris left in our orbit by Comet Swift-Tuttle. The peak of the shower, when the earth encounters the densest part of the debris cloud, will be on the night of the 11th into the morning hours of the 12th. It’s also worth taking a look on the night of the 12th into the morning of the 13th. The best way to view a meteor shower is to find a safe, dark place and just look up. Binoculars could be handy for viewing any persistent trains left by the meteors as they burn up in our atmosphere, but aren’t necessary to enjoy the show. The one drawback to this year’s show is a relatively bright moon.

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.

This week is the final week of public viewing for the summer. Viewing will resume in September.

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.