skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday August 23rd through Sunday the 29th.

The full moon for the month of August is on Tuesday the 24th. This full moon is known as the Grain Moon and the Green Corn Moon. The moon will be at apogee, its farthest point from the earth, just one day later, so this is the smallest full moon of the year.

You can still spot four planets in the evening skies just after sunset, although Mercury will be very hard to catch by the end of the week. Venus and Mars start out the week about two degrees apart and will gradually move away from one another as the week goes on. Saturn is to the right of Venus and Mars and is setting at 9:30 p.m. at midweek.

Jupiter is rising at 9:15 p.m. this week. Look for the moon alongside Jupiter on the night of the 26th.

Late last week, amateur astronomers managed to catch yet another impact on Jupiter, the third in the last 13 months. This impact, like the one back in June, did not leave a mark on the clouds like other impacts have, but was only observed as a fireball flash. As more amateur astronomers monitor Jupiter with video, it's more likely that these smaller impacts will be observed and we will get a better idea of just how often the largest of our planets gets randomly hit by small comets and asteroids. The video of the latest impact is available on spaceweather.com

If you've received an email making the rounds that Mars will be spectacular at the end of August and you thought that it either sounded familiar or a little too good to be true, you're right! The event that the email refers to - the close approach of Mars to the Earth - occurred on August 27, 2003, but the email has continued to surface ever since. There is a great write-up of the hoax and the real information of Mars' orbit at the blog for the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum at blog.nasm.si.edu. Look for the post from August 13, 2010.

Public viewing on the 16-in telescope at RLM and the 9-in refractor at Painter Hall will resume next week. Please call back for more information.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.