skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday September 12 through Sunday September 18th.

The full moon for the month of September occurred in the morning hours of Monday September 12 so we will have a waning gibbous moon all of this week. This is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, so by some traditions it is known as the Harvest Moon, as well as the Fruit Moon and the Corn Moon.

Venus is setting about 25 minutes after the sun this week so it is still obscured by the sun's glare. Saturn is setting a little before 9 p.m. at midweek so it is very low in the west in the evening twilight. Jupiter rises at around 9:45 p.m. at midweek and will soon be rejoining the early evening skies. Look for Jupiter below the moon on Thursday the 15th and slightly above and to the right of the moon on the 16th. Mars is rising at 3 a.m. and Mercury is up at 6:30 a.m. at midweek, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

The twin GRAIL spacecraft successfully launched last Saturday aboard a Delta II rocket and are on their way to the moon. Rather than take the direct path to the moon like the Apollo astronauts did, the GRAIL spacecraft will take a low energy approach and are scheduled to enter lunar orbit at the end of the year. If the current timeline holds, GRAIL A will enter orbit on December 31, 2011 and GRAIL B will enter orbit on January 1, 2012. You can learn more about the mission at moon.mit.edu

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 8 to 10 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 currently 8 to 10 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. Please note that there will be no Painter Telescope viewing on Saturday evenings when the UT football team has a night home game. To check the football schedule, logon to mackbrown-texasfootball.com.

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 viewing start time when a viewing is cancelled.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.