Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday September 28th through Sunday October 4th.
The moon is full in the very early morning hours of Sunday the 4th. Since this is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, it is traditionally known as the Harvest Moon. It is also called the Dying Grass Moon.
The moon and Jupiter will make a nice pair on the night of the 29th. Look for them in the southeast as the sky darkens after sunset.
Mars is rising at 1:30 a.m. this week. Look for bright stars Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini to the left of Mars. Three planets are starting to cluster together in the east in the hour before sunrise. Venus is currently the highest and brightest, with Mercury and Saturn below.
The Messenger spacecraft will be making its third fly-by of Mercury on Tuesday the 29th for its third gravity assist before going in to orbit around the innermost planet in March 2011. Messenger will be the first spacecraft to actually orbit Mercury and is only the second mission dedicated to Mercury, the other being Mariner 10 from the 1970s. Of the various targets in the fly-by will be a set of images set to look for possible moons of Mercury. You can see images from this and the previous fly-bys online at messenger.jhuapl.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.