skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday November 27th through December 3rd.

The moon is at first quarter on Tuesday November 28th.

Much like last week, most of the planets visible to the naked eye are clustered around the sun and aren’t easily seen. Mercury has passed western elongation and is now moving back close to the sun. Mars and Jupiter have both passed behind the sun and are slowly creeping back into the morning skies. Meanwhile, Venus is making its way into the evening skies, although it is still a couple of weeks before it can be glimpsed in the west shortly after sunset. Saturn is rising at 11 p.m. this week and is high overhead when the sun rises.

Just before the 10th anniversary of its launch, the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft went silent and now may be lost for good. The orbiter launched on Nov. 7, 1996 and aerobraked into orbit starting in Sept. 1997. It began its mapping mission in April 1999 and was originally intended to work for one Martian year, which is approximately two Earth years long. With the great success of the mission, NASA extended operations four times. The last signal came from the spacecraft on November 2nd, and efforts to re-establish communications have failed. The 2001 Mars Odyssey, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Express missions are all currently observing the planet from orbit while the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity are still exploring the planet’s surface after nearly three years. You can follow all these missions at mars.jpl.nasa.gov

Public viewing at the 16 inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 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 7 to 9 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower.

Please note that next week will be the final week of public viewing this year. Viewing will resume in January 2007.

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 viewing start time on nights when public viewing is cancelled.

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