Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday November 28th through Sunday December 4th.
The moon is at first quarter on the morning of Friday December 2nd so we will have a waxing crescent moon for most of the week and a waxing gibbous moon on the weekend.
Mercury is now rapidly moving out of our evening skies and is setting just 20 minutes after the sun at midweek. Mercury will be at inferior conjunction on Sunday when it will pass between the Earth and the Sun from the Earth's point of view. Venus is visible in the southwest as darkness falls and is setting at about 7:15 p.m. this week.
Jupiter is still visible high in the east as night falls and is setting at 4:15 a.m. at midweek. Mars is rising a little after midnight and is visible for the rest of the night. Saturn is up at 3:45 a.m.
The Mars Science Laboratory successfully lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Saturday and is now on its way to Mars. The spacecraft will have an approximately 8 month cruise phase and then will begin its entry, descent and landing in early August. To see video of the launch and learn more about the mission logon to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights now 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 now 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. 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 will be the final week of UT campus telescope public viewing nights for the fall semester. Viewing will resume in late January 2012.
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.