Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday December 1st through Sunday the 7th.
The moon is at first quarter on Friday the 5th, so we will see a waxing crescent moon for most of the week and then it will become a waxing gibbous moon.
The two bright planets in the southwest, Venus and Jupiter, have been gradually moving closer to one another for a couple of months now and reach their closest point at the beginning of the week. Joining the pair on Monday is a crescent moon, and observers in Europe and the northeastern tip of Canada will actually see the moon occult Venus. Photos of the grouping have already started to show up on Spaceweather.com
Mars is in conjunction with the sun on the 5th and Mercury is just coming out of conjunction, so both are too close to the sun to observe this week. Because of the conjunction, there will be no communications between controllers and the various Mars spacecraft studying the red planet. The Opportunity rover will be doing two weeks of independent study, while its twin, Spirit, will be conserving its power levels, which dropped very low due to a storm depositing dust on its solar panels.
In space news, the Space Shuttle Endeavour returned home on Sunday, landing safely in California after a mission to the International Space Station. The mission aided in preparations for the station to increase its crew from three to six next spring.
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. This week is the final week of Wednesday night public viewing for 2008.
Public viewing at the 9 inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday and Saturday nights now 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. 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 week is the final week of Painter Hall public viewing for 2008.
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.