skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 2nd through Sunday December 8th.

The new moon for the month of December is late on Monday the 2nd, and we will see a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies for the remainder of the week.

Venus is still visible in the southwest after sunset and will reach its brightest on Friday when it will be at magnitude -4.7. Venus is setting at 8:20 p.m. this week. Look for the thin crescent moon near Venus on Thursday night.

Jupiter is rising in the east-northeast at 7:55 p.m. at midweek and is visible for the remainder of the night. Mars is rising at 1:25 a.m. followed by Saturn at 5:10 a.m. and Mercury is sinking back towards the sun and is rising at 6:10 a.m.

Comet ISON kept astronomers on their toes during its close past to the Sun on Thanksgiving. It rapidly brightened as it approached perihelion, but then dimmed shortly before the closest approach and the appeared to have completely died when it wasn't immediately seen on the other side of the Sun. But later, some parts did emerge from the other side, suggesting that some dust or fragments of the nucleus did make it through perihelion. The remnants have since faded, which means that we will not get a good post-perihelion show, but the science gathered during the pass will help us learn more about the formation and composition of the solar system.

In space anniversaries this week, Monday the 2nd marks the 20th anniversary of launch of the first space shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. This mission, flown with the shuttle Endeavour, was the one that initially repaired the flaw in the Hubble's mirror that was discovered shortly after its deployment in 1990. Tuesday December 3rd is the 40th anniversary of Pioneer 10 becoming the first spacecraft to fly by the planet Jupiter.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday night 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. 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 will be the final week of viewing for the fall semester. Spring semester viewing will start in late January.

All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Note that viewing times and availability change throughout the year so please check the schedule before planning a visit. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 512-232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.