Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday December 7th through Sunday December 13th.
The moon is at third quarter late in the night of Tuesday the 8th, giving us a waning crescent moon for the remainder of the week.
The timing of the moon phases this month helps to make it a good year to observe the Geminid meteor shower. The shower is expected to be best on the night of Sunday the 13th into the morning hours of Monday the 14th. The radiant of the shower isn’t too far from the stars Castor and Pollux which are both above the horizon by about 7:30 p.m. and will be up for the rest of the night. With good dark skies, you may be able to see around 120 meteors an hour at its peak rate.
You may be able to glimpse Mercury low in the southwest before it sets about an hour after the sun. It will be getting a little farther from the sun each night, so your chance of seeing it is better later in the week.
Jupiter is now low in the southwest by about 7 p.m. and sets at about 10:15 p.m. at midweek. Mars is rising at 10 p.m. this week, followed by Saturn at 1:30 a.m. Look for Saturn and the moon together in the morning hours of Thursday the 10th. Venus is rising about half and hour before the sun as it continues to sink lower and lower each morning. Venus will be in conjunction with the sun early in the new year.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is set to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday. WISE will scan the entire sky in four IR wavelengths and is hundreds of times more sensitive that the last infrared survey mission – IRAS – which launched and conducted observations in 1983. You can watch the launch and learn more about the mission at www.nasa.gov
Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for 2009. Viewing will resume in late January 2010 after the start of the UT spring semester.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.