Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday December 11th through the 17th.
The moon is at third quarter on Tuesday the 12th.
Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are clustered together in the morning skies this week and are at their closest on Monday morning. Mercury and Jupiter were about one tenth of a degree apart last Sunday. There are photos of these close alignments at spaceweather.com Venus can be glimpsed shortly after sunset and Saturn is rising at around 10 p.m. at mid-week.
The Space Shuttle Discovery ended up launching a few days later that scheduled due to weather, but did successfully blast off on Saturday night. The shuttle will dock with the International Space Station on Monday afternoon. The mission will continue the construction of the space station and Sunita Williams will move aboard the station and Thomas Reiter will return to earth. Reiter has been in space since July of this year. You can follow the mission at www.nasa.gov
The Geminid meteor shower peaks this week. This shower is usually one or the more reliable in terms of activity, and this year there will be little or no moonlight interference. The shower is unusual because it is associated with an asteroid, as opposed to a comet, the cause of most meteor showers. The constellation Gemini is above the horizon in early evening, rising just below and more to the north of the constellation Orion. The activity of the shower is expected to peak in the hours after midnight on Thursday morning. At the peak, this shower can produce a couple of meteors a minute.
Public viewing on UT campus telescopes is finished for 2006. Open nights will resume in the second half of January 2007.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.