Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 12th through Sunday December 18th.
The full moon for the month of December is on the night of Tuesday the 13th into the morning hours of Wednesday the 14th, depending on your time zone. We'll start the week with a waxing gibbous moon and end with a waning gibbous moon. This month's full moon is known as the Long Night Moon and the Moon Before Yule.
Mercury is now starting to sink back towards the sun, but is still setting about an hour and a half after the sun, so you should be able to catch it with a good view of the western horizon during early evening twilight.
Venus, meanwhile, continues to move away from the sun a little each evening since it still has about a month to go before its greatest elongation. Look for brilliant Venus in the southwest after sunset. Venus is setting at 8:55 p.m. at midweek.
Mars is above and to the left of Venus and looks like a faint orange star. Mars is setting at 10:20 p.m. this week.
Over in the morning skies, Jupiter is rising at 2:15 a.m., now 5 hours before the sun. Saturn is just emerging from conjunction with the sun and is rising about 25 minutes before the sun this week so it is lost in the sun's glare.
The peak of the Geminid meteor shower is this Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, which unfortunately exactly coincides with the full moon. The Geminids get their name because they appear to come from a point in the constellation Gemini as the Earth passes through the debris left behind by the object 3200 Phaethon, which is thought to be an asteroid, making this shower one of the few not associated with a comet. Without the full moon spoiling the view, this shower can sometimes produce around 120 meteors an hour, but you are unlikely to see that many this year. Since the Geminids typically produce fairly bright meteors though, it's still worth taking a look.
Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for the fall semester. Spring semester viewing will start in late January. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.