skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday December 14th 2009 through Sunday January 3rd 2010.

The final new moon for 2009 is in the morning hours of Wednesday the 16th. The moon will be at third quarter on Thursday the 24th. The final full moon of 2009, and the second of December, will be on the final day of the year – Thursday December 31st. By one colloquial definition, since this is the second full moon in a single month, it is called a Blue Moon. There is also a partial lunar eclipse on the 31st, but only a tiny amount of the moon will be in the umbra, the darkest part of the Earth’s shadow, and it will occur during the day here in central Texas.

The winter solstice for the northern hemisphere is at 11:47 a.m. central standard time on December 21st. This is the point where the sun reaches its farthest point south of the celestial equator giving us a short day and a long night. For our friends in the southern hemisphere, this will be the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.

Jupiter is in the southwest for the remainder of the year and is setting at 10 p.m. on the 15th and at 9:15 p.m. by the end of the year. Look for the moon alongside Jupiter on the nights of the 20th and 21st.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation east on the 18th, so look for it low in the west around that date. At its greatest elongation it is setting about an hour and a half after the sun. A very tiny crescent moon will be below Mercury on the 17th and a slightly larger crescent will be above it on the 18th.

Mars is rising at 9:30 p.m. on December 15th and is up by 8:30 on December 31st. Look for the moon alongside Mars on January 2nd.

Saturn is rising at 1 a.m. on the 15th and is up just a little after midnight on the 31st.

On the 15th Venus is rising just half an hour before the sun and by January 1st it is up just a few minutes before sunrise. It will be in conjunction with the sun the second week of January.

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 and have a happy holiday season.