Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 14, 2015 through Sunday January 3rd, 2016.
The moon is at first quarter on Friday December 18 and will reach full on Friday December 25th, the first full moon on Christmas since 1977. The full moon of December is known as the Long Night Moon and the Moon Before Yule. We'll start the New Year with a third quarter moon on the night of January 1st.
Mercury will be moving away from the sun in the early evening skies for almost all of the remainder of the year, setting at 6:30 p.m. on December 14, 6:50 p.m. on December 21, and 7:05 p.m. on December 28th, when it will also be at greatest elongation. After that, it will slowly start making its way back towards the sun as we head into 2016.
Jupiter will finally start rising before midnight as we close out 2015. The giant planet will rise at 12:20 a.m. on December 15, 11:50 p.m. on December 21st, and 11:25 p.m. on December 28th.
Mars is still rising after midnight, cresting the horizon at 2:20 a.m. on December 15th, 2:15 a.m. on December 21st, and 2:05 a.m. on December 28th. Fans of Mars will have their patience rewarded in 2016 when it will make a good close approach in May of the upcoming year.
Venus is now sinking back towards the sun and is rising at 4:05 a.m. on December 15th, 4:15 a.m. on the 21st, and 4:30 a.m. on the 28th.
Saturn is emerging from conjunction and is up 6:15 a.m. on December 15th, 5:55 a.m. on December 21st, and 5:30 a.m. by December 28th.
The winter solstice for the northern hemisphere occurs at 10:48 p.m. central standard time on December 21st. This is the day that the sun cuts the shortest arc through our sky and gives us the smallest amount of daylight of the year. For our friends in the southern hemisphere, it is the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.
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 and have a happy and safe holiday season.