Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatcher's Report for December 18th to January 2nd.
The new moon for the month of December is on Christmas Day, the 25th. Some of North America will also get a celestial Christmas present of a partial solar eclipse. For Austin, about 30% of the sun's disk will be covered at the maximum of the eclipse. The first contact of the moon on the solar disk will be at 9:41 am Central Time, with maximum eclipse at 10:55 a.m. The last contact will be at 12:16 p.m. As always, take care when viewing the sun and only use proper telescope filters or an indirect method of viewing such as projection onto a piece of cardboard.
The first quarter moon for the month of January will be on the 2nd.
The official start to winter will be on December 21st at 7:37 a.m. central standard time. This is the point where the sun hits its southern-most point on the celestial sphere and gives us the shortest day of the year. For the southern hemisphere, this is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.
The bright star-like object high in the southwest at sunset is the planet Venus. The bright object in the east is Jupiter, with Saturn just a little above and to the right. Near the two gas giants is the Pleiades open star cluster, most often known as the Seven Sisters. Look for the constellation of Orion above the eastern horizon by about 6:30.
Public star parties are on hiatus until classes resume at UT in mid-January.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatcher's report and have a happy and safe holiday season.