skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatcher's Report for January 3rd to the 7th.

For all of you who got new telescopes over the holidays, there are several easy to find objects to look at in the January sky. The bright object in the southwest at sundown is the planet Venus, which an up close view with a telescope will reveal to be only half lit, like a quarter moon.

High in the sky in the evenings are the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is the brighter of the two and a small telescope will show several dots around it, which are its largest moons. Depending on the timing, you might see anywhere from 1 to 4 of the large satellites. A medium telescope and a steady night will show cloud bands on the planet, and sometimes the great red spot, Jupiter's famous storm.

Up and to the right of Jupiter is Saturn. Even small telescopes will show the planet's famous rings, which are currently tilted in a way that makes them easy to see. Larger telescopes may reveal some of the planet's large number of moons, in particular the largest of the bunch, Titan.

Of course, don't forget to check out the brightest night object -- the moon. This week the moon will be going from first quarter on the 2nd to full early next week. The moon can be very bright in a telescope, so you might want to look into getting a lunar filter if you plan to observe the moon on a regular basis.

Public star parties are on hiatus until classes resume at UT the week of January 1