Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 6th through Sunday January 12th.
The first full moon of 2020 occurs on Friday January 10th so we’ll start this week with a waxing gibbous moon and have a waning gibbous moon for the weekend. This full moon is known as the the Old Moon, Moon After Yule, and the Wolf Moon.
After the solar eclipse with the last new moon, there is still enough alignment of the Sun, Earth, and Moon for a lunar eclipse with this full moon. However, this will be a penumbral eclipse, which are usually quite faint and hard to see except near mid-eclipse and this particular one won’t be visible in North America.
Also on Friday the 10th, Mercury is in superior conjunction with the sun and will pass behind the sun from the Earth’s point of view. After conjunction, Mercury will slowly emerge into the western skies after sunset.
Venus is the only naked-eye planet in our evening skies this week and it is shining brightly low in the southwest at sunset. Venus is setting at 8:35 p.m. this week.
Mars is rising at 4:15 a.m. at midweek as it slowly moves back towards our evening skies. Mars will have its best showing since August 2018 in October of this year.
Jupiter is still emerging from the sun’s glare after conjunction right at the end of 2019 and Saturn is about to go into conjunction with the sun so it is not currently visible either. Both Jupiter and Saturn will be at opposition in July of this year so they will be well-placed for evening viewing through most of the summer and early autumn.
In space anniversaries this week, Sunday the 12th marks 15 years since the launch of the Deep Impact space mission. The mission’s goal was to study the comet Tempel 1, which it reached in July 2005. The spacecraft released an impactor into the comet and photographed the resulting ejecta and crater along with several other ground-and-space-based telescopes. Final communications with the spacecraft were in August 2013 and the mission was officially ended in September of that year.
Public viewing on UT Campus telescopes will resume for the Spring 2020 semester in mid-to-late January. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report and Happy New Year!