skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 11th through Sunday January 17th.

The new moon for the month of January is late on Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning so we’ll start the week with a waning crescent moon in the east shortly before dawn and then we’ll have a waxing crescent moon low in the west shortly after sunset for the rest of the week.

Mercury is visible low in the west shortly after sunset and is setting a little over an hour after the Sun at midweek. Mercury will continue to get higher in the sky as it heads towards greatest elongation at the end of next week.

Jupiter and Saturn are now very low in the west after sunset and are mostly lost in the Sun’s glare as they head towards conjunction in the next couple of weeks. Saturn sets at 6:30 p.m. at midweek followed by Jupiter at 6:40 p.m.

Mars is high in the south around sunset this week and sets at 1:35 a.m. at midweek. The planet Uranus is just a few degrees to the left of Mars this week and will be nearby for about another week. Uranus is too faint to see with the unaided eye but can be seen with binoculars or a small telescope.

Venus is up in the predawn sky and is rising at 6:20 a.m., about an hour before the Sun.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday January 15th marks 15 years since the Stardust capsule landed in the Utah desert with samples of cometary and interstellar dust grains that were collected in an ultralight, low-density material called aerogel. The samples were processed at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the return capsule was transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are on hold for the Spring 2021 semester. We will update the website outreach.as.utexas.edu with a new schedule when we are able to resume viewing.

While you’re waiting for in-person telescope viewing to resume, you can tune in to McDonald Observatory live streams from west Texas. You can view past events on the McDonald Observatory YouTube channel and you can follow the observatory on TwitterFacebook and at McDonaldObservatory.org to be notified of future events.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.