skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Tuesday January 17th through Sunday January 22nd.

The moon was at third quarter on Monday the 16th and will reach the new phase on Monday the 23rd, so we will have a waning crescent moon all of this week.

Venus is shining brightly high in the west-southwest at sundown and sets a little before 9 p.m. this week. If you look at Venus in a telescope right now, you might be able to see that it isn't visible as a complete circle. Because of the geometry of the Sun, Venus and Earth right now, you are only seeing about 3/4 of Venus illuminated. As the months progress Venus' angular size will grow, but the percentage of it illuminated will drop. By mid-March only half of Venus will be lit as viewed from Earth.

Jupiter is up very high in our skies when the sun sets and is bright in the west by 10 p.m. Jupiter is setting at 1 a.m. at midweek. Mars is rising at 10 p.m. this week and is growing in size and brightness as we get near closest approach in early March. Saturn is rising at 12:45 a.m. at midweek and is visible for the rest of the night. Mercury is up just 45 minutes before the sun at midweek.

Last week the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society was held here in Austin and many exciting announcements came out during the conference. Among the findings were evidence of a galaxy protocluster 13 billion light years away and the most distant Type Ia supernova at 9 billion light years away. Several new discoveries from the Kepler mission were revealed, including a mini-planetary system with three planets smaller than Earth and two new systems of planets orbiting binary stars. You can learn more about these exoplanet discoveries at kepler.nasa.gov

Public viewing on UT campus telescopes will start next week. Wednesday nights will be on the 16-in reflector at Robert Lee Moore Hall and Friday and Saturday nights will be at the 9-in refractor at Painter Hall. All star parties will run from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. until spring break. More detailed information will be available next week.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.