skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 25th through Sunday January 31st.

The full moon for the month of January is on Thursday the 28th so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for the first half of the week and a waning gibbous moon for the latter part of the week. The full moon of January is known as the Old Moon, the Moon After Yule, and the Wolf Moon.

Mercury is visible low in the west after sunset and is setting an hour and 20 minutes after the Sun by midweek. Mercury was at its greatest elongation late last week so you should still be able to find it if you have a clear view of the western horizon.

Mars is high in the south as the sky darkens after sunset and is setting at 1:10 a.m. by the end of the week.

Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun late on Thursday and will slowly re-emerge into our morning skies in the coming weeks. Saturn is still very close to the Sun after its conjunction late last week and is lost in the Sun’s glare.

Venus is rising at 6:35 a.m. at midweek, about 45 minutes before sunrise.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday January 31 marks 50 years since the launch of Apollo 14 with astronauts Alan Shepard, Stu Roosa, and Edgar Mitchell aboard. We’ll have more about their mission next week.

Thursday the 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the loss of astronauts Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnick, Ronald McNair, Christa McAuliffe, and Gregory Jarvis aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger which broke up 73 seconds after launch. The failure of an O-ring on one of the solid rocket boosters was determined to be the cause.

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.