Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 27th through Sunday February 2nd.

The moon is at first quarter on Saturday night so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies for most of the week and start the waxing gibbous phase at the end of the weekend.

Mercury is low in the west-southwest at sunset and is setting a little after 7:00 p.m. at midweek.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the western skies after sunset and is setting at 9:05 p.m. Look for the thin waxing crescent moon below Venus on Monday night and above Venus on Tuesday night.

Mars is rising just before 4:00 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 5:45 a.m., and Saturn at 6:30 a.m.

Some of you may have heard the star Betelgeuse, the orange star that forms the shoulder of the constellation of Orion, has had some interesting changes recently. The star is a red supergiant and is usually the 11th brightest star in the night sky, but it has dropped 2.5 times in brightness since last October. Betelgeuse is known to be a variable star, but this dimming is fainter than has been seen in more than a century. While there are several explanations that could explain the dimming, many news reports have seized on the fact that the star is expected to eventually go supernova. However, the time frame for the star’s demise it likely to be on the order of 10s of thousands of years so this dimming is probably not a sign that the star is about to explode, unfortunately. Regardless, it’s worth taking a look at Betelgeuse over the next few months to see if you can pick out the changes in brightness for yourself.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 7 to 9 p.m. RLM is located on the southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway. Take the elevator to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.

Public viewing at the 9-inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday and Saturday nights currently from 7 to 9 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower. Take the elevator to the 5th floor then take the stairs up to the 6th floor and follow the signs up to the telescope.

All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Note that viewing times and availability change throughout the year so please check the schedule before planning a visit. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 512-232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.