Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 29th through Sunday February 4th.

The second full moon for the month of January occurs on Wednesday January 31st so we'll start the week with a waxing gibbous moon and end with a waning gibbous moon. This full moon is known as a Blue Moon from the commonly accepted definition of "a second full moon in a calendar month".

In addition to being a Blue Moon, there will also be a total lunar eclipse visible with this full moon. Austin will miss out on seeing the complete eclipse, but early risers will get to see parts of it here in central Texas. The moon will start to move into the Earth's shadow in Austin at 4:51 a.m. but will move into the deeper and more noticeable part, called the umbra, at 5:48 a.m. Totality begins at 6:51 a.m. and reaches greatest eclipse at 7:29 a.m., just a few minutes after the moon sets here in Austin.  

If you get up early Wednesday morning to watch the eclipse, you'll also have a number of planets to see in the morning sky as well. Jupiter is rising at 1:40 a.m., followed by Mars at 2:40 a.m. and Saturn at 5:00 a.m. Mercury is up at 6:50 a.m., just 30 minutes before sunrise.

Venus is still the only planet up in the evening skies, but it still too close to the Sun to see.

In space anniversaries, Wednesday January 31 marks 60 years since the launch of Explorer 1, the first US satellite, coming 4 months after the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union.

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.