skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday January 30 through Sunday February 5th.

The moon is at first quarter late on the night of Monday January 30th, so we will see a waxing gibbous moon for all of this week.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the west-southwest after sunset and is setting at 9:15 p.m. at midweek. If you look at Venus in a telescope right now, you will see that only three quarters of it is illuminated.

Jupiter is high in the southwest at sundown. Jupiter is to the lower left of the Moon on Monday night. Mars is rising at 9:00 p.m. and looks like a bright orange star as it continues to grow in angular size and brightness. Saturn is rising at 11:50 p.m. as it slowly makes its way back to the early evening skies. Mercury is now very close to the sun as it moves towards conjunction next week.

Last week the sun produced several powerful solar flares and large coronal mass ejections, creating some incredible aurorae here on Earth. The sun is about a year from the peak of its 11-year sunspot cycle, so we can expect activity like last week's to become more common. You can see impressive images of last week's activity and its effects on earth at the Solar Dynamics Observatory's website at sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov and at spaceweather.com

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. To get to the telescope, take the elevator to the 5th floor and exit to the left. Follow the 5th floor hallway to the end and take the staircase through the double doors on the left. Once you reach the 6th floor, go to your right 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. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 60 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time when a viewing is cancelled.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.