skywatchers report

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

The moon is full on Sunday February 5th, so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon all of this week. The full moon of February is known as the Snow Moon, the Wolf Moon, and the Hunger Moon.

Saturn is now low in the west-southwest at sunset and is setting about an hour after the sun as it heads towards solar conjunction later this month.

Above Saturn, Venus is shining brightly in the west-southwest and continues to move away from the sun. Venus is setting at 8:00 p.m. at midweek.

And above Venus, Jupiter is shining brightly high in the west-southwest. Jupiter is setting at 10:10 p.m. at midweek.

Mars is up in the southeast at 7:00 p.m. and is setting at 3:20 a.m. at midweek. Mars will be alongside the moon on Monday night and will go behind the moon for a short time in what is known as an occultation. For Austin, Mars will disappear behind the moon a little after 11:00 p.m. and will re-emerge at about 12:15 a.m.

In the morning skies, Mercury is at its greatest elongation from the sun on Monday and is rising 5:50 a.m., about an hour and a half before sunrise.

In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday February 1 marks 65 years since the launch of Explorer 1 – the first satellite launched by the United States. Explorer 1 operated in orbit for four months and was the first spacecraft to detect the Van Allen radiation belt. The satellite re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere in March 1970.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy building is on Wednesday nights currently from 7 to 9 p.m. PMA 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.