Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 3rd through Sunday February 9th.

The full moon for the month of February is late on Saturday night or early Sunday morning, depending on the time zone, so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for most of the week. The full moon for February is known as Snow Moon, the Wolf Moon, and the Hunger Moon.

Mercury will set a little later each evening this week as it moves towards greatest elongation from the sun next week. Mercury will set at 7:30 p.m. at midweek.

Venus is still bright in the west-southwest at sunset and is setting at 9:20 p.m. at midweek. A view through a telescope shows that Venus is currently about 70% illuminated.

Mars is rising at 3:50 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 5:25 a.m., and Saturn at 6:05 a.m.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday February 9th marks 30 years since the Galileo spacecraft did a flyby of the planet Venus as a gravity assist towards its eventual destination, the planet Jupiter. Galileo was launched onboard the space shuttle Atlantis in October 1989 and then began a complicated set of gravity assists and flybys. Galileo first flew past Venus 30 years ago, then flew past Earth twice for additional boosts, flew past the asteroids Gaspra and Ida in the Main Belt, and then finally entered orbit around Jupiter in December 1995. The Galileo mission ended with a controlled descent into Jupiter’s clouds in September 2003.

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.