Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 10th through Sunday February 16th.

The moon is at third quarter late on the night of Saturday the 15th so we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for most of the week and start into the waning crescent moon on Sunday.

Mercury is at greatest elongation on Monday the 10th when it will be at its highest point above the western horizon after sunset and will set at 7:40 p.m. After Monday Mercury will start sinking back towards the sun and its next conjunction.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the west at sunset and is setting at 9:35 p.m. at midweek.

In the morning skies, Mars is rising at 3:45 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 5:00 a.m., and Saturn at 5:40 a.m.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday February 14th marks 30 years since the Voyager 1 spacecraft took a series of images from the edge of the solar system to create a family portrait of the planets. The images included a photo of Earth from a distance of 6 billion kilometers where our planet only appears the size of a single pixel which astronomer Carl Sagan termed The Pale Blue Dot. After the photos were taken, the Voyager 1’s cameras were powered down to save energy for the other instruments that were needed for the Voyager interstellar mission.

In related news, Voyager 1’s twin, Voyager 2, encountered a glitch a few weeks ago and automatically shut off its science instruments. The mission team was able to troubleshoot the spacecraft from 18.5 billion kilometers away and the spacecraft resumed taking data on February 5th.

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.