skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 13 through Sunday February 19.

The moon is at third quarter on Monday the 13th and will reach new moon the following Monday, so we’ll have a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies all of this week.

Saturn is in conjunction with the sun on Thursday the 16th and then will begin to emerge in the early morning skies over the next couple of months.

Venus and Jupiter are both shining brightly in the western skies after sunset and the two bright planets will continue to move towards one another for the next couple of weeks. Venus is currently the lower of the two and is setting at 8:30 p.m. at midweek, with Jupiter setting an hour later at 9:30 p.m.

Mars is high overhead at nightfall and is setting at 2:45 a.m.

In the morning skies, Mercury is moving back towards the sun after its last greatest elongation and is rising at 6:10 a.m. at midweek, still about an hour before sunrise.

In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday February 15th marks 50 years since the Pioneer 10 spacecraft became the first probe to pass through the solar system’s asteroid belt. While the popular image of the asteroid belt is a very crowded band of rocks between Mars and Jupiter, in reality there is a lot more space between the minor planets, so mission planners expected that the spacecraft would have a safe passage through the region.

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.