skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 16th through Sunday February 22nd.

The new moon for the month of February is late on Wednesday, so we'll start the week with a very thin waning crescent moon and finish with a waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies.

Venus and Mars will continue to move closer to one another as the week begins and will be just half a degree apart on Saturday night. On Friday night, look for a thin crescent moon alongside the pair. Venus and Mars will be setting at around 8:30 p.m. at midweek.

Jupiter continues to be the main attraction for most of the evening. Jupiter rises at around 5 p.m. this week, so it will already be fairly high in the east as the sky darkens after nightfall.

Saturn is rising at 1:30 a.m. this week, giving observers a few dark hours before sunrise.

Mercury is rising at 5:40 a.m. at midweek, about 90 minutes before the sun.

In space anniversaries this week, February 18 marks the 85th anniversary of the discovery of Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Planet or not, we will finally get a close-up view of Pluto and its moons when the New Horizons spacecraft visits the system in July of this year.

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 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.