skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 27 through Sunday March 5.

The moon is at first quarter on early on Monday February 27th and then we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for the rest of the week

After weeks of moving towards each other, Venus and Jupiter will finally have their close approach to one another on Wednesday night when they will be half a degree apart. After that, Venus will continue to move away from the sun as it heads towards greatest elongation in June and Jupiter will move towards the sun and its next solar conjunction in April. The pair set at 8:50 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Mars is still high overhead as the sky darkens after sunset and is setting at 2:15 a.m. at midweek. Look for Mars next to the moon on Monday night.

In the morning skies, Saturn and Mercury will pass each other on Thursday as Saturn continues to move away from the sun after conjunction in mid-February and Mercury moves towards its next solar conjunction in a couple of weeks. The pair will rise at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, about 30 minutes before the sun.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday March 5th marks 65 years since the attempted launch of the US’s second artificial satellite, Explorer 2. Coming just a month after the successful launch of the first American satellite, Explorer 1, Explorer 2 was identical to the first mission but with a tape recorder added for data collection and playback. At launch, the fourth stage of the Juno 1 launch vehicle failed to ignite and the satellite did not have enough velocity to attain orbit and the probe fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

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.