Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday March 2nd through Sunday March 8th.

The moon is at first quarter on Monday March 2nd and will reach full the following Monday, so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for all of this week.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the west after sunset and has reached magnitude -4.3 in brightness and is at 19.5 arcsecond in size at 60% illumination.

All of the remaining planets visible to the naked eye are still only visible in the early morning skies. Mars is rising at 3:25 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 3:55 a.m. and Saturn at 4:25 a.m. Mercury is rising at 6:00 a.m. at midweek, almost an hour before the sun so you might just be able to pick it out of the dawn twilight, but it will be a challenge.

In space anniversaries this week, 5 years ago on March 6th, the Dawn spacecraft became the first mission to enter orbit around a dwarf planet, in this case, Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt. Once it entered orbit around Ceres, Dawn became the first mission to orbit two extraterrestrial objects, having previously been in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. The mission ended in 2017 and the spacecraft is currently in a mostly stable but uncontrolled orbit after it ran out of hydrazine propellant in autumn of 2018.

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.

All viewing times will change to 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. next week after the change to Daylight Saving Time.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.