skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday March 17th through Sunday March 23rd.

The moon was at full on March 16th and will reach third quarter late on the night of Sunday the 23rd so we will have a waning gibbous moon all week.

Jupiter is shining brightly high in the south as the sky darkens after sunset and is setting at 3:30 a.m. at midweek.

Mars is now up at 9:30 p.m. at midweek as it moves towards closest approach with the Earth next month. Look for the moon and Mars to make a nice pairing on Tuesday night.

Saturn rises at 11:30 p.m. at midweek and will be very close to the moon on Thursday night. Some parts of the world, although not North America, will see the moon occult Saturn that evening.

Venus is still shining brightly in its role as the 'morning star' and is up at 5:10 a.m. Venus will reach its greatest elongation west on Saturday when it is 47 degrees away from the sun in our sky.

Mercury follows Venus at 6:30 a.m. at midweek, about an hour before sunrise. Dedicated viewers can try to catch Mercury and Neptune about a degree apart low in the east this weekend.

The spring equinox for the northern hemisphere occurs at 11:57 a.m. central daylight time and marks the point when the sun crosses the celestial equator going from south to north. From this point until the June solstice, our daylight hours will lengthen and become longer than the night time hours, while the opposite will be the case in the southern hemisphere.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights now from 8:30 to 10:30 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 now from 8:30 to 10:30 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.