skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for March 19th to March 25th.

The new moon for the month of March occurs late in the evening of Saturday the 24th.

Tuesday the 20th is the official start to spring. The Vernal Equinox occurs at 7:31 a.m. for those of us in the Central Time Zone. This is the moment when the sun crosses the Celestial equator, which is a projection onto the sky of the earth's equator. For the northern hemisphere, this marks the start of spring; for the southern hemisphere, this marks the start to fall. During equinoxes you get about equal amounts of day and night and the sun will rise due east and set due west. Also, this is a good time to point out that the old story of being able to balance an egg on its end on the equinox isn't true. You can balance an egg on end any day of the year with a bit of patience. More info on this misconception can be found at www.badastronomy.com

The Mir space station is set to go out in a blaze of glory this week. A rocket burn is currently scheduled for early in the morning of March 23 (Moscow time) which will push the space station out of orbit and begin its descent into the atmosphere where it will burn up several hours later. Some large pieces are expected to survive re-entry and plunge into the Pacific ocean in an area that is largely unpopulated. More information on the death of Mir and the history of its 15 years in orbit can be found at www.space.com

The telescope at Robert Lee Moore hall is open to the public on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. The building is located on the southeast corner of 26th and Speedway. Take the elevator to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.

The telescope at Painter hall is open on Fridays for UT students, faculty and staff from 7 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays are open to the general public from 7 to 9 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about half way between Speedway and Guadalupe.

All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Observing events are weather permitting.