skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday April 17 through Sunday April 23.

The new moon for the month of April is late on Wednesday the 19th, so we’ll have a waning crescent moon for the first part of the week and then a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies for the remainder of the week.

With this new moon will come a rare hybrid annular and total eclipse. Annular eclipses occur when the moon is farther away from the Earth and therefore can’t completely block the disc of the sun and create a total eclipse. But a few times a century, the moon is at just the right distance to create an eclipse that goes from annular to total and then back to annular thanks to the shadow geometry. This year’s hybrid eclipse will be visible from the Indian Ocean up through western Australia, then East Timor and Indonesia and ends in the western Pacific Ocean.

Mercury is sinking back towards the sun after last week’s greatest elongation and is setting at 9:15 p.m. at midweek.

Venus is shining brightly in the west at sundown and is setting at 11:15 p.m. Look for the moon near Venus this weekend.

Mars is high in the west at sundown and is setting at 1:40 a.m. at midweek.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 4:30 a.m. Jupiter follows at 6:45 a.m., just 15 minutes after sunrise.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday the 22nd into the morning of Sunday the 23rd. The shower usually produces about 20 meteors an hour at its peak and this year there won’t be much interference from moonlight. The shower gets its name because it appears to come from a point in the constellation Lyra, which is above the horizon towards the northeast by 11 p.m.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy building is on Wednesday nights now from 8:30 to 10:30 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 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. Take the elevator to the 5th floor then take the stairs up to the 6th floor and follow the signs up to the telescope. Next week will be the final week of public viewing at the Painter Hall telescope for the spring semester.

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.