Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday July 30th through Sunday August 5th.
The moon is full late on the night of Wednesday August 1st and is the first of two full moons we'll see in the month of August. This full moon is known as the Grain Moon and the Green Corn Moon.
Mars, Spica and Saturn still form a triangle in the west-southwest after sunset this week. Mars is setting at 11:30 p.m. at midweek, followed by Saturn around midnight.
Jupiter is rising at 2:25 a.m. and is high in the east at sunrise. August will be a good month to look for shadows of Jupiter's four largest moons crossing the planet's disc. Venus is up at 3:35 a.m. and Mercury is still coming out from conjunction and is still lost in the sun's glare.
Mars will get another visitor, the Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity", this weekend. The first rover to land on Mars was 1997's "Pathfinder" mission with the rover "Sojourner", followed by 2004's Mars Exploration Rovers "Spirit" and "Opportunity", the latter of which is still operating on the Red Planet. "Curiosity" is much larger than the previous rovers, coming in at the size of a small car. Because of the weight and size, this mission had to find a new way to land since the airbags used for previous missions wouldn't work. The solution is an ambitious 'skycrane' that will lower the rover from the cruise and atmospheric entry part of the spacecraft. Coverage of the landing will begin on NASATV and the internet at 10:30 p.m. central time Sunday night, with landing coming a couple of hours later. You can learn more about the mission at mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. this summer. 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 from 9:00 to 10:30 p.m. this summer. 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.
Next week will be the final week of summer telescope viewing. Fall semester viewing will start in early September.
All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Note that viewing times and availability change throughout the year. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 60 minutes before the scheduled start time when a viewing is cancelled.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.