Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for September 17th through the 23rd
The moon is new on Monday the 17th of September.
The first official day of fall is Saturday the 22nd. The autumnal equinox occurs at 6:04 p.m. here in Austin. On this day, the sun hits a point called the celestial equator and the day and night are roughly equal. After this day, for the northern hemisphere, the days will begin to get shorter and the nights longer as the sun makes a lower arc in our skies.
Mercury is at its greatest eastern elongation on the 18th. You can catch the innermost planet shortly after sunset low in the west. Slightly above and to the left of the small planet is the bright star Spica, which may help you find Mercury.
Mars is still relatively bright in the southern sky at sunset. It has faded a couple of orders of magnitude in brightness since its peak in June and is now much smaller in diameter since Earth and Mars have been moving away from each other for a couple of months. The next close approach of Mars will be in 2003.
Saturn rises at about 11:45 p.m. mid-week, with Jupiter following behind at about 1:30 a.m.
Wednesday night star parties at Robert Lee Moore Hall start at 8 p.m. The building is located on the southeast corner of Dean Keeton (formerly 26th street) and Speedway. Take the elevator to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.
Painter Hall public viewing is on Saturday evening and starts at 8:30 p.m. Friday nights are open to UT students, faculty and staff at 8:30 p.m. The building is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe.
All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Observing events are weather permitting.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' report.