skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday November 29th through Sunday December 5th.

The moon is new in the early morning hours of Saturday December 4th so we’ll have a waning crescent moon for most of the week and start into the waxing crescent phase at the end of the weekend.

The Earth, Moon, and Sun are still aligned after the lunar eclipse two weeks ago that some parts of the planet will see a total solar eclipse at this new moon. However, the path of totality mostly is over the far southern Atlantic Ocean and Antarctica, so this eclipse will probably be seen live by more penguins than people, although some parts of South Africa will see a partial eclipse. The moon will also reach perigee, its closest point to the Earth, just a few hours after the eclipse, so there will be larger than average tides that day.

Venus is still shining brightly in the southwest at sunset and will reach its greatest illumination on Thursday night when it will be at magnitude -4.7. Venus is setting at 8:20 p.m. at midweek.

Saturn is a little higher and to the left of Venus in the southwest and is setting at 9:45 p.m. Jupiter is up in the south-southwest and is setting at 11:05 p.m.

Mars is rising at 5:45 a.m., almost an hour and a half before the sun. After conjunction with the sun at the very end of last week, Mercury is still lost in the sun’s glare.

In space anniversaries this week, 50 years ago on December 2nd, 1971, the Soviet Mars 3 spacecraft became the first spacecraft to perform a soft landing on the Red Planet, although the spacecraft failed after about two minutes in the surface.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of the Physics, Math, and Astronomy building (formerly RLM) is on Wednesday nights now from 6:30 to 8:30 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. Masks are encouraged while visitors are in the building and in the telescope dome.

Public viewing at the 9-inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday nights now from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower. Reservations will be required at the Painter Hall Telescope this semester. Please see the website outreach.as.utexas.edu and click on “Public Viewing on UT Campus Telescopes” for more information.

This week is the final week of public viewing on UT campus telescopes for Fall 2021. Spring semester viewing will resume in late January.

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.