Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 3rd through Sunday December 9th.

The new moon for the month of December is early on Friday morning so we will have a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies for most of the week and a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies on the weekend.

Saturn is now getting pretty low in the southwest as night falls and is setting at 7:10 p.m. at midweek.

Mars is high in the south at sunset and is setting at 12:15 a.m. If you look at Mars in a telescope on Thursday and Friday nights, one of the "stars" in the field will actually be the planet Neptune, which comes within .04 degrees of Mars over those nights.

The remaining naked-eye planets are now up in the morning skies with Venus leading the pack rising at 3:55 a.m. Mercury follows at 5:50 a.m. and Jupiter is up at 6:35 a.m., just 45 minutes before the sun. Look for the very thin crescent moon very close to Mercury on Wednesday morning.

In space anniversaries this week, Monday December 3rd marks 45 years since Pioneer 10 became the first spacecraft to fly past Jupiter. And 40 years ago, on Tuesday December 4th, the Pioneer Venus 1 spacecraft entered orbit around Venus. The mission returned data about Venus until October 1992.

Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 7 to 9 p.m. 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 currently from 7 to 9 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower.

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.

This week will be the final week of public viewing on UT campus telescopes for the fall semester. Spring semester viewing will begin in late January.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.