Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 7th through Sunday December 13th.
The new moon for the month of December is on Friday the 11th, so we'll have a waning crescent moon for most of the week and a thin waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies for the weekend.
Mercury is still slowly climbing away from the sun and is setting about 45 minutes after the sun at midweek.
Jupiter is rising at 12:35 a.m. as it continues to make its way to our evening skies. Mars is rising at 2:30 a.m. so it is now visible for several hours before sunrise. Venus is rising at 4:00 a.m. as it slowly works its way back towards the sun for its next conjunction.
The Geminid Meteor shower peaks next Monday, the 14th, but it's worth taking a look for meteors over the weekend, especially Sunday night into Monday morning. The Geminids is one of the few meteor showers thought to come from the debris of an asteroid instead of a comet, in this case, 3200 Phaethon. The shower gets its name because it appears to radiate from a point in the constellation Gemini the twins, which is to the left of the easily recognizable pattern of the constellation Orion. Both Gemini and Orion are above the horizon by 8 p.m. which would be a good time to start looking for meteors, although activity should pick up as we go further into the night towards Monday morning. The waxing crescent moon will set early so it shouldn't interfere with meteor watching.
In space anniversaries this week, Monday December 7th marks the 20th anniversary of the entry of the Galileo probe into the atmosphere of Jupiter. The probe was released from the Galileo orbiter several months earlier and operated for about an hour as it descended through the upper layers of Jupiter's clouds.
Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for the fall semester. Spring semester viewing will start in late January. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.