skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for December 10th to the 16th .

The moon is new on Friday the 14th. Coinciding with the new moon is an annular solar eclipse. Here in Austin, we will see about 35% of the sun disappear. The eclipse starts at 2:52 p.m. Friday and reaches maximum eclipse at 4:03 p.m. The eclipse will end at 5:06 p.m. which is shortly before sunset for us. The best place to see this particular eclipse will be in Central America, where the moon will almost completely cover the sun. What sets this apart from a total eclipse is that the moon is just a little farther away from the earth right now, so it's angular size isn't quite large enough to totally block the sun. Instead, a small ring of the sun's disk is left surrounding the moon at maximum eclipse.

Another big astronomical event occurring this week is the Geminid meteor shower. Noticeable activity should start on Monday, with the peak falling on Thursday night into Friday morning. The shower could produce as many as one to two meteors a minute. The constellation of Gemini is above the horizon by 8:30. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it either, since bright Jupiter lies in the heart of Gemini and to the right of the constellation's bright stars Castor and Pollux. The material that causes this shower is more dense and tends to produce brighter and longer lasting trails. The debris is thought to come from an asteroid, Phaethon, as opposed to a comet which is what most meteor showers are associated with.

Public viewing nights on UT telescopes are on hiatus for the semester break. Viewing will resume in January.