skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for December 12th through the 20th.

The full moon for the month of December is on Thursday the 15th. This full moon is known as the Moon Before Yule.

Venus is still shining brighter than magnitude -4.5 this week and it setting a little after 8 p.m. If you look at Venus with a small telescope or a good pair of binoculars, you should be able to see its crescent phase. In dark skies, you also should be able to see the globular cluster M75 above Venus. M75 is a dense collection of stars 61,000 light years from our solar system.

Mars can be seen to the upper right of the moon on Monday the 12th. Look for the Pleiades below the moon on Monday and right above the moon on Tuesday. Saturn is climbing back into the evening skies and rises at 9 p.m. this week.

The Geminid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday the 14th, but the nearly full moon will greatly hamper the visibility of this usually reliable shower. If you want to try to catch some Geminids without interfering moonlight, look after 5:30 a.m. on the morning of the 13th. The moon will be below the horizon, but the radiant of the shower will still be up in the west. The Geminids are unusual in that the debris that causes this shower comes from the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. Most meteor showers are associated with the debris left by comets.

Public viewing is on hiatus until the start of the spring 2006 semester. Please call back in mid-January for starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.