skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for December 13th 2004 to January 6th 2005.

The moon is at first quarter on Saturday the 18th. The Moon will be full on Sunday the 26th. This full moon is known as the Moon Before Yule. The moon will be at third quarter on Monday January 3rd.

The Geminid Meteor shower is due to peak on the night of Monday the 13th. The Geminids appear to come from a spot above the star Castor, one of the pair that give Gemini the Twins its name. This shower is caused by the Earth passing through a debris cloud left by the asteroid Phaethon. The Geminids is usually a reliable shower, often producing an average of a meteor a minute, especially in skies away from city lights.

Saturn is rising at about 8 pm in mid-December and is below Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Orion can be seen to the right of Gemini and Saturn.

Comet Machholtz is currently at the limit of naked-eye visibility and can been seen as a fuzzy spot near the feet of the constellation Orion in mid-December and will move along the right side of Orion and up towards Taurus as we head to the New Year. The comet should continue to brighten for the next two to three weeks. Finder charts are available on SpaceWeather.com

The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st at 6:42 a.m. Central Standard Time. This is the day when the sun reaches its farthest point south in the northern hemisphere and we have the shortest amount of daylight.

For more skywatching tips for the week, check out stardate.org

Public viewing is finished for UT's Fall Semester. Spring semester viewing will resume mid-January. Please call back then for exact times and start dates.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report and have a wonderful holiday season.