Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday December 17th 2012 through Sunday January 6th 2013.
The moon is at first quarter on the night of Wednesday the 19th and will be full on Friday December 28th. The full moon of December is known as the Long Night Moon and the Moon Before Yule. In the new year, the moon will be at third quarter on the night of Friday January 4th.
The winter solstice for the northern hemisphere occurs at 5:12 a.m. US central time on Friday December 21st. This is the shortest day for those of us in the northern hemisphere, while our friends in the southern hemisphere will have the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.
Mars will finish the year still visible low in the southwest for a short time after sunset. Mars will set at 7:30 p.m. on Monday December 17th and will basically be setting at that time for the remainder of 2012 into the first week of 2013. Jupiter is up in the east at sundown and is setting at 6:10 a.m. in mid-December, at 5:30 a.m. by December 27th and 4:45 a.m. by January 6th. On Christmas night look for Jupiter right next to the waxing gibbous moon.
In the morning skies Saturn is rising at 3:35 a.m. in mid-December and is up at 3:00 a.m. by December 27th. Saturn will be rising at 2:25 a.m. on January 6th. Venus and Mercury will be sinking back towards the sun over the next few weeks. Venus is up at 5:30 a.m. in mid-December and will be up at 5:45 a.m. on December 27th. Venus will be rising at 6:05 a.m. on January 6th. Mercury is up at 6:00 a.m. in mid-December and is rising at 6:35 a.m. by December 27th. Mercury will be up at 7:05 a.m. on January 6th, which is just 20 minutes before sunrise.
The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on the night of Tuesday January 2nd into the morning hours of Wednesday January 3rd. This shower usually produces over a meteor a minute at its peak, but the waning gibbous moon will interfere with observing this year.
Public viewing nights on UT campus telescopes have finished for 2012. Spring semester viewing will start in late January 2013.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report and have a happy and safe holiday season.