Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January Stargazing

Happy New Year to all, including all you aliens out there, undocumented, documented, and extraterrestrial. 

SkyTips: January 2014

J.S. Plaskett, C.A.R. Lundin, and George A. Decker view the completed mirror of McDonald Observatory's first telescope in 1935. The 82-inch (2.1-meter) mirror was cast on December 31, 1933.

Stargazing Summary

Venus pulls a switcheroo during January. The night sky’s second-brightest object (after the Moon) begins the month quite low in the western sky at sunset. On the 11th, though, it whisks between Earth and the Sun, moving into the morning sky. It moves far enough from the Sun to see by about the 16th or 17th, beginning its long reign as the "morning star." In the meantime, the next-brightest nighttime object, the planet Jupiter, shines at its brightest for the entire year, and is in view all night.

Radio Program Highlights

If you want to start hearing the StarDate program in your area, you can request a station to carry our program by emailing the request to

January 1-5: Dusty Skies. Earth passes through a trail of dust this week — the possible residue of an asteroid. It comes a decade after a spacecraft caught some dust from a comet. Join us for dusty skies plus much more.

January 6-12: Strike Zone. Earth has been smashed by countless giant space rocks over the eons, and some of them left giant scars. We'll talk about a few of those impacts, their aftermath, and one plan for preventing future strikes.

January 13-19: Gone Missing. What shows up as a brilliant star in another galaxy probably isn't really there any more. Instead, it's collapsed to form a black hole. Join us for the story of a missing star, plus a lineup of bright morning planets.

January 20-26: Ramblin' Moon. The Moon passes a passel of bright stars and planets this week, including Mars and Saturn and the leading light of Virgo. Join us for these and other encounters in the night sky, plus a brilliant stellar nursery.

January 27-31: Big Dogs. The "dog star" dazzles in winter's night skies. But Sirius isn't actually the most impressive star of the big dog. In fact, we'll tell you about three others that beat it. Join us for Canis Major, plus bookend planets and much more.

January program schedule »

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This Month in StarDate Magazine

Our January/February issue brings you our Sky Almanac 2014. Month by month, the almanac provides skywatching tips, information on star parties and other events nationwide, and highlight the year's anniversaries in the history of astronomy and spaceflight. Don't miss it!

Subscribe or buy the Sky Almanac today »

Special Viewing Nights in 2014

Looking for a different telescope experience from what's offered at our regular Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday evening public Star Parties? We offer more exclusive special viewing programs on our 107", 82", and 36" research telescopes throughout the year. We have lots of availability on programs through March on the 36" and 82". In particular, we have quite a few openings on several 82" programs from January 24-26, and there are plenty of openings on programs from February 20-23, as well. Programs on the 36" are filling up quickly in January but we have a number of openings in February and March. Also, we have dates for the 107" Special Viewing Night posted through the end of the year.

Schedules and booking info »

News From the Observatory

GMT Third Mirror Unveiled
The Giant Magellan Telescope’s third primary mirror was unveiled at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory Mirror Lab on December 6. The University of Texas at Austin is a partner in the project to build the GMT, along with several other universities and instituions in the U.S. and around the world.

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About SkyTips

SkyTips is a monthly email newsletter for visitors to McDonald Observatory and StarDate Online. Each issue features stargazing highlights, upcoming StarDate radio program descriptions, and other news. Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and family.

SkyTips is a publication of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory Education and Outreach Office, 2609 University Ave. A2100, Austin, TX 78712. Reproduction of SkyTips content is permitted with proper credit given to McDonald Observatory.

“The immense distances to the stars and the galaxies mean that we see everything in space in the past, some as they were before the Earth came to be. Telescopes are time machines.” 
― Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space

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