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

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December stargazing

Humanity is capable of great things. 
Humanity is capable of atrocities.
Chose wisely.

Upgraded HET Sees First Light

After several years and a massive team effort, one of the world's largest telescopes has opened its giant eye again. The Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory has completed a $25 million upgrade and, now using more of its primary mirror, has achieved "first light" as the world's third-largest optical telescope.

Stargazing Summary

Venus and Jupiter dominate the early morning sky this month. Venus is the Morning Star, while Jupiter, which is higher in the sky, is only slightly less dazzling. Fainter Mars lines up between them. Mercury puts in a brief appearance in the evening sky late in the month, while Saturn is just climbing into view in the morning sky by the end of December.

More stargazing information

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

December 1-6: Moon meanderings. The Moon passes by some impressive lights in the morning sky this week, including three bright planets, and we'll have details. We'll also talk about one of the icons of winter climbing into the evening sky. Join us for this and more.

December 7-13: Space Astronomy. A telescope took flight aboard the space shuttle 25 years ago, and we'll tell you how it fared. We'll also explain why a manned spacecraft isn't a good place for a telescope, but why space is. Join us for this and more.

December 14-20: Giant Black Holes. Giant black holes inhabit the cores of most big galaxies, and we'll tell you about a few of them, including galaxies with two black holes, and black holes that are preventing the birth of new stars. Join us for black holes and more.

December 21-27: Holiday Skies. There's more moonlight than at any other time of the year this week, and we'll explain why. We'll also talk about the winter solstice, the winter circle, and much more to appreciate in the early winter sky. Join us for this and more.

December 28-31: Going Small. Spacecraft that are no bigger than a briefcase may soon be monitoring space weather, studying the Moon, and relaying signals from landers at Mars. Join us for nanosats, plus a look at the New Year's sky and more.

Program schedule »

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Coming Up In StarDate Magazine

Our next issue is the 2016 Sky Almanac. It will provide month-by-month skywatching tips for the entire year, and will focus on astronomical objects and events as depicted in popular culture.

Subscribe today

News From The Observatory

Giant Magellan Telescope Breaks Ground in Chile
Leaders and supporters from The University of Texas at Austin's McDonald Observatory, along with representatives from an international group of partner universities and research institutions, gathered on a remote mountaintop high in the Chilean Andes November 11 to celebrate groundbreaking for the Giant Magellan Telescope. 

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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.

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