Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday April 27th through Sunday May 3rd.
The full moon for the month of May is late on the night of Sunday the 3rd in the US, so we'll have a waxing gibbous moon for all of this week. The full moon for May is known as the Milk Moon, the Flower Moon, and the Corn Moon.
Mars is now the lowest of the planets in our western skies at sundown and is setting at 9:00 p.m., a little less than an hour after the sun.
Mercury will be climbing a little higher each night this week as it heads towards greatest elongation next week. Mercury will pass by the Pleiades open star cluster at midweek and is setting at 9:45 p.m.
Venus is shining brightly in the west in the evenings and is setting at 11:30 p.m. A look at Venus in a small telescope will show that it is in a gibbous phase and is only 2/3rds illuminated.
Jupiter is still high at sundown and is setting at 2:50 a.m. Saturn is rising at 9:45 p.m. and is visible for the remainder of the night.
In space exploration news, after a little over four years in orbit around Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft has performed its last orbit-correction maneuver with its last remaining fuel to prepare for impact on the planet. Impact is expected to occur on April 30th. You can learn more about the mission at messenger.jhuapl.edu
Public viewing at the 16-inch reflector on top of Robert Lee Moore Hall is on Wednesday nights currently from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. RLM is located on the southeast corner of Dean Keeton and Speedway. Take the elevator to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.
Public viewing at the 9 inch refractor at Painter Hall is on Friday and Saturday nights currently from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe and is northeast of the UT Tower. To get to the telescope, take the elevator to the 5th floor and exit to the left. Follow the 5th floor hallway to the end and take the staircase through the double doors on the left. Once you reach the 6th floor, go to your right and follow the signs up to the telescope.
Next week is the final week of public viewing on UT campus telescopes for the spring semseter. Summer viewing will start in early-to-mid June.
All events are free and open to all ages and no reservations are required. Note that viewing times and availability change throughout the year so please check the schedule before planning a visit. Observing events are weather permitting. Please call 512-232-4265 for weather cancellation information, which is updated 30 to 45 minutes before the scheduled viewing start time.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.