skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday May 11th through Sunday the 17th.

The moon is at third quarter early in the morning hours of Sunday the 17th, so we will have a waning gibbous moon all week long.

Mercury is now very low in the west after sunset. It sets 45 minutes after the sun this Monday and will be in conjunction with the sun next Monday.

Saturn is now crossing the meridian (the line that runs from due south to due north across our sky) at about 9 p.m.

The rest of the planets are still rising after midnight. Look for the moon with Jupiter in the early hours before dawn on Sunday the 17th. Neptune is coming close to Jupiter and the two gas giants will be separated by less than a degree by the end of the week. This conjunction of the two planets is similar to, although not quite as close as, the one observed by Galileo in 1612, although he did not know at the time that the star he noted was actually Neptune. The 8th planet would not be officially discovered for another 230 years. Venus is rising at 4:30 a.m., with Mars following about 15 minutes later.

The Space Shuttle Atlantis successfully launched on Monday afternoon on the last mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. The shuttle will rendezvous with the telescope on Wednesday. In five spacewalks, astronauts will install two new instruments, repair two others and install components that will keep the telescope working to 2014, the year that the James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch. You can follow the mission on the NASA website: www.nasa.gov

Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for the spring semester. Summer viewing will start in June.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.