Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday May 12th though Sunday the 18th.
The moon was at first quarter overnight from Sunday to Monday the 12th. The waxing gibbous moon will light up our early evening skies as it heads towards full next week.
Mercury is at its greatest elongation at midweek, so you should be able to pick it out of the late evening twilight if you have a good view of the west-northwest horizon. The winter constellation of Orion is in its last gasps just to the south of Mercury. Mars is high in the west with the twin stars of Gemini – Castor and Pollux. Mars is now setting at little after 1 a.m.
Saturn and the moon team up on Monday evening. The bright start Regulus in the constellation has been near Saturn for a while now, so the three objects – Saturn, the moon and Regulus – will form a triangle that night.
Jupiter is rising about half an hour after midnight this week, with Neptune following at 2:15 a.m. and Uranus at 3:30 a.m. Venus is now very close to the sun and rising about 20 minutes before the sun climbs above the horizon.
The next mission to Mars, the Phoenix Lander, is on course and due to land on May 25th. A correction maneuver was skipped over the weekend because the current trajectory is right on target to land in the north polar regions of Mars. You can learn more about the mission and follow the landing events at phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu.
Public viewing is finished for the spring semester. Summer viewing will resume in June. Please call back in the next few weeks for the starting dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.