Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday May 16th through Monday May 30th
The full moon for the month of May is on Tuesday the 17th and it reaches third quarter on Tuesday the 24th. The full moon for the month of May is called the Milk Moon, the Flower Moon or the Corn Moon.
Saturn continues to be high the south-southeast as the sky darkens after sunset and is visible until about 4:30 a.m. Shortly after Saturn sets in the west, over in the eastern skies, the rest of the naked eye planets are still visible shortly before dawn. Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter have been clustered together in the morning skies for a few weeks and are still fairly close together for the remainder of May, although Jupiter is now starting to pull away from the other three. Mercury, Venus and Mars will form a shape-shifting triangle for a week or so, and then will fall into a line by the 25th. Mercury will be the lowest with Venus above and Mars at the top.
The Space Shuttle Endeavour finally lifted off on its last mission on Monday May 16th and will dock with the International Space Station on the 18th and is scheduled to return to Earth on June 1st. You can see videos and images of the launch and follow the mission online at www.nasa.gov/shuttle
Last week the Dawn spacecraft captured its first image of the asteroid Vesta which it will go into orbit around on July 16th of this year nearly 4 years after launch. The spacecraft will orbit Vesta for one year and then move on to its next target, the asteroid Ceres. Dawn is the first spacecraft to enter orbit around one body, leave that object and then enter orbit around a second body. This is also the first time that any spacecraft has visited either Vesta or Ceres. You can learn more about the mission at dawn.jpl.nasa.gov
Telescope public nights have finished for the spring semester. Summer viewing will start in early June, so please check back for details on starting dates and times.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report and have a happy and safe Memorial Day weekend.