skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Tuesday May 27th through Sunday June 1st.

The moon is at third quarter on Tuesday night, so after that point we will have a waning crescent moon for the rest of the week, giving us dark evening skies.

Mercury is now sinking back towards the sun and is very low in the west-northwest after sunset. Saturn is now high in the southwest by 10 p.m. and sets at 1:45 a.m. Look for the bright star Regulus in Leo near Saturn. Jupiter is rising a little before 11:30 p.m. at midweek and is visible the rest of the night. Venus is now almost behind the sun from our point of view here on earth.

As most of you have probably already heard, the Mars Phoenix Lander successfully set down in the northern polar region of the Red Planet over the weekend. Within a few hours the first photos were beamed back showing an interesting field of polygons which are thought to be formed by the cycles of freezing and thawing in the Martian arctic region. One of the most incredible photos of the mission so far came not from Phoenix itself, but rather from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which managed for the first time to photograph a spacecraft in the process of landing on another planet. The parachute, spacecraft and the lines between them are visible in the photo. You can see this picture and many others at phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu and by going to the NASA Mars pages at mars.jpl.nasa.gov

If you want to see Mars for yourself, it is high in the west during evening twilight and sets at 12:45 a.m.

The space shuttle Discovery is set to launch on Saturday in a mission to deliver the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory module to the International Space Station. More information on the mission is in the Shuttle & Station section at nasa.gov

Summer public viewing will resume in a couple of weeks. Please call back for information on the starting dates and times.

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