Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for June 18th through the 24th.
The new moon is on Thursday the 21st. There will also be a total eclipse of the sun that day, which will be visible from the southern part of the African continent. The path of totality will begin over the southern Atlantic ocean and will make landfall on the continent in Angola. About an hour later, the path leaves the mainland and passes over the southern part of the island of Madagascar shortly after which the eclipse will end. Although we won't be able to see any of the eclipse live here in North America, you can still watch the moon's shadow pass over Africa courtesy of weather satellites.
Also on Thursday comes the official start to summer for those of us in the northern hemisphere. The summer solstice occurs at 2:38 a.m. Central Daylight Time. Thursday will be the longest day this year, but the latest sunrise is still a couple of days away, so the days may still feel as though they are getting longer, when in fact they are getting shorter. The solstice is the point where the sun reaches the point farthest north of the celestial equator.
And, as if there weren't already enough going on, Mars will be at its closest point to Earth for this apparition on Thursday when the two planets will be separated by 42 million miles. This is the closest the pair have been since 1988. Mars and Earth will be even closer on their next orbital cycle in 2003 when they will be separated by only 35 million miles.
Wednesday night public viewing is held at Robert Lee Moore Hall and will begin at 9:00 p.m. The building is located at the southeast corner of Dean Keeton (formerly 26th street) and Speedway. Take the elevators to the 17th floor and follow the signs to the telescope.
Viewing at the Painter Hall telescope for the general public is on Saturdays from 9:00 to 11:00 p.m. and Friday nights are open for UT students, faculty and staff from 9:00 to 10: p.m. Painter Hall is located on 24th street about halfway between Speedway and Guadalupe.