skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday August 17th through Sunday the 23rd.

The new moon for the month of August is on Thursday the 20th. In the early morning hours of the 17th the slim waning crescent moon is above a brilliant Venus. On the 18th an even smaller crescent moon is below Venus, which is rising at 4:15 a.m. this week. Mars is high in the east at sunrise and is rising at 2:20 a.m. at midweek.

In the evening skies, Mercury and Saturn are now close together low in the west shortly after sunset. On the evening of Saturday the 22nd they will be joined by a waxing crescent moon just a few days past new.

Jupiter is rising at 7:45 p.m. this week and is visible most of the night, setting just before sunrise.

There might still be some lingering activity from the Perseid meteor shower this week, but if you missed the peak last week, you can see photos at Spaceweather.com’s Perseid gallery.

Scientists studying the materials captured from Comet Wild 2 by the Stardust spacecraft have discovered the amino acid glycine present in the comet sample. This is the first time that an amino acid has been detected in a comet. Glycine and 19 other amino acids are used by organisms to make proteins so the detection of one of those building blocks in a comet suggests that life may be more common in the universe than not. Researchers were able to rule out the possibility of contamination from Earth sources by looking at the type of carbon in the sample, which was revealed to have an extraterrestrial carbon isotope signature. You can learn more about this discovery and the Stardust mission at http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov

Public viewing is finished for the summer. Viewing will resume in early September.

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