skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday August 22nd through Sunday August 28th.

The moon was at third quarter on Sunday August 21st and won't reach the New phase until Monday August 29th, so we will have a waning crescent moon all of this week.

Venus has crossed back into our evening skies, but it still very close to the sun and won't be easily visible in the west at sunset until late October. Saturn is now low in the western skies in the evening twilight and is setting a few minutes after 10 p.m. at midweek. Jupiter will be taking Saturn's place as the main planet for early evening observing in a few months and is currently rising a little after 11 p.m.

Mars rises at 3:20 a.m. at midweek. Look for it next to the crescent moon for a few hours before sunrise on Thursday the 25th. Mercury is up about an hour before the sun so you may be able to find it if you have a good view of the eastern horizon.

Two week ago the Mars rover Opportunity reached the edge of Endeavour crater, a goal it had been working toward for almost three years. Opportunity has studied several craters over its mission and has driven over 20 miles on Mars, 50 times greater than its original mission goal. Endeavour is the largest crater Opportunity has visited and imagery from orbiting spacecraft indicate the presence of clay minerals there that may have formed early in Mars' history when it was warmer and wetter. Opportunity landed on Mars on January 25, 2004 and has long outlived its original 90-day mission. It's twin, Spirit, ceased communications in March 2010 and efforts to contact it continued to May of this year, when its mission was declared officially over after the spacecraft was unresponsive. You can learn more about the current rover mission at marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov. The next Mars rover, named Curiosity, is due to launch in late November of this year and land on the Red Planet in August 2012. You can learn more about that mission at www.nasa.gov/msl

Public viewing for the fall semester on UT campus telescopes resumes next week. Please call back for information on times and locations.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.