skywatchers report

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

The moon is a third quarter late on Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, depending on your time zone and we'll have a waning gibbous moon to start the week and a waning crescent moon to finish the week.

There is still an opportunity to see all five of the naked eye planets in the early evening this week. Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter are still very low in the west right after sunset and Venus and Jupiter will be moving closer together each night until they are about a 1/10th of a degree apart on Saturday the 27th. With the sunset at 8:00 p.m. that night, there will still be some evening twilight, but the two brightest planets in our sky so close together should still be easy to spot with an unobstructed view to the west.

Mars, Saturn, and Antares are all still close to one another, now in the south-southwest shortly after sunset. Saturn is the highest, with bright orangish Mars below and the orange star Antares below Mars. Antares name translates to "the rival of Mars" because both objects have a similar color. All three will be setting around 12:45 a.m. to 1 a.m. at midweek.

In space anniversaries, this week marks 35 years since Voyager 2 made its closest approach Saturn, flying by at a distance of about 63,000 miles.  Voyager 2 was the third spacecraft to visit Saturn after Pioneer 11 in 1979 and Voyager 1 in 1980. After the 1981 visit by Voyager 2, Saturn would have to wait until the Cassini spacecraft went into orbit in 2004 to be seen up close again. Cassini will continue to study the Saturnian system until the scheduled mission end next year. After the flyby of Saturn, Voyager 2 continued into the outer solar system and became the first - and so far only - spacecraft to flyby Uranus and Neptune. Voyager 2 is now in what is called its "Interstellar Mission" and continues to transmit data from the far edges of the solar system. You can learn more about the past, present and future of the Voyager program at voyager.jpl.nasa.gov.

Public viewing is finished for the summer session. Fall semester viewing will start next week. Please check back for details on starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.