skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday February 15th through Sunday February 21st.

The moon is at first quarter on Friday the 19th so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon for the work week and a waxing gibbous moon for the weekend.

Mars continues to be the only planet visible to the unaided eye in our evening skies. Mars is setting at 12:45 a.m. at midweek. Look for Mars to the right of the Moon on Thursday night.

In the morning skies, Saturn leads the parade of planets rising at 6 a.m. with Mercury alongside in the latter half of the week. Jupiter is rising at 6:20 a.m. and Venus follows at 6:45 a.m. The Sun is rising at about 7:10 a.m. so several of the planets will be lost in the glare of dawn.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday February 19th marks 35 years since the launch of the Mir Space Station by what was then the Soviet Union. In addition to the Soviet and Russian Soyuz crews, 9 space shuttle crews visited Mir between 1995 and 1998. The station was assembled in orbit over 10 years and operated until it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere over Fiji on March 23, 2001. Unburned fragments fell into the South Pacific Ocean a few minutes later.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are on hold for the Spring 2021 semester. We will update the website outreach.as.utexas.edu with a new schedule when we are able to resume viewing.

While you’re waiting for in-person telescope viewing to resume, you can tune in to McDonald Observatory live streams from west Texas. You can view past events on the McDonald Observatory YouTube channel and you can follow the observatory on TwitterFacebook and at McDonaldObservatory.org to be notified of future events.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.