skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday March 1st through Sunday March 7th.

The moon is at third quarter on Friday night so we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for the first part of the week and then a waning crescent moon for the weekend.

Mars is high in the west-southwest at sundown and is setting at 12:30 a.m. at midweek.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 5:10 a.m. followed by Jupiter and Mercury at 5:35 a.m. Jupiter and Mercury will be about one third of a degree apart on Friday morning. Also this week, Mercury is at its greatest elongation on Saturday morning and then will start sinking back towards the Sun and its next solar conjunction. Venus is rising at 6:45 a.m., just 10 minutes before sunrise.

In space anniversaries this week, Monday March 1 marks 55 years since the Soviet Venera 3 impacted on Venus, becoming the first spacecraft to touch the surface of another planet.

And 35 years ago, on March 6th, the Soviet Vega 1 spacecraft became the first of a small fleet of spacecraft to fly past Halley’s comet. Vega 1 and its twin Vega 2 were both combination Venus and Comet Halley explorers. After releasing landers and balloon probes at Venus, both spacecraft used the planet for a gravity assist to perform flybys of Halley’s Comet. Vega 1 came within about 10,000 kilometers (or 6200 miles) of the comet’s nucleus. We’ll talk more about some of the other Comet Halley flybys next week.

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.