skywatchers report

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

The full moon for the month of March is on Sunday afternoon so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for all of this week. This full moon is known as the Sap Moon, the Worm Moon, and the Lenten Moon.

Venus is in superior conjunction on Friday morning and will move behind the Sun from the Earth’s point of view. After conjunction, Venus will slowly begin to emerge in the west in our early evening skies.

Mars is still visible high in the west after sunset and is setting at 1:05 a.m. at midweek. Look for the bright orange star Aldebaran and the V-shaped Hyades open star cluster to the left of Mars this week.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 4:50 a.m. followed by Jupiter at 5:30 a.m. Mercury is rising at 6:40 a.m. at midweek, about 50 minutes before sunrise.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday March 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the distant flyby of Halley’s Comet by the International Cometary Explorer mission. The ICE mission launched in 1978 and became the first spacecraft to visit a comet when it passed within about 7800 kilometers of the nucleus of comet Giacobini-Zinner in 1985. The following year, the ICE mission flew through the tail of Halley’s Comet at a distance of about 28 million kilometers from the comet’s nucleus.

And 20 years ago on March 23rd, the Russian Mir space station returned to Earth over the South Pacific after 15 years in orbit.

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.