skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday April 5th through Sunday April 11th.

The moon was at third quarter on Sunday the 4th and will be at New Moon late on Sunday the 11th so we’ll have a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies all of this week.

Venus continues to emerge from conjunction in our early evening skies but is still too close to the Sun to see. Mars is up in the west at sundown and is setting at 12:50 a.m. at midweek.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 4:00 a.m. at midweek. Look for Saturn above the moon on Tuesday morning. Jupiter is rising at 4:45 a.m. at midweek, and Jupiter will be above the moon on Wednesday morning. Mercury continues to move back towards the Sun and its next conjunction in a couple of weeks.

First up in space anniversaries this week, Monday April 5th marks 30 years since the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis carrying the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory which was released from the shuttle’s cargo bay a couple of days later. The Compton Observatory operated for over 9 years until it was deorbited in June 2000.

And Wednesday April 7th marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The satellite entered orbit around the Red Planet on October 24, 2001 and is still operating at Mars where it holds the record for the longest surviving continually active spacecraft in orbit around another planet. In addition to its own scientific mission, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft acts as a communications relay between the Mars surface missions and Earth. Odyssey is currently expected to operate until 2025.

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.