skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday April 12th through Sunday April 18th.

The Moon was new late on Sunday into the morning hours of Monday the 12th, depending on your time zone and will reach first quarter early on Tuesday the 20th, so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies all of this week.

Venus is setting about 25 minutes after the sun as it continues to emerge from conjunction so it is still lost in the evening twilight.

Mars is up in the west at sunset and is setting at 12:40 a.m. at midweek. Look for Mars above the crescent moon on Friday evening and below the moon on Saturday evening.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 3:35 a.m. at midweek, followed by Jupiter at 4:20 a.m., so there are now a couple of hours before sunrise to observe the gas giants.

Mercury is in superior conjunction with the Sun late on Sunday night and will pass behind the Sun from the Earth’s point of view. After conjunction, Mercury will start to emerge into our early evening skies next week.

In space anniversaries this week, Monday April 12th marks 60 years since Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth, beginning the era of human spaceflight.

And 40 years ago, also on April 12th, the US launched the first flight of the space shuttle program from the Kennedy Spaceflight Center in Florida. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen performed the first orbital test flight onboard the Space Shuttle Columbia which landed at Edwards Air Force base in California after 2 days 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.