skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday April 19th through Sunday April 25th.

The moon is at first quarter early in the morning of Tuesday the April 20th and then we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for the remainder of the week.

Mercury was in superior conjunction with the Sun late on Sunday the 18th into the early hours for the 19th. During superior conjunction, Mercury passes behind the Sun from the Earth point of view and after this conjunction, the innermost planet will slowly start to emerge into our evening skies.

Venus is also emerging from conjunction and is setting 30 minutes after the Sun at midweek.

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

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 3:10 a.m. with Jupiter following 45 minutes later at 3:55 a.m.

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks in the morning hours of Thursday the 22nd although this year’s shower will be impacted by the brightness of the waxing gibbous moon. This meteor shower occurs when the Earth encounters particles of dust shed by Comet Thatcher and get their name because they appear to come from a spot in the constellation Lyra. Observations of this shower date back to the 7th century BCE.

In space anniversaries this week, Friday April 23rd marks 55 years since the first test of the Saturn V rocket that would eventually take the first humans to the moon.

And 50 years ago on April 19, the first space station, Salyut 1, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Salyut 1 orbited the Earth for about 6 months before it burned up during a controlled re-entry in October 1971. Several Salyut space stations followed over the next 15 years paving the way for the Mir Space Station and the International Space Station.

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.