skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday May 3rd through Sunday May 9th.

The moon is at third quarter on Monday and then we’ll have a waning crescent moon in our pre-dawn skies for the remainder of the week.

Mercury and Venus are still fairly low in the west after sunset with Venus setting about 50 minutes after the Sun and Mercury setting about 90 minutes after the Sun, so you might have a chance at spotting the innermost planet if you have a good view of the western horizon.

Mars is higher in the west at sunset and is setting at 12:15 a.m. at midweek.

Saturn is up at 2:15 a.m., now 4 and a half hours before sunrise, followed by Jupiter at 3:05 a.m. Saturn was above and to the left of the moon on Monday morning and Jupiter will be to the left of the moon on Tuesday and to the right of the moon on Wednesday.

The Eta-Aquariid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday night into Thursday morning and there will be some, but not too much, interference from moonlight for this shower this year. The Eta-Aquariids appear to come from a point in the constellation Aquarius, which is above the horizon by about 3 a.m. The source of this shower is debris from Halley’s Comet and at its peak, the Eta-Aquariids produce around 60 meteors an hour.

In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday the 5th marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of the first American to travel to space, astronaut Alan Shepard on board the Freedom 7 as part of Project Mercury. Shepard’s mission was a 15-minute sub-orbital flight that splashed down into the Atlantic Ocean. John Glenn would become the first American to orbit the Earth the following February.

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.