skywatchers report

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

The moon is at first quarter on Wednesday the 7th so we'll start the week with a waxing crescent moon and end with a waxing gibbous moon.

Mercury is beginning to emerge from the sun's glare and is setting about an hour after the sun at midweek.

Jupiter is still high in the west at sundown and is setting at 12:35 a.m. as it gradually moves closer to conjunction with the sun in late July.

Mars is high in the southeast at nightfall and is still shining brightly at -1 magnitude. Mars is setting at 5:05 a.m. so it is still visible for most of the night. Look for the moon near Mars on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Saturn is at opposition on Saturday the 10th, so it will rise at sunset and set at sunrise and be visible all night.

Venus continues to shine as the "morning star" and rises at 4:45 a.m.

The eta-Aquariid meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours of May 6th, but it might be worth looking for a few nights since this shower has a pretty broad peak that lasts several days. This shower comes from the debris left by Halley's Comet and usually produces 30-60 meteors an hour at its peak.

And in space anniversaries this week, Monday marks the 75th anniversary of the dedication of McDonald Observatory. The observatory started as the result of a bequest in the will of banker William J. McDonald to the University of Texas:

"To be used and devoted... for the purpose of aiding in erecting and equipping an astronomical observatory to be kept and used in connection with and as part of the University for the study and promotion of the study of astronomical science."

The original 82" telescope, renamed the Otto Struve telescope in 1966 in honor of the first director, was dedicated on May 5th, 1939. Since then the observatory has grown to include the 107" Harlan Smith telescope, dedicated in 1968, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, dedicated in 1998, and a host of smaller telescopes.

Various events will be taking place around Texas in honor of the anniversary. Check out mcdonaldobservatory.org for more information.

Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for the spring semester. Summer viewing will resume in early June. Please check back for information on starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.