skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday May 7th through Sunday the 13th.

The moon is at third quarter on Thursday the 10th. Look for the moon above Mars in the early morning skies on the 12th and below Mars on the morning of the 13th. Mars is currently rising at about 4 a.m.

Last week Mercury passed behind the sun from Earth’s point of view and it will soon re-emerge in the evening skies where it will join Venus, Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn is high in the southwest as the sky darkens and sets at around 2:30 a.m.  Jupiter is rising at about 10:15 p.m. at midweek and Venus is still shining brightly in the west and sets at about 11:30 p.m.

If you look carefully you can catch the winter constellation of Orion beginning to sink below the horizon at about 9 p.m. as we say goodbye to the winter stars and start to look for the stars of summer in the east. Hercules is starting to climb above the horizon at 9 and the full figure of Scorpius is up in the southeast by midnight.

Last week more pictures from the New Horizons spacecraft fly-by of Jupiter were released. The spacecraft is headed towards Pluto and the Kuiper Belt and flew by Jupiter to get a gravity assist for its long voyage to the outer solar system. Among the photos were images of the Jovian storms, the thin ring system, changes in the surface of the volcanic moon Io and a picturesque image of Europa rising over Jupiter’s clouds. You can see all these images at the New Horizons website at pluto.jhuapl.edu The spacecraft will fly by the Pluto system in July 2015.

The large sunspot that interrupted nearly a month of blank sun is about to rotate away and will leave us with no sunspots to observe. As we continue to be at the bottom of the 11-year solar cycle the number of sunspots and solar storms is small. The activity should start to pick up next year as we begin solar cycle number 24.

Public viewing is finished for the spring semester. Viewing will resume in June, so call back in a few weeks for the dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.