skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday May 8 through Sunday May 14.

The moon is at third quarter on Friday the 12th so we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for the first part of the week and a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies for the weekend.

Venus continues to shine brightly in the west after sunset as it moves towards its greatest elongation next month. Venus is setting at 11:45 p.m. at midweek.

Mars is up in the west at sunset and is still near the stars Castor and Pollux in the constellation Gemini the Twins. Mars sets a little after 1 a.m. this week.

In the morning skies, Saturn is rising at 3:10 a.m. at midweek. Look for Saturn above the moon in the pre-dawn hours on Saturday.

Jupiter is rising at 5:40 a.m., now an hour before sunrise as it continues to move away from the sun after its conjunction in early April.

Mercury is rising at 6:05 at midweek, just 35 minutes before sunrise as it emerges from conjunction at the beginning of the month.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday May 14th marks 50 years since the launch of the Skylab space station on a modified Saturn V where the station replaced the rocket’s third stage. Three crews populated the station over the remainder of 1973 and early 1974 before the remaining missions were cancelled. Skylab eventually reentered the Earth’s atmosphere in 1979 with debris landing in the Indian Ocean and Western Australia.

And 20 years ago on May 9th, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the Hayabusa sample return mission to the asteroid Itokawa. The spacecraft reached its target in November 2005 and returned to Earth in 2010 with its sample return capsule, which was recovered in the Australian Outback while the main spacecraft burned up on reentry.

Public viewing on UT campus telescopes has finished for the spring semester. Stay tuned for information on the summer viewing schedule.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.