skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday May 24th through Sunday May 30th.

The moon is full on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, depending on your time zone, and then we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for the remainder of the week. This full moon is known as the Milk Moon, the Flower Moon, and the Corn Moon. This full moon also occurs within about 9 hours of the moon’s closest point to the Earth in its orbit, known as perigee, so this full moon will be the largest in angular size in our sky for 2021.

With this full moon, the Earth, Sun, and Moon are all aligned just right for a total lunar eclipse, although the full event won’t be visible here in Texas. The moon will begin to move into the outer part of the Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, at 3:37 a.m. Wednesday morning and will reach the inner shadow, known as the umbra, at 4:45 a.m. The moon will be deeply in shadow when it sets at 6:37 a.m. here in Austin.

Mercury is now sinking back towards the sun and will move past the planet Venus low in the west in our early evening skies shortly after sunset. The two planets will be less than half of a degree apart on Friday evening when they will be setting at 9:45 p.m.

Mars is still up in the west at sundown and is setting at 11:40 p.m. this week. Saturn is rising just before 1 a.m., followed by Jupiter at 1:50 a.m.

In space anniversaries this week, Tuesday May 25th marks 60 years since President John F. Kennedy’s speech to Congress setting the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. Kennedy’s goal would be achieved a little over 8 years later with the landing of Apollo 11 at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969.

And 50 years ago, on Sunday the 30th, the Mariner 9 spacecraft was launched from Florida on its mission to become the first spacecraft to orbit Mars, which it achieved on November 14, 1971. Two days earlier, the Soviet Mars 3 mission launched, which would become the first spacecraft to soft land on Mars in December 1971, although it failed just a couple of minutes later.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are currently on hold. 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.