Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday June 14th through Sunday June 20th.
The moon is at first quarter on Thursday night so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon for the first half of the week and a waxing gibbous moon for the remainder of the week.
Venus is shining brightly low in the west after sunset and is setting at 10:10 p.m. at midweek. Venus now closing in on Castor and Pollux of the constellation Gemini where Mars has been visible for the past few weeks.
Mars is now above and to the left of Gemini and is setting at 11:05 p.m. this week.
Shortly after Mars sets in the west, Saturn will rise in the east at 11:25 p.m. at midweek. Jupiter follows about an hour later, rising at 12:30 a.m.
Mercury is just beginning to emerge from conjunction in the morning skies and is rising just 25 minutes before the sun this week.
The summer solstice for the northern hemisphere occurs at 10:32 p.m. on Sunday June 20th here in the US central time zone which will mark the longest amount of daylight in the year. For Austin, we will see 14 hours and 6 minutes of daylight, compared to 10 hours and 11 minutes at the winter solstice. The June solstice marks the point where the sun reaches its farthest point north of the celestial equator. For our friends in the southern hemisphere, it will mark the shortest amount of daylight for the year and the beginning of winter.
In space anniversaries this week, the Viking 1 spacecraft entered orbit around Mars 45 years ago on Saturday June 19th. The spacecraft consisted of the orbiter and a lander, which separated from the main spacecraft and touched down on the surface a month later – more information on that in July. Viking 1’s twin, Viking 2, arrived a couple of months later, which we’ll talk more about in August and September. The Viking 1 orbiter mission ended in August 1980 after returning over 57,000 images of the Red Planet.
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 Twitter, Facebook and at McDonaldObservatory.org to be notified of future events.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.