Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday June 28th through Sunday July 4th.
The moon is at third quarter on Thursday the 1st so we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for the first half of the week and a waning crescent moon in the early morning skies for the remainder of the week.
Venus continues to shine brightly in the west after sunset and Mars is visible above and to the left of Venus. Observers can watch the two planets converge over the next couple of weeks. Venus is setting at 10:15 p.m. this week with Mars following at 10:40 p.m.
Saturn is rising at 10:30 p.m. and Jupiter follows at 11:30 p.m. so you’ll have many hours to observe the gas giants before sunrise at around 6:30 a.m. Look for Jupiter above the moon on Monday night.
Mercury is at greatest elongation on July 4th and will rise at 5:10 a.m., almost an hour and a half before the Sun. Observers with a good view to the east should be able to pick out the innermost planet in this week’s pre-dawn skies.
In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday June 30th marks 20 years since the launch of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe on a mission to map the variations in the cosmic microwave background – the leftover heat from the Big Bang. WMAP operated for 9 years until it was decommissioned after the launch of the Planck mission.
And five years ago on July 4th, the Juno spacecraft became the second mission to enter orbit around Jupiter, following on the legacy of the Galileo spacecraft. Juno continues to explore the Jovian system and is expected to operate until at least September 2025.
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.