Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday June 29th through Sunday July 5th.

The moon is full on Saturday night into Sunday morning, depending on your time zone, so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon all week. The full moon for the month of July is known as the Hay Moon and the Thunder Moon.

After the solar eclipse with the new moon two weeks ago, the Moon, Sun, and Earth are still aligned enough for a lunar eclipse with this full moon, although this will be a penumbral eclipse and will be hard to pick out. With a penumbral eclipse, the moon passes through the outermost part of the Earth’s shadow and isn’t as dramatic as an umbral eclipse. This eclipse is visible here in the United States and will reach greatest eclipse at about 11:30 p.m. on July 4th so you can stay out after the fireworks and try to spot it!

Earth is at aphelion – its farthest point from the Sun in its orbit – on the morning of Saturday July 4th. The earth will be 152 million kilometers away from the sun that day compared to 147 million kilometers away from the sun at perihelion back in January.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the sun on Tuesday night when it will pass between the Earth and the Sun and move from our evening skies into our morning skies.

Jupiter is rising at 9:20 p.m. at midweek, followed by Saturn at 9:40 p.m. Look for the moon next to the two gas giants on Sunday night. Mars is rising at 1:05 a.m. and Venus is up in the pre-dawn hours at 4:25 a.m. at midweek.

In space anniversaries this week, Thursday July 2nd marks 35 years since the launch of the European Space Agency’s “Giotto” spacecraft on its mission to study Halley’s comet. The spacecraft passed within 600 kilometers of the nucleus of the comet on March 13, 1986 and then hibernated until it was woken back up in July 1990 to receive commands to make close observations of Comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup two years later. The mission officially ended on July 23, 1992.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are on hold for the time being. 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, McDonald Observatory has been live-streaming night sky tours from west Texas! You can view past events on the McDonald Observatory YouTube channel and you can follow the observatory on Twitter and Facebook to be notified of future events.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.