skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday July 5th through Sunday July 11th.

The new moon for the month of July is late on Friday the 9th so we’ll have a waning crescent moon in our early morning skies for the week and a very thin waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies for the weekend.

The Earth is at aphelion – its farthest point from the Sun in its orbit – at 5:27 p.m. central time on Monday July 5th. At aphelion, the Earth is a little over 152 million kilometers from the Sun, compared to 147 million kilometers at perihelion (its closest point to the sun) which occurred back on January 2nd this year.

Venus and Mars will move closer and closer to one another over the course of the week and will reach their smallest separation early next week. Both planets are setting around 10:20 p.m. by the end of the week. Look for a very thin crescent moon to the right of the pair of planets on Sunday evening.

Saturn is rising at 10 p.m. and Jupiter follows at 11 p.m. Both planets are heading towards opposition next month and will be in a favorable position for evening observing through the remainder of the summer and into early autumn.

In the morning skies, Mercury is dipping back towards the sun and its next conjunction at the beginning of August. Mercury is rising at 5:10 a.m. at midweek, which is about an hour and 20 minutes before sunrise. Look for Mercury below the very thin waning crescent moon on Wednesday morning and above an even thinner sliver of moon on Thursday morning.

In space anniversaries this week, Thursday July 8th marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on the final flight of the space shuttle program. The mission landed on July 21 after delivering modules to the International Space Station.

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.