skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday July 19th through Sunday July 25th.

The full moon for the month of July is on Friday night so we’ll have a waxing gibbous moon for the work week and begin the waning gibbous phase this weekend. This full moon is known as the Hay Moon and the Thunder Moon.

After their close approach to one another early last week, Venus and Mars are now moving apart with Venus appearing higher each evening and Mars sinking back towards the sun and its next solar conjunction later this year. Mars is setting just before 10 p.m. this week and Venus follows at 10:15 p.m.
Saturn rises at 9:00 p.m. at midweek and Jupiter follows at 10:05 p.m. Look for Saturn to the left of the moon on Friday night. The moon will be between Saturn and Jupiter on Saturday night and Jupiter will be just above the moon on Sunday night.

In the morning skies, Mercury is moving back towards its next solar conjunction and is rising less than an hour before the sun.

In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday July 21st marks 60 years since the flight of Liberty Bell 7 carrying Gus Grissom on a suborbital flight where he became the second American in space. The capsule sank in the Atlantic Ocean after an explosive bolt on the hatch blew prematurely but Grissom was recovered safely. The capsule was eventually recovered from a depth of 16,000 feet in 1999.

And 45 years ago on July 20th, the Viking 1 lander became the first successful operational spacecraft to land on Mars, touching down at Chryse Planitia. Viking 1 operated on the surface of the Red Planet for over 6 years which was a record until it was surpassed by the Opportunity rover in 2010.

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.