skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday August 9th through Sunday August 15th.

The moon is at first quarter on Sunday the 15th so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies all of this week.

Mercury is beginning to emerge from conjunction and is setting about 40 minutes after the sun by midweek.

Mars is sinking back towards the sun as it heads towards its next solar conjunction in October. Mars is setting at 9:10 p.m. at midweek. Mars is to the left of the 1-day-old Moon on Monday.

Venus is shining brightly in the west at sundown and is setting at 10 p.m. in the latter half of the week. Look for the crescent moon alongside Venus on Tuesday.

Saturn is now rising shortly before sunset after passing opposition last week and is still visible for most of the night. Saturn is setting at 6:20 a.m., about 35 minutes before sunrise.

Jupiter is rising at 8:35 p.m. at midweek and is heading towards opposition next week.

One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids, peaks on Thursday and this year there will be minimal interference from moonlight. The Perseids get their name because they appear to come from a point in the constellation Perseus, which is fully above the northeast horizon by 12:30 a.m. and they result from the Earth encountering the orbital debris of the Comet Swift-Tuttle. For Texas, the best viewing will probably be Wednesday night into Thursday morning but the nights before and after will probably also have good levels of activity. The Perseids usually produce around 90 meteors an hour at its peak.

In space anniversaries this week, Tuesday August 10th marks 55 years since the launch of the Lunar Orbiter 1, the first American satellite to orbit the Moon. The spacecraft entered orbit around the Moon on August 14th where it operated for 80 days and photographed the lunar surface as part of the preparation for the Surveyor landers and the human-crewed Apollo missions. Lunar Orbiter 1 also captured the first “Earthrise” image from lunar orbit.

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.