skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report for Monday August 13th through Sunday the 19th.

The moon was new on Sunday the 12th and will not reach first quarter until Monday the 20th.

On Saturday, Venus will be at inferior conjunction, so it will be lost from our point of view until it re-emerges in the morning skies. Jupiter is in the south-southwest as the sky darkens after sunset and it setting at about 1:30 a.m. this week. Mars is rising at about 1:15 a.m. this week and continues to slowly brighten. Speaking of Mars, if you’ve gotten an email saying that the Red Planet is going to be super close to the earth at the end of the month and will look as large as the full moon, don’t believe it! The email has been recycled from when Mars really did make a close approach to the earth back in 2003. And, there is no way that Mars can look as large as the full moon to the naked eye from here on Earth. But, if you do want to stay up that night, you can catch a lunar eclipse in the morning hours of August 28th. More details will be in the next two skywatchers’ report.

The Space Shuttle Endeavour launched right on time last week and has docked with the International Space Station. During launch a piece of insulating foam from the external tank hit the underside of the shuttle leaving a three-inch gouge. Engineers and officials are now running tests to determine whether or not to have the astronauts attempt to repair the hole before re-entry next week. You can follow the mission online at www.nasa.gov/shuttle

The peak of the Perseid meteor shower has passed, but some activity is expected to continue at a lower rate for at least another week or so. Spaceweather.com has started a gallery of photographs of from this year’s shower.

In Mars exploration news, the Phoenix mission has made a successful course correction and continues towards its landing in May 2008. The dust storms that have been giving the rovers such a hard time have begun to subside a little and the skies are brightening slightly, allowing more energy to be generated by the solar panels. NASA’s Mars exploration program can be found online at mars.jpl.nasa.gov

Public viewing is currently on hiatus for the remainder of the summer. Fall viewing will resume in September. Please call back in a few weeks for the starting dates and times.

Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers' Report.