Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday August 17th through Sunday August 23rd.

The new moon for the month of August is late on Tuesday the 18th so we’ll start the week with the bare remnants of a waning crescent moon and then have a waxing crescent moon in our early evening skies for the remainder of the week.

Mercury is in superior conjunction with the sun on Monday the 17th when it will move behind the sun from the Earth’s point of view and move from our morning skies into our evening skies.

Jupiter and Saturn still dominate the evening skies and are shining brightly in the southeast at sunset. Jupiter is setting at 4:00 a.m. at midweek, followed by Saturn at 4:40 a.m.

Mars is rising at 10:55 p.m. at midweek and is visible for the remainder of the night.

Venus is rising at 3:35 a.m. and will now slowly start sinking back towards the sun after greatest elongation last week.

This week in space anniversaries features two firsts in the exploration of the solar system. Monday August 17th marks 50 years since the launch of the Soviet Venera 7 mission to Venus, which later became the first spacecraft to soft land on another planet and the first to transmit data from another planet back to Earth. Because of the harsh conditions on Venus, the spacecraft only operated for just under an hour.

Five years later on August 20th, the US Viking 1 spacecraft launched on a mission to land on the Red Planet. Viking 1 became the first successful soft-landing mission on Mars after the Soviet Mars 3 mission landed but stopped transmitting just seconds later. Viking 1 operated from the surface of Mars for over six years.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are on hold for the remainder of 2020. 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.