skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday August 23rd through Sunday August 29th.

The moon was full on Sunday the 22nd and won’t reach third quarter until early in the morning hours of Monday the 30th here in Texas, so we’ll have a waning gibbous moon all of this week.

Mars is now very low in the west at sundown and is setting just 40 minutes after the sun this week. Mercury is above and to the left of Mars and is setting at 9:00 p.m. at midweek.

While Mars and Mercury might be hard to pick out from the evening twilight, Venus is hard to miss in the west-southwest after sunset. Venus is setting at 9:45 p.m. at midweek.

Over in the east, Saturn is about 15 degrees above the horizon at sunset, so it will be well-placed for observing once the sky darkens. Jupiter is rising just before sunset and is still visible for most for most of the night after last week’s opposition.

In space anniversaries this week, Thursday August 26th marks 40 years since the Voyager 2 spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn, flying past the ringed planet at a distance of 63,000 miles. Voyager 2 was the third spacecraft to perform a flyby of Saturn following Pioneer 11 in September 1979 and Voyager 1 in November 1980. Voyager 2 also used the planet for a gravity assist that would send it on to encounters with the ice giants Uranus and Neptune in the latter half of the 1980s. Saturn would next be visited by the Cassini orbiter, which entered the system in July 2004 where it operated for over 13 years.

All public viewing events on UT campus telescopes are currently on hold through September. We hope to resume our in-person public programs later in the fall, so please check back for more information as we continue to monitor the situation.

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.