skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday September 6th through Sunday September 12th.

The new moon for the month of September is late on Monday the 6th and we’ll reach first quarter the following Monday so we will see a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies all week.

Mars continues to sink towards the sun as it heads towards conjunction in about a month. Mars is setting at 8:10 p.m. at midweek, about 25 minutes after sunset.

Mercury is in the west-southwest and is setting an hour after the sun this week. Mercury will be below and to the left of the thin crescent moon on Wednesday night.

Venus higher in the west-southwest and is setting at 9:35 p.m. at midweek. Look for the crescent moon alongside Venus on Thursday night.

Saturn is up in the southeast at sunset and is setting at 4:15 a.m. Jupiter is in the east-southeast at sunset and is setting at 5:40 a.m.

In space anniversaries this week, Sunday September 12th marks 55 years since the launch of the Gemini 11 mission with astronauts Pete Conrad and Richard Gordon. An hour and a half after launch, the capsule docked with an Agena Target Vehicle making it the first mission to perform a direct ascent rendezvous which was part of the testing for the upcoming Apollo program to the moon. The astronauts also performed 12 scientific experiments during their three days in space.

And five years ago on September 8th, the OSIRIS-Rex mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral to fly to and retrieve a sample from the asteroid Bennu, which it did successfully in the Fall of 2020. OSIRIS-Rex is now in its Earth-return cruise phase and the sample return capsule is expected to land at the Utah Test and Training Range on September 24, 2023.

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.