Skywatchers Report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Tuesday September 8th through Sunday September 13th.

The moon is at third quarter on Thursday morning, so we’ll start the week with a waning gibbous moon and finish with a waning crescent moon in our early morning skies.

Mercury is low in the west shortly after sunset and is setting at 8:30 p.m. at midweek, about 50 minutes after the sun.

Jupiter and Saturn are up in the south-southeast as the sky darkens and are still visible for a large part of the night. Jupiter is setting at 2:30 a.m. at midweek, followed by Saturn at 3:10 a.m.

Mars is rising at 9:40 p.m. at midweek and is now just a few weeks from its closest approach to Earth. Mars has now reached -2.1 in magnitude and over 20 arcseconds in size. Mars is now the 4th brightest object in our night sky behind the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter.

Venus is rising at 3:50 a.m. at midweek, about three and a half hours before the Sun rises. Venus will be below the crescent moon on Sunday morning and even closer to the moon on the morning of Monday the 14th.

In space anniversaries this week, September 9th marks 45 years since the launch of the Viking 2 mission to Mars, which included an orbiter and lander. The spacecraft entered orbit around Mars in August 1976 and the lander touched down a month later.

And 35 years ago on September 11th, the International Comet Explorer mission passed within 7800 kilometers of the nucleus of comet Giacobini-Zinner, the first time a spacecraft visited a comet. The mission went on to study Comet Halley the following year.

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.