skywatchers report

Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday September 20th through Sunday September 26th.

The moon is full on Monday evening and we’ll have a waning gibbous moon for the rest of the week. This full moon is known as the Fruit Moon and the Green Corn Moon. This is also the full moon closest to the northern hemisphere autumnal equinox, so it is also this year’s Harvest Moon.

Mars is now just a couple of weeks from conjunction with the sun and is lost in the sun’s glare.

Mercury is now starting to move back toward the sun and its next conjunction and is setting at 8:15 p.m. at midweek. Mercury is still near the bright star Spica in the constellation Virgo and the two will be less than 2 degrees apart on Thursday.

Venus is up in the southwest at sundown and is setting at 9:25 p.m. at midweek.

Saturn is up in the southeast at sunset and is setting at 3:15 a.m. at midweek. Jupiter is below and to the right of Saturn and is setting at 4:30 a.m. at midweek.

The autumnal equinox for the northern hemisphere occurs at 2:21 p.m. Central Daylight Time on Wednesday, September 22nd. This will mark the beginning of fall in the north and the beginning of spring for our friends in the southern hemisphere. On that day the sun will rise due east and set due west and the amount of daylight and nighttime will be roughly equal. Here in Austin, September 26th will be the day that will have the closest to an even 12 hours of day and night.

In space anniversaries this week, Wednesday September 22nd marks 15 years since the launch of the Hinode spacecraft, a joint mission of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, and NASA to study solar magnetic fields. The mission continues to operate and has the possibility of extension through 2022.

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.