Welcome to the University of Texas Skywatchers Report for Monday October 19th through Sunday October 25th.
The moon is at first quarter on Friday the 23rd so we’ll have a waxing crescent moon in the early evening skies for most of the week and start the waxing gibbous phase for the weekend.
Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on Sunday the 25th when it will pass between the Earth and the Sun and move from our evening skies into our morning skies.
Jupiter and Saturn are up in the south-southwest at about 8:30 p.m. this week with Jupiter setting around midnight and Saturn following at 12:30 a.m. Look for the crescent moon alongside both planets on Thursday evening.
Mars is rising at 6:20 p.m. at midweek so it is now about 20 degrees high in the east by 8:00 p.m. and is visible for most of the night.
Venus is rising at 4:50 a.m., about 2 and a half hours before sunrise.
The Orionids meteor shower peaks on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning this week. This shower appears to come from a point in the constellation Orion and caused by the Earth passing through the orbital debris of Comet Halley. This shower usually produces about 20 meteors an hour at its peak but has been known to have bursts of activity up to 50-70 meteors an hour.
In space anniversaries this week, Thursday the 22nd marks the 45th anniversary of the Soviet Venera 9 landing on Venus, followed by the Venera 10 spacecraft three days later on the 25th. During its mission Venera 9 became the first spacecraft to return images from the surface of another planet and due to the harsh conditions on Venus, both spacecraft only operated on the surface for about an hour.
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, 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 Twitter, Facebook and at McDonaldObservatory.org to be notified of future events.
Thank you for calling the University of Texas Skywatchers Report.