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Astronomy
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This website has been created by and is supported by a group of Boston, MA - area amateur astronomers. It is intended to be a convenient site to access news and information about astronomy and space-related activities of interest to the community and the public.













 



 


 

 November / December Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area   

   

  

  

Monday, November 3, 2014: 6:30 PM 8:30 PM.

Francis Kane School star party

520 Farm Road, Marlborough, MA

This school is located just south of RT 20 (near the Marlborough airport also off of Farm Road).  It is also just east of RT 85.

Contact person w/cell number: Andrea Morton, 508-523-1781

Number of attendees: 125
Grade level    4
Power available: no
Snacks served
Parking adjacent to telescopes: yes

  

  

Thursday, November 13th, 2014, at 8:00 PM.

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (Boston area’s largest and oldest astronomy club).

(Meets every 2nd Thursday except August).

Topic and Presenter: Variable Star Observing

Dr. Arne Henden

While taking deep-sky images or observing double stars through the eyepiece can be fulfilling, the universe is dynamic and constantly changing - never more obviously seen than with variable stars.  These come in many flavors, from stars with easily-visible variations in a few minutes, to slowly evolving stars where variations take many lifetimes.  The AAVSO monitors all variability, and is a great resource if you want to do something different with your telescope.  I'll talk about some of the exotic things Up There, how easy it is to get involved, and give you some resources for further information.

Arne Henden is the Director of the American Association of Variable Star Observers.  He received his PhD from Indiana University in 1985, and has since led a career as a research scientist and instrument developer.  At the AAVSO, he has modernized the data collection methods, developed the AAVSOnet robotic telescope network, and led the APASS all-sky photometric calibration project.

 

       

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 (cloud date: Wednesday, November 19th): 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

Wilson Middle School star party

22 Rutledge Road, Natick, MA

Number of attendees: 100-150

Contact person: Sheila Pogarian - (508) 785-5586

Grade level: 8th grade with their familes

Power: yes

Parking next to telescopes: yes.

  

  

Thursday, November 20th, 2014, at 7:30 PM.

Monthly Observatory Night

(Free lecture and observing every 3rd Thursday except June, July, and August – and sometimes December).

Topic and Presenters: "Starlight Detectives"

Alan Hirshfeld

"Starlight Detectives is just the sort of richly veined book I love to read - full of scientific history and discoveries, peopled by real heroes and rogues, and told with absolute authority. Alan Hirshfeld's wide, deep knowledge of astronomy arises not only from the most careful scholarship, but also from the years he's spent at the telescope, posing his own questions to the stars." - Dava Sobel, author of A More Perfect Heaven and Longitude

  

   

Monday, December 1st, at 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM. (Cloud date: December 2nd.) Set up at 6:00 PM.

Lexington Christian Academy Star Party

48 Bartlett Avenue, Lexington, MA 02420
Contact person w/cell number:  Kathy Oliver 978-866-7158
School Phone: 781-862-7850
Number of attendees: 125-150
Grade level 7-8
Power available: yes
Parking adjacent to telescopes: yes
Refreshments for volunteers.

   

    

Thursday, December 4th, 2014, at 7:30 PM.

Monthly Observatory Night

(Free lecture and observing every 3rd Thursday except June, July, and August – and sometimes December).

Topic and Presenter: The Case of the Mysterious X-rays from Space

Esra Bulbul

 

While researchers celebrated the Chandra X-ray Observatory's 15 years of operation this past June, they were also puzzled by its latest finding: a mysterious X-ray signal radiating from the Perseus galaxy cluster. Could this be the signature of "sterile" neutrinos and partially explain dark matter? Now that's a good question!

    

   

Thursday, December 11th, 2014, at 8:00 PM.

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (Boston area’s largest and oldest astronomy club).

(Meets every 2nd Thursday except August).

Topic and Presenter: TBA.

   

    

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014, 6:00 PM - ???.

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (Boston area’s largest and oldest astronomy club).

(Meets every 2nd Thursday except August).

New Years Eve Party!

Westford Clubhouse

Eating and other festivities will start at 6:30 PM on Wednesday, December 31st and will continue past midnight. Arrive at any time since there will be 8 opportunities in all to welcome 2015 and shout "Happy New Year" as the New Year crosses the time zones, starting with Greenwich Mean Time (7PM local time), and continuing hour after hour through Eastern Standard Time (midnight local time), with a couple of half hour celebrations in between. Stop by with your family and friends - an RSVP is not needed. Please bring something tasty to share. Entrée type dishes are always very welcome since folks arrive and leave all evening and the party seems to start again with each new group. There will be plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. The clubhouse will be warm and the party is on regardless of the weather. Don't forget your warm observing clothes and boots, and bring a telescope and camera if you like. The club's observatories will be open for observing too. There will be a 9-day-old Moon, but there will be planetary and deep sky gazing depending on the weather. We will also have dancing and hopefully live music again this year. and door prizes for all, so do join us to welcome in 2015 together. Any party suggestions or questions are welcome, so please email them to Eileen at starleen@charter.net or call at 978-501-6342 (day) or 978-456-3937 (evening). For one set of directions to the ATMoB Clubhouse in Westford, see the last page of the ATMoB newsletter, or at www.atmob.org and click on ATMoB Club House at the bottom of the Home page. There are of course many other routes that may be shorter for you.

  

  

     

Plus:

  

Wednesdays:

Boston University

Boston, MA.
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM. 
http://www.bu.edu/astronomy/events/public-open-night-at-the-observatory/

 

  

 


 

The Sky Report for the Month of November 2014

 

 

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

 

Phases of the Moon:

 

Full Moon

December 6

7:27 AM EST

Last Quarter Moon

December 14

7:51 AM EST

New Moon

December 21

8:36 PM EST

First Quarter

December 28

1:31 PM EST

   

      

      

The Moon & Planets:

  

  

  The Moon & Planets:

    

 Planet Visibility:

 

 In Evening:

 Mercury, in SW

 Venus, in SW

 Mars, in SW

 Neptune, in S

 Uranus, in S

 

 At Midnight:

 Uranus, in W

 Jupiter, in SE

 

 In Morning (Predawn):

 Jupiter, in SW

 Saturn, in E

 

 


         

 

In the wee hours of the 6th, the Full Moon lies within a degree of 1st-magnitude Aldebaran. Both are embedded in the rich star fields of the Hyades cluster.

The more compact Pleiades cluster lies about 13° to the right. (See our “What’s New” section for more about the Pleiades.)

(December 6, 2014: 1:00 AM EST; looking SW)

 

     

 

On the 11th, Jupiter lies about 6° to the upper left of the gibbous Moon. The two form a compact triangle with Regulus in the late evening sky.

 

    

  

Saturn lies just 3° below the narrow crescent Moon as both rise on the 19th.

(December 19, 2014: 5:45 AM EST; looking SE).

 

 

   

There is a line-up of planetary bodies on Christmas Eve, with the crescent Moon and nearby Mars at center stage. Low above the horizon, Venus is still visible. For those with the appropriate skill and equipment, Neptune can be found far to the upper left of the Moon and Mars pair.

(December 24, 2014: 5:00 PM; looking SW)

  

 


   

A Schedule of Events: November / December, 2014

 

Nov. 1 Sat. 9:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest elongation (19° W of Sun)
Nov. 1 Sat. 8:00 PM EDT Moon 4° NNW of Neptune
Nov. 2 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Switch from EDT to EST
Nov. 2 Sun. 7:29 PM EST Moon @ perigee (57.68 Earth-radii)
Nov. 4 Tue. 1:00 PM EST Moon 2° NNE of Uranus
Nov. 5 Wed. 12:00 PM EST S. Taurid meteors peak
Nov. 6 Thur. 5:23 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Beaver Moon")
Nov. 9 Sun.   Carl Sagan's 80th Birthday
Nov. 11 Tue. 5:27 AM EST One of 2 brightest passes of ISS this month (-3.4)
Nov. 12 Wed. 11:00 AM EST N. Taurid meteors peak
Nov. 12 Wed. 11:03 AM EST ESA Philae lands on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko
Nov. 14 Fri. 10:16 AM EST Last Quarter Moon
Nov. 14 Fri. 1:00 PM EST Moon 5° SSW of Jupiter
Nov. 14 Fri. 8:59 PM EST Moon @ apogee (63.39 Earth-radii)
Nov. 17 Mon. 5:00 PM  EST Leonid meteor shower peaks
Nov. 18 Tue. 4:00 AM EST Saturn @ solar conjunction
Nov. 20 Thur.   Edwin Hubble's 125th Birthday
Nov. 20 Thur. 1:56 AM EST Asteroid Juno occults 7.4 magnitude star HIP 43357
Nov. 22 Sat. 7:32 AM EST New Moon
Nov. 23 Sun. 6:00 AM EST Sun enters Scorpius
Nov. 24 Mon. 6:08 AM EST One of 2 brightest passes of ISS this month (-3.3)
Nov. 26 Wed. 5:00 AM EST Moon 7° N of Mars
Nov. 27 Thur. 6:12 PM EST Moon @ perigee (57.99 Earth-radii) - farthest of 2014
Nov. 28 Fri.   50th Anniversary of Mariner 4 launch (first probe to Mars)
Nov. 29 Sat. 12:00 AM EST Moon 4° NNW of Neptune
Nov. 29 Sat. 5:06 AM EST First Quarter Moon
Nov. 29 Sat. 11:23 PM EST Launch of Japanese Hayabusa 2 Sample Return Mission
Nov. 30 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Sun enters Ophiuchus
Dec. 1 Mon. 6:00 PM EST Moon 0.5° NNW of Uranus
Dec. 4 Thur. 7:05 AM EST Orion Delta 4H launch (Exploration Flight Test 1)
Dec. 4 Thur. 11:29 AM EST Orion Delta 4H splashdown (Exploration Flight Test 1)
Dec. 5 Fri. 5:53 PM EST Earliest end of Astronomical Twilight
Dec. 5 Fri. 10:00 PM EST Moon 1.7° NW of Aldebaran
Dec. 6 Sat.   New Horizons Pluto probe wakes up from hibernation
Dec. 6 Sat. 7:27 AM EST Full Moon ("Full Cold Moon")
Dec. 6 Sat. 5:19 PM EST Earliest end of Nautical Twilight
Dec. 7 Sun. 4:43 PM EST Earliest end of Civil Twilight
Dec. 8 Mon. 4:11:41 PM EST Earliest sunset of year
Dec. 11 Thur. 8:00 PM EST Moon 4.9° SSW of Jupiter
Dec. 12 Fri. 4:00 AM EST Mars @ perihelion (1.3812 AU)
Dec. 12 Fri. 6:00 PM EST Moon @ apogee (63.44 Earth-radii)
Dec. 14 Sun. 7:00 AM EST Geminid meteors peak
Dec. 14 Sun. 7:51 AM EST Last Quarter Moon
Dec. 18 Thur. 8:00 AM EST Sun enter Sagittarius
Dec. 19 Fri. 4:00 PM EST Moon 1.5° N of Saturn
Dec. 21 Sun. 6:03 PM EST December Solstice
Dec. 21 Sun. 8:36 PM EST New Moon
Dec. 22 Mon. 3:25 PM EST Ursid meteors peak
Dec. 24 Wed. 11:42 AM EST Moon @ perigee (57.19 Earth-radii)
Dec. 24 Wed. 5:43 PM EST Brightest ISS pass this month (magnitude -3.4)
Dec. 25 Thur. 12:00 AM EST Moon 5.5° NNW of Mars
Dec. 28 Sun. 1:31 PM EST First Quarter Moon
Dec. 29 Mon. 12:00 AM EST Moon 1.3° WNW of Uranus
Dec. 30 Tue. 2:25 AM EST Venus 3.6° N of Mercury

 

 


    

A Preview of 2015 Events

    

Jan. 3 - 4 Quadrantid meteors peak (poor)
Jan. 3 Earth @ perihelion
Jan. 11 Venus 40' to upper left of Mercury in evening sky
Jan. 14 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star")
Jan. 19 Mars 13' to lower left of Neptune
Jan. 24 Triple shadow transit on Jupiter
Feb. 1 Venus 48' to left of Neptune
Feb. Dawn orbiter at Ceres
Feb. 6 Jupiter @ opposition
Feb. 21 Crescent Moon occults Uranus
Feb. 22 Venus 0.5° to upper left of Mars in evening sky
Feb. 24 Mercury @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
Feb. 26 Neptune @ solar conjunction
Mar. 4 Venus 10' above Uranus in evening sky
Mar. 11 Mars 25' to upper right of Uranus
Mar. 20 Total Solar Eclipse
Mar. 20 March Equinox
Apr. 6 Uranus @ solar conjunction
Apr. 22 -  23 Lyrid meteors peak (good)
Apr. 23 Mercury 2° to upper right of Mars
May 5 - 6 Eta Aquarid meteors peak
May 7 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star"); excellent
May 23 Saturn @ opposition
Jun. 6 Venus @ greatest elongation east (evening "star"); excellent
Jun. 14 Mars @ solar conjunction
Jun. 21 June Solstice
Jun. 24 Mercury @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
July 1 Venus 30' to lower left of Jupiter (daytime best!); both disks are 32.5" across!
July 6 Earth @ aphelion
July 6 Pluto @ opposition
July 9 ESA BepiColombo Mercury orbiter launch
July 12 Venus @ greatest brilliancy
July 14 New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto
July 25 Ceres @ opposition
July 28 - 29 Delta Aquarid meteors peak (poor)
Aug. 12 - 13 Perseid meteors peak (excellent)
Aug. 13 Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (and Rosetta!) @ perihelion
Aug. 15 Venus @ inferior conjunction
Aug. 26 Jupiter @ solar conjunction
Sept. 1 Neptune @ opposition
Sept. 4 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star")
Sept. 13 Partial Solar Eclipse
Sept. 20 Venus @ greatest brilliancy
Sept. 22 September Equinox
Sept. 28 Total Lunar Eclipse (both sides of the Atlantic)
Oct. 8 - 9 Draconid meteors peak (poor)
Oct. 11 Uranus @ opposition
Oct. 16 Mercury @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
Oct. 17 Mars 27' to upper left of Jupiter
Oct. 21 - 22 Orionid meteors peak (excellent)
Oct. 26 Venus @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
Oct. 26 Venus 1.1° to lower right of Jupiter, 3° to upper right of Mars
Nov. 3 Venus 40' to lower right of Mars
Nov. 5 - 6 S. Taurid meteors peak (poor)
Nov. 12 N. Taurid meteors peak
Nov. 17 - 18 Leonid meteors peak (excellent)
Nov. 30 Saturn @ solar conjunction
Dec. 7 Waning crescent Moon occults Venus (daytime event)
Dec. 13 - 14 Geminid meteors peak (excellent)
Dec. 21 December Solstice
Dec. 22 - 23 Ursid meteors peak (poor)
Dec. 29 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star")

 

 



 
What's New
  
The Seven Sisters

The Pleiades cluster in Taurus is a star group riding high overhead on early December evenings. Around midmonth, the group “transits”, or reaches its highest point in the sky, at about 10 PM; as seen from Boston, it is then over 70° above the horizon. Though at its most spectacular as seen from dark rural skies, it is bright enough to be an easy target even from light-polluted city sites. The Pleiades have been known and revered from ancient times and in cultures the world over. To the naked eye, 6 or 7 stars are typically visible, though some sharp-eyed observers have reported up to 11 under ideal conditions. Among the ancient Greeks they were known as “the Seven Sisters”, and seven of them were named after the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. In order of brightness, the major members of the cluster are Alcyone, Atlas, Electra, Maia, Merope, Taygeta, Pleione, Celaeno, and Sterope.

 

 

 

With the invention of the telescope, the true nature and richness of the cluster became evident. Galileo himself counted 36 stars; we now know that the true number may be over a thousand. The Pleiades are an open cluster – a group of stars which formed together – on this case, about 150 million years ago (an eye-blink it terms of geological time!). Over the next 250 million years or so, the cluster will disperse; many of the brightest members are hot, young stars that may not even live that long.

The most commonly quoted value for the distance of the cluster is around 440 light-years, and the central part is thought to be about 8 light-years across. There is a faint “nebulosity” or glow, around the members of the cluster; at first, it was thought to be dust left over from the formation of the Pleiades, but is now known to be material in the surrounding interstellar medium through which the cluster is moving.



 
 December Sky Chart
 
 
  

Star Chart

   

December 15, 2014

      9:00 PM EST

Looking at Zenith, South at Bottom

   

    

 Text, graphics, and animations by John Sheff. Graphics courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 7 / Imaginova Corp. Starry Night images are used with permission from Imaginova Corp.