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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.





















 December Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area   

   

  

     

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 5th, 2014, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM.

Live Coverage of Orion's First Test Flight

Museum of Science

Boston, MA

Join us as NASA tests its next generation crew vehicle. Starting in 2017, the Orion Crew Module will carry astronauts on deep space missions as far away as Mars. Learn more about Orion and watch its 20,000 mile-per-hour re-entry live on our stage! Live mission coverage: 9:00 am – 12:00 pm (Splashdown: 10:45 – 11:15 am)

  • Public Event

  • Recommended for grades 1 – 12 and adults

  • Gordon Current Science & Technology Center

  • Free with Exhibit Halls admission

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    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: Resolving the Sun's Hot Corona: High Resolution Solar Imaging in the Extreme Ultraviolet

    Dr. Kelley Korreck

    Dr. Korreck's research interests include causes of Space Weather, particle acceleration, shock physics in the heliosphere and in supernova remnants. As SAO Project Scientist for the NASA rocket High Resolution Coronal Imager (Hi-C), she managed the funding, technical staff, and construction of the telescope leading to the highest resolution images ever of the Sun's hot atmosphere. Kelly created the Solar Research Experience for Undergraduates internship program at SAO. She is currently the Head of Science Operations for the Solar Wind Electrons, Alphas and Protons (SWEAP) plasma instrument suite aboard NASA's Solar Probe Plus mission to enter the Sun's atmosphere. She works at the intersection of science and engineering, ensuring the best data from this once in a lifetime mission by optimizing the operations of the instruments and the analysis of the scientific data.

       

        

    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 December 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:

      

     

    Planet Visibility:

        

    In Evening (after sunset):

        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 (before sunrise):

        Jupiter, in SW

        Saturn, in E

     

     

    Comets:

     

    •      Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy), at magnitude 6.8 (at midmonth) and brightening, may become a naked-eye object by the end of December and for much of January.

     

    Meteors:

     

          Geminids peak on December 14th; they may be visible from shortly after dark, so the rising Last Quarter Moon should not interfere; expect rates of 50 per hour or more.

          The Ursids peak on the night of December 22nd; generally, they are about a tenth the intensity of the Geminids.

      
      

       
     
        
     

    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.
    (December 11, 2014: 11:00 PM; looking E)

         
         
       

        

    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: December 2014

        

    Dec. 1 Mon. 6:00 PM EST Moon 0.5° NNW of Uranus
    Dec. 2 Tue. 11:22 PM EST Launch of Japanese Hayabusa 2 Sample Return Mission
    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. 7:27 AM EST Full Moon ("Full Cold Moon")
    Dec. 6 Sat. 5:19 PM EST Earliest end of Nautical Twilight
    Dec. 6 Sat. 8:30 PM EST (Earth-received time) New Horizons Pluto probe wakes up from hibernation
    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. 16 Tue.   SpaceX resupply launch to ISS (booster recovery?)
    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. 3 - 4 Latest sunrise (7:14 AM EST)
    Jan. 7 Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) nearest to Earth (0.47 A.U. / 70 million km)
    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
    Jan. 30 Comet C/2014 (Lovejoy) at perihelion (1.29 A.U. / 193 million km)
    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. 14 Earliest sunrise (5:07 AM EDT)
    Jun. 21 June Solstice
    Jun. 24 Mercury @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
    Jun. 27 Latest sunset (8:25 PM EDT)
    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 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. 8 - 9 Earliest sunset (4:12 PM)
    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 2014 Star Chart