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.
May Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area
Saturday, May 9th, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM.
Clay Center at Dexter Southfield, Brookline, MAThe Clay Center at Dexter Southfield and the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston invite you and your family to join us for a free, action-packed evening. Activities will include:
Galileo - Featured guest speaker - Galileo, performed by professional actor Michael Francis, who has performed around the world. Listen as Galileo presents his life, discoveries, and experiments. This is a fun filled, fast paced, presentation for all ages. Show times: 5:10 and 7:10. Free admission.
Solar and Night Telescopes - The Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston set up many types of telescopes for safe solar viewing during the afternoon, and for viewing the moon, planets, and stars after dark. Come talk to amateur astronomers and get tips for getting the most out of your own telescope.
Meet R2D2 and a Wookie from Star Wars! - See R2D2 dance, talk, and show off. Get your picture taken with both of them. Did you know that Wookie is seven feet tall?
Planetary Society Exhibit - The Planetary Society invites you to our table for the latest news in space exploration! Free Planetary Reports, stickers and bookmarks available. The Planetary Society is the largest space interest group in the world where members support space science research and space missions. Join CEO Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and be part of the adventure!
Additional Activties Include
Planetary Scales - Weigh yourself on the Moon, Jupiter, and Pluto!
3-D Printer Demonstrations.
Mars Foundation / Mars Homestead.
Thursday, May 14th, 2015, at
Thursday, May 14th, 2015, 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:
X-Ray Observatories & Optics, Dr. Ryan Allured
Topic and Presenter: X-Ray Observatories & Optics, Dr. Ryan Allured
Since the 1970s, space-born X-ray observatories have shed light on
a variety of exotic objects from neutron stars in our own Milky Way to
supermassive black holes at the center of distant galaxies. With each
new observatory, the field of X-ray instrumentation makes significant
advances in both optics and detectors. In this talk, Dr. Allured will
introduce the main components of an X-ray telescope. He will give an
overview of the currently orbiting X-ray observatories, Chandra and
XMM-Newton with emphasis on their imaging optics. The concept for a
successor to Chandra will be described as well as the enabling
technology: adjustable X-ray optics. Finally, he will present recent
laboratory developments in the adjustable X-ray optics program.
Since the 1970s, space-born X-ray observatories have shed light on a variety of exotic objects from neutron stars in our own Milky Way to supermassive black holes at the center of distant galaxies. With each new observatory, the field of X-ray instrumentation makes significant advances in both optics and detectors. In this talk, Dr. Allured will introduce the main components of an X-ray telescope. He will give an overview of the currently orbiting X-ray observatories, Chandra and XMM-Newton with emphasis on their imaging optics. The concept for a successor to Chandra will be described as well as the enabling technology: adjustable X-ray optics. Finally, he will present recent laboratory developments in the adjustable X-ray optics program.
May 21st, 2015, at 7:30 PM.
Thursday, May 21st, 2015, at 7:30 PM.
(Free lecture and observing every 3rd Thursday except June, July, and August – and sometimes December).
For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes - not even light - seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein, Hawking, and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the cosmos. Marcia Bartusiak's numerous works include The Day We Found the Universe, Archives of the Universe, and Einstein's Unfinished Symphony.
Tuesdays (beginning March 31)
Clay Center Observatory
Dexter Southfield School
617-454-2795 (appoint. required)
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM.
Thursdays (every third Thursday of month):
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Public Observatory Night 8;30 PM - 10:00 PM.
Fridays (beginning March 13):
Museum of Science
"Astronomy after Hours" public viewing at Guilliland Observatory 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM.
The Sky Report for the Month of May 2015
Phases of the Moon:
11:42 AM EDT
Last Quarter Moon
6:36 AM EDT
12:13 AM EDT
1:19 PM EDT
The Moon & Planets:
In Evening (after sunset):
In Evening (after sunset):
Mercury, in NW
Venus, in W
Venus, in W
Jupiter, in SW
Jupiter, in SW
Jupiter, in W
Jupiter, in W
Saturn, in SE
Saturn, in SE
In Morning (before sunrise):
In Morning (before sunrise):
Saturn, in SW
Saturn, in SW
Neptune, in SE
Uranus, in E
Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) crosses from
Cassiopeia into Cepheus, but is rapidly fading; after the
first week of May it should dip below 8th
magnitude. There are no other comets brighter than magnitude
The Eta Aquarid meteors peak on the morning hours of May 6; these are remnants of a debris stream left by Halley’s Comet on a prior passage. Unfortunately, this year the light from the waning gibbous Moon will drown out the fainter meteors; you may expect to see about 10 per hour at best.
Venus and Mercury at their best
In early May, Venus shines high and bright at dusk; throughout the month, it will continue to climb higher and get brighter. Mercury, now at its greatest elongation from the Sun, is also visible; now is the best time this year to see it in the evening sky.
(May 7, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT).
Saturn - up all night
Saturn reaches opposition on May 22; it is directly opposite the Sun in our skies.
It is then at its closest (834 million miles), largest (18.5", with visible rings 42.1" across), and brightest (mag. 0.0).
This month the rings are inclined toward us by 24°. . .
(May 22, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT).
Jupiter undergoes a “double shadow transit” on May 27. From 10:01 PM EDT until 12:18 AM EDT, the tiny dark shadows of Io and Ganymede are on the disk simultaneously. The moons themselves are visible as well; Io itself is transiting the disk, while Ganymede is in the lower right corner. The Great Red Spot, a huge storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere, has just crossed the center of the disk; for reasons unknown, it has been shrinking and losing color over the past several years.
(May 27, 2015, 10:48 PM EDT).
The "Year of the Dwarf Planet"
In all likelihood, you have already been hearing about two new space missions that are reaching their destinations this year. As it happens, both of their targets are so-called “dwarf planets” – objects that orbit our Sun, are large enough so that their gravity forms them into spheres, but that have not “cleared their orbit” of other objects of similar size. The members of this class so far are Eris, Haumea, Makemake, Pluto, and Ceres. The first four orbit in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, while Ceres is the largest of the “Main Belt” asteroids that circle the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres and Pluto are due to receive their first visitors from Earth this year – hence some have been calling 2015 the “Year of the Dwarf Planet”.
Ceres, 590 miles in diameter, is up first. Since early March, the Dawn spacecraft has been in orbit around Ceres; at first, its orbit was distant and its view was barely better than that long available from telescopes like Hubble. But the gentle push of its ion drive has been progressively tightening its orbit and bringing it closer, and we are now observing details which no one has ever seen before. Compare these “before and after” views:
There will be a lunar eclipse on April 4. The entire eclipse is visible from an areas centered around the Pacific Ocean. This includes all but easternmost North America. (The penumbral portion of the eclipse – occurring as the Moon enters Earth’s outer shadow - will be visible from the entire U.S., but during this phase of the eclipse, the change in the Moon’s appearance will be subtle and most likely unnoticeable.)
Best view of Ceres as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004.
Early image of Ceres as seen from Dawn spacecraft in 2015.
(Later images will be in color.)
You will notice the explosion of detail seen by Dawn; vague, blurry patches become craters, ridges, and plains. And then there is that mysterious double dot of bright terrain inside a crater. In fact, these two are just the brightest of about 10 highly reflective spots that Dawn has found so far. What could they be? At the moment, the spots are still a mystery; they will not remain so for long.
As May begins, Dawn is in an initial orbit about 8,400 miles from Ceres. On May 9, it is due to begin spiraling down to a lower orbit at 2,700 miles altitude, which it should reach around June 6. During the summer and fall its orbit will be progressively lowered in steps until December, when it will be swooping over the terrain at an altitude of just 233 miles! Once the mission is finally over, Dawn will remain in a highly stable orbit over Ceres - forever.
And the other mission to a “dwarf planet”? The New Horizons spacecraft is now approaching 1,471-mile diameter Pluto. In early May, we can expect the first “better than Hubble” images of Pluto’s disk. But unlike Dawn, New Horizons will not go into orbit around its target. Instead, it will sweep through the neighborhood of Pluto and its moons in a matter of hours on July 14, It will gather as much data as it can as it approaches to within 6,400 miles of Pluto during its flyby of the planet, and will leisurely transmit the data back to Earth during the following days and weeks.
So stay tuned! The “Year of the Dwarf Planets” continues!
A Schedule of Events: May / June 2015
|May 3||Sun.||11:42 AM EDT||Full Moon ("Full Flower Moon")|
|May 4||Mon.||5:00 AM EDT||Jupiter @ western quadrature|
|May 5||Tue.||New Horizons "better-than-Hubble" Pluto images|
|May 5||Tue.||12:00 PM EDT||Moon 2° N of Saturn|
|May 6||Wed.||Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks (poor, ~10/hr)|
|May 7||Thur.||1:00 AM EDT||Mercury @ greatest elongation E (21°) (Evening)|
|May 9||Sat.||Dawn begins transfer from RC3 to Survey Orbit|
|May 11||Mon.||6:36 AM EDT||Last Quarter Moon|
|May 12||Tue.||5:00 AM EDT||Moon 3° N of Neptune|
|May 13||Fri.||9:00 AM EDT||Sun enters Taurus|
|May 14||Thur.||8:18 PM EDT||Moon @ perigee (366,024 km / 227,437 mi)|
|May 15||Fri.||8:00 AM EDT||Moon 0.2° S of Uranus|
|May 18||Mon.||12:13 AM EDT||New Moon|
|May 19||Tue.||3:00 AM EDT||Moon 6° S of Mercury|
|May 20||Wed.||George Bond born 190 years ago|
|May 20||Wed.||10:45 AM EDT - 2:45 PM EDT||Planetary Society launches LightSail|
|May 21||Thur.||3:00 AM EDT||Moon 8° S of Venus|
|May 22||Fri.||10:00 PM EDT||Saturn @ opposition|
|May 24||Sun.||3:00 AM EDT||Moon 5° S of Jupiter|
|May 25||Mon.||1:19 PM EDT||First Quarter Moon|
|May 26||Tue.||6:12 PM EDT||Moon @ apogee (404,285 km / 251,186 mi.)|
|May 27||Wed.||10:01 PM - 12:18 AM EDT||Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Ganymede & Io)|
|May 30||Sat.||1:00 PM EDT||Mercury @ inferior conjunction|
|Jun. 1||4:00 PM EDT||Moon 1.9° N of Saturn|
|Jun. 2||Tue.||12:19 PM EDT||Full Moon ("Full Strawberry Moon")|
|Jun. 4||Thu.||1st reliable record of solar eclipse (Chinese) 2795 years ago (780 BC))|
|Jun. 6||Sat.||5:00 AM EDT||Venus @ theoretical dichotomy (half-illuminated)|
|Jun. 6||Sat.||2:00 PM EDT||Venus @ greatest elongation (45°) in evening|
|Jun. 6||Sat.||Dawn enters Survey Orbit around Ceres (4,400 km)|
|Jun. 8||Mon.||Giovanni Cassini born 390 years ago (1625)|
|Jun. 8||Mon.||11:00 PM EDT||Moon 3.1° NNW of Neptune|
|Jun. 9||Tue.||11:42 AM EDT||Last Quarter Moon|
|Jun. 10||Wed.||12:44 AM EDT||Moon @ perigee (369,711 km / 229,728 mi)|
|Jun. 11||Thur.||4:00 PM EDT||Moon 0.47° SSE of Uranus|
|Jun. 14||Sun.||5:07 AM EDT||Earliest sunrise|
|Jun. 14||Sun.||12:00 PM EDT||Mars @ solar conjunction|
|Jun. 14||Sun.||10:00 PM EDT||Moon 0.04° S of Mercury|
|Jun. 15||Mon.||4:32 AM EDT - 5:07 AM EDT||Earliest morning Civil Twilight (Sun 0° - 6° below horizon)|
|Jun. 15||Mon.||Comet C/2014 Q1 Pan STARRS may exceed 6th magnitude|
|Jun. 16||Tue.||10:05 AM EDT||New Moon|
|Jun. 17||Wed.||3:47 AM EDT - 4:32 AM EDT||Earliest morning Nautical Twilight (Sun 6° - 12° below horizon)|
|Jun. 18||Thu.||2:52 AM EDT - 3:47 AM EDT||Earliest morning Astronomical Twilight (Sun 12° - 18° below horizon)|
|Jun. 18||Thu.||9:00 AM EDT||Spring begins in Northern Hemisphere of Mars|
|Jun. 20||Sat.||7:00 AM EDT||Moon 6° S of Venus|
|Jun. 20||Sat.||8:00 PM EDT||Moon 5° S of Jupiter|
|Jun. 21||Sun.||12:38 PM EDT||June Solstice|
|Jun. 21||Sun.||10:00 PM EDT||Sun enters Gemini|
|Jun. 22||Mon.||Royal Greenwich Observatory founded 340 years ago (1675)|
|Jun. 23||Tue.||1:00 PM EDT||Moon @ apogee (404,132 km / 251,116 mi.)|
|Jun. 24||Wed.||Fred Hoyle born 100 years ago (1915)|
|Jun. 24||Wed.||7:03 AM EDT||First Quarter Moon|
|Jun. 24||Wed.||1:00 PM EDT||Mercury @ greatest elongation (22°) in morning|
|Jun. 24||Wed.||9:45 PM EDT - 10:40 PM EDT||Latest evening Astronomical Twilight (Sun 12° - 18° below horizon)|
|Jun. 25||Thu.||9:00 PM EDT - 9:45 PM EDT||Latest evening Nautical Twilight (Sun 6° - 12° below horizon)|
|Jun. 26||Fri.||Charles Messier born 285 years ago (1730)|
|Jun. 26||Fri.||8:25 PM EDT - 9:00 PM EDT||Latest evening Civil Twilight (Sun 0° - 6° below horizon)|
|Jun. 27||Sat.||June Boötids peak (weak)|
|Jun. 27||Sat.||8:25 PM EDT||Latest sunset|
|Jun. 28||Sun.||9:00 PM EDT||Moon 2° N of Saturn|
|Jun. 29||Mon.||6:00 PM EDT||1 Ceres @ opposition|
|Jun. 30||Tue.||Asteroid Day|
|Jun. 30||Tue.||11:00 PM EDT||Venus 0.34° (20.4') SW of Jupiter|
|Jun. 30||Tue.||Dawn spacecraft leaves Ceres Survey orbit|
|Jun. 30||Tue.||Leap Second added to World's Clocks|
* bold = cool or important!
A Preview of 2015 Events
|July 1||Venus 30' to lower left of Jupiter (daytime best!); both disks are 32.5" across!|
|July 5||Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS passes 5° N of Sun, into evening sky|
|July 6||Earth @ aphelion|
|July 6||Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS @ perihelion (0.315 AU)|
|July 6||Pluto @ opposition|
|Jul. 7||Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS may top out at 3rd mag.|
|July 12||Venus @ greatest brilliancy (-4.69)|
|July 14||New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto|
|Jul. 15||Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS may drop below 6th mag.|
|Jul. 20||Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS closest to Earth (1.18 AU)|
|July 25||Ceres @ opposition|
|July 28 - 29||Delta Aquarid meteors peak (poor)|
|Aug. 4||Dawn spacecraft enters HAMO (High Altitude Mapping Orbit) (1,450 km)|
|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. 4||Moon occults Aldebaran|
|Sept. 13||Partial Solar Eclipse|
|Sept. 19||National Astronomy Day (fall)|
|Sept. 20||Venus @ greatest brilliancy (-4.76)|
|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. 15||Dawn spacecraaft leaves HAMO Ceres orbit|
|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. 26||Moon occults Aldebaran|
|Nov. 30||Saturn @ solar conjunction|
|Dec. 7||Waning crescent Moon occults Venus (daytime event)|
|Dec. 8||Dawn spacecraft enters Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO) (375 km)|
|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")|
May 2015 Star Chart