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Astronomy
Welcome to the Boston Astronomy website ...

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.





















   

 Introduction to Astronomy Course Being Offered This Winter! 

      

   

Introduction to Astronomy at Cambridge Center for Adult Education

  

We have 2 students signed up. We need a total of 6 to run this course. This is your chance!

    

Winter Session, begins January 20, 2015

          

As the brilliant stars of Winter fade and give way to the “Deep Skies” of Spring, our thoughts turn upward and outward. It’s natural to ponder such questions as how the Universe came into existence, how life began, and whether we are alone. Modern astronomy is increasingly in the news, and in this course we’ll come to an understanding of often confusing concepts such as brown dwarfs, red giants, black holes, and dark matter.  We’ll also have a chance to learn some of the constellations of the seasons, see Venus, Mars and the moons of Jupiter through a telescope, learn about the Orion and the “Seven Sisters”, and construct a model of the Solar System that you can keep in your pocket!

  

One of our meetings will be at a local observatory; there we will be able to use a large telescope to learn about the sky first-hand.

  

No math or previous science background required - just an ethusiasm to get to know what's around you!!

     

8 Tuesdays 8:00 – 9:30 PM

   

Runs January 20 - March 10, 2015.

      


 

        

January Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

         

  •      

  • 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.

        

        

    Thursday, January 8th, 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: Visual Observing of Variable Stars - an Addict's Story

    Glenn Chaple

    Glenn will describe how he got involved in visual variable star work, provide a basic background on the nature of variable stars, include pointers on techniques for observing variable stars, and finish with a list of resources.   

          

          

    Thursday, January 15th, 2015, 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:

    Science Unshackled: How Obscure, Abstract, Seemingly Useless Scientific Research Turned Out to Be the Basis for Modern Life

    C. Renee James

    Fans of the TV show Connections know that the path from discovery to practical use can be a long and winding one, with surprises along the way. That's the theme of C. Renee James' new book, which reveals how obscure studies of natural phenomena - from poisonous cone snails to exploding black holes - led to unexpected benefits. Science Unshackled brings both science and scientists to life and shows how simple curiosity can result in life-changing breakthroughs. C. Renee James is a professor of physics at Sam Houston State University and author of Seven Wonders of the Universe That You Probably Took for Granted.

           

        

    Thursday, February 12th, 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: TBA

  •    

        

    Thursday, February 19th, 2015, 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: Sniffing the Air of Alien Earths, Sarah Rugheimer.

    Are we alone in the universe? We've found hundreds of planets orbiting distant stars, including several dozen in their star's habitable zone. But do any of them host life? To find out, we'll need to look for telltale molecules like oxygen or methane. The next generation of telescopes may answer this question when they take their first "sniffs" of alien air. Sarah Rugheimer is a 2014 Harvard Horizon Scholar and member of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.

       

         
          

    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 January/February 2015

        

         
    Current Night Sky: At A Glance

          

    Phases of the Moon:

          

    Full Moon

    February  3

    6:09 PM EST

    Last Quarter Moon

    February 11

    10:50 PM EST

    New Moon

    February 18

    6:47 PM EST

    First Quarter

    February 25

    12:14 PM EST

        

                      

    The Moon & Planets:

      

     

    Planet Visibility:

        

    In Evening (after sunset):

         Neptune, in W    

        Venus, in W

        Mars, in W

        Uranus, in SW

     

     At Midnight:

        Jupiter, in S

     

     In Morning (before sunrise):

         Jupiter, in W

        Saturn, in S

         Mercury, in SE 

     

    Comets:

     

    •      Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy will be well placed for viewing in the Northern Hemisphere, and may become bright enough to be an easy naked-eye object. (See our “What’s New” page for more.)
      •    

       

    Meteors:

     

         There no major meteor showers in February.

      
      

         
     

     

    Earth reaches perihelion – its closest (yes, closest!) approach to the Sun – at 2:00 AM EST on January 4th.  The Earth is then 91,406,673 miles (147,104,781 km) from our star. The winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the summer in the Southern Hemisphere are caused by the Earth’s tilt on its axis,

    not by its distance from the Sun.

           

            

           

     
                

    An hour after sunset on the 23rd, there is a line-up of planetary bodies. Mercury and Venus skirt the horizon, while Mars and the thin crescent Moon appear to their upper left. Observers with telescopes may be able to see Neptune and Uranus, as well.

    (January 23, 2015: 5:46 PM EST; looking SW)

               

           
        
     
             

    On January 24th, there is a rare triple shadow transit on Jupiter. Between 1:27 AM EST and 1:52 AM EST, the moons Europa, Callisto, and Io are simultaneously casting their shadows on Jupiter, which appear as tiny but distinct black dots on the planet’s cloudtops.

     

    For a short time afterwards – from 2:08 AM to 2:12 AM – all three of the moons themselves will be transiting the disk, but they will be more difficult to see as their colors don’t offer much contrast against the cloudtops.

     

    Due to orbital resonances among Jupiter’s four large moons, it is never possible to see a quadruple transit or quadruple shadow transit.

    (January 24, 2015: 1:40 AM EST)

     

       

           


    A Schedule of Events: January 2015

        

    Jan. 3 Sat. 7:00 PM EST Pluto @ solar conjunction
    Jan. 3 Sat. 9:00 PM EST Quadrantid meteors peak
    Jan. 4 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Earth @ perihelion (0.98328 AU / 147.1 million km)
    Jan. 4 Sun. 7:14 AM EST Latest sunrise (Boston)
    Jan. 4 Sun. 11:53 PM EST Full Moon ("Wolf Moon")
    Jan. 5 Mon. 6:42 AM EST Latest beginning of morning civil twilight
    Jan. 6 Tue. 6:07 AM EST Latest beginning of morning nautical twilight
    Jan. 6 Tue. 6:20 AM EST SpaceX llaunches rocket w/ reuseable booster
    Jan. 7 Wed. 5:33 AM EST Latest beginning of morning astronomical twilight
    Jan. 7 Wed.   Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) nearest Earth (0.47 AU / 70 million km)
    Jan. 8 Thur. 3:00 AM EST Moon passes 5° S of Jupiter
    Jan. 9 Fri. 1:18 PM EST Moon @ apogee (405,408 km / 251,909 miles)
    Jan. 9 Fri. 8:15 PM EST - 10:06 PM EST Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Europa, Io)
    Jan. 10 Sat. 5::41 AM EST - 5:46 AM EST ISS makes 1st of two brightest passes (-3.4)
    Jan. 10 Sat. 8:00 PM EST Venus 40' W of Mercury in evening sky
    Jan. 11 Sun. 3:00 AM EST Winter Solstice in Northern Hemisphere of Mars
    Jan. 12 Mon. 10:33 AM EST Moon @ ascending node
    Jan. 13 Tue. 4:46 AM EST Last Quarter Moon
    Jan. 14 Wed. 3:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest elongation east (19°)
    Jan. 16 Fri. 7:00 AM EST Moon 1.9° N of Saturn
    Jan. 16 Fri. 10:53 PM EST - 11:58 PM EST Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Europa, Io)
    Jan. 18 Sun. 9:31 PM - 9:37 PM EST Ganymede occults Europa ("mutual event")
    Jan. 19 Mon. 4:00 PM EST Mars 0.2° SSE (15' to lower left) of Neptune
    Jan. 19 Mon. 9:00 PM Sun enters Capricornus
    Jan. 20 Tue. 8:14 AM EST New Moon
    Jan. 21 Wed. 1:00 PM EST Moon 3° N of Mercury
    Jan. 21 Wed. 3:07 PM EST Moon @ perigee (359,645 km / 223,473 miles)
    Jan. 21 Wed. 4:00 PM EST Mercury @ perihelion (0.3875 AU / 57.97 million km)
    Jan. 21 Thur. 9:00 PM EST Moon 5° NNW of Venus
    Jan. 22 Thur. 8:00 PM EST Moon 4° NNW of Neptune
    Jan. 22 Thur. 8:00 PM EST Moon, Mars, and Neptune within a circle 4.1° across
    Jan. 22 Thur. 10:00 PM EST Moon 4° NNW of Mars
    Jan. 24 Sat. 12:41 AM EST - 12:59 AM EST Io passes into Callisto's shadow ("mutual event")
    Jan. 24 Sat. 1:27 AM EST - 1:52 AM EST Triple shadow transit on Jupiter
    Jan. 24 Sat. 2:08 AM EST - 2:12 AM EST Triple Moon transit on Jupiter
    Jan. 25 Sun. 5:23 AM EST Moon @ descending node
    Jan. 25 Sun. 5:37 AM EST - 5:41 AM EST ISS makes 2nd of 2 brightest passes (-3.4)
    Jan. 25 Sun. 7:00 AM EST Moon 0.6° NNW of Uranus
    Jan. 26 Mon.   Dawn spacecraft: "better than Hubble" images of Ceres
    Jan. 26 Mon. 12:13 AM EST - 12:18 AM EST Ganymede occults Europa ("mutual event")
    Jan. 26 Mon. 11:00 AM EST NEO 2004 BL86 closest approach (1.2 million km)
    Jan. 26 Mon. 8:00 PM EST NEO 2004 BL86 begins brightest period
    Jan. 26 Mon. 11:48 PM EST First Quarter Moon
    Jan. 27 Tue.   NEO 2004 BL86 ends brightest period
    Jan. 29   6:00 PM EST Asteroid Juno @ opposition (Mag. 8.1)
    Jan. 29 Thur. 10:00 PM EST Comet C/2014 (Lovejoy) @ perihelion (1.29 AU / 193 million km)
    Jan. 30 Fri. 9:00 AM EST Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    Feb. 1 Sun. 6:00 PM EST Venus 48' to SSE of Neptune
    Feb. 3 Tue. 6:09 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Snow Moon")
    Feb. 4 Wed. 1:00 AM EST Moon 5.0° SSW of Jupiter
    Feb. 6 Fri. 1:26 AM EST Moon @ apogee (406,150 km / 252,370 mi)
    Feb. 6 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Jupiter @ closest approach (650,000,000 km)
    Feb. 6 Fri. 1:00 PM EST Jupiter @ opposition (mag. -2.6, 45.4" across)
    Feb. 11 Wed. 10:50 PM EST Last Quarter Moon
    Feb. 12 Thur. 7:00 PM EST Moon 2.1° N of Saturn
    Feb. 16 Mon. 8:00 PM EST Sun enters boundaries of Aquarius
    Feb. 16 Mon. 11:00 PM EST Moon 3.6° NNW of Mercury
    Feb. 18 Wed.   85th Anniversary: Discovery of Pluto (1930)
    Feb. 18 Wed. 6:47 PM EST New Moon
    Feb. 19 Thur. 2:28 AM EST Moon @ perigee (359,994 km / 221,826 mi)
    Feb. 20 Fri. 7:00 PM EST Moon 1.9° NNW of Venus
    Feb. 20 Fri. 7:00 PM EST Moon, Venus, & Mars within circle 1.94° across
    Feb. 20 Fri. 8:00 PM EST Moon 1.4° NNW of Mars
    Feb. 21 Sat. 5:56 PM EST Dark limb of Moon occults Uranus (0:33 mins. after sunset, alt. 30°)
    Feb. 21 Sat. 6:54 PM EST Uranus emerges from Moon's bright limb (1:30 after sunset, alt. 21°)
    Feb. 22 Sun. 1:00 AM EST Venus 0.41° SSE of Mars
    Feb. 23 Mon. 9:00 AM EST Satun @ west quadrature
    Feb. 24 Tue. 11:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest elongation (27° W)
    Feb. 25 Wed. 12:14 PM EST First Quarter Moon
    Feb. 26 Thur. 12;00 AM EST Neptune @ solar conjunction

         

       

       

     


        
    A Preview of 2015 Events
     
    Mar. 4 Venus 10' above Uranus in evening sky
    Mar. 6 Dawn orbiter "captured" into orbit around 1 Ceres
    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. 4 Moon occults Aldebaran
    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. 26 Moon occults Aldebaran
    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
         

    Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) was discovered last August by Australian amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy. (In fact, this was his fifth comet discovery - a testament to the fact that, even in these days of robotic telescopes and automated sky surveys, amateurs can still make important contributions.) When the comet was discovered, it was faint - magnitude 15 - and deep in the southern celestial hemisphere. 

     

     

     
          

       

     
       
                   
    Comet Lovejoy (or "Q2," as it is often referred to) will be high in the evening sky on January nights. (Here it is in the SSW, and over 60° above the horizon -
    almost two-thirds of the way to the zenith!)  And while we can predict the trajectory of a comet with great precision, we can - at best - only make educated guesses on how bright it will become. (January 14, 2015: 8:30 pm EST, as seen from Boston, MA).
       
            
          
      
    January 2015 Star Chart
       
         
         
        
        January 15, 2015, 9:00 PM EST