Boston

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.


















       

   


 

    

Astronomy Class Beginning in the Fall!

 

Meet the Uniiverse

   

Taught by Dan Winchell and John Sheff

    

When we look up at the night sky, what do we see? Are we alone in the universe? Will humans someday colonize the moon, Mars or even other solar systems? Come learn more about astronomy and this exciting frontier of discovery. We’ll talk about black holes, the cosmic microwave background, and the search for life in the Universe. You’ll get a chance to use a large telescope at a real observatory and learn how to navigate the night sky on your own.

     

No math or science experience required! Bring your questions!

    

Meets 8 Tuesdays (September 22 - November 10), 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM,, at Cambridge Center for Adult Education,

   

To register orr for more information, visit the CCAE website.

     


 

              

A Once-in-a-LifetimeSpecial:

      

Plutopalooza!

      

 A Family-Frendly Event

        

Click Here to View the Presentation

           

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM.

    

 

For 9½ years, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been coasting towards a fateful encounter with Pluto and its moons. On July 14th, it will arrive! After a journey of nearly a decade, its Close Encounter phase will last just 48 hours! During the busiest hours of the flyby - including the moment of closest approach - the spacecraft will be too busy to communicate with Earth as it soaks up all the data it can during its mad dash through the Pluto system. Once it resumes transmitting, it will still take an additional four hours for its signals, travelling at the speed of light, to reach Earth!

 

But a lot could go wrong. At the speed it’s moving, it wouldn’t take much of a high-speed impact with any undiscovered moon, possible ring, or other unseen debris to disable or destroy the spacecraft just as it’s making its closest approach to the planet. Will New Horizons survive long enough to “Phone Home” and send us its treasure trove of images and measurements?

 

We’ll know the minute that NASA does! We’ll be presenting a Live NASA TV broadcast from the Mission Operations Center, including interviews, videos, and status updates, right up until the receipt of the spacecraft’s “I survived” chirp (expected at 9:09 PM)!

 

Afterwards, if it’s clear, we’ll have telescopes on the roof aimed at Pluto’s location in the sky (plus other targets of opportunity). Pluto is too faint to be visible even in our telescopes, but it’s possible a few photons reflected by the planet may hit our retinas! It should all be great fun, as we’ll have a raffle, photo ops in front of an artistic Pluto landscape, 3-D-Printed models of New Horizons, and who knows what else!   

 

This will probably be the last time in our lives that we will be seeing a “New World” up close for the very first time. Don’t miss your chance!

 

Please note: Tickets and reservations are neither required nor accepted. As with all of our events, admission will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Once our auditorium and overflow rooms are full, there will be no further admission. In addition, in the interests of fairness to people who will have waited in line, there will be no “saving of seats” for those who cannot be present when the doors are opened. 

 

For more information, including accessibility, or to sign up for the events mailing list, call the Public Affairs Office, (617) 495-7461, or email pubaffairs@cfa.harvard.edu. Please request sign-language interpretation at least 2 weeks before the event..

 

Entrance is at the west of the CfA complex, near Madison Street and large parking lot. The CfA is easily reached by public transportation. From the Harvard MBTA Station (Red Line), take any bus or trackless trolley going west on Concord Avenue (Arlmont Village and Belmont Center buses, Huron Avenue trolleys) and get off at "Observatory Hill."

 

If you arrive by car, parking is free for the duration of the event (yes, you can park even where the signs say "Parking by Permit Only").

     


      

 August / September Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

                   

 

      

Monday, August 3rd - Friday, August 7th, 2015 (9 AM - 5 PM)

Sally Ride Space Camp

MIT

Cambridge, MA

Our Partners at Education Unlimited offer Sally Ride Science Camps, innovative hands-on camps for girls entering 4th - 9th grades.

These unique camps provide girls an opportunity to explore science, technology, and engineering while having fun on a college campus.

From the Education Unlimited website:

Sally Ride Science Camps encourage girls’ interests in science by providing hands-on learning in an environment that is designed to be supportive, enriching, and – most importantly – fun! These unique overnight camps provide girls an opportunity to explore science, technology, and engineering through experiments and observations while staying on a university campus.

      

     

Wednesday, August 5th - Friday, August 14th, 2015

Globe at Night

The Globe at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone.  

  

    
Friday, August 7th - Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Summer Star Party
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Plainfield, MA

Observing & Camping Vacation, hosted by the Rockland Astronomy Club
RAC holds the longest and most exciting star party, geared to both the serious observer, imager, and the whole family. Our location in the Berkshires is known for its pristine dark skies, and gorgeous arching Milky Way. 

   

     

Sat, August 8, 8pm – 10pm
Halibut Point Star Party
Gloucester Area Astronomical Society
WhereHalibut Point State Park, Rockport, MA 01966, United States (map)
Description: One of our annual public Star Parties at Halibut Point State Park. We'll have telescopes set up at the Visitor Center from 8 to 10pm for your viewing pleasure. Free, of course.

    

   
Thursday, August 13th - Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Stellafane
Springfield, VT

Every year in the dark of a mid-summer new Moon, amateur astronomers and  telescope makers travel great distances to gather on a beautuful rural hilltop in Springfield, VT. This is the Stellafane Convention, the oldest and one of the largest assemblies of night sky enthusiasts. It has been hosted here at the birtthplace of American amateur telescope making by the Springfield Telescope Makers (STM)  since 1926.
Keynote Speaker: Alan Stern, Principal Investigator for the New Horizons Pluto mission.

   

        

Sunday, August 16th - Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Medomak Astronomy Retreat
Washington, Maine
hosted by Kelly Beatty and Bruce Berger.

Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine, has some of the darkest skies in the Northeast, with a limiting visual magnitude of 6.3 (SQM value: 21.3 MPSAS). It's an IDA-compliant property that takes an active role in promoting the benefits of dark skies. Medomak's family camp has hosted an astronomy-themed vacation week for 10 years, and availability routinely sells out many months in advance.
 

     

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015, 8:15l PM. 

Arlington Astronomy Night
Robbins Farm Park
Arlington, MA

This summer there will be a series of Astronomy Nights at Robbins Farm Park. Each night we'll have at least one telescope out to view objects in the night sky. This summer we'll have a great display of planets all summer long.  There'll be plenty to see -- the sky is the limit! The events are totally informal and fun for all ages.
On this night - with the moon partially lit - it is a great time to see the craters and rough terrain of the Moon in a telescope or even through binoculars.  Look for spots around the light/dark line (called the terminator) where you can see shadows cast by peaks on the lunar surface. Saturn is very close to the moon tonight.

    

    

Friday, August 28 - Saturday, August 29, 2015

Maine State Star Party

Cobscook Bay State Park, Edmunds, Maine

Hosted by the Downeast Amateur Astronomers www.downeastaa.com

Washington County’s own Astronomy Club

Friday August 28 (can arrive anytime after 1 p.m.) Set up camping gear, telescope

Friday evening observing if clear 

Saturday August 29 Solar observing throughout the day (weather permitting) with Marc Fisher, Maine’s own solar astronomer will have his complete solar set up

12:00 p.m Noon. Astronomy Jeopardy (REVISED) (winner will get prize donated by Downeast Amateur Astronomers)

2:00 p.m. (Guest Speaker)

PhD candidate Lauren Woolsey from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics:

When astronomers talk about the mysteries of the universe, it is common to think about some distant galaxy or the nature of dark energy. However, there are still many fundamental mysteries about the nearest star to Earth: the Sun! The long days of summer present a great time to talk about these unanswered questions about the Sun. We'll also see how this star compares to others in the galaxy, discuss the connection between the Sun and the Earth, and look at magnificently detailed observations of the Sun's surface and atmosphere”.

4:00 pm (Guest Speaker)

John Stetson, Maine astronomer and teacher will talk on

the Transit of Venus 2012, outreach at the L.C. Bates Museum, measuring the speed of solar flares, observing flares that result in CMEs and auroral activity in Maine, etc.

7:00 p.m. (Guest Speaker)

Marc Fisher, Maine’s own solar astronomer will talk on his automated observatory he operates from his back yard!!!

8:00 p.m. (Guest Speaker)

Paul Butler, Maine astronomer will talk on Astrophotography with emphasis on Moon and Planet shots using CCD’s.  as well as using Barlow lenses, Neutral Density Filters, Moon light filters, Tracking and Drive Frequency, Focusing Tools and Editing the Pictures of the Moon and Planets

Saturday evening observing! (Weather permitting)

For more info, contact Charlie Sawyer at 207-214-1846 or e-mail at csawyer7@roadrunner.com

Water fountain near by as well as Park toilets. Showers also available in park. Each individual/party bring your own food. There is a small grocery store about 4 miles west on Rt. 1

Bring your scope

And bring your tent

We all know

It’s time well spent

 

 

Friday, September 4 - Sunday, 6, 2015

Arunah Hill Days
Cummington, MA
http://www.arunah.org/events/ahd.htm

 

 

Thursday, September 10, 2015 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Amateur Telesciope Makers of Boston

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Cambrridge, MA

http://www.atmob.org

   

  

Thursday, September 10 - Monday, September 14, 2015

Acadia Night Sky Festival
Acadia National Park, ME
http://www.acadianightskyfestival.com/

 

 

Friday, September 11 - Sunday, September 13, 2015  

Connecticut Star Party
Astronomical Society of New Haven
September 11 - 13, 2015
Ashford, CT
http://www.asnh.org 

 

 

Thursday, September 17, 2015 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM

Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Cambridge, MA

Topic and Speaker:  Exploding Stars, w/ Dan Milisavljevvic

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/publicevents

   

 

Friday September 18, 2015

 Annual Starfest Starparty
Astronomical Society of Northern New England
Kennebunk, ME
http://www.asnne.org

 

 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston Annual Club Picnic  

All Members and their Families are invited
Saturday, September 19th is the date of this year’s Annual Club Picnic at the Clubhouse in Westford, start time 3:00 P.M. Enjoy a day with good food and lots of astronomy talk with other ATMoB members.
Please bring a favorite dish to share - salad, main dish, dessert, soup, appetizer, fancy bread,... A serving utensil would be helpful. We will provide hamburgers, drinks, potato chips, ketchup, mustard, coffee, paper goods and plastic cutlery.
Club members, their families and friends are invited. There will be astronomy activities for kids of all ages. Planned activities are a tour of the clubhouse facilities, a demonstration of mirror grinding, and the ever popular walk “up the hill”, stopping along the way to talk about the MIT Haystack Observatory facility.
Share your astronomy stories and experiences. Bring any astrophotography you would like to show. There will be daytime H-alpha and white light solar viewing and night sky observing after sunset (all, weather permitting). The picnic is on rain or shine. Bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on. Bring your favorite suntan lotion and mosquito repellent. Observing will continue until Midnight if the sky is clear, so bring your telescope and your observing clothing and gear. The club's scopes will be open too.
Directions to the clubhouse can be found on the last page of Star Fields and at the club website www.atmob.org.
Questions - Email Eileen Myers at starleen@charter.net
Don't miss the fun!

http://www.atmob.org

 

 

    

Plus:  

  

Tuesdays (beginning March 31)

Clay Center Observatory

Dexter Southfield School

Brookline, MA

Brookline, MA

617-454-2795 (appoint. required)

http://www.dextersouthfield.org/Page/ABOUT/Clay-Center/Public-Telescope-Nights

        

Wednesdays:

Boston University

Boston, MA.
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM. 

617-353-2630
http://www.bu.edu/astronomy/events/public-open-night-at-the-observatory/  

   

Fridays (beginning March 13): 

Museum of Science  

Boston, MA 

"Astronomy after Hours" public viewing at Guilliland Observatory 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM.

617-589-0267 

http://www.mos.org/public-events/astronomy-after-hours

   

 

The Sky Report for the Month of August 2015

        

               

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

         

Phases of the Moon:

   

       

Last Quarter Moon

August 6

10:03 PM EDT

New Moon

August 14

10:53 AM EDT

First Quarter

August 22

3:31 PM EDT

Full Moon

August 29

2:53 PM EDT

     

              

The Moon & Planets:

  

 

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Venus, in W

    Jupiter, in W

    Mercury, in W

    Saturn, SW

    Neptune, in E 

 

 At Midnight:

    Saturn, in SW

    Neptune, in SE

    Uranus, in E

 

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Neptune, in SW

    Uranus, in S

    Mars, in E 

    Venus, in E 

 

Comets:

  •    
  •      There are no comets visible brighter than magnitude 8.
    •  

Meteors:

 

     The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of August 12/13. Conditions are ideal. (See "A Good Year for The Perseids" below.)


  

             

                  

              

 

           

   Starting around August 11, you can look for the “heliacal rising” of Sirius. That is when seasonal changes first bring the star into visibility shortly before sunrise.

The ancient Egyptians, among others, based their calendar on the heliacal rising of Sirius; the first appearance of the star presaged the flooding of their fields

by the Nile. Depicted above is the scene 25 minutes before sunrise on the 11th. The 26.5-day-old thin crescent Moon is visible, as is the red spark that is Mars.

The fainter stars have already disappeared as dawn approaches, and Procyon and the brighter stars of Orion and Gemini are rapidly fading.

(August 11, 2015, 5:22 AM.)

                        

                

            

                     

    
  August 1, 2015, 8:24 PM EDT August 31, 2015, 6:28 AM EDT

             
Venus undergoes a dramatic change this month, as it passes through Inferior Conjunction – moving almost directly between the Earth and the Sun.
On August 1 (left) it is still visible as an “Evening Star” about 20 minutes after sunset. (Note the sunlight illuminating the planet from the right, or west.) 
The conjunction occurs on August 15, and for about 10 days before and after that date, Venus is too close to the Sun to be visible at all.
By the end of the month, it will have re-emerged as a “Morning Star”, shown here about 20 minutes before sunrise.
This time, it is illuminated from the left, or the east.)  
  
      
                        
 

        

A Good Year for the Perseids

              

This year, the Perseid meteors are due to peak on the night of August 12 - 13. Conditions are almost ideal for viewing the meteors, with the maximum occurring just a day before New Moon. In unfavorable years, moonlight can drown out the fainter meteors, leaving visible only the small fraction bright enough to overcome the mooonlit sky background. This year, that will not be a problem, and the shower should be visible in its full glory. Under such conditions, you may be able to see up to 100 meteors per hour.

   

This shower, like all annual meteor showers, is composed of small particles of interplanetary debris; typically, the particles are no larger than grains of sand. When these particles enter the Earth’s atmosphere at velocities as high as 35 - 40 miles per second (126,000 – 144,000 miles per hour!), they burn up almost instantaneously from friction with air molecules. (The “sensible” part of Earth’s atmosphere is about 100 miles deep, so it is possible that the meteors could make it through in just 2-3 seconds.)  Though it may seem as though the meteors are falling over the neighbor’s house or the building up the street, this is an illusion; most of the trails left by these meteors actually occur altitudes of 50 - 75 miles up.

    

It’s also not completely accurate to imply that the particles are approaching and falling upon a stationary Earth. Actually meteoroids (we call them meteoroids when they are still in space, meteors when we see them burning up in the atmosphere, and meteorites on the infrequent occasions they make it to the ground) exist in the form of streams of debris between the planets. These streams are left over from previous passages of comets through the vicinity - in the case of the Perseids, the passage of the comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. Every year at this time, the Earth plows through this debris stream like a car encountering a swarm of flies at high speed. Because the post-midnight side of the Earth will be hitting the debris directly and at maximum speed, the best time to view the meteors is generally between midnight and dawn.

   

  

    

       

If you imagine tracing the trail of a meteor back, it will appear to have come from the radiant, which - for this shower - lies in the constellation, Perseus.

(Please note: it is extremely unlikely that you will see more than one meteor at a time!)

       

The meteors are named after their “radiant” or apparent place in the sky from which they seem to originate if you trace their paths backwards; in this case, the radiant lies in the constellation Perseus. Though the meteors appear to radiate from Perseus, by the time they appear they can be in almost any part of the sky, The radiant rises in the northeast about 10 PM local time, and gets highest as dawn approaches.

    

 

      

The Perseid meteors are known to leave long and persistent trails.

  

                    



A Schedule of Events: August / September 2015

    

Aug. 2 Sun. 6:03 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (362,139 km / 225,023 mi)
Aug. 2 Sun. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 3° NNW of Neptune
Aug. 5 Wed. 5:00 AM EDT Moon 0.96° SSE of Uranus
Aug. 5 Wed. 5:00 AM EDT Mercury 8° N of Venus
Aug. 6 Thu. 10:03 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
Aug. 7 Fri. 2:00 AM EDT Mercury 0.6° N of Jupiter
Aug. 10 Mon. 10:00 PM EDT Sun enters Leo
Aug. 12 Wed. 10:03 PM EDT Comet 67P (Churyumov-Gerasimenko) @ perihelion (1.24 AU)
Aug. 12 Wed. 11:00 PM EDT Moon 6° S of Mars
Aug. 13 Thu. 4:00 AM EDT Perseid meteors peak (~ 100 meteors / hr)
Aug. 14 Fri. 10:53 AM EDT New Moon
Aug. 15 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 4° SSW of Jupiter
Aug. 15 Sat. 3:00 PM EDT Venus @ inferior conjunction (moves into morning sky)
Aug. 16 Sun. 11:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Mercury
Aug. 17 Mon. 10:33 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,848 km / 252,182 mi)
Aug. 21 Fri. 8:00 PM EDT Saturn @ eastern quadrature
Aug. 22 Sat. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
Aug. 22 Sat. 3:31 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
Aug. 26 Wed. 6:00 PM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction (moves into morning sky)
Aug. 29 Sat. 1:00 AM EDT Venus 9° S of Mars
Aug. 29 Sat. 2:35 PM EDT Full Moon ("Sturgeon Moon")
Aug. 29 Sat. 7:00 PM EDT Moon 3° NNW of Neptune
Aug. 30 Sun. 11:21 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (358,290 km / 222,631 mi)
Sept. 1 Tue. 12:00 AM EDT Neptune @ opposition
Sept. 1 Tue. 12:00 PM EDT Moon 1.1° S of Uranus
Sept. 2 Wed. 2:00 PM EDT Venus 9° SSW of Mars
Sept. 4 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest elongation: 27° east of Sun (evening "star")
Sept. 4/5 Fri./Sat. 11:58 PM EDT - 12:43 AM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran
Sept. 5 Sat. 5:54 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
Sept. 9 Wed.   Sun's north pole most inclined (7.25°) toward Earth
Sept. 10 Thu. 2:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Venus
Sept. 10 Thu. 7:00 PM EDT Moon  5° S of Mars
Sept. 12 Sat. 12:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Jupiter
Sept. 13 Sun. 2:41 AM EDT New Moon
Sept. 13 Sun. 2:41 AM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse (S. Africa)
Sept. 14 Mon.   John Dobson's 100th Birthday (1915)
Sept. 14 Mon. 7:27 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (406,464 km / 252,565 mi) (Most distant of year.)
Sept. 15 Tue. 2:00 AM EDT Moon 5° N of Mercury
Sept. 17 Thur. 3:00 AM EDT Sun enters Virgo
Sept. 18 Fri. 11:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
Sept. 19 Sat.   National Astronomy Day (Fall)
Sept. 19 Sat.   International Observe the Moon Night
Sept. 20 Sun. 5:00 PM EDT Venus @ greatest brilliancy (mag. -4.76)
Sept. 21 Mon. 4:59 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
Sept. 21 Mon. 11:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
Sept. 23 Wed. 4:21 AM EDT September Equinox
Sept. 26 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Neptune
Sept. 27 Sun. 8:12 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse begins
Sept. 27 Sun. 9:07 PM EDT Partial Lunar Eclipse begins
Sept. 27 Sun. 9:46 PM EEDT Moon @ perigee (356,877 km / 221,753 mi) (Nearest of year.)
Sept. 27 Sun. 10:11 PM EDT Lunar Eclipse Totality begins
Sept. 27 Sun. 10:47 PM EDT Maximum Lunar Eclipse
Sept. 27 Sun. 10:50 PM EDT Full Moon ("Harvest Moon")
Sept. 27 Sun. 11:23 PM EDT Lunar Eclipse Totality ends
Sept. 28 Mon. 12:27 AM EDT Partial Lunar Eclipse ends
Sept. 28 Mon. 1:22 AM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse ends
Sept. 28 Mon. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 1.0° S of Uranus
Sept. 28 Mon. 11:00 PM EDT Vesta @ opposition
Sept. 30 Wed. 11:00 AM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction

        

   * bold = cool or important!

   `    `

 


    
A Preview of Remaining 2015 Events
 
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")
   
 
           
August 2015 Star Chart

 

    

       
        August 15, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT