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.



A New Fall Astronomy Course!


Meet the Universe!


We sit around our campfires as the ancients did, and ponder. How did the Universe come into existence? How did life begin? Are we alone? But now we see a Universe around us containing black holes, dark matter, and expanding space. What does it all mean? In this course we’ll sit around our own campfire, and try to piece together the stories that modern astronomy is teaching us.  


One meeting will be at a local observatory.


No math or science background required!


Meets at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education


8 Tuesdays, 7:45-9:15. Runs Sep. 27 - Nov. 15


For more info:




          August Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  



July 29 - Saturday, August 6, 2016

Summer Star Party
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Plainfield, MA



Sunday, July 31 - Saturday, August 6, 2016

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




Thursday, August 4 - Sunday, August 7, 2016

Springfield, VT

Featured speaker: Fred Espenak ("Mr. Eclipse") - The Great North American Eclipse of 2017.

A total eclipse of the sun will occur over a great swath of North America on August 21, 2017. Fred Espenak, a well known NASA Astrophysicist called Mr. Eclipse, will deliver our keynote address highlighting all aspects of this much anticpated solar alignment. Fred is an expert astrophotographer and will also give us information on the latest techniques to capture this event. Don't miss this timely talk direct from this important astrophysicist.

There will also be other talks, workshops, and numerous events, for both beginners and advanced amateurs, throughout the weekend.



Saturday, August 20th, 2016, at 8:30 PM EDT

Arlington Astronomy Nights

The Moon is below the horizon at dusk, keeping the sky as dark as we get in Arlington.  We'll look for some "deep sky" objects like star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas if we can spot them.  Jupiter is now setting at dusk, and Saturn and Mars have moved to the West, heading towards the same fate as the Earth continues its path around the Sun towards Autumn.     



Friday, August 26 - Saturday, August 27, 2016

Maine Star Party
Cobscook Bay State Park, Edmunds, Maine
Maine State Star Party




Plus (ongoing):  




Boston University

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




Fridays (every Friday, 8:30 PM)

Astronomy After Hours

Museum of Science, Boston, MA




The Sky Report for the Month of August 2016


Current Night Sky: At A Glance


            Phases of the Moon:


New Moon

       August 2

       4:45 PM EDT

First Quarter

August 10

2:21 PM EDT

Full Moon

August 18

5:27 AM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

August 24

11:41 PM EDT





The Moon & Planets:



Planet Visibility:


In Evening (after sunset):

    Venus, in W

    Mercury, in  W

    Jupiter, in W

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in S

    Neptune, in E 



 At Midnight:

    Mars, in W

    Saturn, in W


 In Morning (before sunrise):

  •     Neptune, in SW 

  •     Uranus, in S





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


      •      The famous Perseid meteors peak on August 12th. Once the waxing gibbous Moon sets around 1 AM local time, viewing conditions should be excellent. There are some predictions that put the expected rate at up to 150 meteors per hour – 50% higher than in an average yearhe Southern Delta Aquariids peak on the night of July 29/30, but it is not a strong shower in the Northern Hemisphere; observers can expect to see about 8-10 meteors per hour.





    On the evening of August 24th, Mars, Saturn, and Antares line up. The alignment is only apparent from our vantage point.

    Mars is just 79.5 million miles (or 7 “light-minutes”) away. Saturn is 917 million miles (or 82 “light-minutes”) distant.

    Antares is a red supergiant star at a distance of 550 light-years!

    (August 24, 2016, 10:00 PM EDT).





    On August 27, Venus and Jupiter are only 0.07°, or 4.2 arc-minutes, apart. This is about 1/7 the width of the Full Moon!

    This is the closest “appulse” – or close approach of two planets to each other - in 2016. As seen here, Venus will appear to be closer to Jupiter

    than one of Jupiter’s large moons: Callisto. Of course, the closeness is only apparent from our perspective here on Earth; in three-dimensional space,

    Venus is only 144 million miles away from us, while Jupiter is 592 million miles distant.

    (August 27, 2016, 7:00 PM EDT).





    On the evening of the 28th, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter all fit into a circle less than 6° in diameter (here, drawn in yellow). By strict definition,
    this arrangement just misses being qualified as a planetary “trio” – which requires all three objects to fit into a 5° circle!
    All three objects set quickly after the Sun, so try to find a location that gives you a view of the horizon toward the west.
    (August 28, 2016, 7:30 PM EDT).




              A Shower of “Stars”    



    This year, the Perseid meteors are due to peak on the night of August 12, although activity starts to ramp up around July 17th and will wind down by about August 24th. Bright moonlight can drown out fainter meteors, but on the 12th, the waxing gibbous Moon will set by 12:45 AM local time – just about the time when the Perseids start to become most active.


    This shower, like all annual meteor showers, is composed of small particles of interplanetary debris; typically, they 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.


    Swift-Tuttle travels in a 133-year orbit around the Sun, and leaves a debris stream with every passage near Earth. Over time, some of these streams have weakened and dispersed. Even so, in most years the Perseids can dependably produce rates of 60 – 100 meteors per hour – at least as seen from dark-sky sites. But sometimes these streams can be reinvigorated by a gravitational influence of the massive planet Jupiter. Some computer models predict that this gravitational “focusing” may raise the peak rate of the Perseids this year to 150 or even 200 meteors per hour!


    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.




    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!)
    (Courtesy: Sky & Telescope)


    The best way to observe the meteors is from a comfortable lawn chair; the more of the sky you can see, the better. Don’t forget to bring some warm blankets and a thermos of soup or hot chocolate; even in the summer, it can get very cold at night. Thus fortified, lay back and enjoy the show.



    A Schedule of Events - August / September 2016
    Aug. 2 Tue. 4:45 PM EDT New Moon
    Aug. 4 Thur. 2:00 AM EDT Moon 3° S of Venus
    Aug. 4 Thur. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 0.6° S of Mercury
    Aug. 6 Sat. 12:00 AM EDT Moon 0.2° of Jupiter
    Aug. 9 Tue. 8:05 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (404,262 km / 251,197 mi)
    Aug. 10 Wed. 4:00 AM EDT Sun enters Leo
    Aug. 10 Wed. 2:21 PM EDT First Quarter  Moon
    Aug. 11 Thur. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 8° N of Mars
    Aug. 12 Fri. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 4° N of Saturn
    Aug. 12 Fri. 8:40 AM EDT Perseid meteors peak
    Aug. 12 Fri. 8:57 PM - 9:03 PM EDT Brightest ISS Pass in August (mag. -3.3)
    Aug. 16 Tue. 5:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27° W); Evening "Star"
    Aug. 18 Thur. 5:27 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Sturgeon Moon")
    Aug. 19 Fri. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 1.1° N of Neptune
    Aug. 21 Sun. 9:19 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (367,050 km / 228,074 mi)
    Aug. 22 Mon. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    Aug. 24 Wed. 11:41 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Aug. 25 Thur. 2:00 PM EDT Mars 4° S of Saturn
    Aug. 27 Sat. 8:51 AM EDT Juno spacecraft @ perijove 1 - closest approach of mission (4,200 km / 2,600 mi)
    Aug. 27 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Venus 0.07° (4.2') N of Jupiter (closest appulse this year)
    Aug. 28 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury, Venus, Jupiter within circle 5.07° in diameter
    Aug. 28 Sun. 4:00 PM EDT Mercury 5° S of Venus
    Sept. 1 Thur. 2:13 AM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse begins (Atlantic, Equatorial Africa, Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 3:17 AM EDT Full Annular Solar Eclipse begins
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:01 AM EDT Maximum Annular Solar Eclipse (southern Tanzania)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:03 AM EDT New Moon
    Sept. 1 Thur. 6:55 AM EDT Full Annular Solar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 1 Thur. 8:00 AM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 2 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 2 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Moon, Mercury, and Jupiter within circle 5.75° in diameter
    Sept. 2 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 6° N of Mercury
    Sept. 2 Fri. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 0.4° N of Jupiter
    Sept. 3 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 1.1° N of Venus
    Sept. 6 Tue. 2:45 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,054 km / 251,689 mi)
    Sept. 8 Thur.   Sun's N pole most inclined toward Earth (7.25°)
    Sept. 8 Thurs. 5:00 PM EDT Moon 4° N of Saturn
    Sept. 8 Thur. 7:05 PM EDT Launch window opens for OSIRIS-REx Sample Return to asteroid Bennu
    Sept. 8 Thur. 8:30 PM EDT 50th Anniversary of 1st Star Trek episode on TV
    Sept. 9 Fri. 7:49 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Sept. 9 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 8° N of Mars
    Sept. 12 Mon. 8:00 PM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    Sept. 15 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 1.2° N of Neptune
    Sept. 16 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Sun enters Virgo
    Sept. 16 Fri. 12:55 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse begins (Eastern Hemisphere)
    Sept. 16 Fri. 2:54 PM EDT Maximum Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (northern Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 16 Fri. 3:05 PM EDT Full Moon ("Harvest Moon')
    Sept. 16 Fri. 4:54 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 17 Sat. 7:00 PM EDT Venus 3° N of Spica
    Sept. 18 Sun. 1:00 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (361,896 km / 224,872 mi)
    Sept. 18 Sun. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    Sept. 21 Wed.   H.G. Wells' 150th birthday
    Sept. 22 Thurs. 10:21 AM EDT September (Fall) Equinox
    Sept. 23 Fri. 5:56 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Sept. 26 Mon. 3:00 AM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction
    Sept. 28 Wed. 4:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18°) (Morning "Star")
    Sept. 29 Thur. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 0.7° S of Mercury
    Sept. 30 Fri.   Kepler end of Extended Mission
    Sept. 30 Fri. 8:11 PM EDT New Moon


       (bold = cool or important)




    An Overview of Major 2016 Astronomical Events

    Jan. 2 Sat. 6:00 PM EST Earth @ perihelion (0.98330 AU)
    Jan. 3 Sun. 7:13 AM EST Latest sunrise
    Jan. 4 Mon. 3:00 AM EST Quadrantid meteors
    Jan. 19 Tue. 9:35 PM EST - 10:49 PM Moon occults Aldebaran
    Feb. 6 Sat. 0:00 (midnight) EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (26° W); Morning "Star"
    Mar. 8 Tue. 5:00 AM EST Jupiter @ opposition
    Mar. 8 Tue. 7:17 PM EST - 10:38 PM EST Total Solar Eclipse (Pacific, SE Asia)
    Mar. 13 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Daylight Saving Time begins
    Mar. 14 Mon.   ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter / Schiaparelli EDL launch
    Mar. 19 Sat. 00:30 AM EST March Equinox
    Mar. 23 Wed. 5:37 AM EDT - 9:57 AM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
    Apr. 10 Sun. 6:52 PM EDT - 7:56 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime, late afternoon)
    Apr. 18 Mon. 8:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (20° W); Evening "Star"
    May 5 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks
    May 9 Mon. 7:12 AM EDT - 2:42 PM EDT Transit of Mercury
    May 22 Sun. 7:00 AM EDT Mars @ opposition
    May 30 Mon. 4:00 PM EDT Mars @ closest approach
    June 3 Fri. 2:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
    June 4 Sat. 3:41 PM EDT - 4:47 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime, close to Sun)
    June 5 Sun. 5:00 AM  EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24° W); Morning "Star"
    June 6 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT Venus @ superior conjunction
    June 20 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT June Solstice
    June 26 Sun. 8:25 PM EDT Latest sunset
    July 4 Mon. 12:00 PM EDT Earth @ aphelion (1.01675 AU)
    July 4 Mon. 10:30 PM EDT (ERT) Juno Jupiter orbit insertion
    July 7 Thur. 12:00 PM EDT Pluto @ opposition
    July 23 Sat. 12:07 AM EDT - 1:01 AM EDT Moon occults Neptune
    July 29 Fri. 6:21 AM EDT - 7:03 AM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime)
    Aug. 12 Fri. 11:30 AM EDT Perseid meteors peak (ZHR 150), favoring central Pacific
    Aug. 16 Tue. 2:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27° W); Evening "Star"
    Aug. 27 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Venus passes 4' from Jupiter (closest naked-eye planet conjunction)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:00 AM EDT Annular Solar Eclipse (Sothern Africa, Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 2 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 8 Thur. 3:00 PM EDT OSIRIS-Rex sample-return mission to asteroid Bennu launched
    Sept. 22 Thur. 10:21 AM EDT September Equinox
    Sept. 28 Wed. 3:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18° W); Morning "Star"
    Sept. 30 Fri.   Rosetta mission slow-mootion crash landing on Comet 67P.
    Oct. 15 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Uranus @ opposition
    Oct. 16 Sun.   ExoMars TGO/Schiaparelli separation
    Oct. 19 Wed.   ExoMars TGO Mars orbit insertion
    Oct. 19 Wed.   ExoMars Schiaparelli Mars landing
    Oct. 19 Wed. 1:50 AM EDT - 2:54 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran
    Oct. 20 Thur. 9:00 PM EDT Ceres @ opposition
    Nov. 6 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time ends
    Nov. 17 Thur. 6:00 AM EST Leonid meteroids
    Dec. 6 Tue. 11:18 PM EST - 12:32 AM EST Moon occults Neptune
    Dec. 10 Sat. 11:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (21° W); Evening "Star"
    Dec. 13 Tue. 7:00 PM EST Geminid meteors
    Dec. 21 Wed. 5:44 AM EST December Solstice
    Dec. 22 Thur. 4:00 AM EST Ursid meteors




    August 15, 2016



     August 15, 2016, 10:00 PM EDT