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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.





















   

 "Meet the Universe" Course Being Offered This Spring! 

      

   

"Meet the Universe" at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education

     

Spring Session begins March 31, 2015

          

Every day we get new pictures from spacecraft exploring the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and a comet! More missions are on the way to an asteroid and to Pluto!
Almost weekly, it seems, exotic planets around other stars are announced, and we’re told it’s just a matter of time until Earth-like, habitable planets are discovered.
In this course, we'll talk about it ALL (literally!): black holes, the cosmic microwave background, and the search for life in the Universe.

  

Bonus: you'll get a chance to use a large telescope at a real Observatory!

  

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 March 31 - May 19, 2015.

   

  The trip to a local observatory is tentatively scheduled for April 28, 2015. We plan to meet there at 8:00.

Directions and contact information will be handed out in the prior class.

 

Check back here for weather cancellations.

     

            


 

            

April Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

             

  •                

  • Thursday, April 9th, 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: Uncovering the Chemistry of Earth-like Planets, Li Zeng

    We propose to use evidence from our solar system to understand exoplanets, and in particular, to predict their surface chemistry and thereby the possibility of life. An Earth-like planet, born from the same nebula as its host star, is composed primarily of silicate rocks and an iron-nickel metal core, and depleted in volatile content in a systematic manner. The more volatile (easier to vaporize or dissociate into gas form) an element is in an Earth-like planet, the more depleted the element is compared to its host star. After depletion, an Earth-like planet would go through the process of core formation due to heat from radioactive decay and collisions. Core formation depletes a planet’s rocky mantle of siderophile (iron-loving) elements, in addition to the volatile depletion. After that, Earth-like planets likely accrete some volatile-rich materials, called “late veneer”. The late veneer could be essential to the origins of life on Earth and Earth-like planets, as it also delivers the volatiles such as nitrogen, sulfur, carbon and water to the planet’s surface, which are crucial for life to occur. We plan to build an integrative model of Earth-like planets from the bottom up. We would like to infer their chemical compositions from their mass-radius relations and their host stars’ elemental abundances, and understand the origins of volatile contents (especially water) on their surfaces, and thereby shed light on the origins of life on them.

           
         
    Saturday, April 11th, 2015, at 7:00 PM.
    Yuri's Night
    MIT, Stratton Student Center, Room 491.
    Yuri’s Night is a global celebration of humanity’s past, present, and future in space. Yuri’s Night parties and events are held around the world every April in commemoration of Yuri Gagarin becoming the first human to venture into space on April 12, 1961, and the inaugural launch of the first Space Shuttle on April 12, 1981. Yuri’s Night events combine space-themed partying with education and outreach. These events can range from an all-night mix of techno and technology at a NASA Center, to a movie showing and stargazing at your local college, to a gathering of friends at a bar or barbecue.
         
      
    Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at 8:00 PM. (No cloud date)
    Harvard Alumni Night at CfA
    Time: 6pm setup
    Location: Program begins in Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden Street.  Observing on the roof. WE NEED TELESCOPE VOLUNTEERS FOR THIS EVENT.
    This family-friendly program is appropriate for children ages 8 and over. The event will begin in Phillips Auditorium (at the rear of the CfA complex near Madison Street and large parking lot), 60 Garden Street, Cambridge.  A light reception will follow the program.
           
        

    Thursday, April 16th, 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: Astronomy in the Year 2020, Jeff McClintock

    Travel into the future for a preview of the Giant Magellan Telescope. This cathedral-sized telescope perched on a Chilean mountaintop will, like Star Trek's Enterprise, take us where no one has gone before. Stunning developments in optics technology will deliver images 10 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Center for Astrophysics is not only a founding partner in this grand endeavor, but also is building the premier first-light instrument that will study other earths, the first stars, and the origin of our universe. Jeff McClintock is a senior astrophysicist at the CfA and a lecturer in the Harvard University Astronomy Department.

       

        

    Thursday, April 16th - Friday, April 17th.

    NAIC (Northeast Astro Imaging Conference)

    Suffern, NY

    Imagine!
    In the past ten years, NEAIC has grown in both size and stature, becoming one of the most eagerly anticipated astronomical imaging conferences in the United States.
    Devoted to all aspects of Astronomical Imaging, this two-day event hosts leaders and acknowledged experts in extra solar planets, variable star, minor planets, asteroids, comets, and supernova research with the intention of fostering pro-am collaborations. With attendance expected to be nearly 200, you will be very busy both days networking and learning from both amateur, semi-pro, and professional astronomers.

        

       

    Saturday, April 18th - Sun., April 19th.   

    NEAF (Northeast Astronomy Forum)

    Suffern, NY

    World’s Largest Astronomy Expo
    Bringing you the Universe in two exciting event-packed days, NEAF is renowned worldwide as the ultimate astronomy experience. Nowhere else can you find so much in one place or at one time.

       

              

    Friday, April 17 - Sun., April 26th, 2015

    Cambridge Science Festival
    There are hundreds of events - most of them FREE - in the works for this year's festival!
    http://cambridgesciencefestival.org/Home.aspx
     

    Some of the astronomy-related events in presented in the Cambridge Science Festival include:

       

  • Sunday, April 19, 2015, 12:00 PM - 4:00 PM.

  • Cambridge Explores the Universe (a Cambridge Science Festival Event at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

    Become and astronomer for a day! Enjoy exploration stations that include hands-on activities, telescope tours, ask an astronomer booths, and solar observing. Find out the latest discoveries about the Sun, exoplanets, and black holes, and take your own telescope images using our robotic telescopes. Go on a virtual tour of space using the World Wide Telescope visualization lab. It's out of this world!

      

    Sunday, April 19, 2015, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM.

    Museum of Science, Current Science & Technology Center, 1 Science Park, Boston

    Astronaut Chris Cassidy has spent 181 days in space, including five space walks as part of shuttle mission STS-127 and as a member of the International Space Station crew on Expedition 35. Learn more about being an astronaut and living in space for months at a time.

    Cost: Included with Museum admission

        

    Sunday, April 19, 2015, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM.
    StarTalk Live! with Bill Nye the Science Guy
    Shubert Theater, 265 Tremont St., Boston

    Science meets comedy and pop culture onstage at StarTalk Live!, the StarTalk Radio road show that’s entertaining and educating sold-out audiences around the country! Just like the award-winning podcast and radio show, StarTalk Live! explores current events from the frontiers of science, and includes scientists, celebrities and comedians as featured guests. This very special installment is part of the Eugene Mirman Comedy Festival and is sponsored by WBUR 90.9 FM.

             

    Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM.

    MIT Haystack Observatory, Millstone Rd., Groton, MA 01450
    GPS coordinates: 42.623220, -71.488210 | Directions

    Located about 25 miles northwest of Cambridge, MIT Haystack Observatory specializes in applications of radio science, including astronomy and ionospheric research. Come see our gigantic telescopes and learn about how we use them to investigate everything from black holes to space weather.

       

    Friday, April 24th, 2015, 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

    Sidewalk Astronomy

    Deguglielmo Plaza in Harvard Square in front of 27 Brattle Street, Cambridge

    You may be in the middle of the city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see the stars! Join us in Harvard Square to get a fantastic view of the Moon, Jupiter, double stars,and star clusters. In case of clouds ONLY, the event will move to Saturday, April 25. Note: Check for weather cancellations and updates at www.bostonastronomy.net. Cost: Free. Weather-dependent.

       

    Saturday, April 25, 2015, 1:00 PM - 4:00 PM. 

    MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

    Travel into the atmosphere and beyond with the MIT community who are working at the upper edges of our skies.  Behold Terrafugia’s roadable plane, pilot a flight simulator, explore rockets and gyroscopes with Draper Laboratory researchers, discuss the feasibility of a Mars exploration station, learn about the Global Space Balloon Challenge, and more!

     

     

              

                        

    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/  

       

    Thursdays (every third Thursday of month):   

    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Cambridge, MA.   

    Public Observatory Night 8;30 PM - 10:00 PM. 

    617-495-7461

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

      

    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 April 2015

         

         

    There is a Total Lunar Eclipse on April 4th, best visible in the western half of the U.S.(See our “What’s New” section.)

          

                  

        
    Current Night Sky: At A Glance

          

    Phases of the Moon:

         

      

    Full Moon

    April 4

    8:06 AM EDT

    Last Quarter Moon

    April 11

    11:44 PM EDT

    New Moon

    April 18

    2:57 PM EDT

    First Quarter

    April 25

    7:55 PM EDT

       

      

                    

    The Moon & Planets:

      

     

    Planet Visibility:

        

    In Evening (after sunset):

        Mars, in W

        Mercury, in W    

        Venus, in W

        Jupiter, in S

     

     At Midnight:

        Jupiter, in W

        Saturn, in SE

     

     In Morning (before sunrise):

        Saturn, in SW

        Neptune, in E

        Uranus, in E 

     

    Comets:

    •    
      •     Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is spending its time in Cassiopeia, and hence is a circumpolar object for observers in mid-northern latitudes. However, it has lost a good deal of its brightness and may have dimmed to magnitude 8 – 10. Seeing It will require (at least) binoculars and more likely a telescope.(See chart for its position at midmonth.)
      •    

    Meteors:

     

        The Lyrid meteors peak on the night of April 22-23.

      
      

            
     

    Venus visits the "Seven Sisters"

       
            

    On the 11th, Venus passes lies just 3° to the left of the Pleiades.

    Both are in the glow of twilight, but the planet is so bright – and the star pattern so distinctive – that they will be easy to pick out.

    Venus will be in the vicinity of the cluster for several days.

    (April 11, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT).

       

               

         Hiding in Plain Sight

               


       

    Lovejoy, the comet that has provided us with entertainment for months, is now visible all night for observers in the Northern hemisphere.

    By mid-month, it will be moving northward between Cassiopeia and Cepheus. However, it has faded dramatically and seeing it now requires optical aid.

     (April 15, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT).

              

            
          An April Shower
           
                       
       

    The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 22nd – 23rd.

    With the crescent Moon setting just after midnight, there will be no interference from its light.

    Though its radiant – the apparent direction the meteors come from - lies in Lyra, the meteors can appear just about anywhere in the sky.

    (April 22, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT).

         

          
                            
     

    A Lunar Eclipse - Barely!

      

    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.)

       

       

    The area of visibility of the April 4 lunar eclipse.

       

    The Moon begins its entry into the deep shadow of Earth’s umbra at 10:16 UT (Universal Time is 4 hours ahead of EDT, and 7 hours ahead of PDT.) The entire Moon is in the umbra by 11:58 UT. At this time the Moon will be significantly darkened, and may appear blood red as it is lit only by sunlight refracted around the edges of Earth by our planet’s atmosphere. 

      

      

       

    The Full Moon’s disk stays in the Earth’s shadow only briefly.

    (Times here are in CDT, which is 5 hours behind UT).

      

    So far, this sounds like a typical lunar eclipse. But, in fact, it’s unusual precisely because the entire Moon spends only 4 minutes and 43 seconds with its entire disk in the umbra. The Moon begins leaving the umbra at 12:03 UT. This is shortest period of totality of any lunar eclipse in the 21st century! In fact, we’d have to go back to October 17,1529 to find an eclipse this short; the next one that is shorter will be on September 11 of 2155!

     

    The Moon leaves the umbra at 1:45 UT. The next total lunar eclipse – with much better viewing prospects – will occur on September 28 of this year.

           

            

                      



    A Schedule of Events: Apr. 2015

        

    Apr. 1 Wed. 9:01 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (406,012 km / 252,284 mi)
    Apr. 4   6:15 AM EDT Partial Lunar Eclipse begins
    Apr. 4 Sat. 6:26 AM EDT Moon sets in W in Boston
    Apr. 4 Sat. 7:54 AM EDT Total Lunar Eclipse begins
    Apr. 4 Sat. 8:06 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Pink Moon")
    Apr. 6 Mon. 10:00 AM EDT Uranus @ solar conjunction
    Apr. 8 Wed. 9:00 AM EDT Moon 2° N of Saturn
    Apr. 9 Thur. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction
    Apr. 11 Sat.   45th Anniversary: Apollo 13 launch
    Apr. 11 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Venus 3° SSE of Pleiades
    Apr 11 Sat. 9:41 PM EDT - 9:50 PM EDT Europa eclipses Ganymede (mag. drop: 1.0)
    Apr. 11 Sat. 11:44 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Apr. 12 Sun.   Yuri's Night - World Space Party
    Apr. 13 Mon. 9:28 PM EDT - 9:33 PM EDT Io eclipses Europa (mag. drop: 0.6)
    Apr. 15 Wed. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 4° NNW of Neptune
    Apr. 16 Thur. 11:48 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (361,023 km / 224,329 mi)
    Apr. 17 Fri. 9:28 PM EDT - 9:37 PM EDT Callisto occults Ganymede (mag. drop: 1.0)
    Apr. 18 Sat. 2:57 PM EDT New Moon
    Apr. 18 Sat. 9:18 PM EDT - 9:21 PM EDT Month's brightest pass of ISS (mag. -3.4)
    Apr. 19 Sun. 12:59 AM EDT - 1:08 AM EDT Europa eclipses Ganymede (mag. drop: 1.1)
    Apr. 19 Sun. 6:00 AM EDT Sun enters Aries
    Apr. 19 Sun. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 3° SSE of Mars
    Apr. 20 Mon. 11:43 PM EDT - 11:48 PM EDT Io eclipses Europa (mag. drop: 0.6)
    Apr. 21 Tue. 2:00 PM EDT Moon passes 7° S of Venus
    Apr. 22 Wed. 4:00 PM EDT Mercury 1.3° NNW of Mars
    Apr. 22 Wed. 8:00 PM EDT Lyrid Meteors peak (15 - 20 meteors per hour?)
    Apr. 25 Sat.   National Astronomy Day (spring)
    Apr. 25 Sat. 7:55 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Apr. 26 Sun. 2:00 PM EDT Moon 5° S of Jupiter
    Apr. 28 Tue. 1:58 AM EDT - 2:03 AM EDT Io eclipses Europa (mag. drop: 0.6)
    Apr. 28 Tue. 11:55 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,083 km / 251,707 mi)
    Apr. 30 Thu. ??? MESSENGER Orbiter impacts Mercury's surface

            

       * bold = cool or important!

      

     


        
    A Preview of 2015 Events
     
    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 (-4.69)
    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. 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. 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")
       
     
       
                        
    April 2015 Star Chart
         
         
             
           April 15, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT