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.





















   

 "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.

      


 

            

March / April Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

             

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  • Monday, March 2nd, at 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM. (Cloud dates: March 3rd or 4th)

    Annual Acton Star Party

    Parker Damon School Building, Acton, MA

    In Acton and neighboring Boxboro, Astronomy is introduced at the 4th Grade level. The Acton Star Party is designed specifically for these young minds. Telescopes or binoculars are outside looking at all the different celestial "sky-lites". Inside, many activities are planned to help bring the outdoor science within easy reach. Close to 400 students and their parents (750+ participants in all) will be attending! It should prove to be quite a party.

        

         

    Thursday, March 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: Dark Energy and Cosmic Sound, Professor Daniel Eisenstein

    Sound waves propagating through the plasma of the Universe only 400,000 years after the Big Bang now offer some of our most precise measures of the composition and history of the Universe. In the last decade, we have been able to detect the fossil imprint of these sound waves using maps of the distribution of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. He will give an overview of the cosmological role of the sound waves and our observational program then describe what the results tell us about the shape of the Universe and the evolution of dark energy.
      
                            
    Thursday, March 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: Mapping the Universe, Daniel Eisenstein

    Galaxies are not scattered randomly throughout the universe. Instead, they group into stringy filaments that span hundreds of millions of light-years. How did such structure evolve from the bland primordial soup that followed the Big Bang? New clues are coming from an ambitious mapping project, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which has measured the distance to galaxies halfway across the observable universe. Daniel Eisenstein is director of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

      

        

    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: TBA

       
        

    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
     

     

     

    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!

     

     

    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.

       

               

                    

    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 March 2015

         

         

    Daylight Saving Time begins at 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 8, for most areas of the U.S. and Canada. In accordance with the adage, “spring forward, fall back”, move your clocks ahead one hour; the minute after 1:59 AM begins as 3:00 AM.

          

    There is a Total Solar Eclipse on March 20; the path of totality moves across the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans; outside of this zone, viewers in much of Europe will observe a partial solar eclipse.

       

    The March Equinox occurs at 6:45 PM EDT on March 20. This represents the instant the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north. By convention, it is considered the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and of fall in the southern hemisphere.

          

             

        
    Current Night Sky: At A Glance

          

    Phases of the Moon:

          

    Full Moon

    March 5

    1:05 PM EST

    Last Quarter Moon

    March 13

    1:48 PM EDT

    New Moon

    March 20

    5:36 AM EDT

    First Quarter

    March 27

    3:43 AM EDT

        

                      

    The Moon & Planets:

      

     

    Planet Visibility:

        

    In Evening (after sunset):

         Uranus, in W

         Mars, in W    

        Venus, in W

        Jupiter, in SE

     

     At Midnight:

        Jupiter, in SW

     

     In Morning (before sunrise):

        Saturn, in S

        Mercury, in SE

        Neptune, in E 

     

    Comets:

    •    
      •     Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is fading more slowly than predicted, as it climbs higher into the Northern Hemisphere sky. It spends the month in Cassiopeia, and should fade to magnitude 6 or lower -  below naked-eye visibility  - in early March. (See chart below for its position at midmonth.)
      •    

    Meteors:

     

        There no major meteor showers in March.

      
      

            
     

    Jupiter at its Best

           .

                
                    

    Jupiter's moon Io occults - or covers up - the moon Ganymede.

    Because Ganymede is the larger of the two, Io's disk appears completely inside that of Ganymede. Another moon, Callisto, appears to the right of the pair.

    (March 5, 2015 - 11:54 PM EST).

        
         
                   
     
    Jupiter with three of its satellites. Nearest to the planet is Ganymede.
    To the right, two satellites - Io and Callisto,- are passing within 3 arc-seconds of each other.
    (March 6, 2015 - 12:50 AM EST).

          
     

         

               

         A Cosmic Visitor Recedes

          

     

            

           By mid-month, Comet Lovejoy will be making its way through Cassiopeia.

    By May, it will be close to Polaris – the North Star.

    (March 14, 2015 - 1:15 AM EDT).

        

            
          
      A Gathering at Dusk
           
                       

           

    The Moon and Venus pass within 3° of each other after sunset on the 22nd.

    The dark portion of the Moon is lit by earthshine - the reflection of sunlight from Earth's disk.

    (March 22, 2015 - 8:00 PM EDT)

          
                      
     
     

    Darkness at Mid-Day

      

       

     

      

    On March 20, the Moon will appear to cover up the Sun, as seen from a narrow strip running up the North Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic Ocean.

     

    The Moon always casts a long cone-shaped shadow into space. Occasionally, the tip of the shadow intersects the Earth’s surface. Because both Earth and Moon are moving, the tip of the shadow cone will move rapidly across our planet’s surface, tracing out a line of totality that is typically just a couple of hundred miles wide but thousands of miles long. Observers within this line of totality will see the Moon completely cover up the Sun. Much larger areas to either side of the path will experience a partial solar eclipse; they will see the Moon cover part – but not all – of the Sun.

        

        

       

         

    Path of totality of the solar eclipse of March 20. All areas within the blue lines will experience totality.

    The red center line is the site of maximum eclipse.

    The green “GD” marker denotes the location of greatest duration of totality of the entire eclipse: 2 minutes and 48 seconds.

     

     

     

        

    While the location of totality is small and remote, the partial eclipse will be visible over Europe, northwestern Asia, and North Africa.

     Here the varying degrees of partiality visible are denoted by orange and red regions.

      

      

    It is only within the path of totality that the full glory of the eclipse can be witnessed. Only here can one see the delicate solar corona and prominences flaring around the edge of the Moon. Only here can the sky get dark enough – even for a few minutes – to see the planets and brighter stars in the middle of the day.

     

    For observers only a few miles away from the zone of totality, none of these phenomena are visible.

     

    The beauty of a total solar eclipse is such that “eclipse chasers” will travel to the remotest corners of the Earth to experience it.

     

    In the case of the March 20 eclipse, they will have to!

     

    The path of totality begins in the North Atlantic just south of Greenland, passes south of Iceland, and continues into the Arctic Ocean. The only inhabited lands within the path of totality are the Dutch Faroe Islands and the Norwegian island of Svalbard.

     

    The eclipse begins at 9:13 UT, reaches greatest magnitude at 9:47 UT, and ends at 10:18 UT.  

    (UT is essentially Greenwich Mean Time – the time at the location of Greenwich, England; the timestamp on the upper right corner of the animation is in UT. To translate into Eastern Daylight Time, subtract 4 hours. Thus, the eclipse begins at 5:13 AM EDT and ends at 6:18 AM EDT.)

        

     



    A Schedule of Events: March / Apr. 2015

        

    Mar. 2 Mon. 11:06 PM EST - 11:11 PM EST Ganymede occults Io (60% magnitude drop)
    Mar. 3 Tue. 3:00 AM EST Moon 5° S of Jupiter
    Mar. 4 Wed. 2:00 PM EST Venus, Mars, and Uranus within circle 4.87° across
    Mar. 4 Wed. 3:00 PM EST Venus 5.4' NNE of Uranus (closest conjunction of year)
    Mar. 5 Thur. 2:33 AM EST Moon @ apogee (406,385 km / 252,516 mi)
    Mar. 5 Thur. 1:05 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Worm Moon")
    Mar. 5 Thur. 11:50 PM EST - 11:58 PM EST Io occults Ganymede
    Mar. 6 Fri. 1:30 AM EST Dawn spacecraft captured into orbit around Ceres
    Mar. 7 Sat.   Sun's North Pole most inclined (7.25°) away from Earth
    Mar. 8 Sun. 1:15 AM EST - 1:21 AM EST Europa occults Io (50% magnitude drop)
    Mar. 8 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time begins
    Mar. 10 Wed. 2:31 AM EDT - 2:36 AM EDT Ganymede occults Io (60% magnitude drop)
    Mar. 11 Wed. 4:00 PM EDT Mars 0.3° NNW of Uranus
    Mar. 12 Thur. 4:00 AM EDT Moon 2° NNW of Saturn
    Mar. 12 Thur. 6:00 AM EDT Sun enter Pisces
    Mar. 13 Fri.   Percival Lowell's birthday (1855)
    Mar. 13 Fri. 6:09 AM EDT - 6:15 AM EDT Bright ISS pass (magnitude -3.3)
    Mar. 13 Fri. 1:48 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Mar. 14 Sat.   Albert Einstein's birthday (1879)
    Mar. 14 Sat. 5:19 AM EDT - 5:22 AM EDT Bright ISS pass (magnitude -3.3)
    Mar. 14 Sat. 9:26:53 AM EDT Pi Day (3/14/15)
    Mar. 15 Sun. 8:34 PM EDT - 8:44 PM EDT Callisto occults Europa (80% magnitude drop)
    Mar. 19 Thur. 1:00 AM EDT Moon 5° NNW of Mercury
    Mar. 19 Thur. 3:38 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (357,583 km / 222,192 mi)
    Mar. 20 Fri. 5:13 AM EDT - 6:18 AM EDT Total Solar Eclipse (N. Atlantic, Arctic Ocean)
    Mar. 20 Fri. 5:36 AM EDT New Moon
    Mar. 20 Fri. 6:45 PM EDT March Equinox - Spring begins!
    Mar. 21 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 0.1° WNW of Uranus
    Mar. 21 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 1° SSE of Mars
    Mar. 21 Sat. 6:57 PM EDT - 6:44 AM EDT (Sun.) Best weekend for Messier Marathon
    Mar. 22 Sun. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 3° SSE of Venus
    Mar. 27 Fri. 3:43 AM EDT First  Quarter Moon
    Mar. 28 Sat. 5:41 AM EDT - 5:48 AM EDT Bright ISS pass (magnitude -3.3)
    Mar. 30 Mon. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 5° SSW of Jupiter
    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)

            

       * 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
    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
    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")
       
     
       
                        
    March 2015 Star Chart
          
     
       
           March 15, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT