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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.





May Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 




    Saturday, May 9th, 5:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

    Family Night Under the Stars

    Clay Center at Dexter Southfield, Brookline, MA

    The Clay Center at Dexter Southfield and the Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston invite you and your family to join us for a free, action-packed evening. Activities will include:
    Clay Center Observatory - The Observatory opens from 5:00 to 9:00 pm for viewing the Jupiter, Venus, and stars.
    - Featured guest speaker - Galileo, performed by professional actor Michael Francis, who has performed around the world. Listen as Galileo presents his life, discoveries, and experiments. This is a fun filled, fast paced, presentation for all ages. Show times: 5:10 and 7:10. Free admission.
    Solar and Night Telescopes - The Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston set up many types of telescopes for safe solar viewing during the afternoon, and for viewing the moon, planets, and stars after dark. Come talk to amateur astronomers and get tips for getting the most out of your own telescope.
    Telescope Clinic - Bring your own telescope and get expert help setting it up and fine-tuning it. Learn about how your scope works and how to get the most out of it. Clinic is open from 6:00-8:00 pm outside.
    LASER Light Show by Prismatic Magic. Four 35-minute custom SCIENCE LASER SPECTACULAR programs are scheduled with new segments this year! Show times 5:10, 6:10, 7:10, 8:00 in the Lecture Hall. Tickets $5 per person, $20 per block of 5 tickets. To purchase tickets, click here.
    Planetarium Multi-Media Shows -  Hi-tech digital multi-media shows. (seats 30) Six 25-minute shows -- Impact Earth, Saturn: The Ring World, and Tonight's Sky. Takes place in a 6-meter inflatable dome which seats up to 30 people sitting on the floor. Show times 5:00, 5:35, 6:10, 6:40, 7:20, and 8:00. Tickets $5 per person. To purchase tickets, click here.
    Meet R2D2 and a Wookie from Star Wars! - See R2D2 dance, talk, and show off. Get your picture taken with both of them.  Did you know that Wookie is seven feet tall?
    Ride a Segway - Ride the wave of the future! How do they work? Gyroscopes! What does this have to do with Astronomy? It's Science! Rides begin at 5:00 pm.
    Blue Hill Observatory - The Blue Hill Meteorological Observatory will have science related kits, books, posters, and other items for sale in the lobby during the event.
    Kite Flying - Outdoors from 4:30 to 7:30 pm on Fuller Field. Bring your own or buy one from our on-site vendor.
    Planetary Society Exhibit - The Planetary Society invites you to our table for the latest news in space exploration! Free Planetary Reports, stickers and bookmarks available. The Planetary Society is the largest space interest group in the world where members support space science research and space missions. Join CEO Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and be part of the adventure!
    Model Rocketry - Model rocketry kit building and demonstrations by FlisKits, Inc. Join Fliskits educators outdoors on Fuller Field for demonstration rocket launches from 4:30-4:45, weather permitting. Indoor booth will be open from 5:00-8:00 pm. (Kits available at special event prices.)
    Are you a HAM? (Amateur Radio Operator) They can talk to the Space Station ! They report extreme weather conditions (SKYWARN). Connect with people around the world using the latest electronic technology.
    Additional Activties Include
    Astronaut Suit Fun - Dress up as an astronaut and have your photo taken in front of a 13 foot space mural.
    Planetary Scales - Weigh yourself on the Moon, Jupiter, and Pluto!
    Mars Robotic Arm - Simulated Rover Robotic Arm.
    3-D Printer Demonstrations.
    NASA Ambassadors.
    Mars Foundation / Mars Homestead.



    Thursday, May 14th, 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: X-Ray Observatories & Optics, Dr. Ryan Allured

    Since the 1970s, space-born X-ray observatories have shed light on a variety of exotic objects from neutron stars in our own Milky Way to supermassive black holes at the center of distant galaxies. With each new observatory, the field of X-ray instrumentation makes significant advances in both optics and detectors.  In this talk, Dr. Allured will introduce the main components of an X-ray telescope.  He will give an overview of the currently orbiting X-ray observatories, Chandra and XMM-Newton with emphasis on their imaging optics. The concept for a successor to Chandra will be described as well as the enabling technology: adjustable X-ray optics. Finally, he will present recent laboratory developments in the adjustable X-ray optics program.   




    Thursday, May 21st, 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: Black Hole: How an Idea Abandoned by Newtonians, Hated by Einstein, and Gambled on by Hawking Became Loved, Marcia Bartusiak

    For more than half a century, physicists and astronomers engaged in heated dispute over the possibility of black holes in the universe. The weirdly alien notion of a space-time abyss from which nothing escapes - not even light - seemed to confound all logic. This engrossing book tells the story of the fierce black hole debates and the contributions of Einstein, Hawking, and other leading thinkers who completely altered our view of the cosmos. Marcia Bartusiak's numerous works include The Day We Found the Universe, Archives of the Universe, and Einstein's Unfinished Symphony.






    Tuesdays (beginning March 31)

    Clay Center Observatory

    Dexter Southfield School

    Brookline, MA

    Brookline, MA

    617-454-2795 (appoint. required)



    Boston University

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



    Thursdays (every third Thursday of month):   

    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

    Cambridge, MA.   

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



    Fridays (beginning March 13): 

    Museum of Science  

    Boston, MA 

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




    The Sky Report for the Month of May 2015



       Current Night Sky: At A Glance


    Phases of the Moon:



    Full Moon

    May 3

    11:42 AM EDT

    Last Quarter Moon

    May 11

    6:36 AM EDT

    New Moon

    May 18

    12:13 AM EDT

    First Quarter

    May 25

    1:19 PM EDT




    The Moon & Planets:



    Planet Visibility:


    In Evening (after sunset):

        Mercury, in NW    

        Venus, in W

        Jupiter, in SW

        Saturn, SE 


     At Midnight:

        Jupiter, in W

        Saturn, in SE


     In Morning (before sunrise):

        Saturn, in SW

        Neptune, in SE

        Uranus, in E 



    •      Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) crosses from Cassiopeia into Cepheus, but is rapidly fading; after the first week of May it should dip below 8th magnitude. There are no other comets brighter than magnitude 8.



         The Eta Aquarid meteors peak on the morning hours of May 6; these are remnants of a debris stream left by Halley’s Comet on a prior passage. Unfortunately, this year the light from the waning gibbous Moon will drown out the fainter meteors; you may expect to see about 10 per hour at best.



    Venus and Mercury at their best


    In early May, Venus shines high and bright at dusk; throughout the month, it will continue to climb higher and get brighter. Mercury, now at its greatest elongation from the Sun, is also visible; now is the best time this year to see it in the evening sky.

    (May 7, 2015, 8:30 PM EDT).



         Saturn - up all night



    Saturn reaches opposition on May 22; it is directly opposite the Sun in our skies.

     It is then at its closest (834 million miles), largest (18.5", with visible rings 42.1" across), and brightest (mag. 0.0).

    This month the rings are inclined toward us by 24°. . .

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


          A Moondance at Jupiter

    Jupiter undergoes a “double shadow transit” on May 27. From 10:01 PM EDT until 12:18 AM EDT, the tiny dark shadows of Io and Ganymede are on the disk simultaneously. The moons themselves are visible as well; Io itself is transiting the disk, while Ganymede is in the lower right corner. The Great Red Spot, a huge storm in Jupiter’s atmosphere, has just crossed the center of the disk; for reasons unknown, it has been shrinking and losing color over the past several years.

    (May 27, 2015, 10:48 PM EDT). 



    The "Year of the Dwarf Planet"


    In all likelihood, you have already been hearing about two new space missions that are reaching their destinations this year. As it happens, both of their targets are so-called “dwarf planets” – objects that orbit our Sun, are large enough so that their gravity forms them into spheres, but that have not “cleared their orbit” of other objects of similar size. The members of this class so far are Eris, Haumea, Makemake, Pluto, and Ceres. The first four orbit in the Kuiper Belt beyond Neptune, while Ceres is the largest of the “Main Belt” asteroids that circle the Sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Ceres and Pluto are due to receive their first visitors from Earth this year – hence some have been calling 2015 the “Year of the Dwarf Planet”.


    Ceres, 590 miles in diameter, is up first. Since early March, the Dawn spacecraft has been in orbit around Ceres; at first, its orbit was distant and its view was barely better than that long available from telescopes like Hubble. But the gentle push of its ion drive has been progressively tightening its orbit and bringing it closer, and we are now observing details which no one has ever seen before.  Compare these “before and after” views:


    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.)



    Best view of Ceres as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004.





    Early image of Ceres as seen from Dawn spacecraft in 2015.

    (Later images will be in color.)


    You will notice the explosion of detail seen by Dawn; vague, blurry patches become craters, ridges, and plains. And then there is that mysterious double dot of bright terrain inside a crater. In fact, these two are just the brightest of about 10 highly reflective spots that Dawn has found so far. What could they be? At the moment, the spots are still a mystery; they will not remain so for long.


    As May begins, Dawn is in an initial orbit about 8,400 miles from Ceres. On May 9, it is due to begin spiraling down to a lower orbit at 2,700 miles altitude, which it should reach around June 6. During the summer and fall its orbit will be progressively lowered in steps until December, when it will be swooping over the terrain at an altitude of just 233 miles! Once the mission is finally over, Dawn will remain in a highly stable orbit over Ceres - forever.


    And the other mission to a “dwarf planet”? The New Horizons spacecraft is now approaching 1,471-mile diameter Pluto. In early May, we can expect the first “better than Hubble” images of Pluto’s disk. But unlike Dawn, New Horizons will not go into orbit around its target. Instead, it will sweep through the neighborhood of Pluto and its moons in a matter of hours on July 14, It will gather as much data as it can as it approaches to within 6,400 miles of Pluto during its flyby of the planet, and will leisurely transmit the data back to Earth during the following days and weeks.


    So stay tuned! The “Year of the Dwarf Planets” continues!  



    A Schedule of Events: May / June 2015


    May 3 Sun. 11:42 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Flower Moon")
    May 4 Mon. 5:00 AM EDT Jupiter @ western quadrature
    May 5 Tue.   New Horizons "better-than-Hubble" Pluto images
    May 5 Tue. 12:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Saturn
    May 6 Wed.   Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks (poor, ~10/hr)
    May 7 Thur. 1:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest elongation E (21°) (Evening)
    May 9 Sat.   Dawn begins transfer from RC3 to Survey Orbit
    May 11 Mon. 6:36 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    May 12 Tue. 5:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Neptune
    May 13 Fri. 9:00 AM EDT Sun enters Taurus
    May 14 Thur. 8:18 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (366,024 km / 227,437 mi)
    May 15 Fri. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 0.2° S of Uranus
    May 18 Mon. 12:13 AM EDT New Moon
    May 19 Tue. 3:00 AM EDT Moon 6° S of Mercury
    May 20 Wed.   George Bond born 190 years ago
    May 20 Wed. 10:45 AM EDT - 2:45 PM EDT Planetary Society launches LightSail
    May 21 Thur. 3:00 AM EDT Moon 8° S of Venus
    May 22 Fri. 10:00 PM EDT Saturn @ opposition
    May 24 Sun. 3:00 AM EDT Moon 5° S of Jupiter
    May 25 Mon. 1:19 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
    May 26 Tue. 6:12 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (404,285 km / 251,186 mi.)
    May 27 Wed. 10:01 PM - 12:18 AM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Ganymede & Io)
    May 30 Sat. 1:00 PM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    Jun. 1   4:00 PM EDT Moon 1.9° N of Saturn
    Jun. 2 Tue. 12:19 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Strawberry Moon")
    Jun. 4 Thu.   1st reliable record of solar eclipse (Chinese) 2795 years ago (780 BC))
    Jun. 6 Sat. 5:00 AM EDT Venus @ theoretical dichotomy  (half-illuminated)
    Jun. 6 Sat. 2:00 PM EDT Venus @ greatest elongation (45°) in evening
    Jun. 6 Sat.   Dawn enters Survey Orbit around Ceres (4,400 km)
    Jun. 8 Mon.   Giovanni Cassini born 390 years ago (1625)
    Jun. 8 Mon. 11:00 PM EDT Moon 3.1° NNW of Neptune
    Jun. 9 Tue. 11:42 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Jun. 10 Wed. 12:44 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (369,711 km / 229,728 mi)
    Jun. 11 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 0.47° SSE of Uranus
    Jun. 14 Sun. 5:07 AM EDT Earliest sunrise
    Jun. 14 Sun. 12:00 PM EDT Mars @ solar conjunction
    Jun. 14 Sun. 10:00 PM EDT Moon 0.04° S of Mercury
    Jun. 15 Mon. 4:32 AM EDT - 5:07 AM EDT Earliest morning Civil Twilight (Sun 0° - 6° below horizon)
    Jun. 15 Mon.   Comet C/2014 Q1 Pan STARRS may exceed 6th magnitude
    Jun. 16 Tue. 10:05 AM EDT New Moon
    Jun. 17 Wed. 3:47 AM EDT -  4:32 AM EDT Earliest morning Nautical Twilight (Sun 6° - 12° below horizon)
    Jun. 18 Thu. 2:52 AM EDT - 3:47 AM EDT Earliest morning Astronomical Twilight (Sun 12° - 18° below horizon)
    Jun. 18 Thu. 9:00 AM EDT Spring begins in Northern Hemisphere of Mars
    Jun. 20 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 6° S of Venus
    Jun. 20 Sat. 8:00 PM EDT Moon 5° S of Jupiter
    Jun. 21 Sun. 12:38 PM EDT June Solstice
    Jun. 21 Sun. 10:00 PM EDT Sun enters Gemini
    Jun. 22 Mon.   Royal Greenwich Observatory founded 340 years ago (1675)
    Jun. 23 Tue. 1:00 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (404,132 km / 251,116 mi.)
     Jun. 24 Wed.   Fred Hoyle born 100 years ago (1915)
    Jun. 24 Wed. 7:03 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Jun. 24 Wed. 1:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest elongation (22°) in morning
    Jun. 24 Wed. 9:45 PM EDT - 10:40 PM EDT Latest evening Astronomical Twilight (Sun 12° - 18° below horizon)
    Jun. 25 Thu. 9:00 PM EDT - 9:45 PM EDT Latest evening Nautical Twilight (Sun 6° - 12° below horizon)
    Jun. 26 Fri.   Charles Messier born 285 years ago (1730)
    Jun. 26 Fri. 8:25 PM EDT - 9:00 PM EDT Latest evening Civil Twilight (Sun 0° - 6° below horizon)
    Jun. 27 Sat.   June Boötids peak (weak)
    Jun. 27 Sat. 8:25 PM EDT Latest sunset
    Jun. 28 Sun. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Saturn
    Jun. 29 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT 1 Ceres @ opposition
    Jun. 30 Tue.   Asteroid Day
    Jun. 30 Tue. 11:00 PM EDT Venus 0.34° (20.4') SW of Jupiter
    Jun. 30 Tue.   Dawn spacecraft leaves Ceres Survey orbit
    Jun. 30 Tue.   Leap Second added to World's Clocks


       * bold = cool or important!



    A Preview of 2015 Events
    July 1 Venus 30' to lower left of Jupiter (daytime best!); both disks are 32.5" across!
    July 5 Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS passes 5° N of Sun, into evening sky
    July 6 Earth @ aphelion
    July 6 Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS @ perihelion (0.315 AU)
    July 6 Pluto @ opposition
    Jul. 7 Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS may top out at 3rd mag.
    July 12 Venus @ greatest brilliancy (-4.69)
    July 14 New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto
    Jul. 15 Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS may drop below 6th mag.
    Jul. 20 Comet C/2014 Q1 PanSTARRS closest to Earth (1.18 AU)
    July 25 Ceres @ opposition
    July 28 - 29 Delta Aquarid meteors peak (poor)
    July 31 Venus 6.5° S of Jupiter
    Aug. 4 Dawn spacecraft enters HAMO (High Altitude Mapping Orbit) (1,450 km)
    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. 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")
    May 2015 Star Chart



           May 15, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT