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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.





October Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics - Special Event
At Harvard University Science Center
Hall C, 1 Oxford Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker: Scaling the Glass Universe - free public lecture and book signing, Dava Sobel, Writer; Former Science Reporter, The New York Times

In the 1880s, physicist and astronomer Edward Pickering invented a new system to photograph the sky that revolutionized our understanding of stars. His achievements in science relied on the work of more than 80 women—known as the Harvard Observatory "computers"—who analyzed and catalogued data from thousands of photographs. Dava Sobel will discuss the women's significant contributions to astronomy, as well as Pickering's visionary initiative to establish an observatory in Peru that expanded scientists' notions of scale and space. Presented by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments in collaboration with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. (Scale: A Matter of Perspective will be open to visitors following the lecture.)

Please note: This event will be held at the Harvard University Science Center, Hall C, 1 Oxford Street. Free event parking is available at the 52 Oxford Street Garage.



Thursday, October 12, 2017, 8:00 PM - 10 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) Monthly Meeting

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden St.

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker: "Building the One Hundered Inch Telescope - in Boston"



Friday, October 13 - Saturday, October 14, 2017

Skyscrapers' Astro Assembly
Seagrave Memorial Observatory,
North Scituate, RI



Thursday, October 19, 2017, 7:30 PM

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker:

Space Junk: A Traffic Crisis in Outer Space?
Jonathan McDowell, CfA, Astrophysicist with Chandra X-Ray Observatory

It's been 60 years since the launch of the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, and space is getting busier and busier. There are over 1,500 working satellites up there, but there are also over 17,000 known pieces of orbital debris whizzing around at up to 18,000 miles an hour. McDowell will talk about the demographics of the satellite population: who is putting satellites up there, what are they doing, what the space junk is and why there's so much of it - and what can we do about it?




Plus (ongoing):        



Boston University

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




Thursdays (every 3rd Thursday of month, Sept. - Nov.)

Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden St.

Cambridge, MA 02138




Fridays (until November 3), 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM

Guilliland Observatory

Museum of Science

1 Science Park

Boston, MA 02114





The Sky Report for the Month of October 2017


Current Night Sky: At A Glance


            Phases of the Moon:                           



Full Moon

October 5

2:40 PM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

October 12

8:25 AM EDT

New Moon

October 19

3:12 PM EDT

First Quarter Moon

October 27

6:22 PM EDT



The Moon & Planets:



Planet Visibility:


In Evening (after sunset):

    Jupiter, in W

    Mercury, in W 

    Saturn, in SW

    Neptune, in SE

    Uranus, in E 


 At Midnight:

     Neptune, in SW

    Uranus, in SE


 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Uranus, in W

    Mars, in E 

    Venus, in E 





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


  •     The Orionid meteor shower peaks on October 21st, although there may be some activity as early as Oct. 2nd or as late as Nov. 7th. There will be a New Moon just two days before the peak, so viewing should be good; expect about 20 meteors per hour. These meteors are debris from a stream left by a previous passage of Halley’s Comet. here are no notable meteor showers in September.





Venus and Mars make a close approach to each other on October 5. They are then just 0.2°

- or less than half the diameter of the Full Moon – apart. They were last this close in 1995.

Venus shines at magnitude -3.9 – almost 200 times brighter than magnitude 1.8 Mars.

The fourth-magnitude star Sigma (σ) Leonis is to the upper left. (October 5, 2017 – 01:00 UT).





On October 19, Uranus is at opposition; the planet is opposite to the Sun in our sky. It rises at sunset and sets at sunrise.

It is at the year’s closest approach to Earth – about 1.76 billion miles away; at that distance,

it takes light from Uranus over two and a half hours to reach us. Five of its largest moons are visible in large amateur telescopes;

observatories and the Voyager 2 flyby in 1986 have revealed 22 more. (October 19, 2017, 06:00 UT).


The Orionid meteors peak on October 21. There is no Moon in the sky to drown out fainter meteors with its light;

you may be able to see about 20 meteors per hour under good conditions.

As is the case with most meteor showers, the best viewing is between midnight and dawn. Meteors can appear anywhere in the sky,

but if you trace their trajectory backwards, they seem to come from a central point: the radiant.

 In this case, the radiant is in the constellation Orion, hence the name of this shower. (October 21, 2017, 07:00 UT).


Saturn Shows Off


Cassini, the only spacecraft that had been providing close-up views of Saturn, is gone, but that doesn’t mean the planet is any less awesome. As seen from Earth, in fact, Saturn puts on its best show in 15 years this month!


Saturn is over 9 times as far from the Sun as Earth, and takes almost 30 years complete an orbit around our star. For all intents and purposes, our vantage point on Earth can be considered equivalent to what the view would be from the Sun.


Saturn’s rotational axis is at an angle of 27° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, and it keeps that spin axis constantly pointed in the same direction in space. Its visible rings orbit above the planet’s equator. As a result, we see a different aspect of Saturn and its rings throughout its (30-Earth-year long) “Saturn year”.




From 1996 until 2003, we had been seeing what we call the “southern” side of the planet and the rings on display (the portion on right side of orbit in above diagram). From 2009 until 2024, we see the “northern” side of the planet and its rings (left side of orbit diagram). In 2009 and again in 2024, during a so-called “ring plane crossing”, we seen the rings edge-on.


The visible rings are about 175,000 miles wide – but as thin as the height of a two-story house! Consequently, when we go through a ring plane crossing, the rings virtually disappear – for a couple of weeks – to all but the largest telescopes on Earth.


That’s not going to happen this year. This year – specifically on October 16 - the rings will appear at their maximum tilt to our line of sight: 27.0°.


When this happens, Saturn looks like the illustration below:



This is the finest possible time – when the rings are at their most open - to observe the detail in the ring system. Careful observers might note the thin black line of the Cassini Division, separating the outer A ring from the brighter B ring interior to it; smaller gaps in the ring system may be visible as well. Note, too, that you can follow the outer edge of the A ring all the way around the planet, including along the portion that goes over Saturn’s North Pole; such observations are only possible when the ring tilt is near its maximum. The shadow that Saturn casts on its ring system may be visible behind the planet’s disk. This is also a good time to note the cloud belts in Saturn’s Northern Hemisphere, as well as any storms or disturbances visible in its atmosphere.


We won’t see Saturn as inclined to our line of sight again until 2032, when the Southern Hemisphere and the “south” side of the rings will be tilted at their maximum. In the meantime – even without a nearby spacecraft – we can enjoy the show that Saturn puts on for us.



October Major Astronomical Events       
Oct. 3 Tue. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 0.7° S of Neptune
Oct. 5 Thur. 9:00 AM EDT Venus 0.21° N of Mars
Oct. 5 Thur. 2:40 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Harvest Moon")
Oct. 6 Fri. 12:00 PM EDT Moon 4° S of Uranus
Oct. 6 Fri. 7:53:25 PM EDT Neptune's moon Triton (mag. 13.5) occults star 4U 410-143659 (mag. 12.4) for 133 seconds
Oct. 7 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Mars @ aphelion (249.3 million km / 154.9 million miles / 1.67 AU from Sun)
Oct. 8 Sun. 5:00 PM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction
Oct. 8 Sun. 10:00 PM EDT Moon 9° SSE of Pleiades
Oct. 9 Mon. 1:55 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (366,855 km / 227,953 mi)
Oct. 9 Mon. 3:00 PM EDT Moon passes 0.6° N of Aldebaran
Oct. 12 Thurs. 8:25 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
Oct. 14 Sat. All day 70th Anniversary of Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier (1947)
Oct. 15 Sun. All day 20th Anniversary of Cassini launch to Saturn (1997)
Oct. 15 Sun. 5:51 AM  EDT - 6:44 AM EDT Moon occults Regulus
Oct. 16 Mon. 2:00 PM EDT Saturn's rings at maximum tilt (26.96587°); greatest since 2003 and until 2032
Oct. 17 Tue. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 1.8° N of Mars
Oct. 17 Tue. 8:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Venus
Oct. 19 Thurs. 2:00 PM EDT Uranus @ opposition (2.83 billion km / 1.76 billion mi / 18.9 AU / 2.6 light-hours from Earth)
Oct. 19 Thurs. 3:12 PM  EDT New Moon
Oct. 21 Sat.   Orionid meteors peak (~ 20 meteors / hr)
Oct. 23 Mon. 4:00 AM EDT Moon 9° N of Antares
Oct. 24 Tue. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
Oct. 24 Tue. 10:26 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,154 km / 251,751 mi)
Oct. 26 Thur. 2:00 PM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction
Oct. 27 Fri. 6:22 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
Oct. 30 Mon. 5:00 PM EDT Moon 0.9° S of Neptune
Oct. 30 Mon. 8:00 PM EDT Sun enters Libra


An Overview of Major 2017 Astronomical Events

Jan. 3 Tue. 7:14:38 AM EST Latest sunrise of year in Boston
Jan. 3 Tue. 9:00 AM EST Quadrantid meteors
Jan. 4 Wed. 9:00 AM EST Earth @ perihelion (0.98331 AU / 147,101,111 km / 91,404,393 mi)
Jan. 12 Thur. 8:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest eastern elongation (47.1° E); Evening "Star"
Jan. 12 Thur. 6:00 PM EST Venus 0.4° N of Neptune (21' 57" in Boston)
Jan. 17 Tue. 8:00 PM EST Vesta @ opposition (mag. 6.3)
Jan. 19 Thur. 1:00 AM EST Jupiter 2.7° S of Moon
Jan. 19 Thur. 5:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24.1° W); Morning "Star"
Jan. 31 Tue. 6:00 PM EST Mars, Venus, and waxing crescent Moon fit into circle 6° in diameter
Feb. 11 Sat. 5:34 PM EST - 9:53 PM EST Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Feb. 17 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
Feb. 26 Sun. 7:10 AM EST - 12:38 PM EST Annular Solar Eclipse (SW Africa. S. Atlantic, South America)
Feb. 26 Sun. 8:15 PM EST Mars 34' N of Uranus
Mar. 1 Wed. 10:00 PM EST Neptune @ solar conjunction
Mar. 12 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Daylight Saving Time begins
Mar. 20 Mon. 6:29 AM EDT March Equinox
Mar. 25 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Venus @ inferior conjunction
Apr. 1 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (19.0° E); Evening "Star"
Apr. 7 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Jupiter @ opposition
Apr. 12 Wed. 2:00 PM EDT Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak @ perihelion (mag. 5?)
Apr. 14 Fri. 2:00 AM EDT Uranus @ solar conjunction
Apr. 22 Sat. 8:00 AM EDT Lyrid meteors
Apr. 22 Sat.   Cassini Titan flyby begins Proximal Orbit Phase ("Grand Finale")
Apr.29 Sat. All day Astronomy Day (spring)
Apr. 30 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
May 4 Thur. 9:00 AM EDT Eta Aquarid meteors
May 17 Wed. 7:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (25.8° W); Morning "Star"
Jun. 2 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Venus 2° S of Uranus
Jun. 3 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest western elongation (45.9° W); Morning "Star"
Jun. 3 Sat. 8:00 PM EST Moon 2° N  of Jupiter
Jun. 3 Sat. 10:24 PM EDT - 12:21 AM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Ganymede)
Jun. 12 Wed. 4:00 AM EDT Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) @ perihelion (mag. 6?)
Jun. 14 Wed. 5:07:00 AM EDT Earliest sunrise of year in Boston
Jun. 15 Thur. 5:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
Jun. 19 Mon. 10:06 PM EDT - 10:38 PM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)
Jun. 21 Wed. 12:25 AM EDT June Solstice
Jun. 27 Tue. 8:25:22 PM EDT Latest sunset of year in Boston
Jul. 3 Mon. 4:00 AM EDT Earth @ aphelion (1.01668 AU / 152,093,193 km / 94,506,329 mi)
Jul. 10 Mon. 12:10 AM EDT Pluto @ opposition
Jul. 26 Wed. 9:00 PM EDT Mars @ superior comjunction
Jul. 28 Fri. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Jupiter
Jul. 30 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27.2° E); Evening "Star"
Aug. 7 Mon. 11:50 AM EDT - 4:50  PM EDT Partial Lunar Eclipse (Eastern Hemisphere)
Aug. 12 Sat. 3:00 PM EDT Perseid meteors
Aug. 21 Mon. 11:46 AM EDT - 5:04 PM EDT Total Solar Eclipse (Partial 9:28 AM EDT - 11:59 PM EDT in Boston)
Sept. 5 Tue. 12:00 AM EDT Neptune @ opposition
Sept. 12 Tue. 6:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (17.9° W); Morning "Star
Sept. 15 Fri. 8:07 AM EDT Cassini enters atmosphere of Saturn, burns up
Sept. 16 Sat. 2:00 PM EDT Mercury 0.03° N of Mars (3.2' in Pacific, 18' in Boston)
Sept. 22 Fri. 12:52 PM EDT OSIRIS-REx Earth flyby (~ 16,000 km / 10,000 mi)
Sept. 22 Fri. 4:02 PM EDT September Equinox
Sept. 30 Sat. All day Astronomy Day (fall)
Oct. 5 Thur. 9:00 AM EDT Venus 0.2° N of Mars
Oct. 7 Sat.   Mars @ aphelion
Oct. 19 Thur. 1:00 PM EDT Uranus @ opposition
Oct. 26 Thur. 2:12 PM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction
Nov. 5 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time ends
Nov. 5 Sun. 9:03 PM EST - 9:59 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran
Nov. 13 Mon. 1:00 AM EST Venus 0.3° N of Jupiter
Nov. 17 Fri. 12:00 PM EST Leonid meteors
Nov. 23 Thur. 7:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (22.0° E); Evening "Star"
Nov. 28 Tue. 5:00 AM EST Mercury 3° S of Saturn
Dec. 8 Fri. 4:11:42 PM EST Earliest sunset of year in Boston
Dec. 14 Thur. 1:00 AM EST Geminid meteors
Dec. 21 Thur. 11:29 PM EST December Solstice
Dec. 21 Thur. 6:00 PM EST Saturn @ solar conjunction
Dec. 22 Fri. 10:00 AM EST Ursid meteors
Dec. 30 Sat. 7:28 PM EST - 8:21 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran




    Supernova Style Science News  with Ms. Julie Seven Sage



October 15, 2017 - 10:00 PM EDT