Boston Astronomy


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.


















       

            


                 

Next 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: September 25, 2018 - November 13, 2018, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.

        

Cost: $ 200.00. REGISTER

                                                        


          

 Summer Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                                                      

      

Saturday, August 4, August 11, August 25, September 8, September 15; 7:30 PM  - 10:30 PM

Sea the Stars Cruise

Departing / Returning to Long Wharf, Boston

We wish upon them, gaze at them, aim for them, and sometimes even thank our lucky ones! For centuries, stars have fascinated us, guided us, and provided us with nighttime illumination and splendor. Sadly, the abundance of bright lights and tall buildings has made stargazing for city dwellers difficult at best and often pretty much impossible. But fear not, amateur astronomers and celestial connoisseurs, the Museum of Science and Boston Harbor Cruises have teamed up to bring you the Sea the Stars Cruise!

Onboard a high-speed catamaran, you'll travel to where the city lights and congestion are just a bright memory for a stargazing opportunity like no other in the city

Cruise highlights include:

     Three-hour cruise aboard a high-speed catamaran from Long Wharf, Boston

     Expert commentary and star identification from Museum of Science Astronomy Educators

     Narration on the history and importance of celestial navigation – how sailors used the stars

     Related video and content

     Plenty of outdoor viewing space

     Comfortable indoor seating

     Cash Bar and snacks available onboard

Please note: Stargazing is dependent on clear skies. If forecasts show that clouds or precipitation will rule out good viewing, the cruise will be cancelled. Decisions on any cancellation will be made by 2:00 pm on the day of the cruise. Ticket passengers will be notified and refunds will be made. If, during the cruise, visibility limits successful stargazing, passengers will receive a rain check to return for a future Sea the Stars Cruise.

For tickets and more information, visit bostonharborcruises.com/harbor-cruises/sea-the-stars-cruise.

        

       

Saturday, August 4, 2018, 8:45 PM

Astronomy Night

Robbins Farm Park

Arlington, MA

http://www.arlingtonastronomy.org/

Jupiter and Saturn are up in the southern sky, and a moonless night lets us see into the deep sky. As the sky darkens, Mars rises in the East, giving us a first glimpse of the Red Planet for the season.

     

     

Thursday, August 9 - Sunday, August 12, 2018

Stellafane
Springfield, VT
http://stellafane.org/

     

  

Friday, August 10 - Sunday, August 19, 2018

Summer Star Party
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Plainfield, MA
http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/ssp.html
        

         

   

     

Plus (ongoing):        

          

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 the month, January-May & September-November, 8:30 - 10:30 PM); next event: September

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden St.

Cambridge, MA 02138

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

    

    

Fridays:

Astronomy After Hours (starting April 13; 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM)

Guilliland Observatory

Museum of Science

Boston, MA

https://www.mos.org/public-events/astronomy-after-hours

Did you know that the Museum offers our starry-eyed public free evenings full of astronomy-themed fun? Join us, weather-permitting*, at the Gilliland Observatory on the roof of the Museum’s parking garage. On clear nights, you can view stars, planets, the Moon, and other astronomical phenomena. On cloudy nights, tour the inside of our Observatory and participate in a variety of hands-on astronomy and space science activities with Museum staff.

In 2018, this seasonal program will run on Friday nights from April 13 – October 26 and Thursday nights from July 5 – August 30. Hours vary as sunset times shift throughout the season.

  • Fridays, April 13 – 27: 8:00-10:00

  • Fridays in May and June: 8:30-10:30

  • Thursdays and Fridays in July and August: 8:30-10:30

  • Fridays in September and October: time TBD

*On rainy nights and nights when there are chances of thunderstorms, we’ll offer a variety of astronomy and space and earth science activities in the Suit/Cabot Laboratory, located in the Red Wing, Lower Level.

For more details, and to find out which location Astronomy After Hours will be running on a scheduled evening, call our hotline at 617-589-0267. We update with the evening’s plans by 5:30 pm on the day of the program.

Please be aware that throughput in the Observatory is limited. During the summer when we are the busiest, please plan to arrive no later than half an hour before the end of the program to ensure a place in line. Visitors arriving less than a half-hr before close may participate in other astronomy-themed activities but will be admitted to the observatory only as time allows.

       

                

     

Current Night Sky: August 2018

                                                                     

There is a partial solar eclipse on August 11, but it is visible only in the Arctic, northeastern Asia, and northern Europe.

     

            Phases of the Moon:

                   

               

Last Quarter Moon

August 4

2:18 PM EDT

New Moon

August 11

5:58 AM EDT

First Quarter Moon

August 18

3:49 AM EDT

Full Moon

August 26

7:56 AM EDT

           

       

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Venus, in W

    Jupiter, in SW

    Saturn, S

    Mars, in SE

    Neptune, in E 

         

At Midnight:

    Saturn, in S

    Mars, in S

    Neptune, in SE

    Uranus, in E   

                     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Neptune, in SW

    Uranus, in S

    Mercury, in E 

                       

           

Comets:

    

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

Meteors:

     

  •     The Perseid meteors peak on the night of August 12-13. The Moon will have set well before the meteors will be visible, so this should be an excellent year for the Perseids. Under favorable conditions, observers may see over 100 per hour.
                     

                                                                               

                

           The Perseid meteors originate in debris streams left by previous passages of the comet Swift-Tuttle; every year at this time, Earth plows through these debris streams, and the component particles – most of them no larger than a grain of sand – burn up as they encounter Earth’s atmosphere. This will be a favorable year to view the Perseids, as the Moon will have set and its light will not obscure the fainter meteors. The shower is at its best between midnight and dawn; under dark sky conditions, you may see more than 100 meteors per hour. The shower peaks on the night of August 12/13, but you should see smaller numbers of meteors for several days before and after that date. (Please note: despite what is depicted in the image above, it is unlikely that you will see more than one meteor at a time!)

 (Courtesy: Sky & Telescope).

            

                                  

  

                      On the 16th, Venus is at “greatest elongation”. Being an inner planet, it always hugs the Sun; quite often, it is simply lost in the solar glare, while at other times, its orbit carries it some distance away from the Sun. In practice, this limits its visibility to the evening sky after sunset, or the morning sky before sunrise. It is best seen when it is at its greatest angular distance from the Sun: hence the term “greatest elongation”. (August 16, 2018; 1:30 PM EDT).

       

                     

                     

             On mid-August evenings, a string of planets – Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars – forms a beautiful arc in the southwest. From the 14th through the 23rd, the Moon moves past each of them in turn as it slides to the east. In the background are some of the constellations of summer. Under dark rural skies, the Milky Way may be visible. Its densest part is in Sagittarius; there lies the center of our sprawling galaxy.  (August 16, 2018; 8:45 PM EDT).    

              
                                

Touching the Sun

                                                

Early August will see the launch of a space probe that will fly closer to the Sun than any other. The mission of the Parker Solar Probe (named after contemporary solar physicist Eugene Parker) is to embark on a seven-year journey to explore the deep solar corona. Between its launch this summer and the mission’s end in 2025, the spacecraft will make seven passes by Venus and 26 close approaches to the Sun.

       

Consider: Earth lies 93 million miles, or about 215 solar radii, away from the Sun’s photosphere – what we usually think of as the “surface” of the Sun. The innermost planet, Mercury, gets no closer than 28 million miles (66 solar radii), while the previous closest approach to the Sun – that of Helios 2 in 1976 - barely beat that record by approaching to within 27 million miles (62 solar radii) of the photosphere.

       

By comparison, the Parker Solar Probe will, at its closest, hurtle less than 4 million miles (8.86 solar radii) over the surface of the Sun!

                                       

        

It is necessary to get that close to measure the magnetic and electrical fields, sample the energetic particles, and get close-up images of the corona. These observations may go a long way in explaining a mystery that has puzzled solar physicists for decades.

      

The center of the Sun is thought to have a temperature of about 28 million degrees F. The surface is at only 10,000 degrees F. Yet the corona – the Sun’s thin, extensive outer atmosphere – can reach temperatures as high as 10 million degrees! What process can be heating this region?

       

Obviously, the probe itself will be heated to enormous temperatures as it approaches so close to the Sun. Most of the spacecraft’s instruments and systems will remain hidden behind a 4.5-inch thick heat shield made of reinforced carbon-carbon composite whose Sun-facing surface is designed to withstand temperatures of 2,500 degrees F.  

              

  

  

The diagram above shows the apparent sizes of the Sun’s disk as viewed from the probe’s closest approach as compared to that seen from Earth. And you thought your summer was hot!

    

We, too, live in the outer atmosphere of the Sun. Its energy is the source of almost all life on Earth, and it is desperately important that we understand the workings of the star we’re living with.  

       


   
                                                                        Major Astronomical Events: August 2018
               
    

 August 2018

    
Aug. 1 Wed.   Maria Mitchell born 200 years ago (1818)
Aug. 3 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Moon 5° S of Uranus
Aug. 4 Sat. 2:18 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
Aug. 5 Sun. 10:00 PM EDT Moon 9° SSE of Pleiades
Aug. 6 Mon. 3:00 PM EDT Moon 1.1° N of Aldebaran
Aug. 6 Mon. 7:00 PM EDT Jupiter @ eastern quadrature
Aug. 8 Wed. 4:00 AM EDT Moon 4° S of M35 cluster
Aug. 8 Wed. 10:00 PM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
Aug. 10 Fri. 9:42 AM EDT Moon @ ascending node
Aug. 10 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Moon shows minimum libration for year (0.08°)
Aug. 10 Fri. 2:07 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (358,079 km / 222,500 mi)
Aug. 10 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Sun enters Leo
Aug. 11 Sat. 3:45 AM EDT Parker Solar Probe launch
Aug. 11 Sat. 4:02 AM EDT Partial solar eclipse begins (eastern Siberia, Arctic)
Aug. 11 Sat. 5:58 AM EDT New Moon
Aug. 11 Sat. 7:31 AM EDT Partial solar eclipse ends (eastern Siberia, Arctic)
Aug. 12 Sun. 9:00 PM EDT Perseid meteors peak (very good)
Aug. 14 Tue. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 6° N of Venus
Aug. 13 Wed.   New Horizons switches to 3-axis stabilized mode
Aug. 15 Wed. 1:00 AM EDT Venus at (theoretical) dichotomy, half-illuminated as seen from Earth
Aug. 15 Wed. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 7° NNE of Spica
Aug. 16 Thur.   New Horizons begins Approach Phase of Ultima Thule (MU69)
Aug. 16 Thur. 8:00 AM EDT Mars @ greatest declination S (- 26.5°)
Aug. 16 Thur. 5:00 PM EDT Moon shows maximum declination of year (10.20°)
Aug. 16 Thur. 8:08 PM EDT - 10:12 PM  EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Europa, Io)
Aug. 17 Fri.   OSIRIS-REx orbital insertion around asteroid 101955 Bennu
Aug. 17 Fri. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 5° N of Jupiter
Aug. 17 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Venus @ greatest eastern elongation (46° E of Sun) (evening)
Aug. 18 Sat. 3:49 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
Aug. 19 Sun. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 9° N of Antares
Aug. 20 Mon. 10:00 PM EDT Mars @ greatest latitude S of ecliptic plane (- 1.8°)
Aug. 21 Tue.   New Horizons attempts first imaging of MU69 target
Aug. 21 Tue. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 2° N of Saturn
Aug. 23 Thur. 7:23 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,746 km / 252,119 mi)
Aug. 23 Thur. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 7° N of Mars
Aug. 24 Fri. 12:52 AM EDT Moon @ descending node
Aug. 26 Sun. 7:56 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Sturgeon Moon")
Aug. 26 Sun. 5:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18° from Sun) (morning)
Aug. 27 Mon. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Neptune
Aug. 30 Thur. 11:00 PM EDT Moon 5° S of Uranus

   


 

An Overview of Major Astronomical Events in 2018
 

2018

Jan. 1

Mon.

3:00 PM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (23°)

Jan. 3

Wed.

12:35 AM EST

Earth @ perihelion (0.98328 AU / 147,097,233 km / 91,401,983 mi)

Jan. 3

Wed.

7:14 AM EST

Latest sunrise of year (7:13:48 AM)

Jan. 3

Wed.

4:00 PM EST

Quadrantid meteors peak. (Poor.)

Jan. 8

Mon.

6:00 PM EST

Venus @ superior conjunction

Jan. 19

Fri.

4:42 AM EST - 4:56 AM EST

Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Europa, Ganymede)

Jan. 31

Wed.

5:51 AM EST - 6:56 AM EST

Total Lunar Eclipse (partial in Boston)

Jan. 31

Wed.

11:33 AM EST

Ceres @ opposition

Feb. 7

Wed.

8:53 AM EST (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #11

Feb. 17

Sat.

12:00 AM EST

Mercury @ superior conjunction

Mar. 4

Sun.

9:00 AM EST

Neptune @ superior conjunction

Mar. 11

Sun.

2:00 AM EST / 3:00 AM EDT

Daylight Saving Time begins

Mar. 15

Thur.

10:00 AM EDT

Mercury @ greatest elongation east (18°)

Mar. 17

Sat.

6:53 AM EDT - 6:53 PM EDT

Equilux (day and night of equal length)

Mar. 20

Tue.

12:15 PM EDT

March Equinox

Mar. 28

Wed.

8:30 PM EST

Venus 4' from Uranus

Mar. 31

Sat.

    

Deadline for Google Lunar X Prize

Apr. 1

Sun.

5:47 AM EDT (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #12

Apr. 1

Sun.

7:00 AM EDT

Mercury @ inferior conjunction

Apr. 16 Mon.  

Launch of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)

Apr. 18

Wed.

10:00 AM EDT

Uranus @ superior conjunction

Apr. 21

Sat.

All day

Astronomy Day (Spring)

Apr. 29

Sun.

11:06 AM EDT

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (27°)

May 5

Sat.

  7:05 AM EDT - 9:05 AM EDT

InSight Mars lander launched

May 5

Sat.

3:00 AM EDT

Eta Aquariid meteors peak. (Good.)

May 8

Tue.

9:00 PM EDT

Jupiter @ opposition

May 22 Tue.   Autumnal Equinox in Northern Hemisphere of Mars

May 24

Thur.

1:41 AM EDT (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #13

May 23

Wed.

     

Fall Equinox, N. Hemisphere of Mars

June 1

Fri.

     

Hayabusa-2 orbital insertion around asteroid (162173) Ryugu

June 4 Mon. New Horizons wakes from hiberation prior to MU69 encounter

June 5

Fri.

3:00 PM EDT

Mercury @ superior conjunction

June 14

Thur.

5:07 AM EDT

Earliest sunrise

June 19

Tue.

4:00 PM EDT

Vesta @ opposition

June 21

Thur.

6:07 AM EDT

June (Summer) Solstice

June 26

Tue.

8:25 PM EDT

Latest sunset of year (8:25:22 PM)

June 27

Wed.

9:00 AM EDT

Saturn @ opposition

July 5

Thur.

12:46 AM EDT - 3:05 AM EDT

Saturn occults TYC6277-323-1 (mag. 8.8)

July 6

Fri.

12:46 PM EDT

Earth @ aphelion (1.017 AU / 152.1 milion km / 94.5 million miles)

July 7 Sat.   Mars becomes brighter than Jupiter

July 12

Thur.

12:00 AM EDT

Mercury @ greatest elongation east (26°)

July 12

Thur.

6:00 AM EDT

Pluto @ opposition

July 16

Mon.

1:19 AM EDT (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #14 (End of Primary Mission)

July 27

Fri.

1:00 AM EDT

Mars @ opposition

July 31

Tue.

4:00 AM EDT

Mars @ closest approach (0.385 AU / 57,595,192 km / 35,787,993 mi)

Aug.

    

    

SpaceX Falcon 9 • Crew Dragon 2 Demo 1

Aug. 4 Sat.   Parker Soar Probe launched

Aug. 8

Wed.

3:00 PM EDT

Mercury @ inferior conjunction

Aug. 12

Sun.

9:00 PM EDT

Perseid meteors peak. (Very good.)

Aug. 13 Mon.   New Horizons switches to 3-axis stabilized mode

Aug. 15

Wed.

1:09 AM EDT

Venus @ dichotomy

Aug. 16 Thur.   New Horizons begins Approach Phase

Aug. 16

Thur.

8:06 PM EDT - 10:12 PM EDT

Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)

Aug. 17

Fri.

   

OSIRIS-REx orbital insertion around asteroid 101955 Bennu

Aug. 17

Fri.

3:58 PM EDT

Venus @ greatest elongation east (46°)

Aug. 21 Tue.   New Horizons attempts first imaging of MU69 target

Aug. 26

Sun.

5:58 AM EDT

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (18°)

Aug. 27 Mon.   Atlas 5 • CST-100 Starliner Orbital Flight Test

Sept. 6

Thur.

9:14 PM EDT (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #15 (beginning of Extended Mission)

Sept. 7 Fri.   Mars becomes dimmer than Jupiter

Sept. 7

Fri.

2:00 PM EDT

Neptune @ opposition

Sept. 16

Sun.

1:00 AM EDT

Mars @ perihelion

Sept. 20

Thur.

3:00 PM EDT

Mercury @ superior conjunction

Sept. 21

Fri.

6:00 AM EDT

Venus @ greatest brilliancy (mag. - 4.8)

Sept. 22

Sat.

9:54 PM EDT

September (Fall) Equinox

Sept. 25

Tue.

6:35 AM EDT / 6:36 PM EDT

Equilux (day and night of equal length)

Sept. 25

Tue.

12:17 AM EDT

Venus @ greatest brilliancy (- 4.6)

Sept. 28

Fri.

   

Parker Solar Probe Venus flyby #1

Oct.

   

   

Solar Orbiter ((ESA mission) launched

Oct. 3 Wed.   New Horizons Trajectory Correction Maneuver (?)

Oct. 5

Fri.

   

BepiColombo Mercury orbiter launched

Oct. 13

Sat.

All day

Astronomy Day (Fall)

Oct. 17

Wed.

   

Winter solstice, N. Hemisphere of Mars

Oct. 21

Sun.

2:00 PM EDT

Orionid meteors peak. (Poor.)

Oct. 23

Tue.

9:00 PM EDT

Uranus @ opposition

Oct. 26

Fri.

10:11 AM EDT

Venus @ inferior conjunction

Oct. 29

Mon.

5:08 PM EDT (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #16

Oct. 30 Tue.   Second Falcon Heavy launch; payload includes LightSail 2.

Nov. 1

Thur.

   

Parker Solar Probe perihelion #1

Nov. 4

Sun.

1:00 AM EST / 2:00 AM EDT

Daylight Saving Time ends

Nov. 6

Tue.

9:59 AM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation east (23°)

Nov. 17

Sat.

6:00 PM EDT

Juno @ opposition

Nov. 17

Sat.

7:00 PM EST

Leonid meteors peak. (Poor.)

Nov. 20 Tue.   New Horizons Trajectory Correction Maneuver (?)

Nov. 26

Mon.

 3:00 PM EST

InSight lands in Elysium Planitia

Nov. 26

Mon.

6:00 PM EST

Jupiter @ superior conjunction

Nov. 26

Mon.

9:00 PM EST

Mercury @ superior conjunction

Dec.

   

   

Boeing CST-100 Starliner launched with human crew to ISS

Dec. 1

Sat.

8:00 PM EDT

Venus @ greatest brilliancy (mag. - 4.9)

Dec. 6

Thur.

4:11 PM EST

Earliest sunset of year (4:11:48 PM EST)

Dec. 12

Wed.

6:33 PM EST

Comet 46P/Wirtanen @ perihelion (157.9 million km / 98.1 million mi)

Dec. 14

Fri.

8:00 AM EST

Geminid meteors peak. (Poor.)

Dec. 15

Sat.

7:00 AM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (18°)

Dec. 16

Sun.

9:56 AM EST

Comet 46P/Wirtanen closest (11.5 million km / 7.1 million mi / 30 L.D.)

Dec. 21

Fri.

6:58 AM EST - 7:12 AM EST

Venus occults HIP72373 (mag. 5.9) (sunrise: 7:10 AM)

Dec. 21

Fri.

12:02 PM EST (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove #17

Dec. 21

Fri.

5:22 PM EST

December (Winter) Solstice

Dec. 22

Sat.

4:00 PM EST

Ursid meteors peak (poor)

Dec. 25 Tue.   New Horizons begins Core Phase

 

     


   

    Supernova Style Science News  with Ms. Julie Seven Sage

    


             

August 15, 2018 - 10:00 PM EDT