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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.


















       

            


                                                  

                      

Next Astronomy Course!

 

Introduction to Astronomy

 

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: April 3, 2018 - May 22, 2018, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.

    

                                      


          

 February Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                                                   

            

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 8:00 PM - 10 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) Monthly Meeting

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden St.

Cambridge, MA 02138

http://www.atmob.org

Topic and Speaker: "Journey into Totality", Kevin Collins

Those of you who attended the April, 2017, ATMoB meeting will recall speaker Kevin Collins’ recounting of his project to upgrade a Coulter Odyssey 13.1-inch scope. At our February meeting, Kevin returns to take us on his "Journey Into Totality" to see the Great American Eclipse of 2017. Kevin and his eclipse chasing partner Sean started planning their epic road trip 2 years ago and ultimately traveled 2500 miles through 12 states chasing clear skies often changing their direction from hour to hour. You'll see and hear about happenings on the road, stops along the way, how nail-biting decisions were made, and a recount of this amateur astronomer's heartfelt emotions as he experienced totality for the first time. Kevin is a software developer for ATC Associates in Agawam, MA, the Assistant Winemaker for Mineral Hills Winery in Florence, MA, President of the Pioneer Valley Winemakers Society, and former President of the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association. He is also a member of the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center and the Springfield STARS Club. Besides his astronomical interests which include telescope making and deep sky and visible light solar observing with family and friends, Kevin is an avid cyclist, hiker, photographer, and amateur winemaker. He lives with his partner in Northampton, MA.

   

   

Thursday, February 15, 2017, 7:30 PM

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138
https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/publicevents

Topic and Speakers: "A Ripple, a Flash and a Bang: The Story of Two Neutron Stars", Peter Blanchard and Ashley Villar, PhD Candidates, Astrophysics, Harvard University

Recently, astronomers and physicists around the world turned their eyes and "ears" towards an incredible event in the night sky. For the first time, we detected the collision of two neutron stars using both traditional telescopes and a gravitational wave detector called LIGO/Virgo. This event triggered a so-called "kilonova" - an event so powerful that it forged gold weighing half as much as Jupiter. Peter Blanchard and Ashley Villar will help unravel the mystery behind gravity waves, neutron stars, and this exciting event.

    

       

          

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/  

             

          

     

Current Night Sky: February 2018

                             

There is a partial solar eclipse on February 15. The partially covered Sun will be visible only from South America, the South Atlantic, and Antarctica.

                    

                                   

            Phases of the Moon:                           

                             

Last Quarter Moon

February 7

10:54 AM EST

New Moon

February 15

4:05 PM EST

First Quarter Moon

February 23

3:09 AM EST

                         

        

The Moon & Planets:

  

    

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Mercury, in W

    Venus, in W

    Neptune, in W

    Uranus, in SW

      

         

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Jupiter, in S

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in SE 

                    

        

Comets:

    

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

Meteors:

      

  •     There no meteor showers in February.         
  •       
                     

                                                           

       

                    

Jupiter is coming into prominence. It is now rising before 1 AM and remains visible until dawn. Here Io (to left of Jupiter) casts a small dot of a shadow

onto the planet’s cloudtops. Jupiter’s four large moons, discovered by Galileo in 1609-10, are roughly the size of our Moon or larger.

(February 3, 2018 – 3:45 AM EST)

                               

                            

        

Throughout February, three planets – Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter - line up in the predawn twilight.

From the 6th to the 12th, a waning crescent Moon joins them.

 (February 6, 2018, 5:52 AM EST).

                 

                  

  

           

In mid-month, Mars passes near the red supergiant star Antares in Scorpius. Their similarity in color has long been noted;

the star’s name comes from the ancient Greek: “Rival to Ares (Mars)”.

(February 12, 2018 – 4:15 AM EST).

                         

                              
      

The Lives of Stars

                         

       

As we learn about the Universe, we discover a bewildering variety of stars. Though they may seem eternal and unchanging over the time scales of human lifetimes, stars - like humans - are born, live their lives, and die. Some of them last no longer than tens of millions of years, while others may endure for years numbering in the trillions. Though our centuries and millennia are too brief to show changes in any individual star, we can see a lot of them, and, over time, astronomers have pieced together their stories.

 

It turns out that the life history of a star is determined almost entirely by its initial mass. Stars generate energy to shine through the process of thermonuclear fusion. Ordinary stars are formed primarily of hydrogen; under the enormous temperatures and pressures inside a stellar core, this hydrogen is fused into helium, yielding energy.

 

For the largest fraction of a star’s life, this process continues uneventfully, and the star settles into a stable, well-behaved existence. Inevitably, though, the hydrogen fuel in the core is consumed, and an ever larger portion of the material in the center becomes helium “ash”. 

 

How long this takes depends on how massive the star is to begin with. If a star is huge, it generates an enormous amount of energy and burns through its fuel in a short time. A smaller star, being more miserly in its energy output, can last much longer. A brilliant star like Rigel won’t endure for more than a few tens of millions of years; there are even larger stars whose lifetime may be measured in just hundreds of thousands of years! (For comparison, Homo sapiens is thought to have originated roughly 200,000 years ago.) On the other hand, dim red dwarfs (such as our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri) may live for trillions of years – orders of magnitude longer than the present age of the Universe.

 

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, when it comes to stars, the bigger they are, the harder - or, rather, sooner - they fall. Our Sun, an intermediate mass star, has existed for about 5 billion years, and has about another five billion to go.

 

       

What happens to a star at the end of its life depends, once again, on its mass. In the most massive stars, temperatures in the core may reach values high enough to fuse helium into heavier elements such as carbon; conditions may even become hot enough to turn carbon into neon, neon into oxygen, as so on, all the way up to iron – with each phase being shorter than the last. Once iron accumulates in the core, energy production ceases, and the heavy outer layers of the star fall inward; the collapsing material rebounds and bounces out again. The result is a supernova explosion; for a brief time, the star may outshine a hundred million stars in its galaxy.

 

Depending on the remnant mass in the collapsed core, the star may become a neutron star, or, in more extreme cases, a black hole.

 

The fate of less massive stars like our Sun will be less dramatic. As its fuel runs low, such a star expands into a red giant, sheds its outer layers, and finally dwindles down to a white dwarf, shining only by remnant heat. It is thought that such a star may take trillions of years to fade to a black dwarf, although we’re not sure. No black dwarfs have ever been observed. The Universe is simply not old enough to have produced any yet.

 

One of the notable side effects of astronomy is the perspective it provides on the vastness of space and time. When we contemplate our place in the Universe, we can’t help but to be humble. 

                        

                                    
   
Major Astronomical Events: February 2018       
 

Feb. 1

Thur.

2:45 AM EST

Ceres nearest to Earth

Feb. 1

Thur.

2:00 PM EST

Moon 1° N of Regulus

Feb. 3

at.

7:00 PM EST

Middle of eclipse season; Sun @ latitude of Moon's node.

Feb. 5

Mon.

12:00 PM EST

Moon 7° NNE of Spica

Feb. 6

Tue.

1:30 PM EST - 3:30 PM EST

Launch attempt of SpaceX Falcon Heavy

Feb. 7

Wed.

8:53 AM EST (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove # 11

Feb. 7

Wed.

10:54 AM EST

Last Quarter Moon

Feb. 7

Wed.

3:00 PM EST

Moon 4° N of Jupiter

Feb. 8

Thur.

12:00 AM EST

Moon 4° N of Mars

Feb. 9

Fri.

6:00 AM EST

Moon 9° N of Antares

Feb. 9

Fri.

8:00 AM  EST

Moon 0.9° S of Vesta

Feb. 10

Sat.

10:00 AM EST

Mars 5° N of Antares

Feb. 10

Sat.

6:00 PM EST

Jupiter @ west quadrature

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:00 AM EST

Equation of Time @ minimum for year (- 14.24 min.)

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:16 AM EST

Moon @ apogee (405,700 km / 252,090 mi)

Feb. 11

Sun.

10:00 AM EST

Moon 2° N of Saturn

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:00 PM EST

Mars 5° N of Antares

Feb. 12

Mon

3:00 PM EST

Moon 1.8° N of Pluto

Feb. 14

Wed.

6:00 AM EST

Asteroid 4 Juno @ solar conjunction

Feb. 15

Thur.

1:55 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse begins (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 15

Thur.

3:51 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse @ maximum (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 15

Thur.

4:05 PM EST

New Moon

Feb. 15

Thur.

5:47 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse ends (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 16

Fri.

10:00 AM EST

Sun enters Aquarius

Feb. 16

Fri.

10:00 PM EST

Moon, Venus, Neptune within circle 5.65° in diameter

Feb. 16

Fri.

12:00 PM EST

Moon 1.6° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 17

Sat.

7:00 AM EST

Mercury @ superior conjunction

Feb. 20

Tue.

3:00 AM EST

Moon 5° S of Uranus

Feb. 21

Wed.

2:00 PM EST

Venus 0.54° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 22

Thur.

8:00 PM EST

Moon 9° SSE of Pleiades

Feb. 23

Fri.

3:09 AM EST

First Quarter Moon

Feb. 23

Fri.

1:00 PM EST

Moon 0.7° N of Aldebaran

Feb. 25

Sun.

7:00 AM EDT

Mercury, Venus, Neptune within circle 4.54° in diameter

Feb. 25

Sun.

8:00 AM EST

Mercury 0.43° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 27

Tue.

9:39 AM EST

Moon @ perigee (363,932 km / 226,137 mi)

Feb. 27

Tue.

12:00 PM EDT

Moon 2° S of Beehive Cluster

   
   

 

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.

    

Launch of TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite)

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. 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.

   

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 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 of year (5:07:00 AM)

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

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.

   

Parker Solar Probe launched

Jul. 31

Tue.

4:00 AM EDT

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

Aug.

    

    

SpaceX Dragon 2 launched with human crew to ISS

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°)

Sept. 6

Thur.

9:14 PM EDT (SCET)

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

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

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.

   

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

    


          

February 15, 2018 - 8:00 PM EST