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.


















       

   


 

            

A Once-in-a-LifetimeSpecial:

      

Plutopalooza!

      

 A Family-Frendly Event

 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM.

    

 

For 9½ years, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been coasting towards a fateful encounter with Pluto and its moons. On July 14th, it will arrive! After a journey of nearly a decade, its Close Encounter phase will last just 48 hours! During the busiest hours of the flyby - including the moment of closest approach - the spacecraft will be too busy to communicate with Earth as it soaks up all the data it can during its mad dash through the Pluto system. Once it resumes transmitting, it will still take an additional four hours for its signals, travelling at the speed of light, to reach Earth!

 

But a lot could go wrong. At the speed it’s moving, it wouldn’t take much of a high-speed impact with any undiscovered moon, possible ring, or other unseen debris to disable or destroy the spacecraft just as it’s making its closest approach to the planet. Will New Horizons survive long enough to “Phone Home” and send us its treasure trove of images and measurements?

 

We’ll know the minute that NASA does! We’ll be presenting a Live NASA TV broadcast from the Mission Operations Center, including interviews, videos, and status updates, right up until the receipt of the spacecraft’s “I survived” chirp (expected at 9:09 PM)!

 

Afterwards, if it’s clear, we’ll have telescopes on the roof aimed at Pluto’s location in the sky (plus other targets of opportunity). Pluto is too faint to be visible even in our telescopes, but it’s possible a few photons reflected by the planet may hit our retinas! It should all be great fun, as we’ll have a raffle, photo ops in front of an artistic Pluto landscape, 3-D-Printed models of New Horizons, and who knows what else!   

 

This will probably be the last time in our lives that we will be seeing a “New World” up close for the very first time. Don’t miss your chance!

 

Please note: Tickets and reservations are neither required nor accepted. As with all of our events, admission will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Once our auditorium and overflow rooms are full, there will be no further admission. In addition, in the interests of fairness to people who will have waited in line, there will be no “saving of seats” for those who cannot be present when the doors are opened. 

 

For more information, including accessibility, or to sign up for the events mailing list, call the Public Affairs Office, (617) 495-7461, or email pubaffairs@cfa.harvard.edu. Please request sign-language interpretation at least 2 weeks before the event..

 

Entrance is at the west of the CfA complex, near Madison Street and large parking lot. The CfA is easily reached by public transportation. From the Harvard MBTA Station (Red Line), take any bus or trackless trolley going west on Concord Avenue (Arlmont Village and Belmont Center buses, Huron Avenue trolleys) and get off at "Observatory Hill."

 

If you arrive by car, parking is free for the duration of the event (yes, you can park even where the signs say "Parking by Permit Only").

 

 


      

 July Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

                   

        

Thursday, July 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.

        

  

Friday, July 10th - Sunday, July 12, 2015

Connecticut River Valley Astronomers' Conjunction
Northfield Mountain Recreational and Environmental Center
Northfield, MA
http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction/

   

   

Saturday, July 11th, 2015, 8:45 PM. 

Arlington Astronomy Night
Robbins Farm Park
Arlington, MA

This summer there will be a series of Astronomy Nights at Robbins Farm Park. Each night we'll have at least one telescope out to view objects in the night sky. This summer we'll have a great display of planets all summer long.  There'll be plenty to see -- the sky is the limit! The events are totally informal and fun for all ages.
During the July 11th event, the Moon is below the horizon, keeping the sky as dark as we get in Arlington.  We'll look for some "deep sky" objects like star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas if we can spot them.  Saturn is a great sight, shining high in the southern sky.

http://www.arlingtonastronomy.org 

  

     

         

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/  

   

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 June 2015

        

  The Earth is at aphelion – its furthest distance from the Sun – on July 6, at 3:41 PM EDT. The distance between the two bodies reaches an annual maximum: 94,506,500 miles. (Remember – the heat of summer and the cold of winter seasons are caused not by Earth’s distance from the Sun but by its axial tilt.)

          

   

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

         

Phases of the Moon:

   

       

Full Moon

July 1

10:20 PM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

July 8

4:24 PM EDT

New Moon

July 15

9:24 PM EDT

First Quarter

July 24

12:04 AM EDT

Full Moon

July 31

6:43 AM EDT

     

              

The Moon & Planets:

  

 

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Venus, in W

    Jupiter, in W

    Saturn, S 

 

 At Midnight:

    Saturn, in SW

    Neptune, in SE

 

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Neptune, in S

    Uranus, in SE

    Mercury, in NE 

 

Comets:

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

Meteors:

 

     The Southern Delta Aquariids peak on July 30, and can produce 15-20 meteors per hour. Unfortunately, this is a day before the Full Moon, so most of the meteors will be drowned out by the lunar glare.


  

              
                         

 Venus at its Most Brilliant

   

  

               

Venus will have already reached its maximum distance from the Sun and height above the horizon, but only in July will it reach its greatest brilliancy.

At magnitude -4.7, it will be dazzling enough to cast shadows at night. Even a small telescope will show its crescent shape.

On the 12th, it will span a diameter of 39 arc-seconds, and will be 24% illuminated by the Sun.

(July 12, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT)

  

  

  

Twilight in the West

       

 

   

      Two planets – Venus and Jupiter - and a first-magnitude star – Regulus - are joined by the 3-day old Moon in the west after sunset.

(Here, the size of the Moon has been exaggerated to make its thin crescent visible against the evening twilight glow.)   

            (July 18, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT)
 

     

          
 It's a planet! No, its an asteroid! No, it's a Dwarf Planet!
It's. . .Ceres!
           
   
                    

On July 25, Ceres – a “dwarf planet” – reaches opposition. It is at its closest point to Earth, and at magnitude 7.5,

it will be considerably easier to spot than Pluto – the other “dwarf planet” that reaches opposition this month.

(July 25, 2015, 1:15 AM EDT)

   
      
                        
 

    

A Visit to a New World

      

During the fifty years since Mariner 4 sent us the first close-up pictures from another planet, our robotic emissaries have travelled to every one of what were then considered the nine planets – except Pluto: Jupiter in 1973, Venus and Mercury in 1974, Saturn in 1979, Uranus in 1986, and Neptune in 1989. Only Pluto remained unvisited. In the years since, Pluto’s true small size was revealed, it was discovered to be just one member of the Kuiper Belt – a donut-shaped region of rocky and icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune - and was reclassified as a “dwarf planet”.

  

          

 

  

 On the evening we hear from New Horizons, Pluto will be low on the southeast, It will be among the rich star fields of the Milky Way in Sagittarius,

and will be shining at magnitude 14.1 – about 1600 times fainter than anything visible to the naked eye. 

(July 14, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    

 

At long last, in 2006, a spacecraft was launched to see Pluto up-close. New Horizons will arrive at its destination after a cruise of 9½ years, and its “Close Approach” phase would last just 48 hours. Its arrival date is July 14, 2015, and it will take weeks and months to transmit all the data it will have gathered to a waiting Earth. The images and other data will undoubtedly revolutionize our knowledge of the Kuiper Belt and perhaps of the origin of the Solar System. 

     

    

    

 

  Amateur astronomers with larger telescopes may be able to track down Pluto. Here is the view of the starfield in a Telrad viewfinder;

the red circles represent fields 4°, 2°, and ½° in diameter. Even at high magnification, Pluto will be indistinguishable from any faint star;

the best way to identify it is to look for its movement against the background stars over a period of nights.    

(July 14, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

   

    

Pluto is a difficult target to see from Earth. Nevertheless, with sufficiently large telescopes, good star charts, and dark skies, it may be within the reach of amateur astronomers. And, like the scientists involved in the New Horizons mission, you’ll need one other quality: patience!

      

                     



A Schedule of Events: June / July  2015

    

Jul. 1 Wed. 3:51 AM EDT Venus 20.7' from Jupiter
Jul. 1 Wed. 10:00 AM EDT Venus 24.0' S of Jupiter (conjunction in R.A.)
Jul. 1 Wed. 10:20 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Buck Moon")
Jul. 5 Sun. 2:52 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (367,093 km / 228,101 m.)
Jul. 6 Mon. 11:38 AM EDT Pluto @ opposition
Jul. 6 Mon. 3:41 PM EDT Earth @ aphelion (152,093,480 km / 94,506,507 million mi)
Jul  8 Wed. 4:24 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
Jul. 10 Fri. 1:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
Jul. 12 Sun. 6:18 PM EDT Venus @ greatest brilliancy (mag. - 4.69)
Jul. 14 Tue. 7:49:47 EDT New Horizons closest approach to Pluto
Jul. 14 Tue. 9:00 PM EDT 50th Anniv. (1965), Mariner 4 sends back 1st photos from Mars
Jul. 14 Tue. 9:09 PM EDT New Horizons "I survived" chirp
Jul. 15 Wed. 9:24 PM EDT New Moon
Jul. 17 Fri.   165th Anniv.(1850) Harvard Observatory takes 1st photo of star: Vega
Jul. 18 Sat. 2:00 PM EDT Moon 4° S of Jupiter
Jul. 18 Sat. 3:19 AM EDT Brightest ISS morning pass of month (- 3.5)
Jul. 18 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 0.4° S of Venus
Jul. 20 Mon. 4:18 PM EDT  46th Anniv. (1969) of First Human Landing on Moon: Apollo 11
Jul. 21 Tue. 2:00 AM EDT Sun enters Cancer
Jul. 21 Tue. 702 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (404,835 km / 251,553 mi)
Jul. 23 Thu. 3:00 PM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction
Jul. 24 Fri. 12:04 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
Jul. 25 Sat. 4:00 AM EDT Asteroid 1 Ceres @ opposition
Jul. 26 Sun. 4:00 AM EDT Moon 2° N of Saturn
Jul. 30 Thu.   405th Anniversary (1610) Galileo observes Saturn's rings
Jul. 30 Thu.   Southern Delta Aquarid meteors peak (poor)
Jul. 30 Thu. 9:59 PM  EDT Brightest ISS evening pass of month (- 3.5)
Jul 31 Fri. 6:43 AM EDT Full Moon ("Blue Moon")
Jul. 31 Fri. 4:00 PM EDT Venus 6° S of Jupiter

        

   * bold = cool or important!

   `    `

 


    
A Preview of 2015 Events
 
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")
   
 
   
                    
July 2015 Star Chart
     
   
  
        July 15, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT