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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  




Monday, May 9, 2016, from 7:122 AM - 2:42 PM EDT

The Transit of Mercury (public viewing)

Wheaton College

26 East Main Street,

Norton, MA

Weather permitting, we will be viewing the upcoming transit of Mercury on Monday May 9th using the telescopes in our observatory.  We invite Wheaton students (take a break from your exams!) as well as the members of the general public to join us and enjoy this rare astronomical event. The Wheaton College Observatory is on the roof of the Mars Science Center, accessible via stairs and elevators. We will use our 11" Celestron CPC1100 telescopes equipped with solar filters, to observe the entire event, starting at 7:12am EDT and ending at 2.42pm EDT. Click here for a nice article about this upcoming transit.

Given this is New England, please check this webpage before you leave home for any last minute weather related cancellation.



Thursday, May 14th, 2016, from 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Topic and Speaker: "Minor Planet Center Operations", Michael Rudenko

Michael Rudenko has worked at the MPC since 2009 as an IT Specialist. He created the MPC's public facing relational database, web interface and related pages. He is presently engaged in modernizing the MPC observation processing, orbit computation and related operations. He received an SB in Mathematics from MIT in 1977, and has been engaged in computer programming ever since. During the 1980s he undertook a visual comet hunting project and discovered three comets with the aid of a 6-inch refractor.
The Minor Planet Center (MPC) is the single worldwide location for receipt and distribution of positional measurements of minor planets, comets and outer irregular natural satellites of the major planets. The MPC is responsible for the identification, designation and orbit computation for all of these objects.  This talk will describe some of the MPC operations and services.



Thursday, May 21st, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA

CfA Author's Night 

Topic and Speaker: "The New Comos: Answering Astronomy's Big Questions", David Eicher, Astronomy Magazine

Over the past decade, astronomers have answered - or are closing in on the answers to - some of the biggest questions about the universe. David Eicher presents a spectacular exploration of the cosmos that provides you with a balanced and precise view of the latest discoveries. Among the "big science" topics covered will be dark energy, dark matter, water on Mars, the planethood of Pluto, the barred-spiral structure of the Milky Way, and the ubiquitous nature of black holes. There will be a book sale and signing at this event.




Plus (ongoing):  


Tuesdays (beginning March 29, 2016, 9:00 PM)

Public Telescope Night 

Clay Center Observatory

Dexter Southfield School

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 3rd Thursday of month)

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA


Fridays (every Friday, 8:30 PM)

Astronomy After Hours

Museum of Science, Boston, MA




The Sky Report for the Month of May 2016


Current Night Sky: At A Glance


            Phases of the Moon:


New Moon

May 6

       3:30 PM EDT

First Quarter

May 13

1:02 PM EDT

Full Moon

May 21

5:14 PM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

May 29

8:12 AM EDT



The Moon & Planets:



Planet Visibility:


In Evening (after sunset):

    Jupiter, in S

    Mars, in SE 


 At Midnight:

    Jupiter, in W

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in S


 In Morning (before sunrise):

  •     Mars, in SW

  •     Saturn, in SW

  •     Neptune, in SE 

  •     Uranus, in E

        Mercury, in NE 






      •     Comet 252P/LINEAR, after undergoing an unexpected brightening several weeks ago, is climbing higher into northern skies; on the 6th – the night of the New Moon - it is in Ophiuchus, and is highest up about 3 AM, local time. On the 16th, it crosses the boundary into Hercules. Unfortunately, it is dimming rapidly, and may require an 8” or larger telescope to see.


      •      The Eta Aquariid meteors peak on the nights of May 5th – 6th. Like most meteor displays, it is best viewed in the hours between midnight and dawn. With the Moon completely out of the night sky, conditions could hardly be more ideal. Under a dark sky site in the Northern Hemisphere, expect to see about 10 – 20 meteors per hour; viewers south of the Equator may see twice this number.





    The waxing gibbous Moon passes just 2° - or four “Moon-widths” – below Jupiter, as both set in the west after midnight. (Here, the Moon’s size has been exaggerated for the sake of clarity.) Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, lies to the lower right of the pair, while other members of the constellation lie scattered about.

    (May 15, 2016, 1:00 AM EDT).





    The Full Moon, Mars, Saturn, and the star Antares form a beautiful quadrilateral pattern as they rise in the southeast. Both Mars and Antares are noticeably red, especially when compared against the white light from Saturn; in fact, the name “Antares” comes from “anti-Ares”, or “rival of Ares” (the Greek name for Mars).

     (May 21, 2016, 10:00 PM EDT).





    On the 30th, Mars makes its closest approach to Earth, and appears larger and brighter than at any time in the last 10½ years. (Mars actually reaches opposition - with Earth on a direct Sun-Mars line - on the 22nd; because of Mars’s considerably elliptical orbit, however, closest approach can occur several days later.) At its nearest this year, Mars is about 46.8 million miles away.

    (May 30, 2016, 21:34 UT)




              A Transit of Mercury


    On May 9 – weather permitting – many of us will be able to observe a rare daytime sight: a transit of Mercury across the disk of the Sun. Since Mercury’s orbit lies inside that of Earth, it revolves around the Sun much more quickly, and it follows that it must often lie between Earth and the Sun. However, Mercury’s orbit is inclined to the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun by 7°, which is enough to insure that the planet usually appears to pass above or below the Sun’s disk. Transits of Mercury occur about 13 or 14 times per century; the last three were in 1999, 2003, and 2006. The next three following this month’s are in 2019, 2032, and 2039. As seen from Boston, the 2019 one will not be as good as the one this month, since the maximum altitude above the horizon the Sun reaches is less than 30°. There will be a total of 14 Mercury transits in the 21st century. (Transits of the other interior planet, Venus, are much rarer. They occur in pairs 8 years apart that recur either 121.5 or 105.5 years apart. The last was in 2012; the next will occur in 2115!).


    This month’s Mercury transit will take place between 11:12 UT and 18:42 UT (7:12 AM EDT and 2:42 PM EDT) – period of 7½ hours. It will first appear as a tiny dot or indentation on the limb of the Sun,at roughly the seven-o'clock position; 3 minutes and 12 seconds later,the entire planet will have moved onto the Sun’s disk. At the end of the transit, the sequence is reversed.




               The transit of Mercury across the face of the Sun will take 7 ½ hours

    (click for animation).



    Because Mercury is a tiny planet, it will appear as a small dot (perhaps no larger than a minor sunspot, if any happen to be visible at the time). It will be far too small to be seen by the naked eye, and will require binoculars or a small telescope. However, please take the following warning seriously:






    Suitable solar filters – which cut the Sun’s radiation by a factor of a million or so - are available that go over the front of the telescope. Chances are that knowledgeable amateur astronomers, local astronomy clubs, or nearby observatories will be viewing the transit through appropriately safe equipment. Better still, many observatories will be broadcasting the transit live as seen through their telescopes – and you won’t have to worry about the local sky being overcast.




        The Sun will move across a large portion of the sky as the transit is taking place.

    Here the Sun’s motion is shown for the duration of the transit, as seen from Cambridge, MA.

    (click for animation).



    A Schedule of Events - May / June 2016
    May 2 Mon. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 1.7° N of Neptune
    May 4 Wed. 11:00 PM EDT Moon 2° S of Uranus
    May 5 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Eta Aquarid meteors peak
    May 6 Fri. 12:13 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (357,828 km / 222,344 mi)
    May 6 Fri. 3:30 PM EDT New Moon
    May 7 Sat. 12:31 AM EDT - 1:42 AM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Callisto, Io)
    May 9 Mon. 7:13:32 AM EDT Mercury transit - First Contact
    May 9 Mon. 7:16:44 AM EDT Mercury transit - Second Contact
    May 9 Mon 10:57:49 PM EDT Mercury closest to center of Sun's disk
    May 9 Mon. 11:00 AM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    May 9 Mon. 2:38:08 PM EDT Mercury transit - Third Contact
    May 9 Mon. 2:41:19 PM EDT Mercury transit - Fourth Contact
    May 13 Fri. 1:02 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
    May 13 Fri. 3:00 PM EDT Sun enters Taurus
    May 14 Sat.   Astronomy Day
    May 15 Sun. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Jupiter
    May 18 Wed. 6:06 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,933 km / 252,235 mi)
    May 21 Sat. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 6° N of Mars
    May 21 Sat. 5:14 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Flower Moon")
    May 22 Sun. 7:17 AM EDT Mars @ opposition
    May 22 Sun. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
    May 23 Mon. 3:00 PM EDT Asteroid 4 Vesta @ solar conjunction
    May 29 Sun. 8:12 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    May 29 Sun. 3:00 PM EDT Moon 1.4° N of Neptune
    May 30 Mon. 5:34 PM EDT Mars nearest Earth (75,300,000 km / 46,800,000 mi); mag. - 2.1; dia: 18.6")
    June 1 Wed. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Uranus
    June 3 Fri. 3:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
    June 3 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 0.7° S of Mercury
    June 3 Fri. 6:55 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (361,140 km / 224,402 mi)
    June 4 Sat. 11:00 PM EDT New Moon
    June 5 Sun. 5:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24° W); Morning "Star"
    June 6 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT Venus @ superior conjunction
    June 11 Sat. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 1.5° S of Jupiter
    June 12 Sun. 4:10 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    June 14 Tue. 5:07 AM EDT Earliest Sunrise (in Boston)
    June 15 Wed. 4:32 AM EDT Earliest onset of Civil Twilight
    June 15 Wed. 8:00 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,024 km / 251,670 mi)
    June 16 Thur. 3:47 AM EDT Earliest onset of Nautical Twilight
    June 17 Fri. 2:52 AM EDT Earliest onset of Astronomical Twilight
    June 17 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 7° N of Mars
    June 18 Sat. 8:00 PM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
    June 20 Mon. 7:02 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Strawberry Moon")
    June 20 Mon. 6:34 PM EDT June Solstice
    June 21 Tue. 4:00 AM EDT Sun enters Gemini
    June 23 Thur. 10:40 PM EDT Latest end of Astronomical Twilight
    June 24 Fri. 9:45 PM EDT Latest end of Nautical Twilight
    June 25 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 1.2° N of Neptune
    June 25 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Latest end of Civil Twilight
    June 26 Sun. 8:25 PM EDT Latest Sunset (in Boston)
    June 27 Mon. 2:19 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    June 28 Tue. 7:00 PM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    June 30 Thur.   Primary Mission of Dawn spacecraft at Ceres ends
    June 30 Thur.   Asteroid Day 2016


       (bold = cool or important)




    An Overview of Major 2016 Astronomical Events

    Jan. 2 Sat. 6:00 PM EST Earth @ perihelion (0.98330 AU)
    Jan. 3 Sun. 7:13 AM EST Latest sunrise
    Jan. 4 Mon. 3:00 AM EST Quadrantid meteors
    Jan. 19 Tue. 9:35 PM EST - 10:49 PM Moon occults Aldebaran
    Feb. 6 Sat. 0:00 (midnight) EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (26° W); Morning "Star"
    Mar. 8 Tue. 5:00 AM EST Jupiter @ opposition
    Mar. 9 Wed.   Total Solar Eclipse (Pacific, SE Asia)
    Mar. 13 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Daylight Saving Time begins
    Mar. 14 Mon.   ESA ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter / Schiaparelli EDL launch
    Mar. 19 Sat. 00:30 AM EST March Equinox
    Mar. 23 Wed.   Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
    Apr. 10 Sun. 6:52 PM EDT - 7:56 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime, late afternoon)
    Apr. 18 Mon. 8:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (20° W); Evening "Star"
    May 5 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks
    May 9 Mon.   Transit of Mercury
    May 22 Sun. 7:00 AM EDT Mars @ opposition
    May 30 Mon.   Mars @ closest approach
    June 3 Fri. 2:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
    June 4 Sat. 3:41 PM EDT - 4:47 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime, close to Sun)
    June 5 Sun. 5:00 AM  EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24° W); Morning "Star"
    June 6 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT Venus @ superior conjunction
    June 20 Mon. 6:00 PM EDT June Solstice
    June 26 Sun. 8:25 PM EDT Latest sunset
    July 4 Mon.   Earth @ aphelion (1.01675 AU)
    July 5 Tue.   Juno Jupiter orbit insertion
    July 7 Thur.   Pluto @ opposition
    July 23 Sat. 12:07 AM EDT - 1:01 AM EDT Moon occults Neptune
    July 29 Fri. 6:21 AM EDT - 7:03 AM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daytime)
    Aug. 12 Fri. 11:30 AM EDT Perseid meteors peak (ZHR 150), favoring central Pacific
    Aug. 16 Tue. 2:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27° W); Evening "Star"
    Aug. 27 Sat. 6:00 PM EDT Venus passes 4' from Jupiter (closest naked-eye planet conjunction)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:00 AM EDT Annular Solar Eclipse (Sothern Africa, Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 2 Fri.   Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 3 Sat.   OSIRIS-Rex sample-return mission to asteroid Bennu launched
    Sept. 22 Thur. 10:21 AM EDT September Equinox
    Sept. 28 Wed.   Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18° W); Morning "Star"
    Oct. 15 Sat.   Uranus @ opposition
    Oct. 16 Sun.   ExoMars TGO/Schiaparelli separation
    Oct. 19 Wed.   ExoMars TGO Mars orbit insertion
    Oct. 19 Wed.   ExoMars Schiaparelli Mars landing
    Oct. 19 Wed. 1:50 AM EDT - 2:54 PM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran
    Oct. 21 Fri.   Ceres @ opposition
    Nov. 6 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time ends
    Nov. 17 Thur. 6:00 AM EST Leonid meteroids
    Dec. 5 Mon.   Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (21° W); Evening "Star"
    Dec. 6 Tue. 11:18 PM EST - 12:32 AM EST Moon occults Neptune
    Dec. 13 Tue. 7:00 PM EST Geminid meteors
    Dec. 21 Wed. 5:44 AM EST December Solstice
    Dec. 22 Thur. 4:00 AM EST Ursid meteors




    May 15, 2016




    May 15, 2016, 10:00 PM EDT