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.
Astronomy Class Beginning in the Fall!
Meet the Uniiverse
Taught by Dan Winchell and John Sheff
When we look up at the night sky, what do we see? Are we alone in the universe? Will humans someday colonize the moon, Mars or even other solar systems? Come learn more about astronomy and this exciting frontier of discovery. We’ll talk about black holes, the cosmic microwave background, and the search for life in the Universe. You’ll get a chance to use a large telescope at a real observatory and learn how to navigate the night sky on your own.
No math or science experience required! Bring your questions!
Meets 8 Tuesdays (September 22 - November 10), 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM,, at Cambridge Center for Adult Education,
To register orr for more information, visit the CCAE website.
A Once-in-a-LifetimeSpecial :
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 email@example.com. 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").
Monday, August 3rd - Friday, August 7th, 2015 (9 AM - 5 PM)
Our Partners at Education Unlimited offer Sally Ride Science Camps, innovative hands-on camps for girls entering 4th - 9th grades.
These unique camps provide girls an opportunity to explore science, technology, and engineering while having fun on a college campus.
From the Education Unlimited website:
Sally Ride Science Camps encourage girls’ interests in science by providing hands-on learning in an environment that is designed to be supportive, enriching, and – most importantly – fun! These unique overnight camps provide girls an opportunity to explore science, technology, and engineering through experiments and observations while staying on a university campus.
Wednesday, August 5th - Friday, August 14th, 2015
The Globe at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone.
Friday, August 7th - Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Observing & Camping Vacation, hosted by the
Rockland Astronomy Club
RAC holds the longest and most exciting star party, geared to both the serious observer, imager, and the whole family. Our location in the Berkshires is known for its pristine dark skies, and gorgeous arching Milky Way.
Thursday, August 13th - Sunday, August 16th, 2015
Every year in the dark of a mid-summer new Moon, amateur
astronomers and telescope makers travel great distances to gather on a
beautuful rural hilltop in Springfield, VT. This is the Stellafane
Convention, the oldest and one of the largest assemblies of night sky
enthusiasts. It has been hosted here at the birtthplace of American
amateur telescope making by the Springfield Telescope Makers (STM)
Keynote Speaker: Alan Stern, Principal Investigator for the New Horizons Pluto mission.
Sunday, August 16th - Saturday, August 22nd, 2015
Medomak Astronomy Retreat
hosted by Kelly Beatty and Bruce Berger.
Medomak Retreat Center in Washington, Maine, has some of the darkest
skies in the Northeast, with a limiting visual magnitude of 6.3 (SQM
value: 21.3 MPSAS). It's an IDA-compliant property that takes an active
role in promoting the benefits of dark skies. Medomak's family camp has
hosted an astronomy-themed vacation week for 10 years, and availability
routinely sells out many months in advance.
Saturday, August 22nd, 2015, 8:15l PM.
Arlington Astronomy Night
Robbins Farm Park
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.
On this night - with the moon partially lit - it is a great time to see the craters and rough terrain of the Moon in a telescope or even through binoculars. Look for spots around the light/dark line (called the terminator) where you can see shadows cast by peaks on the lunar surface. Saturn is very close to the moon tonight.
Tuesdays (beginning March 31)
Clay Center Observatory
Dexter Southfield School
617-454-2795 (appoint. required)
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM.
Fridays (beginning March 13):
Museum of Science
"Astronomy after Hours" public viewing at Guilliland Observatory 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM.
The Sky Report for the Month of July 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.)
Phases of the Moon:
10:20 PM EDT
Last Quarter Moon
4:24 PM EDT
9:24 PM EDT
12:04 AM EDT
6:43 AM EDT
The Moon & Planets:
In Evening (after sunset):
In Evening (after sunset):
Venus, in W
Venus, in W
Jupiter, in W
Jupiter, in W
Saturn, in SW
Saturn, in SW
Neptune, in SE
Neptune, in SE
In Morning (before sunrise):
In Morning (before sunrise):
Neptune, in S
Uranus, in SE
Mercury, in NE
There are no comets visible brighter than magnitude
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.
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.)
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: July / August 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|
|Aug. 2||Sun.||6:03 AM EDT||Moon @ perigee (362,139 km / 225,023 mi)|
|Aug. 2||Sun.||10:00 AM EDT||Moon 3° NNW of Neptune|
|Aug. 5||Wed.||5:00 AM EDT||Moon 0.96° SSE of Uranus|
|Aug. 5||Wed.||5:00 AM EDT||Mercury 8° N of Venus|
|Aug. 6||Thu.||10:03 PM EDT||Last Quarter Moon|
|Aug. 7||Fri.||2:00 AM EDT||Mercury 0.6° N of Jupiter|
|Aug. 10||Mon.||10:00 PM EDT||Sun enters Leo|
|Aug. 12||Wed.||11:00 PM EDT||Moon 6° S of Mars|
|Aug. 13||Thu.||4:00 AM EDT||Perseid meteors peak (~ 100 meteors / hr)|
|Aug. 14||Fri.||10:53 AM EDT||New Moon|
|Aug. 15||Fri.||6:00 AM EDT||Moon 4° SSW of Jupiter|
|Aug. 15||Sat.||3:00 PM EDT||Venus @ inferior conjunction (moves into morning sky)|
|Aug. 16||Sun.||11:00 AM EDT||Moon 2° S of Mercury|
|Aug. 17||Mon.||10:33 PM EDT||Moon @ apogee (405,848 km / 252,182 mi)|
|Aug. 21||Fri.||8:00 PM EDT||Saturn @ eastern quadrature|
|Aug. 22||Sat.||1:00 PM EDT||Moon 3° N of Saturn|
|Aug. 22||Sat.||3:31 PM EDT||First Quarter Moon|
|Aug. 26||Wed.||6:00 PM EDT||Jupiter @ solar conjunction (moves into morning sky)|
|Aug. 29||Sat.||1:00 AM EDT||Venus 9° S of Mars|
|Aug. 29||Sat.||2:35 PM EDT||Full Moon ("Sturgeon Moon")|
|Aug. 29||Sat.||7:00 PM EDT||Moon 3° NNW of Neptune|
|Aug. 30||Sun.||11:21 AM EDT||Moon @ perigee (358,290 km / 222,631 mi)|
* bold = cool or important!
A Preview of 2015 Events
|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