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 New Fall 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, 7:45-9:15. Runs Sep. 27 - Nov. 15

        

For more info: bostronastronomy@gmail.com

 

              


     

September Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                   

           

      

Thursday, September 8, 2016, 8:00 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) Monthly Meeting
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA
http://www.asnne.org

Topic and Speaker: "Popscope Program for Inner City Outreach", Michael O'Shea

One of ATMoB’s most important missions is to share the beauty and wonder of the night sky through public star parties. Since 2014, the urban astronomy group, #popscope, has connected thousands of everyday people to the night sky -- and to each other -- through free, pop-up sidewalk telescope events. This completely volunteer-led organization aims to involve more people in astronomy -- especially populations underrepresented in the field -- and give everyone the chance to look through a telescope!
Our September speaker (and new ATMoB member) Michael O’Shea will present an in-depth look at this unique program. He will outline problems in our cities and in the field of astrophysics that #popscope seeks to address, explain a simple, but powerful model for urban astronomy outreach, and provide "best practices" for observing the night sky in light-polluted cities and engaging the public. In addition, he will provide abundant examples of #popscope’s work through images and video. You can learn more about #popscope at www.popscope.org.
Michael O'Shea works by day in Boston as a consultant in the higher education and non-profit sectors. By night, he is a community activist and astronomy enthusiast with the #popscope urban astronomy group.
Please join us for a pre-meeting dinner discussion at Changsho, 1712 Mass Ave, Cambridge, MA at 6:00pm.   

        

  

Friday, September 9 - Saturday, September 10, 2016

New England Fall Astronomy Festival

University of New Hampshire

Durham, NH

http://nefaf.com/

    

    

Friday, September 9 - Sunday, September 11, 2016

Annual Starfest Starparty
Astronomical Society of Northern New England
Kennebunk, ME
http://www.asnne.org

   

   

Saturday, September 10, 2016, 8:00 PM

Arlington Astronomy Night
September 10, 2016, 8:00 PM.
Robbins Farm Park
Arlington, MA
http://www.arlingtonastronomy.org

 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 and Mars are still up in the early evening, and Saturn appears to take the lead, now visible to the West of Mars, rather than the East.

       

    

Thursday, September 15, 2016

CfA Observatory Night (public talk + telescope observing - weather permitting)

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

617-495-7461

pubaffairs@cfa.harvard.edu

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

Topic and Speaker: "Please Pardon Our Dust", Doug Finkbeiner, CfA

Many beautiful astronomical images result from starlight being absorbed or scattered by interstellar dust. These processes make for pretty pictures, but also confound astronomers as they try to see through the dust. New efforts are creating a 3-D map of cosmic dust within our galaxy by measuring the colors of nearly 1 billion stars. The resulting data visualizations are not only picturesque, but also crucial to the star-mapping mission of the Gaia satellite and the science of the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Generating this dust map required years of work - but it beats wiping off shelves and knick-knacks!

WARNING: Due to parking lot construction, parking is limited. Additional parking available at 160 Concord Ave. Handicapped ramp is also unavailable. Mobility-impaired attendees will be seated in Pratt overflow.

*** (FREE) TICKETS ARE NOW REQUIRED FOR THIS EVENT! ***

To register, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/please-pardon-our-dust-observatory-night-tickets-27389124609

       

       

Thursday, September 22 - Sunday, September 25, 2016

Acadia Night Sky Festival
Acadia National Park, ME
http://www.acadianightskyfestival.com/

  

  

Monday, September 26, 7:00 PM

Lexington Community Education

Public talk at the Lexington Depot

13 Depot Square

Lexington, MA

Topic and Speaker: "Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos", Prof.Priyamvada Natarajan

The cosmos, once understood as a stagnant place, filled with the ordinary, is now a universe that is expanding at an accelerating pace, propelled by dark energy and structured by dark matter. Priyamvada Natarajan is someone at the forefront of the research - an astrophysicist who literally creates maps of invisible matter in the universe. She not only explains the science behind these essential ideas but also provides an understanding of how radical scientific theories gain acceptance.

      

Her book, Mapping the Heavens: The Radical Scientific Ideas That Reveal the Cosmos provides a tour of the “greatest hits” of cosmological discoveries - the ideas that reshaped our universe over the past century. The formation and growth of black holes, dark matter halos, the accelerating expansion of the universe, the echo of the big bang, the discovery of exoplanets, and the possibility of other universes - these are some of the puzzling cosmological topics of the early twenty-first century. Natarajan discusses why the acceptance of new ideas about the universe and our place in it has never been linear. And she affirms that, shifting and incomplete as science always must be, it offers the best path we have toward making sense of our wondrous, mysterious universe.

Priyamvada Natarajan is Professor in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics at Yale University. She is a theoretical astrophysicist interested in cosmology, gravitational lensing and black hole physics. Her research involves mapping the detailed distribution of dark matter in the universe.

     

The cost of the talk is $10. Pre-registration strongly recommended. To register using a VISA or MasterCard, please contact Lexington Community Education at 781-862-8043.

        

    

Friday, September 30 - Saturday, October 1, 2016

AstroAssembly 2016

Skyscrapers (Amateur Astronomy Society of Rhode Island)

Seagrave Memorial Observatory, and North Scituate Community Center, North Scituate, RI

http://www.theskyscrapers.org/astroassembly2016

     

          

Friday, September 30 - Sunday, October 2, 2016

Connecticut Star Party
Astronomical Society of New Haven
Ashford, CT
http://www.asnh.org

   

   

         

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 month):

CfA Observatory Night (public talk + telescope observing - weather permitting)

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

60 Garden Street # 60

Cambridge, MA 02138

617-495-7461

pubaffairs@cfa.harvard.edu

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

     

       

Fridays (every Friday, 8:30 PM - 10 PM)

Astronomy After Hours

Museum of Science, Boston, MA

617-589-0267

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

          

   

 

The Sky Report for the Month of September 2016

      

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

                  

            Phases of the Moon:

    

    

                             

New Moon

September 1

  5:03 AM EDT

First Quarter

September  9

7:49 AM EDT

Full Moon

September 16

3:05 PM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

September 23

5:56 AM EDT

New Moon

September 30

8:11 PM EDT

 

                     

The Moon & Planets:

  

 

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Jupiter, in W

    Venus, in W 

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in SW

    Neptune, in SE 

      

 At Midnight:

    Mars, in W

    Saturn, in W

     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

  •     Neptune, in W

  •     Uranus, in SW

        Mercury, in E  

             

         

    Comets:

        

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

    Meteors:      

    •     
      •      There are no significant meteor showers in September.
          
               

                                              

     

       

      

               

    Neptune reaches opposition on September 2. It rises at sunset, is highest at midnight, and sets at sunrise.

    It is also at its closest to Earth – a mere 2.7 billion miles distant. At such a distance, it is only visible in a telescope, or – marginally – in binoculars.

    This image was taken by Voyager 2 in 1989,  during the first - and, for the foreseeable future, only – visit by a spacecraft to the planet.

    (September 2, 2016, 12:00 AM EDT)     

                                       

       

      

                        

    On the evening of September 8, the Moon, Saturn, and Mars form a nice grouping in the south-southwest. Lower to the western horizon,

    brilliant Venus is also on display. Even as soon as 15 minutes after sunset, some bright stars are visible at well.

    (September 8, 2016, 7:20 PM EDT)     

                  

          

      

      

                  

    At the autumn (or September) equinox (globe in left foreground), the Earth is experiencing equal amounts of sunlight in each hemisphere.

    Afterwards, the Southern Hemisphere begins to get more sunlight, leading to winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

    (September 22, 2016, 10:21 AM EDT).

            

                            


                    

              The "Great American Eclipse”    

     

    Rather than focusing on events that occur in September, it may be an appropriate time to discuss an event that will occur – not this month, or even this year. Less than a year from now - on August 21, 2017 - will occur a total solar eclipse.
      
    During a total solar eclipse, the Moon comes directly between the Sun and Earth; by coincidence, the cone of the Moon’s shadow is just barely long enough to reach parts of Earth. The tip of the shadow, where it touches down on our planet, is only about 166 miles wide, at most. But since both Earth and Moon are moving rapidly relative to each other, the shadow of the Moon can travel for thousands of miles over our planet’s surface over the space of a few hours. Its ground track is known as the path of totality. Within this path, locations can be within the Moon’s shadow for anywhere from a few seconds up to over seven minutes. For thousands of miles to either side of the path, the eclipse will be partial; only a portion of the Sun’s disk will be blocked by the Moon. 
        
    Total solar eclipses are not in themselves rare. There can be anywhere from none to up to two per year. But they have a nasty habit of occurring in remote - or sometimes inhospitable - parts of the world. The last one, for example, made landfall only on some islands in Indonesia.
      
    But the eclipse of August 21, 2017, will be special. It will be the first occasion since 1979 that the path of totality falls within the continental United States – and even then, it covered only parts of five states in the Pacific Northwest. The one next year will make a complete traverse of the United States – from the coast of Oregon to the shores of South Carolina. The last time we had a cross-country eclipse was nearly a century ago – in 1918! No wonder that the 2017 event is being hailed as “The Great American Eclipse”!  
       
         
        
    The path of totality crosses the country from west to east, through parts of Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. (It also nicks tiny portions of Montana and Iowa.) Major cities within the path are Salem, OR,  Idaho Falls, ID, Jackson and Casper, WY, Lincoln, NE, Kansas City, KS, St. Louis, MO, Knoxville and Nashville, TN, and Charleston, SC. (Courtesy: Sky & Telescope) 
         
    To see the eclipse from within the path of totality is to see one of nature’s most sublime and stunning phenomena. Outside the path of totality – even with the Sun eclipsed by 99% - doesn’t even begin to compare. It doesn’t count. Don’t even bother. 
       
           
         
    During the few precious moments of totality, the Moon completely covers up the Sun. This reveals features such as the Sun’s delicate corona (seen above) and prominences, as well as the so-called Bailey’s Beads and the “Diamond Ring” effect as the Moon’s ragged limb covers and uncovers the Sun. (Courtesy F. Espenak, www.mreclipse.com).
        
    You owe yourself this: make plans to be anywhere along the path of totality. Needless to say, weather prospects are of the utmost importance. No one can ensure clear skies on eclipse day; nevertheless, eclipse “experts” have done extensive studies of climate, meteorological data, and weather records for locations along the path of totality. They have concluded that the best chances of clear skies are in places such as the high desert terrain in Oregon or Wyoming. But make your travel arrangements now! Hotels, motels, and campgrounds are already booked up in the prime areas. The specific location with the best-of-all weather prospects – Madras, Oregon (pop. 6,000) - has had every single hotel/motel, campground, and rental car agency booked, in some cases for years. Facilities in Salem, OR, and Jackson Hole, WY, are also filled to capacity.
       
    Is it worthwhile to devote all this planning and effort to viewing an event that lasts less than 3 minutes? As one who has had the fortune to see a total solar eclipse, I can testify that it can leave memories that last a lifetime.

          

                                              


      
    A Schedule of Events - September / October 2016
      
    Sept. 1 Thur. 2:13 AM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse begins (Atlantic, Equatorial Africa, Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 3:17 AM EDT Full Annular Solar Eclipse begins
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:01 AM EDT Maximum Annular Solar Eclipse (southern Tanzania)
    Sept. 1 Thur. 5:03 AM EDT New Moon
    Sept. 1 Thur. 6:55 AM EDT Full Annular Solar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 1 Thur. 8:00 AM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 2 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 2 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Moon, Mercury, and Jupiter within circle 5.75° in diameter
    Sept. 2 Fri. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 6° N of Mercury
    Sept. 2 Fri. 6:00 PM EDT Moon 0.4° N of Jupiter
    Sept. 3 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 1.1° N of Venus
    Sept. 6 Tue. 2:45 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,054 km / 251,689 mi)
    Sept. 8 Thur.   Sun's N pole most inclined toward Earth (7.25°)
    Sept. 8 Thurs. 5:00 PM EDT Moon 4° N of Saturn
    Sept. 8 Thur. 7:05 PM EDT Launch window opens for OSIRIS-REx Sample Return to asteroid Bennu
    Sept. 8 Thur. 8:30 PM EDT 50th Anniversary of 1st Star Trek episode on TV
    Sept. 9 Fri. 7:49 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Sept. 9 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 8° N of Mars
    Sept. 12 Mon. 8:00 PM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    Sept. 15 Thur. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 1.2° N of Neptune
    Sept. 16 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Sun enters Virgo
    Sept. 16 Fri. 12:55 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse begins (Eastern Hemisphere)
    Sept. 16 Fri. 2:54 PM EDT Maximum Penumbral Lunar Eclipse (northern Indian Ocean)
    Sept. 16 Fri. 3:05 PM EDT Full Moon ("Harvest Moon')
    Sept. 16 Fri. 4:54 PM EDT Penumbral Lunar Eclipse ends
    Sept. 17 Sat. 7:00 PM EDT Venus 3° N of Spica
    Sept. 18 Sun. 1:00 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (361,896 km / 224,872 mi)
    Sept. 18 Sun. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    Sept. 21 Wed.   H.G. Wells' 150th birthday
    Sept. 22 Thurs. 10:21 AM EDT September (Fall) Equinox
    Sept. 23 Fri. 5:56 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Sept. 26 Mon. 3:00 AM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction
    Sept. 28 Wed. 4:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18°) (Morning "Star")
    Sept. 29 Thur. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 0.7° S of Mercury
    Sept. 29 Thur. 4:50 PM EDT Rosetta spacecraft begins descent to surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
    Sept. 30 Fri.   Kepler end of Extended Mission
    Sept. 30 Fri. 7:20 AM EDT Rosetta spacecraft impacts on surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
    Sept. 30 Fri. 8:11 PM EDT New Moon
    Oct. 3 Mon. 1:00 PM EDT Moon 5° N of Venus
    Oct. 4 Tue. 7:03 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (406,095 km / 252,336 mi)
    Oct. 6 Thur. 4:00 AM EDT Moon 4° N of Saturn
    Oct. 8 Sat. All Day Fall Astronomy Day
    Oct. 8 Sat. 8:00 AM EDT Moon 7° N of Mars
    Oct. 9 Sun. 12:33 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Oct. 10 Mon. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury 0.9° N of Jupiter (magnitudes -1.1 and -1.7, 12° from Sun in morning)
    Oct. 13 Thur. 2:00 AM EDT Moon 1.2° N of Neptune
    Oct. 15 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Uranus @ opposition
    Oct. 15 Sat. 10:00 PM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    Oct. 16 Sun.   ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and Schiaparelli separate
    Oct. 16 Sun. 12:23 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Hunter's Moon)
    Oct. 16 Sun. 12:33 AM EDT Supermoon 1 of 3
    Oct. 16 Sun. 7:34 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (357,860 km / 222,364 mi)
    Oct. 17 Mon. 4:59 PM EDT - 6:11 PM EDT Double shadow transit (Ganymede, Europa)
    Oct. 19 Wed.   ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter enters Mars orbit; Schiaparelli test lander lands
    Oct. 19 Wed. 1:50 PM - 2:54 PM Moon occults Aldebaran
    Oct. 20 Thur.   Juno reaches Perijove 2 (no imaging; large rocket maneuver)
    Oct. 21 Fri. 1:00 AM EDT Dwarf planet 1 Ceres @ opposition
    Oct. 21 Fri. 10:00 PM Orionid meteors peak
    Oct. 22 Sat. 3:14 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Oct. 24 Mon. 7:35 PM EDT Double shadow transit of Jupiter (Ganymede, Europa)
    Oct. 25 Tue. 12:00 AM EDT Venus 3° N of Antares
    Oct. 27 Thur. 12:00 PM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction
    Oct. 28 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 1.4° N of Jupiter
    Oct. 29 Sat. 9:00 AM EDT Mars @ perihelion (207 million km / 128.4 million mi / 1.38 AU from Sun)
    Oct. 30 Sun. 4:00 AM EDT Venus 3° S of Saturn
    Oct. 30 Sun. 1:39 PM EDT New Moon
    Oct. 30 Sun. 1:39 PM EDT "Black Moon" (second New Moon in a calendar month)
    Oct. 30 Sun. 2:00 PM EDT Sun enters Libra
    Oct. 31 Mon. 5:00 AM EDT Venus @ aphelion (0.7282 AU from Sun)
    Oct. 31 Mon. 3:29 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (406,662 km / 252,688 mi) (most distant of the year)

           

       (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. 8 Tue. 7:17 PM EST - 10:38 PM EST 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. 5:37 AM EDT - 9:57 AM EDT 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. 7:12 AM EDT - 2:42 PM EDT Transit of Mercury
    May 22 Sun. 7:00 AM EDT Mars @ opposition
    May 30 Mon. 4:00 PM EDT 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. 12:00 PM EDT Earth @ aphelion (1.01675 AU)
    July 4 Mon. 10:30 PM EDT (ERT) Juno Jupiter orbit insertion
    July 7 Thur. 12:00 PM EDT 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. 1:00 PM EDT Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 8 Thur. 3:00 PM EDT OSIRIS-Rex sample-return mission to asteroid Bennu launched
    Sept. 22 Thur. 10:21 AM EDT September Equinox
    Sept. 28 Wed. 3:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (18° W); Morning "Star"
    Sept. 30 Fri.   Rosetta mission slow-mootion crash landing on Comet 67P.
    Oct. 15 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT 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. 20 Thur. 9:00 PM EDT Ceres @ opposition
    Nov. 6 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time ends
    Nov. 17 Thur. 6:00 AM EST Leonid meteroids
    Dec. 6 Tue. 11:18 PM EST - 12:32 AM EST Moon occults Neptune
    Dec. 10 Sat. 11:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (21° W); Evening "Star"
    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

     

     


         

    September, 15, 2016

                        

     

       

        September 15, 2016, 9:00 PM EDT