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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.


















       

            


                                 

New 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: January 9, 2018 - February 27, 2018, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.

    

                                      


          

                  

December Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                                              

            

Thursday, December 14, 2017, 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: "Meteorites 101", Peter Scherff

At our December monthly meeting, Peter Scherff will present “Meteorites 101: What they are, Where they come from, & How we find them”. This is a talk on meteorites and impactites, what they are and what they tell us about the world we live in. Peter has traveled the world to find rocks that are “out of this world”. He will have samples with him: meteorites from the Moon, meteorites that sent hundreds of people to the hospital, part of an asteroid that was found on an impact course with Earth, a piece of Mars and many more meteorites. He will also be selling meteorite Christmas ornaments. The presentation will touch on the formation of the solar system, the composition of the Earth, the role of asteroid impact on the Earth. If you have any rocks that you think might be a meteorite be sure to bring them. Peter will be happy to give his opinion on them. 
Peter Scherff first started working with meteorites in the 1970’s when he used meteorites to create “out-of-this-world” jewelry. Working this amazing material piqued his interest and he started studying meteorites to learn the science behind them. His studies have continued to this day. He prepares meteorites for study and/or display, makes thin sections for study, and etches iron meteorites to display their beautiful qualities. He has worked designing museum displays, selling and providing meteorites to both the public (universities, museums) as well as private collectors. He has also traveled the world hunting for extraterrestrial rocks. Peter is a member of the Meteoritical Society, The International Meteorite Collectors Organization, as well as local and national astronomy associations. 
Please join us for a pre-meeting dinner discussion at House of Chang, 282 Concord Ave, Cambridge, MA at 6:00pm before the meeting.

   

   

Sunday, December 31, 2017, 8:00 PM - Monday January 1, 2018, ???

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) New Years Eve Party

ATMoB Clubhouse
ATMoB, Millstone Rd.
Westford, MA  01886

http://www.atmob.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/  

             

          

     

The Sky Report for the Month of December 2017

                         

The December Solstice occurs at 11:28 AM EST on December 21st. The Sun reaches its southernmost celestial latitude of the year; this day brings the year’s shortest period of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere and the longest in the Southern Hemisphere. By convention, winter officially begins in the North and summer begins in the South.

             

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

                        

            Phases of the Moon:                           

                                          

         

Full Moon

December 3

10:47 AM EST

Last Quarter Moon

December 10

2:51 AM EST

New Moon

December 18

1:30 AM EST

First Quarter Moon

December 26

4:20 AM EST

 

                                                     

The Moon & Planets:

  

    

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Mercury, in SW 

    Saturn, in SW

    Neptune, in S

    Uranus, in SE 

      

 At Midnight:

    Uranus, in W

     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Mars, in SE

    Jupiter, in SE

    Mercury, in SE 

    Venus, in SE 

                    

        

Comets:

    

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

Meteors:      

  •     The Geminid meteor shower peaks on December 13/14. Under dark skies, expect about 120 meteors per hour. The Moon will be a thin crescent, so moonlight will    not significantly affect the viewing.  
  •         
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The smallest Full Moon of 2017 (left) occurred on June 9. The largest (right) will be on

December 3. The December Moon is 13% closer. Though the difference is obvious when the images are displayed side-by-side,

it is virtually impossible to compare mental pictures remembered months apart. Nevertheless, the image at right is publicized as a “Super Moon”.

(June 3, 2017, 9:10 AM EST, and Dec. 3, 2017, 10:47 AM EST).

            

                                   

          

  

The Geminid meteors, one of the year’s best, peaks on the night of December 13/14. This is one of the year’s most dependable and prolific

 meteor showers; under ideal conditions, up to 120 meteors per hour may be visible. (December 14, 2017, 1:35 AM EST).

                   

            
              
   
         

During the last morning of 2017, four planets – Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, and Saturn - are visible before dawn.

The red, 1st-magnitude star Antares lies to the right of Mercury.

(December 31, 2017, 7:00 AM EST).

     

          
      

An Interstellar Visitor

                      

On October 19, an object – at first thought to be a comet – was detected in an unusual orbit. Most comets are thought to originate in the Oort Cloud - a comet reservoir far beyond the distance of the furthest planets (yet considered to be part of our Solar System). This object, however, was moving in a hyperbolic orbit too quickly to have ever been a member of the Sun’s family. It had to be coming from interstellar space.

 

Further observations showed that this object, at first designated C/2017 U1, displayed a star-like point; accordingly, it was re-designated as A/2017 U1 – an asteroid. It would have made its closest approach to the Sun – 23 million miles - on September 9; it approached within 15 million miles of Earth on October 14, on the outbound leg of its journey out of the Solar System.

         

        

 

            

What to call this object? It is clearly not a comet. And it is radically different in its origin and speed from any asteroid we know of. The IAU (International Astronomical Union) – the arbiter of names and classifications of all things celestial – has come up with a new designation for this object: 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua). The “1I” (one capital-I) denotes this as the first interstellar object. The “2017 U1” part marks the year and portion of year in which it was found. Finally, the name “`Oumuamua” (note the initial `) comes from the Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first”. It would be hard to think of a name more apt.

   

 

   

Finally, what have we learned about the nature of this object?

 

Given its distance and small size, it can only be observed as a point of light. Nevertheless, urgently organized observation campaigns analyzing its light have shown that the object is reddish in color, not unlike some distant asteroids and comets in our Solar System. It seems to rotate every 7.8 hours. But the biggest surprise may be its size and shape.  

 

The object may be very elongated, with a 10:1 ratio of length to diameter. Assuming reasonable values for its light reflecting properties, it may be about 800 m (262 ft) long and about 80 m (26 ft). across its narrow dimension. This is in itself truly remarkable; no known object in our Solar System has a length to diameter ratio greater than 3:1. It has been referred to as a “shard”.

 

As 1I/2017 U1 is rapidly receding on its way back out of the Solar System, we may not learn a great deal more about it. With a great deal of effort and expense, it might be possible to send an unmanned spacecraft to do a close flyby of the object. But it is estimated that there is a population of such objects – perhaps anywhere from one to ten per year – that may regularly pass among the inner planets. This object – 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua) – was the first observed. Stay tuned; you can be sure that there will be others.  

                       

   
December Major Astronomical Events       
 
Dec. 3 Sun. 8:00 AM EST Moon 0.8° N of Aldebaran
Dec. 3 Sun. 10:47 AM EST Full Moon ("Full Cold Moon") ("Super Moon")
Dec. 4 Mon. 3:46 AM EST Moon @ perigee (357,492 km / 222,135 mi)
Dec. 5 Tue. 5:53 PM EST Earliest end of evening Astronomical Twilight
Dec. 6 Wed. 5:19 PM EST Earliest end of evening Nautical Twilight
Dec. 8 Fri. 4:11:42 EST Earliest sunset of year
Dec. 8 Fri. 4:43 PM EST Earliest end of evening Civil Twilight
Dec. 8 Fri. 6:00 PM EST Moon 0.7° N of Regulus
Dec. 10 Sun. 2:51 AM EST Last Quarter Moon
Dec. 11 Mon. 2:55 PM EST Last humans land on Moon (Apollo 17, 1972)
Dec. 12 Tue. 7:00 AM EST Mercury @ perihelion (0.3075 AU / 46.0 million km / 28.5 million miles)
Dec. 12 Tue. 9:00 PM EST Mercury @ inferior conjunction
Dec. 13 Wed. 11:00 AM EST Moon 4° N of Mars
Dec. 14 Thur. 1:30 AM EST Geminid meteors peak
Dec. 14 Thur. 9:00 AM EST Moon 4° N of Jupiter
Dec. 14 Thur. 5:55 PM EST Last humans on Moon leave lunar surface (Apollo 17, 1972)
Dec. 16 Sat.   Arthur C. Clarke born 100 years ago (1917)
Dec. 16 Sat.   Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove 10
Dec. 18 Mon. 1:30 AM EST New Moon
Dec. 18 Mon. 3:00 AM EST Sun enters Sagittarius
Dec. 18 Mon. 8:26 PM EST Moon @ apogee (406,602 km / 252,651 mi)
Dec. 21 Thur. 11:28 AM EST December ("Winter") Solstice
Dec. 21 Thur. 4:00 PM EST Saturn @ solar conjunction
Dec. 22 Fri. 10:00 AM EST Ursid meteors peak
Dec. 24 Sun. 8:00 AM EST Moon 1.4° S of Neptune
Dec. 26 Tue. 4:20 AM EST First Quarter Moon
Dec. 27 Wed. 1:00 PM EST Moon 5° S of Uranus
Dec. 29 Fri.   Space X launches Falcon Heavy on its maiden flight
Dec. 30 Sat. 6:29 PM EST - 7:22 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran
   
   

 

An Overview of Major 2017 / 2018 Astronomical Events
 

2017
Jan. 3 Tue. 7:14:38 AM EST Latest sunrise of year in Boston
Jan. 3 Tue. 9:00 AM EST Quadrantid meteors
Jan. 4 Wed. 9:00 AM EST Earth @ perihelion (0.98331 AU / 147,101,111 km / 91,404,393 mi)
Jan. 12 Thur. 8:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest eastern elongation (47.1° E); Evening "Star"
Jan. 12 Thur. 6:00 PM EST Venus 0.4° N of Neptune (21' 57" in Boston)
Jan. 17 Tue. 8:00 PM EST Vesta @ opposition (mag. 6.3)
Jan. 19 Thur. 1:00 AM EST Jupiter 2.7° S of Moon
Jan. 19 Thur. 5:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24.1° W); Morning "Star"
Jan. 31 Tue. 6:00 PM EST Mars, Venus, and waxing crescent Moon fit into circle 6° in diameter
Feb. 11 Sat. 5:34 PM EST - 9:53 PM EST Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Feb. 17 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
Feb. 26 Sun. 7:10 AM EST - 12:38 PM EST Annular Solar Eclipse (SW Africa. S. Atlantic, South America)
Feb. 26 Sun. 8:15 PM EST Mars 34' N of Uranus
Mar. 1 Wed. 10:00 PM EST Neptune @ solar conjunction
Mar. 12 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Daylight Saving Time begins
Mar. 20 Mon. 6:29 AM EDT March Equinox
Mar. 25 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Venus @ inferior conjunction
Apr. 1 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (19.0° E); Evening "Star"
Apr. 7 Fri. 5:00 PM EDT Jupiter @ opposition
Apr. 12 Wed. 2:00 PM EDT Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak @ perihelion (mag. 5?)
Apr. 14 Fri. 2:00 AM EDT Uranus @ solar conjunction
Apr. 22 Sat. 8:00 AM EDT Lyrid meteors
Apr. 22 Sat.   Cassini Titan flyby begins Proximal Orbit Phase ("Grand Finale")
Apr.29 Sat. All day Astronomy Day (spring)
Apr. 30 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest illuminated extent
May 4 Thur. 9:00 AM EDT Eta Aquarid meteors
May 17 Wed. 7:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (25.8° W); Morning "Star"
Jun. 2 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Venus 2° S of Uranus
Jun. 3 Sat. 7:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest western elongation (45.9° W); Morning "Star"
Jun. 3 Sat. 8:00 PM EST Moon 2° N  of Jupiter
Jun. 3 Sat. 10:24 PM EDT - 12:21 AM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Ganymede)
Jun. 12 Wed. 4:00 AM EDT Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) @ perihelion (mag. 6?)
Jun. 14 Wed. 5:07:00 AM EDT Earliest sunrise of year in Boston
Jun. 15 Thur. 5:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
Jun. 19 Mon. 10:06 PM EDT - 10:38 PM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)
Jun. 21 Wed. 12:25 AM EDT June Solstice
Jun. 27 Tue. 8:25:22 PM EDT Latest sunset of year in Boston
Jul. 3 Mon. 4:00 AM EDT Earth @ aphelion (1.01668 AU / 152,093,193 km / 94,506,329 mi)
Jul. 10 Mon. 12:10 AM EDT Pluto @ opposition
Jul. 26 Wed. 9:00 PM EDT Mars @ superior comjunction
Jul. 28 Fri. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Jupiter
Jul. 30 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27.2° E); Evening "Star"
Aug. 7 Mon. 11:50 AM EDT - 4:50  PM EDT Partial Lunar Eclipse (Eastern Hemisphere)
Aug. 12 Sat. 3:00 PM EDT Perseid meteors
Aug. 21 Mon. 11:46 AM EDT - 5:04 PM EDT Total Solar Eclipse (Partial 9:28 AM EDT - 11:59 PM EDT in Boston)
Sept. 5 Tue. 12:00 AM EDT Neptune @ opposition
Sept. 12 Tue. 6:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (17.9° W); Morning "Star
Sept. 15 Fri. 8:07 AM EDT Cassini enters atmosphere of Saturn, burns up
Sept. 16 Sat. 2:00 PM EDT Mercury 0.03° N of Mars (3.2' in Pacific, 18' in Boston)
Sept. 22 Fri. 12:52 PM EDT OSIRIS-REx Earth flyby (~ 16,000 km / 10,000 mi)
Sept. 22 Fri. 4:02 PM EDT September Equinox
Sept. 30 Sat. All day Astronomy Day (fall)
Oct. 5 Thur. 9:00 AM EDT Venus 0.2° N of Mars
Oct. 7 Sat.   Mars @ aphelion
Oct. 19 Thur. 1:00 PM EDT Uranus @ opposition
Oct. 26 Thur. 2:12 PM EDT Jupiter @ solar conjunction
Nov. 5 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Daylight Saving Time ends
Nov. 5 Sun. 9:03 PM EST - 9:59 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran
Nov. 13 Mon. 1:00 AM EST Venus 0.3° N of Jupiter
Nov. 17 Fri. 12:00 PM EST Leonid meteors
Nov. 23 Thur. 7:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (22.0° E); Evening "Star"
Nov. 28 Tue. 5:00 AM EST Mercury 3° S of Saturn
Dec. 8 Fri. 4:11:42 PM EST Earliest sunset of year in Boston
Dec. 14 Thur. 1:00 AM EST Geminid meteors
Dec. 21 Thur. 11:29 PM EST December Solstice
Dec. 21 Thur. 6:00 PM EST Saturn @ solar conjunction
Dec. 22 Fri. 10:00 AM EST Ursid meteors
Dec. 30 Sat. 7:28 PM EST - 8:21 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran
    
2018
Jan. 1 Mon. 3:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest elongation west (23°)
Jan. 3 Wed. 12:34 AM EST Earth @ perihelion
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
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
June     Hayabusa-2 orbital insertion around asteroid (162173) Ryugu
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 sunrise 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
Aug.     SpaceX Dragon 2 launched with human crew to ISS
Aug.     OSIRIS-REx orbital insertion around asteroid 101955 Bennu
Aug. 8 Wed. 3:00 PM EDT Mercury @ inferior conjunction
Aug. 12 Sun. 9:00 PM EDT Perseid meteors peak. (Very good.)
Aug. 15 Wed. 1:09 AM EDT Venus @ dichotomy
Aug. 16 Thur. 8:06 PM EDT - 10:12 PM EDT Double shadow transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)
Aug. 17 Fri. 3:58 PM EDT Venus @ greatest elongation east (46°)
Aug. 26 Sun. 5:58 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest elongation west (18°)
Sept. 6 Fri. 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. 5 Fri.   BepiColombo Mercury orbiter launched
Oct. 13 Sat. All day Astronomy Day (Fall)
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. 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. 14 Fri. 8:00 AM EST Geminid meteors peak. (Poor.)
Dec. 15 Sat. 7:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest elongation west (18°)
Dec. 21 Fri. 6:58 AM EST - 7:12 AM EST Venus occults HIP72373 (mag. 6.3) (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)

 

     


   

    Supernova Style Science News  with Ms. Julie Seven Sage

    


          

December 15, 2017 - 8:00 PM EST