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 Meeting!


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: January 10 -  February 28, 2017, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.





December Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  



Thursday, November 10, 2016, 8:00 PM

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

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker: "The Story of WD 1145 +017 - Destruction of an Exoplanet", by  Andrew Vanderburg

For decades, astronomers have noticed the presence of heavy elements like iron and silicon in the atmospheres of white dwarf stars, even though these elements should rapidly sink towards the center of these stars out of view. In the last ten years or so, a consensus has emerged that these elements are likely the result of planetary material like asteroids or small planets being disrupted and accreted onto the surfaces of the stars. Although the evidence was convincing, it was all circumstantial until 2015, when we noticed intriguing dips (or transits) in Kepler data of a white dwarf star called WD 1145+017. These dips betrayed the presence of a small planetary body disintegrating as it zips around its white dwarf host. The transits of WD 1145+017 have provided the strongest yet confirmation that white dwarf stars disrupt their planetary systems and have given us a glimpse at the destruction of a small planet in real time.
Andrew Vanderburg is an astronomy graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he studies extrasolar planets, in particular using data from the Kepler Space Telescope in its new K2 mission. Andrew invented an analysis technique to correct for errors due to the mechanical failure that crippled Kepler in 2013 and used this technique to discover both the first planet of the K2 mission and a minor planet being destroyed by a white dwarf star.



Saturday, December 31, 2016, 6:30 PM - ?

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (ATMoB) New Year's Eve Party

ATMoB Clubhouse

Westford, MA

Say goodbye to Year 2016 and a welcoming hello to Total Solar Eclipse Year 2017. The eating and festivities will start at 6:30 PM and continue past midnight. Arrive at any time since there will be 8 opportunities in all to shout "Happy New Year".
Noisemakers and cheers will ring out each time the New Year crosses a time zone, starting with Greenwich Mean Time (7PM local time), and continuing hour after hour until Midnight Eastern Standard Time, with a couple of half hour celebrations in between.
Stop by with your family and friends. No RSVP is needed.
Please bring something tasty to share. Entrée type dishes are always very welcome. Folks arrive and leave all evening and the party seems to start again with each new group. There will be plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
The clubhouse will be warm and the party is on regardless of the weather. Don't forget your warm observing clothes and boots, and bring a telescope and camera if you like. The club's observatories will be open for observing. Moonset will be 6:57 PM (Day 2 after New Moon), so there will be deep sky wonders to gaze upon depending on the weather. Venus, Uranus and Neptune will join us.
Julie Kaufmann will lead us in line dancing, and hopefully we will enjoy live music again this year.
Any party suggestions or questions are welcome. Please email them to Eileen at or call at 978-501-6342 (day) or 978-456-3937 (evening).
Directions to the ATMoB Clubhouse in Westford are included on the last page of the ATMoB newsletter, or go to and click on ATMoB Club House at the bottom of the Home page. There are of course many other routes that may be shorter for you.
Please come and have fun. Thanks go out to the members of the New Year’s Eve Committee.



Plus (ongoing):        



Boston University

Boston, MA.
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM. 





The Sky Report for the Month of December 2016


Current Night Sky: At A Glance


            Phases of the Moon:


First Quarter

December 7

4:03 AM EST 

Full Moon

December 13

7:06 PM EST

Last Quarter Moon

December 20

8:56 PM EST

New Moon

December 29

1:53 AM EST



The Moon & Planets:



Planet Visibility:


In Evening (after sunset):

    Mercury, in SW 

    Venus, in SW

    Mars, in SW 

    Neptune, in SW

    Uranus, in S


 At Midnight:

    Uranus, in SW


 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Jupiter, in E 





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


    •     The Geminid meteors peak on the night of December 13/14. Unfortunately, that happens to be the night of the Full Moon, and our satellite’s glare will swamp everything except the brightest meteors.
      •      The Ursid meteors peak on the night of December 21/22. The Moon, which rises as a waning crescent around 1 AM local time, should not interfere. Under dark skies, you may see rates as high as 10 meteors per hour.        





On December 6th, the Moon passes in front of – or occults – the planet Neptune. As seen from Boston, the planet disappears behind the dark edge of the Moon

 at 4:16 PM EST, although the event - taking place against a still-bright sky just 5 minutes after sunset – will be difficult to see. The planet re-emerges

from behind the illuminated part of the Moon’s disk at 5:37 PM, although again the event may be difficult to see – this time because of glare from the

Moon’s bright limb. Nevertheless, if you wait a few minutes while the distance between the two increases, you may be able to use the Moon’s proximity

 to find an otherwise-difficult planet. Binoculars or a small telescope are required. 

(December 6, 2016, 5:38 PM EST).




At mid-month, it is possible to see all four (if you count Earth – in the foreground!) planets of the inner Solar System near the western horizon as darkness falls. Mercury, the innermost planet, always lurks near the Sun, so is visible only shortly before sunrise or shortly after sunset. On the 10th, it is at its greatest angular distance from the Sun of this particular appearance. Brilliant Venus is to its upper left, and to its upper left is ruddy Mars.

This image shows the view 45 minutes after sunset.  

(December 10, 2016, 5:00 PM EST).





With every orbit around the planet, three of Jupiter’s four large moons – Io, Europa, and Ganymede – pass directly across the face of the planet

 and cast their shadows on its cloudtops. (The orbit of the fourth moon, Callisto, is currently too inclined to our line-of-sight for it to participate.)

Here Io is about to cross onto Jupiter’s face, while the transit of its shadow is already underway. Meanwhile, Ganymede has just completed its own transit.

(December 14, 2016, 6:00 AM EST). 





  Mars and Neptune make a historically-close approach on the evening of December 31. As 2016 draws to an end, the two planets will be only 69 arc-seconds

 apart – closer than they have been since 1305 AD!. The disks of Mars and Neptune themselves are only 5.7 arc-seconds and 2.2 arc-seconds in diameter, respectively. For comparison, the orbits of some of their moons are illustrated. Mars is orbited by Phobos (inner circle) and Deimos.

Neptune has 14 known moons; shown are the orbits of Triton and a portion of the extremely eccentric orbit of Nereid.

Except for Triton, all of the actual moons themselves are likely to be too faint to be observed in all but the largest backyard telescopes.

(December 31, 2016, 13:00 PM EST)



         Stories in the Sky   



The constellations associated with the Greek myths of Cassiopeia and Andromeda are high in the December sky.

(December 15, 2016, 7:00 PM EST).


One of the most prominent and recognizable constellations of the fall sky – of any season’s sky, in fact – is Cassiopeia. During late November and early December, it is almost directly overhead at around 8 PM; it’s easily recognized as a pattern of stars in the shape of a slightly-unsymmetrical letter “W” (or “M”, depending upon your viewing angle).


Cassiopeia is a central figure of a group of nearby constellations that are entwined in Greek mythology. She was the Queen of Ethiopia and wife of King Cepheus, and was renowned for her beauty - a fact that apparently went to her head. She boasted that she was even more beautiful than the sea nymphs, the Nereids. The Nereids did not take kindly to this, and complained to Poseidon, the god of the sea; he decided to punish the Queen for her vanity. The Nereids further petitioned Poseidon to punish Cassiopeia by banishing her to the sky, tied to a “W”- shaped chair, and oftentimes suffering the indignity of hanging upside down


Poseidon sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravish the coast of Ethiopia. Desperate, Cassiopeia and Cepheus turned to Zeus, king of the gods, to seek relief from the ravaging monster. Zeus agreed to rein in Cetus, but only on the condition that Cepheus and Cassiopeia make a sacrifice of their only daughter, Andromeda. The rulers reluctantly complied, and had Andromeda chained to a rock by the sea as an offering to the sea monster.


As it happened, the hero Perseus had just completed a dangerous task. He had managed to decapitate the horrible Gorgon Medusa, who had snakes for hair, and who was so fearsome in appearance that anyone glancing at her instantly turned to stone. (She had been transformed into the wretched creature by the goddess Athena, because Poseidon had seduced her in a temple dedicated to Athena.) Perseus cleverly slayed Medusa by watching her fearsome reflection in a mirror image on his shiny shield. And out of the Medusa’s head sprang the magnificent flying horse Pegasus.


Luckily for Andromeda, Perseus saw her plight even as the sea monster approached her. He pulled the Medusa’s head out of his bag and presented it to the monster, who was, of course, instantly turned to stone. Perseus and Andromeda fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after.


Now all of the mortal figures in this complex of myths – Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, Cetus, Perseus, and even Pegasus have taken their place as constellations in the night sky.



A Schedule of Events - December 2016
Dec. 3 Sat. 8:00 AM EST Moon 6° N of Venus
Dec. 5 Mon. 6:00 AM EST Moon 3° N of Mars
Dec. 5 Mon. 5:52 PM EST Earliest end of evening astronomical twilight
Dec. 6 Tue. 5:18 PM EST Earliest end of evening nautical twilight
Dec. 6 Tue. 11:18 PM EST - 12:32 AM EST Moon occults Neptune
Dec. 7 Wed. 4:03 AM EST First Quarter Moon
Dec. 7 Wed. 4:43 PM EST Earliest end of evening civil twight
Dec. 8 Thur. 4:11:43 PM EST Earliest sunset
Dec. 9 Fri. 3:00 PM EST Moon 3° S of Uranus
Dec. 10 Sat. 7:00 AM EST Saturn @ solar conjunction
Dec. 11 Sun. 12:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (21° E); Evening "Star"
Dec. 11 Sun. 12:05 PM EST Juno perijove 3
Dec. 12 Mon. 6:29 PM EST Moon @ perigee (358,460 km / 222,737 mi)
Dec. 12 / 13 Mon. / Tue. 11:18 PM EST - 12:32 AM EST Moon occults Aldebaran
Dec. 13 Tue. 7:06 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Cold Moon")  (3rd of 3 "Supermoons" in a row)
Dec. 13 Tue. 7:00 PM EST Geminid meteors peak
Dec. 14 Wed.   Tycho Brahe born 470 years ago (1546 AD)
Dec. 14 Wed. 4:00 PM EST Moon reaches its northernmost declination of the year (18.9°
Dec. 17 Sat. 9:00 PM EST Sun enters Sagittarius
Dec. 20 Tue. 8:56 PM EST Last Quarter Moon
Dec. 21 Wed. 5:44 AM EST December Solstice
Dec. 22 Thur. 4:00 AM EST Ursid meteors peak
Dec. 22 Thur. 12:00 PM EST Moon 2° N of Jupiter
Dec. 25 Sun. 12:55 AM EST Moon @ apogee (405,870 km / 252,196 mi)
Dec. 27 Tue. 4:00 PM EST Moon 4° N of Saturn
Dec. 28 Wed. 2:00 PM EST Mercury @ inferior conjunction
Dec. 29 Thur. 1:53 AM EST New Moon
Dec. 31 Sat. 9:15 PM EST Mars 0° 8' W of Neptune


   (bold = cool or important)




An Overview of Major 2016 / 2017 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-motion 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
Nov. 29 Thur.   Cassini Titan flyby begins F Ring Orbits phase
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° E); Evening "Star"
Dec. 13 Tue. 7:00 PM EST Geminid meteors
Dec. 11     Juno Perijove 3 & Period Reduction Maneuver
Dec. 21 Wed. 5:44 AM EST December Solstice
Dec. 22 Thur. 4:00 AM EST Ursid meteors
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. 10 Tue. 5:34 PM EST - 9:53 PM Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Jan. 12 Thur. 8:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest eastern elongation (47.1° E); Evening "Star"
Jan. 18 Wed.   Vesta @ opposition
Jan. 19 Thur. 5:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24.1° W); Morning "Star"
Mar. 12 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Daylight Saving Time begins
Mar. 20 Mon. 6:29 AM EDT March Equinox
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. 22 Sat. 8:00 AM EDT Lyrid meteors
Apr. 22 Sat.   Cassini Titan flyby begins Proximal Orbit Phase ("Grand Finale")
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. 1 Wed. 7:00 AM EDT Venus @ greatest western elongation (45.9° W); Morning "Star"
Jun. 15 Thur. 5:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
Jun. 21 Wed. 12:25 AM EDT June Solstice
July 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. 30 Sun. 12:00 AM EDT Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (27.2° E); Evening "Star"
Aug. 12 Sat. 3:00 PM EDT Perseid meteors
Aug. 21 Mon. 1:28 PM EDT - 3:49 PM EDT Partial Solar Eclipse
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. 22 Fri. 4:02 PM EDT September Equinox
Oct. 19 Thur. 1:00 PM EDT Uranus @ opposition
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. 17 Fri. 12:00 PM EST Leonid meteors
Nov. 23 Thur. 7:00 PM EST Mercury @ greatest eastern elongation (22.0° E); Evening "Star"
Dec. 14 Thur. 1:00 AM EST Geminid meteors
Dec. 21 Thur. 12:29 PM EST December Solstice
Dec. 22 Fri. 10:00 AM EST Ursid meteors
Dec. 30 Sat. 7:28 PM EST - 8:21 PM EST Moon occults Aldebaran




December 15, 2016




December 15, 2016, 9:00 PM EST