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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.





















   

 "Meet the Universe" Course Being Offered This Spring! 

      

   

"Meet the Universe" at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education

     

Spring Session begins March 24, 2015

          

Every day we get new pictures from spacecraft exploring the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, and a comet! More missions are on the way to an asteroid and to Pluto!
Almost weekly, it seems, exotic planets around other stars are announced, and we’re told it’s just a matter of time until Earth-like, habitable planets are discovered.
In this course, we'll talk about it ALL (literally!): black holes, the cosmic microwave background, and the search for life in the Universe.

  

Bonus: you'll get a chance to use a large telescope at a real Observatory!

  

No math or previous science background required - just an ethusiasm to get to know what's around you!!

     

8 Tuesdays 8:00 – 9:30 PM

   

Runs March 24 - May 12, 2015.

      


 

        

February Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area 

           

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    Wednesday, February 4th, 2015, at 7:00 PM.

    Science Research Public Lecture Series

    Harvard University Science Center

    One Oxford Street, Cambridge. MA

    Topic And Presenter: Dark Energy and Cosmic Sound, Daniel Eisenstein, Professor of Astronomy.

    The Sound waves propagating through the plasma of the Universe only 400,000 years after the Big Bang now offer some of our most precise measures of the composition and history of the Universe. In the last decade, we have been able to detect the fossil imprint of these sound waves using maps of the distribution of galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Professor Eisenstein will give an overview of the cosmological role of the sound waves and out observational program then describe what the results tell us about the shape of the Universe and the evolution of dark energy.

     

       

    Thursday, February 12th, 2015, at 8:00 PM.

    Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston (Boston area’s largest and oldest astronomy club).

    (Meets every 2nd Thursday except August).

    Topic and Presenter: TBA

  •    

        

    Thursday, February 19th, 2015, at 7:30 PM.

    Monthly Observatory Night

    (Free lecture and observing every 3rd Thursday except June, July, and August – and sometimes December).

    Topic and Presenter: Sniffing the Air of Alien Earths, Sarah Rugheimer.

    Are we alone in the universe? We've found hundreds of planets orbiting distant stars, including several dozen in their star's habitable zone. But do any of them host life? To find out, we'll need to look for telltale molecules like oxygen or methane. The next generation of telescopes may answer this question when they take their first "sniffs" of alien air. Sarah Rugheimer is a 2014 Harvard Horizon Scholar and member of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative.

       

         
          

    Plus:

      

    Wednesdays:

    Boston University

    Boston, MA.
    Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM. 
    http://www.bu.edu/astronomy/events/public-open-night-at-the-observatory/

        

     

    The Sky Report for the Month of February 2015

        

         
    Current Night Sky: At A Glance

          

    Phases of the Moon:

          

    Full Moon

    February  3

    6:09 PM EST

    Last Quarter Moon

    February 11

    10:50 PM EST

    New Moon

    February 18

    6:47 PM EST

    First Quarter

    February 25

    12:14 PM EST

        

                      

    The Moon & Planets:

      

     

    Planet Visibility:

        

    In Evening (after sunset):

         Neptune, in W    

        Venus, in W

        Mars, in W

        Uranus, in SW

     

     At Midnight:

        Jupiter, in S

     

     In Morning (before sunrise):

        Jupiter, in W

        Saturn, in S

        Mercury, in SE 

     

    Comets:

    •    
      •     Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) continues to be well placed for viewing in the Northern Hemisphere, but is rapidly fading and will soon become a binocular object.
      •    

    Meteors:

     

        There no major meteor showers in February.

      
      

            
     

    Jupiter at its Best

        

    Jupiter reaches opposition – being exactly opposite to the Sun in our sky – on February 6. It is then that the planet rises at sunset, is highest at midnight, and sets at sunrise. It is then also that it is closest to the Earth (404 million miles) and is at its brightest (magnitude -2.6). The planet’s apparent diameter across the equator is now 45 arc-seconds, but its rapid rotation results in it being oblate and only 42 arc-seconds across as measured from pole to pole.

                   
      
           

    Jupiter at its closest. Here, two of Jupiter’s four large moons are shown; the others, Europa and Callisto, are out of the frame. Also note the “Great Red Spot”, a large atmospheric storm, disappearing off the edge of the disk. (February 6, 2015, 2:00 AM EST).

                    

    When we look at Jupiter, we do not see its surface; in fact, it may not even have one! Instead, we see the top of a multicolored cloud layer that may be thousands of miles deep. The nature of features such as the alternating dark “belts” and light “zones”, as well as the Great Red Spot and other, more-transient features is yet to be understood.   

          

                  

               

         A Cosmic Visitor Recedes

           

       

            

    Comet Lovejoy as it drifts past the Pleiades star cluster. Photo taken by Alan Dyer, from Silver City, New Mexico. (January 15, 2015).

    © 2015 Alan Dyer/AmazingSky.com

     

    Now that it is past its nearest approaches to both Earth and Sun, Comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) has begun to dim. At its period of peak visibility in mid-January, it was an easy naked-eye object, and may continue to be for some time. Even as it fades, though, it will still be well-placed for observers in mid-northern latitudes in the northwestern sky in the early evening. The best time to look will be the second and third weeks of February, when the Moon will be out of the sky.

                     

              

    By mid-month, Comet Lovejoy will be making its way through Andromeda, Perseus, and Cassiopeia, By May, it will be close to Polaris – the North Star.

    (February 15, 2015: 8:30 PM EST).

        

            
          
      A Gathering at Dusk
       

                

    At dusk on February 20th, there is a close grouping of the Moon, Venus, and Mars. All three objects would fit into a circle 2° across. Here, they are shown as they would appear in a set of 10x50 binoculars (with a field of view of about 7°). The Moon will be a narrow crescent, barely two days old, and - as in this illustration - illuminated mostly by earthlight. (February 20th, 2015: 6:10 PM EST).

               
      
      
    Hiding A Distant World    
           

    On the evening of February 21st, the 3-day-old crescent Moon will occult – over cover up – the planet Uranus. The event will begin at dusk, and will appear low near the western horizon; it is best appreciated through binoculars or a telescope. The exact visibility, time, and duration of the event will vary with locality. Times and views shown here are for Boston, MA.

     
           
            
       Uranus as it appears 5 minutes before occultation by the Moon’s dark limb. It is about 28 minutes after sunset, with the Moon about 32° above the horizon.
    (February 21, 2015: 5:51 PM EST)
                  

           

    Uranus as it appears 5 minutes after occultation by the Moon. It is about 1 hour and 34 minutes after sunset, with the Moon about 21° above the horizon.

    (February 21, 2015: 6:59 PM EST)

                   

    Through the two objects appear close to us in our sky, they are in fact at dramatically different distances. The Moon is about 224,000 miles – or about 1.2 light-seconds - away. Uranus is at a distance of 1.93 billion miles, and light from it takes over 2 hours and 52 minutes to reach us!

         

                


    A Schedule of Events: February 2015

        

    Jan. 30 Fri. 9:00 AM EST Mercury @ inferior conjunction
    Feb. 1 Sun. 6:00 PM EST Venus 48' to SSE of Neptune
    Feb. 3 Tue. 6:09 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Snow Moon")
    Feb. 4 Wed. 1:00 AM EST Moon 5.0° SSW of Jupiter
    Feb. 6 Fri. 1:26 AM EST Moon @ apogee (406,150 km / 252,370 mi)
    Feb. 6 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Jupiter @ closest approach (650,000,000 km)
    Feb. 6 Fri. 1:00 PM EST Jupiter @ opposition (mag. -2.6, 45.4" across)
    Feb. 11 Wed. 10:50 PM EST Last Quarter Moon
    Feb. 12 Thur. 7:00 PM EST Moon 2.1° N of Saturn
    Feb. 16 Mon. 8:00 PM EST Sun enters boundaries of Aquarius
    Feb. 16 Mon. 11:00 PM EST Moon 3.6° NNW of Mercury
    Feb. 18 Wed.   85th Anniversary: Discovery of Pluto (1930)
    Feb. 18 Wed. 6:47 PM EST New Moon
    Feb. 19 Thur. 2:28 AM EST Moon @ perigee (359,994 km / 221,826 mi)
    Feb. 20 Fri. 7:00 PM EST Moon 1.9° NNW of Venus
    Feb. 20 Fri. 7:00 PM EST Moon, Venus, & Mars within circle 1.94° across
    Feb. 20 Fri. 8:00 PM EST Moon 1.4° NNW of Mars
    Feb. 21 Sat. 5:56 PM EST Dark limb of Moon occults Uranus (0:33 mins. after sunset, alt. 30°)
    Feb. 21 Sat. 6:54 PM EST Uranus emerges from Moon's bright limb (1:30 after sunset, alt. 21°)
    Feb. 22 Sun. 1:00 AM EST Venus 0.41° SSE of Mars
    Feb. 23 Mon. 9:00 AM EST Saturn @ west quadrature
    Feb. 24 Tue. 11:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest elongation (27° W)
    Feb. 25 Wed. 12:14 PM EST First Quarter Moon
    Feb. 26 Thur. 12;00 AM EST Neptune @ solar conjunction

         

       

       

     


        
    A Preview of 2015 Events
     
    Mar. 4 Venus 10' above Uranus in evening sky
    Mar. 6 Dawn orbiter "captured" into orbit around 1 Ceres
    Mar. 11 Mars 25' to upper right of Uranus
    Mar. 20 Total Solar Eclipse
    Mar. 20 March Equinox
    Apr. 6 Uranus @ solar conjunction
    Apr. 22 -  23 Lyrid meteors peak (good)
    Apr. 23 Mercury 2° to upper right of Mars
    May 5 - 6 Eta Aquarid meteors peak
    May 7 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star"); excellent
    May 23 Saturn @ opposition
    Jun. 6 Venus @ greatest elongation east (evening "star"); excellent
    Jun. 14 Mars @ solar conjunction
    Jun. 14 Earliest sunrise (5:07 AM EDT)
    Jun. 21 June Solstice
    Jun. 24 Mercury @ greatest elongation west (morning "star")
    Jun. 27 Latest sunset (8:25 PM EDT)
    July 1 Venus 30' to lower left of Jupiter (daytime best!); both disks are 32.5" across!
    July 6 Earth @ aphelion
    July 6 Pluto @ opposition
    July 12 Venus @ greatest brilliancy
    July 14 New Horizons Closest Approach to Pluto
    July 25 Ceres @ opposition
    July 28 - 29 Delta Aquarid meteors peak (poor)
    Aug. 12 - 13 Perseid meteors peak (excellent)
    Aug. 13 Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (and Rosetta!) @ perihelion
    Aug. 15 Venus @ inferior conjunction
    Aug. 26 Jupiter @ solar conjunction
    Sept. 1 Neptune @ opposition
    Sept. 4 Mercury @ greatest elongation east (evening "star")
    Sept. 4 Moon occults Aldebaran
    Sept. 13 Partial Solar Eclipse
    Sept. 20 Venus @ greatest brilliancy
    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. 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 - 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")
       
     
       
            
          
      
    February 2015 Star Chart
       
         
      
        February 15, 2015, 9:00 PM EST