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.


















       

            


                                         

     Astronomy Class Observatory Trip for January 23rd is cancelled due to weather.

               

   Please meet as usual at the Cambridge Center of Adult Education

    

We will attempt to reschedule the trip for January 30th.

         


           

Next 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: April 3, 2018 - May 22, 2018, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.

    

                                      


          

                  

January / February Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                                              

            

Thursday, January 11, 2018, 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: "Observing Satellites", Richard Nugent

At our January meeting, Richard Nugent will present “Observing Satellites.” Every astronomer has from time to time noticed satellites crossing the night skies. From the dawn of the Space Age until now, low earth orbit has become quite cluttered with these easily observable and fascinating objects. Whether you are a beginner or a more seasoned amateur astronomer, this talk offers something for everyone. Topics include: observing basics, oldies but goodies, the ISS, the more challenging geostationary satellites, and Apps and web sites to make observing satellites fun and exciting.

Rich needs no introduction, especially if you’re a regular at ATMoB observing sessions at the clubhouse field in Westford where he is a regular participant. He has been an avid stargazer for the last 50 years. Growing up in the 60’s made it easy to become interested in astronomy and the space program. By the time Rich was in high school, he was a member of the Aldrich Astronomical Society.

    

      

Thursday, February 8, 2018, 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: (TBA)

   

   

Thursday, February 15, 2017, 7:30 PM

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138
https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/publicevents

Topic and Speaker: (TBA)

    

       

          

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 January 2018

                              

Because Earth’s orbit around the Sun is slightly elliptical, the distance to our star varies throughout the year. Earth reaches perihelion

 its closest distance to the Sun – at 12:35 AM EST on January 3.

 

There is a total lunar eclipse on January 31. Only the earliest phases will be visible on the East Coast of the U.S., while the entire eclipse will be visible from the Pacific Rim.

                    

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

                           

            Phases of the Moon:                           

                                              

Full Moon

January 1

9:24 PM EST

Last Quarter Moon

January 8

5:25 PM EST

New Moon

January 16

9:17 PM EST

First Quarter Moon

January 24

5:20 PM EST

Full Moon

January 31

8:27 AM EST

        

                                                           

The Moon & Planets:

  

    

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Neptune, in SW

    Uranus, in S

      

 At Midnight:

    Uranus, in W

     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Jupiter, in S

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in SE 

    Mercury, in SE 

                    

        

Comets:

    

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

Meteors:

      

  •     The Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on January 3. This year’s display is poorer than usual, with interference from bright moonlight; the count may reach barely a fifth of its typical 100 meteor / hour rate.
  •         
  •       
                     

                                                           

       

                  

The Earth reaches perihelion – its closest distance to the Sun – on January 3; the Earth-Sun distance is then 147.1 million km (91.4 million miles). Contrast this to the distance at aphelion on July 6: 152.1 million km (94.5 million miles). This difference of 4% is not large enough to account for changing seasons. Winter, spring, summer, and fall are instead caused by the tilt of Earth’s axis. (The sizes and proportions in the diagram above have been exaggerated for clarity.) (January 3, 2018). (Credit: timeanddate.com.)

                            

                         

      

In the morning sky of mid-January, Mars and Jupiter pair up, as do Mercury and Saturn.

Some first-magnitude stars remain visible as late as a half-hour before sunrise.

On the 11th, the waning crescent Moon joins in.

 (January 11, 2018, 6:42 AM EST).

              

              

  

(image credit: Larry Koehn/shadowandsubstance.com)

 

There is a total lunar eclipse on January 31. Most or all of the phases of the eclipse will be visible from the Pacific Rim;

the Eastern U.S. will see only the beginning stages before the Moon sets.

(January 31, 2018).

        

               
      

Highlights of 2018

               

 

As 2018 gets underway, it is natural to ask about any astronomical highlights we can look forward to. While there are no events coming up to excite the public to the degree that the total solar eclipse of 2017 did, there are, nevertheless, plenty of items to make the year interesting – especially if you don’t mind travelling to some of them. 

 

We’ve already mentioned the total lunar eclipse on January 31. Well, guess what! There is another one on July 27/28. This one may be a little inconvenient, though; the eclipse is visible in its entirety only in areas bordering the Indian Ocean, including East Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and Antarctica.

 

And while it’s true that there are no total solar eclipses this year, there are no less than three partial solar eclipses. The first, on February 15, is visible from Antarctica and the southern portion of South America. The July 13 one is only visible from the ocean between Australia and Antarctica. Finally, the August 11 eclipse is mainly visible from eastern Siberia and the Arctic Ocean.

 

As we said, some travel may be required.

 

There are, however, plenty of events that will be visible from your backyard.

 

Generally speaking, the most favorable time to view a planet is around the time of opposition and for a few weeks or months afterwards, when the planet is conveniently placed in the evening sky. With that in mind, Jupiter is at opposition on May 8 and Saturn on June 27.

 

There will be a very favorable opposition of Mars in July. At its minimum distance to Earth, the planet will be 57.6 million km (35.8 million miles) distant. This is the closest approach of the planet in 15 years – only 4% further than the memorable opposition of 2003, when it made the closest approach in almost 60,000 years! This year the planet’s disk will be 97% as large as it was in 2003. Unfortunately for viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, Mars will be low in the sky, so the atmosphere will degrade the image of the planet somewhat.

 

       

For interior planets like Mercury and Venus, the most favorable viewing opportunities are around the time of greatest elongation from the Sun. For Venus, that happens on August 17. Good viewing times for Mercury are around January 1, August 26, and December 15 before sunrise, and March 15 and July 12 just after sunset.

If you have access to a telescope, you may have a chance to see a planet occult - or pass in front of – a star. On July 5, Saturn occults a 9th – magnitude star; you may be able to see the star flickering as it is covered up by the rings, then by the disk of the planet, and finally, by the rings again. On December 21, a 41%-illuminated Venus occults a 5th-magnitude star; it may be possible to see the brightness of the star change as its light gets refracted by the planet’s atmospere.

 

Some of the annual meteor showers, such as the Quadrantids, Orionids, Leonids, Geminids and Ursids, will be poor this year, with the Moon nearby to drown out their fainter meteors. On the other hand, the Perseid meteors, which peak on August 11/12, should be superb!

 

Finally, to top it off, there may be a fine comet heading our way. Comet brightness is notoriously difficult to predict, but Comet 46P/Wirtanen may attain naked eye visibility in mid-December of 2018.

   

All in all, a year to look forward to!

                     

                              
   
Major Astronomical Events: January / February 2018       
 

Jan. 1

Mon.

3:00 PM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation W (23°) - visible in morning

Jan. 1

Mon.

4:49 PM EST

Moon @ perigee (356,565 km / 221,559 mi) (nearest of year)

Jan. 1

Mon.

9:24 PM EST

Full Moon ("Full Wolf Moon") (Super Moon")

Jan. 3

Wed.

7:13:47 AM EST

Latest sunrise of year in Boston

Jan. 3

Wed.

1:00 AM EST

Earth @ perihelion (0.98328 AU / 147,097,233 km / 91,401,983 mi)

Jan. 3

Wed.

4:00 PM EST

Quadrantid meteors

Jan. 4

Thur.

       

Isaac Newton born 375 years ago (1643)

Jan. 4

Thur.

6:41 AM EST

Latest start of civil twilight

Jan. 5

Fri.

3:00 AM EST

Moon 0.22" NNE of Regulus

Jan. 5

Fri.

6:06 AM EST

Latest start of nautical twilight

Jan. 6

Sat.

5:32 AM EST

Latest start of astronomical twilight

Jan. 6

Sat.

11:00 PM EST

Mars 0.2° S of Jupiter (15' seen from Boston, Jan. 7, 3:45 AM EST))

Jan. 8

Mon.

5:25 PM EST

Last Quarter Moon

Jan. 9

Tue.

2:00 AM EST

Venus @ superior conjunction

Jan. 9

Tue.

5:00 AM EST

Pluto @ solar conjunction

Jan. 11

Thur.

1:00 AM EST

Moon 4° N of Jupiter

Jan. 11

Thur.

5:00 AM EST

Moon 5° N of Mars

Jan. 13

Sat.

2:00 AM EST

Mercury 0.6° S of Saturn

Jan. 14

Sun.

9:00 PM EST

Moon 3° N of Saturn

Jan. 14

Sun.

9:10 PM EST

Moon @ apogee (406,464 km / 252,565 mi) (farthest of year)

Jan. 15

Mon.

2:00 AM EST

Moon 3° N of Mercury

Jan. 15

Mon.

6:00 AM EST

Moon, Mercury, Saturn within circle 5° in diameter

Jan. 16

Tue.

9:17 PM EST

New Moon

Jan. 20

Fri.

3:00 PM EST

Moon 1.6° S of Neptune

Jan. 20

Fri.

3:00 PM EST

Sun enters Capricornus

Jan. 23

Tue.

8:00 PM EST

Moon 5° S of Uranus

Jan. 24

Wed.

5:20 PM EST

First Quarter Moon

Jan. 30

Tue.

4:57 AM EST

Moon @ perigee (358,993 km / 223,068 mi)

Jan. 31

Wed.

8:00 AM EST

Ceres @ opposition

Jan. 31

Wed.

5:51 AM EST

Penumbral Lunar Eclipse begins

Jan. 31

Wed.

6:48 AM EST

Partial Lunar Eclipse begins

Jan. 31

Wed.

6:56 AM EST

Moon sets during lunar eclipse

Jan. 31

Wed.

8:27 AM EST

Full Moon ("Blue Moon") ("Super Moon")

Feb. 1

Thur.

2:45 AM EST

Ceres nearest to Earth

Feb. 1

Thur.

2:00 PM EST

Moon 1° N of Regulus

Feb. 3

at.

7:00 PM EST

Middle of eclipse season; Sun @ latitude of Moon's node.

Feb. 5

Mon.

12:00 PM EST

Moon 7° NNE of Spica

Feb. 7

Wed.

8:53 AM EST (SCET)

Juno Jupiter orbiter Perijove # 11

Feb. 7

Wed.

10:54 AM EST

Last Quarter Moon

Feb. 7

Wed.

3:00 PM EST

Moon 4° N of Jupiter

Feb. 8

Thur.

12:00 AM EST

Moon 4° N of Mars

Feb. 9

Fri.

6:00 AM EST

Moon 9° N of Antares

Feb. 9

Fri.

8:00 AM  EST

Moon 0.9° S of Vesta

Feb. 10

Sat.

10:00 AM EST

Mars 5° N of Antares

Feb. 10

Sat.

6:00 PM EST

Jupiter @ west quadrature

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:00 AM EST

Equation of Time @ minimum for year (- 14.24 min.)

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:16 AM EST

Moon @ apogee (405,700 km / 252,090 mi)

Feb. 11

Sun.

10:00 AM EST

Moon 2° N of Saturn

Feb. 11

Sun.

9:00 PM EST

Mars 5° N of Antares

Feb. 12

Mon

3:00 PM EST

Moon 1.8° N of Pluto

Feb. 14

Wed.

6:00 AM EST

Asteroid 4 Juno @ solar conjunction

Feb. 15

Thur.

1:55 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse begins (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 15

Thur.

3:51 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse @ maximum (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 15

Thur.

4:05 PM EST

New Moon

Feb. 15

Thur.

5:47 PM EST

Partial Solar Eclipse ends (South America, Antarctica, S. Atlantic)

Feb. 16

Fri.

10:00 AM EST

Sun enters Aquarius

Feb. 16

Fri.

10:00 PM EST

Moon, Venus, Neptune within circle 5.65° in diameter

Feb. 16

Fri.

12:00 PM EST

Moon 1.6° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 17

Sat.

7:00 AM EST

Mercury @ superior conjunction

Feb. 20

Tue.

3:00 AM EST

Moon 5° S of Uranus

Feb. 21

Wed.

2:00 PM EST

Venus 0.54° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 22

Thur.

8:00 PM EST

Moon 9° SSE of Pleiades

Feb. 23

Fri.

3:09 AM EST

First Quarter Moon

Feb. 23

Fri.

1:00 PM EST

Moon 0.7° N of Aldebaran

Feb. 25

Sun.

7:00 AM EDT

Mercury, Venus, Neptune within circle 4.54° in diameter

Feb. 25

Sun.

8:00 AM EST

Mercury 0.43° SSE of Neptune

Feb. 27

Tue.

9:39 AM EST

Moon @ perigee (363,932 km / 226,137 mi)

Feb. 27

Tue.

12:00 PM EDT

Moon 2° S of Beehive Cluster

   
   

 

An Overview of Major Astronomical Events in 2018
 

2018

Jan. 1

Mon.

3:00 PM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (23°)

Jan. 3

Wed.

12:35 AM EST

Earth @ perihelion (0.98328 AU / 147,097,233 km / 91,401,983 mi)

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

Mar. 28

Wed.

8:30 PM EST

Venus 4' from Uranus

Mar. 31

Sat.

Deadline for Google Lunar X Prize

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

May 23

Wed.

Fall Equinox, N. Hemisphere of Mars

June 1

Fri.

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 (0.385 AU / 57,595,192 km / 35,787,993 mi)

Aug.

SpaceX Dragon 2 launched with human crew to ISS

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.

OSIRIS-REx orbital insertion around asteroid 101955 Bennu

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

Thur.

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. 17

Wed.

Winter solstice, N. Hemisphere of Mars

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. 12

Wed.

6:33 PM EST

Comet 46P/Wirtanen @ perihelion (157.9 million km / 98.1 million mi)

Dec. 14

Fri.

8:00 AM EST

Geminid meteors peak. (Poor.)

Dec. 15

Sat.

7:00 AM EST

Mercury @ greatest elongation west (18°)

Dec. 16

Sun.

9:56 AM EST

Comet 46P/Wirtanen closest (11.5 million km / 7.1 million mi / 30 L.D.)

Dec. 21

Fri.

6:58 AM EST - 7:12 AM EST

Venus occults HIP72373 (mag. 5.9) (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

    


          

January 15, 2018 - 8:00 PM EST