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.


















       

            


      

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.

 

      


   

       

January Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                      

             

Thursday, January 12, 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: "The Wallace Observatory at 45: Charting a Course for the Future", Tim Brothers

Within walking distance of our Westford clubhouse is MIT’s George R. Wallace Jr. Astrophysical Observatory. Observatory Manager Tim Brothers will review how Wallace started in 1971 and describe the ambitious goals set forth by Director McCord. As the technological capabilities of the Wallace Observatory have improved, opportunities for undergraduates to perform exciting research have become more accessible. There has been steady progress from local to remote to automated observing in the past decade – but did the Wallace Observatory achieve McCord’s dream?  Brothers will conclude with a review of major renovations at Wallace, a “large” discovery behind a hidden door, and address the growing need for more outreach in science as we try to fill that gap while also educating the public on light pollution.
Tim Brothers has been the Observatory Manager for MIT’s George R. Wallace Jr. Astrophysical Observatory since 2009.  Prior to this, he was the Curator of the Hagar Planetarium and observatory at San Francisco State University, an optical engineer at MIT’s Spectroscopy Laboratory where he helped design and develop portable cancer detectors, spent time at Bluefin Robotics in Cambridge working on autonomous submarines, and worked as an observer at MIT Lincoln Lab where he co-discovered hundreds of asteroids and comets as part of the LINEAR program in New Mexico. Tim received his Physics and Astronomy degree at UMass-Amherst, not far from where he grew up in western Mass. Today he lives in Pepperell with his wife and two boys.  

    

  

Thursday, January 19, 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: "Photographing Our Galaxy's Black Hole", Michael Johnson, CfA

A black hole is so dense that not even light can escape it. So we can't possibly photograph one, can we? Yes, we can. More accurately, we can observe its silhouette or shadow against the glowing disk of material it’s swallowing. The Event Horizon Telescope will unite facilities around the globe to form an Earth-sized telescope. With it, we will get our first detailed look at the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way. And we will put Einstein’s theory to the ultimate test.

   

     

    

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 3rd Thursday), 8:30 PM:

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

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

       

        

 

The Sky Report for the Month of January 2017

                

Earth reaches perihelion – its closest distance to the Sun – at 9:00 AM EST on January 4,

when the two will be separated by 91.4 million miles (147.1 million km).

                 
Current Night Sky: At A Glance

                        

            Phases of the Moon:

                           

                        

First Quarter

January 5

2:47 PM EST 

Full Moon

January 12

6:34 AM EST

Last Quarter Moon

January 19

5:13 PM EST

New Moon

January 27

7:07 PM EST

                          

                                               

The Moon & Planets:

  

    

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Neptune, in SW 

    Venus, in SW

    Mars, in SW 

    Uranus, in S

      

 At Midnight:

    Uranus, in SW

     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Jupiter, in S

    Saturn, in SE

    Mercury, in SE 

         

     

Comets:

    

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

Meteors:      

  •     
    •     The Quadrantid meteors peak on the predawn hours of January 3rd. The Moon will not interfere with viewing, so this may turn out to be one of the better showers of 2017. Under good conditions, 50 or more meteors per hour may be visible.
  •       
            

                                                        

                         

             

          

                           

On the 19th, the waning gibbous Moon passes within 2° of Jupiter. In this chart, three of the large moons of the planet – Io, Europa, and Callisto – are visible;

the fourth, Ganymede, is too close to the planet to be resolved on this scale.  

(January 19, 2017, 1:30 AM EST).

     

      

                         

            

             

A half-hour before sunrise on January 19th, Mercury, Saturn, and a handful of brighter stars are fading in the twilight.

Mercury is at its greatest angular distance from the Sun - and its greatest altitude above the horizon - that it reaches during this appearance.

Nearby Saturn, as well as the stars depicted, are all somewhat dimmer.

(January 19, 2017, 6:38 AM EST).

      

           

                       

      

         

Members of the Inner Solar System are grouped together on the evening of January 31.

The Moon, Venus, and Mars are close enough to fit onto a circle (yellow) just 6° in diameter. 

(January 31, 2017, 6:00 PM EST).

           

              


                                  

         A New Year Sky   

              

         

The sky as it appears in mid-January, at a latitude of 42° N.

Stars are shown down to magnitude 3, approximating what would be visible from a typical suburban sky.
Also depicted are Solar System objects, as well as some Messier objects within reach of binoculars or a small telescope.
For convenience, constellation “stick figures” and the faint band of the Milky Way are also shown.
(January 15, 2017, 9:00 PM EST).
                      

Sure, it’s cold. But let’s suppose you got a telescope as a gift in the holiday season. Naturally, you’re dying to find out what you can see with it. You find a clear January evening and begin to explore the night sky. What might you see?

            

On the 15th, a waning gibbous Moon is rising in the east. Even a small telescope will reveal a great deal of detail on its surface: craters, rugged white highlands, dark grey maria plains, rills, etc. Since the Moon is past full, you’ll be able to see the terminator – or jagged line separating day from night on the lunar disk. The low sun angle near the terminator means that shadows there will bring the surface into stark relief.

              

In the west, the planet Uranus is preparing to set. Though it will be visible through binoculars or a small telescope, a larger backyard telescope is necessary to see it as a tiny disk rather than as a pinpoint. 

       

Some of the most interesting targets are deep-space objects, particularly the Messier objects. There are over a hundred of these, but the top favorites are M42 (the Orion Nebula), M45 (the Pleiades), and M31 (the Andromeda Galaxy). All are well within range of a small telescope (though don’t expect Hubble-type views!).

   

Double and variable stars, the Milky Way, and an occasional comet can also be of interest. 

       

Finally, if you are new to astronomy, there are some excellent resources on the Internet to get you started, such as the website of Sky & Telescope magazine: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-information/. 

              

Perhaps the most enriching experience of all may be making contact with like-minded amateur astronomers at a local club or observatory. Some are also listed on the Sky & Telescope site: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-clubs-organizations/. 

      

With all these resources at your fingertips, not to mention the ever-changing sky itself, you can look forward to a lifetime of discovery and adventure!

                                        


  
A Schedule of Events - January / February 2017
  
Jan. 1 Sun. 2:00 AM EST Mars 0° 1.2' S of Neptune (0° 8' W of Neptune in Boston @ 9:15 PM EST)
Jan. 2 Mon. 4:00 AM EST Moon 1.9° N of Venus
Jan. 2 Mon. 11:00 PM EST Moon 0.4° N of Neptune
Jan. 3 Tue. 2:00 AM EST Moon 0.2° N of Mars
Jan. 3 Tue. 7:13:48 AM EST Latest sunrise of year in Boston
Jan. 3 Tue. 9:00 AM EST Quadrantid meteors
Jan. 4 Wed. 6:42 AM EST Latest end of morning civil twight
Jan. 4 Wed. 9:18 AM EST Earth @ perihelion (147,100,998 km / 91,404,323 mi)
Jan. 5 Thur. 6:07 AM EST Latest end of morning nautical twilight
Jan. 5 Thur. 2:47 PM EST First Quarter Moon
Jan. 5 Thur. 9:00 PM EST Moon 3° S of Uranus
Jan. 6 Fri. 5:33 AM EST Latest end of morning astronomical twilight
Jan. 10 Tue. 2:00 AM EST Moon @ perigee (363,238 km / 225,706 mi)
Jan. 12 Thur. 5:34 PM EST - 9:53 PM Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
Jan. 12 Thur. 6:34 AM EST Full Moon ("Full Wolf Moon")
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. 12:00 AM EST Moon 2.7° N of Jupiter
Jan. 19 Thur. 5:00 AM EST Mercury @ greatest western elongation (24.1° E); Morning "Star"
Jan. 19 Thur. 5:13 PM EST Last Quarter Moon
Jan. 21 Sat. 7:00 PM EST Moon @ apogee (404,914 km / 251,602 mi)
Jan. 24 Tue. 5:00 AM EST Moon 4° N of Saturn
Jan. 25 Wed. 8:00 PM EST Moon 4° N of Mercury
Jan. 27 Fri. 7:07 PM EST New Moon
Jan. 30 Mon. 6:00 AM EST Moon 0.2° N of Neptune
Jan. 31 Tue. 12:00 PM EST Moon 4° S of Venus
Jan. 31 Tue. 6:00 PM EST Mars, Venus, and waxing crescent Moon fit into circle 6° in diameter
Jan. 31 Tue. 8:00 PM EST Moon 2° S of Mars
Feb. 2 Thur. 3:00 AM EST Moon 3° S of Uranus
Feb. 2 Thur. 9:00 PM EST Moon 1° N of Ceres
Feb. 3 Fri. 11:19 PM EST First Quarter Moon
Feb. 5 Sun. 5:00 PM EST Moon 0.2° N of Aldebaran
Feb. 6 Mon. 9:02 AM EST Moon @ perigee (368,817 km / 229,172 mi)
Feb. 10 Fri. 5:34 PM EST Penumbral lunar eclipse begins (Asia, Europe, Africa, Indian Ocean, Atlantic, E. Pacific)
Feb. 10 Fri. 7:33 PM EST Full Moon ("Full Snow Moon")
Feb. 10 Fri. 9:53 PM EST Penumbral lunar eclipse ends
Feb. 11 Sat. 9:00 AM EST Moon 0.8° S of Regulus
Feb. 11 Sat. 5:34 PM EST Penumbral lunar eclipse begins
Feb. 15 Wed. 10:00 AM EST Moon 3° N of Jupiter
Feb. 17 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Venus @ greatest brilliancy (magnitude - 4.8)
Feb. 17 Fri. 2:00 AM EST Jupiter @ aphelion (5.4565 AU / 816,280,900 km / 507,213,462 miles from Sun)
Feb. 18 Sat. 2:33 PM EST Last Quarter Moon
Feb. 18 Sat. 4:14 PM EST Moon @ apogee (404,377 km / 251,268 mi)
Feb. 20 Mon. 6:00 AM EST Moon 4° N of Saturn
Feb. 23 Thur. 11:00 AM EST Jupiter 4° N of Spica
Feb. 26 Sun. 7:11 AM EST Annular solar eclipse begins (South America, Antarctica, S. Africa, S. Atlantic, S. Atlantic)
Feb. 26 Sun. 9:58 AM EST New Moon
Feb. 26 Sun. 11:31 AM EST Annular solar eclipse ends
Feb. 27 Mon. 3:00 AM EST Mars 0.6° N of Uranus
Feb. 28 Tue. 3:00 PM EST Moon 10° S of Venus

       

   (bold = cool or important)

   

   


 

An Overview of Major 2017 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. 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. 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
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. 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. 4:02 PM EDT September Equinox
Sept. 23 Sat.   OSIRIS_REx Earth flyby
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

 

 


     

January 15, 2017

       

  

  

January 15, 2017, 9:00 PM EST