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.


















       

            

A New Fall Astronomy Course!

 

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, 7:45-9:15. Runs Sep. 27 - Nov. 15

        

For more info: bostronastronomy@gmail.com

 

              


     

          June Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  

                   

        

Saturday, June 4, 2016, at 8:30 PM EDT

Arlington Astronomy Nights

Jupiter is high in the sky, and Mars and Saturn are starting to make their ascent as the Sun sets and stars come out.  See Jupiter shining bright at dusk and stick around to watch daylight fade to reveal the night sky.

Each Astronomy Night will start when the stars come out and usually lasts a couple hours. If it is overcast we'll have to cancel and hope for clear weather the follow night, but as long as there are some stars visible we'll give it a shot.  For reminders and weather decisions, consider joining my announcement mailing list.  Weather decisions for questionable nights will also be posted on this site.  Rain dates are the following night for each date. We set up the telescopes on the observation area of Robbins Farm Park that overlooks Boston.
Please note: it will be dark in the park!  Bring a flashlight, but please keep it aimed at the ground while you're in the park. Parents, please help your children remember this rule. It takes your eyes a while to adjust to the dark, and you'll see more in the sky once your night vision is working. Keeping your flashlight pointed at the ground helps everybody keep their eyes adjusted to the dark. Red light doesn't hurt night vision as much so a red flashlight or red cellophane over a flashlight helps a lot! Consider using bug spray too. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at jeff@arlingtonastronomy.org.

http://www.arlingtonastronomy.org

    

     

Thursday, June 9th, 2016, from 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Topic and Speaker: "Gravitational Wave Update", Robert Naeye

At our March meeting, Bob Naeye gave a brief presentation on the discovery of gravitational waves. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) had issued a press release the previous month which indicated confirmation of gravitational waves rippling from a distant merger of two black holes. Bob will review the facts presented at that meeting and then describe the new and exciting discoveries about gravitational waves that have occurred since then.

http://www.atmob.org

         

     

Thursday, June 16th, 2016 at 7:30 PM

The Van Vleck Observatory Centennial Symposium and StarConn
Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford
Middletown, CT

http://www.wesleyan.edu/observatory/symposium.html

http://www.asgh.org/starconn/index.htm

 

 

Friday, July 8th, to Sunday, July 10th

Connecticut River Valley Astronomers Conjunction
Northfield Mountain Recreational and Environmental Center
Northfield, MA
http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction/

  

  

Saturday, July 9th, 2016, at 8:45 PM EDT

Arlington Astronomy Nights

The planets continue their ride across the sky that will last most of the summer.  Jupiter has moved further West, tonight right beside a waxing crescent Moon and Mars and Saturn move into a place of prominence in the South.

Each Astronomy Night will start when the stars come out and usually lasts a couple hours. If it is overcast we'll have to cancel and hope for clear weather the follow night, but as long as there are some stars visible we'll give it a shot.  For reminders and weather decisions, consider joining my announcement mailing list.  Weather decisions for questionable nights will also be posted on this site.  Rain dates are the following night for each date. We set up the telescopes on the observation area of Robbins Farm Park that overlooks Boston.
Please note: it will be dark in the park!  Bring a flashlight, but please keep it aimed at the ground while you're in the park. Parents, please help your children remember this rule. It takes your eyes a while to adjust to the dark, and you'll see more in the sky once your night vision is working. Keeping your flashlight pointed at the ground helps everybody keep their eyes adjusted to the dark. Red light doesn't hurt night vision as much so a red flashlight or red cellophane over a flashlight helps a lot! Consider using bug spray too. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at jeff@arlingtonastronomy.org.

http://www.arlingtonastronomy.org

           

     

Saturday, July 9th - Thursday, July 14th.

Hokule'a Polynesian Canoe Wordwide Voyage - Boston Stopover

Fan Pier, Boston, MA

The Hokule'a, a canoe constructed and sailed according to traditional Polynesian methods, is stopping in Boston from July 9-14 as part of its world tour. A Polynesian crew has navigated the Hokule’a over 20,000 miles from Hawaii to New England coasts using only the stars to navigate as part of their mission to inspire communities to respect and care for their natural environments. The canoe and crew will participate in events with NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Museum of Science while here. They'll also showcase what makes the ship and its navigation techniques unique. Two thousand years ago, Ancient Polynesians traveled thousands of miles across open oceans and accurately navigated to distant islands, when explorers from most other cultures were still primarily sailing within sight of land. This lore is generally quite fascinating to the general public and especially people with an understanding of what it would mean to have to determine latitude without seeing Polaris.

The Hokule’a will be welcomed by members of Native American tribes from Massachusetts and local supporters on July 9th, with potential tours offered to the general public on July 10th. All of this takes place at Fan Pier. More information on the events and the ship can be found on our Facebook event page (please look out for the official press release and event flyer information from the Boston Hokule’a Committee being released soon) or at the Hokule’a website.

  

   

Thursday, July 14th, 2016, from 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Amateur Telescope Makers of Boston

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Topic and Speaker: (TBA)

 

  
July 29 - August 6, 2016

Summer Star Party
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Plainfield, MA
http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/ssp.html

   

   

July 31 - August 6, 2016

Medomak Astronomy Retreat
Washington, Maine
hosted by Kelly Beatty and Bruce Berger.
http://www.medomakretreatcenter.com/starparty.php 

 

   

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/  

   

    

Fridays (every Friday, 8:30 PM)

Astronomy After Hours

Museum of Science, Boston, MA

http://www.mos.org/public-events/astronomy-after-hours

          

   

 

The Sky Report for the Month of June 2016

  

  

The June solstice occurs on June 20, at 7:02 AM EDT, as the Sun reaches its northernmost declination on the celestial sphere; by convention, this is considered the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

                                                                    

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

                  

            Phases of the Moon:

                       

New Moon

June 4

     11:00 PM EDT

First Quarter

June 12

4:10 AM EDT

Full Moon

June 20

7:02 AM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

June 27

2:19 PM EDT

   

       

                   

The Moon & Planets:

  

 

Planet Visibility:

    

In Evening (after sunset):

    Jupiter, in SW

    Mars, in S 

 

 At Midnight:

    Jupiter, in W

    Mars, in S

    Saturn, in S

     

 In Morning (before sunrise):

  •     Saturn, in SW

  •     Neptune, in SE 

  •     Uranus, in E

        Mercury, in E 

     

          

           

    Comets:

        

      •     Comet C/2013 X1 (PANSTAARS) has been slowly brightening in the morning sky. For observers in mid-northern latitudes, the best opportunities to see it will occur during the first 2 weeks of June, when the Moon is out of the way and the comet is still at a modest height above the SE horizon before morning twilight arrives. It may peak in the magnitude 6 – 7 range – within reach of binoculars under dark skies.
    •      
    •    

    Meteors:      

    •     
      •      There are no significant meteor showers in June.
          
               

                                   

                                      

      

                          

    Saturn reaches opposition on June 3. Its rings are tilted towards us at an angle of 26° - nearly the maximum possible. (The tilt will reach 27° next year,

    then slowly decrease until we see the rings edge-on in 2025). Tonight Saturn is about 838 million miles away; its light takes 78 minutes to

    reach us. The rings visible from Earth are 174,000 miles across - but no thicker than the height of a two-story house! In this illustration,

    some of its 62 known satellites are visible. Tethys, Enceladus, and Rhea form a diagonal line to the lower left of the planet, while Dione is to the lower right.  

    (June 3, 2016, 1:00 AM EDT).

                   

                                       

      

                   

    The Moon, Mars, and Saturn form an isosceles triangle after sunset on the 17th.

    Antares, similar in its orange tint to Mars, lies below the Moon and planets.

     (June 17, 2016, 10:00 PM EDT).     

                      


                    

              The Height of Summer

        

    As people head to the beach or mountains in the warmer weather, it may be an appropriate time to raise the question of what causes the seasons. It is a common misconception that the seasons are caused by Earth being closer to the Sun during the summer and further away in winter. This explaination overlooks the fact that the seasons are reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Furthermore, it turns out that Earth is actually furthest from the Sun on July 4th this year, and was at its closest on January 2nd. So what really causes the seasons?

     

    The Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted by 23½° to the plane of its orbit around the Sun, and remains pointed at the North Celestial Pole (near Polaris, the “North Star”) irrespective of where the planet  it is in its annual journey around the Sun. Therefore, at some points the northern axis will be tilted towards the Sun (which brings about summer) or away from the Sun (which brings winter).

     

    To help clarify this, the following illustrations show how the Earth would appear from a point of view at the the center of the Sun. (We’ll simply things slightly by assuming that we can tolerate the surrounding temperature of 27 million degrees Fahrenheit and the immense pressure, and, furthermore, that the Sun’s interior is transparent.)  In each illustration, the green line in the background represents the Ecliptic – the plane in which the Earth moves in its annual orbit around the Sun.
      

     

       

    This view illustrates how a portion of the Earth would appear as seen from the center of the Sun at the June 20 solstice. Note that the portion of the

    planet north of the Equator (the red latitude line seen crossing over the Amazon region of South America) is more directly exposed to sunlight.

    The more intense heating brings about summer in the Northern Hemisphere. The South, meanwhile, gets less exposed to direct sunlight
    and begins to experience winter.

     

     

       

    At the Fall Equinox on September 22, both hemispheres experience equal amounts of exposure to the Sun’s rays. It is now the beginning of fall

    in the Northern Hemisphere and of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Note that as we can see the Earth without a tilt toward or away from the Sun,

    the 23½ ° tilt of the planet’s axis is obvious.

     

     

     

    On December 21, Earth’s Southern Hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun, and is consequently experiencing the greater share of solar heating.

    It is now the beginning of summer in areas south of the Equator. Areas to the north are less exposed to solar heating, and have begun to experience winter.

          

        

      

    By March 19, (in 2017), both hemispheres are again experiencing equal amounts of solar illumination. It is the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere

    and of fall in the South. Viewed edge-on, we can once again see the Earth’s axial tilt of 23½°.

              

                                        


      
    A Schedule of Events - June / July 2016
      
    June 1 Wed. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Uranus
    June 3 Fri. 3:00 AM EDT Saturn @ opposition
    June 3 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 0.7° S of Mercury
    June 3 Fri. 6:55 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (361,140 km / 224,402 mi)
    June 4 Sat. 11:00 PM EDT New Moon
    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 11 Sat. 4:00 PM EDT Moon 1.5° S of Jupiter
    June 12 Sun. 4:10 AM EDT First Quarter Moon
    June 14 Tue. 5:07 AM EDT Earliest Sunrise (in Boston)
    June 15 Wed. 4:32 AM EDT Earliest onset of Civil Twilight
    June 15 Wed. 8:00 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (405,024 km / 251,670 mi)
    June 16 Thur. 3:47 AM EDT Earliest onset of Nautical Twilight
    June 17 Fri. 2:52 AM EDT Earliest onset of Astronomical Twilight
    June 17 Fri. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 7° N of Mars
    June 18 Sat. 8:00 PM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
    June 20 Mon. 7:02 AM EDT Full Moon ("Full Strawberry Moon")
    June 20 Mon. 6:34 PM EDT June Solstice
    June 21 Tue. 4:00 AM EDT Sun enters Gemini
    June 23 Thur. 10:40 PM EDT Latest end of Astronomical Twilight
    June 24 Fri. 9:45 PM EDT Latest end of Nautical Twilight
    June 25 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Moon 1.2° N of Neptune
    June 25 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Latest end of Civil Twilight
    June 26 Sun. 8:25 PM EDT Latest Sunset (in Boston)
    June 27 Mon. 2:19 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    June 28 Tue. 7:00 PM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    June 30 Thur.   Primary Mission of Dawn spacecraft at Ceres ends
    June 30 Thur.   Asteroid Day 2016
    July 1 Fri. 2:40 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (365,983 km / 227,411 mi)
    July 4 Mon. 7:01 AM EDT New Moon
    July 4 Mon. 12:00 PM EDT Earth @ aphelion (152,103,775  km. / 94,512,904 mi)
    July 4 Mon. 12:00 PM EDT Autumn equinox on Mars
    July 4 Mon. 11:18 PM EDT (ERT) Juno begins JOI burn
    July 4 Mon. 11:38 PM EDT (ERT) Juno capture into Jupiter orbit acheived
    July 4 Mon. 11:53 PM EDT (ERT) Juno ends JOI burn
    July 5 Tue. 1:48 AM EDT Juno Capture Orbit Phase begins (Perijove 0)
    July 6 Wed. 11:00 PM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction
    July 7 Thur. 6:00 PM EDT Pluto @ opposition
    July 8 Fri.   5th Anniversary (2011) of last Space Shuttle launch (STS-135, Atlantis)
    July 9 Sat. 6:00 AM EDT Moon 0.9° of Jupiter
    July 11 Mon. 8:52 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
    July 13 Wed. 1:24 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (404,269 km / 251,201 mi)
    July 14 Thur. 2:00 PM EDT Moon 8° N of Mars
    July 16 Sat. 1:00 AM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
    July 16 Sat. 2:00 PM EDT Mercury 0.5° N of Venus (11° from Sun in evening sky, -1.0 & -3.9)
    July 19 Tue. 6:57 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Buck Moon")
    July 20 Wed.   47th Anniversary (1969) of First Human Landing on Moon (Apollo 11)
    July 20 Wed.   40th Anniversary (1976) of First Mars Landing (Viking 1)
    July 20 Wed. 9:00 AM EDT Sun enters Cancer
    July 23 Sat. 12:07 AM EDT - 1:00 AM EDT Moon occults Neptune
    July 25 Mon. 12:00 AM EDT Moon 3° S of Uranus
    July 26 Tue. 7:00 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    July 27 Wed. 7:37 AM EDT Moon @ perigee (369,663 km / 229,698 mi)
    July 29 Fri. 6:19 AM EDT - 7:03 AM EDT Moon occults Aldebaran (daylight, Moon 23% illuminated)
    July 29 Fri.   Southern Delta Aquariid meteors peak (< 10 meteors / hour)

           

       (bold = cool or important)

       

       


     

    An Overview of Major 2016 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-mootion 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
    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° W); Evening "Star"
    Dec. 13 Tue. 7:00 PM EST Geminid meteors
    Dec. 21 Wed. 5:44 AM EST December Solstice
    Dec. 22 Thur. 4:00 AM EST Ursid meteors

     

     


         

    June 15, 2016

               

          

    June 15, 2016, 11:00 PM EDT