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: April 4 -  May  23, 2017, 7:45 PM - 9:15 PM.





Supernova Style Science News

 with Ms. Julie Seven Sage


I would like to give a big shout-out to Ms. Julie Seven Sage. She is a 12-year old aspiring astrophysicist; did I say "aspiring"? I think she's most of the way there!


She has an unquenchable thirst for all new things in science - not just astronomy, but physics, biology, paleontology, materials science, and, as she puts it, "the people of science". She has been producing, with  the help of her parents, professional-quality videos discussing the latest news and developments in science and engineering. Julie is an amazing, enthusiastic young woman who will go far!


I cannot recommend strongly enough her videos and news clip updates.  Please visit her sites and see for yourselves: 




YouTube: Supernova Style Science News


She is also on Twitter, instagram, and Facebook.




News Email:





February / March Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area  





Thursday, February 9, 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

Topic and Speaker: "Update: New Horizons Mission to Pluto", Kelly Beatty

On July 14, 2015, The New Horizons space probe made a historic flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto. At our November meeting that year, Sky and Telescope Senior Editor Kelly Beatty summed up preliminary results from that mission. Data from New Horizons continued to be received until last October. Kelly is here tonight to summarize what New Horizons has taught us about Pluto.Kelly Beatty, a Sky and Telescope Senior Editor, writes many of the feature articles and news items found in the magazine and on their website. He joined the staff of Sky Publishing in 1974 and served as the editor of Night Sky, a magazine for beginning stargazers, in 2004-07. Specializing in planetary science and space exploration, Kelly conceived and edited The New Solar System, considered a standard reference among planetary scientists. He also taught astronomy for six years at the Dexter Southfield School in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has been an ATMoB member since 2004.Besides being honored twice by the Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) of the American Astronomical Society, Kelly has also received the Harold Masursky Award for meritorious service, the Astronomical League Award for his contributions to the science of astronomy, and in 2009 the inaugural Jonathan Eberhart Journalism Award and the American Geophysical Union's Cowen Award for Sustained Achievement in Science Journalism.Kelly hails from Madera, California. He holds a Bachelors degree in geology from the California Institute of Technology and a Master's degree in science journalism from Boston University. During the 1980s he was among the first Western journalists to gain firsthand access to the Soviet space program. Asteroid 2925 Beatty was named on the occasion of his marriage in 1983, and in 1986 he was chosen one of the 100 semifinalists for NASA's Journalist in Space program.



Thursday, February 16, 2017, 7:30 PM

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker: "Gravitational Waves FOUND!", Rainer Weiss (MIT)

A billion years ago, two black holes collided and merged, sending powerful ripples across the fabric of space-time. In 2015 those gravitational waves reached Earth and tickled the detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). This first-ever detection of gravitational waves confirmed a long-standing prediction of Einstein's general relativity. It also was the culmination of a decades-long effort. Learn about the technical challenges of LIGO and the significance of this momentous event from one of the field's great pioneers, Rainer Weiss. (Tickets will be required for this event. Free tickets will become available starting on Thursday, Feb. 9th.)



Thursday, March 9, 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

Topic and Speaker: (TBA)



Saturday, March 11,  2017, 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM

Phases: A Lunar Fantasy 

Peabody Essex Museum

161 Essex Street

Salem, MA 01970

 Two Special Performances 

$10 members, $15 students, $20 nonmembers. Free for children 16 and under

Location: Atrium

The Asia/America New Music Institute and PEM Composer-in-Residence Matthew Aucoin invite you on an interstellar adventure about growing up, facing fear and making art. Using lighting and projections to lift the Atrium into outer space, this music experience will delight the whole family. Learn more at and

Featuring new music by Chad Cannon, Sun-Young Park, Sayo Kosugi, Paul Frucht, and Matthew Aucoin. Lighting and projection design by Mary Ellen Stebbins, Kevan Loney, and Bryce Cutler. Conceived and directed by Victoria Crutchfield.

Approximate run time: 75 minutes, no intermission.

Family-friendly concert

6:30 pm | Atrium
Purchase Tickets - 6:30pm

Wear your pajamas and get comfortable. Performance includes milk and cookies.18 and older concert

8:30 pm | Atrium



Thursday, March 16, 2017, 7:30 PM

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138

Topic and Speaker; "The Glass Universe", Dava Sobel

"The Glass Universe," Dava Sobel's latest masterpiece, tells the story of the women who worked at the Harvard College Observatory from the late 1800s through the mid-1900s. Hired by Edward Pickering because they were meticulous - and cheap labor - these women toiled over hundreds of thousands of glass photographic plates to carefully record the precious data contained therein. In the process, these hidden figures discovered the substance of the stars and the distances to them.



Plus (ongoing):        



Boston University

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




Thursdays (every 3rd Thursday), 8:30 PM:

CfA Public Observatory Night

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street

Cambridge, MA 02138



Fridays (startng March 3rd!), 8:30 PM

Guilliland Observatory

Museum of Science

1 Science Park

Boston, MA 02114





The Sky Report for the Month of February 2017


Current Night Sky: At A Glance


            Phases of the Moon:



First Quarter

February 3

11:19 PM EST 

Full Moon

February 10

7:33 PM EST

Last Quarter Moon

February 18

2:33 PM EST

New Moon

February 26

9:58 AM EST



The Moon & Planets:



Planet Visibility:


In Evening (after sunset):

    Neptune, in W 

    Venus, in W

    Mars, in W 

    Uranus, in SW


 At Midnight:

    Uranus, in SW


 In Morning (before sunrise):

    Jupiter, in SW

    Saturn, in SE

    Mercury, in SE 





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


    •     There no significant meteor showers in February.






As February begins, the evening sky hosts two bright planets (Venus and Mars),

two faint ones (Uranus and Neptune), and even a “dwarf planet”: the asteroid Ceres.

(February 4, 2017, 5:45 PM EST).






Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter grace the morning sky at midmonth.

On the 15th, the waning gibbous Moon is just 3° to the upper right of Jupiter.

(February 15, 2017, 6:20 AM EST).






      An annular solar eclipse occurs on February 26th. As seen from a narrow swath of territory passing over southern Chile and Argentina, the South Atlantic, and southern Africa, the Moon will move directly in front of the Sun. However, it will be too distant in its orbit and its disk will be too small to completely cover the Sun’s disk. The brightness of the remaining light from the solar disk will prevent the many marvelous and subtle effects of a total solar eclipse – such as the delicate corona, “Baily’s Beads”, and the “Diamond Ring” – from appearing. Still, annular eclipses are often picturesquely described as “Ring of Fire” eclipses.

 (February 26, 2017, 6:38 AM EST).






Mars and Uranus approach each other to within 0.6° on the 26th.

That angular distance is barely larger than the size of the Full Moon (shown as yellow circle).  

(February 26, 2017, 6:30 PM EST).




 The Big Eyes   


Have you gotten a new telescope recently – perhaps as a holiday gift? How large was it? (We measure the size of a telescope not by its length but by the diameter of its “objective” – whether it’s a lens or a mirror). Chances are that it was in the size range of 6” (~150 mm), 8” (~200 mm) or – if Santa was generous to you -10” (~250 mm in diameter). How does your telescope compare to others?


The first telescope used to observe the sky was that used by Galileo around 1609. It is estimated to have been about 0.62” (15 mm) in diameter. Moreover, its optics were crude. Still, that instrument allowed Galileo to discover craters on the Moon, the phases of Venus, the four large moons of Jupiter, and the fact that the Milky Way is composed of innumerable faint stars. No matter how small your telescope is, it should be able to observe all these phenomena and more.


In the interval since, telescopes have gotten larger. How much larger?


Some of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century – such as the facts that our galaxy is one of many and that the Universe is expanding - were made by the 100” (2.54 meter) telescope on Mt. Wilson outside Los Angeles. It was soon superseded by the 200” (5.1 meter) telescope on Mt. Palomar.


The next major advance was the construction of the twin Keck telescopes in Mauna Kea in Hawai’i. Each hosts a mirror composed of 36 individual mirror segments with a collective diameter of 10 meters. Keck 1 was completed in 1993, and Keck 2 in 1996.


Incidentally, the Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990, has a diameter of “only” 2.54 meters; its superior performance is due not to its size, but to the fact that it orbits far above Earth’s distorting atmosphere. The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, to be launched in 2018, has a segmented 6.5 meter-diameter mirror.


Since then the race for ever larger apertures has continued. The 36-segment, 10.4-meter Gran Telescopio Canarias has been operating on La Palma in the Canary Islands since 2009.


The European Southern Observatory’s VLT (Very Large Telescope) on Cerro Paranal in Chile consists of four individual single-segment 8.2-meter telescopes, which can be operated independently or as a unit. These were completed between 1998 and 2000.






We are now entering the era of “extremely large telescopes”.


Under construction is the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT), to be located in Las Campanas, near the city of la Serena in Chile. The instrument will consist of 7 segments, each 8.4 meters across. Completion is scheduled for 2025.


The Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) would consist of 492 segments making up a diameter of 30 meters. It was to be built on Mauna Kea, with an initial operating date of 2022. However, the project ran into difficulties. Some native Hawai’ians, to whom the summit of Mauna Kea is sacred, objected to further construction on the summit; protests have led to court battles, and the permitting process is now on indefinite hold. In case the situation is not resolved soon, consideration is being given to alternative sites such as La Palma.


The largest telescope under construction is the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). It will be composed of 798 mirror segments, adding up to a combined aperture of 39.44 meters. Construction is underway on Cerro Armazones in Chile. “First light” is planned for 2024.


Given the price tags in the range of $1 billion to $1.6 billion, we can safely conclude that Santa has been very kind indeed to the builders of the extremely large telescopes!


A Schedule of Events - February 2017
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



May 2 Tue. 10:47 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
May 4 Thur.   Star Wars Day
May 5 Fri. 8:00 AM EDT Spring Equinox in N Hemisphere of Mars
May 7 Sun. 5:00 PM EDT Moon 2° N of Jupiter
May 7 Sun. 8:25 PM EDT Eta Aquariid meteors peak (20 - 50 meteors / hour)
May 10 Wed. 5:42 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Flower Moon")
May 11 Thur. 9:59 PM EDT - 10:05 PM EDT Double Shadow Transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)
May 12 Fri. 3:51 PM EDT Moon @ apogee (406,210 km / 252,407 mi)
May 13 Mon. 7:00 PM EDT Moon 3° N of Saturn
May 13 Sat. 9:00 PM EDT Sun enters Taurus
May 17 Wed. 7:00 PM EDT Mercury @ greatest western elongation (26° W); Morning "Star"
May 18 Thur. 8:33 PM EDT Last Quarter Moon
May 18 / 19 Thur. / Fri. 11:54 PM EDT - 12:42 AM EDT Double Shadow Transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa)
May 20 Sat. 2:00 AM EDT Moon 0.5° S of Neptune
May 22 Mon. 9:00 AM EDT Moon 2° S of Venus
May 23 Tue. 1:00 AM EDT Moon 4° S of Uranus
May 23 Tue. 9:21 PM EDT Moon 1.6° S of Mercury
May 25 Thur. 3:44 PM EDT New Moon
May 25 Thur. 9:21 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (357,207 km / 221,958 mi)
May 26 Fri. 1:47 AM EDT - 3:19 AM EDT Double Shadow Transit on Jupiter (Io, Europa) (Jupiter sets @ 3:06 AM EDT)
May 26 Fri. 10:00 PM EDT Moon 5° S of Mars
May 27 Sat. 8:16 PM EDT - 8:40 PM EDT Double Shadow Transit on Jupiter (Io, Ganymede)


   (bold = cool or important)




An Overview of Major 2017 Astronomical Events

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. 12 Wed. 2:00 PM EDT Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak @ perihelion (mag. 5?)
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. 12 Wed. 4:00 AM EDT Comet C/2015 V2 (Johnson) @ perihelion (mag. 6?)
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
Jul. 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




February 15, 2017





the era of “extremely large telescopes”.