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FAU Astronomical Observatory -- Front Page
Welcome to the Observatory's Front Page. Included here are some of the latest news and articles that may be of interest to our visitors. General observatory information, such as location and maps, viewing schedules, Events Calendar, contact information, student class credits, directions, parking and other general information, can be found on the "About the Observatory" page.
We also have a growing coverage about the issue of light pollution, what it is, what it does to the environment, to ourselves, to our wallets and resources, to our security and safety, to the majestic wonders of the night sky and what YOU can do about it. This is a man made problem that is prepetuated by a lack of awareness and is something that we all can correct.
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M42 - The Great Orion Nebula. Our public viewing session on Dec. the 15th had amazingly clear skies for our visitors to enjoy. After they left, I tried a few pictures of some favorite objects in the sky and am quite pleased with how some turned out. While vibrations are still a problem that plagues us, sometimes we get steady views. This shot here, taken with our Canon 60Da, was a mere 9 second exposure in our main telescope.
General Sky Conditions
Solar conditions, atmospheric phenomena and news are reported by www.SpaceWeather.com.
The current sky conditions of Boca Raton are found via the Clear Sky Clock:
Basic weather conditions for our area are at www.wunderground.com forecast for Boca Raton, while our astronomically important current cloud cover conditions can be found at www.wunderground.com for Boca Raton.
The Sun currently has just crossed into the realm of Sagittarius the Archer. It will reach its Solistice on Dec. 21st as the northern hemisphere begins its winter season. The Sun will stay with the centaur until Jan 20th when it will enter Capricornus the sea goat's domain. Venus will reach superior conjunction with it on the 8th of Jan. The Sun will progress through Capricornus's domain until Feb. the 16th when it passes on to Aquarius's realm.
Viewing Tips: Find a decent location away from obstructive lights in night, especially
avoid bluish-white lights that so impact your nightvision capabilities
which you'll need to see the fainter meteors! The meteors are generally heaviest in the
Additional details about meteors, showers or to REPORT your own fireball observations should be done via http://amsmeteors.org.
Seek little Mercury just before dawn in the eastern morning skies in the constellation of Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer. It is in retrograde and reach its greatest elongation from the Sun on Jan. 2nd. After, it will continue its orbit about the Sun but now appear to move prograde as it swings on the opposite side of the solar system. It will not stay for long, but exit into Sagittarius on Jan. 8th. On the 11th, Mercury will be 26 arc minutes (less than half a degree) away from M20, the Trifid Nebula. On the 13th, it will appear 42 arc minutes away from Saturn. It will continue on into Capricornius on Jan. 31st and enter Aquarius on Feb. 16th and then reach superior conjunction with the Sun the very next day.
Venus is in Ophiuchus in the eastern morning sky, but she'll soon enter Sagittarius on Dec. 22nd. She'll appear 69 arc minutes away from Saturn on Dec. 25th, right before sunrise. She'll reach superior conjunction with the Sun on Jan. 8th on the opposite side of the solar system from us, when the planet will be 1.711 AU away from us. She'll continue foreward until passing into Capricornius on Jan. 17th. However, don't expect to see Venus until February, for it will be hidden by the solar glare. On the 8th of Feb., it will enter Aquarius's realm. She'll appear less then 38 arc minutes from the planet Neptune on Feb. 21st.
Mars rises at 330 EST as a dim little orange ball in the eastern morning skies, not for long, for 2018 is Mars' year! It is currently 2.055 AU away from us in Virgo and will enter Libra on the 22nd. Then on the morning of Jan. 7th, it will rise with Jupiter and appear 15 arc minutes (a quarter degree) away from each other! It'll enter Scorpius on Jan. 31st, into Ophiuchus on Feb. 8th and into Sagittarius on March 12th. As the year progresses, Mars will continue to brighten and will get closer to us for we are swinging around to soon meet up with the old warrior as he slowly marches his way across the sky. By April 12th, we'll be only 1 AU apart from each other and he'll appear with an mv = 0.05. He begin his retrograde on June 25th and continue to brighten as we'll reach his opposition to the Sun on July 27th in 2018. By then it will be in Capricornius and on the 31st, we will be physically closer to it than we've been in 15 years at only 0.384933 AU away from us! The planet will appear to be 24.33 arc-seconds across then and will be better than they have been in a while, just not quite as good as it was back in the year of 2003. In 2003, Mars was closer to us than it had ever been and will be in over 60,000 years. You may recall getting annoying emails every year after for a few years about that event "being that year". Hopefully, they will not get repeated this time around! BUT, that still doesn't mean that you won't want to miss seeing its passing in a telescope around then!
Jupiter rises at 0400 EST in that constellation of justice, Libra the Scales, near the star Zubenelgenubi. It will progress along until March 10th when it'll start its retrograde. It'll reach its opposition to the Sun on May 9th and be only 4.4 AU away from us at the time. It's retrograde motion will have it move back across Libra and appear again with Zubenelgenubi on June 1st, resume to move prograde on July 10th, and appear once again with the star Zubenelgenubi on August 15th.
NASA's Juno spacecraft entered into orbit around the giant planet and has already begun the science phase of its mission. The first polar image is at the twitter page of NASA' Juno mission and more details can be found at NASA's JPL page. More information about Juno can be found at its homepage of www.missionjuno.swri.edu/. This space mission has the potential to rewrite our understanding of the solar system's planetary formation, including details about how our own planet came to be! So stay tuned!
Saturn currently is in Sagittarius near the star Kaus Borealis, the star that is the "peak of the lid" on the teapot asterism of Sagittarius, and will appear near the star for 2018. Saturn is on the opposite side of the solar system from us right now. The Sun will appear to pass it on the 21st, just as we start winter. Mercury will pass it by on Jan 12th and Mars will do so as well on April 2nd. It will begin its retrograde on Apr. 17th. Its opposition this year is on June 27th.
Uranus is retrograding in Pisces and will appear with the fish until Apr. 28th, 2018.
Neptune is less than 1° away, south and east, from λ Aquarii appearing in the morning skies. Neptune will reside with Aquarius the water bearer until 2022.
dwarf planet Pluto appears east of the
Can You Identify This Image?
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