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FAUST Seminar

C. E. S. College
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Florida Atlantic


Link to the IAU's International Year of Astronomy at www.astronomy2009.org

Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory

Facebook image link to Florida Atlantic University Astronomical Observatory's Facebook page


The Sun Today:

Image of the current Sun, provided by ESA's & NASA's SDO space telescope and link to sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov
Visual Sun
is provided by

Image of the current Sun in H-alpha light is provided by the National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF and link to www.nso.edu
Hα Sun is
provided by

Solar X-rays:
Geomag. Field:
Solar X-ray Status from www.n3kl.org/sun/images/status.gif
Geomagnetic Field Status from www.n3kl.org/sun/images/kpstatus.gif

From www.n3kl.org

To NOAA's Space
Weather Scales for
Geomagnetic Storms

The National Academies Press: Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (2008)

The National
Academies Press
Severe Space
Weather Events--
Societal and
Economic Impacts:
A Workshop
Report (2008)

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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.

The Front Page

The Front Page currently covers:
NASA's Cassini spacecraft over Saturn's rings.

M42 - The Great Orion Nebula, taken at FAU's Astronomical Observatory on Dec. 16th, 2015 at 0126 EST.

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: Shortened
timeblock gif of sky conditions.
And some details as to what this means is mentioned in the Visiting Tips section of the About the Observatory page.

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.

To the Space Telescope Science Inst's Sky Tonight movie. Check out:
the Space Telescope Science Institute's Sky Tonight movie at Amazing Space
or to
Sky & Telescope's This Week's Sky at a Glance page.
To the Sky & Telescope's <q>This Week's Sky at a Glance</q> article by Alan M. MacRobert.

APOD's Banner image that links to Astronomy Pictures of the Day site.

What's Up in the Sky!


Section updated: May. 16th, 2017.

The Sun is currently appears in Pisces and the solar system appears to be getting pretty crowded over that way as Mercury, Venus, Mars, Uranus and Neptune all appear in it general direction. The Sun will swim with the fish until just 2:30 pm on April 18th when it enters Aries the ram's little meadow. It will pass by Mercury on the 20th at its Inferior Conjunction (Mercury is nearly directly between the Earth and the Sun). It will continue through the ram's meadow until May 14th when it will run with Taurus the bull.

Lunar Phases:

FIRST QuarterMay 2nd
FULL MoonMay 10th
LAST QuarterMay 18th
NEW MoonMay 25th
FIRST QuarterJune 1st
FULL MoonJune 9th
LAST QuarterJune 17th
NEW MoonJune 24th

For those in North America, the Total Solar Eclipse that we have been waiting for will occur on August 21st, 2017, across the U.S.A.. This will be the first solar eclipse that we will see in America since 1979 and the last one that we'll see here until Apr. 2024! Plan your trips now to see it! Hotels are already being sold out!

Meteor Showers:
Note: compare shower dates with Moon for favorable viewing conditions; the fuller the Moon, the harder it will be to see the meteors!

Peak NightName Radiant's
Source Zero
Description Conditions
May 6-7 Eta Aquarids η Aquarius comet 1P
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
Best past
~June 7 Arietids near Hamal or
α Arietis
ast. Icarus?
or ancient
dead comet?
0-1 42 km/s dawn-daytime
radio shower
pre-dawn to
due to Sun
~June 11 Gamma
γ Delphius ? unknown 55 km/s? Sleep
is nice.
~June 16 June Lyrids South of
? down to 0? found in
1966, last
seen in 1996?
~June 27 Bootids northern
comet 7P
18 km/s very SLOW,
bright meteors
in June!

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 wee hours of the morning as then we'll be in front of the Earth as it plows it way through the debris trail. You'll want a clear and unobstructed view of the sky as you can find as the meteors will appear to travel across the entire sky. It is this is reason that an observatory, like FAU's, is a poor choice to go to observe a meteor shower. An even worse place to go would be a cave! In South Florida, I often advise folks to try the beach, though please be VERY careful during sea turtle season. Egg nests or little hatchlings can be easily crushed by clumsy feet. Use only red LED flashlights if you go to the beach to not only avoid stepping on these reptiles, but the color also protects your night vision (and of course your night time circadian rhythm, too) so that you can see the show. Bring a blanket, use bug spray, get comfortable and enjoy the view!

Additional details about meteors, showers or to REPORT your own fireball observations should be done via http://amsmeteors.org.

Solar System Planets:

Seek little Mercury just before dawn in the eastern morning skies. It is in prograde and will briefly pass north of Cetus the whale between May 19th and the 22nd, before returning back to the ram's meadow and continuing on into Taurus the bull's pasture on June 3rd.

Venus is with the fish in Pisces in the eastern morning sky. She'll pass by Uranus on June 3rd. It would be interesting to view the two then, for Uranus should appear to have an dim apparent magnitude of 5.88 then, while Venus will be blazingly bright with an apparent magnitude of mv = -4.30. The difference in their apparant magnitudes will be 10.18 orders of magnitude. Of course, everyone who looks will agree that Venus appears brighter. But by their difference of measured luminosity, Venus would actually come out to be 2.51210.18 or over 10,000× brighter to us than Uranus! Venus's close proximity to us, the Sun, and bright white overcast cloudy conditions that reflects away most of the light energy it receives from the Sun accounts for the difference. Even with the grand majority of the light that it reflects away, it still has the hottest surface temperatures owing to the huge greenhouse effect of its CO2 atmosphere. Venus will enter the ram's meadow on June 11th and then Taurus's pastural realm on the 28th.

Mars barely appears in the western twilight skies after 2000 EDT as an ever dimmer orange little ball in Taurus's pasture. It looks so dim as it and Earth are nearing opposite sides of the solar system. By June 4th, it will enter Gemini's realm, but be harder to see as the Sun appears to catch up to it. Expect to lose sight of it by the solar glare by the end of the month. Mars will just enter Cancer the crab's realm on July the 17th, only to be soon passed by the Sun, with their conjunction on the 26th. Mars will only start to make its reappearence in the eastern morning skies by late August. The old warrior will once again slowly march his way across the skies, reaching his opposition to the Sun on July 31st in 2018. By then it will be in Capricornius and be physically closer to us than it has been in 15 years at only 0.384933 AU away from us! The planet will appear to be 24.33 arc-seconds arcross then and will be better than they have been in a while, but they just won't be quite as good as they were back in the year of 2003, when Mars was closer to us than it had ever been in over 60,000 years. You may recall getting annoying repeated and very late emails about that event for a few years afterwards. Hopefully, they won't get repeated this time around!

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter.Jupiter is progressing in a stately fashion in Virgo's realm nearing the star Porrima (γ Virginis), which is the left shoulder of Virgo. Jupiter will spend quite a while in the long constellation of Virgo, only entering into Libra's hall on Nov. 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, rising above the eastern horizon after 0100 EDT. It will retrograde into Ophiuchus' realm on May 18th. Its opposition is on June 15th. Our Opposition event will be one that will say good-bye to the fantastic Cassini spacecraft. For it will come to the End of its Mission (EOM) and will be crashed into Saturn on September 15th, 2017.

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 is retrograde and appears east of the bowl of the teaspoon asterism, about 45 arc-minutes west of the star Albaldah, where the teaspoon bowl attaches to its handle. As can be expected, it's apparent magnitude is a very dim mv = 14.19, and is getting brighter. You will need a big telescope to see it. On the 25th, it will appear less than 3 arc minutes away from Albaldah. If you try for it, its moon Charon will even dimmer at mv = 16.03. They are both very small are 32 astronomical units away!

Cassini's image of Saturn on April 2, 2004.Saturn's 2017 Opposition to the Sun -- June 23rd - 24th.

On the evening of Friday, June the 23nd, the FAU Astronomical Observatory invites the public to come and celebrate Saturn's 2017 Opposition to the Sun. The precise opposition time was last week on the 15th, however, the rainy weather did not look favorable to opening the dome, so we postponed it until a date that looked more promising and so we chose 23rd. We'll see if it holds!

Date & Time: From 8:00 pm EDT, Friday, June 23nd until 2:00 am EDT, Saturday, May 24th 201.
Activities: Telescopic observations and presentations about Saturn, its moons and our attempts to this ringed giant for its 2017 Opposition to the Sun!
Details: An outer planetís opposition to the Sun means that they appear at the opposite positions of the sky. This puts us in a direct line between the outer planet and the Sun, so that we will be as close as we can be to the planet for this orbital pass. If you have never seen these astonishing rings, this will be the best time to do so. Saturn's rings are tilted with respect to the planet's orbital plane around the Sun, and for this year they appear at their greatest angle to us. So we will see them at their fullest extent for over the next 14 years. The rings are so amazing that planetary scientists have wondered whether or not we would have ever even been able to imagine the possible existence of rings at all, if we didn't have an excellent and glorious example of them! Sharp and patient eyed visitors may observe the moons clearly change their positions over the course of the night, especially the moon Enceladus, and note how wide spread they will seem with respect to the planet. For moons orbit in the same plane as the rings do, so they too appear far apart from Saturn. It is one thing to know that the moons orbit the planet Saturn, but it is quite another thing to witness it for yourself.
Presentations: The presentation will provide information about Saturn, a view of the history of our attempts to understand it and the incredibly dramatic story of the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft's adventure to explore the true lord of the rings and its moons. This year Cassini is taking its final bows as it already has its course set to crash and burn up into the planet's atmosphere come this September.

NASA's JPL Solar System Ambassador Logo.This is a combined FAU Astronomical Observatory and a NASA's JPL Solar System Ambassador volunteer event. The Solar System Ambassadors Program of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory offers information and excitement about real missions that explore our solar system. Volunteer ambassadors in communities throughout the country are selected by JPL based on their backgrounds and on their plans for public outreach activities. JPL provides ambassadors with educational materials and training. However, the opinions of Ambassadors are not necessarily those of NASA or JPL. Further information about the Solar System Ambassadors Program is available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.

So please come to celebrate and observe the planet at opposition, while pondering some of the astronomical mysteries that are connected with it. This invitation is open to anyone from FAU, the local community, their friends and family to come and enjoy the heavens.

After all, it is their universe, too!

Can You Identify This Image?

The image at the right shows locations of:

  1. southeast U.S. cities seen at night from space.
  2. inefficiently used energy resources and tax dollars continuously squandered by local city planners.
  3. local populations who are losing their humbling sense of wonder and awe of the night sky's majesty.
  4. increased, widespread disruptions to the local natural environment.
  5. projected increases of health problems in the local populations.
  6. all of the above.
Lights at night in Florida, Dec. 2010, taken by Exp. 26 on the ISS.
Image Credit: NASA, ISS Expedition 26, Dec. 2010.

Department of Physics
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
E-mail: evandern at fau dot edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)

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