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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:
News of the Observatory
Please note that the regular schedule is being changed to go after Saturn's Opposition to the Sun. This is the second of three oppositions this summer, with Mars' Opposition in late July being one that is a must see! We won't be as close to Mars again afterwards for the next 15 years!
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 appears in the pen with Taurus the bull. Mercury is just west of it and will pass behind it on the 5th of June. It will enter the realm of Gemini the twins on June 21st at the solstice, which begins our season of summer in the northern hemisphere. Then it will appear to enter Cancer the crab's realm on July 20th, the 49th anniversary of the touchdown of Apollo 11 on the Moon. (When, oh when, do we go back!?!?)
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 in the morning skies before dawn, in the pen of Taurus the bull. It'll appear lower and lower in the skies as it slips from view, hidden behind the glare of the Sun, to reappear on the flipside of the night in the western skies just after twilight by June the 13th in the constellation of Gemini the twins. It wil appear further away in Cancer the crab domain on the date of Saturn's opposition to the Sun this year.
YES, Venus is that brilliant ball of light you see in the western evening skies soon after sunset. How do you know that it is a planet? Well a simple check is to see if it twinkles. Stars twinkle, planets don't. Even stars higher in the sky will appear to twinkle, while planets, like Venus, will appear to be a steady light source. As Venus is coming around from the other side of the solar system it currently still retains the features of a full to gibbous phase. This is important in the history of Astronomy, because Galileo used it as proof to end the old and incorrect geocentric theory that Ptolemy had claimed. In Ptolemy's theory, all planets, such as Venus and Mercury, were attached to "epicycles", smallish transparent spheres. The outer planets had them too, but they were attached to their "deferent", which was a bigger transparent sphere that went around the Earth and the Sun, and which basically had the Earth near their center. But for Venus and Mercury, they never appeared too far away from the Sun. So Ptolemy thought that they were fixed to a line between the Earth and the Sun to keep them in place. Galileo realized that if this were true, then we would only ever see the nightside of Venus, with perhaps a crescent phase, when viewed through a telesopce. The fact that Galileo observed a full phase of Venus meant that it had to be positioned on the far side of the Sun, and thus orbited the Sun and not as Ptolemy had said.
Currently, Venus appears off in the direction of the constellation Gemini the twins, and will cross into Cancer the crab on June 11th, and Leo the lion on June 28th, and then into Virgo the maiden on July 31st, all along getting brighter and brighter to us. Folks may note it if they go out and look up, so be certain to recognize it!
Mars Mars continues to brighten in the constellation of Capricornus the sea-goat, as we get closer to
it while we are swinging around to soon meet up with the old warrior as he slowly marches its way across the sky.
As of June 1st, we are 0.604 AU apart from each other and appear with an
mv = -1.25! Recall that 1 AU is the average distance
between the Earth and the Sun, so we are now quite a bit closer to it than the Sun. Mars will keep brightening as it begins
its retrograde on June 25th. Mars will reach his opposition to the Sun on July 27th in 2018, but by
the 31st, we will be even physically closer to it than we've been in 15 years at only 0.384933 AU away from
us! This is due to the fact that the planets orbit in ellipses, and Mars is still approaching its perihelion and so
still getting closer to the Sun and because we're right along the line, to us as well. The planet will appear to be 24.33
arc-seconds across on the 31st then and appear with an apparent magnitude of
Protoplanet Vesta is currently retrograding through Sagittarius. It's opposition to the Sun will be on June the 19th. This is the only "asteroid" that becomes just visible to the naked eye during in such retrogrades, but you need to know where to look to find it. We'll be seeking it this month to see the source of 5% of all meteorites that land on the Earth!
Jupiter appears in that constellation of justice, Libra the Scales. It's retrograde motion has had it move back across Libra to appear again with Zubenelgenubi, the pivot star of the scales, 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 north by northeast of the star Kaus Borealis, which is the star that
makes the "peak of the lid" on the Sagittarius
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
Saturn's 2018 Opposition to the Sun -- June 26th - 27th.
On the evening of Tuesday, June the 26th, the FAU Astronomical Observatory invites the public to come and celebrate Saturn's 2018 Opposition to the Sun. The precise opposition time will be 9 am the next day, but there is an interesting emergence by a star from behind Saturn that will occur on the 26th, so we'll shoot for that as well.
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?
Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton, Florida
E-mail: evandern at fau dot edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)
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