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

Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory

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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:

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: Dec. 18th, 2017.

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.

Lunar Phases:

NEW MoonDec. 17th
FIRST QuarterDec. 25th
FULL MoonJan. 1st
LAST QuarterJan. 8th

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
Dec. 21-22 Ursids north,
near Kochab
comet 8P
up to 50,
ave 10
33 km/s has slowish,
faint meteors
Pretty good
Jan. 3-4 Quadrantids northern
2003 EH
120 41 km/s bright
to see.

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 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!

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter.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 bowl of the teaspoon asterism of Sagittarius, less than 2.5° east and a bit south 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 = 14.30. You will need a big telescope to see it. If you try for it, its moon Charon will even dimmer at mv = 16. They are both very small at 34 astronomical units away and getter further! Mercury will pass by it on Jan. 24th and Mars will too on April the 26th. Pluto will stay in Sagittarius' realm until March 1st, 2023.

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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