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Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory

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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.

News of the Observatory

Tuesday, Apr. 18th Public Viewing Observation Changed to the 19th. -- I apologize for the inconvienence that this will cause to anyone. However, we are changing our Tuesday Public Viewing Observation Session to the Wednesday the 19th so that we will be able to view asteroid 2014 JO25 passage. Click link to follow the details.



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: Apr. 4th, 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 QuarterApr. 3rd
FULL MoonApr. 11th
LAST QuarterApr. 19th
NEW MoonApr. 26th
FIRST QuarterMay 2nd
FULL MoonMay 10th
LAST QuarterMay 18th
NEW MoonMay 25th

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!

Apr. 22-23Lyrids between Lyra
& Hercules
comet C/1861 G1
Thatcher
var.
up to 90
ave. 18
49 km/s quick,
brighter than
ave. meteors,
~1/5 w/ trains
Worth
a shot!
~Apr. 23 Pi Puppids south of
π Puppis
comet 26P
Grigg-Skjellerup
up to 38,
on 26P's
perihelion
yrs
best seen in far south
May 6-7 Eta Aquarids η Aquarius comet 1P
Halley
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
Best past
midnight

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 the twilight in the western skies in Aries the ram's meadow. Mercury is headed for its Inferior Conjunction on the 20th of Apr. when it will be nearly directly between the Earth and the Sun. Afterwards look for it in the morning skies. On the morning of Apr. 28th, just before sunrise at 0630 EDT, Mercury will appear just 6 arcminutes, a tenth of a degree, away from the planet Uranus! If you try to see them, you won't have long to see this secretive celestial meeting, as the Sun will hide their clandestine activities soon afterwards. Although much smaller, Mercury will appear brighter than Uranus, for Uranus will be almost 36× further away from us when you'll see it then. It will start to heading prograde on May 3rd, 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.

As of April 8th, Venus will appear inside the "Circlet" of Pisces in the morning eastern sky and will appear inside this constellation's western fish until the 18th. She'll continue on forward through this realm, 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, which 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 amount 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 appears in the western twilight skies after 2000 EDT, in the Aries the ram's meadow. It looks like an ever dimmer orange little ball as it and Earth are nearing opposite sides of the solar system. It will pass into Taurus's pasture on April 12th. 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 glars 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! So views of the planet around then 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, only 16 arc-minutes away from the star θ Virginis, which is the left side of Virgo's tummy. Jupiter's exact Opposition to the Sun occurs on Friday, April 7th at 1721 EDT. The Observatory will be hosting a public viewing open dome event to keep Jupiter company for the night as we celebrate its passage and learn what we can with the latest information regarding the Juno spacecraft mission, see details below.

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!

Jupiter will spend quite a while in the long constellation of Virgo, only entering into Libra's hall on Nov. 15th.

Saturn currently is in Sagittarius, rising above the eastern horizon after 0100 EDT. It begins its retrograde now and entering Ophiuchus' realm on May 18th. Its opposition is in June. And sadly, on September 15th, 2017, the fantastic Cassini spacecraft will come to the End of its Mission (EOM) and will be crashed into Saturn.

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!


Asteroid 2014 JO25 Buzzes the Earth - Apr. 19

The asteroid 2014 JO25 will buzz past the Earth on Apr. 19. While its closest point to the Earth will be on the 19th, it will be on the wrong side of night for us then (meaning itíll occur in the daytime). However, we will have a chance to see it later on the evening of Wednesday the 19th. As I need the time for class preparations so I can double up, I am changing the night of the public viewing to Wednesday, Apr. 19th so that we can spy the asteroid in the telescope and open up the Observatory for anyone who wants to come by and see it then. Note that it won't really get dark until after 9 pm by that day, so be prepared with a nap or coffee! More data can be found on this Sky and Telescope article.

   Date_(EDT)__HR:MN    R.A._(ICRF/J2000.0)_DEC  APmag
2017-Apr-19 20:00 C 13 17 11.69 +32 37 15.5 10.71 2017-Apr-19 20:30 N 13 15 06.05 +31 31 41.9 10.72 2017-Apr-19 21:00 A 13 13 06.68 +30 28 07.9 10.74 2017-Apr-19 21:30 13 11 13.17 +29 26 31.0 10.75 2017-Apr-19 22:00 13 09 25.13 +28 26 48.6 10.76 2017-Apr-19 22:30 13 07 42.21 +27 28 57.8 10.78 2017-Apr-19 23:00 13 06 04.14 +26 32 55.8 10.79 2017-Apr-19 23:30 13 04 30.63 +25 38 39.6 10.81 2017-Apr-20 00:00 13 03 01.46 +24 46 06.3 10.83

Ephemeris computations provided by the Horizons On-Line Ephemeris System of the Solar System Dynamics Group, which is part of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that the California Institute of Technology conducts for NASA.


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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