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