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Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory
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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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Florida Atlantic University Astronomical Observatory
FAU 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:
  SevinÁ and Cub Scout seeking strange, new worlds!
SevinÁ and Cub Scout seeking strange, new worlds!

News of the Observatory

Oct 1st Friday Public Viewing Session is cancelled.

Once again, we are forced to deal with FAU's football stadium, which is intent to host a home football game in the stadium, on Saturday, Oct. 7th. They didn't even ask if this would disrupt anyone else on campus. Rude! They have started to cordon off the parking lots nearby the stadium and require people to pay for parking. So this will interfere with our ability to host our Public Viewing session for the first Friday of October.

However, they are not having a game on Oct. 14th, because we are going to have an event that afternoon! (Ha! Scared them off!)

Penumbral Solar Eclipse on Oct. the 14th!

On Saturday, Oct 14th, the new Moon will pass in front of the Sun for a Solar Eclipse. Different parts of the country will see different amounts of coverage. The best path is out west, but we'll make do with what we see of it here.

NOTE this is a weather permitting event, for if it is raining, I am not bringing out the telescopes and equipment to get damaged. There won't be much to see anyway.

TIME: noon until 3 pm. We will run from 1st to last contact points between the Sun and new Moon.
LOCATION: small grassy area just east of the Science Building, you can see it with the Google Maps link on our location information.
COVERAGE: I estimate from my program about 40%, occuring at 1:28 pm.
PLANNED: Solar filtered telescopes to safely observe the Sun and new Moon together, some demonstration equipment to explain the phenomena.

Coming soon: Jupiter's Opposition to the Sun -- Nov. 3rd!

On the night of Nov. 3rd, we are planning for a Jupiterís opposition event.

This one should be particularly good to see as it will appear high in the sky, at 73° above the horizon when it reaches the meridian. So that there will be less blurring atmosphere in our way to see it, making its details clearer and crisper. And weíll be able to watch its Great Red Spot and its moon Europa transit across its face that night. Itís one thing to "know from textbooks" that Jupiterís moons orbit the planet. Itís another thing to have personally eyewitnessed it for yourself!

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: Sept. 1st, 2022

The Sun Today:

The Sun currently appears south of Leo the lion. It become a bauble for Virgo the maiden to play with on Sept. 17th. It shall stay with the maiden until it moves on to the Libra's hall of justice on Oct. 31st.

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

Link to current images of the Sun in H-alpha light goes to those provided by the National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF at: www.nso.edu

Link to current images of the Sun in Hα light goes to those provided by the
National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF

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

Lunar Phases:

1st Qtr. MoonOct. 3rd
Full MoonOct. 10th
Last Qtr. MoonOct. 17st
New MoonOct. 25thPart. Sol. Eclipse,
for Europe, ne Africa,
Mid East, w Asia

Meteor Showers:


Section updated: Sept. 1st, 2022.

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
Nov. 11-12Northern
Taurus, near
comet 2P
5 29 km/s slowish,
brighter than
average meteors
Nov. 17-18Leonids head of Leo comet 55P
15 71 km/s fastest,
brighter than
average meteors,
often with
~Nov. 21 Alpha
se of Procyon ? var.,
65 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
Dec. 13-14Geminids Gemini,
near Castor
3200 Phaethon
120 35 km/s has slowish,
brighter than
average meteors

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:


Section updated: June 15th, 2022.

Little Mercury is found in Taurus the bull just east of the Pleiades and west of the Hyades in its direct motion. On July 6th, Mercury will finally exit Taurus and go travel through the playground of the Gemini twins. If you can get up on June 26th, you'll see it, Venus and a very thin cresent Moon all together that morning. Mercury will hide beyond the Sun at its superior conjunction on the 16th of July. After that, it flips back to the western twilight sky.

Venus will soon enter the pasture of Taurus the bull on June 17th. A month later, it will enter into the Twins's playground and then on to the tide pool of Cancer the crab on Aug. 10th. It will slowly get lower and lower as the year progresses as it will be on the far side of the solar system at 1.59 au away and appear closer to the eastern horizon. And get lower still by Aug. 27th, as it enters the realm of Leo the lion and be 1.64e au away. While it may become harder to see depending on how clear your eastern horizon is, it is worth a try.

For as Venus will be on the far side of the Sun, what observers will see of it through a telescope will be a "full phase", like a full Moon, of its surface. It was this type of observation that Galileo made years ago that was the crucial piece of evidence he needed to prove that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe. Because the only way we can clearly see such a phase of Venus is if it was beyond the Sun and not orbiting only some midpoint between the Earth and the Sun, like how Ptolemy had once declared. Galileo pointed out that if Ptolemy was correct, and not Copernicus, then all we could ever see through a telescope would be a crescent phase of Venus, as we would always be looking mostly at its nightside as Ptolemy thought it could only exist between us and the Sun.

Venus will reach superior conjuction with the Sun on Oct. 17th, then be 1.71 au away from us and beyond the Sun as it will later appear on the flip side of the night and begin appearing in the western twilight sky by November.

Planets of the Eastern morning sky 2022 May 10.Planets of the Eastern morning sky 2022 May 10.

How do you know what you are looking at is a planet? Well a simple check is to see if it twinkles. Stars twinkle, planets don't. Stars higher in the sky twinkle less, however, the closer they are to the horizon, the more twinkle they appear to do. While planets, like Venus, will appear to be a steady light source. As of May 2022, Venus is moving to the far side of the solar system, so through a telescope, expect it to show a waxing gibbous phase (more than half of it appears lit to us and shaped like an oval). Though it is getting further away, its high albedo (much like white paper, it has a high ratio of reflected light to what it receives) is why it appears so brightly.

NEWS-FLASH: On May 4th, NASA reported the biggest Quake ever recorded ON ANOTHER PLANET: MARS!

NASA's May 4th seismograph recording from Mars

NASA reported the biggest quake ever recorded on another planet, the planet MARS! It registered 5.0 on the Richter scale and was recorded with its Insight seismometer on May 4th. Which luckily came to it before it will have to shut down the monitoring station due to the amount of dust collecting on its solar panels, depriving it of the necessary light energy needed to run its instruments. Still, the station and its seismometer lasts twice as long as they were engineered to do! So well done there! Jump from here to read more about it on NASA's JPL pages.

If you are looking for Mars, the active old warrior appears in the early morning skies marching eastwards in the constellation of Pisces the fish. On June 22nd, the waning crescent Moon will pass it by. Mars will march on through Aries the ram's pastures on July 9th, and will get passed by the waning crescent Moon again, but mostly in the daylight hourse. Mars will then confront Taurus the bull on Aug. the 10th and try to dash across his pasture! . But by Oct. 31st, Mars will begin traveling westward in his retrograde retreat. As he does so, the planet will appear brighter and brighter until it reaches its opposition to the Sun on Dec. 7th.

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter. Jupiter, the jovial king of the sky is retrograding in the constellation Pisces. This will be particularly interesting retrograde to watch for on Sept. 26th, Jupiter will reach opposition to the Sun. This will NOT be an ordinary opposition, though, because it will occur when Jupiter is near its perihelion. Meaning that Jupiter will be only 3.9525 au away from us that night and so be closer to us than it will be again for the next 12 years!! Views of it through the telescope will be great to see and we will be holding an event for it then. On the 26th, Jupiter's moons will be far to its side and be hard to appreciate in the telescope. However, at least on the 23rd, Io will pass in front of the giant planet, this will help show its celestial motions AND we'll get to spy its Great Red Spot too then. More details above.

Saturn appears in Capricorn, prograding through the sea goat. It will stay with the goat for the rest of the year. On Aug. 15th, it will be at opposition and only 8.8569 au away from us and have an apparent magnitude of 0.28, almost rivaling of what we see of the star Vega.

Uranus is currently in Aries the Ram's meadow, north of what I consider to be the fluke of Cetus. Traditionally, that part was seen as the "sea monster's head" and the southern part, its body. Yet, if you turn around the thinking, the constellation of Cetus actually looks like its name. For "Cetus" is where we get the word "Cetacea", which is the order of marine mammals, such as whales. To me, the northern part is like the fluke, while the southern part is body, head and mouth of the whale, just like a humpback or blue whale. Uranus will be with Aries until near the end of May 2024.

Neptune is in his element straddling between the border of Aqurius and Pisces and will stay around that area for the rest of the year.

Dwarf planet Pluto appears in the northeastern corner of Sagittarius, not near any bright star. Its opposition is July the 17th. Pluto will stay in Sagittarius the archer's range until March 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@fau.edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)

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