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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:

News of the Observatory

COVID-19 and our little Observatory - 7/24/20

Well it is now July. The coronavirus is still raging forward basically unchecked. And like many other places, the Observatory is still closed to the public because physical distancing between people here would be impractical, to say the least. Even now, the full ramifications of this plague has yet to be felt, because we are still, as of this writing, wholly ignorant of how far it has already spread. Here in the Observatory, we try to fight scientific ignorance, by educating and enthralling our visitors with the wonders of the universe and in science. Science is about the acquisition, understanding and educating of knowledge of the natural world for the benefit of all and so, it is wise to make an intelligent usage of that science for all. As we do not have the benefit to see into the future. So we have to make the best choices we can, based on what we know.

And that is to be healthy, patient, and curious. To wear your masks, practice social distancing and wash your hands often! Some people may feel that such demands are an infringement on their "personal rights". I would argue that our country was founded on principles listed in the Declaration of Independence, in which we have "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." That the first of these rights is for Life. That it comes before the Rights to Liberty and Happiness. That we would do better to consider that order, in that, our Rights to personal Liberty comes after other people's Rights to Life. And so that we should be considerate of others in our interactions with them and WEAR THE MASKS!

Next, we must realize that the virus does not care about our rights. It is basically a tiny "genetic automaton" that is not even scientifically alive. Even so, the external rules of evolution apply to it, and so has recently become highly adapt to make use of our normal social interactions to its beneficial advantage of mass infiltration into us. It needs us to socialize to continue its spread. By realizing it uses us as its preferred vehicle of travel and agents of spread, we can fight it by using masks, by maintaining a physical distance among ourselves, by washing our hands. We can defeat it, but we must be disciplined about these actions. The less disciplined we are in our fight against it, the longer we will suffer health-wise and the longer our "chronic fatigue economy" will continue. So in my own personal opinion, I feel that our country has dropped it leadership ball and role. Just how long do our "leaders" want to let this go on for, I cannot imagine.

But if we do follow those practices our medical officials advice, we will get through this. And we will see what universe has to offer a little later on. After all, the universe is not going anywhere anytime soon!

Eric Vandernoot

Comet Neowise - 7/12/20

So with the recent excitement regarding comet Neowise, I tried to go out and get an idea of how good the viewing conditions would be for us here. There is a lot of humidity in the South Florida atmosphere in July, that often leads to clouds and storms and poor seeing conditions for faint fuzzy objects like comets. Before dawn on Sunday, July 12th, I looked for the comet. It was barely visible in the telelescope, so I took the following 8 second shot of it. It's not my best work, but there it is.

Comet Neowise, taken at FAU's Astronomical Observatory on Dec. July 12th, 2020 at 0650 EDT.

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: Mar. 18th, 2020.

As of March 18th, the Sun is swimming with the fishies in the watery realm of Pisces. It will continue stay wet until April 18th when it will dry out in the pasture of Aries the Ram befre moving on to the fields of Taurus the Bull on May 13th.

Lunar Phases:

Last Qtr. MoonMar. 16th
New MoonMar. 24th
1st Qtr. MoonApr. 1st
Full MoonApr. 7th
Last Qtr. MoonApr 14th
New MoonApr. 22nd
1st Qtr. MoonApr. 30th
Full MoonMay. 7th
Last Qtr. MoonMay. 14th

Meteor Showers:


Section updated: Mar. 18th, 2020.

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
up to 90
ave. 18
49 km/s quick,
brighter than
ave. meteors,
~1/5 w/ trains
Go for it!
~Apr. 23 Pi Puppids south of
π Puppis
comet 26P
up to 38,
on 26P's
best seen in far south If in South Hemisph.,
then try for it.
May 6-7 Eta Aquarids η Aquarius comet 1P
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
A challenge.

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: Mar. 18th, 2020.

On March 18th, little Mercury can be found in the morning eastern skies before dawn near ι Aquarii after having done its elongation. It will cross Aquarius's splash zone and enter the watery realm of Pisces the Fish on Apr. 9th. Pass through Cetus the whales's ocean from the 14th until the 17th, continue on with Pisces until entering Aries the Ram's pasture on Apr 27th and finally race past the Sun on May 4th on its superior conjunction. You won't be able to see it lost in the solar glare, so look for its reemergence by May 9th past 7:30 pm in the western horizon. Be careful when looking near the Sun!

YES, Venus is that brilliant ball of light you see in the western evening skies soon after sunset. It is currently at a brightness of mv = −3.97 and continuing to get brighter! VERY eye catching indeed! It will reach it greatest brightness of mv = −4.51 on April 27th. So we will have all winter to enjoy this true brillant bauble in the sky!

How do you know that it 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 Venus is is nearer to our side of the solar system and so it is now showing a waning crescent phase while it appears larger and larger in the telescope as it gets closer to us. So basically we are seeing more and more of the nightside of Venus when viewed through a telescope. Its closeness and high albedo (much like white paper, it has a high ratio of reflected light to what it receives) is why it crescent phase appears so brightly.

On March 18th, Venus is in Aries the Ram's pasture and is reaching its greatest elongation from the Sun on the 23rd. It will enter Taurus the Bull's field on the 29th, and finally start to make its retrograde on April 30th, in which it will be a crescent phase.

Mars Mars appears in the early morning skies in the stellar forest of Sagettarius the centaur archer. It appears in a clear line with Jupiter and Saturn. As the old warrior continues to march through that stellar forest, it will begin a series of encounters with Jupiter by the 18th, when the waning crescent Moon will be nearby and Saturn further eastwards. It will appear closest to Jupiter on March 20th, pass by Pluto on the 23rd, and then march passed Saturn on the 30th and 31st, when it will have entered Capricornus and then into Aquarius on May 9th.

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter.Jupiter appears in Sagittarius stellar forest The jovian king will continue to prograde eastwards until May 14th, when it will appear to begin retrograding back westwards towards the near triple conjunction of Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn! Jupiter's opposition occurs first on the 14th of July.

Saturn appears in the east side of Sagittarius, not too near any particularly bright star. Just as Saturn enters into Capricornus it will have its conjunction with Mars on the 30th and 31st of March. On May 11th, Saturn will begin its retrograde so as to meet up with Jupiter and Pluto in a triple conjunction for this year!

Uranus is currently in Aries the Ram's meadow and will mostly appear by itself. It will become very "taxing" to find by April 15th due to the Sun's glare, and the Sun will pass it by on April 25th. So expect to see it escape the solar glare by May 10th. It will begin its retrograde on July 25th.

Neptune is about 1° 18m west of φ Aquarii, currently appearing in the evening. Neptune will reside with Aquarius the water bearer until 2022. Its opposition is Sept. 11th.

Dwarf planet Pluto appears in the eastern side of Sagittarius, not near any bright star. Pluto will stay in Sagittarius' realm 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 at fau dot edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)

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