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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

EVENT: Total Lunar Eclipse - Sunday May 15th, 2022, 9:30 p.m. - Midnight.

On the evening of Sunday, May the 15th, the FAU Astronomical Observatory invites the public to come and enjoy the Total Lunar Eclipse. We'll have some discussions about the significance of the event, how it comes about due to the geometry of the Moon's orbit, how it proves our Earth is a spherical ball (and not a flat disk!), and other interesting topics, such as how our celestial neighbor will one day be key to humanity's ability to one day expand outwards to the rest of the solar system, like Mars.

We'll open at 9:30 pm for the discussions as the Moon first touches the penumbral shadow. It will really get dark by 10:15 pm and be fully in the umbral shadow by 11:30 pm. We will finish by midnight, for it will not exit the umbra until 12:53 am.

  SevinÁ and Cub Scout seeking strange, new worlds!
SevinÁ and Cub Scout seeking strange, new worlds!

Cub Scout Pack 323's Observation Night

Apr. 22nd 2022 - Cub Scout Pack 323 came for a night of observations. We discussed constellations, celestial motions, the Moon's orbital plane, its phases and eclipses and a bit about the Lyrid Meteor shower that night.

Images of their adventure have been kindly provided by their pack leader, Vincent Mamo.
See more of what they explored at: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1iMZ2WwwN2c5g9wX6

Discussing the Moon's orbital plane and its resulting 
					phases and eclipses.
Pack 323 and I discuss the Moon's orbital plane and its resulting phases and eclipses using a table-top model that I've been working on.

Update: Window wall repair job done. - Apr. 2022.

There was a problem with some cracks in the stucco outside our round window in the Observatory. Water leakied into wall and slowly rotted the drywall inside the facility. I literally poked my finger through the drywall to find it all soft and wet. So, this past winter's break, my TA SevinÁ and I had been doing a lot of cleaning, some repainting, and some repair work on the drywall. But as we are on the 4th floor, the outside stucco cracks were beyond my reach.

I contacted FAU's Facilities and Maintenance Department and John ("Jay") Nicolosi was able to rent a taller cherry-picker lift to pour half a bucket of cement into the wall's cracks and painted it to seal it and will soon finish the job out there to match the wall's color. Dave had worked on taking out the drywall down to the cinder block and very professionally rebuilt the drywall and the round sill around the window. I put up new curtains for the window to better block out light for when we don't want it coming into the facility. It has come along very nicely. Thank you very much, Jay and Dave!



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: May 6th, 2022

The Sun is in the grassy pastures of Aries the ram and later on to Taurus the bull's pastures on May the 14th.

Lunar Phases:

New MoonApr. 30thPartial Sol. Ecl.-S. Pacific, maybe Chile
1st Qtr. MoonMay 8thNote its height!
Full MoonMay 16thTotal Lunar Eclipse - Americas, Europe and Africa
Last Qtr. MoonMay 22nd
New MoonMay 30th


Eclipses are soon, with a high quarter Moon!

A thought recently struck me, while I was working on that model of the Moon that I showed to the Scouts in the above picture. That during Eclipse seasons, which occurs twice a year for about a month each, the geometry of the Moon's orbit is such that its quarter Moon phases are positioned as far above or far below the ecliptic as the Moon can be.

Go outside when it gets dark and look for the Moon. It will appear especially far to the north as the ecliptic rises nearly as directly as it can get, and the Moon even further north still, as it can appear 5° away from the ecliptic. As we get closer to 1st quarter phase, notice the phase AND how far north it appears. That right there tells you that you are in eclipse season! Somewhere in the world people will be experiencing eclipses once the Moon continues on and crosses the ecliptic. And so that little rhyme popped into my head and I thought I would share with all so everyone could make the same the observation themselves. Go observe and enjoy!


Meteor Showers:

 

Section updated: May 6th, 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
Location
Source Zero
Hour
Rate
Meteors'
Velocity
Description Conditions
May 6-7 Eta Aquarids η Aquarius comet 1P
Halley
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
A Good
Show
~June 7 Arietids near Hamal or
α Arietis
ast. Icarus?
or ancient
dead comet?
0-1 42 km/s dawn-daytime
radio shower
pre-dawn to
invisible
due to Sun
~June 11 Gamma
Delphinids
γ Delphius ? unknown 55 km/s? Sleep
in!
~June 16 June Lyrids South of
Vega
? down to 0? found in
1966, last
seen in 1996?
Don't
Bother!
~June 27 Bootids northern
Boötes?
comet 7P
Pons-Winnecke
var.,
0-100
18 km/s very SLOW,
bright meteors
Ideal!

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: May 10th, 2022.

As of May 10th, little Mercury is found in Taurus the bull just east of the Pleiades. (Warning, dangerous words here!, but: ) It has started retrograde on May 9th. It will quickly get lost in the Sun's glare by the 16th of May. So protect your eyes for the Sun's light is really is dangerous if you stare at it. Mercury will be at inferior conjunction with the Sun on May 21st and at which point it will be only 0.55 au away from us. Afterwards, catch Mercury on the flip side of the night in the predawn eastern skies as it will resume its direct motion on June 3rd, depending on how clear you eastern horizon is. On July 6th, Mercury will finally exit Taurus and go travel through the playground of the Gemini twins. And hide beyond the Sun at its superior conjunction on the 16th of July. After that, it flips back to the western twilight sky.

Venus has briefly slipped down into Cetus's depths until May 12th, and after will return to Pisces. Venus will enter Aries on May 31st and then on to Taurus on June 17th. A month later, it will enter into the Twins's playground and then on to the sandy beach 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: NASA just reported the biggest Quake ever recorded ON ANOTHER PLANET: MARS!

NASA's May 4th seismograph recording from Mars

NASA just 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. 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 Aqurius. He will advance into the realm of Pisces on May the 20th and from May 23rd until June 4th, he'll march right passed by Jupiter. The Moon will pass them both from the 24th and the 25th. The closest the planets will appear will be on May 29th and be just over 0.5 ° apart. Mars will march on through Aries the ram's pastures on July 9th, and then confront Taurus the bull on Aug. the 10th. 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 appears in the constellation Pisces. After his quick conference with Mars in late May, he will enter into the depths of Cetus's realm on June 25th and proceed to slow down in there. For on the July the 28th, Jupiter will begin his retrograde! This will be particularly interesting 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. Details to follow.

Saturn appears in Capricorn, prograding through the sea goat. It will stay with the goat for the rest of the year.


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. He'll get passed by Mars on May the 18th. 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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