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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.
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News of the Observatory
COVID-19 and our little Observatory - 6/2/21
What a difference a year makes. Thankfully, 2020 is now hindsight. As of this writing, we are approaching summer 2021. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is still out there worldwide, infecting and killing people and in some places, it rages quite badly. New variants are still occuring and will keep occuring as long as it still spreads, no matter where it goes. But currently the plague does seem to have turned in the USA. Personally, I would thank the scientists who came up with this new technique of the mRNA vaccine and hopefully there will be more even more solutions with it to come. Also, let's thank the companies put them in to high quality, mass production, our country's leaders for making the changes needed by eliminating former red-tape in their development and to allow them to bring to fruition the benefits of the scientists' work AND for fully utilizing our government for the the mass distribution of the vaccine's benefits to all our citizens. Finally, let's remember to thank people who did bravely get their "experimental shots" and helped become part of the solution to end this worldwide pandemic. I do not think that anyone really wants to be the next proverbial "Typhoid Mary" or an experimental petri dish for the virus to evolve in and become the source of the next new variant that sends us all back to square one.
Like many other places still, the Observatory is closed to the public. As it is small, physical distancing between people here would be impractical, to say the least. And then there would be the problem of one person after another breathing upon our eyepiece optics and putting them right to their moist eyes. Here in the Observatory, we seek to fight scientific ignorance, by educating and enthralling our visitors with the wonders of the universe and in science. For it 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 now.
And that is to be healthy, patient, and curious. To get your vaccinations, 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 and that it would be useful to consider that it comes before the Rights of Liberty and Happiness. Such that, our Right to personal Liberty comes after other people's Right to Life. And so that we should be considerate of others in our interactions with them, by GETTING YOUR SHOTS and WEARING THE MASKS!
Realize that the virus does not care at all "about who we are or about our rights". It is basically a tiny "genetic automaton" that is not even scientifically alive. For it is too simple to function like a living thing. In that, it can not collect or consume energy, either by eating or by photosynthetic production, nor can it reproduce on its own. For it must accidentally get inhaled by other living things (people), and with its ever more ideal "machine like, protien delivery systems" inject its ever improving genetic code in our cells to infect, sabotage and hijack their internal systems to make billions of copies of itself. Even so, the external rules of the Arena called Evolution apply to it. Those newer variants that make ever better use of our cellular structures or normal social interactions for its beneficial advantage of mass infiltration into us will multiply and spread ever faster. It NEEDS us to socialize in order to continue its deadly spread. By realizing this nanoscopic enemy uses us as its preferred vehicles of transport 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. So the benefits of the mass vaccinations to help us to do this are more and more clear to one and all. We all need to keep doing our parts so we can crush it to "extinction" for one and all.
If the infections continue to decline here, we will get through this and come out stronger. And then, we will see what universe has to offer a little later on. For after all, the universe is not going anywhere anytime soon!
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.
As of Jun 2nd, the Sun is in the field of Taurus the bull. It will climb out of his fence at the summer solstice and then picnic with Gemini the twins. On July 20th, our star will explore the sandy realm of Cancer the crab, until Aug. 10th, when it will brave the savannah with Leo the lion.
Note: compare shower dates with Moon for favorable viewing conditions; the fuller the Moon, the harder it will be to see the 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
Additional details about meteors, showers or to REPORT your own fireball observations should be done via http://amsmeteors.org.
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.
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.
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