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Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory

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Image of the current Sun, provided by ESA's & NASA's SDO space telescope and link to sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov
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Image of the current Sun in H-alpha light is provided by the National Solar Observatory/AURA/NSF and link to www.nso.edu
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The National Academies Press: Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (2008)

The National
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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:
Announcement for Palm Beach County's Dark Sky Festival.
  Palm Beach County's Dark Sky Festival

M42 - The Great Orion Nebula, taken at FAU's Astronomical Observatory on Dec. 16th, 2015 at 0126 EST.

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.

News of the Observatory

The Observatory will not host the solar observation on Feb. 5th. I'll be out for a Daughter-Daddy event at her elementary school.

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: Jan. 28th, 2016.

The Sun currently is in Capricornus' realm and will stay with the sea-goat until Feb. the 17th when it will appear with Aquarius. It will continue on into Pisces on March 12th.

Lunar Phases:

LAST QuarterJan. 31st
NEW MoonFeb. 8th
FIRST QuarterFeb. 15th
FULL MoonFeb. 22nd
LAST QuarterMar. 1st
NEW MoonMar. 8thSolar Eclipse for Indonesia and Pacific

For those in North America, the total Solar Eclipse that we have been waiting for is the one that 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!

Comets: In our predawn skies look at the right knee of Virgo for comet Catalina (C/2013 US10). As it gets further away from us, it will appear to pass out of Virgo and head northwards into Bootes by the 24th and appear less than a half degree away from Arcturus on the 1st of January. Definitely a reason to get up early after a New Year's celebration, let me tell you!! The comet will pass by Alkaid, the end star of the Big Dipper's handle, on the 15th and continue through the circumpolar constellations the rest of the month before disappearing over the northern horizon by Feb. the 15th.

Meteor Showers:
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
Feb. 7-8 Alpha
far south near
α Centauri
? best seen in far south great
Mar. 13-14Gamma
SW of Scorpio ? 6 56 km/s scarcely witnessed good

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 would be a cave! Bring a lawn chair or blanket and a pillow, 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:

Pre-dawn planetary line up for 2016. All the naked eye planets have grouped together in the early morning skies, something that they haven't done in a decade. And from Jan. the 29th until Feb. the 7th the Moon will pass through the area too! The Moon will be nearest to Mars on the morning of Feb. 1st, nearest to Saturn on the 3rd, and Venus and Mercury on the 6th. If your skies are clear, check it out!

Mercury is now in a prograde motion passing through Sagittarius in the eastern morning skies. It appears in the teaspoon asterism along with the dwarf planet Pluto, but not for long. As you know, Mercury is the swiftest planet in the solar system, so it will pass out of the teaspoon by Feb. 1st. Mercury will enter Capricornius on Feb. 13th and on into Aquarius on March 3rd. It will enter Pisces on March the 20th the same day the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading northwards. Mercury reaches a superior conjunction on March 23rd, meaning that it will be on the exact opposite side of the solar system from us. It will barely spend a day in the direction of particular corner of Cetus the whale, before appearing in the evening skies. It will race ahead of the Sun and enter Aries the ram on Apr. the 5th, reach its greatest elongation on Apr. the 28th and THEN swoop back in retrograde to TRANSIT THE SUN on May the 9th. We plan to host an Open dome event for all to see this thirteen times a century event that morning. Please watch for announcements!

Venus is in Sagittarius and will enter Capricornius on Feb. the 17th and then into Aquarius on the 11th of March. As we enter spring, Venus will get harder to see in the morning skies as she moves ahead of us in her orbit about the Sun.

Mars can be found in Libra's realm. It will appear 1° north of Zubenelgenubi on the morning of Feb. 1st and joined by a last quarter Moon. It will enter Scopius on March 14th and then Ophiuchus on April 3rd. By the 17th of April, it will start its retrograde as it heads toward its opposition to the Sun on May 22nd.

Jupiter is moving in retrograde in the very early morning skies in Leo the lion. By Feb. the 27th, it will be nicely positioned for the Dark Sky Festival and as a special treat, visitors there will be able to witness its moon Europa disapper behind the planet's shadow from 2101 to 2104 EST! Jupiter's opposition to the Sun will be on March 8th. And by July, it will be visited by a new planetary probe, NASA's Juno spacecraft! More information about Juno can be found at its homepage of www.missionjuno.swri.edu/. This mission has the potential to rewrite our understanding of the solar system's planetary formation! Stay tuned!

Saturn currently appears in Ophiuchus. It starts its retrograde on March 25th and will reach its opposition to the Sun on Jun 3rd.

Uranus is advancing through Pisces and will appear with the fish until Apr. 28th, 2018. We'll lose it in the solar glare by the end of March and expect to see it on the flip side of the night around the second week of April in the morning skies.

Neptune is just over 1.5° away from λ Aquarii appearing in the morning skies. On March 20th, Venus with swing past it at about 0.5° away from it. It will reside in Aquarius until 2022.

dwarf planet Pluto is retrograde and appears in the bowl of the teaspoon asterism, about 26 arcminutes west of Albaldah, where the teaspoon bowl attaches to its handle. Look for it very low in the southwestern skies during the early evening hours. As to be expected, it's apparent magnitude is a very dim mv = 14.25 as it is on the far side of the solar system, so you will need a big telescope to see it. The Sun has passed it by so we should start to see it again in the morning hours, Mercury will appear near it by 0.5° away on Jan. the 30th.

Announcement for Palm Beach County's Dark Sky Festival.

Palm Beach County's Dark Sky Festival - IV

When asked to name different types of pollution, it is likely you would name trash or smog but what about light pollution? Did you know that sky glow from artificial lights impacts birds, sea turtles, mammals and even YOU! Come and learn how to fight light pollution, protect wildlife, preserve the night sky, and improve human health by attending Palm Beach County's Fourth Annual Dark Sky Festival!

Celebrate the Night and Turn Down The Lights is a free, fun-filled family event that will have many exciting and educational opportunities to experience and learn about the night sky, its importance to us and how and why we need to preserve it! There will be stargazing, live animal presentations, guided nature tours into the woods at night (first come, first serve), speakers, film screening, educational booths, and more.

Date: Saturday February 27th, 2016.
Time: 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm.
Where: Okeeheelee Nature Center, 7715 Forest Hill Boulevard, West Palm Beach, FL 33413
Cost: FREE!
Sponsored by: Palm Beach County Parks and Recreation,
Palm Beach County's Dept. of Environmental Resources Management,
the International Dark-Sky Association South Florida Chapter
and the awesome Okeeheelee Nature Center!

Keynote Speaker: This year’s Dark Sky Festival will feature Dr. Mario Motta.

Dr. Motta is a practicing cardiologist at the North Shore Medical Center in Salem, Massachusetts. He has served as president of the Massachusetts Medical Society (the organization that publishes the world’s most prestigious medical journal: "The New England Journal of Medicine"), and is on the American Medical Association’s Executive Council for their Council of Science and Public Health. He is also the President of Salem Nuclear Cardiology and the Director of the Nuclear Laboratory at Salem Hospital in Salem, Mass.

When he is not busy saving lives, Dr. Motta is passionate about amateur astronomy, for example he is a Clinical Instructor in Astrophysics at Tufts University. He has one of the world’s most technologically sophisticated amateur observatories, which houses a 32-inch telescope built into the foundation of his house. With his observatory he is a member of the American Assoc. of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) & helps out NASA with their Gamma Ray Burster Project.

As an amateur astronomer, he became concerned about light pollution and began studying the issue and realized that light pollution not only inhibits our ability to view the night skies, but also affects nighttime vision and the circadian rhythm of humans, plants and animals. As such, he has been extremely active in the fight to limit the effects of light pollution, bringing this matter to the attention of government officials at the national, state and local levels. For years he encouraged members of the medical community to recognize the negative effects of glare on the elderly. His efforts bore fruit in 2009 with the AMA’s passage of Resolution 516 to as an organization officially combat light pollution and glare. And he got them to strengthen their resolution in 2012 with his data and arguments about the strengthening link between light pollution and breast cancer. And after the Festival, he will fly to D.C. to meet with government officials to continue this push.

Finally, he recently co-authored a paper in CA: The Cancer Journal for Clinicians by the American Cancer Society entitled “Breast Cancer and Circadian Disruption from Electric Lighting in the Modern World”.

Further information can be found at these links: http://idasouthflorida.org, at http://www.pbcgov.org/erm/darkskyfest/ or at this Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/events/174858556197379/.

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: vandernoot at sci dot fau dot edu
Phone: 561 297 STAR (7827)

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