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C. E. S. College
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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
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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:

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.

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. 13th, 2017.

The Sun is currently appears in Sagittarius, exiting on the 19th when it enters Capricornus. It will stay with the sea-goat until just past midnight on Feb. the 16th when it enters Aquarius and appear to just pass by Neptune on March 2nd, only to appear to be passed by itself by swift Mercury on the 7th and then exit the realm of water bearer and enter that of Pisces the fish on the 12th of March.

Lunar Phases:

FULL MoonJan. 11th
LAST QuarterJan. 18nd
NEW MoonJan. 27th
FIRST QuarterFeb. 3rd
FULL MoonFeb. 10th
LAST QuarterFeb. 17th
NEW MoonFeb. 26th
FIRST QuarterMar. 4rd
FULL MoonMar. 11th

For those in North America, the Total Solar Eclipse that we have been waiting for 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! Hotels are already being sold out!

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 Don't lose sleep!
Mar. 13-14Gamma
SW of Scorpio ? 6 56 km/s scarcely witnessed Sleep in!

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:

Seek little Mercury just before the dawn in the eastern skies near the horizon in Sagittarius. It'll pass by within a degree of μ Sagitta, a star north of the top of the "teapot" asterism on the 17th. and pass Pluto on the 29th. On Feb. the 7th, it will have entered Capricornius as it continues on its orbit on the far side of the solar system and then enter the domain of Aquarius on the 24th and expect to lose it in the solar glare around then. It will pass by Neptune on March the 4th and then reach superior conjunction with the Sun will occur on 6th. After which, seek it on the flip side of the night in the western twilight sky.

Venus reaches its greatest eastern elongation on Jan 13th, appearing as a first quarter Moon in a telescope, as it appears in the western evening skies near λ Aquarii and has just pasted Neptune. Yes, it is that very brilliant object towards the west you see during twilight, but it is not done! It appears with a mv = -4.44 and will continue to brighten. Venus will seem to try to catch up to Mars in Pisces on Jan. the 23rd, but will vere northwards and away from the old warrior, reaching a maximal brighness on Feb. 17th in 2017 at -4.63! On March 4th, Venus should start her retrograde. It will appear like a waxing crescent moon that will grow in size pole to pole-wise but become thinner as a crescent which will shift around to her north pole as she passes us and the Sun by at her inferior conjunction on March the 24th. She will be 8.3° northwards by then. If you followed all of that then you might be wondering how she can appear to move northwards, appear so north of the Sun at the conjunction and yet the light of crescent light side appears at her north pole. Well Venus rotates upside down compared to the rest of the solar system. It is theorized that something(s) smacked into the planet long ago tilting it over.

Mars appears in the western twilight skies, but more eastwards than Venus in Aquarius's boundaries. It looks like a dim dark orange little ball compared to the brighteness of Venus. It is so dim as it and Earth are nearing opposite sides of the solar system. On Jan. 19th, Mars will enter Pisces. It will pass just over a half degree away from Uranus on Feb. the 26th. And on March 8th, Mars will cross into Ares the ram.

Small image of spacecraft Juno and Jupiter.Jupiter is progressing in a stately fashion in Virgo's realm, nearing the star Spica at Virgo's left hip. Jupiter rises in the eastern skies around midnight. Watch for Jupiter to begin its retrograde on Feb. 6th.

NASA's Juno spacecraft entered into orbit around the giant planet. First polar image is at the twitter page of NASA' Juno mission and more details at NASA's JPL page. 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 is prograding through Ophiuchus and will stay with the serpent bearer until Feb. 24th of 2017. Look for it in the early morning eastern skies. It will begin its retrograde on April 6th.

Uranus is retrograding in Pisces and will appear with the fish until Apr. 28th, 2018.

Neptune is less than 1° away, south and east, from λ Aquarii appearing in the morning skies. Neptune will reside with Aquarius the water bearer until 2022.

dwarf planet Pluto is retrograde and appears east of the bowl of the teaspoon asterism, about 45 arc-minutes west of the star Albaldah, where the teaspoon bowl attaches to its handle. As can be expected, it's apparent magnitude is a very dim mv = 14.19, and is getting brighter. You will need a big telescope to see it. On the 25th, it will appear less than 3 arc minutes away from Albaldah. If you try for it, its moon Charon will even dimmer at mv = 16.03. They are both very small are 32 astronomical units away!

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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