About the

Help Save

Department of

Physics Colloquia

FAUST Seminar

C. E. S. College
    of Science

Florida Atlantic


Web Site for the International Year of Astronomy

Florida Atlantic University
Astronomical Observatory

Facebook image link to Observatory's Facebook page


Image of the current Sun, provided by ESA's & NASA's SOHO space telescope
The Sun Today
as provided by

Solar X-rays:
Geomag. Field:

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)

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional .

main col hack

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, 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 Second Dark Sky Festival

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. 19th, 2014.

The Sun currently appears in the constellation of Pisces and on its way to crossing the celestial equator on March 20th at 11:57 EST or 12:57 DST and thus starting Spring for the northern hemisphere. It will stay netted with the fish until it will take on Aries the ram, on April 19th.

Lunar Phases: LAST Quarter: Mar. 24th; NEW Moon Mar. 30th; FIRST Quarter: Apr. 7th; FULL Moon: Apr. 15th & TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE; LAST Quarter: Apr. 22th.

TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE - April 15th, 2014

A total lunar eclipseWhile it will be early for us in South Florida, on the morning of April 15th, 2014, while some folks will be still working on their tax returns, the Moon will cross into the Earth's shadow. Look for the full Moon that night and early morning. At 0157 EDT, the Moon will enter the Earth's Penumbra, the outer part of our shadow and the Moon will start to change color, from its bright white and grey, it'll become dimmer and a bit brownish.

As the Moon crosses into the Umbra, the inner darker part starting at 0203 EDT, that color will deepen into an orange-red! This light comes from the Sun as it has passed through the Earth's atmosphere, which refracted away all the other colors of the spectrum leaving only the longer wavelengths to punch through and out on to the Moon. If there was an astronaut, they would see a ring of all the dawn and twilight colors on the Earth at the same time. Naturally, the Moon will look reddish. The colors vary from one eclipse to another. It depends on our weather and the dust content in the atmosphere.

It is during these transistion stages that, to my mind, the Moon clearly appears as a three-dimensional sphere. I love that part!

All sunsets of the Earth during a total lunar eclipse

The Moon will be totally eclipsed in the Umbra, the darkest part of the Earth's shadow, from 0306 EDT until 0425 EDT, with the mid eclipse point occuring at 0345 EDT. Thus its darkness will appear more complete than what is show in the picture to the right. In the Umbra, no direct sunlight reaches the Moon. During this stage, when the Moon is fully in the Umbra, more stars will come out and the night will get darker. This darkening of the night alone is something to travel away from city lights to see!

Finally, after 0425 EDT, the Moon begins to leave the Umbra, and the whole process reverses.

This eclipse will be the first of a lunar eclipse quartet that we'll be treated to, the next will be in Oct. The last lunar eclipse occurred for us back in Dec. 21st, 2010.

More details on this can be found at: Sky and Telescope Magazine.

Meteor Showers:
Note: compare shower dates with Moon for viewing conditions; the fuller the Moon, the harder it is to see the meteors.

Peak DateName Radiant's
Apr. 23rdLyrids between Lyra
& Hercules
comet C/1861 G1
up to 90
ave. 18
49 km/s somewhat fast,
brighter than
average meteors,
~1 in 5 have trains
Apr. 23rdPi Puppids south of π Puppis comet 26P
up to 38,
on 26P's
best seen in far south
May 6th Eta Aquarids Eta Aquarius comet
55-var. 66 km/s fast,
brighter than
average meteors
May 24th Camelopardalids12° S of Polaris
in Camelopardalis
(the Giraffe)
possible storm
may be up
to 400
officially unnamed,
possible storm in
perihelion= 0.968AU;
viewing favorable

Mercury currently appears in the east before dawn in Aquarius, getting wet, until Apr. 6th when it will enter Pisces until the 10th. As it appears closer to the Sun, on the 11th you'll find it briefly in Cetus the whale for three days. It will then return to Pisces, appear 1.5° south of Uranus on the 14th and then pass behind the Sun on Apr. 26th for its superior conjunction. After then, it will return to the evening skies.

Venus is simply stunning at mv = -4.41 in Capricornius! Telescopic views of it show it to have a waxing cresent shape, which is getting fatter as the planet moves away from us, while shrinking in apparent size. It will enter Aquarius on the 21st, Capricornis on the 27th and be about 3.5° away from the waning cresent Moon, again re-enter Aquarius on the 4th of April, cross below the ecliptic on the 11th while appear less than 1° from Neptune, and enter Pisces on Apr. 28th. It will enter Cetus on May 9th, enter Pisces again on the 13th and appear 1.3° south of Uranus on the 15th.

Mars is in Virgo, east of Spica, the maiden's left hip. It rises at 2125 DST and we are getting closer to it, at around 0.688 a.u. and is getting brighter at mv = -1.0. As Virgo takes up a large part of the ecliptic, Mars will stay with her until Aug. 10th. On Mar. 19th, Mars, Spica and a waning gibbous Moon will make a nice trianle in the sky. Currently the planet exhibits retrograde motion for on Apr. 8th, Mars will reach its maximal brightness of mv = -1.48 at its opposition point to the Sun. FAU Astronomical Observatory will offer a special public viewing session on the 8th for its opposition event. We have already been able to observe polar ice caps and some surface features on the planet, such as Acidilia Mensa and Terra Meridiani, where the Mars Rover Opportunity still roams. Afterwards, Mars will most closely appear next to theta Virginis on Apr. 10th at 41 arc-minutes away. Because its orbit is more elliptical than others, our closest position to it will be on Apr. 14th. By May 5th, Mars will appear near Porrima, the maiden's left shoulder.

As the Sun sets and the stars come out, find Jupiter straight up overhead in the constellation Gemini, aside Mebsuta, the the belly button of the twin Castor. It is directly approaching the star Wasat. On May 23rd, it will be 0.5° away from the star. Currently, it rises around 1326 EDT, but by then it will rise at 0747 EDT. Jupiter will now stay with the twins until July 8th, 2014.

Saturn's brightness at mv = 0.32, is getting brighter now that we are on the approach to it. It appears in Libra, rising around 2325 EDT now. It appears late in the evening skies now. It will have some very close encounters with the Moon for the next few months, for example, it will appear less than 30' on March 20th at 2138 EDT but not visible to us, 43' apart on April 17th at 0245 EDT. It is in retrograde as it heads into opposition to the Sun on May the 10th, Astronomy Day for this year. While other lunar passes will be under a degree apart: May 14th at 0911 EDT by 41', June 10th at 1333 EDT by 26', neither of which will be visible to us in S. FL, while the July 7th meeting at 2213 EDT will be 1° apart. However, on Aug. 4th, the Moon and Saturn will be only 2' apart. We won't be abe to see here in S. FL, so tell your friends on the other side of our planet Earth to watch for it. On 1300 EDT, Sunday Aug. 31st, the Moon will completely occult the planet for 68 minutes just as it will be rising above the horizon! This will be tough to observe in the full light of day, but if work at it, you may be able to catch it. I'm pointing these close encounters out because back in 2002-ish, I was able to observe Saturn briefly appear to play peek-a-boo between the mountains of the Moon, which said a lot about their respective distances! It was so cool!

Uranus is slowly advancing through Pisces and will appear with the fish until Apr. 28th, 2018! Far off on the other side of the solar system, the Sun will appear to over take it on their conjuction date of April 1st.

Neptune is currently around 3° west of Sigma Aquarii in the morning sky and will reside in Aquarius until 2022. On Apr. 11th, Venus will pass by it by less than 40'.

Announcement for Palm Beach County's Dark Sky Festival.

Palm Beach County's Second Dark Sky Festival

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 Second 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, four guided nature tours (first come, first serve), speakers, film screening, educational booths, and more.

Date: Saturday March 29th, 2014.
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 Okeeheelee Nature Center.

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/617786058287998/?ref=22.

Planning a trip to Mars??

Better check out what you'll be in for!

Mars's 2014 Opposition to the Sun -- April 8th - 9th.

On the evening of Tuesday, April 8th, the FAU Astronomical Observatory will be celebrating Mars's Opposition to the Sun.

Please come to enjoy the view through the telescope and see our presentation about the red planet!

Date: Tuesday, April 8th - Wednesday, April 9th 2014.
Time: 7:00 pm until 2:00 am.
Location: FAU's Astronomical Observatory.
Activities: Presentations about and Observations of Mars's 2014 Opposition to the Sun!
Details: A planet in opposition means that the Earth will be in the middle of a direct line between an outer planet and the Sun. Normally, this means that the Earth will be as close as it can be to the planet for this orbital pass, thus the viewing of the planet will be as good as it can be for the year. However, due to Mars's orbit, that closest point actually occurs one week later, during the lunar eclipse. Which to choose!
During the last opposition of Mars, it was near aphelion in its orbit. Now it is closer to the Sun and to us and that means that it will appear bigger, brighter and with more detail than last opposition! So, we so want to share our joy of the views with you!
Presentations:The presentation that will be provided will provide information about Mars, its history that we understand, mankinds' relationship with the red planet, our attempts to understand and explore it, our growing awareness of the evidence of the water that existed on its surface, and what it may take to live there one day.

So please come to celebrate and observe the planet at opposition, while pondering some of the astronomical mysteries that are connected with it. This invitation is open to anyone from FAU, the community, their friends and family to come and enjoy.

After all, it is their universe, too!

A 30 second exposure of the galaxy M82 with its supernova SN2014J, taken Jan. 29th, 2014 2:04 am, at FAU Observatory.
A 30 second exposure of the galaxy M82 with its supernova SN2014J, taken Jan. 29th, 2014 2:04 am at FAU Observatory. The night's seeing was much better than that of the 23rd and the image shows it. The galaxy is 11.4 million light-years away. Additional details can be found in Sky & Telescope Magazine. The Hubble Space Telescope's image of it can be found here on the hubblesite.org.
As a quick update, as of March 18th, 2014, we no longer observed the supernova.

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)

FAU telescope astronomy space stars planets asteroids comets constellations star clusters nebula nova supernova Milky Way Andromeda Whirlpool galaxies Florida Atlantic University Public Observatory news college sky conditions light pollution Florida Palm Beach County Broward County Miami Dade County