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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 21 July 2008
In this issue:
  1. July's Highlights
  2. Summer Get Together
  3. Comets
  4. Photographing the Night Sky with a Digital Camera
  5. News Links
  6. Become a confident Astronomer
  7. Contact Us
July's Highlights

The evenings towards the end of the month are noticeably darker than they were in June. So as we leave the summer solstice behind we can turn our attention to preparing for the new season of observing.

There is of course still plenty of time to do all the telescope overhauling and maintenance that you need to before we get back to serious observing. So now's your chance to dust off that telescope and check any moving parts that might need oil or grease...

The planet Saturn is now past its best for observing, but you can still get a reasonable view of this lovely planet. The rings are starting to close up, making viewing the Cassini division in the rings much harder to spot. However, we do have Jupiter to study by way of compensation, although it is rather low in the sky from mid-northern latitudes this year and you will have to stay up late to get a good view.

Don't forget to admire the majesty of the Milky Way as it sweeps spectacularly overhead, dropping to the southern horizon, an area of sky that marks our galaxy's centre. If you are lucky enough to live under dark skies you should see the misty patch of the Scutum 'star cloud' as you follow the Milky Way down towards the horizon if you live in mid-northern latitudes, as well as a feast of other deep-sky wonders too numerous to mention here.

If you are a keen meteor watcher, then July brings the Southern Delta Aquarids, which has a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 20 meteors per hour. The peak of the shower is on the 27th of the month.

Summer Get Together

The planets Saturn and Mars are in 'conjunction' this month. A conjunction is when the Moon and/or planets occupy the same region of the sky from our perspective.

At 21:30Hrs on the 5th July these two planets will form a line with the star Regulus in Leo the Lion. You can see this low down in the western sky not long after sunset when Mars will lie two-thirds of a degree north of Regulus. 4.5-degrees further east, you will see another bright star with a yellowish tinge; this is Saturn.

On the next evening (6th July) you should see a similar spectacle again, but this time Saturn, Mars and Regulus are joined by a thin crescent Moon about 4-degrees south of Saturn. Take a careful look at the Moon and see if you can see the 'Earthshine', that is the dark portion of the Moon being dimly lit by the reflected sunlight from our own Earth.


There are two comets that are available to view this month and that are within the grasp of amateur telescopes.

Comet 6P/D'Arrest is well positioned in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. On the 1st July it lies half way between and slightly to the north of Gamma and Zeta Aquilae. As the month wears on it will dive southward passing near to Eta Aquilae on the 26th. It should brighten from magnitude 12 to around 10.5 by the end of the month, which should make it easier to see in small telescopes.

The other comet that is worth observing is called '2006 OF2 Broughton'.

This comet will pass between the constellations of Triangulum and Perseus and should slowly brighten from magnitude 11.9 to 11.6. The best time to try and observe it is after midnight and in clear, dark skies throughout the month.

Photographing the Night Sky with a Digital Camera

If you are the proud owner of a Digital SLR camera, then you can use it to taking amazing images of the night sky!

All you need is a tripod to hold the camera steady and (if you have one) a remote shutter release. If you frame a constellation using the view-finder of the camera, set the ISO speed at '400' and open the shutter for 25 to 30 seconds you should capture all the stars that you can see will the naked eye and probably many more besides.

If you would like to know more about how to do this and some more advanced techniques, then you may be pleased to know that I am soon to publish an 'eBook' on how to make a start in astro-imaging using Digital SLR cameras, co-authored with my friend and talented astro-imager John Walton.

If you would be interested in this eBook and to make sure that you get the introductory discount(!), please keep an eye on next month's 'newsletter' as subscribers will get the offer first!

  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

Highland observatory will throw new light on far-off galaxies
Telescope housed beside the battlefield at Culloden may prove to be a star draw for the public

More Planets Like Earth?
Thanks to the evocatively named High-Accuracy Radial-Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), a telescope mounted atop La Scilla Mountain in Chile, Mayor and his team were able to detect a litter of new planets, some as small as four times the mass of Earth; tiny by exoplanet standards more...

Amateur astronomer stars for NASA
Amateur astronomer caught the instant attention of NASA when he observed and photographed an extremely rare celestial event. more...

NASA Celebrates The Return Of Space Shuttle Discovery
NASA is celebrating the return of the space shuttle Discovery and the successful end of the STS-124 mission. The shuttle, which brought back seven astronauts, six men and one woman, landed on time Saturday at 11:15 a.m. EDT. more...

  DO you want to learn more about the night sky and how to use telescopes and binoculars to see it better?..

My online course gives you all the essential information to be a good astronomer, without lots of jargon or difficult maths. You'll get loads of free bonuses and it also has videos and animations to help make the explanations clear and concise. So if you want to know what Sir Patrick wished for...

...please take a look at my eCourse called
'Basic Astronomy with a Telescope'. It's what Sir Patrick wished he'd had when he started out in astronomy!

To contact us

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