Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 25 November 2008
In this issue:
This month we have plenty of interesting objects and events to view.
Don't miss the delights to be found in Orion the Hunter. The three belt star are probably the most obvious feature of the constellation, but don't miss the fascinating contrast between the bright star Betelgeuse that marks the top left (from our point of view) and the lower right star 'Rigel'. Betelgeuse is a red 'super-giant' star, which is truly huge in size and very orange in colour, whereas Rigel is brilliant white, almost 'blue-white'.
Another visual delight is the lovely star cluster of the Pleiades in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. This is now rising in the east by mid-evening and is a good test of your visual acuity and how dark are your skies. The Pleiades common name is 'The Seven Sisters' as this is the number of stars that you should be able to count with the unaided eye from a moderately dark sky site. There are many more stars that you can detect using a pair of 7 or 10x50 binoculars and there are in fact about 150 stars in the cluster altogether.
The Leonid meteor shower will be unfortunately washed out by a bright Moon this year at its peak on the 17th, however keep a watch out a few night before this, as you may catch s few early stragglers.
The good news is that the Moon shouldn't interfere with this year's Taurid meteors. More on this later...
The 13th November will give us a lovely show of the Moon occulting the Pleiades star cluster. The cluster starts to be covered by the Moon around 17:00UT (same as GMT) and reappears at around 19:00UT
FInally, we will be treated to a conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter in the last week of November. More about this below, too...
As already mentioned, the Leonid meteors will be washed out by a bright Moon but we will have the chance to catch both the northern and southern Taurids showers.
The 'northern' Taurids are active between the 12th October and 2nd December with the peak around the 4th to the 7th of November. These appear to emanate from and area of sky just south of the Pleiades. The 'southern' Taurids peak from around the 30th October to the 7th November. Although neither of these showers produce large number of meteors, it is still worth monitoring them.
A typical meteor is usually about the size of a grain of sand and 'burns up' as it falls through our atmosphere, however it has been suggested that there is another 'stream' of Taurid meteors that are much larger, in fact on average, the size of a pebble! These produce considerably brighter meteor trails and are therefore much more spectacular and it is predicted that we may be on for such a display. Of course the only way of telling is to go out and watch for them!
Venus and Jupiter Conjunction
A conjunction is where two or more celestial bodies appear close together from our point of view here on Earth and that is just what is going to happen to the planets Venus and Jupiter. In the last week of November, low down in the south-west these two planets will seem to move closer and closer together. You will need a clear horizon to get a good view of this event, which can be seen soon after sunset as the sky darkens.
The dimmer of the two 'stars' is Jupiter, while the brighter is obviously Venus. The closest that they get is on the 30th of the month, when they are just 2-degrees apart in the twilight sky. A sight not to be missed.
Books Books Books!
If you are looking for a welcome present for the astronomer(s) in the family, perhaps that includes yourself, this Christmas, then how about a good book?
If you are looking for some ideas, then how about take a look at my personal selection that I believe will suit all abilities and interests, which can be found here if you live in the UK or you can click here. if you live in the USA.
As you can see, these are 'Amazon' bookstore links to help make it quick and easy to purchase that present.
DSLR Astro-Imaging: A Beginner's Guide - it's here! Really!
After a long gestation period and a lot of hard labour the eBook that Jon and I have written is finally here!
It tells you everything that you need to know to get started in this fascinating subject. You will be able to download it from the internet. It's written in a friendly and accessible style (even though I say so myself!) and answers many of the questions that beginners to the subject usually ask.
As I mentioned, it is co-authored with my friend and talented astro-imager John Walton and will come with some superb bonuses that I think will frankly amaze you.
If you haven't already had the email about it, you can find out more at www.AstronomyImaging.com/dslr
Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...
Amateur astronomers to track light pollution
The Great World Wide Star Count is an international project which pools skyward observations taken by citizens around the world. The information helps scientists measure the extent to which city lights mask the visibility of stars. more...
NASA working to make remotes on Hubble Space Telescope
Three weeks ago, circuitry problems occurred in the world’s best known space observatory... more...
Saturn's rings may be remains of ancient moon
WHY are Saturn's rings so spectacular? It could be that the planet managed to cling onto a moon when all the other gas giants in our solar system had already lost theirs. Today's rings formed when the moon was smashed up. more...
NASA’s Fermi Telescope Discovers First Gamma-Ray-Only Pulsar
"This is the first example of a new class of pulsars that will give us fundamental insights into how these collapsed stars work" .. 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!
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