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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 44 June 2010
In this issue:
  1. June's Highlights
  2. The Crescent Moon and Venus
  3. Finding the Planet Uranus
  4. Comet C/2009 McNaught
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of June
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. Become a confident Astronomer
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us

Thanks for subscribing to this my FREE! monthly newsletter. I hope that you enjoy it.

I've had a few people ask me for a mug shot, sorry I mean picture. I guess it's friendlier to see what I look like and I hope that it doesn't put you off! So here it is... Please take a look at the 'Other News' section (if nothing else), as there may be something there of particular interest to you. I hope you enjoy this months update.

I wish you clear skies,

June's Highlights

June brings us short nights and a lack of true darkness, but it does often mean clear skies and warm evenings.

On 2nd of June the dwarf planet Ceres will pass in front of the 'Lagoon Nebula' other wise known as M8. You can find M8 in Sagittarius and Ceres should be easily observed in binoculars or a small scope. More on this later...

Throughout the month, keep a look out for Noctilucent clouds. These are quite rare but June is a good time of year to have a hope of seeing them. Noctilucent clouds are produced very high up in Earth's atmosphere and may be due to the action of micro-meteorites. They take on the appearance of having a strange blue tinged glow and can be found low down near the northern horizon. They can often produce 'herring-bone' patterns and will appear an hour or so after sunset until around midnight and then re-appear again an hour or two before dawn. They are quite unmistakable. If you click here you will see a good photograph so you will be able to recognise it when you see it. Good hunting!

The June Lyrid meteors reach their peak on 15th of the month. The Lyrids are not a big shower only having a Zenithal Hourly Rate - that is the assumed number of meteors that you might see if the radiant were directly overhead - of 8 meteors per hour. Nevertheless you may pick up the occasional fast moving streak of light across the sky.

The planet Mars is sinking rapidly in the west and is poorly positioned for any serious observations. Saturn however is still prominent in Virgo and is still worthy of turning your telescope onto. The rings are still rather 'edge on', although they are starting to open out a little. It is past it's best at the moment, but will return to its former glory at the end of the year.

June is a good time to see the Milky Way the faint spiral arm of our own home galaxy. You'll need a dark sky site well away from city lights and a clear sky to really appreciate the beautiful sight of the band of light stretching through the summer constellations of Scutum the Shield, Aquila the Eagle, Cygnus the Swan and the Queen of the sky Cassiopeia. If you have binoculars just take a leisurely stroll through the Milky Way and be prepared to be dazzled.

The sun reaches its most northerly point in the sky on 21st of the month at 12:28BST (11:28UT). This is the summer solstice and will thereafter start its march back towards the winter solstice in December. Sorry to mention the winter at this time of year!
The Crescent Moon and Venus

Venus is very bright this month. Although its phase is shrinking from 80% to 70% it is getting closer to us and so its size is increasing from 13 to 15 arc-seconds.

Through a telescope Venus apart from being incredibly bright, can be a bit dull, as it shows little or no detail, as its cloud cover although highly reflective is fairly uniform. However, it does regularly meet up with other objects in the sky, which gives it plenty of visual appeal.

On 14th and 15th June, look out for its meeting with a beautiful crescent Moon. This will be a lovely photographic opportunity for those of you wishing to try your had at a little astro-imaging. On the 20th Venus also passes through the Beehive Cluster or M44 but this may be lost in the twilight, but you may pick it up through binoculars, but do make sure that the sun has properly set before you attempt to sweep around this area with any optical aid!
Finding the Planet Uranus

Finding the planets Uranus can seem a bit daunting to the novice (and even less than novice) astronomer, as it is small and faint. This month though we have a guide in the shape of the giant planet Jupiter.

On the 7th June, Jupiter passes less than a half a degree, that's one Moon's diameter, to the south of Uranus. You will need binoculars to be able to pick up the more distant world. A small telescope with a low power eyepiece will work as well, and you can change up to a higher power once you have located it.

You can find Jupiter in the early morning sky low down in the east to south-east around 03:30 BST (02:30 UT). It is bright at magnitude -2 so you really can't miss it. Uranus is considerably dimmer at magnitude +5.9 and only just at the edge of naked eye visibility from a dark sky site, but you should be able to spot it in the same field of view as Jupiter through your binoculars or telescope.

It's disc is small but it is still noticeably not a star and it has a definite greenish tinge. Don't worry if you can't see it on the 7th. Jupiter will still be nearby for several days either side of this date acting as our guide. So see if you can find this often ignored distant neighbour.

Comet C/2009 McNaught

We have a comet to see this month, although don't expect a view such as we got with Hale-Bopp!

Comet C/2009 McNaught will be gracing our skies in the middle of the month and 'should' be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. There are never any definites with comets though, so you'll just have to keep an eye on it to see what it does.

It will be quite low down so it might be tricky to spot and will be tracking along the southern edge of the constellation of Andromeda from the beginning of the month towards Perseus. On the night of 6th June you can find it about 1.5-degrees below the lovely double star Gamma Andromedae otherwise called Almach. You will still need binoculars to see it as it should be at 7th magnitude and it will look like a fuzzy ball and perhaps with a bit of a tail.By mid-month you can find it around two degrees south of Alpha Persei or Mirphak.

You are going to need to stay up late or get up very early to see it, as the best time to catch it is going to be around 02:00BST (01:00 UT). It is expected to brighten from magnitude 6 to 5 between toe 14th and the 21st June and luckily at this time the Moon will be out of the way and will not interfere with observations.

Most comets need telescopes or at least binoculars to be seen so this one is a little bit special in that it is expected to get to naked eye visibility and comets can do strange things...
Deep Sky Highlights of June

June brings us some wonderful deep-sky delights if you are prepared to stay up late...

The first object that I would like to draw your attention to is the Eagle Nebula M16 in the constellation of Serpens Cauda the Serpent's Head. It does in fact lie quite near the southern tip of the constellation of Scutum the Shield and a small telescope will reveal around 15 stars scattered around the area, but you will need quite a large telescope of at least 10-inches in aperture to show up the nebulosity. This area was imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope some years ago and produced the iconic picture known as the 'Pillars of Creation'. A nebula filter will also help as the nebulosity is quite faint.

If the Eagle Nebula is just too faint for your scope then how about the Omega Nebula? You can find this in the same region of sky just 2.5-degrees south of M16. The Omega Nebula (M17) is the second brightest nebula visible from mid-northern latitudes, although being low down in the south does make spotting quite tricky. Binoculars or a small telescope should show it up, especially with the addition of a nebula filter.

Heading down into Sagittarius and you will find a couple of beautiful nebulae. The first one is M20 or the Triffid Nebula. This gets it name from the three dark patches that divide the largely circular nebula in three and nothing to do with homicidal plants from Mars! You will definitely need a low power to see this nebula and preferably an 8-inch diameter telescope or larger. A UHC filter will also help here.

Last and by no means least, see if you can find M8 the Lagoon Nebula that lies 1.5-degrees to the south of M20 and a little east. This is a large nebula and contains an open cluster NGC6530 with a large relatively bright area of nebulosity to its west. An 8-inch scope should show a dark 'wedge' cutting into the nebula and again filters such as UHC and OIII should help increase the contrast to make this more readily visible. Again, keep the power low. The Dwarf planet Ceres crosses in front of the nebula between the 1st and 3rd of the month. You can pick this up in binoculars, but you'll need a star chart to distinguish it from the myriad of other stars in the region.

Other News

I'm planning a 'half day' course in August at an as yet undisclosed location in the south of England, about how to take fantastic images of our nearest star. This will be packed full of information for all you budding solar imagers and will include 'hands on' image processing and information on the best equipment to use for which type of image and how to process your images to best effect. So if you would like to start getting pictures as good as the 'professional', then you should sign up to this course.

I should also tell you that I will have a special guest 'expert' solar imager along to share with you some of the secrets that he has probably never shared with anyone before! This is not to be missed and seats will be limited, so if you think you are going to be interested in becoming a superb solar imager, then please let me know of your interest as soon as possible so that I can put you on the list.

Please take a look at and put you pictures up on our new image gallery here - and if you have any difficulties please contact us so we know about it and can either help you or sort out any problems. Thanks.

I've finally entered the 21st Century and have joined Twitter! If you would like to follow me on this particular micro-blogging site then please drop by

If there is a course or talk that you would like me to cover, I would invite you to please let me know. I'm keen to provide you with the information that YOU want, rather than that which I think you might like. So please tell me

Also coming soon to the web site will be some videos that I am preparing which I just know you are going to love (well, at least I hope so 'cos they are taking a very long time to produce!). So keep a look out for my 'Constellation Guides' in the next few weeks.

And finally if you are anywhere near Portsmouth (on the South Coast of the UK) at the end of June you will have the opportunity to meet Mission Commander Kenneth Ham and the crew of Shuttle Mission STS-132 (including Briton Piers Sellers) - you can see full details of their itinerary on this page
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

Astronomers find 'defiant' new supernova
Astronomers have discovered a supernova whose origin cannot be explained by any previously known mechanism and which promises exciting new insights into stellar explosions.

Copernicus's remains reburied in Polish cathedral
as a cleric expressed regret for Church condemnation of his theories. more...

Chicago astronomers seek out secrets of gamma rays
by studying gamma ray bursts, a powerful form of radiation that pulses across the galaxy and could answer some of the universe’s darkest secrets. more...

Jupiter loses a stripe
and not for the first time more...

Astronomers see black hole flung from galaxy
Scientists think they may have spotted an unusual supermassive black hole more...

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

You can find all the information that you really need in my online course. It 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 Moore 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!

  Are you interested in Imaging?

You can learn how to take stunning images of the night sky with your digital SLR camera that will amaze your friends and family with the eBook
DSLR Astrophotography - A Beginners Guide which I co-wrote with my friend Jon Walton...

To contact us

You can write to:
Ninian Boyle c/o B2 The Wren Centre, Westbourne Road Emsworth, Hants, England PO10 7SU

or Telephone me on +44(0)208-144-1091

or contact me by email

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