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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 45 July 2010
In this issue:
  1. July's Highlights
  2. Jupiter and Uranus...
  3. ...And A Comet Too
  4. Mars and Saturn
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of July
  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.

This is a great month for viewing the planets, so please keep reading to find out how and where... Also, please take a look at the 'Other News' section (if nothing else), as I am announcing a half day course that I'm running that will definitely be of interest to all you budding astro-imagers. I'm pleased to say that I have a special guest along divulging his secrets and it is likely to sell out fast!

I wish you clear skies,

July's Highlights

We are in the thick of summer now with warm days and (hopefully) clear, although short nights.

One of the highlights of this month is the conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Uranus and there is a comet nearby too, but more on this below...

If you haven't managed to spot any Noctilucent clouds as yet, keep looking because the summer nights are still favourable for us to have a chance at seeing this elusive high atmospheric phenomena. Look towards the northern horizon about an hour after sunset and hour or so before dawn and you may glimpse these fascinating pearlescent clouds being light by the sun that is not far below the horizon.

On the 4th of the month, you'll get the chance to see the last quarter Moon (half phase) 6.5-degrees north of the brilliant planet Jupiter. This should be a stunning sight, but you will need to be up early!

On the 10th you will have an opportunity to see a very thin crescent Moon. In fact this could be described as a 'sliver' of a Moon. You will need a very clear north-eastern horizon and you again need to get up early at around 04:00 BST (03:00 UT). The moon will be only 3% illuminated.

The well known asterism or group of stars, the SUmmer Triangle, is now becoming increasingly obvious in the eastern sky an hour or so after sunset. It is made up of the stars Vega in Lyra the Lyre, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Although each star is in a separate constellation, this triangle of stars is instantly recognisable and marks the beginning of summer (if we need it!?) for us stargazers. There will be more about the constellations of summer on the web site soon...

Full Moon occurs around the 24th of the month and if you have heard of the 'Moon illusion' then here's your chance to test it for yourself. The Moon through the summer months seems to hug the southern horizon and this can make it appear much larger than it really is. It is thought that it is due to the fact that our brains have something to compare the size of the Moon to; trees, buildings etc. rather than when we see it high up among the stars, when it will seem to be smaller, although it actually isn't!
Jupiter and Uranus...

If you have never been able to find the planet Uranus among the stars, then this month will give you the perfect opportunity to change this.

At the beginning of the month Jupiter rises in the east at around 00:30 BST (23:30 UT), but by late July it will be above the horizon not long after sunset. Once Jupiter has gained some height you may be able to spot a faint 'star' just to the right (west) of it. If you can't manage this with your naked eye, try using binoculars. This faint star is in fact the planet Uranus, a distant world of the outer solar system.

A word of caution; there is a real star sitting between the two planets (HIP 417) so don't be mistaken for which is which. Uranus is 2-degrees (that's 4 Moon diameters) away from Jupiter and through binoculars or a small telescope will appear as a tiny disc, larger than the point like star. It also has a greenish hue, but this can be hard to detect through binoculars. See if you can spot it.
...And A Comet Too

If seeing two gas ginat planets isn't sufficient, you can also feast you eyes on Comet 10P/Temple 2.

You will need binoculars to spot it and it is to be found to the south of the two planets. It will be tracking into the constellation of Cetus the Whale over the course of the month. Comets of course are capricious things and can seem to be fainter than you would perhaps think, but they can also flare up to be many times their predicted brightness, so it is worth watching them for this reason alone.

Comets' brightness can be misleading as they are calculated as if they were a point source of light (like a star), when of course they are more diffuse than this. This can make them seem fainter than the magnitude number might suggest.

In this case, 10P/Temple 2 is rated at being of magnitude 8.1 although it is likely to really seem like a fainter fuzzy patch of light. But as I mentioned already, this can all change very quickly. So have a go at hunting down this comet and see if you think that it is brighter or dimmer than you expected.

Mars and Saturn

Even though Mars and Saturn are very low down in the western sky just after dark, they haven't quite finished laying on a spectacle for us.

Take a look out on the 25th July for Mars passing very close to the star Beta Virginis, known as Zavijava, at around 9:30pm (BST) very near the western horizon. You should be able to find Saturn slightly north and to the east of Mars. A small telescope will give these two away very easily. If this isn't a lovely enough sight, the planet Venus will also be close by just to the east of Mars and all three planets will seem to form an isosceles triangle with Venus at the sharpest point of this.

Venus is by far the brightest of the three and can act as a marker for the other two planets.

As luck would have it, the Asteroid 4 Vesta will be nearby too. You can find this wanderer with binoculars to the north of Venus but this may prove tricky in the evening twilight and you will certainly need a star chart to help you.

If you mark the position of the stars in your field of view night after night on your chart and you find that one is heading eastward when all the other have not changed their relative positions, then you have found 4 Vesta!
Deep Sky Highlights of July

The summer constellations are well on view now and below I describe one or two of the best objects that you can find to take a look at for yourself.

Lyra the Lyre is a fairly small constellation that has some deep sky treasures that belie its size. M57 the famous Ring Nebula is probably the first to visit on the list.

You can find it lying just below a line drawn between the two stars of the bottom of the 'square' of the constellation. Some would describe the four stars of this square as more of a squashed diamond shape. You choose! You'll need a telescope of at least 3-inches in aperture to find the Ring Nebula and once you have spotted this object, which looks distinctly un-star like, a moderate magnification should start to show that this nebula looks like a smoke ring hanging in space. If you have an OIII filter, this will help it to stand out even more.

Don't miss the lovely double-double star Epsilon Lyra while you are in this region. Binoculars will show the two stars distinctly, but each star is itself a double, however you will need a high magnification and a moderately large aperture to split these two stars into the quadruple system.

If you move back to the southern part of the constellation, once again draw an imaginary line through the two bottom most stars of the square and continue it on to the bright star Albireo a the head of Cygnus the Swan. About half way between the star Gamma Lyra and Albireo you should come across an intense fuzzy patch of light. A low to moderate magnification will resolve this into a ball of stars. You have found M56 an often overlooked globular cluster hidden in a rich star field on the edge of the Milky Way. This is a very distant object at nearly 33,000 light years.

Other News

Last month I mentioned that I was planning a half day course in August for all you budding imagers out there...

Well I'm pleased to tell you that the venue has now been booked and my special guest has agreed to come along and give us the benefit of his considerable experience. In fact I would say that this is not to be missed!

Find out about the equipment, the software and "know how" you need to turn images of the Sun into something spectacular.

The venue is the Intech Planetarium and Science Centre in Winchester in Hampshire and the time will be 1:30pm - 4:00pm on 8th August, which is a Sunday. This is being tagged onto an event taking place there called Sun Day! which is designed to introduce people to the joys of solar observing.

I am expecting this to sell out very quickly as I have already had people wanting to book their place. We are limited to 35 attendees, so don't wait, or you'll miss it! You can book your place today so... find out more, and to see who I have persuaded to cone along as a guest speaker, take a look at my web site here.

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.

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

Very Large Telescope detects first superstorm on exoplanet (w/ Video)
Astronomers have measured a superstorm for the first time in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, the well-studied "hot Jupiter" HD209458b.

McDonald Observatory Introduces Dark Skies Initiative With Video, Radio Programs
The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory is kicking off a campaign to promote awareness of the causes, effects and solutions to light pollution - stray light shone into the sky where it's wasted, rather than down on the ground where it's useful. more...

Kepler space telescope finds possible planets
The Kepler space telescope seeking Earth-like planets in a far-off region of the Milky Way has discovered more than 700 planetary "candidates" - some that just might be the right size and in the right places for life to be possible. more...

Bubbles of gas and baby stars captured by Hubble Space Telescope
A new image from NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been released that shows a region full of gaseous bubbles and baby stars within the Large Magellanic Cloud, our neighboring galaxy. more...

Improved telescope sees through atmosphere with pinpoint sharpness
A sharp view of the starry sky is difficult, because the atmosphere constantly distorts the image... 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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