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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 47 September 2010

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

One thing I would like to bring to your attention this month is the evening course I'm running at the Southdowns Planetarium in Chichester, which starts on Monday the 13th September. It's called 'Basic Astronomy with a Telescope' and is aimed a beginners to the subject. There are still places available, but space is limited, so if you are interested in joining us, you can find out more and enrol here

I wish you clear skies,


In this issue:
  1. September's Highlights
  2. Venus and Mars
  3. Jupiter (again!)
  4. Comet Hartley
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of September
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
September's Highlights

September sees what is known as the start of the 'new season' for observers, so read on to find out what is worth looking at in the coming month.

Jupiter and Uranus are in conjunction this month. More about this and how to observe it below...

We've got a comet that should be visible in binoculars to look at too. Again, see below...

The planet Neptune is quite well placed for observing this month as it is visible all night. However, you will need binoculars at the very least to see it. You can find it in the constellation of Capricorn and a good star chart is helpful here. I would recommend Norton's Star Atlas as a useful aid to locating it. If you find a star that isn't on the chart, then it is likely to be the planet. It also doesn't look very 'star-like' as it will reveal a faint bluish disc under even a fairly low magnification. If you increase the power to say 100x to 150x the disc will become quite distinctive.

The Autumn Equinox occurs on the 23rd of September this year at 03:09UT (04:09BST). The term means 'equal night' and means that we have 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. It is when the Sun crosses the celestial equator and begins to move into the southern celestial hemisphere.

There are several superb Deep Sky Objects for your telescope or binoculars this month and I'll give more details below, but you really must take a look at the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus Double Cluster and there are several other besides. Read on...
Venus and Mars

If you have a clear western horizon shortly after sunset on the 2nd of the month, see if you can spot Venus and Mars.

Venus will be the easiest to spot as it is far brighter than Mars which will lay 4.5-degrees to its north-west.

If you use binoculars, you should be able to find Mars in the same field of view and you should also notice the star Spica, the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo, placed in the line between the two planets. The best time to see this is from around 20:00 BST (19:00 UT)
Jupiter (again!)

Probably the most prominent object in the sky this month is the brilliant planet Jupiter.

Jupiter will reach 'opposition' on the 21st September. This means that it is opposite the Sun in the sky from our vantage point here on Earth. This means that it will appear to rise in the east and the Sun sets in the west. The planet is very bright, you can't miss it! You can make out the disc of Jupiter in simple binoculars as well as the Galilean moons and a telescope will allow you to magnify the image more to show some fantastic detail. The South Equatorial Belt has currently disappeared(!), but can come back at any time, so it is well worth keeping an eye out for this.

Not only is Jupiter an incredible sight this month, but it is also in conjunction with the planet Uranus on the night of the 18th through to the morning of the 19th of September. Uranus too, is in opposition and you can find it just 48 arc-minutes away from Jupiter, so the pair make a lovely view through binoculars. Uranus is just to the north of Jupiter and a lot fainter, and through a small telescope Uranus should show a small greenish disc. In fact these two planets will be near each other right through the month, but the 18th is definitely the time to observer this close conjunction.

You can find the pair in the constellation of Pisces the Fish and in a fairly sparse area of sky, show they will stand out well.

Comet Hartley

We have a reasonably bright comet gracing our skies this month.

Comet 103P/Hartley is a short period comet that orbits the Sun every 6.4 years. It should be bright enough to be seen with the naked eye from a dark sky site this month as certainly visible in binoculars, reaching magnitude 6 by the end of the month, although it starts the month much fainter at magnitude 9.

You can find the comet overhead as it passes through the north area of the constellation of Andromeda, heading towards Cassiopeia. It will be near the star Lambda Cassiopeia (that not far from Alpha Cass) on the 30th September and it will be near the star Omicron Andromedae in the early morning of the 9th of the month. A star chart should help you locate its position.

Through binoculars, it will look distinctly 'fuzzy' and may even have a tail. It will reach perihelion, that's when it comes closest to the Sun next month and this is when it will be at its brightest at magnitude 4.5. Not doubt I will make mention of it in next months newsletter, as we know more about how it is performing.

Comets are icy wanderers about the solar system and although there are often comets to be seen in the sky, they usually require moderately large telescopes to be able to see them. Just occasionally we are lucky enough to have a bright one to view.
Deep Sky Highlights of September

The new season of observing brings some truly superb deep sky object for our delight.

The most enticing object of this month has to e the famous Andromeda galaxy. It can be quite difficult to find however, so I hope that this guide might give you a few pointers.

The constellation of Andromeda is a little like a distorted letter 'V' that has its point at the top left star of the Square of Pegasus. This is in fact the star alpha Andromedae also known as Alpheratz. If you take the left hand 'fork' of the 'V' of the constellation and move up two stars, you will come to a reasonably bright star that is beta andromedae and is the second brightest star in the constellation. Now head right or westwards and you should see another bright(ish) star. If you then draw an imaginary line between these two stars and keep heading westward you should pick up a fainter but still noticeable star and next to it a faint fuzzy patch. You've found it! If you are observing from a light polluted area then binoculars will help you find your quarry. This fuzzy patch of light is the Andromeda Galaxy and is the furthest object that can be seen (from a dark site) with the naked eye.

If you move eastward towards the constellation of Cassiopeia, there are a wealth of objects to revel in. This constellation sits in the Milky Way, our own galaxy and is full of star clusters that are with in the grasp of small telescopes or even binoculars. It is worth using a star chart and scanning this area. While you are there, take a look at the central star in the 'W' of Cassiopeia, as this is a most fascinating object. It is a double star and an irregular variable one as well. It is 15 times more massive than our Sun and will end its days as a Supernova some time in the future. It also emits x-rays and we are not really sure why. An intriguing object for certain.

If you like looking at galaxies, then south of the great Andromeda galaxy in the constellation of Triangulum is another large spiral galaxy sometimes known as the 'Pinwheel'. This is M33 in Messiers catalogue. It is however, quite hard to see as it has a low surface brightness. It is a face on spiral and your best chance of seeing it is by using binoculars from a dark sky site. It is a member of our local group of galaxies.

Other News

If you are new to astronomy and live in the Chichester area of southern England, you can sign up for my evening course entitled Basic Astronomy with a Telescope.

It runs on ten consecutive Monday evenings starting on the 13th September and is aimed to provide (you?), the novice astronomer with all the information that you need to really get going in the hobby.

It is being held at the wonderful Southdowns Planetarium in Chichester, where we have access to the superb star projector and many other bits of 'hi-tec' equipment to help make the subject easy to understand.

I've been running this for several years now and have always had enthusiastic responses from all who have been on it.
"An excellent 10 week course which has inspired me to go out and study the night sky even more" Martin Sutton

"After having my telescope in storage and unused for 3 or so years...I know exactly how to set up my telescope. Thank you" Alan Smith

"Really enjoyed the Course,it has helped my understanding of Astronomy greatly" David Stamp
If you would like to enrol please click here.

I've added a new video to YouTube, a personal guide to the constellation of Hercules. You can download it to your iPod or Smart Phone if you like and let me show you around this wonderful constellation. It is a taster for a series that I'm planning of personal guides to the constellations. They take many hours to make so this will be the only free one, so please let me know what you think.

If you are on Facebook, please come and be 'fan' of my new page 'Astronomy Know How with Ninian Boyle'. I'm planning to use it for lots of free information and tips on how to observe the night sky and also post up interesting events as they are set up. It will mean that you'll be the first to know about really useful things connected to your hobby, so join me on facebook

Oh! and you can follow me on Twitter too

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.

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

How Much Mass Makes a Black Hole? Astronomers Challenge Current Theories
...just how massive does a star really have to be to become a black hole? Recent discoveries challenge current theories

Stars not as visible in Metro as they once were
...unlike air, water and other pollution problems, ...light pollution is one that can be turned around quickly. more...

Astronomy Tools Used For Cancer Care
The hunt for supernovas in distant solar systems provided an unlikely spin-off,... more...

Astronomers discover rings of ultraviolet light surrounding elliptical galaxies
This discovery challenges astronomers' understanding that elliptical galaxies only contain old stars. more...

Astrophysicists Get First-Ever 3-D Look at Supernova Explosion
The cataclysmic event sent sent particles of gas and dust shooting into space at speeds up to 100 million kilometers per second. more...

Astronomers Identify Two New Solar Systems
Two leading teams of planet hunters announced this week that they'd found entire solar systems... more...

  Discover everything that you REALLY need to know about telescopes and how to find interesting things to look at in the night sky...

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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