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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 49 November 2010

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

The 'News' this month is that I now have a new product to offer you. It is a complete course on solar imaging, done with the help of my good friend Pete Lawrence of the BBC Sky at Night television programme fame. Pete is one of the best solar imagers in the world today and in this course I managed to persuade him to divulge some of his most closely guarded secrets. Read more about this in 'Other News' below...

I wish you clear skies,


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

The skies are getting darker earlier and earlier now, which means that we have more time to observe...

Jupiter's moons perform various 'antics' this month, with various transits, eclipses and occultations. Transits and shadow transits are often spectacular and you can see Callisto pass in front of the disc of Jupiter on the evening of the 20th. The transit 20:38UT (same as GMT) and it will appear to leave the face of the planet at 21:35. It will be seen crossing the bottom or southern part of Jupiter. You should be able to see this in a small telescope at moderate magnification, say x80. You'll be able to see a shadow transit of Ganymede on the 21st of the month starting at 16:18UT and ending at 19:11. This is where only the shadow cast by the moon crosses the face of the planet and not the moon itself. If you miss this one, you will get a second chance on the 28th when Ganymede itself crosses the disc of the planet followed by its shadow. The moon will transit early in the evening leaving the disc at 18:10 and its shadow starts transiting at 20:20 leaving the disc at 23:12.

Comet Hartley is still on show, although it has not been the easiest of objects to see. More on this below...

If you get up early on 5th November around 6:30am and if you can see that the sky is clear low down in the south east, then see if you can spot the planet Venus. Nearby to the west of Venus you might be able see a very thin crescent Moon.

If you have a telescope and haven't seen Neptune yet, it is still reasonably well placed to observe. You can find it due south in the constellation of Capricorn just after dark. It is just 12 arc minutes to the north west of the star Mu Capricorni. It isn't very bright at magnitude +7.9, but should show a small pale bluish disc and moderate magnification.

Meteor Showers

We have three meteor showers gracing our skies this month.

Firstly, we have the 'southern Taurids', which peaks from the 30th October through until the 7th November. The radiant point, that is the point in the sky where these meteors seem to appear from is a few degrees to the west of the Hyades star cluster the 'head' of the Bull if you prefer. The northern Taurids peak between the 4th and the 7th November. Now these showers are not big, inasmuch as you will likely only see a few meteors and hour if you are lucky, but they are worth keeping a look out for, as they can sometimes give us 'fireballs'. These are bright explosive shooting stars that can be spectacular.

November is more famous for the Leonids. This shower can occasionally give us what is known as a meteor 'storm'. This is when we get an exceptional peak in activity and many hundreds of meteors per hour can been seen from dark sky sites. This happens roughly every 33 years, but I'm afraid that the last one was in 2001. Unfortunately, the bright 11 day old Moon will wash out all but the brightest meteors this year.

While you are at it, keep an eye open for bright 'sporadic' fireballs. You'll know the difference as they won't appear to emanate from The constellation of Taurus. There have been some reported events that suggest that we might be picking up the occasional 'fireball' meteor from the recently past comet 103/P Hartley!
Jupiter and Uranus

The gas giant planets of Jupiter and Uranus are now past 'opposition', when the were opposite the Sun in the sky and therefore visible all night and also closest to us. They were also quite close to each other from our point of view here on Earth. However, they are moving back towards each other and they will be at their closest on the 30th of the month when they will be 3-degrees apart.

The king of the planets, Jupiter shines brightly and is visible in the south east after sunset and is easily the brightest object in that part of the sky. Turn binoculars or a telescope onto it and you will be amazed. Even 7x or 10x50 binoculars will show it as a disc with the Galilean moons strung out either side of the planet. With a telescope, you should be able to make out some of the cloud belts and perhaps the Great Red Spot, although this is harder to see. You will be able to observe those transits they I mentioned earlier.

Uranus is also visible in binoculars, but it is easier to identify in a small telescope as a small pale greenish coloured disc. Jupiter will act as a signpost to it as it can be found to the east (left) and slightly north of the giant planet at the moment. The is a star nearby and to the south of Uranus that is slightly brighter than the planet. This 20 Piscium, so don't get confused. Increasing the magnification on your telescope will show the disc of the planet, whereas the star will still stay the same size.

Comet Hartley (still!)

Comet 103/P hartley is still with us, although it hasn't been the easiest comet to observe, it is still worth trying to see if you can spot it. You will need binoculars. There have been reports of it being a 'naked eye' object, but unless you have exceptionally dark skies and know where to look I doubt that you would find it.

To help you, if you have a star chart that shows the Messier objects, you can find it between M46 and M47 on the night of 26th November in the constellation of Puppis to the east of the very bright star Sirius.

The comet appears as a distinct 'fuzzy' greenish glow, which shows up quite well in photographs. This is caused by Cyanide in the comets dust tail. Don't worry though, it's not going to cause us any harm! It also seems to have a short tail now that was not evident until quite recently.

It is possible that it will brighten as it gets closer to the Sun but it may be harder to see as it is getting lower in UK skies. Comets have a habit of being unpredictable, so keep watching.
Deep Sky Highlights of November

For a change this month, I thought it might be interesting to turn our attention to the northern part of the sky.

The 'W' of Cassiopiea is high in the north-western sky this month and being embedded in the Milky Way, has a wealth of star clusters and other deep sky objects to view. Off the top of the right hand arm of the 'W' can be found M52 a lovely open cluster of stars that is well worth investigating with binoculars or a small telescope. While you are in the area, take a look at the middle bright star of the constellation. It is an 'eruptive variable' star, which means that it varies in brightness due to it pumping out huge amounts of matter into a disc surrounding the star. It is also spinning at a colossal speed, so fast in fact that it bulges in the middle. Unlike most other bright stars in the sky, it does not have a 'western' name, although the ancient Chinese called it 'The Whip'.

If you move north-west again from Cassiopiea, you'll find the constellation of Cepheus. This looks a little like a childs drawing of a house with a very pointed roof. Again there are several interesting star clusters if you look for them. Although this region of the sky on the face of it seems rather sparse, it will reward you when viewed through binoculars or a small telescope.

If you keep heading north past the star gamma Cephii or Errai, the next brightest star that you come to is Polaris the 'Pole Star'. This star is of course famous for marking the north celestial pole that lies about a half a degree from it and so it appears to move very little against the sky. It is not a particularly bright star, but it is a 'double star', that is it has a fainter companion that can be seen in a small telescope, known as Polaris B. The main star of the two Polaris A, is also slightly variable in brightness with a period of 3.97 days to vary be 0.15 magnitudes (not very much!).

Polaris is of course the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor or the Little Bear. There aren't any bright star clusters or nebulae in this area, but if you own a larger telescope, say of 8-inches aperture or more, then there are several faint galaxies that can be a challenge for you to spot. You'll need a star chart and a dark sky to spot this distant, faint smudges of light.

Other News

As I mentioned earlier, I have now finished the production of our new offering on DVD called, 'How To Become An Expert Solar Imager' If you have seen some of those amazing images on the Internet or in magazines of the Sun taken by amateur astronomers and you would like to know how to do it yourself, then this complete 'course in a box' will give you the answers.

I'm grateful to Pete Lawrence for his help with making this DVD as I managed to persuade him to part with some of his 'secrets' with regard to obtaining the images and processing them. One in particular is really revolutionary and you can find out exactly what it is, as well as heaps of other really valuable information that takes you right through what is the best equipment to use, how to set it up and then how to acquire your images and process them. This is in my opinion, the ultimate guide for the would be and even the already experienced solar imager. If you would like to know more or would like to go ahead and buy this course, then please go to our web site now....

I've been to visit the Griffon Educational Observatory in Southern Spain in the last couple of weeks and had a brilliant time enjoying the clear and very dark skies this part of the world has to offer. I'm also pleased to tell you that I hope to be organising some trips down there through 2011. Again, keep an eye on our website for more information. I will of course post news about this in future Newsletters' as well.

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...

Astronomers Say They've Found Oldest Galaxy So Far
Astronomers believe they've found the oldest thing they've ever seen in the universe: It's a galaxy far, far away from a time long, long ago.

Astronomers develop new way to weigh planets
"This is first time anyone has weighed entire planetary systems - planets with their moons and rings," said team leader Dr David Champion from Germany's Max-Planck-Institut fur Radioastronomie. more...

Bradford on Avon paves the way on lights
Smart lighting technology, which would see 10 per cent of street lights switched off at night, is being proposed for Bradford on Avon. more...

Exoplanet’s Weird Hot Spot Defies Explanation
New observations from the Spitzer Space Telescope caught a giant exoplanet with a hot spot in the wrong place more...

Scientists get a close-up of scene of a recent asteroid collision
The scientists calculated that the collision occurred about Feb. 10, 2009. The discovery of the relatively recent event is a rare treat for astronomers, who study events from eons ago. 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

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

or contact me by email

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