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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 56 June 2011

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

First of all, you can now have this Newsletter as a 'Podcast'. Yes, that's right you can download an mp3 file with my dulcet tones giving you the lowdown on what can be seen in the sky this month. Put it on your iPod and take a tour of the skies in real time! So give it a go here...

June means long hours of daylight, but don't let that put you off going out at night as even though the sky is never fully dark, there is still plenty to see.

If you would like to keep up to date on a more immediate basis than just the monthly Newsletter, then you can join my Facebook group Astronomy Know How with Ninian Boyle by clicking 'like' on that page, or follow me on Twitter. I put more up to date news and events on there. It would be great if you could join me!

I wish you clear skies,


In this issue:
  1. June's Highlights
  2. The Moon this month
  3. Saturn and Porrima Again
  4. About the Sun
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of May
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
June's Highlights

The skies never get truly dark through June, but they do get dark enough for stars to come out and there are of course always the Moon and the occasional planet on view...

As I mentioned last month, now is the time to start looking out for Noctilucent Clouds. These are clouds that form incredibly high up in our atmosphere. They can be seen for an hour or two after sunset and for an hour or two before dawn, low down above the northern horizon. They take on an pearlescent appearance against a twilight sky. It is not known for sure how they are formed, but one theory suggests that they may be caused by meteoritic dust right on the edge of our atmosphere. Let me know if you manage to spot them.

Mercury goes into superior conjunction with the Sun on the 12th of the month. This means that it is directly behind the Sun from our point of view here on Earth. It will be making a reappearance in the evening sky later on in the month from the 24th, very low down in the western sky after Sunset. If you plan to go looking for it, especially if you are using binoculars or a telescope, make sure that the Sun has fully set BEFORE you start to scan around.

There is a Total Lunar Eclipse this month to delight us, but more about this later...

We have a meteor shower this month, the June Bootids. This shower can have quite a low rate, which means that you may not see many shooting stars. However, this particular shower can surprise us. The Moon shouldn't interfere until well after midnight, so if the skies are clear and the weather is warm take an hour or two to see if you can spot some of these meteors. Look directly overhead for the best chance of catching these falling stars.

There are some lovely 'deep sky' objects to see in the sky this month too, in spite of the lighter skies. More about this below...

The Moon This Month

We have a 'New Moon' on the 1st June, but things get more interesting after this...

On 11th the Moon can be found 6-degrees south of the star Spica in Virgo. Virgo is playing host to the planet Saturn at the moment too, but more about that a bit later.

The bright red super-giant star Antares in Scorpius is a close neighbour of the Moon on the evening of the 14th. In spite of the Moon being almost full, you should still be able to make out this very bright star just 3-degrees to the south west of the Lunar disc.

The 15th June is the really interesting date for Moon watchers. As our nearest neighbour in space rises above the south-eastern horizon shortly after 21:00 BST (20:00UT) it will be fully eclipsed by the Shadow of the Earth in space. It may be hard to see as it will probably be quite dark. The eclipse last for around another hour and it will get easier to see as it gains altitude. By 22:30 BST (21:30UT) the Moon will be passing out from the Earth's shadow and will appear quite strange as half of it will still be eclipsed and the other half will seem much brighter. It will all be over by just after 23:00 BST (22:00UT).

The last interesting encounter of the month for the Moon is on the 28th, when it appears as a slender crescent only 10% illuminated and lying just 4-degrees south of the Pleiades Cluster. You can catch this (if you are still up!) at around 03:15BST (02:15UT) until dawn. If you have good eyesight, see if you can spot Mars around 8-degrees to the east of the Moon.
Saturn and Porrima Again

I mentioned last month that the planet Saturn could be found in the constellation of Virgo and it was heading towards the star Porrima. Well...

This is still the case. Only this month it is getting a lot closer. So close in fact that to the naked eye the two will look quite like a 'double' star in the sky.

On the 10th June Saturn will be at its closest to the star. It will be just 15 arc minutes away from Porrima, that's about a quarter of the diameter of the full Moon. This will be a lovely sight and a good photo opportunity if you are handy with a camera.

Porrima itself is a true double star; two star orbiting around their common centre of gravity. Until recently, the two stars have been so close together from our view-point here on Earth that they were almost impossible to 'split' i.e. resolve the pair as two separate stars. They have moved apart enough now to be seen as two stars in larger telescopes.
About the Sun

Summer means long warm days and possibly holidays where there is plenty of sunshine.

To Solar astronomers it means the chance to study our nearest star for longer. Needless to say you need to be VERY careful when you are planning to look at the Sun. Only use filters from a trusted source and never look at the Sun directly with an un-filtered telescope or binoculars or even through a camera.

The Sun has at last seemingly woken up from a longer than expected sunspot 'minimum' and is showing a lot of activity as it approaches 'Solar Maximum' in 2013. If you would like to see a star 'up close and personal' then you can either use a specialist solar filter or project the Sun onto a white card using a small telescope to see the sunspots. If you have a Hydrogen-Alpha solar telescope, such as a Coronado PST then take a good look at all the amazing prominences and active regions that are now visible on the solar disc.

If you are interested in learning how to take pictures of the Sun such as you might see in magazines and on various astronomy websites, then I have produced a helpful DVD with the help of Pete Lawrence from the BBC Sky at Night Television programme fame, who is one of the best solar imagers around today. You can find out more about it here....
Deep Sky Highlights of June

Don't be fooled by the brighter skies of summer. If you are willing to stay up late, there are still plenty of objects worth your time to locate.

One of my all time favourite objects to view during the summer months is Messier57 (M57) otherwise known as the Ring Nebula. You can find this in the constellation of Lyra the Lyre. It is supposed to represent an ancient Greek musical instrument in the sky. You'll find the Ring Nebula between the southern-most two stars of the constellation. You will need at least a 3-inch telescope to see it well, but you'll know when you find it, as at low power it looks distinctly larger than the surrounding stars. If you increase the magnification you should then start to see that the object looks much like a ghostly 'smoke ring' in space. A very large (12-inch) aperture telescope should be able to show the faint 15th magnitude star at the centre of the ring. This is a white dwarf star that has shed its outer layers of gas, which have become the ring. If you would like to learn more about this and other such object and you live in the south of England, then why not sign up for my course 'Discover the Night Sky' starting in September in Winchester and Chichester? More about this later...

The Ring Nebula is known as a 'planetary nebula', although it has little to do with any planets. It happens to be the brightest example in the night sky, but there are many other such objects just waiting for you to take a look at. Another example near M57 is M27 the 'Dumbell' nebula in the constellation of Vulpecula the Fox. You can find these marked on good star charts such as the 'Philips Star Chart' that you can buy through Amazon. It is one of my recommended buys and you can this and others here...

Another fine deep sky object that you can see while you are in Lyra is Messier 56. This is a lovely globular cluster of stars not unlike Messier 13, which I described last month. You can find it by heading towards the star 'Albireo' in the head of Cygnus the Swan (take a look at this beautiful double star too!) from M57. It lies about halfway between the Ring Nebula and Albireo.

I've produced a couple of guides to the constellations in the form of You Tube videos. If you would like to see more, I will be happy to create them, although I will have to make a small charge for their production as they are extremely labour intensive! Please, let me know what you think (email ninian.boyle at . Please visit my YOUTUBE channel. You can either type 'Astronomy Know How - Hercules Guide' into the search box or click this link Thank You!

Other News

I mentioned earlier that my new course 'Discover the Night Sky' will be running again in the Autumn starting in September at the Southdowns Planetarium in Chichester West Sussex and at the Intech Planetarium and Science Centre in Winchester in Hampshire. If you are interested in joining me, then please take a look here. I had some truly superb feedback from the people who attended last time, including such words as 'superb', 'thoroughly enjoyable and well taught' and many others in a similar vain. So thank you to all my wonderful 'students' and I hope that you carry on with your hobby and found the course has increased your enjoyment of the night sky even more. I've already had one person sign up and space (on the course!) is limited, so don't delay. If you want to be assured of a place book here

If you can't make it to the south of England, then don't forget my 'online' version of the course!

If you need advice about purchasing equipment, then you can email me here I'd be happy to give you a few tips and point you to the right dealer who I think can help you with your purchase. No-one else gets this help; only YOU as a subscriber to my Newsletter!

As the Sun is getting so active now, may I remind you again about the 'course in a box', called 'Imaging the Sun', which is now available through the website. If you always wanted to know how to take photographs of our nearest star to look like those that you see in the magazines and on the Internet, then this DVD will show you how. Pete Lawrence of the BBC Sky at Night programme fame and one of the worlds most renown Solar imagers and myself give you DETAILED instructions on how to do it. Like to know more? Then go here...

And on the subject of the Sun I recently read a fascinating, well written and amazing book on the subject by Stuart Clark and you can find out more about it here

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...

Ejected planets aplenty in our galaxy
A sky survey has turned up 10 jumbo planets seemingly floating freely far from any star.

WiggleZ galaxy project proves Einstein was right!
An Australian-based astronomy team....has shown that the mysterious ‘dark energy' is indeed real and not a mistake in Einstein's theory of gravity. more...

Chasing Down The Muse: Light pollution kills our history
We have grown up on starlight, and we are losing it - as well as darkness - more rapidly than any of us can really imagine. more...

Plans for a New Einstein Telesope are Unveiled in Europe
This ambitious new observatory to seek out gravitational waves - tiny ripples in the fabric of space-time - and potentially uncover secrets of the earliest moments of the universe. more...

If E.T. Phones, Will We Hear?
For more than 50 years, scientists at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute - SETI - have been listening for communications from far-off planets. Now, funds are proving just as elusive as alien signals. 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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