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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 57 July 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... Thanks to all those who have already done this last month and for the favourable comments.

Important news this month is that I am running a course about how to take 'Amazing Pictures of the Moon' with my friend and colleague Pete Lawrence of the BBC Sky at Night television programme fame. Between us we'll explain exactly how to get the pictures of the Moon that you have always dreamed about. So the time and place is: Saturday 6th August starting at 1:30pm 'til 4:30pm at the Intech Planetarium and Science Centre in Winchester. There will be more details about this on the website.

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. July's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. Meteor Showers in July
  4. More About The Sun
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of July
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
July's Highlights

The skies still remain quite light through July, but don't let this put you off going out a doing soon observing. There's a good chance that the skies will be clear and the nights shouldn't be too cold...

The season for Noctilucent Clouds is still in full swing. So far they have proved to be quite elusive this year, but that can easily change. So go out an hour or so after Sunset or before Sunrise and scan the northern horizon and see if you can spot those pearlescent electric blue coloured clouds low down in the sky. Even better; try and take a picture!

Mercury is back to grace our evening skies this month. Your best chance of seeing it is at the beginning of the month, when it will be higher and brighter than later on. Make sure that the SUn has completely set before scanning the area, especially if you are using binoculars.

There are a couple of nice meteor showers this month, but more on these later...

If you've never seen the planet Uranus before, then July presents you with a good opportunity. Although it will be technically bright enough to be spotted with the naked eye, it can be a difficult planet to pin down. You are best using binoculars or a small telescope. You can find it in the constellation of Pisces and will be rising in the eastern sky by mid evening. The best time to try and observe it is at the end of the month and in the early hours of the morning, when it will be due south at around 04:40 BST on 31st. You can tell that you've found it, because it will show a pale greenish coloured disc - definitely not a star.

Jupiter is rising earlier now and is almost dazzlingly bright. At the beginning of the month it rises just after 01:30BST, but by the end of the month is rises at just before midnight. It will also be (apparently) increasing in size getting to 40 arc-seconds across its disc. THe best time to see it will be on the 31st when it will be 35-degrees altitude at around 03:40BST in the south-east.

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The Moon This Month

We experience two 'New' Moons this month. The first occurs on the 1st July. This means that this is a good time to go hunting for deep-sky objects and the Moon's light will not wash out those faint fuzzies!

The 3rd July will give us a very slender crescent Moon that will be quite difficult to see low down near the western horizon. THe planet Mercury at this time will be 12-degrees to the east (left) of the Moon, so if you can find one it will help direct you to the other. You will need very clear skies and an uninterrupted horizon.

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.

On the 7th a lovely crescent Moon forms an attractive triangle with Saturn and the bright star Spica in the early evening sky. Saturn will be almost directly above the Moon and still quite close to the star Porrima in Virgo the Virgin.

The Moon will be close to the Pleiades star cluster on the 25th in the morning sky, being just 7-degrees away from the cluster. In spite of the Moon being much brighter than the stars, you should still be able to make out the cluster without too much difficulty. The second 'New' Moon of the month occurs on the 30th.
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Meteor Showers in July

THe first shower of meteors that we expect this month occurs on the 8th. This is the Capricornids. They are quite a weak shower, but never-the-less worth keeping an eye out for. This shower is somewhat unusual in that it has three 'peaks'. The first is on the 8th, the second on the 15th and the third is predicted for the 26th.

We all know that the famous Perseid meteor shower occurs in August, but you may not know that the shower starts in July usually on the 23rd. It then builds to a peak in early August. So, keep an eye open for the occasional Perseid meteor. If you can trace the fast moving streak of light back to the constellation of Perseus rising in the east during the evenings in July, you'll know that you've spotted a Perseid.

On the 31st of July the weak shower of the Piscids Australids reaches its peak. The Zenithal Hourly Rate of this particular shower is only 5 meteors an hour. However, these tend to be quite slow moving meteors, so you may get a better chance of spotting some.
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More About the Sun

July gives us long warm days (usually) and excellent opportunity to do some Solar observing.

The Sun is really getting active now, with more Sunspots and prominences and various other activity ramping up for the projected 'solar maximum' in 2013.

The Sun is our nearest star, which is really handy, as that allows us to study it at close quarters and we can therefore surmise that this is how others stars 'work'. If you have never observed the Sun before, you need to take great care. The 'surface' temperature of the Sun is around 6000-degrees and the core temperature is around 2 million degrees! The Sun is continuously pumping sub-atomic particles out into space. This is called the 'Solar Wind' and gives rise to the Aurora or Northern (and Southern) Lights here on Earth as well as other planets in our Solar System.

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...
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Deep Sky Highlights of July

Now we are past the Summer Solstice the nights will slowly be drawing in again...

Last month I talked about the Constellation of Lyra the Lyre and one of my favourite objects Messier 57. This month I'd like to point out some lovely sights in Lyra's neighbouring constellation, that of Cygnus the Swan. Cygnus is a very ancient constellation, otherwise known as the 'Northern Cross' and is fairly easy to discern on a summer evening riding high in the south around midnight in the middle of July.

Cygnus contains one of the loveliest double stars in the whole sky, that of Albireo marking the head of the Swan dipping towards the southern horizon. There is sometimes argument about what colour the stars really are. I personally think they are orange and blue. If you have a small telescope, take a look and let me know what colours you think the stars are...

There is a loose cluster of stars known as Messier 29 just south of the centre star of the cross known as Sadr or gamma Cygni. This shows up nicely in binoculars. Because Cygnus lies right in the Milky Way, it is in fact packed full of star clusters. It also plays host to a couple of lovely nebulae. The first is the 'North American' nebula (NGC 7000), which is quite hard to see but shows up well in long exposure photography and its near neighbour, the 'Pelican' Nebula (IC 5070), which is part of the same cloud of gas and dust.

Just to remind you, 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. Please visit my YOUTUBE channel. You can either type 'Astronomy Know How - Hercules Guide' into the search box or click this link
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Other News

Just to remind you in case you missed it at the beginning of this Newsletter, I'll will be running a course called 'Imaging the Moon' with Pete Lawrence from the BBC Sky at Night Team on Saturday 6th August 2011 at the Intech Planetarium and Science Centre in Winchester. We will show you every thing you need to know about taking great images of our nearest neighbour in space. We will cover the equipment that you need, have to actually get the 'killer' shots and how to process up the images to best effect once you have got them. This is NOT TO BE MISSED! Pete is one of the finest Astrophotography on the planet and a great speaker. Seats will be limited to 35 and it will be on a 'first come first served' basis. You can sign up for the course here...

I mentioned lat month that my (other) 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 register you interest 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 that you will receive and email when the details are finalised please sign up to get your email 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 on 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
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  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

University of Hawaii astronomers have discovered a new comet they expect will be visible to the naked eye in early 2013
To the untrained eye, a dot on a telescope image doesn't look like much. But you'll be catching a lot more of comet C2011L4 soon.

'Model Lighting Ordinance' could preserve dark skies, much else
The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has teamed up with the Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) to create what it calls theModel Lighting Ordinance (MLO), which seeks to fight light pollution and save the night sky for people all over the world. more...

Supergiant star's striking rainbow nebula revealed
A bright nebula of swirling gas around a well-known supergiant star takes on a rainbow of colors in a striking new image that shows the object in unprecedented detail using infrared light. more...

European astronomers unveil ten exoplanets
A European research team reports the discovery of ten exoplanets, ranging from Jupiter-sized to Neptune-sized, orbiting new stars. more...

Solar cycle may go into 'hibernation', scientists say
But this does not mean a new ice age is coming, said astronomer Frank Hill of the US National Solar Observatory. more...

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  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!

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  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...

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To contact us

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

or contact me by email

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