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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 58 August 2011

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

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. This really is not to be missed! There aremore 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. August's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. Prospects for the Perseids
  4. Comet Garradd
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of August
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
August's Highlights

August brings us darker skies, yet (hopefully) relatively warm evenings in which to observe the night sky.

We have loads of interesting things to see in the night sky this month. The Moon will be just past 'New' at the beginning of the month and so won't wash out fainter objects such as Comet Garradd. More about this below...

Jupiter is now rising in the east around mid-night and will be rising earlier as the month progresses. It will be well placed for viewing this Autumn. The planet Mars is following it in the early morning skies, so you'll have to stay up late to see it, but again, this too will become easier to view as the year grows older.

The highlight if the month is the famous Perseid meteor shower, but more about this later too...

Neptune reaches 'opposition' this month on the 22nd. This is when is is opposite the Sun in the sky, so it rises as the Sun sets, which means that it will be visible all night. However, it is faint! You'll need binoculars at the very least to see it and a small telescope is preferable. If you haven't got a telescope with a 'goto' computer you will need a good star chart in order to identify it.

You have a chance to see the little planet Mercury at the end of the month in the dawn sky at around 5:30am (BST). It will be very tricky to spot in the brightening sky. If you use binoculars be careful not to sweep the area after the Sun has risen. If you do manage to spot Mercury on the 28th you might also be able to detect a very thin waning crecsent Moon close to the horizon directly below it.

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The Moon This Month

The Moon is two days 'old' on the 1st August. This is a good time to see the effect known as 'Earth-shine'. Sometimes referred to as the 'old Moon in the new Moon's arms', it is when we can make out the full disc of the Moon even though only a a thin crescent is fully illuminated. The reason for this is that we are seeing the light from the Sun being reflected from the Earth onto the Moon and back to us again.

We can see a 'first quarter Moon' on the 7th. This is a 'half' phase Moon. It's called 'first quarter' because the Moon is one quarter of its way along its orbit of the Earth.

Full Moon is on the 13th, which unfortunately coincides with the Pereid Meteor Shower (see below for details).

As nice pairing in the sky on the 19th will be the Moon and the planet Jupiter, which will be less than 7-degrees apart. You can see them low down in the east around 23:00 BST. The Moon will be north-west of Jupiter. The following evening, it will be a similar distance but this time north-east of Jupiter.

Last quarter Moon (three-quarters f the way along its orbit) is on the 21st and it rises just before mid-night(BST). You can see it just 3-degrees south of the Pleiades star cluster. You can find Mars on the 25th as the Moon will be less than 6-degrees to the west of the Red Planet in the early hours.

You can always find the phases of the moon and more besides on the Moon pages of the web site.
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Prospects for ther Perseids

I made mention last month of the famous Perseid meteor shower that occurs in early August. I didn't mention how good the likelyhood was of us being able to see many...

Well, I'm afraid to say that this year the prospects aren't that good. This is largely due to a bright Full Moon washing out the fainter meteor trails. However, dont' be too put off from going outside and having a look for yourself.

The Perseids are expected to 'peak', that is reach their maximum number of events in the early hours of the 13th, so there is a chance that you will be able to see at least a hand-full of the brightest trails. Don't forget though, that the shower itself can be seen for many days either side of this peak and so you should still be able to see them when the Moon isn't quite so prominent. In fact as I write this, I have been alerted to the first Perseids having been sppoted from this year's shower... One thing is sure, you won't see any if you don't at least take a look.
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Comet Garradd

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd will grace our skies through August. Now this isn't going to be as bright as Comet Hale-Bopp, but it should be seen easily in binoculars.

The thing is with comets - is that we can never be sure exacly how they are going to develop. Comet Holmes for example back in 2007 brightened by a factor of half a million! Now I'm not saying that this is going to happen to Garradd, but you never know...

A good time to go 'comet hunting' will be between the 1st and the 4th of the month when you will be able to find it near the globular cluster M15 in Pegasus around mid-evening in the south-east. Garradd makes its closest approach to Earth in the early hours of the 2nd when it is expected to be around magnitude 8.8. This is not visible with the naked eye, but should appear as a faint 'smudge' in binoculars. It will be about 1-degree to the north of Messier 15.

The Comet passes close to another Messier object M71 in Sagitta The Arrow on the night of the 26/27th. This time they will be only a few arc-minutes apart and the comet is expected to brighten by then as well to perhaps magnitude 8.2. Still a binocular object, but a little easier to spot. Good hunting!
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Deep Sky Highlights of August

The skies are darker earlier now and the Moon is out of the way at the beginning and at the end of the month, so we should have nice dark skies to view those elusive faint 'fuzzy' objects.

Last month I talked about the Constellation of Cygnus the Swan. This month I'd like to take you further south, down through the Milky Way. You need a reasonably dark sky site to get a good view of the Milky Way, that ribbon of faint light like a river stretching across the sky that is a part of a spiral arm of our own galaxy.

The southern-most star in the 'Summer Triangle' is the star Altair, which is the brightest star in the constellation of Aquila The Eagle. Aquila like its neighbour Cygnus is embedded in the Milky Way. This is great area to scan with binoculars to see countless stars. Keep heading south-west and you will move into the constellation of Scutum The Shield. Here you will find a lovely star cluster M11 known as the 'Wild Duck' due to its resemblance of a group of flying ducks(!). It is best seen in binoculars or a low power eyepiece in a small telescope.

Keep heading south-west and you will intrude into the constellation of Serpens, where you'll find the Eagle Nebula made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope picture called 'The Pillars of Creaiton'. You'll need a telescope to see much detail. Due south of this is the Omega Nebula a star cluster associated with a nebula of dust and gas. Again, it's best seen in a telescope. So this is an amazing region to explore on those (hopefully) balmy summer evenings.

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

This is the last call for a half day course I'm running on Saturday 6th August called 'Imaging the Moon' with Pete Lawrence from the BBC Sky at Night Team 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 Astrophotographers on the planet and a great speaker. Seats will be limited to 35 and it will be on a 'first come first served' basis. Bookings are coming in steadily so please don't delay. I'd love to see you on the course. You can enrol for the course on the website.

I mentioned again last 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. 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. Space (on the course!) is limited, so please don't delay. Full details can be found 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...

Finally, I thought that you might like to know that I've written a book! A novel in fact. No really! It will be available as a hard copy book and also in eBook format and should be found on Amazon...

If you are on Facebook, please come and be 'fan' of my 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...

Astronomers probe matter in early universe
Smeared light from the dawn of time confirms ideas about dark energy

No more repairs for Hubble telescope
end of the shuttle program means no more repair missions to the Hubble. more...

Congress Comes Closer to Killing NASA's James Webb Telescope
The James Webb space telescope, the successor to Hubble, just came one step closer to being thrown in the trash bin over budget cuts. more...

Hydrogen peroxide found in interstellar space
Hydrogen peroxide has been found for the first time in space, and astronomers are excited - not because it indicates that aliens are bottle blondes, but because it gives clues to how water may be formed. more...

Trojan asteroid seen in Earth's orbit by Wise telescope
Astronomers have detected an asteroid not far from Earth, moving in the same orbit around the Sun. 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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