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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 59 September 2011

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

Important news this month: This is the last call for the course 'Discover the Night Sky' that I'm running in Chichester and Winchester, at the Southdowns Planetarium and at Intech Planetarium and Science Centre respectively. It starts on the Monday 12th in Chichester and on Thursday 15th in Winchester. Spaces are filling up fast and I'd hate for you to miss out... If you would like to know more and sign up, then please visit the web site .

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I had to postpone the half day course 'Imaging the Moon', which I organised with my friend and expert imager Pete Lawrence of the BBC Sky at Night fame. It has been rescheduled for Saturday October 1st at Intech in Winchester and it starts at 1:30 pm until 4:30pm. This is not to be missed! Pete is one of the world's best astro-imagers, especially of the Moon and we will be imparting our secrets, so you too can take amazing images of the Moon. It's easy when you know how! Click here for more information

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. September's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. The Return of Mars
  4. Comet Garradd
  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 evenings can still be warm enough to encourage you out for a spot of star gazing...

There's plenty going on in the night skies to get you out under the stars this month including a comet and a variable star reaching its peak brightness...

Jupiter is very bright now and is dazzling in the south east skies after midnight. It's going to get better over the next few months too! The planet Uranus reaches 'opposition' this month, which means that it will be opposite the Sun from our point of view here on Earth and so will be visible all night.

The variable star 'Mira' (Also known as the 'wonderful') reaches its peak brightness this month. You can find it in the constellation of Cetus the Whale. It is normally too faint to be seen with the naked eye, however this month it reaches magnitude +3.4 or maybe even brighter. If you would like to know more about stellar magnitudes, then come and join my course, 'Discover the Night Sky'! It is a 'long period' variable, spending most of its 332 day cycle barely detectable in binoculars. It last 'peak' was in October 2010.

It's the Autumn Equinox on the 23rd September. This is where the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator and means that from this point onwards we will have longer nights and shorter days. The word 'equinox' mean equal night, because at this time we have days and nights of equal length (12 hours each). This month the Sun crosses the celestial equator at 09:05UT (10:05BST). The time and the date can vary, but it always occurs within a couple of days of the 21st.

We have a meteor shower this month although it is nothing like as good as some of the more famous ones... this one is called the Piscids as the streaks of light appear to emanate from the constellation of Pisces the Fish. This shower has a double peak, the first of which is on the 9th, but with only 5 meteors per hour, it is unlikely to be very impressive. The second peak, which should be easier to see, is on the 21st.

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The Moon This Month

It's 'first quarter' Moon on 4th September. This means that the Moon is one quarter way around its orbit of the Earth. This also means that it will be showing a 'half' phase. If you're confused, I explain all in my course 'Basic Astronomy with a Telescope' now available at The Moon will be near the red super-giant star 'Antares' in Scorpius the Scorpion in the south.

Full Moon is on the 12th this month. This is a 'Harvest Moon'. It's the full Moon nearest to the Autumn Equinox.

If you've wanted to find the beautiful open cluster Messier 35 in the constellation of Gemini the Twins, but haven't managed it yet, then the Moon will be your guide on the 20th. It will be 3-degrees to the north of the cluster around midnight.

If you own binoculars or a small telescope, the Moon is always a treat to look at. The best time is around first and last quarter, when the shadows on the mountains and crates are at their longest and therefore show the features in 'relief'.

New Moon is on 27th September when it is between us and the Sun and so is effectively invisible to us here on Earth.
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The Return of Mars

The Red Planet is now making a return to our skies. You'll need to get up pretty early ( or stay up late) to see it, as it is currently rising in the east at around 01:40BST (00:40GMT) but it is best seen 2 or 3 hours after this. The good news is that it is rising earlier as the month goes by, heading towards 'opposition' in the spring of next year.

Mars is currently residing in the constellation of Gemini the Twins, but will be heading towards that of Cancer the Crab by the end of the month. It will be very close to the lovely open star cluster of M44 known as 'The Beehive' on the 30th of the month. This will make for a great view in binoculars.

The other goods news about Mars is that it is growing in size from our point of view. This from 4 arc seconds at the beginning of the month to 5 arc seconds by the end. Not much, but it will be continuing this trend for the next few weeks and months.
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Comet Garradd

I mentioned this comet in last month's 'Newsletter' and I'm pleased to say that it hasn't disappointed. Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd has been passing by some lovely deep-sky objects, giving rise to a plethora of photo opportunities. It will continue this during this month too.

If you are having trouble finding the comet in your binoculars then on the nights of the 2nd and 3rd September it passes very close to the interesting star cluster Called 'Brocchi's cluster or Collinder 399, better known as 'The Coathanger'. The reason it is called this will be obvious the moment you sweep it up in your binoculars!

Comet Garradd will pass close to the 'hook' of the Coathanger on these two night and so will give another great photo opportunity. A DSLR Camera with a telephoto lens 'piggybacked' on a driven telescope or a tracking camera platform would be the best way of capturing the beauty of this cosmic interloper.

By the end of the month, Comet Garrad will be heading into the constellation of Hercules and should remain steadily at magnitude 8, so within reach of 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars.
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Deep Sky Highlights of September

September brings us the Autumn constellations and longer darker nights on which to view them.

Riding high in the south around midnight is the easily recognised asterism of the Great Square of Pegasus. Pegasus is the winged horse of Greek mythology and, interestingly enough, flies upside down across our sky! The chain of stars on the south-west side of the 'square' terminates in a attractive globular star cluster of Messier 15 (M15). This shines at magnitude 6.4 and so is in easy reach of binoculars. In a small telescope it shows a tight knot of stars. There are thousands of stars in this cluster and these globular clusters orbit around the plane of our Milky Way galaxy. They contain some of the oldest stars in the known universe.

Just over 12-degrees due south of M15 lies another globular cluster, this one is M2 the second object in Charles Messier's famous catalogue. This is another densely packed ball of stars of no more than 100 light years radius. Again this is easy to pick up in binoculars as a 'fuzzy' patch of light and will resolve into stars using a telescope.

Keep heading south south-west and you should find the planetary nebula known as the 'Saturn Nebula'. Confusingly, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the planet Saturn or planets in general. It got its name from the fact that the object looks a little like the 'ghost' of the planet Saturn with a couple of lobes that appear a little like the rings of the planet. It is visible in binoculars, but looks better in a telescope. The term 'planetary nebula' is a misnomer as they were originally thought to look like faint planets, It was quickly realised however, that these are in fact the signs of a dying star, which has puffed off its out shell of gas.

Next month I'll explain how to find the Andromeda Galaxy and lots more besides...

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Other News

As I mentioned earlier, my half day course, all about how to take stunning pictures of the Moon had to be postponed from last month. It will now run on Saturday 1st October. This means that there is still time for you to book your place on the course. Pete Lawrence from the BBC Sky at Night Team and myself will be giving you the 'secrets' on how to take images that you'll be proud of! It all takes place 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 those '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. 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 here...

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. Sorry to keep banging on about it,. but I really wouldn't want you to miss it! Again, people are already booking, so if you are interested in joining me, then please book your place 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 you'll 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.

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'm pleased to say that my novel (with an astronomical theme of course!) is progressing well and is at the proof reading stages. It will be available as a hard copy book and also in eBook format and should be found on Amazon... If you would like to find out more about it, then please take a look at InTheLion'

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...

A New Hope for NASA's James Webb Telescope...
...may have one last chance to actually see operation thanks to some creative accounting.

Brightest supernova in 40 years appears
Berkeley scientists this week discovered a new supernova, closer to Earth than any seen in the last 40 years, and believe they've spotted it within hours of its explosion. more...

Striking Photo Looks Into the 'Eyes' of Cosmic Virgin
A spectacular new photo from an observatory in Chile has snapped a spectacular photo of two peculiar galaxies that scientists call "The Eyes." more...

LHC results put supersymmetry theory 'on the spot'
which creates doubt about 'dark matter' and the Higgs Bososn particle... more...

Planet Made of Diamonds Discovered 4,000 Light Years Away
In what can be called a "gem of a discovery," astronomers at the University of Manchester found a rare planet made of diamonds, which orbits a pulsar about 4,000 light years from Earth in the constellation Serpens. 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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