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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 61 November 2011

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

Important news this month: If you've been wondering why there wasn't a 'Newsletter' last month, part of the reason is that I've been exceptionally busy... writing a book! People have been asking me if it's about astronomy or telescopes or similar subject matter. Well, in a way it is, but in a way it isn't, because it is in fact a novel. No, really! It does (of course) have an astronomical theme. No surprises there then, and the action - it really is action packed! - takes place in the near future. If you would like to find out a little more about it, then I've set up a website to explain... The book is called 'In the Lion's Paw' and you can take a look at the website here...

The book should be available soon, and by that I mean in the next few weeks. It might even be available by the time you read this...

This Newsletter is now available 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 before and for the favourable comments.

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. November's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. Jupiter Just Past Opposition
  4. Comet Elenin etc.
  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 nights are much longer now, so with weather permitting, we should have more time to enjoy the splendours of the night sky.

There's plenty going on to get you out under the stars this month including a good meteor shower...

Without a doubt, the highlight (in every sense of the word) of the night sky at the moment is the planet Jupiter. There's more on this later.

November sees the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. This is a regular and usually prolific shower which as the name suggests, has its radiant point in the constellation of Leo. Leo rises in the early hours of November in the east from mid-northern latitudes, so the radiant hardly peeks above the horizon from our point of view in Europe. This will not affect our view of the meteors though, which will appear to streak across the sky from the eastern horizon on the night of Friday 18th November. It is usually best to observe meteors after midnight, as the earth spins 'into' the shower from this time. You should be able to observe them all night though.

We can still see the asterism of the 'Summer Triangle' in the early evening, but later in the night we start to see the constellations of winter coming in to view. In mid-evening though, we get to see the lovely Autumnal constellations of Pegasus and Andromeda, which play host to a variety of beautiful 'deep sky objects'. I'll tell you more about what you can see in these constellations a little later.

If you are willing to stay up late, or you are an early riser, then the planet Mars will surely catch your attention. It is the bright orange coloured 'star', in the constellation of Leo, visible in the early hours. Of course it is not a star but a planet. It is not well placed for telescopic observation at the moment as it is relative to us, quite far away and so only shows us a tiny disc. However, as the months progress this will change, so there'll much more about the red planet in this Newsletter in the future.

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The Moon This Month

We have a 'First Quarter' Moon on 2nd of the month. This is when, as the name suggests, the Moon has moved a quarter of its orbit around the Earth. It then shows us, as the name doesn't suggest(!) a half phase. It is just a matter of terminology. If you're new to it, it does get easier as you become more familiar with it.

Full Moon is on the 10th this month. This particular Full Moon is sometimes known as the 'Frosty Moon'. It's the Full Moon after the Hunter's Moon that occurs in October.

The Last Quarter Moon is on the 18th November. This is where the Moon has completed three quarters of its orbit around the Earth. Again the Moon shows a half phase, but this time it is the left hand side of the Moon from our point of view that is illuminated, rather than the right hand side as it was at the first quarter Moon. The 'Quarter Moon phases are always the best times to look at our nearest neighbour in space through a telescope as the shadows of the craters and mountains are at their longest and so give a more three dimensional look to the surface features.

New Moon is on the 25th November at 06:10. This is when the Moon is positioned in line of sight with the Sun and so isn't visible to us. The whole lunar cycle lasts just over 29 days.

If you would like to know more about the Moon, then there is loads of information on my website here.
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Jupiter Just Past Opposition

The opposition of Jupiter was on the 29th October. This is where the planet is directly opposite the Sun in the sky from our point of view here on Earth. It's when the planet is usually nearest to us and therefore at it's brightest. Not only that, it's visible all night long.

This particular apparition of Jupiter has been a good one for observers in the northern hemisphere as it has been relatively high in our skies and very bright. In fact several days either side of opposition it appears very bright and dominates our view of the night sky. So if you haven't seen it yet through a telescope, there has never been a better time to look.

Even if you only have binoculars, you should be able to make out the planet as a distinct disc... The other thing that you can't fail to notice, are the Galilean moons. Each night these seem to dance in attendance around their master. Sometimes you can see all four of the moons, sometimes one or two or more can be obscured by the giant planet as the pass behind it, or perhaps in front of the disc. These events are called occultations or transits respectively. Occasionally, you can see shadows of the moons transiting across the disc of the planet. These are called (believe it or not!) 'shadow transits'.
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Comet Elenin etc.

I was going to call this section 'The End of the End of the World'! If you haven't been keeping up with the 'End of the World' hokum that has been in the press and on various websites (I probably need to get out more!), then there was a comet discovered a couple of years ago that was, by all accounts of the conspiracy theorists, going to crash into the Earth in October and kill us all.

So, I'm sure you've realised that it didn't! What's more, it appears to have disintegrated. This is hardly surprising as nearly 80% of all comets disintegrate at or around their closest approach to the Sun in their orbits. Elenin swung behind the Sun recently and astronomers have been trying to 'recover' it. The only thing is, it's not where it was expected to be. In fact it was not there at all! I think I'll sleep easier now...

Comet Garradd however, is still visible in the early evening in the constellation of Hercules at the beginning of the month. It is rapidly descending into the twilight though, so if you would like a last look at it, now's your chance. You'll need a finder chart to help you see it. Here's quite a good one -

Comet Garradd should remain steady at around magnitude 8, so within reach of 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars.
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Deep Sky Highlights of November

There are sure truly wonderful sights to see if you have binoculars or a small telescope, this autumn.

Riding high in the south around mid-evening is the easily recognised asterism of the Great Square of Pegasus. Pegasus is the winged horse of Greek mythology. From here you can find the constellation of Andromeda, which is 'attached' to the Square of Pegasus by the star Alpha Andromedae, which used to be Delta Pegasii! This is the top left hand or eastern-most star in the 'Square'. From here it is relatively easy to find the famous Andromeda Galaxy or Messier 31 if you haven't managed to do so before.

Counting Alpha Andromeda as 1, move left or eastward along the chain of stars extending in that direction two more stars. So that's three stars altogether. From the third star, move three stars upward or north. So three stars to the left, and then three stars up. This makes a crude right-angle. Just to the right of the final star you should see a misty patch of light. You've arrived! If you live in a town or city with light polluted skies, you might not spot it with the naked eye, but binoculars should show it up quite easily.

An often missed galaxy in this region, but to my mind just as impressive, is Messier 33 (M33) otherwise known as the Triangulum Galaxy, as it happens to be in the constellation of Triangulum the Triangle. It has a much lower surface brightness than its nearby illustrious cousin, but should still be visible in 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars. To find it, go back to star number 3 in your excursion to find M31. This time head in the opposite direction to M31, in other words go south and about the same distance as you did to find the Andromeda Galaxy. You should be able to pick up a faint smudge of light, which is M33.

Next month I'll explain how to find the Double Cluster and lots more besides...

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Other News

In case you've missed it, I've written a book called 'In The Lion's Paw', a novel with an astronomical theme...

If you like an exciting read, there's plenty of action in it. The events take place in the near future, although it is definitely not a science-fiction book. You can see a short video about it and read the first couple of pages if you go to the website which I set up about it. So take a look at www.InTheLion'

The book should be out soon, so why not take a sneak preview?

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...


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 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...

Suggest a new name for the Very Large Array!
The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) are seek ideas for a new name for the VLA and they are asking you for ideas....

The dark delights of Exmoor’s night sky are safe
Exmoor National Park has been designated an International Dark-Sky Reserve - only the second place in the world to enjoy such status. more...

How the cosmic fog cleared
Two studies shed additional light on a murky question: How did the cosmic fog that enveloped the universe in its early days dissipate? more...

A Delivery From Space That Made a Big Splash
Using a powerful space telescope, scientists have found evidence that the water in the Earth’s oceans could have been delivered by comets. more...

Hawaii astronomer captures image of forming planet
A University of Hawaii astronomer has captured the first direct image of a planet forming around a star. 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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