Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 68 June 2012
ŠAstronomy Know How 2012

Happy Stargazing!

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

Important news this month:

The BIG astronomical event this month is the 'Transit of Venus'. If you missed it in 2004, this is your last chance to see one for another 105.5 years! There's lots more about the Transit and how to see it later...

If you haven't seen my 'blog' yet, please take a look at I'm putting up useful bits of astronomical information and other items of interest.

I keep plugging my novel 'In The Lion's Paw', set at the end of this year. It's been getting rave reviews on Amazon. If you haven't got your copy yet, please take a look at Amazon UK. You can have it as a Kindle eBook as well, both here and in America or in fact all over the world... Amazon USA

Not only all this, I am pleased to tell you that this Newsletter in not only available as a podcast from us here... But also from my friends at 'Astronomy FM' Internet Radio on Under British Skies

If you would like to keep up to date on a more immediate basis than just the monthly Newsletter, or the blog, 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!

Finally, I'm working on something a bit 'special' that if you are fairly new to astronomy I'm sure you are going to love. I will be able to tell you more next month, so this is just a teaser really, but I couldn't resist whetting your appetite.

I wish you clear skies,



In this issue:
  1. June Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. The Planets This Month
  4. The Transit of Venus
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of June
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
June's Highlights

You need to stay up late to get dark skies this month and they are short lived, but don't let that stop you from going out and having a look around at the wonders of the heavens.

So the planet Venus is going to transit the face of the Sun. So what? Well to astronomers the world over this is a big event. It happens once every 105.5 or 121.5 years and then has a gap of 8 years. Why it happens like this is a little complex, but suffice it to say, because of its rarity, it is an interesting event.

We are now in the season of Noctilucent Clouds. The best time to try and see these, if there are any to see that is, will be about an hour after sunset or before sunrise. You'll need clear skies and look towards the northern horizon. They have a distinctive look, having an almost 'electric blue' colour to them and they often occur in herring bone patterns. Check out my blog for more information on these and what you can expect to see.

We have two planets left to view in the evening skies, that of Mars and Saturn. We are moving away quite rapidly from Mars now and it can be disappointing through a telescope due to it showing a very small disc. However, with patient observing through a telescope, it may still show a few dark markings and a polar cap.

The Sun is very active now and is heading towards 'Solar Max' in 2013. You need to take great care if you plan to observe our nearest star and this includes if you plan to see the Transit of Venus across its face. Sunspot counts are rising and if you have access to a hydrogen-alpha solar telescope you will be able to see lots of activity including prominences and filaments.

The constellations and asterisms of Summer are now coming well into view, including the 'Summer Triangle', the 'Keystone' asterism in the constellation of Hercules and the 'Northern Cross' of Cygnus the Swan. Asterisms are a great way of navigating your way around the sky. If you would like to know more about this, then I'll be describing how you can find out how you can use them, next month.

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The Moon This Month

The first day of the month starts with a waxing Gibbous Moon. The word Gibbous means more than half, but less than fully illuminated. The dictionary goes on the describe it as 'Characterised by convexity; protuberant.' It's from the Latin word 'gibbus' meaning 'hump'.

We see a Full Moon on the 4th. The Full Moon in June is otherwise known as the Rose Moon, Flower Moon, Strawberry Moon or the Honey Moon. Whatever you may like to call it, it certainly looks impressive. The Full Moon though, is not the best time to go exploring our nearest neighbour in space with a telescope or binoculars, as there is little shadow to make the features such as craters, stand out.

The 11th of June brings a 'last quarter' Moon. This is where the left hand half of the Moon is illuminated as seen from the northern hemisphere of Earth. If you are prepared to stay up late, it is a lovely phase of the Moon to go exploring with a small telescope.

New Moon occurs on the 19th. This is of course when we cannot actually see the Moon because it lies in the same line of sight as the Sun from our point of view and so none of the Sun's light is being cast on the side which we can normally see.

The 27th of the month brings us a 'first quarter' Moon. This is where the right hand side of the Moon as seen from Earth's northern hemisphere is illuminated by the Sun and is visible in the evening skies. And so the cycle carries on...

If you would like to know more about the Moon, then there is loads of information on my website here.
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The Planets This Month

Without a doubt, Venus is the main performer this month as it transits the Sun on 5/6th of June. There's more about this a little later...

Mars is still visible in the evening sky in the constellation of Leo. You can recognise it by its distinctive orangey colour. We are moving away from the planet at the moment and so it seems to becoming ever smaller in our telescopes. Because of the increased distance, it is also becoming dimmer, fading from magnitude 0.5 to 0.8. This doesn't sound much but it is noticeable.

Jupiter is lost in the glare of the Sun's light at the beginning of the month, but at the end of June you may be able to spot it shortly before sunrise low in the north-east in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. You should also be able to see the planet Venus to the south-east of Jupiter. The best time to see this conjunction is around 4:00am BST. The planets are at their closest on the 30th.

Saturn is the best displayed of all the planets this month. It lies not far from the bright star 'Spica' in Virgo the Virgin and is to be found in the south-western sky around 23:00 BST. Spica is a very brilliant white coloured star, whereas Saturn has a yellowish tinge. Although this planet too, is past its best, it is still a glorious sight in a small telescope as you can see the rings clearly and a moderate magnification should even show some detail in the clouds which encircle the planet.

The planet Uranus at the end of June is slowly starting to come back into view. You can find it rising due east around 01:30 BST in the constellation of Pisces the Fish. It's tiny disc is discernable in a small telescope and has a slightly greenish tinge.

The elusive planet Mercury is visible from the 10th of the month. You will need a clear north-western horizon though, if you have any hope of seeing it. If you are going to use binoculars to 'sweep' for the tiny planet, make sure that the Sun has fully set before you scan the horizon!

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The Transit of Venus

Due to a quirk of geometry, the planet Venus every now and then appears to cross the face of the Sun from our point of view here on Earth.

What's so interesting about this? Well it only occurs once in over 100 years and then again 8 years later and then once again we have a very long wait before the angles are right for us to see it again. The last Transit was in 2004 and so, this is going to be the last chance we will have to see it in our lifetimes as it won't happen again for another 105.5 years! This will be visible on the 5/6th June depending where you are on the globe.

The best places to see it will be from Australia and New Zealand. You will be able to see it from most of the USA when Venus will be seen transiting the Sun during sunset. But what about Europe and especially the UK? Here, the further north and east you are, the more chance you'll have and the more you will see of it, as the Transit will be in progress at sunrise. Don't let this put you off trying to observe this once in a lifetime event though. If you have a clear horizon, the coast may give you a good opportunity here; then you should be able to see around 20 minutes of the Transit depending on where you are.

You will need safe solar filters for the whole event! Do not attempt to look at the Sun's disc with any unfiltered optics, including camera lenses. Even though the Sun may appear much dimmer at sunrise it is still potentially very dangerous, so please treat it with the utmost respect. Eclipse shades may serve you well if you don't have access to a filtered telescope or binoculars. There are lots of website and other places on the Internet which will provide you with information about the Transit and how to view it safely, including that of my own So do drop by and have a look.

So let's hope for good weather and a clear sky at dawn on the 6th June. Good luck and stay safe!

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Deep Sky Highlights of June

The nights of June are very short and from mid-northern latitudes we never get true darkness. However, there are still plenty of objects worth observing if you have binoculars, or a small telescope...

There are quite a few globular star clusters to be found in the June skies. If you have a good view to the south, the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion contains the bright Messier 4 (M4) quite near to the star Antares, the red Super-Giant star at the base of the claws of the Scorpion. M4 is obvious in binoculars and quite spectacular in a small telescope. It is due south at midnight in the middle of the month.

To the north and slightly west of M4 is M80. This is another bright globular cluster, although it is fainter than M4. You can find it about half way along the northern-most claw from Antares. Again this looks impressive in a small telescope.

If you move east from Scorpius and into the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer, I would encourage you to just sweep around this region with binoculars because it is awash with star clusters and nebulae. The reason for this is that here, we are looking towards the heart of our galaxy the Milky Way. So there is an abundance of material to view. In fact, there are so many stars, and so much gas and dust, it blocks our view of the centre of our galaxy. Fortunately, we can probe it in greater depth using radio telescopes and this is how we know that there is a super-massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.

Heading north-east from Sagittarius you will find the constellation of Scutum the Shield. The stars in this group are not particularly bright, but it does contain a bright and attractive open star cluster Messier 11 (M11) otherwise known as the 'Wild Duck' cluster. This is an attractive sight in binoculars and in a small telescope you should be able to resolve many of the stars. See if you agree it looks like a flight of ducks...

One of my personal favourite star clusters, although strictly speaking, it isn't really a 'cluster', is known as Brocchi's Cluster or more commonly, the 'Coathanger'. You can find it in the constellation of Vulpecula the Fox, a few degrees to the south-west of the double star Albireo in Cygnus the Swan, rising in the east in mid-evening. It looks great in binoculars and is shaped amusingly like a coathanger! As I said, it isn't a true cluster, but just a line of sight effect with these stars. It's very appealing, nonetheless.

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Other News

Yes, I'm still plugging my book 'In the Lion's Paw', available as a paperback from a few book distributors both here and in the USA, especially from Amazon. So if you haven't got your copy yet, please go and order it now. It is also available in Kindle format from Amazon UK and Amazon USA you can also get the print version here

To find out more about the book if you would like, you can visit the In the Lion's Paw website.

Amazon readers have said:
"I read it in two sittings and couldn't put it down."
"If you only read 1 book this year make it this one."
"Once you start reading this story you will be swept along through a tumultuous week in these characters' lives... "

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!

If you would like more information about anything I've mentioned in this Newsletter, please email me and I'd be happy to explain further.


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...

Giant radio telescope gets split location
The decision to split the location of the $2 billion "Square Kilometre Array" followed intense lobbying by the two leading bidders, South Africa one side and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand on the other.

Three-Telescope Interferometry Allows Astrophysicists To Observe How Black Holes Are Fueled
By combining the light of three powerful infrared telescopes, an international research team has observed the active accretion phase of a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy tens of millions of light-years away, a method that has yielded an unprecedented amount of data for such observations. The resolution at which they were able to observe this highly luminescent active galactic nucleus (AGN) has given them direct confirmation of how mass accretes onto black holes in centers of galaxies. more...

Galaxy-hunting telescope to live on with private funding
NASA has handed over an ultraviolet space telescope to the California Institute of Technology, officials announced Wednesday, allowing the observatory to continue surveying the cosmos for at least three years. more...

Weird Galaxy Glows Bright in Amazing Telescope Photo
The center section of the backplane structure that will fly on NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been completed, marking an important milestone in the telescope's hardware development. more...

Mayan Astronomy Workshop Discovered
Archaeologists discovered a small room with walls used by Mayan royal scribes as a type of blackboard to keep track of astronomical records and the society's intricate calendar some 1,200 years ago. . 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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