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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 69 July 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:

There are lots of interesting things to see in the night sky this month, including an occultation of Jupiter by the Moon! More on this 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.

We are now over half way through 2012. Have you heard about the end of the Mayan calendar and the doom monger's predictions for the end of the world? Well, you may be interested in my story based on what might happen at the end of this year... it's all in my novel 'In The Lion's Paw', set at the end of 2012. 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 teased you last month about something I've been working on... well I can tell you now that it is a new 'online' course on astronomy. It's aimed and beginners and will move you on quickly from knowing very little to being really quite knowledgeable! Though I say so myself, it is visually stunning and is quite literally packed with information in plain English and with clear explanations using text, animations and video and beautiful pictures to help the explanations along. It shouldn't be too far away now and I'll keep you posted as it develops.

I wish you clear skies,



In this issue:
  1. July's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. The Planets This Month
  4. The Occultation of Jupiter
  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 nights are slowly drawing out again as we move away from the longest day last month. Fortunately, it is still warm and so getting out under the stars doesn't mean dressing up to look like the Michelin Man! However, it can still get chilly after dark, so have a jumper or coat to hand...

The stars of summer are now increasingly obvious after dark. The asterism of the Summer Triangle made up from the stars Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, Altair in Aquila the Eagle and Vega in Lyra the Lyre are quite noticeable once it is fully dark in the south-eastern sky.

If you own a telescope or binoculars, the Milky Way is now prominent as a path of light running directly overhead around midnight at mid-month, so just take a little time to sweep through this amazing river of stars and other objects. You'll need a dark sky sight to see it well though. A star chart will help you identify objects which you will come across.

On the 15th July, the Moon will appear to move in front of the planet Jupiter from our point of view here on Earth. This is called an 'occultation' and planetary occultations are fairly rare events. There's more about this a little later on...

The Sun is still active as it builds towards its Sunspot maximum expected in 2013. If you have a 'solar' filter for your telescope designed to allow you to view the Sun safely you will be able to see lots of interesting activity on the surface of the Sun and if you possess a 'hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, you will be able to view prominences and much other solar phenomena. However, do take care, the Sun can easily blind you. If you are in any doubt about viewing the Sun safely, don't do it, or please email me for advice.

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The Moon This Month

The Moon this month stays low to the horizon and because of this you may notice the 'Moon Illusion'. This is where the Moon seems to look larger than normal. It's because normally we don't have a reference to judge the size of the disc of the Moon when it is higher in the sky. When it's low on the horizon we have trees and buildings to compare it against and so it can seem much larger. It isn't though; it is just an illusion!

The Moon is waxing gibbous on 1st July and is full on the 3rd. It will certainly appear big and bright.

The 10th of July 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 26th 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

The Transit of Venus last month means that the planet is now in the western part of the sky in relation to the Sun. This also means that it is now a 'morning' star and rises before the Sun does in the east. You can make out its thin bright crescent in the pre-dawn sky with just binoculars or a small telescope. It rises a full 1 hour and 45 minutes before the Sun does at the beginning of July and lies to the south of Jupiter and to the north of the red giant star Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull. This conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will slowly widen as the month progresses. A waning crescent Moon will join them on the mornings of 15th and 16th. This will be a great photo-opportunity... Venus is drawing away from us now and so its apparent size will steadily shrink through the month.

Mars is still visible but is becoming lost in the evening twilight. It too is moving away from us and so is disappointing when viewed through a telescope due to the small size of the disc. At the end of July though it will form an attractive triangle will the planet Saturn and the bright star Spica.

Jupiter is steadily moving westward in the morning sky but will not be well placed for telescopic observing for a few weeks yet. It is seen to be very close to Venus on the morning of the 15th and this conjunction will also be accompanied by an occultation of Jupiter by the Moon visible from some parts of the British Isles. See below...

Saturn is now becoming harder to find in the evening twilight, like Mars but will still reward the observer with a small telescope a nice view of its ring system. It's better to view it earlier in the month than later.

Uranus in increasingly easier to view through July in the constellation of Pisces the Fish, but you will probably need a star chart to help you find it reliably.

You may just catch a glimpse of little Mercury on the 1st July but it will be difficult to spot and this will get worse as the month continues.

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The Occultation of Jupiter

Jupiter will be occulted by the Moon in the early hours of the 15th July. However, this will only be seen from certain parts of the UK. This will be a spectacular sight.

The best place to see it from will be on the south coast of England between Dover and Eastbourne, but anywhere from the Isle of Wight through Suffolk should see the full occultation. Further north and west, Cornwall, Devon, the Bristol Channel and through to the 'Wash' will see a grazing occultation, where the planet seems to skim the edge of the Moon and further north from these locations will see a near miss. It starts around 2:30am BST depending on where in the country you are, so start observing early so you don't miss the start. Jupiter should reappear just after 3:08am BST, but again, this depends on your viewing location.

Among the events to look out for during this occultation is the occultation of the moons of Jupiter by our Moon. So it could be said that we are getting 5 occultations for the price of one!

Europa will be the first moon to disappear behind the limb of our Moon around 02:45am BST. Io will follow around 4 minutes later and then the planet itself. This will take about 3 minutes to fully disappear if you are in the right part of the country to observe the full occultation. Ganymede will follow on and finally Callisto. A few minutes later Europa will make its reappearance around 03:06am BST followed by the other moons and the planet in the order that they disappeared of course!

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Deep Sky Highlights of July

The nights of July start to become longer giving us a little more time to see the glory of the heavens...

If you own a small telescope there are a huge variety of objects worth looking at. Among these is the Ring Nebula in Lyra the Lyre, otherwise known as M57. A small distinct 'smoke' ring suspended in a starry background. While you are in Lyra, visit the famous double-double star of epsilon Lyrae. This is easily split into its 2 widest components with binoculars but will need more magnification to see each of these stars as themselves double.

Not far away is another lovely double star, Albireo in Cygnus the Swan. This double star marks the head of the Swan and the components make a beautiful colour contrasted pair the primary being a golden colour and the secondary a lovely blue. Even a small telescope will show this well.

Head northwest from Albireo and you'll come to a pretty globular star cluster, Messier 56 (M56) which lies about 33,000 light years from us. You can see it as a slightly large 'fuzzy' star in binoculars and a telescope of 4" aperture or more should start to resolve the outer stars in the cluster.

If you find the middle star of the 'cross' of Cygnus known as gamma Cygnii (this is the star Sadr), just to the south of this lies the open star cluster Messier 29 (M29). It can be seen in binoculars quite well, but it looks better in a small telescope, although it is not an impressive cluster. We don't know for sure how far away it is, with estimates from 6,000 to 7,200 light years. It's around 10 million years old.

You can't fail to notice the bright star Deneb in Cygnus. It's the 19th brightest star in the sky. What is amazing about this star though is its huge distance from us estimated at around 1550 light years. This makes Deneb one of the most luminous stars known and is 60,000 times as bright and 110 time larger than our Sun! Just to the north-east of Deneb is a very faint nebulous region given the designation NGC7000 and called the North American Nebula due to its shape resembling the continent. It is very difficult to see in anything other than really dark skies, but shows up well in long exposure astro-photography.

Asterisms or well known groups of stars are a very useful way of navigating your way around the night sky. The groups of stars are not necessarily constellations but can be made up from parts of constellations or stars from several constellations such as the Summer Triangle. The Plough is a well known asterism and you can use it as a direction finder for many other such groups, stars and constellations.

For example, if you use the two end stars of the 'bowl' of the Plough (the ones opposite the 'handle') and follow a line up from them, you will come to the 'Pole Star' in Ursa Minor. You can follow these same stars in the opposite direction to find the bright star 'Regulus' in Leo the Lion. There are several other 'tricks' to using stars in the way and I reveal how to do it in detail in my new course available 'online' in July (hopefully!).

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Other News

"I read it in two sittings and couldn't put it down."

The person concerned said this about 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.

Other Amazon readers have said:
"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...

Astronomers spy 2 planets in tight quarters as they orbit a distant star
A research team led by astronomers at the University of Washington and Harvard University has discovered a bigger version of Earth locked in an orbital tug-of-war with a much larger, Neptune-sized planet as they orbit very close to each other around the same star about 1,200 light years from Earth.

Black hole space telescope unfolds its 33-foot mast in orbit
NASA's newest space telescope - a black hole-hunting observatory - unfolded a giant mast in orbit Thursday, one of the final steps before it can begin peering deep into the universe. more...

Euclid telescope to probe dark universe
Europe has given the final go-ahead to a space mission to investigate the "dark universe". The Euclid telescope will look deep into the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy. more...

Astronomers may have discovered the oldest galaxy in the Universe
A team of Japanese astronomers claims to have observed a galaxy 12.91 billion light years from Earth. If their findings are correct (and the majority of astronomers thus far agree they are), it could well be the oldest galaxy ever discovered. more...

Texans attempt to reduce light pollution, see stars
Austinites may see their sky darken over the next two years due to a new policy enacted by Austin City Council which will replace traditional bulbs around the city with new ones to save energy. 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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