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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 7 May 2007
In this issue:
  1. May Highlights
  2. Inferior Planets Light The Way
  3. Lunar Occultation
  4. Comet Lovejoy!
  5. Light Pollution causes trouble...
  6. Tip of the Month
  7. What do YOU think?
  8. Contact Us
May Highlights

May brings us warmer and hopefully clearer weather. Although the evenings are getting lighter, there is still plenty to see even just after sunset.

Venus is incredibly bright in the Western evening sky this month and is joined by Mercury later in May and can be seen shortly after sunset, although you will need a clear horizon as it is much lower in the sky than Venus.

Also don't miss the Lunar occultation of Saturn on the 22nd.

You will also have the chance to observe a newly discovered comet this month, Comet Lovejoy, although you will need a good pair of binoculars to catch a glimpse of it.
Inferior Planets Light The Way

Shining brightly in the west just after sunset will be the brilliant 'evening star', Venus. Although it is a similar size to our own planet Earth, it is covered in a thick atmosphere of carbon-dioxide (yes, the 'green-house' gas), which has given rise to thick cloud tops that are highly reflective. So Venus is a little disappointing through a telescope, as you will not be able to see any surface features on the planet. However, you will be able to detect a 'phase' similar to the phases of the Moon. This is because Venus orbits inside the orbit of Earth or just closer to the Sun if you prefer. So you can never see it fully illuminated as it is 'behind' the Sun from our position in space when this occurs.

Mercury, should be visible towards the end of the month low in the west just after sunset. A famously elusive planet Mercury is an object that has evade many experienced amateur and professional astronomers alike. If you scan the skies near the western horizon once the sun has set with binoculars, you may be lucky and pick it up. Again like Venus it will show a distinct phase. although it doesn't have an atmosphere, it is much too small and distant to show any features even through the most powerful telescopes.
Lunar Occultation

On the evening of the 22nd May, you will have a chance to observe an occultation of Saturn by the Moon. This is the Moon moving in front of Saturn from our view point here on Earth. This event will only be visible from the UK and some of Northern Europe. Unfortunately, the start of the event will take place before the Sun has set, making it more difficult to observe, although Saturn will have a visual magnitude of 0.6, so it should still be quite bright and the Moon should be quite easy to find. The Occultation start at approximately 21:10hrs UT (that's 20:10hrs BST) and will last for just over an hour.
Comet Lovejoy

On view this month is a new comet discovered by Australian Astronomer Terry Lovejoy. Although it is not bright at around magnitude +8.0, it should be visible in most 7x50 or 10x50 binoculars and small telescopes. On 1st May it passes by to the west of the bright star Vega in the constellation of Lyra and moves northward near the 'keystone' asterism of Hercules and then between eta and theta Draconis by the 16th. By the end of the month it will be near 'Thuban' or alpha Draconis, but will be fading all this time to magnitude +10.5
Dark Sky Week Highlights Problem of Light Pollution

Veteran astronomer Dave Crawford says increasing light pollution means many of the world's most famous observatories can no longer do cutting-edge astronomy ...
Click here to learn more...
Tip of the Month

As Summer approaches more and more of you will be Solar Observing...

Tip:Always wear a sun hat and sun screen - it is all too easy to get sun burnt as time flies when you get engrossed in observing our local star
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