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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 70 August 2012
©Astronomy Know How 2012

Happy Stargazing!

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

Important news this month:

August is the month of the Perseid meteor shower. More on this a little 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 heading steadily closer to the end of 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

As well as 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!

I was hoping to break the news of my new astronomy course coming online as I write this, however, there are still one or two finishing touches to put to it before it is ready for release, so you'll have to hang on just a little longer... I must say though, it is looking good!

I wish you clear skies,



In this issue:
  1. August's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. The Planets This Month
  4. Prospects for the Perseids
  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
August's Highlights

Here in the UK as I write this, the weather has taken a turn for the better at last! I like August particularly for its longer dark nights as we move away from the summer solstice, and not only this, but it is still warm enough at night not to need several layers of clothing and a woolly hat!

We now have the asterism of the Summer Triangle made from the stars Deneb in Cygnus, Altair in Aquila and Vega in Lyra, riding high over head by midnight. The Milky Way passes directly through Cygnus and forms an arch of pale light from the north east to the south west and going directly overhead. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, take the time to just scan your way along this one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. You'll be glad you did. You will need to find a reasonably dark sky site though.

Somewhat unusually, there are two full Moons this month. The second full Moon in a month is sometimes referred to as a 'blue Moon', although strictly speaking this isn't always the case. If you'd like to find out more about this, I'll explain it on my blog

The Perseid meteors are without a doubt the highlight of the month and, weather permitting, we should get a good show. There's more about the prospects for this further on in this Newsletter.

If you possess a solar telescope, or have suitable filters to fit a telescope, there is plenty of activity on the Sun now. Oddly enough though, it is still relatively quiet for where it should be in its 'cycle' We should be building up for the projected peak of Sunspot activity in 2013 and although our nearest star is showing an definite increase in general activity, it is not as busy as we might expect. Perhaps it is saving itself for a big show later? Nonetheless, it is still worth observing, but do take care. If you are the slightest bit doubtful about how to observe the Sun safely, then please don't do it or please ask me or someone you know who you trust.

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The Moon This Month

We have two full Moons this month. The first is on the 2nd August in the morning and the second is on the 31st. Normally, we only see one full Moon per month, so this is not a common event, but it isn't a rare event. The second full Moon in the month is commonly called a 'blue' Moon, but this isn't necessarily the case. This term really should refer to a fourth full Moon in a Season. You'll find more about this on my blog.

The last quarter Moon is on the 9th. This is where the Moon is three quarters of the way around its orbit of the Earth, using New Moon as the starting point. Both the first and last quarter Moon is seen as a half lit disc, which can be a little confusing! This is a good time however, to explore our nearest neighbour in space with a telescope, as the shadows cast by the mountains and craters give these features a very three dimensional appearance.

New Moon is on the 17th August, when we cannot see the disc as it is in the same region of the sky as the Sun.

A week later and we will see a first quarter Moon on the 24th. This time we see a half lit Moon in the evening sky.

The 31st brings us that second full Moon. This is where the Moon is opposite the Sun from our viewpoint on Earth and so is full illuminated.

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

We're losing the planets Mars and Saturn into the evening twilight now, but the giant planet Jupiter is making a welcome return in the early morning sky...

August is probably the last chance we will get to be able to spot the planet Mars. It is fast disappearing into the evening twilight low down in the west. The 14th of the month may be a good time to try to see it, as it lines up with Saturn and the star Spica in Virgo and all three objects appear in a vertical line with Saturn at the top, then Mars directly underneath it. This might make an attractive picture for all those budding astro-photographers.

Mercury will be well placed in the pre-dawn sky for viewing, low down in the north east. You will need a clear sky and a clear horizon to spot it though. It reaches its greatest elongation, its furthest point from the Sun, on the 18th. Be careful, if you are using any optical aid to view it, that the Sun is still below the horizon if you are sweeping around the area to find it.

Jupiter is close to the Hyades star cluster in Taurus in the early morning sky. It will rise earlier and earlier through the month, so your best time to view it will be at the end of August. Since its return from behind the Sun from our point of view, it has been showing a lot of turbulence in its northern belts. If you have a telescope, go take a look.

Uranus is well placed for viewing this month in the constellation of Pisces the Fish. On the 31st it will reach its highest point in the sky due south at 3:00BST. It's quite faint and you'll need binoculars to see it. A star chart should help you find it. Please go to my Amazon UK or Amazon US page for some recommendations if you haven't got one.

Venus is incredibly bright in the pre-dawn sky all through the month. It reaches its greatest elongation, it point furthest from the Sun in our skies, on the 15th August and so it's great time to see it, that is if you don't mind getting up early or staying up late, as a good time to catch it is 4:00BST.

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Prospects for the Perseids

The Perseid meteor shower is probably the most famous and popular of all the regular showers. This is doubtless because it tends to produce fast bright events and a fairly plentiful supply of them. Not only that, it takes place in the summer in the northern hemisphere and so is likely to bring us clear skies and moderate temperatures.

We are fortunate this year that the Moon, which has a habit of being bright and washing out faint meteors, will be a thin crescent and will be setting quite early on. So, given clear skies, we should be in for a reasonable show. Unfortunately the shower peaks in the afternoon of the 12th August, so daylight for northern Europe, but nevertheless, we should still see a fair number of events either side of this time.

The shower in fact lasts from the 17th July to the 24th August, but activity remains low until a couple of days either side of the peak. So do go and take a look. A deck chair or sun-lounger is a good way to enjoy the show. Wrap up warm and give yourself at least half an hour outside watching bearing in mind that your eyes will take several minutes to get used to the darkness. Getting away from city lights will of course help. Look directly upward or at least 60 degrees above the horizon for the best chance at seeing some of these meteors. Your chances increase after 1:00BST too, as the Earth is then rotating into the debris field.

Not all meteors you might see will necessarily be Perseids though. If you can trace their streaks back to a point in the constellation of Perseus which will be rising in the north east at this time, then in all likely hood you have spotted a Perseid. It's great fun watching a meteor shower and this month the prospects are reasonably good for a show. So good hunting!

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Deep Sky Highlights of August

If you get hooked on sky watching because of the Perseids, there are plenty of other delights in Augusts' night skies worth hunting for...

Low in the south during August is the constellation of Sagittarius the Archer, recognisable by the 'Teapot' asterism. Sagittarius is situated in the Milky Way; in fact it is the location of the direction of the centre of our galaxy. This means it is a rich hunting ground for deep-sky objects for those of us armed with binoculars or small telescopes.

One of the most famous objects in this region is the 'Lagoon Nebula' or Messier 8, a beautiful object for photography, but easily visible even in a small telescope as a faint misty patch of light. Not far to the north of M8 is M20 the 'Triffid' nebula. This too is a relatively easy target and you may even pick up the three 'lobes' of the nebula from a dark sky site.

This region of the sky is stuffed full of nebulae and star clusters for your delectation. Just to the north east of the Triffid is M21 a lovely open star cluster which shows up well in binoculars or a small telescope. There are also a plethora of globular star clusters in this region, such as Messier 28 and Messier 54.

Move north into the constellation of Scutum the 'Shield'. This isn't a particularly bright constellation, but plays host to a lovely star cluster known as the 'Wild Duck' cluster or Messier 11. Once you've trained you binoculars onto it, you see why it's got its name. To the south west of M11 within the constellation are a line of clusters running roughly north to south which are associated with nebulosity. These are quite faint but show up well in photographs. Among them is the 'Eagle' nebula made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope with its iconic image known as the 'Pillars of Creation'.

In mid-evening you can still catch the zodiacal constellation of Scorpius the 'Scorpion' on the southern horizon, well at least some of it anyway, unless you live well south of the UK. The Scorpion's three 'claws' and the bright red super giant star Antares, or the 'Rival of Mars' are most noticeable and just to the south west of Antares is a beautiful globular cluster known as Messier 4 a great sight in a small telescope.

Above Scorpius is the large and not very distinct constellation of Ophiuchus the 'Serpent Bearer'. This plays host to several globular clusters such as Messier No's 10 and 12.

So you can see that there are rich pickings skimming the southern horizon for deep-sky enthusiasts in the UK and which are slightly easier to see for observers from more southerly latitudes. Where ever you are located, good hunting!

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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 find pulsar with a tremendous hiccup
Pulsars are superlative cosmic beacons. These compact neutron stars rotate about their axes many times per second, emitting radio waves and gamma radiation into space.

Preserving the Night Sky
According to Scott Kardel of the International Dark-Sky Association, an increase in light pollution can negatively harm both humans and animals. Kardel said animals, specifically migratory birds, are often confused by bright nighttime lighting and sometimes will get lost or fly into objects. For humans an increase of night light or loss of a normal sleep cycle can suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that maintains the body’s circadian rhythm. A recent study by the American Medical Association has suggested that less melatonin can lead to an increased risk of cancer. more...

Kepler telescope spots alien solar system that looks strangely like our own
Researchers studying the star system Kepler-30, which is 10,000 light-years from Earth, found that its three known worlds all orbit in the same plane, lined up with the rotation of the star - just like the planets in our own solar system. more...

Discovery Channel Telescope snaps its first images
The privately funded $53 million telescope is 'emblematic' of Discovery Channel's 'mission to ignite curiosity and stir the imagination.' more...

Astronomers find oldest spiral galaxy in universe
Scientists believe the gravitational interactions between BX442 and a nearby dwarf galaxy influenced BX442's spiral shape. 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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