Free Astronomy Newsletter Free Astronomy Newsletter
Courses and more...
Yet More...

Astronomy Know How Newsletter Archive

NB Links to external sites were active at the time of publication but cannot be guaranteed

Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 72 October 2012
ŠAstronomy 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:

A NEW online course called Discover the Night Sky...

October will see the launch of my new online course called 'Discover the Night Sky'. Aimed at beginners in astronomy and to quickly bring you on in the subject, it uses images, animations, video and clear text to help explain many of the concepts of the night sky, but without too much jargon (what's there will be explained fully), and no difficult maths! So please keep an eye on the website, as well as your 'inbox', as I will be emailing you to let you know the moment it's released so you can take advantage of any opening discount and of course my Facebook and Twitter accounts. As you can probably tell, I'm really excited about it. The first person I showed the final draft to said it looked 'fabulous'!

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 there too.

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. October's Highlights
  2. The Moon This Month
  3. The Planets This Month
  4. The Orionid Meteors
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of October
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
October's Highlights

It's official! We have now passed the Autumn Equinox and so the hours of darkness outnumber the hours of daylight for observers in the northern hemisphere anyway. Those who reside in the southern hemisphere have it the other way around and have moved into 'Spring'.

A lovely sight which is often missed in the Autumn sky, is the star 'Formalhaut'. It is the brightest star in Pisces Austrinus or the Southern Fish. You will need a clear southern horizon to see it well. This star is interesting because it lies only(!) 25 light years away and is one of the brightest in the entire sky. Not only that, we know that is surrounded by a disc of dust and certainly at least one planet. The planet was imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2008.

The 'Square of Pegasus' is riding high in mid-evening during the month of October. If you take the two left hand or eastern-most stars of the 'square', and drop a line down southward for the same distance again you will be in the right area to find the faint planet Uranus. You'll see it in binoculars as a small but distinctly round little pale green 'star'. Go and take a look...

As I write this, there is breaking news of a new comet which has just been discovered which looks as though it will become very bright towards the end of next year. It's called comet ISON and in November 2013 it could become as bright as the full Moon! Comets are notoriously unpredictable though, so I am urging caution about over-excitement. I will of course keep you up to date with information about this comet in future 'Newsletters' as I hear it.

I mentioned this last month and it still holds true...As the Sun heads towards its peak of activity next year there is the likelihood of more sunspots to see on its surface, with the proper filters of course, and also the likely increase of auroral activity. October skies are often dark enough to start observing this phenomenon at the start of the season. If you live in northern parts of the UK or Europe then your chances of seeing the Aurora increase dramatically, but with solar activity high, your chances of seeing the Northern Lights also increases further south. If you have never seen the Aurora Borealis before, it is a magnificent sight, but you will need dark clear skies to see it at its best advantage. I will be posting some information and images on my blog soon all about the Aurora.

Back to List of Contents
The Moon This Month

Autumn sees the Moon riding higher in the sky than it did in the summer in the northern hemisphere due to the ecliptic path, that is the path that the Sun, Moon and planets appear to take across the sky, being at a steeper angle to us. This is because the Earth is tilted more towards the plane of the Solar System after the Autumn Equinox.

October opens on the 1st with a waning gibbous Moon, one day after full. The word 'gibbous' means convex at both edges, so we see this when the Moon is more than half full.

Last Quarter Moon is on 8th October when the left hand side of the Moon appears to be lit. You'll see this best in the early hours.

New Moon is on the 15th October. This is of course, when we can't see the disc of the Moon because it is between us and the Sun so the illuminated side is facing away from us, and first quarter Moon is on the 22nd. This is much easier to see in mid-evening. The 'quarter' Moons are always a great time to go exploring the features with a telescope.

First Quarter Moon is on 22nd. This is when you see the right hand side of the Moon lit during the evening hours. The line between daylight and darkness on the Moon is known as the 'terminator'.

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

Uranus is still well positioned this month after it passed 'opposition' in September, so if you have binoculars or a small telescope, do see if you can spot this distant member of our Solar System.

Jupiter is without a doubt, the highlight of October. It is rising earlier and earlier for us and is a magnificent sight in binoculars and telescopes. If you just have binoculars, watch the dance of the four Galilean moons about the giant planet. If you have a telescope, then take a look at the famous cloud belts. There is always something to see, in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere.

Mercury is relatively bright but poorly placed for observing in October. The best time to try and snatch a view of it will be on the evening of the 17th, but you will need a perfectly clear horizon as it sets only 20 minutes after the Sun.

Saturn is now too close to the Sun for viewing and is rapidly heading towards its conjunction at the end of November.

Mars is now also closing in on the Sun. It will be very close to waxing crescent Moon on the evening of 18th and also the star 'Antares' otherwise known as the 'Rival of Mars' which will lie to the south-east. The best time to see this will still be in twilight low down in the south-west.

Venus is still incredibly bright in the pre-dawn sky all through October. It lies in the constellation of Leo and it will be just to the west of the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation, on the morning of 3rd October and may be still visible for a while after the Sun has risen. This will be quite spectacular and worth getting up early to see. Have a look out around 5:00BST.

Back to List of Contents
The Orionid Meteors

It's that time of year again when we move into the season of some good meteor showers...

The Orionids are a reliable regular shower of fast moving 'shooting stars'. The particles of dust which give rise to this shower originate from the tail of the famous Halley's Comet. Every year in October the Earth passes through this stream of debris left by the comet.

The shower is active right throughout the month, but it reaches its peak around the 21st October. Good nights to observe it are on the 20th the 21st and the 22nd. The number of meteors we are likely to see is measured by something called the ZHR or Zenithal Hourly Rate, which for the Orionids are 25 meteors per hour. However, you are not likely to see this many due to the fact that the ZHR assumes perfect conditions which we never have!

As the name suggests, the meteors will appear to emanate from a point in the sky in the constellation of Orion the Hunter. This is not the best place to look at though as the meteors streaks will be very short at this point, so look some distance away although it doesn't really matter exactly where you look. Having said that, direct your gaze towards the constellation of Taurus the Bull, above and to the right of Orion and you should have a good chance of seeing a few of these lovely meteors.

Above is an image of how the sky might look at 02:00BST on 21st October.
Back to List of Contents
Deep Sky Highlights of October

This month I thought I would point out a few interesting things to see in the 'watery' constellations of Pisces the Fish, Aquarius the Water Bearer and Capricorn the Sea Goat (whatever that is?)...

Pisces is a constellation which is not particularly distinct, but occupies the area of sky to the bottom left (south-east) of the Square of Pegasus which rides high in the south on October evenings. The brightest Deep Sky Object in this region of sky is Messier 74, a pretty face on spiral galaxy, visible in binoculars as a faint smudge of light and which looks more substantial in a telescope. You'll find it about half way along the eastern-most of the two fish.

While you are in Pisces, take a look at the 'circlet' asterism marking the head of the western-most fish. It is worth getting familiar with it as an easy way to find the constellation. The planet Uranus is currently quite nearby.

Head west into the constellation of Aquarius and forming a triangle with the stars alpha (Sadalmelik) and beta (Sadalsuud) Aquarii is the attractive globular star cluster Messier 2. It is quite obvious in binoculars and larger apertures will start to resolve the outer stars in the cluster. The planet Neptune is currently residing in Aquarius; you will need a telescope of at least 75mm aperture to see it clearly.

Among the deep sky delights of Aquarius is the 'Saturn Nebula'. It has nothing to do with the planet other than looking vaguely like it. It is in fact a planetary nebula (even more confusing!). This is where a star has shed its outer shell of gas into a kind of bubble. It was thought that this kind of nebula looked a little like a planet and so hence the name. You'll find the Saturn Nebula near the south of Aquarius near to the constellation of Capricorn.

This constellation lies fairly low in the south from mid-northern latitudes, so you'll need a fairly flat horizon without trees or buildings in the way to see all of it. The brightest Deep Sky Object in this constellation is M30 another bright globular cluster. Compare and contrast this one to M2 in Aquarius. M30 is probably the only Deep Sky Object in the constellation visible to amateur astronomers with small scopes. Even though Capricorn is a Zodiacal constellation it is surprisingly unremarkable but still worth getting to know.

Next month we shall look at a Hero and a Bull...

Back to List of Contents
Other News

Coming Soon! A new 'online' course - an introduction to astronomy called 'Discover the Night Sky'. It's be a long time in the making. I have taken my time in writing it because I wanted it to have the best and clearest information of any course of its kind, because as the advert says, 'you're worth it'.

It contains stunning pictures, animations, video and clear text in plain English to help take you from a novice to a seasoned astronomer in six modules. It even has interactive quizzes to help you learn. I have distilled decades of my knowledge of the night skies into this to help you the budding astronomer get the best out of you hobby as quickly as possible and without the 'pain' of trying to understand complicated jargon and mathematics. I showed a final draft to someone who said it looked 'fabulous!'.

I will be announcing the release of the course shortly on my website, my Facebook page and in an email to you. I really don't want you to miss it! So 'watch this space'!!


"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
Back to List of Contents
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

After Hundreds of Years, Astronomers Finally Agree: This Is the Distance From the Earth to the Sun
How far away from Earth is the sun? Not just, you know, very, very far, but in terms of an actual, measurable distance?

See 2012's top shots in astronomy
WOW! more...

Astronomers find a galaxy very far, far away
Astronomers have found what they believe may be the most distant galaxy ever seen more...

Where did all the stars go?
A starry night is becoming like an endangered species in the developed world, with neon signs, street lights, giant ad screens and decorations on office towers lighting up the night sky. more...

New Comet Discovered "May Become "One of Brightest in History"
If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers - a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn. more...

Back to List of Contents
  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!

Back to List of Contents
  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...

Back to List of Contents
To contact us

Telephone me on +44(0)208-144-1091

or contact me by email

You are receiving this newsletter because you filled in a form on the Astronomy Know How Web site on {!sign date long} but you can change your email address by which we contact you, or unsubscribe if you no longer want the newsletter or think you have been subscribed incorrectly by scrolling down and use the link below

Back to List of Contents