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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 8 June 2007
In this issue:
  1. June Highlights
  2. Lunar Occultation of Venus
  3. Of Wild Ducks...
  4. Tip of the Month
  5. News Links
  6. What Sir Patrick Moore wished for...
  7. Contact Us
June Highlights

The month of June brings us the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere which means warmer weather and longer daylight hours. This on the face of it, means less hours for astronomical observations, but you might be able to do some in your shirt sleeves! In fact in June we never get true darkness from latitudes of northern Europe and Canada, but all is not lost, there are still some interesting objects to observe for which you don't need total darkness.

Not to be missed this month is a Lunar occultation of Venus that (weather permitting) should be visible from the whole of the UK.This will be a daylight event so might prove quite challenging but, given clear skies, should be quite straightforward.

We should get a good view of the June Lyrid Meteors which should give a showing between 10th and the 21st of the month with a peak usually on the 15th. Although this is not a big shower with a Zenithal Hourly Rate of around 8 (the Zenithal Hourly Rate is the number of meteors an observer would see in one hour under a clear, dark sky (limiting apparent magnitude of 6.5) and if the radiant of the shower were in the zenith. The rate that can effectively been seen is nearly always lower and decreases as the radiant is closer to the horizon), this month the Moon will be 'New' and so will not 'wash out' the view.

Mercury reaches its greatest Eastern Elongation on the 2nd June. The best way to attempt to find it is to wait until the Sun has well and truly set and take an imaginary line from bright Venus to where the Sun recently set. Mercury should be somewhere on this line. You will of course need a clear horizon to have any chance of spotting it. Venus is bright, you can't miss it and shines in the Western evening sky for up to three hours after Sunset.

Jupiter reaches opposition (opposite the Sun in the Sky) on the 5th of June so it will be visible all night. You can find it near the bright star Antares, but it is not well placed for telescopic observing as it is quite low down near the horizon, which means that you are seeing it through the thickest part of our atmosphere, which smears and generally spoils our observations. However, keep a look out for the nightly changes of position of the four Galilean moons and any surface detail that should be visible including the Great Red Spot.

Finally, Venus and Saturn will be in conjunction on the evening of 30th June. A conjunction is where to solar system objects appear to occupy the same region of sky as seen from our vantage point here on Earth. These two celestial beauties will appear close enough to be visible in the field of view of a low power telescopic eyepiece.
Lunar Occultation of Venus

In the early afternoon of the 18th June the Moon will pass in front of the planet Venus from our point of view here on Earth. If we have clear skies it should be possible to witness this event using binoculars or a small telescope.

The Moon will appear as a thin (14%) crescent and Venus will be a small thick (44%) crescent. To be safe and not accidentally observe the Sun, try to place a large object such as a tree or the side of a building between you and the Sun. You should be able to find the Moon about 45-degrees above the horizon, or about half way between the horizon and the zenith (the point directly above your head) and should be in the South East slightly lower the Sun from the horizon about an hour before the occultation starts. Venus will be seen to disappear behind the dark limb of the Moon around 2:00pm from the British Isles. Use a low power eyepiece or binoculars in the first place as the wider field of view will help you find the thin crescent Moon. You can change to a medium power once you have located the Moon and wish to observe in more detail. The whole event will take about an hour and twenty minutes, that is until Venus reappears on the Western limb or from behind the bright crescent of the Moon.

As added interest to this Lunar event, this June will see the rare phenomena of two full Moons in a month. The length of time between similar phases of the Moon is called its synodic period which happens to be 29.5 days. There will be a full Moon on the first day of the month at 01hr 04mins and again at 13hrs 49mins on the 30th. It is very unusual for this to occur in a month of only 30days. There is no other significance to this but it is thought that this phenomena gave rise to the old saying 'once in a blue Moon'. Although of course the Moon does not change colour!
Of Wild Ducks...

The summer skies bring us several lovely objects to turn our telescopes and binoculars to and one of the very best of these is the Wild Duck Cluster or M11 in Messiers famous catalogue and is located in the constellation of Scutum the Shield.

This is a beautiful open cluster that can be found low in the south east around midnight by the middle of the month not far from the end of the 'tail' of Aquila the Eagle. If you sweep this area with binoculars you are sure to find it and it can just about be made out with the naked eye from a really dark sky site. A 150mm reflecting telescope with a high power should resolve around 150 of its constituent stars. It has received its name because its strings of stars form a 'v' pattern reminiscent of a flock of flying ducks! That is if you have a good imagination... So why not go duck hunting this June?
Tip of the Month

With a 'double' full Moon this month the temptation is to get your telescope out to have a good look...

Tip: In fact, the best time to carry out Lunar observations is not when the Moon is full, but when it is showing a distinct phase. This is because the shadows that are created on the surface of the Moon when it is not fully illuminated, tend to bring the features such as mountain ranges and crater walls into relief and giving them a much more three dimensional look.
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

What is "light pollution?" Is it Really a Factor in Breast Cancer?

Cornell Caltech Atacama Telescope project To Revolutionize Astronomy

A Plan to Build a Giant Liquid Telescope on the Moon

Astronomers Find Ring of Dark Matter With Hubble Space Telescope

Very Large Telescope Finds Smallest Galactic Object with Jets

  What Sir Patrick Moore wished for...

Would you like the essential information to be a good astronomer, without lots of jargon or difficult maths?

If so, 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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