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Astronomy Know How
Helping you See the Night Sky - Newsletter No. 9 July 2007
In this issue:
  1. July's Highlights
  2. Summer Star Clusters
  3. Age and Beauty - Venus Meets Saturn
  4. Tip of the Month
  5. News Links
  6. What Sir Patrick Moore wished now even better!
  7. Contact Us
July's Highlights

Although the night's are short in July, they are at least warmer in the northern hemisphere and going out for a few hours viewing can be very rewarding.

The Milky Way in the Summer is always a wonderful sight, stretching almost right overhead from the north to south, appearing like a misty river of light against a darker sky. If you are lucky enough to have a reasonably dark observing site, see if you can make or some structure in this section of one of the spiral arms of our home galaxy. Probably the most notable feature of the Milky Way in the summer is the 'Cygnus Rift', a dark 'tear' in the band of the Milky Way, which is in fact just an area of the arm that is obscured by dust and found in the constellation of Cygnus that has given it its name.

If you spot what appears to be faint rippling clouds in the northern part of the sky, long after the SUn has set and that have the colour of silver or mother-of-pearl, then you are observing a noctilucent cloud display. These clouds form very high up in our atmosphere, way above the usual level that clouds normally are to be found. They are caused by ice crystals very high in the atmosphere and are made visible when the Sun is between 6 and 12 degrees below our horizon just enough for the sky to be quite dark but still able to illuminate these elusive structures. This time of year is therefore ideal to spot this phenomena if they are apparent.

On Saturday 25th an 82% illuminated Moon can be found just 3-degrees of the bright orange coloured star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius low down on the southern horizon for those of us who live in mid-northern latitudes. The bright planet Jupiter can be found in this part of the sky too, to complete the scene.

In the second half of the month and if you like to get up early or stay up late, look out for the planet Mercury low down in the east-northeast just before sunrise. You will need a clear horizon though!
Summer Star Clusters

If you possess a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, you can find some truly amazing clusters of stars to observe to while away the short hours of darkness.

If you want to entertain friends or family, tell them that there is a coat hanger in the sky and then show them 'Brocchi's cluster' or more formally Collinder 399. This asterism or group of stars has the definite and amusing appearance of the item found in most peoples wardrobes and can be found in the constellation of Vulpecula - The Fox and can be found at RA 19hrs 25m 24s Dec +20` 11' 00" If you need an explanation of RA (Right Ascension) and Dec (Declination), you can find it and a fantastic amount of other information on things astronomical and telescopic in the online course 'Basic Astronomy With A Telescope' which you can download at 'Basic Astronomy with a Telescope'.

July is also a good time of year to take a look at the brightest globular cluster of stars visible from the northern hemisphere, Messier (M)13, the famous Hercules cluster, that is now riding high in the south. This cluster is one of the brightest of a number of this type of object that consist of thousands or sometimes millions of stars all grouped together in a loose sphere. They are known to contain some of the oldest stars in the universe. M13 is well worth a look through a small telescope, as it sparkles like a jewel and the dark blue velvet of the night sky. You can find M13 at RA 16hrs 41.7m Dec +36`28'. It is just about visible to the naked eye from a dark sky site and can be found about half way down the imaginary connecting line between the two right-most (western) stars of the 'keystone' asterism of Hercules.
Age and Beauty - Venus Meets Saturn

At the beginning of the month Venus is very noticeable in the west just after sunset, being at magnitude -4.3. On the first of July Venus and Saturn can be found very close together in the sky separated by a distance of just 45 arc minute. This put the two easily in the field of view of a pair of binoculars and through a telescope the view should be quite spectacular. The telescopic view should show you the discs of both planets, with Venus a 35% illuminated crescent and Saturn a small but noticeable disc just 16 arc seconds across.
Tip of the Month

The summer can be a good time to go hunting star clusters in and around the milky way...

Tip: If you are using a telescope, always start with a low power eyepiece to give you as wide a field of view as possible. This will also mean that you get as bright an image as possible too. When you have found the object you are looking for, centre it up in the field of view and then you can increase the magnification to improve the contrast and show you more detail, but remember that as you increase the magnification, the image will start to become dimmer.
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

Progress on liquid mirror telescope - for the moon
Scientists have taken a giant leap toward making possible the dream of building a powerful telescope on the moon that could withstand even the harshest of lunar conditions.

Telescopes capture image of faraway sun-like star
The first detailed picture has emerged of a sun-like star beyond our solar system...

Bulborama Announces New Energy Saving Mini Bullet CFL Light Bulbs
Continuing its efforts to offer the most efficient energy saving lighting products available, Bulborama announced today a new product release of four innovative Mini Bullet shaped compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs.

The Dwarf Planet Known as Eris is More Massive than Pluto, New Data Shows
Die-hard Pluto fans still seeking redemption for their demoted planet have cause for despair this week. New data shows that the dwarf planet Eris is 27 percent more massive than Pluto, thereby strengthening the decree last year that there are eight planets in the solar system and a growing list of dwarf planets.

Astronomers find most distant black hole
A team of astronomers from Canada, France and the United States is announcing the discovery of a record-breaking black hole located nearly 13 billion light years from the Earth. Details of the discovery, made with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, are being presented today by Dr Chris Willott, of the University of Ottawa, to astronomers and astrophysicists during the annual conference of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA 2007) in Kingston, Ontario. Future observations of this black hole will shed light on the early evolution of the Universe.

Planet found with a year lasting just 31 hours
An international team of astronomers with the Trans-atlantic Exoplanet Survey has announce the discovery of their third planet, TrES-3. The new planet was identified by astronomers looking for transiting planets - that is, planets that pass in front of their home star.

  What Sir Patrick Moore wished now even better!

I have made some improvements to the online course that gives you all the essential information to be a good astronomer, without lots of jargon or difficult maths. I've added another free bonus and an extra video and animations to help make the explanations even clearer. So if you want to know what Sir Patrick 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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