Night Sky

August Night Sky

The big tickets for August this year are the Perseid meteor shower and for those with flights to the USA, the Solar Eclipse. However, with the skies rapidly darkening again, its a good time to look up with you eyes, binoculars and/or telescope. We start the month with 3 hours of official darkness from 23:45 to 02:45 and by the end of the month that has doubled from 22:00 to 04:15; deep sky objects that were too hard to see over the early Summer months will be within reach again. The Moon this month is not kind to the Perseid meteor shower as Full Moon is on 7th August and, within a week, the Perseids...

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July Night Sky

The 'star' of the show this month is, of course, Saturn. Its 29.4 year rotational period around the Sun offering us a changing aspect of the rings each year with an edge on view every 15 years or so. We've recently had the rings open to their maximum extent giving good views of the Cassini division and other detail. So much so that Damian Peach and collaborators have produced the most amazing ground based image of Saturn this year. The next edge on view isn't due until 2024 and so there's still time to have a look at the rings in all their glory!   Credit:  Damian Peach and six colleagues...

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June Night Sky

June is the gateway to the summer months whereupon Astronomy Societies appear to commence hibernation for three months awaiting the retreat of the Sun. But there is no reason for observing to stop; yes we've temporary lost 'darkness' and at best see just astronomical twilight but there is much more out there to enjoy. Firstly, you may be starting late in the evening/approaching midnight but it's t-shirt weather even in the early hours. Secondly, the firmament above doesn't stop to go on holiday. The spectacular solar eclipse will still occur in the US on 21st August. Cassini will continue...

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May Night Sky

Spring is moving steadily onto Summer and the frosts are diminishing. May is a month where we lose the night time and are simply bathed in astronomical twilight as the Sun is approaching its highest northerly declination and never retreats far below the horizon. This same physics leads to the land of the midnight Sun as your latitude increases. To some the end of May is the death knell for serious observing until late Summer but there is the alternative view; the medium to bright objects are still readily visible, the nights are warmer and you can spend time either just starring at the sky with...

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April Night Sky

For me, April is galaxy month. The Virgo and Coma galaxy clusters offer much the best galaxy field for amateur telescopes in the entire night sky, with scores of galaxies available to observers at a reasonably dark site with an 8" telescope; hundreds if you have a 12". April is on balance the best month to see them because they reach their highest elevation due south before midnight.(You can still see them in later months, but then you have less night time available as the evenings stay light so late.) The map below gives a sense of both galaxy clusters, as well as several groups of interesting...

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March Night Sky

March provides the best opportunity this year to see Mercury in the evening sky for us northerners. Mercury is never very far away from the sun in the sky, so for evening appearances you have to catch it after the sun has set, but before Mercury does. The geometry of our position on the earth's surface, and how that relates to the ecliptic (the plane in which  that the planets of the solar system orbit) means that the best opportunity for this is around March. This is when the sun is "moving" northwards in our sky at the maximum rate, and a planet setting after the sun is therefore approximately...

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February Night Sky

Mars is technically visible in the night sky for much of the year, but for reasons I have explained before, its distance from the earth varies by a huge factor, and much of the time it presents only a very small disc where your chances of seeing anything more than a bright red blob are small. That is true this month, but there is added interest, since at the end of the month Mars will pass very close - less than a degree, so in the same field of view at low power in some telescopes - from Uranus. The closest approach is on February 27. If you have never seen Uranus, or have difficulty in finding...

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Offers to rehome DIY 9inch Newtonian

July 2017 - Paulton A well built 9" Newtonian configured on an equatorial mount is available to preferably rehome for immediate usage but could be used for parts if no home can be found for it intact. Its maker was not able to make significant use of it due to illness. The tube is glass fibre, 10" in diameter and just over 6 feet long. It is treated internally to reduce reflections. It has been mounted horizontally for several years and so may have bowed slightly. The primary mirror was manufactured by contacts in the filming/natural history industry - no markings were visible from the exterior....

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January Night Sky

Our early evening skies this month  are dominated by Venus shining a brilliant white in the south west, setting at around 9pm. It is an impressive sight with the naked eye, but  a disappointing one in a telescope. The wall to wall toxic cloud cover of our near twin planet presents a uniformly white appearance over the illuminated part of the disc, which for most of this month resembles a half-moon. And that is all you will see. It is so bright that any variation in the tone of the cloud cover will be impossible to detect. If you want to observe Venus through a telescope it is better to do so in daytime....

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December Night Sky

The recent run of clear nights has been good for observing, but also, of course, cold. This will be a test of your cold weather clothing. I find people new to observing may bring sensible coats, hats, gloves etc, but often  neglect their feet. You really need to bring boots that provide some insulation, and ideally are waterproof, plus thick socks. Wellies won't do. Mountain walking boots are fine. If you have skiing gear, that should do very well. The other problem is the telescope. Lenses and mirrors exposed to the night sky will tend to dew up, though dew shields and various electrical heating...

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