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. 51 January 2011

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

This is the last call for my new series of evening classes for beginners in astronomy, starting this month. The course is called 'Discover The Night Sky' and is in two parts each of six evenings duration once a week. If you got a telescope for Christmas and don't know how to find things to look at, or don't understand how to set up your telescope, then THIS DEFINITELY IS FOR YOU. For more information please check out the website AstronomyKnowHow...

The early part of this month is going to be a busy one for amateur astronomers. Please read on...

I wish you clear skies,


In this issue:
  1. January's Highlights
  2. The Quadrantid Meteors
  3. Partial Solar Eclipse
  4. Jupiter and Uranus Close Approach
  5. Deep Sky Highlights of January
  6. Other News
  7. News Links
  8. The Secrets of Astronomy
  9. Are you interested in Imaging?
  10. Contact Us
January's Highlights

There's a lot happening the skies, especially in the early part of this month. Even the BBC are getting in on the act. The 'Star Gazing Live' programmes are going out on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of this month, hosted by Brian Cox. Tune in and be inspired.

The Quadrantid meteors are going to hopefully put on a good display for us this year. More information on this below...

Also, we have a partial solar eclipse to view on the morning of 4th. We've not had one of these for a while, so not to be missed. Again more details down the page.

Venus reaches its greatest western elongation on the 8th of the month. This means that it will rise over three hours before the Sun and will be very bright in the south eastern skies.

Just a day after Mercury will also reach its greatest western elongation. Again, this means that it will rise before the Sun, however as Mercury orbits much closer to the Sun than Venus it will be low down and in twilight. Be careful if you attempt to observe this as the Sun can come up quickly and you do not want to be using any optical aid in the vicinity when this occurs.

Jupiter dominates the early evening skies now and if you have a telescope then turn it on to this giant planet. Recently, Jupiter has been missing its Southern Equatorial Belt. The cloud belts of Jupiter are not static and the incredibly violent weather systems of the planet can alter quite quickly. A few months ago the SEB completely vanished as it has done in the past and astronomers have be watching out for any sign of its return. Well, now it seems to be happening. So see if you can spot the resurgence of this dark coloured ring around the planet. A good astronomy book will help you find it if your are not sure. How about the Cambridge Guide To The Solar System? This is one of my recommended books that you can get through Amazon UK or Amazon USA..

The Quadrantid Meteors

The Quadrantids are not a particularly well known meteor shower. Perhaps this year that will change?..

This meteor shower radiates from a point in the sky between the constellations of Bootes the Herdsman and the tail of Ursa Major the Great Bear. It was in a now defunct constellation of the Quadrant. The constellation has fallen out of use, but the meteor shower still retains the name.

The shower will reach its peak in the early hours of 4th January with a possible Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of 100 meteors per hour. I stress that this is NOT the number of shooting stars that you are likely to see, but only a hypothetical rate if the radiant were directly above your head and the sky was perfectly clear and dark. However, the shower does occur at New Moon this year so our chances are much improved at seeing fainter events.

The best way to improve your chances of seeing these meteors is to firstly, wrap up warm and spend at least half an hour from mid evening onwards just looking at the sky. You are more likely to see the meteors streaking across the sky by looking away from the radiant point, so don't look directly towards Bootes or the Plough. Try and get away from artificial light as best you can. Your best chance of seeing some is definitely after midnight. good luck!
Partial Solar Eclipse

The morning of the 4th will bring us a sight that we have not seen in a while from northern Europe and that is a good partial eclipse of the Sun.

The Sun will be around 65% eclipsed shortly after it rises so will look as though something has taken a big 'bite' out of it. Needless to say, great care must be exercised when viewing the Sun. Do not attempt to view this event with unprotected eyes. The Sun may look as though you can look at it directly when it is just above the horizon, but it is not safe to do this and of course you should never view it with any unfiltered optical aid. Please contact me if you need advice on safe ways to view this eclipse.

The maximum part of the eclipse will be seen between 08:10UT (same as GMT) and 08:25. It will also depend on where you are. The further north, the later maximum occurs. The eclipse will end at around 09:30 when the last sliver of the silhouette of the Moon will slide away from the Sun.

Jupiter and Uranus Close Approach

It will be a busy couple of days and nights for astronomers, because on the evening of 4th January the planets Jupiter and Uranus will be a their closest together in the sky for the next 14 years.

Due to the way the planets orbit, including our own Earth, the motion of the other planets can appear to change against the background of the stars. This can cause the planets to seem to be very close together (even though they are not!). This is known as a conjunction.

If you have never seen Uranus before, this conjunction will be a great opportunity as the planets will seem to be only 30 arc minutes apart, Uranus being due north of Jupiter at this time.

The best way to see this event is through binoculars. Uranus will appear as a faint star-like dot above the bright disc of Jupiter. The larger planet's Galilean moons should be well seen through binoculars too. If you have a small telescope and moderate magnification should show Uranus as a pale greenish disc and definitely not a star. So all we need to do is hope for good weather for the beginning of the month.
Deep Sky Highlights of January

January could be considered the best time of year to observe deep-sky objects for astronomers in the northern hemisphere...

The winter night sky gives us long hours of darkness and some of the most splendid of all the galaxies' offering for us to view. Without a doubt the constellation of Orion hosts some of the very best gems to capture our attention. The Great Orion Nebula or M42 springs instantly to mind. This can be discerned with the naked eye as a faint fuzzy patch of light in the chain of stars making up the Hunter's Sword and in binoculars it displays its glory well. A small telescope will show the Trapezium stars embedded in the heart of the nebula. Orion is the most noticeable of constellations being recognised by its three belt stars hanging due south now in the early evening.

While M42 tends to draw our eye, don't miss out on some of the other wonders to be seen close by. Just above the 'fan shape' of the main nebula lies M43. This is a 'comma' shaped misty patch of light sitting above its larger neighbour and is often overlooked. In fact the whole of Orion is full of nebulosity that shows up well in long exposure photography. About a half a degree or one Moon's width to the north of M42 and M43 lies the 'Running Man' nebula or NGC 1977. This is much harder to see and some patience will be required as well as a clear dark sky. If you like a challenge, see if you can find it.

If you have larger telescope, say 10-inch aperture or above, then you might like to have a go at finding the Horse Head Nebula or 'Barnard 33' in the emission nebula IC434. You can find it just to the south of the left hand star in Orion's belt called Alnitak. This really is a difficult nebula to see visually, although it shows up well in long exposure images. There is a special filter known as a 'H-Beta filter' that can help show the nebula up, but it can still be quite tricky, but worth perseverance.

As we are staying in the constellation of Orion, how about taking a look at a lovely multiple star system? One of my favourites is the star Iota Orionis. This is the brightest star in the sword belt and in a small telescope looks stunning. It is a triple star system, that is three stars all orbiting each other. The brightest component of the trio is a pale blue colour, with a slightly bluer companion and a much fainter white star further away. Go take a look!

Other News

Places on my new evening class that I'm running in both the Planetariums of Chichester and Winchester at the beginning of January are starting to fill up...

This is a course designed for the beginner in the subject and will help 'fast track' you in the hobby. The course runs from 7-9pm staring on 10th January at Southdowns Planetarium in Chichester and is repeated at the Intech Planetarium in Winchester on the 13th. If you have never been in a Planetarium before, it is AWESOME!

This series of evening classes will enable you to find you way with confidence around the night sky and then to be able to set up and use a telescope to find even more exciting things to look at. If you have ever felt 'lost in space' then this course is definitely for you. You will gain lots of information in an easy to digest way and what's more I'll make it fun! The course is in two parts each consisting of 6 evenings with a week's break in between. If you would like to find out more about it and sign up, then please click here

Another reminder is for the 'course in a box', called 'Imaging the Sun', which is now available through the website. If you always wanted to know how to take photographs of our nearest star to look like those that you see in the magazines and on the Internet, then this DVD will show you how. Pete Lawrence of the BBC Sky at Night programme fame and one of the worlds most renown Solar imagers and myself give you DETAILED instructions on how to do it. Like to know more? Then go here..

If you are on Facebook, please come and be 'fan' of my new 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 new 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
  Here are some links to some other recent news stories that I thought you would find interesting...

U.K. telescope array yields first images An array of radio telescopes in Britain has captured images of a galaxy pouring out a huge jet of matter from the black hole at its center, researchers say.

Some massive stars seem to be born alone
The most massive stars in the universe can form essentially anywhere, even without other stars nearby, new observations suggest. more...

New Collage of Nearby Galaxies from WISE Space Telescope
WISE, showcases the many "flavors" that galaxies come in, from star-studded spirals to bulging ellipticals to those paired with other companion galaxies. more...

Mike Brown: Planet killer?
The Caltech astronomer speaks about his eureka moment and "dwarfing" Pluto. more...

One of the World's Biggest Telescopes Is Buried Beneath the South Pole
Like exploding stars, black holes, dark matter? How about cosmic intrigue, deep space astronomy, or origins of the universe? Then you’re gonna love this. more...

  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!

  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...

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