Wednesday October 21 2020




Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Spica’s brightness

Posted on June 30 2017 at 12:31:46 0 comments


Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

July is upon us, and the sky still doesn’t get really dark till nearly midnight – but it is still worth noting what you can see as soon as the Sun has gone.

On the first of the month, the very first thing you will notice will be half a Moon in the south west, even before we lose the Sun. As the sky starts to darken, however, you should be able to see Jupiter just to the right of the Moon.

This planetary giant has been with us for some months now but we are starting to move around the Sun now so if you want to observe it with a telescope, best get on with it before it’s gone. It‘s well worth it to see the bands of colour and the four big moons orbiting it.

Up above the Moon and Jupiter, as the darkness increases, probably the next bright object to become visible will be the star Arcturus.

This is the fourth-brightest star in the sky, the first three not being on show at the moment. It is about 25 times the size of the Sun but has consumed all its hydrogen and is now busy fusing helium into carbon instead.

With about the same brightness but low in the south-east, we should also start to see that most enigmatic of the bright planets, Saturn.

This is probably the most amazing sight in a telescope so if you are taking a last look at Jupiter, make sure to include this queen of the skies too. Saturn will be with us all summer and will start to dominate the early evening sky.

Following the appearance of Saturn, Spica should start to appear to the left of Jupiter through the glare of the Moon, which is getting brighter each day, becoming full on the 9th.

Spica is actually a pair of stars orbiting each other very closely, which is why it is so bright despite it being so far away that its light takes 250 years to reach us.

Next to appear will probably be Antares in the Scorpion, just to the right of Saturn. This is a tricky star to spot, only being visible low in the summer sky, so make a point of looking out for it.

High in the south west, you should soon spot the distinctive outline of the Plough, with its brightest star, Dubhe, becoming visible first, in the top right corner of the “bowl” – followed by the rest of the asterism and, indeed, most of the sky will start to fill with stars.

Of course, while you’re watching the sky get darker, look out for satellites and later, meteors. This is the perfect time of year for it.

Sometime during the month, Expedition 52 will launch carrying three new crew members to the ISS, so look out for that on

Above: How Spica might look.

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