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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Stay up to see Saturn

Posted on July 28 2015 at 3:11:38 0 comments

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

August: no school tomorrow. Hooray! So, even though it doesn’t get dark till gone ten o’clock, we can stay up late, can’t we?

For the first few days of the month, if you start looking into the sunset as soon as the Sun has actually disappeared over the horizon, you may just catch Venus and Jupiter and even Mercury before they too, follow the Sun out of sight – but then I think we can say goodbye to them for the moment.

As it starts to get properly dark from about ten o’clock, we can look out for the other large planet in our Solar System: Saturn. Look to the south west as soon as you can see any stars.

There, not very high in the sky, is the Ringed Planet. Higher and further west (to the right), is the bright star Arcturus – be careful not to confuse the two.

I think that everyone with a telescope (of any sort) should go out and observe what is one of the most beautiful sights in the universe. In fact it should be made compulsory, so get out there before the Astronomy Enforcers come round and confiscate your equipment!

Of course, one of the greatest delights of the August night sky is the Perseid meteor shower. They peak on the night of the 12th but good meteors can be seen a day or three before and after this date, and we will have some dark skies as the Moon is new on the 14th (full Moon is on the 29th).

Very little equipment is required for this sort of observing: one good eyeball, a decent seat that allows you to see the sky overhead and, perhaps, a little something to keep you warm.

There is no particular part of the sky to look at – just find your best view of as much of the sky as possible. This makes a great group activity, especially combined with that other favourite of warm summer evenings: satellite spotting.

While you are staring into your clear patch of sky (assuming you don’t go into a trance), you are bound to spot an occasional wandering star crossing the sky. Apparently travelling at about the speed of an aircraft, they vary in size and brightness and finding them can quickly turn into a competitive sport.

The biggest and brightest of all is the International Space Station and the times for observing this can be found on www.heavens-above.com. If you are travelling abroad for your holiday, you may be able to see the Hubble Space telescope, so it is worth looking this up before you go.

Sometime during the month, Japan is due to launch a supply vessel to the ISS, so keep an eye out for that, and the 1st of September should see a Russian launch of a Soyuz carrying a new crew.

Of the other objects you can see, much of it is simply discarded launch vehicles and other detritus. So mums and dads, I recommend you get the kids out into the garden and let them watch junk!


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