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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

UFOs over the Lickeys!

Posted on August 27 2010 at 3:23:58 0 comments

What's this coming over the hill . . ?

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

I hope you all had a great summer, watching for satellites and meteors. I had a couple of reports of mysterious orange lights flying in formation across the sky. Had to disappoint the observers by informing them that they hadn’t seen UFOs but merely Chinese lanterns, released at a wild party in the village, early in July.

However, I managed to grab some photographs of real UFOs (above) swooping low over the Lickeys during the evening of Midsummer’s Day!

On July 10 there was a spectacular pass of the International Space Station, but leading it by a few seconds was another vehicle, much smaller but unmistakably in the same orbit . . .  not a UFO but a Russian “Progress” supply craft which had been due to dock with the station but had failed due to a fault.

So it’s always worth checking heavens-above.com to find out when the ISS is visible; you never know what else you might be able to see.

We also had reports of the biggest star ever to be discovered, but I’m afraid this isn’t visible in Alvechurch because it’s below our horizon and in a small galaxy that orbits our own, so is too far away to see without a giant telescope.

The nights are drawing in now and it’s the start of autumn with the Autumnal Equinox on the 23rd at 0409. This is the exact time that the Sun crosses a point in the sky where the Ecliptic crosses the plane of Earth’s equator but, because of the shape of the Earth’s orbit, not the exact date that day and night are equal – that occurs a couple of days later on about the 25th.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense; what can you see in these “darker earlier” evenings? Jupiter returns to our skies, low in the southeast early in the evening. Unmistakable due to its brightness and silvery hue, it will dominate the night sky for the rest of the year. Get to know it and impress family and friends by casually pointing it out whenever you spot it.

Low in the west is the brightest star at the moment, Arcturus, sitting at the bottom of the kite shape that is Bootes. High overhead, just west of south is the beautiful star, Vega, technically not as bright but looking much brighter because it is so much higher in the sky. To its left and slightly higher is Deneb, the brightest star in Cygnus the Swan.

Below these two and forming the giant “Summer Triangle” in the sky is Altair. The Milky Way “flows” across this triangle from top left to bottom right, and in this part of the sky it is at its densest and can be seen even under modest street lighting, as long as the Moon is out of the way.

Following the direction the triangle is pointing, just above the horizon and slightly east of south, is the constellation of Capricornus. It, too, is a triangle pointing downwards but very flattened, and usually only the top line of stars is visible.

Around the time of the new Moon on the 8th, is the peak of a small meteor shower. Not as big as the August one but still worth getting out there and having a look – just need to wrap up more!


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