Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy
Last month I enthused about the upcoming Perseid meteor shower. It's touted as the best shower of the year and it didn't disappoint. I was hearing reports of shooting star sightings from the beginning of August onwards, and my partner's daughter and her husband were entertained by celestial fireworks one night as they chilled in their outdoor hot tub! I had planned to go to a star party at the home of one of the original founders of my local astronomy club, but the weather forecast wasn't great for the peak date of 12 August. Sunday 11 August seemed more promising so I went out at 10pm, saw one meteor then the International Space Station, which was a rare treat and something I hadn't been expecting! Within half-an-hour I'd seen another 5 meteors so I was quite happy. Monday evening was cloudy but about 1.30am (Tuesday) I glanced outside and saw a meteor flash past. I roused my partner and we went outside, where he was treated to his first-ever show of meteors. Some intrepid (and patient) people try to photograph meteors, I just don't know how they do it as they're so fast, blink and you miss them! Here are some of the uploaded images for your enjoyment: Starship Asterisk* - 2013 Perseid Meteors.
Amateur Astronomers Rock!
On 14 August, Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki was studying the Summer Triangle, an asterism coined by Sir Patrick Moore, when he noticed something unusual in the constellation Delphinus 'the Dolphin'; it seemed to have an extra star! After studying it with his telescope, he reported his finding and lo and behold, it turned out to be a nova, the sudden brightening of a star (in this case, by 11 magnitudes) due to an outburst. It has been catalogued Nova Delphini 2013 and as it may not last long, best seek it out as soon as you can. Nova Delphini 2013 featured as Astronomy Picture of the Day on 16 August, just two days after Koichi's discovery. This is why I love astronomy so much, you just never know what is going to happen next, and an ordinary amateur astronomer can become a superstar overnight!
September 2013 Diary Dates
It's now possible to see Comet ISON with your telescope. From the beginning of September you'll need to be looking, about two hours before dawn, in the direction of Praesepe, the Beehive Cluster (aka Messier 44) in Cancer 'the Crab'. The planet Mars won't be far away – in fact Mars will pass through M44 on 8 September, so you have a good starting point – brilliant Mars is unmistakeable in the pre-dawn sky with its distinctive red colour and +1.6 magnitude. The paths of Comet ISON and Mars will run parallel to each other throughout the month, although Mars appears to be moving faster against background stars. After 19 September the waning Moon will drown out any further attempts to view the comet (this month). By the end of September Comet ISON will be 6.7m miles (10.8m km) from Mars – their closest point. By then the red planet and the comet will both be in the constellation Leo 'the Lion', heading for a spectacular meet-up with Leo's luminary, 'Royal star' Regulus, in October. More about that next month!
- 02: Mars is 6° north of the Moon
- 05: New Moon
- 05: Venus and Spica (alpha Virginis) are within 2° of each other
- 08: Venus is 0.4° north of the Moon
- 08: Mars passes through Messier 44, aka the Beehive Cluster
- 09: The Moon passes 2° south of Saturn
- 17: The Moon passes 6° north of Neptune
- 19: Venus is within 4° of Saturn
- 19: Full Moon - the Harvest Moon
- 20: The Moon passes 3° north of Uranus
- 22: Autumnal Equinox (Northern Hemisphere)/Vernal Equinox (Southern Hemisphere)
- 24: Mercury is within one degree of Spica
- 27: The Moon passes 5° south of Jupiter
Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.