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
Zzzzz - the Most Unexciting Things in the Galaxy
Amateur astronomers differ from professionals in that they have an interest in everything to do with the subject, whether they have the latest telescope, an old but well-loved pair of handed-down binoculars, or just sit at a computer. Professionals tend to study one field of astronomy, eg planet hunters ignore constellations (which I love) and use RA and Dec to pinpoint their targets. Amateur astronomers certainly have their favourites amongst all the goodies at their fingertips and probably wouldn't admit to ignoring or disliking certain astronomical objects (just in case it might be the next big thing). If you've ever seen the Messier Catalogue, you'll know it's filled with wonders such as star clusters, nebulae, a supernova remnant and distant galaxies. The man who compiled it though, French astronomer Charles Messier (1730-1817), created it as a list of things for him to avoid while seeking out his passion – comets – an obsession which began with witnessing the return of Halley's Comet in 1759.
Recently it was suggested that I might compile a list of ten unexciting things in the galaxy. I've thought about it but can't come up with ten! The only things that immediately sprang to mind were brown dwarfs (failed stars), dark matter (no-one's ever found any), Pluto (an ex-planet) and Hanny's Voorwerp (an enormous cloud of gas). Over to you, dear readers, can you think of another six for a possible future collaborate Guide Entry?
Name That Planet
The IAU (International Astronomical Union) are now accepting nominations to name extrasolar planets. If you wish to call one 'Bob' after your uncle, then you'll need to read these instructions carefully.
June 2014 Diary Dates
The Moon has fascinated me for as long as I can recall. I can still remember the feeling of awe when I saw it as a huge orange ball at the end of my road while returning home from school one day. I didn't know then that other planets had moons – and plenty of them! The current count is Jupiter has the most at 67, with Saturn lagging just behind on a moon total of 62. Galileo Galilei was the first human to set eyes on the moons of another planet, and these are named in his honour. On 3 June the shadows of three of the Galilean moons, Callisto, Europa and Ganymede, will move across the face of their parent planet Jupiter together.
- 01: Jupiter is 6° north of the Moon
- 03: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
- 03: The shadows of 3 Galilean moons will transit Jupiter together
- 07: Mars is less than 2° north of the Moon
- 08: Asteroid 2014 HQ124 passes Earth, missing us by 1,230,083 km
- 10: Saturn and the Moon are separated by just over half a degree
- 13: Full Moon (the Strawberry Moon or Honey Moon)
- 14: The Moon is at perigee (closest to Earth)
- 18: Neptune is 5° south of the Moon
- 20: Uranus is less than 2° south of the Moon
- 21: Summer Solstice (Northern Hemisphere)/Winter Solstice (Southern Hemisphere)
- 21: Jupiter and Pollux (beta Geminorum) are just 6° apart
- 24: (before dawn) Venus and the waning crescent Moon will look close together in the east
- 27: New Moon
- 27: June Boötids meteor shower peak
- 28: Jupiter is 5° north of the Moon
- 30: The Moon is at apogee (furthest from Earth)
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.