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January 2017 News Letter


 September 2017 News Letter


Sky Notes


NEW.   September 20th, October 19th, November 18th, December 18th.

FULL    September 6th,  October 5th,  November 4th , December 3rd, January 2nd.




After a Summer when there have days when the Solar Disc has been devoid of Sun Spots there has been an upturn in activity in early September. Isolated but energetic Sun Spot Groups emerging over the Solar limb.  This bodes well  for strong displays of Aurora around the time of the Equinox.

The Autumn Equinox occurs on September 22nd 22h 03m.

 The Winter Solstice occurs on December 21st 16h 29m.




There are no Solar or Lunar Eclipses during the period to 31st December.   The next Lunar eclipse visible from London will be on the 27th July 2018.   The next Solar eclipse visible from the U.K. mainland will be on the  23rd September 2090!




Mercury is visible in the morning twilight for a few days around the 20th September due East.  The little planet is there after poorly placed for observation for the rest of the year.




Venus is bright in the morning sky during September and October shining strongly at magnitude minus 4.

In November Venus begins to draw in closer to the Sun as it approaches conjunction in the last few days of the year and will be lost from sight. Venus will re emerge into the Evening Sky in January 2018.




In late September Mars is slowly emerging from the morning twilight appearing as a dim red Star in the Eastern Sky attaining a poor Magnitude 1.8. Mars remain dim throughout the Autumn as it tracks slowly south   in the morning sky. Mars comes to opposition in July 2018 when it will be hanging low in the sky in the constellation of Capricorn.  Although Mars will brighten  during the Spring and early Summer of 2018,  being  so far south of the  celestial equator will make observations of its  surface markings  a challenge  as  we view the Planet through a long column of turbulent air.




Jupiter is at present too close to the Sun to be seen. It will re emerge in the morning Sky in early December. In Spring and the early Summer of 2018 Jupiter will be visible in the dim constellation of Libra.




Saturn can still be seen low in the South West just after Sunset until mid November, provided you have a very low horizon line. Saturn reaches  conjunction with the Sun on the 21st December  so we will have to  wait until late February 2018 before  the Planet will be  visible again, in the morning Sky.




After many years languishing below the celestial equator Uranus is now attaining a positive declination.

Uranus reaches opposition on the 19th October shining as a pale blue disc of magnitude5.7 in the constellation of Pisces.  With an  8 inch Telescope  and  given  steady sky conditions it may be possible to  see  a disc as you view  this gas planet some 20times  further away from the Sun than we are  on Earth.

Meteors , Comets & ASTERIODS


Autumn 2017 bodes well for Meteor observing. The Moon does not interfere with any of the three major showers of the Autumn and early Winter.

Orionids.   Debris from Comet Halley. Active from the 16th to 30th October. The peak occurs over the nights of the 12th to 23rd with a predicted ZHR (Zenith Hour Rate) of 25 meteors per hour. The meteors are fast  often producing  persistent trains. There was a very good  display in 2007.

Taurids.   This shower is active over the period 20th October to the 30th November. The Maximum is  spread over the  dates 5th to the 12th November. These are slow meteors sometimes producing fireballs.      Moon light may interfere with observing during the late evenings during the peak of the shower. On the evening of the 4th November 2010 on a flight  over the  North Atlantic  seeking the Northern Lights  ( which remained elusive),on board a aircraft of Monarch Airlines  I witnessed four bright  Taurids which seemed to  descend  downwards as far as the horizon. 

Leonids.   The Leonids are active from the 15th to the 20th November with the maximum predicted to occur  on the evening of the 17th November this  year.  A very well observed shower which has produced  spectacular displays  peaking  on an  approximate  30 year  cycle.  At present we are several years away from the next peak but never the less still a strong shower.

Geminids.  This is the strongest shower of the year with a ZHR approaching 100 meteors per hour. We pass through the Geminid meteor stream between the 8th and 17th December. The night of the maximum  is the 13/14th December.  A good proportion of bright events may be anticipated from these relatively slow  meteors . Clear December night can be very, very cold so do be prepared with the warmest of clothes when observing.

Ursids    An under observed shower observable from the 17th to the 25th December. The maximum  is predicted to be over the  nights of 22/23/24 December. In 2004 a strong display was observed.

Comet  ASASSN (2017 01) This is a newly discovered Comet only spotted in late July this year . Through the Autumn and  Winter it is expected to track North passing  through Perseus  in October and  be near to the Pole at  the year’s end.  Too dim to be seen in Binoculars  now in September, it will be  monitored by  professional  observers to see  if it brightens over time.


The Stars


Twilight  in Late September  and the  three  leading Stars  of the Summer  triangle , Deneb, Vega and Altair  are on the meridian.  The Zodiacal Constellations of the high Summer linger for an hour or so, before descending into the South Western Horizon. As the evenings advance in to Autumn the Great Square of Pegasus takes prominence by 20.00GMT on the 15th November. The chain of Stars leading eastwards  from the  topmost  stars of the  square  help us to locate the  Andromeda Galaxy (M31)  Count three stars  eastwards  from the topmost star in the Square of Pegasus then using Binoculars follow  an adjoining fainter line of stars  upwards  for a  short  distance until you spot a faint  grey smudge, this is  the Andromeda Galaxy. In long exposure photographs the Galaxy can be seen extending over three degrees, however only the bright core can be seen easily in small Telescopes and 10x50 Binoculars. A little higher and to the Left of Andromeda is the distinctive W of the brightest stars in Cassiopeia.  Binoculars will show  many more   tight  groupings of  stars in this  area of the sky.  Passing down from Cassiopeia into Perseus  we can  spot the “ Double  cluster “ a group of stars which  show two distinctive cores.

Moving into early December the full retinue of Winter Constellations are in our Sky’s by late evening. Orion fills the South Eastern sky while approaching the meridian are the star clusters of the Hyades, represented in Mythology the head of the Bull Taurus , Its shoulder  being  marked by the  amazing cluster of Blue  stars the Pleiades or Seven Sisters ( M45)  The Pleiades are seen to best advantage in Binoculars but again long exposure photographs show  very  many  more stars and also the   faint Nebulae  which they  illuminate  with  the intense blue light of the  leading  members of the cluster.

As Orion lifts higher re acquaint yourself with the Orion Nebulae (M42) Binoculars will show it as  a grey haze  with the its Core Stars hot and blue.  Moderated Telescopes can easily split the central group into at least four individual Stars (The Trapezium). Again Photography enables us to see great detail within the Nebulae.  Finally in Mid Winter the Brightest Star in the Heavens Sirius sits low on the Southern horizon flashing a myriad of colours on the clearest of winter nights.


N Morrison   Clear Sky’s and Good Viewing.

 4th September 2017.