This is Mark's page for adding in-depth articles to include in the newsletter.

  • (30/Aug/2017)
    The origin and true identity of this constellation was lost even to the ancient Greeks, who knew the figure as Engonasi, which literally means ‘the kneeling one’.  Mark recounts the mythology and describes the constellation of Hercules...
  • (30/Jun/2017)
    The origin of the name Boötes is a little unclear, but may be derived from a Greek word meaning ‘noisy’ or ‘clamorous’, referring to the herdsman’s calling his animals or alternatively from the ancient Greek meaning ‘ox-driver’, from the fact that Ursa Major was sometimes visualized as a cart...
  • (30/Jun/2017)
    In mythology Corona Borealis is said to represent the crown of Dionysus tossed into the heavens to prove his love for Ariadne, daughter of King Minos of Crete.  She had played an instrumental role in helping Theseus slay the Minotaur, a creature with the head of a bull on a human body.  Ariadne’s...
  • (25/Feb/2017)
    The Man: Born into aristocracy in 18th century France, Charles Messier stood at the threshold of a great observational age. Comets were the fascination of astronomers - their discovery and subsequent observation occupying many observatories; bringing fame and fortune to their discoverer... The...
  • (25/Feb/2017)
    The lighter evenings of April offer up an interesting stellar challenge, testing the observing dexterity of astronomers - casual or otherwise - in a race against time.  Fear not, this is not a 'faint fuzzy blob' hunt, like the Messier marathon, the exact opposite in fact, more of a sprint really...
  • (29/Dec/2016)
    In the second part of our tour through the winter sky we shall look at some more deep sky celestial treats to tempt you outside.  To begin, locate the constellation of Gemini, the twins, whose two leading stars, Castor and Pollux ride quite high in the South-East sky.  The object we are seeking is...
  • (29/Nov/2016)
    In the first of this two-part feature we shall take a look at some of the celestial winter wonders located in or near the asterism sometimes referred to as the Celestial “G”, whether using the naked eye, binoculars or a telescope. But first let us familiarise ourselves with the celestial “G”.  This...
  • (31/Oct/2016)
    Look high to the northeast where you will locate one of the northern skies more important constellations, the great hero of Greek mythology, Perseus.  Legends associated with Perseus exist in various cultures; some may be traced back as far as the 5th century BC.  One tale in particular, his quest...
  • (29/Sep/2016)
    Having shown how the familiar star pattern of the Plough may be used to locate other constellations in the north and west part of the sky, another highly useful arrangement of stars currently visible in the autumn sky may be utilised to pick out aspects of the South and East...
  • (29/Sep/2016)
    I always view early autumn with a certain amount of nostalgia as it was around this time I first became interested in identifying the stellar patterns visible in the night sky.  As it turns out early October is almost ideal to do so;- summer constellations remain well placed as soon as darkness...
  • (31/Aug/2016)
    Many amateur astronomers regard September as one of ‘the special’ months in which to explore the night sky. Evening conditions remain conducive for prolonged observation, yet skies are fully dark by 22:00h. During September the summer Milky Way is at its most conspicuous to the naked eye, though...
  • (30/Jun/2016)
    From mid-July, evenings gradually become darker once again, allowing more time for observers to explore and appreciate the summer constellations.  The brightest stars emerge around 22:15h, isolated jewels dotted around the heavens.  Of these, seven in particular catch the eye and three; Arcturus,...
  • (31/May/2016)
    The official start of summer in the northern hemisphere commences on June 21st – the date of the summer solstice this year, when the Sun reaches its greatest altitude on the ecliptic; the path it takes across the sky during a year.  From our latitude this equates to almost 59 degrees above the...
  • (30/Apr/2016)
    As inferior planets, on occasion Mercury and Venus can transit across the Sun as seen from the vantage point of Earth.  Transits of Venus are extremely rare, occurring in pairs 8 yrs apart separated by intervals of over 100 yrs.  A transit of Mercury is less rare, but still only around 13 can occur...
  • (31/Mar/2016)
    With the introduction of BST it is after 21:00h before skies grow fully dark, by which time many of the seasonal constellations associated with winter are on the verge of departing. Spring groups now occupy much of the sky to the south and east.  Of the star groups arranged in the south, three are...
  • (30/Mar/2016)
    Compared to the departing stellar canopy of winter, at first glance the spring sky may seem rather less inspiring.  Yet, appearances can be deceptive and there is much to wonder at amongst the constellations now arranged across the South and East...
  • (31/Jan/2016)
    Given a clear and dark sky, February is a great time to become acquainted with the winter celestial dome.  The southern aspect is especially studded with stellar jewels. Of these no star catches the eye more than Sirius, brightest in the entire night sky. Also known as the ‘Dog star’, Sirius lies...
  • (31/Dec/2015)
    Hope you all managed to watch UK astronaut Tim Peake safely reach the ISS.  Whether you caught it live on the news, or the Stargazing Live Special, I thought the coverage was quite extensive and actually rather tense and exhilarating. Of course Major Tim is not the first Britain in space, that...
  • (31/Dec/2015)
    One of the most impressive stellar panoramas is the jewelled canopy of the winter night sky, in particular the southern aspect, adorned as it is with imposing constellations and studded with an array of brilliant stars.  Rich in both mythology and observational interest, there is plenty here to...
  • (25/Oct/2015)
    Ah, mid autumn, the ‘witching season’, a time in the year most associated with ghoulish revelry, the tragic and the macabre.  Not surprisingly the autumnal night sky plays host to a reflection of such ‘unearthly goings on’, manifest as tales associated with the stars and constellations.  So, are...
  • (25/Sep/2015)
    The Square: One of the chief constellations of the autumn night sky is the group of Pegasus. The main body of this constellation, known as the ‘Square of Pegasus’ can be utilised as a ‘signpost’ for locating constellations and leading stars arranged in the south and eastern aspects of the sky......
  • (31/Aug/2015)
    September is a great month for observing the night sky. Conditions are (or should be) relatively mild, darkness falls reasonably early and there are plenty of objects to seek out. September is also the best month to fully appreciate one particular feature of the heavens, the ghostly river of light...
  • (31/Jul/2015)
    Wow, what a success story New Horizons has been so far, rewriting the text books on Pluto, and providing a wealth of insightful data on the likely makeup of other Kuiper belt objects, and the vast majority of data is still to be beamed back. It could have been a very different story, as barely a...
  • (30/Jun/2015)
    After 9 years and billions of miles travelling, NASA’s New Horizons probe finally reaches Pluto in July. The mission goal is to understand the formation of the Pluto system, the Kuiper Belt, and the transformation of the early Solar System. The spacecraft will study the atmospheres, surfaces,...
  • (30/Jun/2015)
    Mark explains light years and the mind-boggling distances they describe. The term ‘light year’ is often used to describe a stars distance, but is it a measurement of time, or distance?  The answer to this could be ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, for there is a case that it applies to both. Certainly, a light year...
  • (29/May/2015)
    Line-up every star in the sky at given distance and you will have a direct comparison of their brightness, which we call "Absolute Magnitude".  The result is often very different from the brightness we observe with the stars scattered throughout the galaxy (their "Apparent Magnitude").  In this...
  • (30/Apr/2015)
    As nights become ever lighter, now may be a good opportunity to briefly explain why the changes in light levels encountered daily after sunset or before sunrise occur. If you were to step outside in autumn, winter or early spring, skies are fully darkened by around 21:00h. This deepest level of...
  • (31/Jan/2015)
    In this month's In-Focus article, Mark Dawson takes a tour of the "Heavenly G", which links bright stars in the southern winter sky. Stellar evolution is regarded as one of the fundamental processes involved in the building of the universe we see around us today. Just as someone who studies the...
  • (30/Dec/2014)
    One of the many delights of observing the Winter night sky is noting the diverse range of Open Clusters visible to the naked eye, binoculars and telescope alike.  But what is an Open Cluster? Open Clusters: clusters of young stars (usually no older than 500 million yrs) of roughly the same age,...