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July 2009: Italian Job

July 2009

It's summer and the Jodcasters are widely dispersed. Despite the lack of a studio, Jen and Dave managed to meet up at Milan's central station to record an episode.

The News

In the news this month:

High-speed Astronomy

Prof Vik Dhillon (University of Sheffield) talks to us about high-speed astronomy.

Mission Updates

NASA launched two robotic missions to the Moon on the 18th June as part of their Lunar Precursor Robotic Program. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is now in orbit around the Moon, surveying the surface for possible landing sites for future manned missions. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) is sending one of its two components to crash into the lunar surface and the other part in orbit will analyse the ejecta in the hope of finding water.

Buzz Aldrin (aka Doc Rendezvous!) has released a rap song called Rocket Experience with the help of Snoop Dogg and Talib Kweli! The video is on funnyordie.com and the song is available to buy on iTunes - some of the profits from the sales will go to Buzz Aldrin's ShareSpace Foundation.

The Night Sky

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the night sky during July 2009.

Northern Hemisphere

As the Sun is setting, Leo is low in the west with the planet Saturn. A little higher, towards the south west, is the rather sparse constellation of Virgo with a bright star Spica. High up in the south is the constellation Bootes with one very nice bright star - Arcturus. Just to the left of Arcturus is a rather lovely arc of stars called Corona Borealis - the Northern Crown. To the south, and higher up, is the constellation Hercules. The four brighest stars make up the key-stone and two-thirds of the up the right-hand side of the keystone, binoculars will show a slightly fuzzy object. With a telescope you see the wonderful globular cluster M13. Below Hercules is Ophiuchus. Below Ophiuchus we have Scorpius and Sagittarius (containing the Teapot). From the northern latitudes of the UK we don't see these constellations well and a better view is seen from further south. Looking towards the south east, rising through the night, is the wonderful part of the sky containing Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila - the Summer Triangle. If you have binoculars, go from Altair up towards Altair about a third of the way. There you will see a dark region called the Cygnus Rift containing Brocchi's+Cluster - the Coathanger.

Jupiter is now in Capricornus, becomes more easily visible this month as its elevation in the pre-dawn sky is getting higher - about 23 degrees above the horizon by beginning of the month. One problem with observing Jupiter with a telescope when it is so low in the sky is refraction in the atmosphere. This shifts the different colours of light in Jupiters image by differing amounts, so giving a blurred image. Using a green filter will help considerably in giving a cleaner image.

Saturn is seen low below Leo - but somewhat below the feet of the Lion. You'll be able to see it in the first couple of weeks of July.

Mercury reached "Western Elongation" in the middle of June which is when it lies furthest in angle from the Sun and seen before sunrise. In the first few days of July you'll see it very low in the east just before dawn.

Mars is becoming more prominent and is at an elevation of 25 degrees due east as the Sun rises on 1st July. On a particularly good night, a small telescope might be able to make out some of the features but we really have to wait a few months to see it at its best.

Venus is now easily visible in the pre-dawn sky. It is about 20 degrees above the horizon as the Sun rises on the first of July, so will be easier to spot later in the month. It is at magnitude -4.1.

The highlights this month:

Southern Hemisphere

Towards the north you'll see Leo setting in the north west. Above that is the constellation of Virgo. You then pass, going towards the east, the constellation Libra and then the lovely region of Scorpius and Sagittarius. Fairly low in the north is Arcturus and to its lower right Hercules. Towards the south is a wonderful view. Towards the south east is Sagittarius - the Teapot - and if you follow the line the water would take coming out of the teapot you will find a lovely star cluster M7. Just above the teapot is the Lagoon Nebula. Low in the south are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds.

Odds and Ends

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Interview:Prof Vik Dhillon and Stuart Lowe
Night sky this month:Ian Morison
Presenters:David Ault and Jen Gupta
Editors:Stuart Lowe and Dandan Xu
Intro script:David Ault
Ilsa:Jen Gupta
Rick:David Ault
Segment voice:Danny Wong-McSweeney
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:First light image from ESA's Herschel observatory Credit: ESA and the PACS Consortium

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