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July 2010

July 2010

Stateside. In the show this time we have three interviews from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. We hear about magnetic fields in stars from Professor Emeritus John Landstreet, Melissa Battler explains how studying environments on the Earth can help us to understand where life might be in the Universe and Sarah Gallagher tells us about quasars and the role they play in star formation. As ever we have the latest astronomical news, and what you can see in the July night sky in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The News

In the news this month:


Dave is currently on an "Astro Tour" of North America, visiting science centres and planetariums across the continent. In May, he visited the University of Western Ontario in Canada and managed to get several interviews with their staff and students, three of which are included in this epiosde

Professor Emeritus John Landstreet tells us about his work studying magnetism in stars.

Melissa Battler explains how her work studying the geology of certain environments on Earth can teach us about where life might exist in the Universe.

Dr Sarah Gallagher tells us about quasar winds.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

Ian Morison tells us what we can see in the northern hemisphere night sky during July 2010.

The nights are gradually beginning to lengthen again, making stargazing a little easier. Arcturus, high in the south in the constellation of Boötes, is bright enough to be mistaken for a planet. To the lower left is the arclet of stars known as the Corona Borealis - the Northern Crown. Up and to the left of that is Hercules, below which lies the mostly empty constellation Ophiuchus, through which the Milky Way passes. The Sun also moves through Ophiuchus, yet it is not one zodiacal houses. Below it, observers at more southern latitudes can see the red star Antares in Scorpius and, to the left, the `teapot' of Saggitarius. Following the tea from the spout leads to the open clusters M6 and M7, while above the lid of the teapot is the Lagoon Nebula, M8. The star Vega is bright in the constellation of Lyra, the Lyre; nearby and lower down, Deneb resides in Cygnus, the Swan; Altair rises about an hour after sunset in Aquila, the Eagle. These three stars complete the Summer Triangle, within which lies a rich region for observations with binoculars or telescope.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

John Field from the Carter Observatory in New Zealand tells us some of the highlights that can be seen in the southern night sky during July 2010.

The smallest constellation, Crux - the Southern Cross - is high to the south in the winter sky, with its two pointer stars to the left. Crux was known to the ancient Greeks and was considered part of the larger constellation Centaurus, but precession of the equinoxes changed Earth's orientation and pushed it south over the centuries. It is Te Punga - the anchor - to the Māori, and represents a possum in a tree to Australian Aborigines. The brightest star in Crux, Alpha Crucis, is actually a double star system, resolvable with a telescope. The second-brightest star, Beta Crucis, is also in a binary system. The Jewel Box, a hazy patch of light nearby, can be resolved into a beautiful open cluster using binoculars or a telescope. John Herschel made its first telescopic observation. The southern celestial pole is located near the halfway point of a line pointing upwards from Crux towards the bright star Achernar. The Magellanic Clouds, two more hazy patches about three quarters of the way along the line, can be seen unaided in a dark sky. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) lies about 160,000 light years from us and is around 14,000 light years in length; the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is about 200,000 light years away and 7,000 light years long. These dwarf galaxies interact with each other and orbit the Milky Way. The LMC has a barred spiral structure, with its own star clusters and emission nebulae, the brightest of which is called the Tarantula. This is distinguishable on the left side of the LMC using a telescope, and has an estimated mass of 450,000 Solar Masses. It is the most active known star-forming region in the Local Group of galaxies, and may one day become a globular cluster. If it were as close to us as is the Orion Nebula in our own galaxy, it would be bright enough to cast visible shadows on the Earth at night. At the centre of the Tarantula Nebula is a compact star cluster, R136, containing many giant stars. The brightest supernova since the invention of the telescope, Supernova 1987A, was observed near this region by astronomers in New Zealand and Chile in 1987.

The Planets


Odds and Ends

As mentioned several times during the show, Dave is on tour across North America during the summer, visiting science centres and planetariums. You can follow his adventures on his AstroTour2010 blog

In May 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the IKAROS solar sail into space. The solar sail was successfully expanded on June 10 2010 and JAXA is now monitoring IKAROS and running tests to evaluate its performance.

The 100th mission to the International Space Station, Soyuz TMA-19, launched on June 15 2010 carrying three members of the 24th long duration ISS mission.

There is a movie on the Jodrell Bank facebook group showing a time lapse recording of the Lovell Telescope taken on the morning of the summer solstice.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Noticias en Español - Julio 2010:Lizette Ramirez
Interview:Professor Emeritus John Landstreet and David Ault
Interview:Melissa Battler and David Ault
Interview:Dr Sarah Gallagher and David Ault
Night sky:Ian Morison and John Field
Presenters:David Ault and Jen Gupta
Editor:Adam Avison
Intro concept:David Ault
Intro/Outro voices:David Ault
Segment voice:Nadya Kunawicz
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:The first global gravity model based on GOCE satellite data. Credit: GOCE High Level Processing Facility

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