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August 2010: O Canada

August 2010

In this show we bring you two more interviews from the University of Western Ontario in Canada. We hear about lunar geology from Dr Irene Antonenko and Alex de Souza tells us about star formation. As always, we have the latest astronomical news, and what you can see in the August night sky in the northern and southern hemispheres.

The News

In the news this month:


Dr Irene Antonenko (UWO) tells us about the geology of the Moon and the lunar research that is carried out in Canada, coordinated by the Canadian Lunar Research Network.

Alex de Souza (UWO) tells us about his research studying star formation and modelling stellar disks.

The Night Sky

Northern Hemisphere

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

The bright star Arcturus is in the south-west in the constellation of Boötes. Just below and left is the arclet of stars comprising the Corona Borealis. To the left of that, the four brightest stars of Hercules form the Keystone. Looking with binoculars up the right-hand side of the Keystone, you can see the fine globular cluster M13. Below that is the constellation Ophiuchus, and further down lies Scorpius, containing the bright red star Antares. Scorpius and, to its left, Sagittarius are only visible from more southern latitudes. The direction of Saggitarius is towards the centre of the galaxy. Up and right of the Teapot formation, the Lagoon Nebula is visible. Meanwhile, the imaginary tea from the spout of the teapot falls through the M7 star cluster, above which is the smaller cluster, M6. The Summer Triangle of Cygnus, Lyra and Aquila rises in the south-east, the constellations marked by their respective brightest stars, Deneb, Vega and Altair. Brocchi's Cluster, containing the Coathanger asterism, resides in The dark patch of the sky between Altair and Vega known as the Cygnus Rift. The constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, is overhead. Within this, the middle star of the handle of the Plough can be resolved with binoculars as a binary system consisting of Alcor and Mizar. A telescope reveals that Mizar itself is contains multiple stars. Another multiple star system is Epsilon Lyrae, the Double Double, near Vega. Epsilon1 Lyrae and Epsilon2 Lyrae can be resolved with the naked eye, and each is in fact a double star, the full quadruplet observable through a telescope.

The Planets


Southern Hemisphere

John Field from the Carter Observatory in New Zealand speaks about the southern night sky during August 2010.

The constellation Scorpius dominates the sky high overhead in the winter evenings, the Scorpion perpetually chasing Orion, the Hunter. At the heart of Scorpius is the fifteenth-brightest star in the night sky, Antares, literally the 'rival of Mars'. Named for its red colouring, this supergiant lies around 600 light years from us and is intrinsically some 7,000 times brighter than our Sun in visible light. It is so large that it would engulf the Earth if it were placed at the location of the Sun. It is in a binary system with a faint companion star. The globular cluster M4 can be seen nearby using binoculars, and long-exposure photographs reveal bright nebulous patches and dark strands. Scorpius' tail is interpreted by Māori astronomers as Te Matau o Māui, a great hook used by the demigod Māui to raise the North Island of New Zealand from the sea. In this legend, the island was formed from a huge fish, the capture of which caused the hook to fly into the heavens. This leads to the island's name of Te Ika-a-Māui - the fish of Māui. The Southern Island is sometimes called Te Waka a Māui - the canoe of Māui - after the vessel from which the fish was caught. Antares, or Rehua, is the drop of Māui's blood used as bait on the hook. The tip of the hook crosses the Milky Way and ends near to Sagittarius. Here are found various nebulae and star clusters, including M7, which is visible to the naked eye. The nearby Butterfly Cluster, M6, can be viewed through binoculars. Sagittarius, the Archer, follows Scorpius. Within this, the Teapot asterism points towards the centre of the Milky Way, 30,000 light years distant. Our Sun is one of roughly 400 billion stars in the spiral of the Milky Way, and takes around 250 million years to perform one orbit of it. Many bright clusters and nebulae reside in the central region of the galaxy, including the Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae.

The Planets

Odds and Ends

Boeing have unveiled new artist's impressions of their CST-100 capsule, designed to carry NASA astronauts to the ISS once the space shuttles are retired.

The Astronomer Royal, Professor Martin Rees has come under scrunity in the press after making comments in an interview with Cambridge Ideas that there is no need for manned space flight.

Show Credits

News:Megan Argo
Noticias en Español - Agosto 2010:Lizette Ramirez
Interview:Dr Irene Antonenko and David Ault (with Robyn Paterson)
Interview:Alex de Souza and David Ault
Night sky:Ian Morison and John Field
Presenters:Jen Gupta and Neil Young
Editors:Adam Avison, David Ault and Mark Purver
Intro/Outro voices:Robin Bland, Mandy Burbank, Gwendolyn Jensen-Woodard and Perry Whittle
Segment voice:Nadya Kunawicz
Website:Stuart Lowe
Cover art:A 90-mile-wide portion of the giant Valles Marineris canyon system seen by THEMIS Credit: NASA/JPL/Arizona State University

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