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July astronomy highlights

The nights are slowly drawing out again as we move away from the longest day last month. Fortunately, it is still warm and so getting out under the stars doesn't mean dressing up to look like the Michelin Man! However, it can still get chilly after dark, so have a jumper or coat to hand...

The stars of summer are now increasingly obvious after dark. The asterism of the Summer Triangle made up from the stars Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, Altair in Aquila the Eagle and Vega in Lyra the Lyre are quite noticeable once it is fully dark in the south-eastern sky.

If you own a telescope or binoculars, the Milky Way is now prominent as a path of light running directly overhead around midnight at mid-month, so just take a little time to sweep through this amazing river of stars and other objects. You'll need a dark sky sight to see it well though. A star chart will help you identify objects which you will come across.

On the 15th July, the Moon will appear to move in front of the planet Jupiter from our point of view here on Earth. This is called an 'occultation' and planetary occultations are fairly rare events. There's more about this a little later on...

The Sun is still active as it builds towards its Sunspot maximum expected in 2013. If you have a 'solar' filter for your telescope designed to allow you to view the Sun safely you will be able to see lots of interesting activity on the surface of the Sun and if you possess a 'hydrogen-alpha solar telescope, you will be able to view prominences and much other solar phenomena. However, do take care, the Sun can easily blind you. If you are in any doubt about viewing the Sun safely, don't do it, or please email me for advice.

If you are on Facebook, please come and be 'fan' of my page 'Astronomy Know How with Ninian Boyle'. I'm planning to use it for lots of free information and tips on how to observe the night sky and also post up interesting events as they are set up. It will mean that you'll be the first to know about really useful things connected to your hobby, so join me on facebook

Oh! and you can follow me on Twitter too www.twitter.com/astroknowhow