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August astronomy highlights

Here in the UK as I write this, the weather has taken a turn for the better at last!

I like August particularly for its longer dark nights as we move away from the summer solstice, and not only this, but it is still warm enough at night not to need several layers of clothing and a woolly hat!

We now have the asterism of the Summer Triangle made from the stars Deneb in Cygnus, Altair in Aquila and Vega in Lyra, riding high over head by midnight.

The Milky Way passes directly through Cygnus and forms an arch of pale light from the north east to the south west and going directly overhead. If you have binoculars or a small telescope, take the time to just scan your way along this one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. You'll be glad you did. You will need to find a reasonably dark sky site though.

Somewhat unusually, there are two full Moons this month. The second full Moon in a month is sometimes referred to as a 'blue Moon', although strictly speaking this isn't always the case. If you'd like to find out more about this, I'll explain it on my blog here.

The Perseid meteors are without a doubt the highlight of the month and, weather permitting, we should get a good show. There's more about the prospects for this further on in this Newsletter.

If you possess a solar telescope, or have suitable filters to fit a telescope, there is plenty of activity on the Sun now. Oddly enough though, it is still relatively quiet for where it should be in its 'cycle' We should be building up for the projected peak of Sunspot activity in 2013 and although our nearest star is showing an definite increase in general activity, it is not as busy as we might expect. Perhaps it is saving itself for a big show later? Nonetheless, it is still worth observing, but do take care. If you are the slightest bit doubtful about how to observe the Sun safely, then please don't do it or please ask me or someone you know who you trust.

As well as all this, I am pleased to tell you that this Newsletter in not only available as a podcast from us here... But also from my friends at 'Astronomy FM' Internet Radio on Under British Skies

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