astronomy Newsletter


August 21 2013 Astronomy Newsletter

Hi everybody

Here's the latest article from the Astronomy site at

The Literary Moons of Uranus
Solar System moons are named from mythology. Except for Uranus - its moons are named from English literature, primarily Shakespeare. How did this come about and what is the connection with the moons of Saturn?

Last week the International Astronomical Union (IAU) announced that it was reconsidering its policy on the naming of exoplanets. (See “Naming Planets” for more information: It’s considering how the public might be able to take a greater part in a naming procedure. But it isn’t as straightforward as you might think. Its because of the way exoplanets are discovered. There’s a lengthy process involved to be fairly certain that the data have actually uncovered a planet.

And on the subject of naming, some people are rather miffed that the IAU didn’t accept the name Vulcan for one of the new moons of Pluto. There is a theme to Pluto’s system and it relates to the god Pluto. I would say that since Vulcan doesn’t, end of story. But the complaints go on.

*Bye-bye, Perseids*

The Perseids have peaked. You might still catch a stray one, but they’re pretty well over for this year. I’m still quite excited about having seen some this year. Hope you did too.

Here is superb photo taken by the excellent astrophotographer Babak Tafreshi of The World at Night (TWAN). It shows two bright Perseids over the historic complex of Meteora in central Greece.

*Birth anniversaries*

*John Flamsteed (1646-1719)* was born on August 19. He was the first Astronomer Royal of England and the he produced the first major star atlas based on telescopic observations. It was considered the most authoritative atlas available for well over a century.

*Milton Humason (1891-1957)* was also born on August 19, though a few hundred years later. He left school at 14, worked as a mule-driver, a ranch hand and a janitor. But he then got a job as an assistant at Palomar Observatory, later being appointed to the scientific staff despite his lack of formal education. He made some of the most difficult galaxy measurements for Edwin Hubble. and developed a process for capturing the low surface brightness galaxies. Many people think a large part of Hubble’s success at measuring the expansion of the Universe was due to Humason’s work.

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I wish you clear skies.

Mona Evans, Astronomy Editor

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