1. IAA Double Public Lecture, Wednesday January 22, 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, "Return to the Moon", by Dr Andy McCrea, and "The Closest Comet Encounters to Earth" by Terry Moseley.
A. Return to the Moon.
The Apollo 17 NASA astronauts blasted off from the Moon in December 1972, which concluded a curtailed programme of US Moon landings. Andy will review what has been going on in terms of lunar missions since then, and review the current situation, anticipating the NASA-led Artemis missions and proposed landing over the coming period.
B. "The Closest Comet Encounters to Earth
It's widely believed that many comets have impacted Earth during its lifetime, but just how close have comets come to us in recorded history? We've seen a close pass to Mars, impacts on Jupiter, and a possible impact on Earth. We've also seen some very spectacular and bright comets in the sky, but how close did they come? This talk will review the known evidence, look at the mythological and historical background, and consider the effects of a possible future really close pass."
ADMISSION FREE, including refreshments
NB: We'll be back in our usual venue of the Bell Lecture theatre, with light refreshments afterwards.
2. Death of Sam Lyttle. It's with great regret that I have to announce the death of long-term IAA member, Sam Lyttle. Sam had never fully recovered from a serious car accident several years ago, and had been out of circulation since then.
Sam served on the council of the IAA for several years, including a spell of Curator of Instruments, and, I think, as Director of Observations.
Sam started his career as a 'Researcher' at Armagh Planetarium in the Seventies, where I first got to know him, before buying a Starlab mobile planetarium, and striking out on his own, with shows to schools and other groups.
His deep love of astronomy and desire to communicate it led to numerous other activities and enterprises, including his involvement in the setting up of the planetarium in the Maritime Museum in Greencastle Co Donegal.
He donated his first large telescope, a 14" (355mm) Celestron SCT, to the IAA on the condition that it be housed in a proper observatory, and I'm glad to say that that will now be realised as that telescope will form part of a suite of instruments at the new observatory being set up at the Dark Sky Park in Davagh Forest, near Cookstown.
The IAA was represented at his funeral on Monday by President Brian Beesley, John McConnell, and myself.
Our sincere condolences and sympathy to his family circle and friends.
3. VENUS brilliant. The lovely 'Evening Star' is getting brighter and higher in the SSW evening sky, and is quite unmistakeable. Watch it slowly approach the Pleaides, which it will pass through on 3-4 April!
4. BETELGEUSE still faint.
There is considerable interest in the fact that Betelgeuse has faded since October by about 1 magnitude. Some conjecture that this is a prelude to a supernova explosion, but that is very unlikely. However, it's certainly worth watching. It's now about midway in brightness between Castor and Pollux.
My latest magnitude estimate, on Jan 06, makes it between +1.4 and +1.5, almost 1 magnitude fainter than its average of +0.5. That's the faintest I've ever seen it – and that's from 1963!
Once the bright Moon is out of the way we'll be able to get better estimates again.
You can compare it with Aldebaran (mag 0.87, but slightly variable itself), Pollux (mag 1.16), Castor (mag 1.58), Bellatrix (mag 1.64) or Al Nath / Beta Tau (mag 1.65). Only do it when Betelgeuse is at least 30 degrees above the horizon, and choose comparison stars at about the same altitude as it.
5. ISS The International Space Station will start a new series of evening passes on Jan 22 . Full details for your location, and lots of other astronomy information, on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com
6. Galway Astronomy Festival
The Galway Astronomy Festival takes place on Saturday January 25th 2020.
The festival will take place in the Harbour Hotel, overlooking Galway Bay
7. IAA Astronomy Event, St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, 31 January, 7.00.
More details later.
8. Vesta occults naked eye star, 11 February. More details of this rare event, visible from the N of the island, are in the January edition of STARDUST, and will be in later bulletins.
9. The NI Science Festival,10-23 February. The schools events run from 10 – 12 Feb, and the main, public, events from 13 – 23rd.
The IAA will be contributing several events, including an event at Marble Arch Caves VC in Fermanagh on Feb 14, and our public lecture on 19 February.
10. Dark Sky observing event, Cavan Burren Centre, 20 March. I've been asked to run another one of these events, in a very dark sky location, near Blacklion, just across the border from Belcoo. More details later.
11. INTERESTING WEBLINKS (Disclaimer - Use of material herein from various sources does not imply approval or otherwise of the opinions, political or otherwise, of those sources). NB: If the title in the weblink does not indicate the subject matter, I give a brief simple intro before the link. I may also comment about the link afterwards.
Ancient cores of dying galaxies https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200117104750.htm
EARTH & MOON
Outbound comets were of alien origin https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200117094329.htm
Measuring a solar flare's explosive energy https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200117122105.htm
12. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION. This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
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DISCLAIMER: Any views expressed herein are mine, and do not necessarily represent those of the IAA.