1. IAA PUBLIC MEETINGS CANCELLED until further notice.
Because of the Covid-19 virus outbreak, the next lecture meeting has been cancelled. The AGM which was scheduled for April 15 has been postponed: a new date will be notified as soon as the situation becomes clearer: it may not be possible to hold it until September. Observing sessions at Delamont have also been cancelled until further notice.
Remember – Stay Safe: keep your distance, and wash your hands regularly!
2. Terry's Teaser.
To pass the time in your self-isolation or quarantine, here's something to occupy your mind.
Anyone who has been to an IAA lecture will know that among the introductory items is 'Terry's Teaser' – a little astronomical puzzle, usually connected with the topic of the lecture, presented as a challenge to the audience. The first correct answer is rewarded with a prize of astronomical proportions – a Mars or a Milky Way bar. The answers require some thought; they're not simply factual, such as "What's the largest moon of Saturn?", and they won't easily be solved by a simple Google search.
So here are two to start you off – a simple one, and a really challenging one. No prizes for obvious reasons (except maybe at my discretion, if someone excels…), but the first few correct answers will get an honourable mention in the next bulletin.
A. Fairly Simple; . Which of the following constellation names is the odd one out, and why?
Canis Minor, Leo Minor, Ursa Minor?
B. Challenging: What links the Latin word for heat, an English surveyor, a mountain in Greece, a Scottish physicist, and a simple type of eyepiece?
3. What's happening in the sky? An online version of the introductory talk which the IAA has at the start of the regular meetings is now available. see https://youtu.be/Vi5x_7mRTCk Thanks to IAA webmaster Paul Evans for this.
4 COMET ATLAS IS BRIGHTENING FASTER THAN EXPECTED: Get ready for another nice comet. Comet ATLAS (C2019 Y4) is plunging toward the sun and, if it doesn't break up first, it could become one of the brightest comets in years. Amateurs are already getting fantastic images as the comet brightens even faster than expected. You can get its position from heavens-above.com.
5. Venus moves to Pleiades. You can't miss brilliant Venus in the SW to W evening twilight. On Mar 28 it will feature in a nice triangle with the crescent Moon and the Pleiades. It draws ever closer to the Seven Sisters over the following days. The highlight comes on the evening of 3 April, when it passes through the S edge of the cluster, crossing just on the inner side of the 'dogleg' of stars leading to HIP 17776 (mag 5.4). The closest pass to a binocular star is about 1' 32" from HL 18, mag 7.0, at about 22.45 BST.
We won't see Venus as close to the Pleiades again until 3 April 2028, when it will pass just under 2' from 23 Tau, mag 4.2; one of the 'Seven'. There will be an even more central pass on 4 April 2036, but this will happen while the sky is still bright in Ireland; by the start of twilight, Venus will be exiting the cluster. However, mark your diaries for 4 April 2044 when it will pass almost through the centre of the cluster in a dark sky that evening!
(Yes, there is an almost exact 8-year repetition of this event, because 8 Earth years is almost exactly equal to 13 Venusian years. So every 8 years we see Venus in almost exactly the same part of the sky. Conversely, any Venusian able to see through its thick clouds would see the Earth in almost exactly the same place in their sky every 13 Venusian years.)
6. ISS started a series of evening passes on 20 March. You can sometimes watch it pass close to Venus, or the Pleiades. Full details for your location, and lots of other astronomy information, on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com
7. BETELGEUSE continues to brighten. Betelgeuse reached a minimum magnitude of about mag 1.6, and is now slowly brightening again: it's about 1.2 at the moment.
Watch it for as long as you can – into early April, at a stretch - to see how much it brightens again. You can compare it with Procyon (mag 0.4), Aldebaran (mag 0.87, but slightly variable itself), Pollux (mag 1.16), Castor (mag 1.58), Bellatrix (mag 1.64). Only do it when Betelgeuse is at least 30 degrees above the horizon, and choose comparison stars at about the same altitude as it.
8. Asteroid Day, 30 June.
9. International Astronomical Youth Camp in Spain, 12 July – 1 August
The International Astronomical Youth Camp (IAYC) is a three-week long summer camp aiming to promote knowledge of astronomy and related sciences in a unique international atmosphere. The IAYC is an experience unlike any other; a place for unforgettable memories and lifelong friendships. During the camp, 65 young and enthusiastic participants from all corners of the world gather in a remote location in Spain to observe and learn about some of the most spectacular skies on this Earth. Applications for the 2020 camp are being accepted until 5 April 2020.
International Astronomical Youth Camp, 12 July-1 August 2020; Baños de Montemayor, Spain
More information and application are here: www.iayc.org
10. National Astronomy Week, 14 – 22 November.
National Astronomy Week (NAW) will be held in the UK from Saturday 14 November to Sunday 22 November, to celebrate the close approach of Mars. Amateur and professional astronomers will be holding observing events during the week. Seen through a telescope magnifying about 100 times, Mars will appear as a pale orange disc, with its markings clearly visible, at a distance of 80 million km.
Although Mars is at its closest to Earth a month earlier, by November it is well up in the sky during the early evening, allowing younger schoolchildren an opportunity to get a good view of the planet. It will not be as close again until 2033. As well as Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon will be on show during National Astronomy Week. Details of observing events will be posted on the NAW website.
11. Death of Al Worden. Sad news: Al was the CM pilot on Apollo 15. I was lucky enough to have dinner with him at the Kennedy Space Centre just over a year ago. A great and lovely man.
12. 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.
https://newatlas.com/space/hubble-space-telescope-stars-nebula/?utm_source=New+Atlas+Subscribers&utm_campaign=2a75a50b6a-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_20_09_17&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_65b67362bd-2a75a50b6a-92786061 Nice feature, but Oh dear! - "...nearby in astrological terms". Astrological??? Wash your mouths out with soapy water!
High rate of star formation in 3 nearby interstellar gas clouds https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200323101350.htm
Strange pulsating white dwarf in a binary system https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200316141447.htm
Search for Dark Matter in MW comes up empty https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326144404.htm but see this for a contrary view https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/03/physicists-brawl-over-new-dark-matter-claim?utm_campaign=news_daily_2020-03-26&et_rid=415711678&et_cid=3261898
Slime mould models the universe's largest structures https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326124124.htm
ALMA + a gravitational lens show effects of BH jets in a very distant galaxy https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200327113755.htm
Holographic cosmological model and thermodynamics on the horizon of the universe https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326101354.htm
Hubble Bubble may settle the question of the rate of the expansion of the universe https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200320192753.htm
EARTH & MOON
Strange orbits of Tatooine planetary discs https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200319103209.htm
Forming massive stars in the Tarantula Nebula https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200318104425.htm
TELESCOPES, EQUIPMENT, TECHNIQUES
New deformable precision mirrors to improve sensitivity of GW detectors https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200318143639.htm
Model Earths plus super telescopes will aid search for exolife https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200326144450.htm
13. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION. This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
If you are a UK taxpayer, please tick the 'gift-aid' box, as that enables us to reclaim the standard rate of tax on your subscription, at no cost to you. You can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button. See also https://irishastro.org/
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DISCLAIMER: Any views expressed herein are mine, and do not necessarily represent those of the IAA.