(NB, all times are summer time when in force, for convenience)
1. IAA lecture via Zoom, 2 December, 19.30, "Adventures in the Outer Solar System" by Dr Caitriona Jackman (DIAS)
In this talk we will Zoom (pun intended) to the outer solar system to explore the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn. I will furnish the audience with plenty of fun facts about the amazing worlds of dynamic auroral displays, diverse moons, and mysterious atmospheres. I will focus on some of the famous spacecraft including Cassini which spent 13 years exploring the Saturn system, and NASA's Juno which is currently in orbit around Jupiter.
Dr. Caitriona Jackman is an Honorary Professor at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies where she leads a research group on Planetary Magnetospheres. She has worked with data from missions including NASA's Cassini at Saturn, ESA's Cluster mission in orbit around Earth, NASA's Juno at Jupiter, and with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Her research interests include understanding how the aurora works, and how machine learning and complexity science can be used to study huge volumes of data from space.
(Caitriona did her first degree at University of Limerick, so it's good to have her back in Ireland again! T.M.)
Here's the link details
Meeting ID: 897 0423 4875;
The room will open at approximately 19:15 to get everyone in for a 19:30 sharp start.
The meeting will also be simulcast on our YouTube Channel
2. The last lecture "Thirty Years of Hubble; Opening the treasure chest.", by Dr Jorick Vink, AOP, is now on Youtube
3. Two Big New Sunspots A big sunspot, several times wider than the Earth, is now on the Sun's disc, and another big one is following it.. The arrival of this sunspot, numbered AR2786, along with others already on the disc, hints at definite increase in solar activity.
4. Tim Peake's show at the Waterfront on 1st Dec 2021. Thanks to Paul Evans for this alert. Tickets can be booked at https://www.waterfront.co.uk/what-s-on/tim-peake/
5. Easy Teaser answered! Congratulations to Mark Corner who sent the right answer within 1 hour of receipt of the bulletin! The answer is L for Leo – they are the initial letters of the first constellations of the zodiac: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer – Leo.
Next correct answer came from John & Sara O'Neill, followed by Peter Millar.
6. Another Teaser – medium difficulty. What does the following sequence represent? Beta, Alpha, Gamma, Epsilon, Zeta
7. ISS The ISS continues its series of evening passes until 10 December. Full details for your location, and lots of other astronomy information, on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com
8. Good for the Geminids. The best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids, coincides with New Moon this year, so conditions are very favourable. Maximum will be on the night of 13/14 December (20h on Dec 13). The ZHR is expected to be 100+, so in good conditions you could average more than 1 meteor per minute! The radiant is near Castor, and the shower produces a fair number of fireballs. And the meteors are fairly slow, so that helps recording them with a camera, as each meteor spends a bit longer crossing each pixel.
If there's a clear sky, it's worth travelling some distance to get a dark site with a good view all round, and letting your eyes totally dark adapt, to enjoy the free celestial firework show!
Rates increase as the radiant rises, so best rates will be from about 11 p.m. to about 5 a.m.
Activity starts about Dec 7 with lowish rates, and then builds up steadily to maximum. So rates should be quite high even on the few nights before maximum, and on the night of 14/15 as well, so if it's cloudy on the 13th, you have other opportunities.
The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the rate which would be seen by an experienced observer, in a VERY dark sky, and with the radiant in the zenith: actual observed rates very rarely reach the nominal ZHR for various reasons but this year, an experienced observer in ideal conditions should get very close to the ZHR, plus a few sporadics as well.
Wrap up VERY well, and use a lounger or similar to avoid neck strain.
9. Paul Evans has produced another excellent 'Lockdown Video guide to the sky for December: https://youtu.be/bh5IDvpXs7Y
10. John Flannery's excellent astro calendar for 2021 is now available on line.
The download link is https://bit.ly/3mmSUU
Also his November Skynotes in the Irish Times is available online at ….
11. REGULAR FORTNIGHTLY SPACE and ASTRONOMY WEBINAR, December 8
Presented by me and the amazing Nick Howes, they are approximately 40 minutes long, every second Tuesday, at 7.30 p.m., covering whatever is topical in space and astronomy. The next one will be on Tuesday 8 December: youtube.com/spacestorelive
It's a Zoom webinar, and will be Live streamed to YouTube SpaceStore Live! Channel and Live streamed to Facebook Live. I'll post any last minute news via Twitter.
12. Space Lights Outdoor Trail Experience, Armagh Observatory & Planetarium, Now on 19 December.
This is a sound and light walking trail, which can be combined with a dome show ticket. Time slots available from 5 p.m. each day. Booking essential. See their website for details.
Solarsphere On-Line Christmas, Sat 19 Dec.
14. CATCH A STAR WRITING COMPETITION
2020 Catch a Star Writing Contest in Europe
Students from European countries who live anywhere in the world are invited to submit to the 2020 Catch a Star astronomical writing contest. Groups of up to three students with a non-student group leader can submit essays by 23 December 2020 to be considered.
Learn more here: https://www.eaae-astronomy.org/catch-a-star/welcome-to-catch-a-star-2020/
15. STFC Summer School at AOP postponed to January 2021 This year AOP was going to organize the STFC summer school for starting PhD student in astronomy. This event will now take place online and has been postponed to early January 2021 to attract also student's contributions on their proposed research topics, through short talks and poster. We have put together an exciting program of lectures, complementary skills workshops and meet the speaker breakout sessions and we would be glad to also invite students from everywhere in Ireland. Please feel free to forward the appended message to your postgraduate program coordinator as well as to your own students.
STFC 2020 INTRODUCTORY ASTRONOMY SCHOOL – 2nd Announcement. We should be grateful if you would circulate the details for the STFC Introductory Astronomy school to STFC funded students that could benefit from the school. The dates of the remote school are 11- 15 January 2021 and registration needs to be completed by 12 December 2020. PhD students are encouraged to present a short talk or poster outlining their proposed research topic – prizes will be awarded.
On behalf of the school organizing committee, Marc Sarzi & Simon Jeffrey. http://astro-online.iopconfs.org/home
16. JUPITER and SATURN closing, heading for the conjunction of a lifetime on Dec 21.
The two largest planets in the solar system are currently quite close together, low in the SSW twilight. On 1 December they will be just over 2.0º apart, and they will slowly but inexorably get ever closer until 21 December, when they will be just over 6 arcminutes apart – 1/5 of the diameter of the Moon!
You'll need a good clear SW horizon to see them clearly, so you could scout out some good observing sites for that in the meantime.
Note that they will have moved between now and 21 December. On 1 December, Saturn will be at RA 20h 3m; Dec -20º 49', On 21 December it will be at RA 20h 11m, Dec -20º 25'.
From Belfast. On 1 Dec at 5.30 p.m., it will be at Altitude 11º 5', Azimuth 205º 50', and on 21 Dec at the same time it will be at Altitude 06º 0', Azimuth 221º 21'. Obviously the altitude and azimuth figures will vary according to your location in Ireland/UK, but the relative change in position between now and Dec 21 will be approximately the same, so allow for that.
They'll look great to the naked eye, better in binocs, but to really appreciate the spectacle, complete with up to 8 of their moons, you'll need a telescope, so look for a site where you can set one up.
Depending on CV-19 it may be possible to set up a safe observing session somewhere. More on that later.
If not, and you live in Belfast, one good spot is the Giant's Ring in S. Belfast. There's a car park, and a short walk and gentle climb to the top of the embankment will get you a good view. Or if you want to avoid any distant lights in view, stay within the flat floor of the enclosure. There's a dolmen of some sort in the middle, which could give you an interesting foreground for a photo.
The CP is at N 54.54087, -5.94846. It's signposted off Ballynahatty Road, which is off Ballylesson Road. That's the first turn off on the right just after you cross Shaw's Bridge going out from the city. Go early before too many other 'visitors' arrive!
On 21 December, from Belfast, the Sun sets at 16.00, end of Civil twilight is at 16.44, and end of nautical twilight is at 17.31. At 17.30 they are about 6 degrees above the horizon, and they set at 18.29.
For observing in twilight a refractor is preferable to a Newtonian reflector as it admits less sky light. An SCT with a good light shield at the front is quite good too, so if you have a choice, bear that in mind. And if using an open tube reflector, such as some Dobs, make sure you use a tube shroud!
More on just what you'll see, and other interesting details, in the next bulletin.
17. Davagh Dark Sky Park and Observatory closed until further notice
See https://www.midulstercouncil.org/visitor/things-to-do/star-gazing/davagh-dark-sky-observatory , and https://www.facebook.com/omdarksky/ I'll post any updates here. Or phone 03000 132 132 for changing Covid-19 advice.
18. IAA Membership subs overdue – LAST CHANCE. If you don't pay now, you won't receive the Jan – March stardust Annual subscriptions are now overdue. It's easy to pay online – see www.irishastro.org
19. 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.
Mystery of star formation in an odd galaxy. Puzzling 'cold quasar' forming new stars in spite of active galactic nucleus -- ScienceDaily
HST data reveals why nearby galaxy is missing its Dark Matter New Hubble data explains missing dark matter -- ScienceDaily
Rapidly forming giants disrupt protoplanetary discs Rapid-forming giants could disrupt spiral protoplanetary discs -- ScienceDaily
We're moving faster, and are 2,000 LY closer to the SMBH in the centre of the Milky Way Earth faster, closer to black hole, in new map of galaxy -- ScienceDaily
Fast moving gas flowing away from star linked to comets Fast-moving gas flowing away from young star caused by icy comet vaporization -- ScienceDaily
EARTH & MOON
Scientists say intelligent life on other planets is 'exceptionally rare' | Daily Mail Online There's always a basic problem with this sort of analysis – we only have a sample of one to work with. For example, they say "eukaryotes – organisms with a nucleus – needed more than a billion years ago to emerge from their nucleus-less prokaryotic predecessors." But what if Earth was unusually slow for this to happen? Just because it took a billion years to happen here does not mean that it didn't happen elsewhere in, say, 100 million years, or even 10 million years. OTOH, it could have taken 2 billion years to happen elsewhere. The same applies to the other steps in the process – Earth could have been slower than usual, typical, or faster than usual. We simply cannot extrapolate from a sample of one.
But if in even 10% of other cases where life is possible, it developed more quickly, or at about the same rate as it did here, that still gives lots of other possible examples of intelligent life.
Unravelling the mystery of the weathering of Phobos Experiments unravelling the mystery of Mars' moon Phobos: What causes the weathering of the Mars moon Phobos? -- ScienceDaily
Telescopes, Instruments, Techniques:
New technology reveals the CNO process in the Sun Physics: 'Ghost particles' emitted by the SUN shed light on how massive stars shine | Daily Mail Online
New spectrograph searches distant quasars for early metals Astronomical instrument hunts for ancient metal: A new study looks at quasars to explore the origin of the iron in your blood -- ScienceDaily
Arecibo radio telescope collapses, total write-off. Areciob Observatory in Puerto Rico collapses after a cable broke that supported a 900-ton platform | Daily Mail Online
ASKAP discovers a million new galaxies in 3 hours! Astronomers create a new 'atlas of the universe' featuring a million previously unseen galaxies | Daily Mail Online
20. 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/
The Irish Astronomical Association is registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC 105858
DISCLAIMER: Any views expressed herein are mine, and do not necessarily represent those of the IAA.