Wednesday, 13 June 2007

TV Prog on Pulsar Discoverer.

Jocelyn Bell-Burnell will be the subject of a programme called "Northern Star" on BBC1 at 10.45pm on Wednesday 13 June. "The life and times of Belfast-born astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell, who helped discover radio pulsars in 1968". Some say that Jocelyn should have shared in the Nobel Prize that was awarded for this discovery. Should be worth watching.....

DCU: A public lecture

entitled "The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): A tool for the study of Planetary System Formation and Evolution", by Dr. Mark Clampin, on Thursday, 14 June at 3 pm.
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large aperture (6.5 meter), cryogenic space telescope with a suite of near and mid-infrared instruments covering the wavelength range of 0.6 μm to 28 μm. JWST’s primary science goal is to detect and characterize the first galaxies. It will also study the assembly of galaxies, star formation and protoplanetary systems, and formation of evolution of planetary systems. We will review recent progress in the design of JWST’s observatory architecture. In particular we will discuss the status of JWST’s optical system, recent successes in the primary mirror fabrication effort, and the status of key observatory elements such as the sunshield. We will also address the current projected scientific performance of the observatory with emphasis on its capabilities for the study of planetary system evolution and formation, and exoplanet detection and characterization.
It will be held in Room S209 of the Research and Engineering, Building at Dublin City University.
Dr. Clampin is the Observatory Project Scientist for the James Webb Space Telescope at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, USA.
We look forward to seeing you: Brenda Frye and Turlough Downes, DCU.

Frank Ryan images ISS + STS.

Frank used his scope & ccd cam to see if h could get a shot of Atlantis joining up with the International Space Station as they install new sections. He wrote: "I was expecting maybe to get a blob of light...
something of an odd shape to denote that it wasn't a star... but holy cow I got more than I bargained for! Bearing in mind now these two are only a few hundred feet wide between 300-400 K high, orbiting at 27,700KPH!
In the photo you can see the solar panels of the station, the shuttle was facing face on so you can see the familiar outline and even the tail fin, but also the robotic arm is unfurled and there is something to the bottom right of Atlantis which may be the new module...
Its up at the moment on this site.. ". Frank Ryan JR, Shannonside Astronomy Club.
Well done Frank - an excellent achievement

Deirdre Kellegher (President, IAS) gets another ASOD!

She wrote "My Saturn/Moon occultation sketch has made Astronomy Sketch of the Day on June 8th, I guess Richard Handy likes my work :-) Link to this, you may have to scroll back to June 8th if you open this on a later date. " Well done to DK also - again!

NLCs seen from Offaly

Seanie Morris (Secretary, TAS) reports: "Hi Terry, I thought it might be worth noting that Noctilucent Cloud season is here. On my way home from work between 02:40 and 3:10hrs on 11 June (between Mullingar and Daingean), I spotted Noctilucent Clouds in the predawn southeastern sky. They were faint, but obvious. About 7 thin silvery bands, all parallel to each other, and close together, and the horizon. The waxing orange crescent Moon, rising low down in the east, added to the nice spectacle."

PhD Studentship, QUB

One PhD studentship is available at Queen’s University Belfast from October 2007 for one of the following projects (too much detail in originals to repeat here):

Project 1: Theoretical Modelling of Interstellar Ices. Supervisors: Tom Millar & Philip Dufton

Contact: For more details contact Tom Millar – e-mail

Application Process: Please fill out an application form on-line at

Project 2: Low mass star formation. Supervisors: Tom Millar & Philip Dufton

Contact: For more details contact Tom Millar - email:

Application Process: Please fill out an application form on-line at

Postdoctoral Researcher - Radio Emission of Ultra Cool Dwarfs, Centre for Astronomy, National University of Ireland, Galway

Minimum qualifications include a Ph.D., or about to receive a Ph.D., in astronomy or physics, and experience with radio and optical astronomical observations, data reductions and computational modelling. Work will commence on 1 July 2007, or as soon thereafter as possible. The initial appointment is for two years, with renewal expected if progress is satisfactory and funds continue to be available. The starting salary will be at point 1 of the SFI Post-
Doctorate Researcher Salary Scale.
Please mail a short research statement, resume, list of publications, and copies of two recent publications (pre-prints or reprints) so that they arrive by 22 June 2007 to Dr. Aaron Golden, Centre for Astronomy, I.T. Building, National University of Ireland, Galway, Newcastle Road, Galway, Republic of Ireland (

Friday, 8 June 2007

IAA Member sees all 4 ISS passes in one night!

Following my last email alert, the indefatigable Martin McKenna (who else???) observed all four passes of the ISS last night. Also known as TMWNS (The Man Who Never Sleeps), Martin not only observed, but imaged, all four passes. He wrote "Hi Terry, Thanks for the email alert. I accepted the challenge and after an exhaustive session I managed to observe and image all four ISS passes in one single night. This is a new record for me. Here is a montage with times in BST...
Regards, Martin."
Well done Martin!

ARMAGH OBSERVATORY are having an Open Day on Sunday 10 June

ARMAGH OBSERVATORY are having an Open Day on Sunday 10 June, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Concentrating on the Sun and how it affects the Earth, this is designed for the general public, but some of you might also be interested, or you could pass this on to others who might be.
3.0 Meet at the bottom of the Observatory Drive, close to the Courthouse, which is at the NW end of the Mall; the Observatory Drive is actually at the bottom of College Hill. The Observatory is signposted from main routes into the city.
3.10 p.m. Tour of Observatory Grounds, Astropark, and Human Orrery.
4.00 p.m. Illustrated Talk: "Surviving in Our Sun's Explosive Atmosphere"
4.15 p.m. Q&A session: Ask an astronomer your questions about climate change, Earth, Sun, Moon, Stars, Galaxies.
For further details contact Dr Miruna Popescu, Armagh Observatory, Tel. 028 3752 2928, or E/M

Four ISS passes

You have a very rare chance to see FOUR passes of the ISS tonight! Thanks to the shallow angle with which the Sun dips below the N horizon at this time of year, the ISS will be illuminated during 4 successive passes tonight - something I've never seen before! The following details are for Belfast, but should apply to most of the NE corner of the island (you can get details for your own location at
5 June: starts 22h 55m 34s in the SSW, greatest alt = 18 deg at 22h 57m 37s in the SSE
6 June: starts 00h 29m 24s in the WSW, greatest alt = 41 deg at 00h 32m 12s in the SSE
6 June: starts 02h 04m 07s in the W, greatest alt = 38 deg at 02h 06m 51s in the S
6 June: starts 03h 39m 26s in the WSW, greatest alt = 16 deg at 03h 41m 19s in the SSW
You can also see 3 successive passes on the nights of 6/7 June and 7/8 June.


Don't forget the social, astronomical, pyrotechnic, ballistic and culinary event of the year: the IAA + friends trip to Greencastle Planetarium for a starshow, rocket-launching, and BBQ.
Our midsummer event this year is an extra special treat! Those of you who have met or heard Ash McFadden, the Greencastle Planetarium Director and chief rocket launcher, will know that a visit there during the summer for a show and watching or taking part in the rocket launching is a real treat. (BTW, these are REAL rockets, not compressed air or water. The big one can go up to over 20,000 feet, although most launches are 'only' to about 2-3,000 feet.) The fun part is the egg-lofting competition, whereby you make your own rocket, from a kit which you buy from the Planetarium, and design it so that it will launch, and land with a parachute, a standard raw egg (supplied). The rocket that goes highest, and lands the egg intact afterwards, wins. If by any chance the weather is too bad for rocket launching, which is VERY unlikely, Ash has promised us a free laser light show (in which he specialises) in the planetarium.
Well, we're doing even better than that: we'll have a special show in the Planetarium, plus it will be exclusively open for us that day, and after the rocket launching that afternoon, Ash has invited us all to have our midsummer BBQ either at the Planetarium or at his house afterwards! Ash lives in a lovely location overlooking Kinnagoe Bay in Inishowen, a few miles from Greencastle, and has great outdoor BBQ facilities.
The Planetarium show will be at 13.00; that will be followed by the rocket launching etc. To allow time to look around the Planetarium and the Maritime Museum, of which it is part, we will aim to meet there no later than noon. More details on that later.
Our normal BBQ rules apply - no charge, you just bring ALL your own stuff for eating, drinking etc: we + Ash will supply the heat for the cooking.
There is of course a charge for the Planetarium show, and places are limited by the size of the Planetarium, so you MUST book a place by sending a cheque for £7.00 payable to the IAA to our Treasurer, John Hall, 3 Vaddegan Avenue, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT36 7SP, ASAP!
TRANSPORT: There was not a big demand for the minibus, and in any case there were complications with getting insurance for the school's minibus in ROI, so we have decided not to bother with that. Instead we will try to facilitate car sharing.
1. If you are going and need a lift: state your location, and number of seats required.
2. If you are going and can offer a lift: state your location, and number of seats offered.
3. IN BOTH CASES, state whether you are staying over on the Sunday night, or whether you wish to return home, and if so what is roughly your preferred return departure time (allow roughly 1.5 - 2 hours to get back to Belfast.
You may of course make your own way there if you wish.
NB, It's not a big planetarium, and places are limited, so book now - first come, first served!

Space in Art exhibition 2007

FROM DEIRDRE KELLEGHER: Announcing 50 years of Space Celebration early October 2007. As part of the IAS celebration of its 70 years involvement in Irish Astronomy, I am organising a Space Art Competition/Exhibition to be held in Gonzaga College Dublin. If you are a teacher, or are involved with a youth group here are the details.
I would like drawings, paintings, sketches, of spacecraft/planets/moons/ whatever you can do best, or models of spacecraft for the exhibition, all works to be with me by September 30th or earlier if possible.
You can spark the interest before school finishes for the summer and really go for it when school returns in September. Planets, Sputnik, Apollo, Mars Rovers, Cassini indeed any and all spacecraft or heavenly bodies are welcome in any art medium. All ages, all abilities
Send to our PO Box 2547 Dublin 14 or contact me at for further information. I would like young people to explore the exploration of space through art and celebrate these wonderful robot explorers and the fabulous work they have done and are doing in space . Human space exploration celebration art would also be wonderful, ideally you would bring your work to Gonzaga and collect it afterwards if you wish it returned
We will have several talks on Space and Space exploration at this event, details to follow later as it all gels together .
Send me an e mail if you intend to take part or if you have any contribution to make in organising or helping us out with this:

Noctilucent Clouds

The short summer nights bring few benefits for the amateur astronomer, apart from the warmer temperatures of course.
But one is that this is the best time of year to see Noctilucent Clouds, or NLCs for short. 'Noctilucent' means 'night-shining', and these beautiful high-altitude clouds do indeed 'shine at night', often being at their best around local midnight, which in Ireland, allowing for Summer Time, is usually around 01.20 - 01.40 on your watch. But they can be seen any time from about 00.30 to 02.30, if the sky is dark enough, although very near local midnight the Sun may be just too far below the horizon to illuminate them all fully, especially for those living further South.
They are thought to be caused by ice crystals condensing on meteoric dust, i.e. the very fine dust left behind as meteors burn up on entry high up in the atmosphere, or possibly even just extremely fine particles 'wafting in' from space.
The reason that they can be seen is that they are so high up (about 80-85 km) that the Sun still illuminates them even when it is too far below the local horizon to illuminate ordinary tropospheric clouds. And this is the best time of year to see them because the Sun never dips very far below the N horizon, even at local midnight, giving the best conditions for seeing them. They can only be seen when the Sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon.
They appear low down near the N horizon, often in the vicinity of Capella, and appear as wispy silvery or sometimes bluish streaks, often parallel to the horizon. Some 'curls' and 'billows' are also occasionally visible. They can be seen anywhere in Ireland or Britain if you have a fairly clear N horizon, but because they occur mainly at latitudes of 60 degrees to 80 degrees, those in the far South don't see them as well or as often.
This year may have greater NLC activity than usual, because they are seen more often around sunspot minimum, so do have a look on clear evenings. They are quite easy to photograph, with exposures of 1" - 4" on 400 ISO film (or 2" to 8" on ISO 200 film, etc); or just experiment with your digital camera and see what you get with each trial. Successive photos over a period of half an hour or so may show changes in structure and motion.
Do not be fooled by ordinary wispy cirrus-type clouds visible late on a summer evening: the sky needs to be dark enough for you to see the first few brightest stars in order for NLCs to be properly visible.