1. A FINAL REMINDER: The next IAA public lecture will be at 7.30 p.m. on Wed 19 March, by the renowned Prof Ian Robson. Title: "Active Galactic Nuclei and Supermassive Black Holes", which promises to be a fascinating talk on some of the most amazing and energetic objects in the universe. Venue: Bell Lecture Theatre, Queen's University, Belfast. Admission Free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome.
2. RAS NATIONAL ASTRONOMY MEETING, 31 March – 4 April 2008, Queen’s University, Belfast.
Nearly 500 astronomers and space scientists will gather for the 2008 Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2008). NAM 2008 will be hosted by Queen’s University, Belfast and run from 31 March to 4 April 2008.
At NAM 2008 scientists will present new research in many aspects of astronomy and space science, including the early history of the Universe, planets around other stars, the vision for space exploration, black holes and the impact of ‘space weather’ on the Earth.
For the general public, three keynote speakers will give lectures on the risk of asteroid impact, the Hubble Space Telescope and the way in which science influences popular science fiction. The Irish Astronomical Association has secured 50 tickets for the Lectures on Tuesday 1st and Thursday 3rd April, and 100 tickets for the lecture on the HST on 2 April, as that is one of our own IAA lectures. These tickets will be available at our meetings before then, or by application via our website www.irishastro.org : details of how to get them will be posted shortly. These lectures are:
A. "Tunguska 2008: 100 Years of the NEO Impact Hazard"
2008 is the one-hundredth anniversary of the most recent significant extraterrestrial body known to have run into the Earth: the famous 30 June 1908 Tunguska Event, which devastated some 2000 square kilometres of forest in a remote part of Siberia. Since then, advances in astronomy have confirmed that the phenomenon of impacts is a key driver of planetary evolution, ranging from the cause of the largest craters and mare (or "seas") on the Moon, to the evolution of life on Earth. This has led to our modern understanding that impacts by relatively small astronomical bodies (comets, asteroids and fragments thereof) have the potential to produce occasionally catastrophic environmental changes on Earth. The objects, which range in size from typically a few tens of metres across to many kilometres in diameter, orbit the Sun in elliptical orbits that cross those of the planets and are sometimes the closest extraterrestrial objects accessible to direct observations or to visits by spacecraft. Those that cross or come close to the Earth's orbit are called Near-Earth Objects (NEOs), and it is these that have the potential to collide with our Earth. This talk will review our growing understanding of the resulting extraterrestrial impact hazard and especially its implications for various aspects of civilization and for our wider understanding of mankind's and Earth's place in the Universe.
B. "Adventures with the Hubble Space Telescope".
The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the most successful scientific projects of all time, both in terms of its scientific output and in terms of its almost iconic public appeal. Hubble's enormous impact derives from its ability to exploit a unique scientific niche where no other instruments can really compete at the moment - consistently delivering super-sharp images and clean, uncontaminated spectra, also in the elusive infrared and ultraviolet. This has opened up new scientific territory and resulted in many paradigm-breaking discoveries. Hubble's exquisite image quality has enabled astronomers to gain entirely new insights into the workings of a huge range of different astronomical objects and provided the visual overview of underlying astrophysical processes taking place planets, stars and galaxies.
On top of all this astronomers are lucky scientists. Their telescopes do not only produce results of great scientific value, but also of eye-catching beauty and artistic potential. This talk aims to also show how Hubble has built a bridge between science and art.
This lecture is presented in association with the Irish Astronomical Association.
C. "The Science of Science Fiction in TV and Films".
Professor Francis Keenan - Queen's University Belfast Astrophysics Research Centre
Larmour Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Thursday 3rd April, 19:00.
Science-fiction films and TV shows are extremely popular, with many of the top-grossing movies of all-time being science-fiction, while Star Trek (and its various spinoffs) is one of the most-watched TV series. As a result, for many people their main exposure to scientific ideas and concepts is via the medium of science-fiction films and TV. In this presentation, the accuracy (or otherwise!) of the science in science-fiction films and television programmes is discussed, and illustrated using clips from films and TV shows including Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Aliens.
A full and up to date schedule of these and other events can be found on the official website at http://nam2008.qub.ac.uk
The conference is principally sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and Queen’s University, Belfast.
FURTHER INFORMATION: NAM 2008: http://nam2008.qub.ac.uk.
Astronomy at Queen’s University Belfast: http://star.pst.qub.ac.uk
3. Don't forget the next major amateur astronomical event in Ireland: COSMOS 2008: April 4 - 6. Hosted by the Tullamore Astro Society: Ireland's second longest running Star Party takes place at Annaharvey Equestrian Centre, Tullamore, Co Offaly. Preliminary details are on the TAS website: www.tullamoreastronomy.com, with more going up soon, or Contact: Seanie Morris: (087)6825910. Speakers so far confirmed include:
• Dr. Miruna Popescu, Armagh Observatory: Topic on the Sun: Title TBA,
• Mr. Pat O'Neill, Irish Astronomical Association: Title TBA
• Professor John Zarnecki, Open University: "Touchdown On Titan"
• Dr. David Asher, Armagh Observatory: Topic on Tunguska Astro-impact, 100 years on: Title TBA
• Mr. Trevor O'Donoghue, Kerry Astronomy Club: "Transient Lunar Phenomenon"
• Mr. Albert White, South Dublin Astronomy Society and ILPAC: "Pulsars & The Parkes Telescope"
• Mr. John Lally, Tullamore Astronomical Society: "Countdown: Interesting Facts & Figures in the Universe"
4. Death of Sir Arthur C Clarke: It is with great regret that I have to tell you of the very recent death of the doyen of Science Fiction writers, Sir Arthur C Clarke, aged 90. Not only was he a great story-writer, he made sure that he got his science as near right as was possible based on knowledge at the time. It would take far too long to list all his books, but just check Google or Wikipedia if you need any further convincing. There will probably never be another like him.
I have been asked to do an interview on Radio Ulster tomorrow morning at about 08.20, but any tribute I can pay will be sadly inadequate.