Monday, 19 May 2008

Lidl Binocs, IYA '09, MS astronomy, 'Scope for sale, Astronauts & Photos wanted

Hi all,

1. Lidl 10x50 Binocs. From Monday 19 May Lidl will again be selling the Bresser 10x50 binocs for £14.99 in UK/NI. I don't know the price in ROI, but usually it's comparable. I have a pair of these and am very happy with them as a second pair which I keep in the car at all times. They are not 'Five Star', but they are probably 'Four Star', and are very good value at that price. They have BAK4 prisms (the best), and fully coated lenses. The field of view is quoted as 114m at 1000m, which equals 6.5 degrees, which is OK. They have central focussing, with individual eye adjustment. They also have a tripod attachment point at the front of the centre focus bar, They come with a strap and a light carry case. They are basically a 'clone' of the equivalent Meade model, which is a good guarantee of quality, and they have a 5-year guarantee.…

2. Volunteers for IYA 2009. I'm sure you all know that the UN General Assembly has designated 2009 as "International Year of Astronomy" to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first telescopic observations of the sky. It's also the 40th anniversary of the first Moon landing.
There will be a world-wide series of astronomy events, aimed at bringing astronomy to all. Contact your local astronomy club to see what they are planning.
The Irish Astronomical Association in particular is planning a wide variety of events, right across the country. We are looking for volunteers in all areas who would be prepared to help out at, for example, observing afternoons+ evenings. The plan is for an afternoon event focussing on the Sun, with night sky observing that same evening, with other activities if it's cloudy. These will obviously concentrate in the early spring and autumn, when darkness falls fairly early.

3. Microsoft astronomy: Microsoft research has released the beta version of the Worldwide telescope. just in case you have not seen it, please link to for the download.
Quoting the Blurb from the web site:
"WorldWide Telescope is a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space-based telescopes to enable seamless exploration of the universe.
Choose from a growing number of guided tours of the sky by astronomers and educators from some of the most famous observatories and planetariums in the country. You can pause a tour at any time and explore on your own. Or you can stop and research a deep sky object with the multiple information sources available. When you're ready, rejoin the tour where you left off.
WorldWide Telescope, created with Microsoft Corp.'s high-performance Visual Experience Engine, enables seamless panning and zooming around the night sky, planets and image environments. View the sky from multiple wavelengths: See the X-ray view of the sky and zoom into bright radiation clouds, and then cross-fade into the visible light view and discover the cloud remnants of a supernova explosion from 1,000 years ago. Switch to the Hydrogen-Alpha view to see the distribution and illumination of massive primordial hydrogen cloud structures lit up by the high-energy radiation coming from nearby stars in the Milky Way.
These are just two of many different ways to reveal the hidden structures in the universe with the WorldWide Telescope. Pan and zoom from aerial views of the moon and selected planets, and see their precise positions in the sky from any location on Earth, at any time in the past or future. The WorldWide Telescope is a single rich application portal that blends terabytes of images, data and stories from multiple sources over the Internet into a media-rich, immersive experience. Space explorers of all ages will feel empowered to navigate and understand the universe with the WorldWide Telescope's simple yet powerful user interface."

4. For Sale: Meade Lightbridge 12" Dobsonian f/5. In excellent condition with extras. Details as per Telescope House website- Extras included: Astrozap shroud; all collimation and locking screws replaced with Bob's Knobs; wheeled base for moving; blackened struts; handles for lifting.
Buyer collects. Price – First £450. Contact - Philip Baxter 07999811066 or e-mail

5. ESA Astronauts wanted: From Monday 19 May ESA, the European Space Agency, will commence the search for new prospective astronauts. Both Ireland & the UK are members of ESA, so any UK or Irish citizen can apply. You need an appropriate science degree or pilot experience, and have to be within certain age limits, and healthy. See the ESA website for details.

6. COMET PHOTOS WANTED: From Dr Mike Simms: The Ulster Museum is putting together a whole load of new displays. Included will be a section on meteorites and the early history of the Earth and Solar System. I also want to briefly mention comets as a possible source of organic molecules and water for the early Earth. A picture of Hale-Bopp would be nice to include. There are thousands available on the internet but it would be nice to use an image (fully acknowledged of course) by someone in the IAA. It would need to be fairly high resolution but then, most of you starmen seem to have pretty fancy cameras these days! Could you send out a call to any IAA members to send me any good images of Hale-Bopp (probably best to use that one as it is the one most people will remember seeing) that they would like us to consider. All the best, Mike". Contact Mike at
Clear Skies,

Terry Moseley

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Competition link, Mercury, Occultation, ISS, ESA, Ionosphere,

Hi all,
1. CASSINI COMPETITION: There was a problem with the link to the Cassini comp in the last email: there should be a letter 'l' at the end of the url, as follows:
Thanks to Danny Collins for pointing that out. 
2.  MERCURY & MOON: If you want to spot Mercury, perhaps for the first time, there's a great chance to find this elusive little planet quite easily on the evenings of 6 & 7 May, when the crescent Moon will act as a guide.
  On the evening of the 6th, the very young Moon will lie just 2 degrees above and right of Mercury in the evening twilight. Start looking about 10-12 degrees above the horizon just N of West from about 21.45 BST using wide-field binocs and you should have found it by about 10 p.m. if the sky is clear. If not, keep trying - even up to 10.15 it should be quite easy: after that it may be getting a bit low down in horizon cloud or haze. If you can spot Capella much higher up, drop down vertically from Capella towards the horizon - at about 10.15 the Moon will be about 25 degrees almost vertically below Capella. (For those in the west of Ireland take about 10 mts later for all those times),
   Next evening (May 7) the Moon will have moved well to the upper left of Mercury: you'll find the innermost planet 13 degrees below and right of the Moon at about the same time that evening.
3. OCCULTATION OF MARS: Fancy a challenge? On 10 May, the 69% crescent Moon will occult Mars, but in broad daylight! Worse, the Moon & Mars will still be rising in the East, while the Sun will be near culmination, and therefore highest and brightest, at the time of the occultation! Mars will be quite faint, at magnitude +1.3. Even the Moon will not be easy to find, as the surface brightness of the crescent will be quite low at that phase.
   You'll need a very transparent sky, and good clean optics, with good tube baffling if you're using a refractor. Both Mars and the Moon will be very difficult to see in those conditions, but have a go if you relish a challenge! Here are details for various locations in Ireland. Times of occultation are given to the nearest minute - obviously you'll want to start observing well before those times, and you should aim to have found the Moon & Mars at least 5 mts before these times.
   Once you've found the Moon, whose 'horns' will be pointing to the lower left (ignoring whatever inversion your telescope may give to the image!), mentally 'complete the circle' to envisage the whole disc of the Moon. Mars will disappear behind the dark, and hence invisible, limb of the Moon, in the NE quadrant, roughly at between '10.0 o'clock' and '11 o'clock' on a clock face on the Moon's disc.
   If you have setting circles, or an aligned GoTO telescope, Mars will be at RA 8h 11m 50", Dec + 21 deg 46'.
BELFAST:  13.24 BST, Mars: altitude 26 deg 46'; azimuth 89 deg 34'.
DUBLIN:  13.19 BST: Mars: altitude 25 deg 50'; az = 87 deg 40'
CORK: 13.14 BST: Mars: altitude 23 deg 38'; az = 84 deg 19'
GALWAY: 13.19 BST: Mars: alt 24 deg 09'; az = 85 deg 27'
LIMERICK: 13.17 BST: Mars: alt 24 deg 03'; az = 85 deg 07'
WATERFORD: 13.16 BST: Mars: alt 24 deg 20'; az = 85 deg 43'.
   To find where Mars is about 10 minutes BEFORE the occultation times, it will be about 1 deg 30' of arc lower, and about 2 degrees further to the LEFT, than the position at the time of occultation.
   The crescent of the Moon will be about 0.5 degrees above right of those positions for Mars
    To help in locating it, note the exact position of the East point (90 degrees azimuth) on your local horizon, and then offset to the left by whatever few degrees are appropriate for your location at whatever time you start observing. Then sweep vertically upwards by the required amount.
   Mars will reappear from behind the bright limb of the Moon between 20 and 40 minutes after disappearance, depending on your location, but this will be much harder to see, as Mars will be much fainter than the bright edge of the Moon at that point.
   I suggest using a medium magnification to try to see Mars: too low, and the sky will appear too bright; too high and you'll probably have bad 'seeing', and Mars' disc will appear fainter, with less contrast against the sky.
   Good Luck! If you have any success, tell me, or report the observation to, or
4. ISS: The now much enlarged and brighter International Space Station is now starting another series of morning passes over Ireland. See the excellent, free, for details of predictions for your own location, and lots more besides.
    The European Space Agency is looking for third-level students to take part in a Space Station Design Workshop next July. Two teams will compete against each other and the competition is open to anyone studying up to masters level. See:

6. EXPLORE THE IONOSPHERE: The ionosphere is our planet's "final frontier." A realm of dancing auroras, radio-bending plasma bubbles and dangerous ultraviolet rays, it is the last wisp of Earth's atmosphere that astronauts leave behind when they enter space. Now you can explore the ionosphere from the safety of your own home.  Recently, NASA-supported researchers unveiled a "4D" computer model for the general public. Download a few files and presto--you're flying through the ionosphere. The model shows the ionosphere as it is right now; it's a real-time display based on current solar activity and atmospheric conditions.  Visit to get started.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley