Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Lecture, Schools competition, APOD, Geminids, Leonids 2009


Hi all,

1. IAA PUBLIC LECTURE: Irish Astronomical Association meeting, Wed 10 December. "Periodic Radio Pluses From Our Cool Neighbours - A New Stellar Lighthouse?" By Prof Gerry Doyle (Armagh Observatory).  7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. Admission free, including light refreshments. All are welcome.

2. Free Astronomical Telescopes for Post Primary Schools!

The International Year of Astronomy begins in January 2009. I want to advise you of an offer from the Society of Popular Astronomy to launch the year by giving away astronomical telescopes to schools completely free of charge. The telescope comes with a CD of instructions for use.

    The idea is to encourage schools to develop an interest in astronomy and to engage young people in discovering the wonders of exploring the night sky. To receive a telescope, each school has to download and complete an application form from the SPA web site and send it with a submission of not more than 500 words about how the telescope will be used to promote astronomy in the school and community.

   This has been arranged through the good offices of Robert Hill of NI Space Office at the Armagh Planetarium. Robert has also put together some suggestions for the submission to help the drafting of the form. I have included these below. As you will see from the web site, telescopes are given on a first come first served basis, however we have been assured that any post primary school or special school with a post primary department that applies from NI has a very good chance of receiving a telescope, provided application is made within the next week to ten days.

    We intend to mark the event with a launch in the New Year so I would be grateful if you would process your application rapidly and send it to the address in the web site and copy it to me by post or email as the Advisers in the Boards will co-ordinate the distribution along with Robert and the Planetarium staff. I am also investigating the possibility of some training sessions for the use of the telescope.

    You will note that one of the conditions for acceptance is to link with a local astronomer. Armagh Planetarium has agreed to act as the local resource with support from astronomers at the Observatory in this instance. Give the contact as and your submission to If you have any queries please contact me. I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this opportunity to acquire a fully functional astronomical telescope.

Best regards

Sean Maguire

Adviser Science & Technology

Project Possibilities for 500 Word Outline

Curriculum: link to Key Stage 3. Underneath the stars and Is there life out there..? thematic units

· Start or enhance astronomy club activities

· Sign up to the free Astrogazers Ireland astronomy schools network in Northern Ireland run by Armagh Planetarium and encourage joint school activities (plus get lots of other free astronomy and space related material throughout the year!)

· Use the telescope to encourage and mentor local primary school (feeder) schools

· Propose a project for the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibition

· Propose a project for the Seagate Young Innovators exhibition

· School display on astronomy

· Register with a free UK based robotic schools observatory. Either Faulkes Telescope project ( or National Schools Observatory (

Register with all Ireland astronomy schools competition 2009.

3. APOD: Belated congratulations to Deirdre Kelleghan whose imaginative sketch of the recent occultation of Venus featured on APOD a few days ago: see and look back through the 'Archive'.  Well done Deirdre!

4. GEMINID METEORS: The best annual meteor shower is the Geminids, which are just starting to produce some activity, and are expected to peak this year on December 13th at 18h. Some activity will persist until about Dec 15/16. Unfortunately this year's display will be spoiled by a Full Moon at maximum, but you should still see some of the brighter meteors. The ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate: the standard measure of meteor activity) is predicted to be around 100, but you will probably only see about 1/4 of that rate because of the Moonlight. Grab any few hours when the Moon is out of the sky on the days on either side of maximum to get the best view, or if the Moon is up, position yourself so that it is hidden behind a tree or building if possible. The radiant is just North of Castor in Gemini.

5. LEONID MINI-STORM IN 2009? Astronomers from Caltech and NASA are predicting a near-storm of Leonids in 2009 based on a surprising outburst of meteors several weeks ago. FULL STORY at

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley


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