Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Solstice Astroarchaeology, Solarfest, Cassini, NLCs.


Hi all,

1. SOLSTICE ASTROARCHAEOLOGY, Sunday 21 June, 14.00.

To mark the summer solstice, the Irish Astronomical Association and the Ulster Archaeological Society have organised an event at the An Creagan Centre in Co Tyrone, including an escorted visit to the nearby famous Beaghmore Stone Circles and Alignments. This is part of the UAS's public "Archaeology Days" in June, and also falls neatly into the International Year of Astronomy events.

   There will be an exhibition of the amazing IYA 2009 'From  the Earth To The Universe' posters; lectures on astroarchaeology in general, and on the Beaghmore site in particular, by Lorraine Bourke of the Environment and Heritage Service, and Terry Moseley of the IAA. This will be followed by a visit to the Beaghmore site, which is one of the most fascinating, enigmatic and beautiful of all the neolithic sites in Ireland. There are many stone circles, of various sizes; some are in pairs; some are open and some are 'filled'; some have associated cairns; and many have associated stone rows or alignments, many of which are aligned in the general direction of the Summer Solstice Sunrise.

    The site is maintained by EHS, and you won't need welly boots, but it is an exposed site, in the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, so bring appropriate footwear and clothing for the expected weather conditions - whether wind, rain or sun, or all three!

   We would expect to be finished by about 5.30 or 6 p.m.

   The lectures will start at 2 p.m., but you are invited to join the rest of us there beforehand for lunch at the An Creagan Centre at 12.00, BUT YOU MUST LET ME KNOW BY THURSDAY 18 June if you want to attend that lunch, so that we can reserve a seat for you.

  The event itself is free, but you'll have to pay for your own lunch.

   The An Creagan Centre is just off the main A505 Cookstown to Omagh road, just under halfway from Cookstown to Omagh. If going from Cookstown direction it's just past Creagan crossroads (junction with the B46), on the right, and is signposted.

    Some of you have already indicated that you will attend, but please CONFIRM/UPDATE that so that I have an accurate idea of numbers -

A: for the lunch, and

B: for the event itself.

Please let me know ASAP.

2. SOLARFEST 2009, 10:30 - 17:00, 20TH JUNE


Dunsink Observatory is just off the M50 on the N3, just on the city side of the N3/M50 roundabout.

    IFAS in conjunction with Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) http://www.dias.ie are organising a one-day event in Dublin to discuss Solar Astronomy. The event is called Solarfest 2009. IFAS is very grateful for the support of DIAS for sponsoring the event, therefore making attendance FREE to all. Speakers are Deirdre Kelleghan (IFAS), Sally Russell (RAS), Miruna Popescu (Armagh Observatory www.arm.ac.uk), Kevin Smith (Practical Astronomer Magazine), Nick Howes (Astronomy Now Magazine) and Michael O'Connell (MAC). Weather permitting, we will have solar observing sessions also.

    A more detailed programme of the event will be available in the next few days, however, the day will commence at approx 10:30am and finish at 5pm. Spaces are limited to 60 seats so if you are interested in attending this event, please drop an e-mail to Michael  michael@astroshot.com or Deirdre Kelleghan skysketcher@gmail.com, asap so that a seat can be reserved for you at this invitation-only event.
    More info can be seen on the IFAS website here:

3. DR. CAROLYN PORCO (Cassini Imaging Science Team), 20:00, 30th JUNE


Organised by DIAS, Blackrock Castle Observatory and Armagh Planetarium.

E-tickets are yet to be released for Carolyn Porco. You will receive notice when they are available.

  Note that this event, although FREE, is also by ticket only.

4. NLC's: Noctilucent Clouds occur in the Earth's high upper atmosphere and can only be seen for about a month on either side of the Summer Solstice. They can be seen when the light from the Sun illuminates these very high altitude clouds long after it is too far below the local horizon to illuminate ordinary low altitude or 'tropospheric' clouds, i.e. in late twilight.

    They are believed to form when ice crystals develop on tiny dust particles, perhaps from meteors, and they vary from year to year, perhaps tied in with the Solar Cycle. (What Solar Cycle? sez you! Well, latest forecasts are for a slow build up to a low maximum in 2014 or so!)

    They lie around 70 to 85 kilometers or more above Earth's surface. Keep an eye along the Northern horizon within 15 - 20 degrees altitude for around 1.5 to 2 hours after local sunset, to the same time before local sunrise.

   They look like irregular wisps of silvery white light, shining brighter than the last of the remaining twilight. If there are any ordinary tropospheric clouds in the same direction, they will appear dark in silhouette. A good guide is the visibility of Capella, which lies low down near the N horizon approaching local midnight at this time of year. If the sky is still too bright to see Capella, you probably won't see any NLCs, unless they are exceptionally bright. And if there are any NLCs it often can be seen twinkling among them.

   They make a nice photographic target, so be ready! Send any shots you get to www.irishastro.org.

Clear Skies, and HAPPY SOLSTICE!

Terry Moseley

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