1. International Year of Astronomy 2009: Astronomy Evening, with Observing and a Mobile Planetarium; Roe Valley Country Park, Limavady, FRIDAY 20 NOVEMBER. The Irish Astronomical Association (www.irishastro.org) are holding a PUBLIC ASTRONOMY EVENT AT THE ROE VALLEY COUNTRY PARK, near LIMAVADY, to mark International Year of Astronomy 2009. If the sky is clear we will show members of the public the wonders of the night sky, including mighty Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, with its four big Galilean Moons, and lovely double stars, star clusters, nebulae and galaxies from far across the universe. We may even get a quick view of Mars, although not until late in the evening. We will also have an exhibition, meteorites, and starshows in a mobile planetarium, so there will be plenty to enjoy, even if it's cloudy. Wrap up warm in any case, especially if the sky is clear. There is a cafe on site, where light meals, hot snacks and drinks are available, and it will be open for the evening. The Country Park is well signposted off either of the roads joining Limavady and Dungiven, the B68 and the B192. It's about 3-4 miles South of Limavady, with nice dark skies for viewing the heavens. Time: 8 p.m until about 11 p.m. No admission charge. All welcome
2. ISS + Space Shuttle. Space Shuttle Atlantis has now joined the ISS in orbit, and in clear skies the joined pair can be seen flying over Ireland for the next week or so. See www.heavens-above.com for predictions for your location.
3. De Valera, Einstein, and the future of advanced research. Lecture: Saturday, November 21, 8pm, Trinity College, Dublin. What use is advanced research? Especially during a recession? Why has Barack Obama promised to spend more than 3% of GDP on research and development, and to treble the number of science research fellowships? And can advanced research help to re-position Ireland as a ‘smart economy’? It was during the depressed 1930s that a mathematician-turned-politician, Éamon de Valera, established the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). The DIAS was modelled on another institute born during another depression: Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), established in 1930 in the aftermath of the great Wall Street crash. Funded by philanthropists, it was designed to help the US kickstart its 3rd-level programme for education and research, by generating ideas that would ‘change how we think’. (DIAS remains exchequer-funded, but the founding legislation left open the possibility of an endowment.) Fundamental to the vision behind both institutes was the belief that you change the world, not by following pre-set conventional lines, but in ‘the pursuit of interesting things’. It helps if your first faculty member is Albert Einstein – and Princeton tempted the Nobel physicist from Germany in 1932. Similarly, Dublin’s first appointment was another big name Nobel physicist: Austrian emigré Erwin Schrödinger, who remained a professor at DIAS from 1939 until his return to Austria in 1956. Significantly, the two institutes embraced both the sciences and the humanities from the outset. Princeton now has four schools – historical studies, mathematics and physics, natural sciences, and social science – and Dublin has three: theoretical physics, cosmic physics and Celtic studies. Combining theoretical physics and Celtic studies reflected de Valera’s interests and vision for a modern Ireland – ‘Hamilton’s country’, after the great Irish mathematical physicist of the 19th century – but also clearly reflects something more profound in human enquiry. But what of the Princeton and Dublin institutes today, and other institutes like them around the world? And what is their role in modern research and education. Noted English physicist Prof Peter Goddard, one of the founding figures of ‘string theory’ and current director of Princeton’s IAS, will talk about the relevance of institutes for advanced studies on Saturday, November 20. His lecture is entitled: "There are no excuses in paradise: the past, present and future of institutes for advanced studies." This is part of de Valera’s legacy: one of the institute’s “statutory public lectures”, as required under the 1940 Act which established DIAS, and part of the institute’s ongoing programme of public engagement.
Goddard’s mentor as a young scientist was Paul Dirac, another Nobel physicist. Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel prize with Schrödinger and was a frequent visitor to DIAS. Saturday’s lecture comes at a time when research funding is under intense scrutiny. But also in a year when US President Barack Obama reaffirmed his belief in fundamental research as “scientific capital”. Addressing the US National Academies of Science in April, Obama said: “ . . . scientific discovery takes far more than the occasional flash of brilliance – as important as that can be. Usually, it takes time and hard work and patience; it takes training; it requires the support of a nation. But it holds a promise like no other area of human endeavour.” In another parallel with historic developments, two months ago, Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the current incumbent of de Valera’s position, again looked to Ireland’s rich tradition of cultural and scientific innovation when, addressing the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh, he spoke of the need to reposition Ireland for the future as a smart economy. Ireland as an innovation nation must, he said, “think smarter, work smarter and be smarter”. We need, not just to predict the future, but to invent it. All are welcome to Saturday’s lecture, and admission is free, however >
4. CfDS Petition. Please see the attached petition. While it applies only to Wales, it would help to set a useful precedent for all of us in Ireland, N & S. Incidentally, Scotland has just achieved International recognition for its first dark sky park, in Galloway, with a rating of 23 out of 24!
5. FETTU LAUNCH IN ARMAGH: Armagh County Museum is holding an informal reception at 8.00pm on Monday 30th November, to mark the opening of the exhibition "From Earth To The Universe" (FETTU) featuring 16 images capturing astonishing views of outer space. The exhibition, which is being held in conjunction with the Irish Astronomical
Association, the Armagh Observatory and Dr Miruna Popescu, is marking the
International Year of Astronomy, which is now near its end. I would be delighted if you could attend.
Light refreshments and mince pies will be provided. If you plan to attend, please contact the Secretary of the Museum, Sarah Millsopp, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at telephone: 028-3752-3070.
Dr Greer Ramsey, Acting Curator, Armagh County Museum, The Mall East, Armagh, BT61 9BE Clear Skies, Terry Moseley