1. COMET McNAUGHT (C/2009 R1): At last, I got my first observation of this comet earlier this evening, near 14 Persei (just N of M 34).
Observing from 00.30 to 01.10 UT, using 10 x 50, 30 x 80 and 25 x 100 binocs, I estimated the total magnitude as 6.7. The sky had patchy cloud, but averaging all estimates over that period, using 3 comparison stars, and using the out of focus method, that was the average integrated magnitude - assuming that the Tycho star magnitudes in Skymap Pro 11 are reasonably accurate.
There was continual twilight, which may explain why I never saw any tail. The coma was moderately condensed.
It should gradually brighten as it moves closer to both Earth and Sun over the next few days, with minimum comet-Earth distance on 15/16 June. It then moves slightly further away from Earth, but continues to get closer to the Sun until perihelion on July 2. However it will always be low down in the Northern twilight for observers in Ireland, so I doubt if it's ever going to be easily visible to the unaided eye.
But with comets you never can tell, so we can only hope!
2. SOLARFEST AT DUNSINK: Saturday 12th June at Dunsink Observatory just off the M50 at the N3 Interchange.
Admission is FREE. Many thanks to DIAS and Trinity College for supporting the event.
Below is a programme of the day:
10:45 - Registration
11:15 - "The Sun-Earth Connection" - Dr. Peter Gallagher (TCD)
12:00 - Tea/Coffee
12:15 - "The Sun in Time" - Dr. Graham Harper (TCD)
13:00 - Lunch: Bring your own Picnic. Tea/Coffee will be provided.
13:45 - Solar Observing
14:30 - Tour of the South Dome and Grubb Telescope
15:00 - "3D Sun" NASA DVD
15:30 - Solar Imaging Workshop - Dave Gradwell (IFAS)
16:00 - Tea/Coffee
16:15 - "Introduction to Solar Filters" - Michael O'Connell (IFAS)
16:45 - "Solar Stellar Outreach" - Deirdre Kelleghan (IFAS)
17:15 - Q/A Session
Dinner: The Twelfth Lock - Menu Attached.
20:00 - Evening Public Lecture - "The Power of the Sun" - Dr. David Williams (UCL, MSSL)
The event is informal and, weather permitting, is hoped to generate plenty solar observing, sketching, imaging and healthy discussion. If you have appropriate solar equipment, please feel free to bring it along - the more the better.
For lunch, a picnic will take place in the open area around the observatory. Tea & coffee will be provided of course - all you need to do is bring your own food. If anyone has a spare picnic table or two, it would be greatly appreciated!
At the end of the afternoon session, we will head to The Twelfth Lock Bar (a 2 min drive) for an informal dinner http://www.twelfthlock.com/ which can be paid for individually at the bar (see menu attached). If you plan to stay for dinner, please let me know so that we can give approximate numbers to the bar (you can change your mind on the day of course).
At 8pm, our Evening Public Lecture will be presented by Dr. David Williams of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London http://www.mssl.ucl.ac.uk/~drw/ who is flying over just for the event. As this special lecture is also open to members of the public, we need to know exact numbers of those attending the evening lecture.
If you are interested in attending the evening lecture, we would greatly appreciate if you can please reply ASAP indicating so. All other remaining seats will be offered to the general public.
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to ask.
Regards & Clear Skies,
Michael O'Connell, Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (IFAS)
3. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION / ULSTER ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY / EHS SOLSTICE EVENT, SATURDAY 19 JUNE. The IAA + UAS, in conjunction with the Environment and Heritage Service, will be holding another joint event to mark the summer solstice, with a visit to Ballynoe Stone Circle, near Downpatrick, Co Down. This is the largest and most impressive and complex stone circle in Northern Ireland, and may well have a winter solstice sunset alignment with the most prominent dip in the profile of the Mourne Mountains to the SW.
We will visit the stone circle at 14.00, where there will be talks about the archaeology and possible astronomical connections, and then adjourn to the nearby beach at Minerstown for a BBQ/picnic. In the case of bad weather, there are local pubs for refreshments. More details soon!