Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Irish supernova, WSP, 4 Lectures, Cassini Comp, ISS, V. dark Cork Sky

Hi all,
1. FIRST IRISH SUPERNOVA! Dave Grennan, discoverer of two asteroids, the first of which was the first one discovered in Ireland for a century and a half, has now discovered a supernova in a distant galaxy - the first ever such discovery from Ireland. And all from his own observatory in Raheny, North Dublin!
   The galaxy is 290 million LY away, so the star actually exploded before even the age of the dinosaurs, and the light has been travelling through space ever since!
   There are various types of supernovae (use your favourite search engine for more info!), and this one seems to be a "type 1 b/c", but with various peculiarities, making it particularly interesting. This type is caused by rapid transfer of material from one star to another in a close binary system, making the receiving star unstable so that it undergoes a massive explosion.
   Dave's discovery was made during a search undertaken on September 17th, but as independent confirmation is required, it has only just been officially announced. It is now designated as 2010ik. See
    Supernova expert Prof. Stephen Smartt of Queen's University Belfast and his team used the 2.5metre Nordic Optical Telescope at La Palma in the Canaries to analyse the spectrum & confirm the type of supernova explosion. 
 Very many congratulations Dave - all your skill, determination & hard work pays off in the long run!
2. The next IAA Lecture  will be on Wed 6 October, in the Bell Lecture Theatre, QUB, It will be given by Dr Martin Hendry of the Astrophysics Department at Glasgow University. TITLE: "Did we really go to the Moon?"
  I'm sure all of you have heard of the various conspiracy theories which claim that the Apollo astronauts did not really land on the Moon, and that the whole thing was a gigantic fake, filmed in some vast hidden secret film studio. The proponents of this claim put forward various arguments about the lighting of the scenes on the Moon (or in the studio, as they claim), the lunar dust, the rocket exhausts etc etc. Dr Hendry provides a very informative, entertaining, and well illustrated analysis of these theories, and describes how they .... Well, you'll just have to come along and find out! Others argue that in fact the Americans actually landed on the Moon decades earlier to meet up with the Aliens, and that the Apollo flights were just a cover up! Whether you believe any of these theories or not, it's a brilliant lecture, and one you won't want to miss! Assuming that the Aliens don't abduct him before he gets here!
Time: 7.30 p.m. Venue: Bell Lecture Theatre, main Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. Free parking is available on the main campus, right beside the lecture theatre, from 5.30 pm onwards. Admission free, including light refreshments: All are welcome. See for full details of the programme.
3. Whirlpool Star Party, 9-10 Oct -
The event will be held as usual in Dooley's Hotel, Birr, Co. Offaly and a full programme of lectures is scheduled along with observing, if clear, from the grounds of Birr Castle in the lee of the great Leviathan, the historic 72-inch telescope built by the 3rd Earl of Rosse in the 19th Century. Speakers include Prof John Brown, Dr Lyndsay Fletcher, Mr Tom Boles, Mr Leo Enright, Dr John Quinn, Dr Niall Smith.  

   I have a list of all the known accommodation in Birr and the surrounding area (over 100 places) which I will send to anyone on request, but I'll attach the names of the B&B's and GH's closest to Birr at the end of this E/M: If you can't get booked in any of those, you may have to try some of the others from the complete list.

4.  Free Public Lecture in TCD, 18 October: "Dark Energy and the Accelerating Universe: Einstein's Blunder undone!"  by Prof Bob Kirschner of Harvard University.
   Ten years ago, astronomers found astonishing evidence that the expansion of the universe is speeding up. We did this by observing exploding stars half way across the observable universe.  We attribute cosmic acceleration to a mysterious "dark energy" that speeds up cosmic expansion, but whose nature we do not fully understand.  Curiously, in 1917, Einstein invented the "cosmological constant" as a kind of cosmic repulsion, to balance out gravity to produce a static universe.  He abandoned it in the 1930s when the universe was found to be expanding. These new results show we need a form of "dark energy" that is very much like Einstein's cosmological constant to explain the universe we live in.  In this strange new picture of the universe, dark energy makes up about 70% of the universe, dark matter about 25%, and only 5% is composed of the ordinary matter that makes up galaxies, stars, planets, and people.
Venue: Edmund Burke Theatre, Arts Block, Trinity College Dublin, Time: 19:30, Admission free.


5. Cassini Scientist for a Day competition.
This is open to pupils aged 11-18 yrs old in all schools in Ireland 
Glenlola Collegiate in Bangor won one of the first prizes a couple of years ago so it would be good to get another great response.
 The Cassini Mission to Saturn is one of the greatest robotic space exploration missions of our time. Now you have an opportunity to become involved and maybe put your school's name on the map internationally.
How:  By taking part in The Cassini Scientist for a day Contest 2010
Why: This contest increases awareness of space exploration, technology, engineering and science.
   The Task: Write a 500 word essay on why the Cassini Spacecraft should target certain objects for imaging and investigation.
   How do I do that?
Watch  three short  videos, decide which is the most interesting for you, write your essay based on that.
  The Cassini website would be your main source of reference for information. Watch this video for an introduction:
   Watch these videos to choose your essay subject Rhea, Titan or Saturn itself? You decide, its your adventure.
There are three age groups: 11-13 years old, 14-16 years old, 17-18 years old
The Prizes: All winners will be given a copy of their chosen target image which will be taken by the Cassini spacecraft in October 2010. The youngest category winner will also get an iPod shuffle and books by Lucy Hawking. The middle category will win a Nintendo DS and books by Lucy Hawking. The oldest age category winner will be offered a one week research placement with Professor Carl Murray from Queen Mary University London.
Deadline 5 p.m. on November 5th Include your name, age, postal address, name of your school, name of teacher, teacher's email address.
6. The ISS has started another series of morning passes over Ireland: details for your location are on
7. Public Lecture by Dame Prof Jocelyn Bell Burnell "Will the world end in 2012? - The astronomical evidence.
 12 Nov, 7.30 p.m. RIA Dublin. Admission free, but by ticket only. Book via
8. PUBLIC LECTURE, ARMAGH, 18 November: The Biennial "Robinson Lecture" will be given by Prof Chris Impey of the University of Arizona, in the City Hotel, at 8 p.m. "Astrobiology: Implications of Life Beyond Earth"
    Either we are alone in the universe or not; either way, the implications are staggering. This talk considers the prospects for and implications of life beyond Earth. Biological adaptation to extreme conditions makes it very likely that variations on biology will be present on moons and planets around many of the billions of Sun-like stars in the Milky Way. The nearly 500 planets already found around other stars are forerunners of Earth-like planets that astronomers expect to be finding in the next few years. With exobiology still a blank slate, consideration will be given to potentially unusual forms of life.
     Attendance at the Robinson Lecture is free, but if you would like to attend the Robinson Lecture, please contact the Armagh Observatory in order to obtain tickets. Please write, telephone or send an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; Fax: 028-3752-7174; e-mail: ambnat
9. VERY DARK SKY IN WEST CORK: Just back from a great trip to Cork & West Cork. We saw one of the darkest skies I've seen recently in Ireland from near our B&B north of Rosscarbery, on Sunday night. M13 was clearly seen with the unaided eye, in spite of being only about 45 degrees above the horizon. And I gave up trying to count the number of stars visible in the Square of Pegasus (not that they were innumerable, but there were so many visible that it was hard to keep track of them as I counted them!). Measurements with a Sky Quality Meter gave a figure of 21.56 for the magnitude of the sky brightness per square arcsec of sky. In other words, the total light coming from the sky centred on the zenith (including all the stars, the Milky Way etc) was the equivalent of one star of magnitude 21.56 spread over each square arcsecond of sky, on average. Not bad, eh? That's the way it should be!
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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