Friday, 4 February 2011

IAA Lecture, ISS, VENUS, NANOSAIL-D, Moonwalker, GAF, COSMOS, BCO Events

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE MEETING: "Modern Telescopes at Armagh Observatory". 9 February, 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Department, QUB. The next lecture in the Irish Astronomical Association Lecture Programme, will be by Dr Simon Jeffery, of Armagh Observatory:
Armagh Observatory is the oldest observatory in the UK and Ireland which is still operating on its original site. While small in global terms, it has achieved immortality through the ubiquitous and still constantly used NGC Catalogue which was compiled there by a former director, JLE Dreyer.
It is now recognised as a leading astronomical research institution, with many high quality refereed papers being produced each year. The original telescopes are all still there, having been recently restored to a superb standard. Much of the Observatory's research is of course carried out using large telescopes on top quality sites around the world, and space based instruments.
But recent developments in instrumentation mean that even smallish telescopes can give results which would have been unheard of a generation ago. Thus, a new state of the art telescope with top of the range instrumentation has recently been installed there in a new purpose-built dome.
Leading research astronomer Dr Simon Jeffery who oversaw that project, will describe the latest research there using telescopes such as this one.
Admission is free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome. There is free parking on the QUB site after 5.30 p.m.
For details of all forthcoming IAA lectures and other events, see
2. ISS: The International Space Station continues its series of morning passes for about another week. Check for accurate pass times according to your location.
3. NANOSAIL-D: NASA's first Earth-orbiting solar sail, NanoSail-D, is circling our planet and attracting the attention of sky watchers. Occasionally, sunlight glinting from the sail's reflective fabric produces a flash of light in the night sky. These "solar sail flares" are expected to grow brighter as NanoSail-D descends in the weeks ahead. The current passes over Ireland are not very favourable, but will improve towards the second half of the month. Details of passes for your own location are on
NASA has formed a partnership with to engage the amateur astronomy community to submit the best images of the orbiting NanoSail-D solar sail. NanoSail-D unfurled the first ever 100-square-foot solar sail in low-Earth orbit on Jan. 20.
To encourage observations of NanoSail-D, is offering prizes for the best images of this historic, pioneering spacecraft in the amounts of $500 (grand prize), $300 (first prize) and $100 (second prize).
The contest is open to all types of images, including, but not limited to, telescopic captures of the sail to simple widefield camera shots of solar sail flares. If NanoSail-D is in the field of view, the image is eligible for judging.
The solar sail is about the size of a large tent. It will be observable for approximately 70 to 120 days before it enters the atmosphere and disintegrates. The contest continues until NanoSail-D re-enters Earth's atmosphere.
NanoSail-D will be a target of interest to both novice and veteran sky watchers. Experienced astrophotographers will want to take the first-ever telescopic pictures of a solar sail unfurled in space. Backyard stargazers, meanwhile, will marvel at the solar sail flares
-- brief but intense flashes of light caused by sunlight glinting harmlessly from the surface of the sail.
NanoSail-D could be five to 10 times as bright as the planet Venus, especially later in the mission when the sail descends to lower orbits.
4. VENUS: is still just visible in the SE pre-dawn sky but is sinking gradually into the morning twilight.
5. Al Worden to visit Scotland: Colonel Alfred Merrill Worden, Command Module Pilot of Apollo 15, will be visiting Scotland in May 2011, the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 15. Aileen Malone, Director of 'Walk with Destiny', who brought Charlie Duke to Scotland in September, will be running the event. Al Worden's visit will be Friday 20th May for the public lecture in Glasgow Caledonian University and Saturday 21st May for the Gala dinner in Glasgow Marriott Hotel at 7pm.
Places are limited so advanced booking is recommended. please visit this website for details

6. Galway Astronomy Festival: 4-6 March. The theme this year is 'Life and Death in the Universe. Venue: Westwood House Hotel, Galway. It will open with a free public lecture in NUIG about meteorite falls in Ireland on the Friday evening. See for full details of what looks like an excellent programme.
7. Cosmos 2010: The MAC Committee are working on the speaker list for this year's Cosmos Star Party. Cosmos is Ireland's second-longest running star party, since 1992 in fact, when it was first called the Irish Astrofest. This year it takes place on the weekend of April 1st to 3rd at Annaharvey, Tullamore. See the club website at for more details.
8. BCO EVENTS, CORK: What is the Stars? Frances McCarthy, astronomer and education officer at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork guides our eyes skywards to explore the myths, stories and science of the constellations.
Broadcast Mondays and Fridays at 11.45pm on The Blue of the Night on RTE Lyric fm.
Fri 4 Feb
First Fridays at the Castle

FREE Monthly Event -
Blackrock Castle Observatory hosts open nights on the first Friday of every month with activities for visitors of all ages. Join us to see why science is fun!
  • 6-8pm: Family friendly workshops. Send a message to space via our radio telescope! What would YOU say to a distant civilization?
  • 8-9pm: Dr. Denise Gabuzda, UCC, Physics. Radio Astronomy: Past, Present & Future
  • 7-9pm: Weather dependant stargazing with the Cork Astronomy Club and BCO astronomers
    Introduction to Astronomy module
    Life long and accredited learning is one click away! Register today for this CIT/BCOLabs module.
  • Sat 26 Feb: 8pm Movies by Moonlight
    We are bringing an alien invasion to our theatre but we need your help….
    Should we show H. G. Wells' classic adaption of War of the Worlds (1953) or Steven Spielberg's remake (2005)?
    For more information on these and future events at Blackrock Castle Observatory
    Call 021-4357917 / email / visit

    9. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. See also
    Clear skies,
    Terry Moseley

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