Thursday, 3 March 2011

IAA Lecture, Events at WWT & Marble Arch, GA/F, COSMOS, BCO, HST Talk

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE MEETING: "A Day In The Life Of Our Sun".  9 March, 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Department, QUB. The next lecture in the Irish Astronomical Association Lecture Programme, will be by Dr David Jess, of QUB: (Note, this lecture is a change from that on the Programme Card - it is a swap with the preceding one.) 
   David Jess is currently out in the USA on 'Telescope Observing Time', but will be returning to give our next lecture, on the most important astronomical body in the universe, as far as we are concerned anyway.
    There has even been some recent auroral activity visible from Ireland, indicating an upswing in solar activity. And with recent news indicating that scientists may have discovered why we have just had such a prolonged solar minimum (see, this is sure to be a fascinating lecture.  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. Globe At Night: Less of Our Light for More Star Light: Join the second part of the 6th worldwide GLOBE at Night 2011 campaign: March 22 - April 4.

With half of the world's population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies and maybe never will. This loss, caused by light pollution, is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars. Even though light pollution is a serious and growing global concern, it is one of the easiest environmental problems you can address on local levels.

Participation in the international star-hunting campaign, GLOBE at Night, helps to address the light pollution issue locally as well as globally. This year, 2 sets of campaigns are being offered. The first campaign ran from February 21 through March 6, 2011. The second campaign runs from March 22 through April 4 in the Northern Hemisphere and March 24 through April 6 in the Southern Hemisphere, and everyone all over the world is invited to record the brightness of the night sky. The campaign is easy and fun to do. First, you match the appearance of the constellation Orion in the first campaign (and Leo or Crux in the second campaign) with simple star maps of progressively fainter stars found. Then you submit your measurements, including the date, time, and location of your comparison. After all the campaign's observations are submitted, the project's organizers release a map of light-pollution levels worldwide. Over the last five annual 2-week campaigns, volunteers from more than 100 nations contributed 52,000 measurements, one third of which came from last year's campaign.

To learn the five easy steps to participate in the GLOBE at Night program, see the GLOBE at Night website. You can listen to last year's 10-minute audio podcast on light pollution and GLOBE at Night. Or download a 45-minute powerpoint and accompanying audio. GLOBE at Night is also on Facebook and Twitter.

The big news is that children and adults can submit their measurements in real time if they have a smart phone or tablet. To do this, you can use the web application. With smart phones and tablets, the location, date and time are put in automatically. And if you do not have a smart phone or tablet, there are user-friendly tools on the GLOBE at Night report page to find latitude and longitude.

For activities that have children explore what light pollution is, what its effects are on wildlife and how to prepare for participating in the GLOBE at Night campaign, see the Dark Skies Rangers activities. Monitoring our environment will allow us as citizen-scientists to identify and preserve the dark sky oases in cities and locate areas where light pollution is increasing. All it takes is a few minutes during the 2011 campaign to measure sky brightness and contribute those observations on-line. Help us exceed the 17,800 observations contributed last year. Your measurements will make a world of difference.

Star Maps:

Submitting Measurements:

GLOBE at Night:

Audio Podcast:


Accompanying Audio:



Web App for Reporting:

Dark Skies Activities:

Constance E. Walker, Ph.D. Director, GLOBE at Night campaign, Chair International Dark-Sky Association Education Committee; chair, IYA2009 Dark Skies Awareness Cornerstone Project; member, Astronomical Society of the Pacific Board of Directors; associate scientist & senior science education specialist, NOAO. Address: National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), 950 N. Cherry Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719 USA, 520-318-8535;

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. There are a few more evening passes over Ireland over the next few days, then a series of morning passes will start on 12 March, some of which are quite favourable. 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.  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.
5. IAA ASTRONOMY EVENING AT WWT, CASTLE ESPIE. The Irish Astronomical Association will be holding another of their very popular astronomy evenings at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Castle Espie, near Comber, Co Down, on Friday evening, 11 March. Once again we'll have a selection of powerful telescopes and binoculars for viewing the night sky, an exhibition, and of course the mobile planetarium just in case of bad weather. 

  The highlight will be a spectacular waxing crescent Moon high in the sky, providing jaw-dropping views in the telescopes. If you are there early, it might be your last chance for a look at Jupiter before it disappears into the evening twilight. And for anyone staying on late, we should get a view of Saturn when it comes above the trees.

There will be a special astronomy event on the weekend of 12 & 13 March, at the famous International Geopark at the amazing Marble Arch Caves in Co. Fermanagh. This will be a joint event with Armagh Planetarium, in conjunction with the Geopark. This area has possibly the darkest skies anywhere in Northern Ireland, and if we get a clear night on the Saturday evening the view should be amazing, although there will be a first quarter moon. But for anyone keen enough to stay up until moonset in the wee small hours, the sky should be amazingly dark - a good opportunity to measure star visibility, even if it does fall outside the times for Globe At Night. 
   There will be a mobile planetarium for star shows, solar observing during the day, and night-sky observing after dark, if clear.
   MORE DETAILS on this event as soon as they are finalised.
To mark St Patrick's Day in Armagh City, Armagh Observatory is hosting "Discovering The Universe", with two lectures in St Patrick's Trian, and a tour of the Human Orrery and Astropark in the Observatory grounds. More details on Admission is free, but by ticket only. Contact Aileen at
8. COSMOS 2010:  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 over the weekend of April 1st to 3rd at Annaharvey, Tullamore. See  for more details.
9. BCO EVENTS, CORK: 2011 is the 3rd year CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO) participates in a truly global event called EarthHour when over 1 billion people from over 125 countries around the globe will turn off their lights for one hour as a symbol of global sustainability. BCO hopes to make special use of these dark conditions with a guided Globe at Night stargazing event highlighting light pollution.  The popular science centre will also host double screenings of Risteard Ó Domhnaill's prize winning documentary The Pipe, pitching a local & environmental choice as their Movies by Moonlight film club screening for March.
   For more information on these and future events at Blackrock Castle Observatory
Call 021-4357917 / email / visit

10.  Robert Hill will be giving a space talk for schools, in the Ulster Museum on Friday 18th March. It will celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. Titled "Cosmic Explorers", the presentation will tie in with the CCEA KS3 revised thematic unit 'Underneath the stars' and will be strongly influenced by the STEM agenda. It is free of charge, but booking is essential.
   The lecture will be given at 10.30, 12.00, and 14.00.
Contact: Rosemary Stewart, National Museums Northern Ireland, Botanic Gardens, Belfast, BT9 5AB, T - 028 9044 0100. 
11. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA.  See also
11. FINALLY: For any of you who occasionally use my office email address, PLEASE NOTE that from 25 February, that address has closed, as I'm no longer there!  :-)  From now on, just use this address. Thanks.

Clear skies,
Terry Moseley


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