Wednesday, 20 July 2011

QUB/IAA Lectures, Dawn at Vesta, Final Shuttle, Aurora Trip

Hi all,

1. Michael West Lectures in Astronomy at QUB; First on 22 JULY.
   This summer will see the first in a series of public lectures at Queen's University, Belfast where the sky is not the limit. Everyone is invited to hear how astronomers discover monstrous black holes and dangerous asteroids, from international scientists who are leading the work.
   The Michael West Public Lectures in astronomy will be held each year to explain some of the latest and most exciting discoveries in the world of Astronomy. They are named after Dr. Michael West, who is supporting scientific research and public outreach in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queens.
    Dr. Pedro Lacerda, the Michael West research Fellow in Astronomy, said
"A lot of people are interested in astronomy, which happens to be a major research topic at Queen's University Belfast. We want to give everyone the chance to learn about it from some of the best astronomers in the world."
    The first talk on "SuperMassive Black Holes" will be held on Friday 22nd July in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. It will be given by Professor Reinhard Genzel, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Professor Genzel is an international expert on investigating black holes that weigh millions of times more than our Sun. In 2008 he won the prestigious Shaw Prize for establishing the existence of a huge Black Hole in the centre of our own Milky Way.
(NB: the date was incorrectly given as 27 July in my Skydiary section in Stardust - sorry.)
    The second talk on "Killer Asteroids" will be given on Wednesday 3rd August by Dr. Robert Jedicke from the University of Hawaii. Dr. Jedicke is a renowned asteroid hunter, and is leading the search for dangerous asteroids with the new PanSTARRS1 telescope in Hawaii. "This telescope in one of a kind, and is allowing us to discover everything from nearby asteroids to exploding stars in the most distant galaxies" said Professor Stephen Smartt, director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's.
    Both talks will take place in the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Queen's. Attendance at the talks is free of charge, but seats must be booked either by phone at 028 9097 3202, or by visiting the website Series and registering there.
    These talks have been organised by the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB, in association with the Irish Astronomical Association.

Prof Alan Fitzsimmons                               Tel: +44 (0) 2890-973124
Dept. of Physics & Astronomy        Fax: +44 (0) 2890-973110
Queen's University Belfast         e-mail:
Belfast BT7 1NN                          WWW:
NASA's ion-propelled Dawn probe has now entered orbit around the main-belt asteroid Vesta where it will remain for a year, before moving on to study the largest of the asteroids (or if you prefer, the dwarf planet) Ceres. 
   It has already sent back the most detailed image of Vesta yet: see:
    It will commence its full science program in August, aiming to give us lots of information about what may be the oldest 'original' planetary type surface in the Solar System.
  Follow the mission at You can find Vesta yourself in binoculars, using the charts at

3. Final mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis. The end of NASA's Space Shuttle programme approaches as Atlantis nears the end of its 12-day STS-135 mission. It has a crew of four astronauts, Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley and mission specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim, and brought more than 3.5 tonnes of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS). STS-135 brings the project to an end, more than 30 years after the first flight of Columbia in 1981. Only 4 astronauts could be safely carried on this mission, in case the Shuttle was damaged, and they would then have to return in one of the much smaller Russian craft. See


The following information may be of interest to readers. As there are several attachments to the original, I have already forwarded it separately to all. For further information, contact Ann Relph of Ulster Travel (who organised the recent eclipse trip to China): Ulster Travel Ltd, 2 Church Street, Dungannon, Co Tyrone, BT71 6AB, E:

"As solar activity continues to climb there has been a great increase in strong auroras, with almost nightly shows in the auroral zone. Ulster Travel has organized a special auroral viewing expedition which will put you directly under the auroral oval in Tromso, Norway during late October this year.  

The group will be led by Terence Murtagh, who is an expert aurora photographer.  Recently, he spent seven months filming the Aurora for the world's first high resolution, three sixty degree all dome movie "Experience the Aurora" which is currently being shown in digital theatres around the world.

Terence will take you to some of most accessible viewing locations and be on hand to provide advice and assistance with photographic techniques. He will also make available a Canon EOS 5D Mk II camera for you to capture the aurora should you not want to carry a camera and tripod on the trip. The period chosen in October is during the dark of the Moon and weather permitting, you will be in an excellent position to witness one of nature's most spectacular events.

The Raddisson Blu Hotel is one of the best in Tromso. Its central location makes it perfect for exploring the town and the Tromso environs. It is also only 15 minutes away from some good auroral viewing locations.

Full details, including booking forms, are on the attachments to the original email which I have already forwarde separately. If anyone needs these details again, please let me know.


5. 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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