Thursday, 21 July 2011

Two Lectures, Eclipse survey, ISS, Perseids, IAA Solar Day at WWT

Hi all,
1. Final reminder: Supermassive Black Holes: Lecture at QUB on Friday 22 JULY,  in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.
   The lecture 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.
   Black Holes are the most extreme, most mysterious, most fascinating and least understood objects in the universe. And the big ones, such as the one at the centre of our own Milky Way Galaxy, which has a mass equivalent to about a million Suns, are the most powerful energy emitters in the universe.
   Some others, in giant galaxies, are even bigger. So Supermassive Black Holes break just about all the records in the entire universe!
(NB: the date was incorrectly given as 27 July in my Skydiary section in Stardust - sorry.)
        The talk will take place in the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Queen's. Attendance at the talk 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.
2. PUBLIC LECTURE ON 'RECENT' SPACE IMPACTS: Prof Mike Baillie of QUB is giving a public lecture titled "What happens when a scientist plays at archaeology" in the Whitla Hall, Queens University Belfast, on Wednesday, July 27th at 7pm. The alternative title is "How precise tree-ring dating raises issues concerning the frequency of extraterrestrial impacts."      

Mike is Professor Emeritus of Palaeoecology at Queen's, and a world expert on tree-ring dating, and is well known to many astronomers in Ireland and further afield for his interesting and forthright views on the rate of relatively recent comet/asteroid impacts on Earth as revealed by accurate tree-ring dating of climatic events, and indeed with possible links to stories in Irish and other mythologies. He has given fascinating and thought-provoking lectures to the IAA, among others, on this topic.  He has written three books on the topic "Exodus to Arthur", "New Light on the Black Death: the cosmic connection", and "The Celtic Gods: comets in Irish mythology", the latter with IAA member Dr Patrick McCafferty. See:

 For details of the lecture see and click on the lecture notice in the noticeboard section of the site.

This public lecture is part of the XXVII International Conference on Photonic, Electronic and Atomic Collisions, being held in Queen's from July 27th to August 2nd. A map of the QUB campus showing the Whitla Hall is on p 2 of the main conference programme, available at (Thanks to John Flannery for the initial alert.)

3. ECLIPSE CHASER SURVEY. IAA member Dr Kate Russo, who gave us a lecture on this topic last year, is writing a book on 'eclipse chasers' or 'umbraphiles' as they are sometime known. She has posted the following item for eclipse chasers; I am forwarding it as I know that many members on this list are eclipse chasers to a greater or lesser degree.  (I have edited out some introductory and background material. T.M.)

" I am an eclipse chaser, and also a psychologist, and I am now currently researching my book about the people who chase eclipses. 
   The book has a provisional title of "Total Addiction", and will be published by Springer next year.  The focus is not on eclipses themselves, but rather the experiences of those who chase eclipses - what drives us, motivates us to see totality.  Some questions and topics I am hoping to cover:  
- Are we all suffering from an addiction?
- What drives us all to chase eclipses?
- What is the emotional experience of totality?
- What do eclipses mean to us?
- What makes us unique as a group?
- Is there an eclipse chasing personality?
- How do people make decisions about where to go for clear skies?
   As part of this research, I have put together a brief survey for eclipse chasers, which can be found here: .   A link to this survey can also be found on Bill Kramer's eclipse chasers website .  
   This is a general survey, taking approximately 20 minutes to complete, which aims to explore people's motivations and experiences of totality.  Information gathered in this survey is anonymous, and will help guide the content of the book.  I am hoping that as many eclipse chasers as possible complete this survey. 
   I am also hoping that people are interested in being part of the book by sharing experiences - i.e. of your first time, what eclipses mean to you, challenges of being an eclipse chaser, what it's like to be responsible for others seeing an eclipse, or anything that you feel is important or interesting.  You can do this by sending me an email about anything you wish to share about you as an eclipse chaser; and/or by participating in an interview (skype most likely!) about your experiences.  There is space to leave your contact details if you would like in the survey, or else you can email me directly on
The book will be completed early next year, in order to be available in the lead up to the 2012 eclipse in north Queensland, which coincidentally, is where I am from.  
    I hope people think this is an interesting and worthwhile idea, and I hope I can do us all justice.  Please forward these details on to any other eclipse chasers you know.

Kate Russo, Queen's University Belfast

4. ISS: The ISS will begin another series of morning passes over Ireland at the end of July: details as always are on

5. PERSEIDS. The annual Perseid meteor shower will reach maximum on the night of 12-13 August, with the peak predicted for 04h on the 13th. The IAA will be holding a 'Perseid Party' on the evening of the 12th, at Delamont Country Park, south of Killinchy on the A22 to Downpatrick, commencing about 8 p.m. with a Fry-up / BBQ. Obviously such an event is weather dependent, so check the IAA website beforehand to see if it will be going ahead. Unfortunately the Moon will be full on the 13th, so only the brighter meteors are likely to be seen that night. However, the Perseid shower is active from the end of July to about the 20th of August, with low rates to start with, building up gradually to the peak on the 13th, then gradually dropping away again. So look out for Perseids any time from the end of this month, especially before the Moon gets too bright. The radiant is near the famous 'Double Cluster', which lies roughly midway between Perseus and Cassiopeia.

6. IAA SOLAR DAY at WWT, CASTLE ESPIE, 14 August, 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.. The Irish Astronomical Association will be running another of its ever-popular 'Solar Days' at the WWT at Castle Espie, near Comber, Co Down. Now that Solar activity is steadily increasing, we can expect to see lots of detail on the Sun's disk if there's any clear sky. We will have a selection of solar telescopes, each fitted with specialised safe astronomical filters, to see it in visible light, and in the wavelengths of Calcium and H-Alpha. There should be sunspots and huge prominences, each many times bigger than planet Earth. We will also have the usual display of astronomical and space items, posters, etc, and a mobile planetarium, so come along even if it's cloudy. More details on 

7. 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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