Wednesday, 7 September 2011

IAA/Cork, Lectures, Occult, Comet, Ast class, Comp, Galway, Twitter, Sun spheres

Hi all,
We have arranged a visit to see some of the very interesting astronomical places of interest in Cork. These include the new state of the art Blackrock Castle Observatory and Science Centre, and the historic and now beautifully restored Crawford Observatory in UCC. We will also meet up with our friends in the Cork Astronomy Club (CAC).
Access there is now quite easy, with Motorway or M-standard dual carriageway the whole way from Belfast. Plans are that we will car-share, with ideally no more than 4 per car (unless someone can offer a people carrier or similar), sharing travel costs. Accommodation will be in several B&Bs / Guest Houses all in the same vicinity, in Cork.
We aim to depart about lunchtime on Friday 30 Sep, returning on the Sunday evening.
The provisional programme is as follows:
Friday lunchtime: depart Belfast.
Friday evening: Arrive, check in to accommodation. Dark sky observing with CAC, if clear. If not, socialising in local hostelry (optional).
Saturday morning. Visit Blarney Castle, or Drombeg Stone Circle near Clonakilty, which has a confirmed winter solstice sunset alignment.
Sat Afternoon: visit Crawford Observatory in UCC.
Sat evening: dinner with CAC, and, if they wish, the Directors of the observatories & Science Centre
Sat night: dark sky observing with CAC, if clear. If not, stay on after meal or move to pub/hotel etc. (optional)
Sunday morning: Visit CAC Observatory near airport just south of the city.
Sun afternoon: tour of Blackrock Castle Observatory
Sun evening: return journey.
COSTS: The basic costs are estimated at about £150, including dinner (excluding your other meals) as follows:
2 nights B&8, singles, about £80 (maybe less if sharing)
Petrol, tolls, etc, @ 4 to a car, sharing: £25 each
Dinner on Sat night about £30 (optional)
Incidentals: £5 per head'
Total about £140. Say £150 to be safe
Other meals to be paid for as taken.
For details on -
   The trip is conditional on sufficient numbers booking. A deposit will be requested once we know how many will be going. This will only be refunded in the event of the trip being cancelled.
   See the IAA website for a downloadable booking form.
   Members will also get a hard copy of this notice, with the booking form, with the next edition of STARDUST, going out soon.
    Discover an astronomy chart done 1300 years ago by a Chinese Astronomer. Dr. Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud will present his work on Chinese Star Charts on the 7th of September 2011 at Dunsink Observatory (DIAS)
   Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud is an astrophysicist at the Astrophysical Department of the French Atomic Energy Commission (C.E.A.), a specialist in high energy astrophysics and in the study of highly condensed stars in the Galaxy (white dwarfs, neutrons stars and black holes). He is involved in several international collaborations to search, locate and study new sources of X-rays and gamma-rays in the Galaxy by means of space astronomy. He is currently taking part in scientific programs, using the European satellites XMM (X-ray Multiple mirror Mission, XMM) and INTEGRAL (International Gamma-ray Astrophysics Laboratory).
   Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud has also a deep interest in the history and popularisation of astronomy. He is at present the scientific adviser of the French astronomy magazine "Ciel et Espace". He has published numerous articles in different magazines and newspapers and was also the author of different television programs.
   He is currently carrying out research works on the roots of astronomy in Africa and China. After publishing results concerning the rate of star explosions in the Galaxy and the colour change of the star Sirius deduced from historical Chinese reports, he is now involved in a systematic study of the oldest Chinese Star Charts to evaluate their scientific content.
   Presentation at DUNSINK OBSERVATORY (DIAS) Castleknock, Dublin 15, Wednesday 7th September at 8 pm (20.00 h). A 40/45 min lecture in English with Q&A + a 12-15 min Break, with some refreshments for informal discussion. +  A visit to the South Dome and the Grubb Telescope. +  With possible observations of the night sky through the Grubb Telescope and others if the weather is kind on that evening
    Contact Details for the Event to be held in Dunsink Observatory: For your e-ticket request please e-mail on or before Monday 22nd August 2011 (17.00 h)
    Please head the request for your e-ticket/s "Chinese Star Charts" by Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud Dunsink Obs 7th Sept 2011, and state the number of tickets that you require. DIAS has a minimum age limit of 12 years of age for an evening event such as this.
   More details if required from: Hilary O'Donnell/Sullivan, Astrophysics and Astronomy Section, School of Cosmic Physics, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 31 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2, Ireland.  Telephone + 353-1-662 13 33, Fax + 353-1-524 23 02, E-mail Mobile number 00 353 (0) 87 629 49 66.


3. OCCULTATION BY PALLAS: (forwarded from Tolis Christou at Armagh Observatory, with slight editing).

   "An interesting astronomical event will occur over the UK and Ireland on the 18th of September: an occultation of an +11m star (+10m in the red) by the large asteroid 2 Pallas. The occultation path (see link below) and the small uncertainty means that practically anyone observing from most of the UK and all of Ireland will have a fair chance of seeing the star disappear.  

   Although the resulting light drop ((Pallas+star)/Pallas) is rather small (30%), the expected duration of 30 sec means that, for example, several CCD exposures with a small telescope can be fitted into the asteroid's "shadow". Could prove to be an interesting experience, especially for students wanting to try their hand at some observing.
   The occultation map is provided here:
   If you are interested, I can provide finder charts and collate any results (positive or negative) for submission to the International Occultation Timing Association (European Section).
   Good luck (and clear skies) if you decide to give it a go. Regards. Tolis."

(Additional info: The star lies 52' 40" N and a little E of Mu Aquilae, or just about 4 deg 10' W, and a little S, of Altair. It's a very red star, with a B - V index of 1.6 mags. Unusually, the track of the occultation runs nearly N to S, as you can see from the map. Fortunately there are no other stars of comparable magnitude within 7 arcminutes, so it's easy to identify.

You can contact Tolis at T.M.)

4. ASTRONOMY CLASSES, BANGOR: The inimitable Dr Andy McCrea (Editor of STARDUST, and proprietor of North Down Telescopes) will present another series of his popular basic astronomy classes "Night Sky For Beginners" in Bangor, Co Down. Start 13 September, weekly for 6 weeks. Time: 7 to 9 p.m. Location: Bangor SERC (South Eastern Regional College, formerly the 'Tech'). Contact number is (02891 276695) for registration and payment details.


5. Comet C 2009 P1 Garradd. Both Andy McCrea and David Stewart have got excellent photos of the comet as it passed near the lovely Coathanger (Cr399) or Brocchi's Cluster, in Vulpecula. See the IAA website: It has now developed a short stubby tail. It should remain fairly bright and well placed for viewing into early 2012. A finder chart, with further details, is at 

6. CASSINI COMPETITION. (edited from an email by Deirdre Kelleghan) 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. The Cassini Scientist For a Day Contest 2011 is now open. Deadline is October 26th. This contest increases awareness of space exploration, technology, engineering and science, all good STEM subjects.
   This contest stretches students' writing and research abilities. 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, and write your essay based on that.

   The Cassini website would be your main source of reference for information, everything you need to know is here Watch this video below, for the an introduction and then watch each of the videos in turn to choose your target.

The three targets are: 1. Hyperion, 2. Rhea and Titan, and 3. Saturn.  Computer simulated pictures of these three targets are posted on the above website. 
Watch these videos to choose your essay subject Hyperion? Rhea/Titan? or Saturn?  You decide, it's your adventure.
Target Overview here
There are three age groups: 11-13 years old; 14-16 years old; 17-18 years old

The Prizes: For the School - Pride. For the Teacher - Pride. For the winning child - Pride and their essay gets published on the Cassini website, how cool is that?
Send all entries to Deirdre Kelleghan, contest co-ordinator for Ireland. e-mail Include child's name, age, postal address, name of your school, name of teacher, teacher' e-mail address.

7. Galway astro event, 23 September. Dr Andy Shearer is organising an event as part of the EU Researchers Night Programme - see This event has a strong astronomy element, and the Galway Astronomy Club are taking a key role in this. Dr Andy Shearer, Director, Centre for Astronomy, School of Physics, NUI Galway. Phone +353 91 493114,

8. LECTURE IN WEXFORD:  The public library in Wexford Town is hosting a particle physics lecture and discussion on THE GOD PARTICLE AND THE PARTICLE ZOO with Brendan Wallace, consultant engineer, on Wed 28 September 2011; 7 - 8.30pm. It also covers the LHC at CERN. Booking essential.  

9. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro
10. SUN SPHERES. Visitors to Belfast from the M1 may have noticed a new piece of 'public art / sculpture' at the end of the Motorway where it becomes the Westlink, just above the roundabout at Donegall Road / Broadway. The two very large concentric lattice spheres are officially called 'RISE,' and reach a height of 37.5m, which is 3m higher than the Albert Clock! They symbolise "the rising of the Sun, and new hope for Belfast's future". They were inspired when the artist saw the Sun rise, with the Moon still in the sky, from his home in Northampton. I'm sure we've all seen that ourselves, and of course it's quite a common effect, when the Moon is waning gibbous to about just after Last Quarter.
   Following in the illustrious tradition of our friends in Dublin, they will of course have to get a nickname (like 'the Tart with the Cart' for Molly Malone.) Although they are not quite on the Falls Road, they are close enough to warrant the moniker "The Balls at the Falls'. (Adapted from a suggestion by J.M.). Has anyone any better suggestions?
11. IAA Solar Event in Merrion Square, Dublin. Apologies to John Flannery - I forgot to mention that he also called unannounced at this event on 27 August to offer his assistance.  T.M.
12. 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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