Thursday, 8 December 2011

Lectures, Lunar Eclipse, Meteors, NY Party, Stargazing Live, GAF, ISS

Hi all,
 1. IAA LECTURE, 14 December:  The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by Dr Ryan Milligan of QUB: Title: "Exploring the Current Rise in Solar Activity"
   Dr Milligan is actively engaged in solar research, at a very interesting time in the current solar cycle. After one of the longest and deepest solar minima on record, there was speculation that the 11-year solar cycle was about to 'switch off' or at least undergo a drastic change, leading to another 'Maunder Minimum'. And there is some evidence that the last Maunder Minimum was associated with a 'mini-ice age' in western Europe.
   On the other side of the coin, there is also increasing concern that another 'Carrington Superflare' could cause widespread damage and disruption to our modern electrical and electronic life, putting out of action everything from our power supplies to computers. mobile phones, and almost all form of travel apart from the bicycle! So interest in the Sun's activity is at an all-time high.
   The lecture is on WEDNESDAY 14 December, at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. ADMISSION IS FREE, as always, and includes light refreshments. Everyone is welcome! Full details of the rest of the programme are on the website:  
2.  Biennial Royal Irish Academy McCrea Lecture: "The 100-year mystery of the Cosmic Ray", by Prof Luke Drury. Schroedinger Lecture Theatre, School of Physics, TCD, 6 p.m., Friday 9 December 2011. Hosted by the School of Physics, Trinity College.
Professor Drury, who has honoured the IAA with a lecture in the past, is Director of the School of Cosmic Physics in the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, and is currently President of the Royal Irish Academy.
    Synopsis: "The strange discovery of Viktor Hess - one hundred years of cosmic ray studies. It will very soon be the centenary of the discovery of cosmic rays by Viktor Hess which is conventionally dated to 1912. It is hard to think of another topic in physics which has remained an active field of research for so long, and which still awaits a definitive solution. Recent progress has been dramatic however and there is good reason to hope that the end is in sight even if there remains much to be done. In this talk I will outline the history of the field and then focus on recent developments as well as the future projects that are being discussed at the moment."
Admission is free, but seats MUST be reserved by booking at:
3. Rising Lunar Eclipse.
The rising Full Moon on Saturday night will look a bit odd! That's because it will still be in eclipse, and so we will see part of it still covered by the shadow of the Earth.
   This will be a Total Eclipse, but by the time the Moon rises from Ireland, the totality part will be over, and we will just see the emerging partial phases.
   When the Moon rises about 3.57 p.m. (from Belfast/Dublin - it will be a bit later the further West you are), the Earth's shadow will still be covering the upper right edge of the Moon. As it rises further, the shadowed area will gradually decrease, and at 5.18 p.m., when the Moon is still low near the North-Eastern horizon, it will move out of the main part of the Earth's shadow altogether.
   From then until 6.31 p.m. it will be in the much fainter 'penumbra' or outer shadow, but this won't be quite so noticeable: it will just look as if the Full Moon is a bit fainter than usual. From 6.31 onwards it will appear as a normal bright full Moon.
   The brilliant 'star' to the upper right of the Moon will of course be the giant planet Jupiter.
4. GEMINID and URSID METEORS. The Geminids are active from about 10 to 17 December, with maximum on the 14th at about 14h. That's obviously daylight here, so the best options for observing are the nights of 13-14, and 14-15 December.

    The ZHR at maximum is about 100, but unfortunately there will be interference from moonlight! On the night of Dec 13-14 it will be just past full, and in Gemini, just about 16˚ away from the radiant! Next night it will be a bit fainter, but still only about 20˚ below the radiant, which lies just above Castor.

   The best trick is to try to hide the Moon behind some object such as a building, so that it doesn't shine directly into your eyes, and then look away about 50 degrees on the other side of the radiant.

   On the 15th-16th it will have moved on into Cancer, giving an hour or two's viewing before it rises, but with the radiant still quite low.

   A small compensation is that the Ursid meteors peak on December 22, with no moonlight, so if you have all your prezzies already wrapped, it's your chance for some good observing of a rather under-observed shower. The ZHR might be 10 – 20; on some occasions it has been much higher. The radiant is not far from Kocab, the second brightest star in Ursa Minor, the Little Bear

      The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the rate which would be seen by an experienced observer, in a VERY dark sky, and with the radiant in the zenith: actual observed rates very rarely reach the nominal ZHR for various reasons.

5. IAA NEW YEAR PARTY: The annual social event of the year will be on Saturday 7 September. The format is the same as before: meet first for eats at 5.30 for 6.0 at McBrides in Comber, then on to the Tudor Cinema for some hot punch or soft drinks and the film "Cowboys and Aliens", followed by George's diabolical quiz. More details next time, but mark the date in your diary now.
6. BBC's STARGAZING LIVE returns on 16-18 January, starring the Irish Astronomical Association with a 2-hour live broadcast extravaganza from Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on the evening of Tuesday 17th, and other activities on the Monday and Wednesday. Final details are still being worked out with the BBC - more on this next time. Oh, and there's some chap called Prof Brian Cox who might be on the programme too.....
7. Galway Astronomy Festival - January 21st 2012 is on "New Frontiers of the Universe".
Oscar Wilde reminds us that although we are all in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars. This years Galway Astronomy Festival addresses the theme "New Frontiers of the Universe" from a professional as well as an amateur astronomer's perspective. The event, now in its 9th year, has become one of the most popular events in Ireland, where amateurs and professionals meet in friendship. This is essential for exchanging information, successful stargazing and mutual progress.  We look forward to seeing you, hopefully under clear skies. For more details see:
8: ISS: the International Space Station is currently making morning passes over Ireland. See for details for your own location.
9. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro
10. 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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