Monday, 23 January 2012

S/L a huge success, Lectures, IAA Live on radio, 27 Jan, ISS, Venus, Aurorae

Hi all,
 
1. BBC / IAA Stargazing Live Whopper Event! The IAA's major BBC Two Stargazing Live event at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on Tuesday evening was a HUGE success! In spite of cloudy skies, we had an official attendance figure of 1200 people that evening (not estimated - counted by an automatic monitoring device)! Photos are still being put up on the IAA website, www.irishastro.org. Thanks to ALL who helped make the event such a success - if I (or Philip) haven't already thanked you directly, please take this as a sincere expression of our gratitude for all the people who helped, in whatever role.
   The BBC were especially pleased with our role as the following quote from Senior Producer Jenny Rea indicates:
 
 To Terry and all at the Irish Astronomical Association, Andy and everyone from Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Doctors Pedro and Chris from Queen's University, Mary from Armagh Planetarium and to BBC colleagues; many many thanks for making last night's Stargazing event such a huge success!
   It was a truly fantastic event and it was such a pleasure to work with you all. The fact that most people ran out of resources and the Star Dome had to put on two extra shows, was an indication of how successful it really was. Thanks to the staff at LNDC for making us all feel
welcome and being so well organised. Thank you to the IAA who brought astronomy to the shores of Lough Neagh and who were available for every media request.
And Jenny also said that we were 'a very professional bunch of amateurs'.
   Such praise from a Senior Producer in the world's top broadcasting organisation is praise indeed!
 
We also had a tremendously successful event at QUB on the Monday evening. The Astrophysics Dept at Queen's asked us to provide telescopes and volunteers for a 'Jupiter Watch' in front of the main building. The sky was totally clear until after 9 p.m., and many hundreds of people queued for ages to see through the telescopes. Even though we had ten 'scopes, ranging in size up to the powerful 16" (400mm) Lightbridge, the queues were like something at Disneyworld! We saw both Io and Europa reappear from eclipse during the event. For many people, it was their first view through a telescope, and everyone was delighted.
   We also provided volunteers and telescopes for the Armagh Observatory / NIEA event at Beaghmore Stone Circles / An Creagan centre in the Sperrins in Co Tyrone on Wednesday night. Although we only got a few brief clear spells, everyone was fascinated by the mysterious stone circles, and we also had two great talks in An Creagan afterwards. Two hundred people were recorded at that event.
   Prof Mark Bailey, Director of Armagh Observatory, asked me to pass on the following message: Please pass on my thanks to all in the IAA for their help yesterday, and for coming along to swell the numbers, especially considering the difficulty in getting to and from An Creagan! Too bad about the damp weather, though I think everybody had a good time. Best wishes, Mark.
   Once again, thanks to all the IAA members who helped out at those two events.
 
2. IAA LECTURE, 25 January:  The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by Paul Evans, IAA: Title: "Manned pace Exploration, the First 50 Years". Paul, the IAA's webmaster, is a life long spaceflight enthusiast, and regularly visits The Kennedy Space Centre in Florida to see launches. Paul is also an expert photographer, so I'm sure we will be treated to some amazing images.
    The lecture is on WEDNESDAY 25 January, 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: www.irishastro.org  
 
3. SDAS MEETING January 26: "When Venus crosses the Sun.": (From John Flannery). Venus takes centre-stage this year on June 6th when at inferior conjunction the planet crosses the Sun's disk during the last transit of Venus we'll see in our lifetime. Venus transits are the subject of our first talk this year on Thursday, January 26th at 8pm in Gonzaga College, Ranelagh. I'll be looking at the history of Venus transits, why they were so important, and what are the prospects for this year's transit. Do come along on the night to hear about these rare events. All are welcome and admission is free.
 
4. IAA 2-hour Live Radio Broadcast, 27 January!  The Irish Astronomical Association has also been invited by the BBC to present a 2-hour live astronomy programme on Radio Ulster on the evening of Friday 27 January from Delamont Country Park, near Killyleagh! We will have a large selection of powerful telescopes and binoculars for viewing the sky, plus the Stardome mobile planetarium, and all the usual other attractions. This will broadcast from 8 to 10 p.m., live, no matter what the weather! So lots of interesting items will be included, to cope with either clear or cloudy skies. The presenters are the well-known Anne-Marie McAleese and Darryl Grimason.
    We will be in action from about 6.30 onwards, setting up the telescopes and exhibition and viewing the sky if clear, so come about then if you want good views of the Moon and Venus through the telescopes.
  
5. ISS: the International Space Station  is now in a series of morning passes. See www.heavens-above.com for details of this, and other bright satellites, Iridium Flares etc, for your own location.
 
6. Venus, the Evening Star: Is now really prominent in the evening twilight, and will be a brilliant 'evening star' as seen from Ireland through the Spring, and will be very well placed in late March as it approaches the Pleiades. It's visible lowish in the SW after sunset, at magnitude -4.1, and apparent diameter 13" (arcsecs). It is gradually moving out from the Sun, and will become a brilliant and unmistakable object through February and March.
    Also note how it is getting closer to Jupiter. Hold out your arm towards Venus, then bend it at the elbow and clench your fist: the apparent distance now between Venus and Jupiter is just about the apparent length of your arm like that. Check the distance between them every week from now on, and see how the separation decreases until they pass each other on 13-14 March.
 
7. Aurora alerts. A lot of people who are not particularly interested in astronomy have asked me about seeing an aurora from Ireland/UK. I'm therefore going to set up a separate alert bulletin for possible aurora events only. If you know anyone who would like to get alerts of chances when aurorae might be visible from here (but not these more comprehensive bulletins), send me their email address, or ask them to email me directly.
   I will of course include such information in these general astronomy bulletins too!
(There were some reports of aurorae this evening (Sun/Mon), but nothing visible from Glengormley from 11.45 - 01.40. However, the light pollution here is getting worse and worse, so I could miss a faint one.)
 
8. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro
9. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
 
10. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc.  See also www.irishastro.org
 
Clear skies,
 
Terry Moseley


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