Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Lectures, IAA @ LNDC, COSMOS, A/O Events, SpaceTrain, Space classroom, More...

Hi all,
 
1.  IAA LECTURE, 21 March:  The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by Derek Heatly: Title: "Stop the World, And Let Me Off".  The lecture is on WEDNESDAY 21 March, at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast.
   Derek, who features prominently at almost all our public events, is going to be the first ever astronaut from N. Ireland, assuming all goes to plan. He has booked a flight into space with Richard Branson's 'Virgin Galactic', and has already been given his number in the launch sequence, among other celebrities and private individuals. He may get his flight next year, depending on how well the first commercial flights go.
   Derek has already been up to the edge of space in a high-powered supersonic Russian Mig jet fighter, and has done weightless flights in the Russian aircraft used to train their astronauts. He will tell us of the latest developments in the Virgin Galactic programme, and show videos of the test flights of the 'spaceplane' in which he is due to launch.
  It's great that one of our own members has taken the audacious step to fly into space, so this promises to be a fascinating evening. And before you ask, I don't know if there will be a toilet on board either!
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  
 
2. SDAS Meeting: Thursday, March 22nd.  The speaker will be John Flannery, and his talk is titled "The Outer Limits: Cataloguing the Outer Solar System". Venue Gonzaga College, Ranelagh at 8pm and admission is free.     

Synopsis: "For thousands of years we only knew of the classical planets out as far as Saturn. That all changed in 1781 when William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus and at a stroke doubled the then-known size of the Solar System. Neptune soon joined the planet club while Pluto had a brief membership during the 20th century. 

  Astronomers have found though that the outer solar system is a far more dynamic place than was originally thought with various classes of asteroid-sized bodies now catalogued, while Pluto itself is just one of a collection of similar sized objects. The talk will classify the members of the outer solar system, what research is currently taking place, speculate on future discoveries, and detail why Pluto was demoted from planet status."

  
3. IAA at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, near Lurgan, on 30 March, evening:
This will be similar to other IAA events, except that there will be an optional supper first at the LNDC cafe - see details below. There will be a £15 admission charge for the whole event, including supper, or £5 for the later observing session only. We will of course have the Stardome of course (loaned from Armagh Planetarium with thanks once again), with regular starshows, so there will be plenty of interest even if it's cloudy
DETAILS: Friday 30th March: 6.30pm 'til late:
'Supper with the Stars':  Join the Irish Astronomical Association for a spectacular evening of stargazing and culinary delights at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.
   There will be star shows in a mobile planetarium commencing at 7.30pm, followed by celestial views of the First Quarter Moon, brilliant Venus ("the Evening Star"), and fascinating Jupiter with its four large Galilean moons, plus a lot more! All this is of course weather dependent.
   There will also be an exhibition of the best photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the best ground-based observatories plus some amazing ones by IAA members, a display of telescopes and binoculars, and some amazing meteorites.
£5 entry for stargazing experience.
£15 includes the stargazing and a two course meal (6.30pm, Loughside Café, LNDC).
Booking is essential for this event. Please contact the Interpretative team at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on 028 3831 1673 / 028 3832 1671 for further details and to book a place.
See also www.irishastro.org   
 
4. COSMOS 2012: The Midlands Astronomy Club have finalised the programme for their very popular annual star party, at Annaharvey Farm, just outside Tullamore, Co Offaly, on the W/E of 13-15 April. Speakers include:
- Thierry Legault, world-renowned French astrophotographer
- Girvan McKay, Midlands Astronomy Club
- Eamon Ansbro, Kingsland Observatory, Roscommon
- Kevin Berwick, Dublin
- Dermot Gannon, Midlands Astronomy Club
- Apostolos Christou, Armagh Observatory
- Lawrence Rigney, Midlands Astronomy Club
More details are available on the website
www.midlandsastronomy.com
 
5. Armagh Observatory Public Astronomy Event, 17 March.
AO presents a pair of public lectures in St. Patrick's Trian on the morning of St. Patrick's Day, Saturday 17th March, followed by tours of the Observatory Grounds and Astropark, as its contribution to Armagh City and District's Saint Patrick's Day festivities on Saturday, 17th March 2012 
DETAILS:

The programme of fascinating astronomical talks, "Discovering the Universe", begins with light refreshments at 10:30 am in St. Patrick's Trian, Armagh. Two public lectures are being provided, one on the risk to Earth posed by comet and asteroid impacts with our planet, the other a review of efforts during the eighteenth century to measure the size of our solar system and the role played by very rare planetary transits across the face of our Sun. The next Transit of Venus, the last for more than a hundred years, will be visible from Europe on 6th June this year.

   The free public lectures will take place in the Rotunda Theatre, St. Patrick's Trian, each lasting an hour and with time for questions, ending at 1:00 pm.
The first talk, beginning at 11:00, is by Mr Jay Tate, Director of the Spaceguard Centre, Knighton,
Wales. His presentation, "The Science of Armageddon: an Update", will explain how the Earth has a long
and violent history of collisions with extraterrestrial bodies such as asteroids and comets, and how some
of these impacts have been large enough to cause huge environmental upheavals, mass extinctions of life
and severe changes to global climate and geography. Massively more destructive than the most powerful
nuclear weapons, such impacts represent the most damaging natural hazard likely to end civilization as
we know it. The talk will review the nature and extent of the Near-Earth Object (NEO) impact hazard and
bring us up to date with the latest understanding in the field: how the risk can be dealt with and what is
currently being done.
   Jay Tate is one of the world's leading authorities in this subject, having led efforts over the past fifteen years to highlight the risk to civilization posed by these extreme events and improve public understanding of
natural events about which, fortunately, we have no direct experience.
The second talk, at 12:00, will be given by Armagh Astronomer Dr John Butler. He will provide a
contrasting historical talk, "Measuring the Solar System: The Eighteenth Century Transits of Venus".
The eighteenth century was a "Golden Age" for science, and many new and important discoveries were
made in astronomy. The two eighteenth-century Transits of Venus, in 1761 and 1769, provided a rare
opportunity to determine the fundamental unit of astronomical distance: the distance from the Earth to the
Sun. The talk will describe how astronomers across the world united in this, the first great international
scientific project. It will explain the difficulties they faced in carrying out their observations and their
eventual success and the scientific legacy of their efforts.
   John Butler has worked at Armagh for nearly all his astronomical career. He was instrumental in the design and construction of the Astropark, and has led efforts during the past twenty years to conserve and preserve the built heritage of the Armagh Observatory and to calibrate the unique meteorological record, the longest daily climate series in the UK and Ireland. His research interests encompass cool stars, the effects of solar variability on climate, and the history of astronomy, and he is well known for his active involvement in the community of Armagh and for discovering an exceptional flare on the star HD 6090, called "Butler's star".

   Everyone is welcome to these events. Free tickets for the "Discovering the Universe" presentations are available from Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel. 028-3752-2928; E-mail: ambn@arm.ac.uk. No booking is necessary to join the guided tour "Bringing Heaven Down to Earth" or the Observatory tour and exhibition. Meet outside the Observatory at 2.30 pm and 4.00 pm respectively.

    FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT: John McFarland at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG. Tel. 028-3752-2928; FAX: 028-3752-7174 jmf@arm.ac.uk.

 
6.  SPACE TRAIN TO ORBIT? Some of us rode the ultra high speed Maglev Bullet train in Shanghai during our recent eclipse trip there. But how would you fancy a ride the whole way into orbit? See the link below. The basic physics for launch seems OK. But they haven't said how they would get passengers back down to Earth again! It's a wingless vehicle, so it can't glide back down like the Shuttle. I won't be holding my breath. http://travel.aol.co.uk/2012/03/12/startram-space-holidays-2032/
 

7. Ireland in space (thanks to John Flannery for this) The Irish involvement in space is surprisingly strong, yet most people are probably not aware of this significant contribution to international science. Dave Cullen has made an excellent documentary on the subject, and it's a real eye-opener. Watch the documentary at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJGfohno9m4  

 

8. Take your classroom into space, with astronaut Andre Kuipers: When liquids and bubbles are in space, odd things begin to happen. Astronaut André Kuipers from the European Space Agency (ESA) is taking schools across Europe on a microgravity waltz to learn what is behind seemingly simple phenomena such as convection and foams. Space oddities on the International Space Station will help thousands of schoolchildren to realise that the consequences of the laws of physics running our Universe can be complex – and on Earth they are not the same as in the Station's weightlessness. Armed with two ESA educational experiments during his PromISSe mission, André is inviting students aged 10 to 14 to share his scientific adventure. (IAA members will recall the superb event we had with Andre about 10 years ago in Stranmillis College - an unforgettable evening!) See:
9. 'Alien Object' at the Sun? Is there no limit to the gullibility of conspiracy theorists? Not content with pronouncing that the recent Comet Elenin was in fact a 'dwarf planet' called NIBIRU which was going to collide with the Earth (it wasn't, and it didn't, just in case you thought you had missed something!), they are now going crazy over some recent NASA video of an unusual funnel-shaped sunclone on the Sun. (A 'sunclone' = 'sun cyclone'). Their theories range from 'an alien spaceship refuelling from the Sun', to a 'Black Hole created at CERN'!  See
   After you've watched the video at the end click on the associated link "Several small sunclones join to form an enormous funnel cloud (The Dan Caudle 885)" - sorry I can't get a direct clickable or pastable link to that one. That shows that its a perfectly normal, though unusual, sunclone feature in the solar atmosphere. Sorry to spoil the fun....
 
10. Lectures in RDS, Dublin: In celebration of Dublin's status as European City of Science 2012, UCD School of Physics has teamed up with the RDS to bring some of the world's leading physicists to speak in Dublin about the latest developments in their fields of research. Please note these lectures are aimed at a public audience. Full details of these lectures and booking information can be found on the UCD website: http://ssmr.ucd.ie/speakerseries2012/speaker_series2012.html

Titan - The Moon that thinks it's a Planet - Prof. John Zarnecki. Tuesday March 20.

Minerva Suite; 6.00pm – 7.30pm.

Lasers in the Fast Lane - Prof. Wilson Sibbett. Tuesday May 15. RDS Concert Hall

6.00pm - 7.30pm

 
11. Venus close to Jupiter: Venus is now exceptionally prominent in the evening twilight as the brilliant 'evening star'. It is now at its closest to Jupiter, which is noticeably fainter than Venus, but still much brighter than any of the stars. The separation tonight is 2 deg 59'; tomorrow (14th) it will be 3 deg 5', and thereafter the two will gradually move further apart.
  
12: Earth Hour 2012 March 31, 20:30 - 21:30. Switch off all unnecessary lights, see the sky, and save the planet! Take part in a global call to action to highlight concerns about climate change and the way we are wasting the worlds limited resources
 
13. ISS The International Space Station will start another series of morning passes on March 19. Details for your own location, and lots of other useful information such as Iridium Flares, are on the free site www.heavens-above.com
 
14. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro
 
15. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
 
16. 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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