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."
- 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
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: email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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