Tuesday, 3 April 2012

8 Sisters, 2 Lectures, Lidl Binos, Cosmos, SKA Computer, SAN, ISS, BCO, BigPrize

Hi all,
1.  The 'Eight Sisters' - Venus in the Pleiades. On Tuesday evening, 3 April, the famous Seven Sisters, properly known as the Pleiades Star Cluster, will be joined by brilliant planet Venus. Venus will be so much brighter than the stars of the cluster that it will be difficult to see some of the fainter ones with the naked eye, but binoculars or a small telescope will reveal a beautiful sight.
    Venus will actually pass through the SE edge of the cluster, and it will be closest to the centre during our daylight on Tuesday, but it will still be within the cluster itself as twilight begins on Tuesday evening.
  Have a go with a camera if you have one, though you will need either a good zoom lens or else take a shot through a telescope, or even binoculars mounted on a tripod.
2. IAA LECTURE, 4 April: (N.B. This is a change from what is in the programme card) The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by John Flannery, of the SDAS: Title: "The Outer Limits: Exploring the Outer Solar System". WEDNESDAY 4 April, at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast 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.  Lidl Binocular offer: 10 - 30 x 60 binocs. Lidl will be doing a special offer of moderately powerful zoom binoculars from Thursday 5 April. Price in NI = £18.99, or €19.99 in ROI. The only details I have at present are the basic specification, which is zoom range of 10-30, with 60mm objectives. No makers name is given, but their optical products are usually made in China, to a reasonable degree of quality. Zoom binoculars are not idea for astronomy, as they tend to have a small field of view, and once you increase the magnification above about 10 or 12, they really need to be mounted on a tripod. But at that price they would be really good value if the quality is OK. I will try to find out more asap.
4. COSMOS 2012: The Midlands Astronomy Club present 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. IBM building most powerful computer in history to unravel origin of the universe
  The machine will process more than an 'exabyte' of data every day - more than the entire internet, and enough to fill 15 million 64GB iPods every day. It will be more powerful than a million of today's fastest PCs. It will be attached to the SKA, a huge radio telescope built to 'see back' to the dawn of universe 13 billion years ago. It will output 100 times more information than Large Hadron Collider. See
6. The Sky at Night: Celebrating 55 years of The Sky at Night, Sir Patrick Moore, FRS, and his team go on a journey to the ends of the universe.

Mon 11:35pm BBC 1 Northern Ireland (20 mts)
Thu 7:30pm BBC FOUR (30 mts)
Fri 12:00am BBC FOUR (30 mts)
Fri 12:00am BBC HD (30 mts)
Sat 12:00pm BBC 2 Northern Ireland (20 Mts)
Sun 12:45am BBC FOUR (30 Mts)

6. ISS The International Space Station continues its series of morning passes until April 12. Details for your own location, and lots of other useful information such as Iridium Flares, are on the free site www.heavens-above.com
7. Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork: The varied events programme continues in April with something for all ages, and note that booking for their annual space camp, which runs from July 13 to 27, is now open. See www.bco.ie

8. Brand new European Astronomy Journalism Prize launched. A new journalism competition to capture and promote inspirational coverage of astronomy was launched on Thursday 29 March at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester. The prize is the ultimate for any astronomy enthusiast - a trip to the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Never a week goes by without coming across stories or features on astronomy in the UK media; yet many of the people behind the stories have never had the opportunity to visit the facilities that produce the results they are covering. The Very Large Telescope is the world's most advanced optical instrument, and is located at the Paranal Observatory on Cerro Paranal, a 2,635m mountain in the northern part of Chile. 

Entries into the European Astronomy Journalism Prize must be about astronomy and related areas of technology, or about the work and lifestyles or astronomers, engineers or others working in the field of astronomy. Online, written or broadcast entries are welcome.

The competition is being run by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and European Southern Observatory (ESO, in conjunction with the Association of British Science Writers and the Royal Astronomical Society. It is open for entries from Monday 2 April 2012 until Friday 27 July 2012. Works must have appeared in English and in the UK, between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012 inclusive to be eligible. They must reflect European interests. A full list of terms and conditions can be found at www.stfc.ac.uk/astroprize and at www.eso.org/public/astroprize

9. "God, Science and Global Warming".  An Audience with Sir John Houghton CBE FRS. 7.45pm, Tuesday 15th May 2012, The Market Place Theatre, Armagh. (Prof Mark Bailey asked me to circulate this, which may be of interest even though it's not strictly astronomy)
    Sir John Houghton, former co-chair of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will speak on "God, Science and Global Warming". This will be followed by a discussion chaired by BBC Presenter Mark Carruthers with questions and contributions from the audience.
  Members of the Panel will include Father Timothy Bartlett (author of the pastoral reflection on climate change "The Cry of the Earth"), Professor Valerie Hall (Emeritus Professor of Palaeoecology at Queen's University Belfast) and Michael Nugent (Chairman of Atheist Ireland).  With Sir John as the keynote speaker and with such a group of experts this promises to be an enjoyable and enlightening evening.
   The ticket price of £7.50 (+ £1 online booking fee) includes light refreshments at 7.00pm and there are afternoon tours of Armagh City's main attractions, and packages for overnight stays.  Book online at
  To learn more about the event and opportunities to experience Armagh City visit http://www.armaghu3a.org/?p=492, and http://www.armagh.co.uk/.

10. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro

11. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
12. 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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