Sunday, 22 April 2012

Lyrids, Jupiter, Conjunction, ISS/Progress, 24hr photo, Lecture, quasar spectrum

Hi all,
1. Lyrid Meteors. The main spring meteor shower is the Lyrids, which peak at about 05h on 22 April. There will be no moonlight, so conditions are favourable. The radiant is almost circumpolar from here, so observations are possible through most of the night. The usual maximum hourly is about 10, but stronger outbursts do occur, the last being in 1982. The parent body is Comet Thatcher, and the meteors are swift, and often bright.
2. Jupiter at the Last Chance Saloon. Giant planet Jupiter is rapidly sinking into the evening twilight, but your last chance for a nice view comes on the evening of the 22nd when it will lie less than 2 degrees below and left of a very thin New Moon. The Moon's phase is only 2%, so it will appear just as a very faint fine curved line. Jupiter is still mag -2.0, so you should be able to see both in binoculars AFTER the Sun has set. Look in the West from about 21.20 to 21.35, or a bit later for those West of the midlands.
3. Moon - Venus - Aldebaran Conjunction: A lovely 11% crescent Moon will lie between Venus and Aldebaran / the Hyades on the evening of April 24. Another nice target for astrophotographers.
4. ISS + Progress 47: The International Space Station continues its series of evening passes over Ireland. The supply spacecraft Progress 47 is on its way to dock with the International Space Station on Sunday afternoon. Although it is very much fainter than the ISS, you may be able to see a the Progress 47 crossing the sky several minutes before the ISS as it approaches for docking. Details for your own location, and lots of other useful information such as Iridium Flares, are on the free site
6. At The Speed of Light? The Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast invites you to the 1st lecture of this year's Michael West Lecture Series in Astronomy and Astrophysics.
   The Michael West Public Lectures are sponsored by Dr. Michael West, a QUB alumnus and benefactor, and aim to give everyone the chance to hear about the latest scientific developments in Astrophysics and related subjects directly from world-leading scientists.
   The 1st lecture of 2012 deals with and challenges one of the postulates of Einstein's Relativity Theory, that the speed of light is a universal constant. 
   Professor João Magueijo of Imperial College London will tell us about the Big Bang and the subsequent evolution of the Universe. He will also describe his revolutionary idea that the speed of light may not be a constant after all.
Date: 2 May 2012, 7-8pm. Title: What if the Speed of Light isn't constant? What you gain and what you lose. Place: Larmor Lecture Theatre, Queen's University Belfast 
  Please find more information on our speaker and reserve your seat at 
Attendance is free but a reservation is required.

7. Dave Grennan captures Quasar Spectrum: Irish amateur astronomer Dave Grennan has managed to record the spectrum of the best-known quasar, 3C-273 in Virgo. It is the brightest quasar in our skies (but still a very faint 13th magnitude!), and older readers may remember the excitement when these mysterious high redshift objects were first discovered. We now believe that a quasar is the highly energetic nucleus of a distant galaxy, harbouring a super-massive black hole. 

    Dave recently managed to record its spectrum from his home observatory in Dublin and also calculated the red-shift and distance from the spectrum. This amazing feat was a result of his superb skill, dedication and planning, and all the more remarkable having been done from a seriously light-polluted city. Congratulations to Dave for yet another amazing performance, showing just what Irish amateur astronomers can do. See    


8. Sky at Night @ 55. Sir Patrick Moore has picked his 55 favourite night sky objects and over the month of April, would like you to see as many as you can. The Moore Marathon will help celebrate 55 years of The Sky at Night, first broadcast on 24th April 1957.

    From the Moon to the star Albireo, the Moore Marathon has something for everyone. You can spot some with your eyes, others need binoculars or a telescope, and you can take part on your own or as a group. On 6 May on BBC One, and 10 May on BBC Four, The Sky at Night will feature a selection of your observations, from the simple to the most interesting. You can take part by downloading a Moore Marathon observing form at


9. 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 and at

10. "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, and

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

12. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
13. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. If you are a UK taxpayer, please tick the 'gift-aid' box, as that enables us to reclaim the standard rate of tax on your subscription, at no cost to you.  See also
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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