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.
4. Supermoon on Sunday: Forgive the hype, but this is probably what the media are going to be saying. The Full Moon on 6 May coincides with the closest lunar perigee of the year, so the Full Moon will appear bigger and brighter than usual. It's all due, of course, to the Moon's elliptical orbit around the Earth, which means that its distance from us is constantly varying. Closest approach to Earth is called 'perigee', and due to various other factors, some perigees are slightly closer than others. And it so happens that the closest lunar perigee of 2012 coincides very closely with the Full Moon on May 6. In fact, Full Moon will be at 03.35, and the perigee will be at 03.33.
The distance then will be 356,955 km, compared with the mean distance of 384,400 km. But this perigee is only slightly closer than the next closest one for the rest of the year - that one will be on Dec 12, when the distance will be 357,075 km - only 120 km further away. Indeed, the next perigee to be closer than this one won't be until 2014 Jan 14 (956,923 km).
So don't get too excited, but the Full Moon will appear a bit bigger and brighter than usual on May 6. The effect will probably be most noticeable at moonrise and moonset, because of the so-called Moon Illusion (Google it - no room to explain it here!), so check it out at Moonrise on the evening of the 5th, and if you are up early, at Moonset on the morning of the 6th.
5. 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
6. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: You might be interested to check out the following links:
7. BCO EVENTS: see their website: www.bco.ie for details of forthcoming events, including the summer SPACECAMP, and the public lecture on Friday 4 May: "The Big Bang – is it true?". Join Dr Cormac O' Raifeartaigh as he discusses if the Big Bang is just a mathematical model or does it truly tell us how the Universe began
8. "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/.
9. Dunsink Solarfest, 23 June. Following on from the success over the last 3 years, IFAS in conjunction with Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) www.dias.ie and Trinity College Dublin www.tcd.ie are organising a one-day event in Dublin to celebrate solar astronomy. Solarfest 2012 will take place on Saturday 23rd June at Dunsink Observatory, Castleknock, Dublin. IFAS are very grateful to DIAS and TCD for supporting the event and entry is FREE.
The programme for the event is currently being finalised and will be updated in due course on the IFAS website www.irishastronomy.org However, the event will feature a number of lectures, a workshop, solar observing (weather permitting) and more. The lunchtime break will allow an opportunity to take in a tour of the facility to see the observatory and the 12" Grubb refractor. Tea/coffee will be provided, however please bring your own lunch.
Spaces are limited to 60 seats. If you are interested in attending, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please state in the e-mail how many seats you would like to reserve.
Regards & Thanks, Michael O'Connell
(I'll send directions later on how to get to Dunsink from the North - the new junction at the M50/N3(M3) is very confusing if you don't know it! Terry M)
10. BEWARE STOLEN ITEMS: There has been a break in at the Astronomy Centre, Todmorden. Unfortunately a lot of kit has been stolen. This is a public outreach facility and is Peter Drew's life work. This is a big blow for the club. http://www.astronomycentre.org.uk/
Please be on the lookout for new ads for Coronado scopes and Solar scopes that have been modified. Large refracting binoculars and large reflecting binoculars in particular. Please pass the word and inform the police and the Astronomy Centre if you have your suspicions. If you can help by putting up warnings on any of the Astronomy forums, that will be appreciated. Thank you,
David Dench, Rochdale
So far, the list comprises:-
Unique 6" F8 refracting Binocular telescope
Unique 6" F8 reflecting binocular telescope
12" Meade LX200 OTA
6" F8 black Helios refractor modded Ha scope
6" F8 blue Skywatcher refractor
3 Coronado PST bodies
2 black EQ6 mounts
1 white EQ6 Pro mount.
Clearly there will be other genuine similar articles for sale, but please check carefully the provenance of such items. If you have the slightest doubt, then you should refer this to the police.
Federation of Astronomical Societies
11. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitter@IaaAstro