Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Bright NEO, Solar Day, BBQ, Merc transit, ISS, NLCs, Weblinks, Dunsink Solarfest

Hi all,
The following is edited from a BAA e-Circular by Richard Miles, with additional comments from me.
   An unusually large Near-Earth Object, 2012 LZ1 has just been discovered by Rob McNaught and colleagues on 2012 June 10/11 using the 0.5-m Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring, Australia. It will be bright enough to be imaged by many amateur telescopes in Ireland and UK. Quite apart from that, it shows that there are still quite sizeable objects out there that come close enough to be scary - although this one will be a definite miss.
   Currently, closest approach of 0.03636 AU is predicted to occur at June 14 23h UT whilst exhibiting a phase angle of 30.3 deg.  This PHA (Potentially Hazardous Asteroid) remains within a geocentric distance of 0.037 AU between June 14 06h and June 15 16h UT: a relatively long time interval, although given the orbit inclination, the relative velocity is quite high at 17.0 km/s.
Reported in MPEC 2012-L30, June 12 09:30 UT.
    2012 LZ1 is approximately 300-700 metres in size (H=19.7) and makes its closest approach of 0.036 AU (about 14 lunar-distances) on June 15.0 UT.  The object will be visible from the UK/Ireland near closest approach rather low down in a south-easterly direction and may be best seen before dawn (around 01:00-02:00 UT) on Friday, Jun 15 as an asteroidal object, magnitude 13.9 or so, moving at an apparent speed of about 38 "/min at an altitude of roughly 25 degrees above the horizon.
   Unusually too, although the orbital inclination is 26 degrees, it will remain visible from the UK/Ireland on many successive nights as it moves further northwards. During the next ten days, the declination, brightness and apparent speed will be as follows:

June 14/15  Decl. -15  V=13.9  38"/min
June 15/16  Decl. +01  V=14.2  36 "/min
June 16/17  Decl. +13  V=14.6  30 "/min
June 17/18  Decl. +23  V=15.1  23 "/min
June 18/19  Decl. +31  V=15.6  18 "/min
June 19/20  Decl. +37  V=16.0  13 "/min
June 20/21  Decl. +42  V=16.4  10 "/min
June 21/22  Decl. +46  V=16.7  8 "/min
June 22/23  Decl. +49  V=17.0  7 "/min
   This object will be visible in a westerly direction at an altitude of some 54 degrees.
   Given its size and proximity to the Earth, 2012 LZ1 is the latest PHA discovered.  Congratulations to Rob McNaught on this particular find which was conducted as part of the Siding Spring Survey; an NEO search program, the southern hemisphere counterpart of the Catalina Sky survey.
    Sky co-ordinates for finding this object can be obtained from the Minor Planet Center's ephemeris service at: Remember to enter a suitable Observatory Code in the online form to achieve a satisfactory topocentric prediction.  For the UK, you might wish to use the Code for Greenwich namely '000'.
   Observers are encouraged to report astrometry to the Minor Planet Center. Please report photometry to the nearest 0.01 mag to myself at the address below.  Thank you.
   Richard Miles, Director, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section, British Astronomical Association
Email: arps [at]
The Irish Astronomical Association will be running another of its ever-popular 'Solar Days' at Carnfunnock Country Park, Drains Bay, near Larne, Co Antrim. It's on the main A2 Coast Road, going North from Larne, and is signposted once you are through Drains Bay.
    Now that Solar activity is steadily increasing (there were two big spots today), we can expect to see lots of detail on the Sun's disk if there's any clear sky. We will have a selection of solar telescopes, each fitted with specialised safe astronomical filters, to see it in visible light, and in the wavelengths of Calcium and H-Alpha. There should be sunspots and huge prominences, each many times bigger than planet Earth. We will also have the usual display of astronomical and space items, posters, etc, starshows in the mobile planetarium, and our local 'Ulsternaut' Derek Heatly, so come along even if it's cloudy. I will also lead a tour of the excellent collection of Sundials in the park. 
  We will finish the afternoon with our midsummer BBQ, using the on-site picnic tables at the car park. The usual rules apply - bring along your own food, drinks, eating utensils, plates etc. And ALSO, bring along your own portable BBQ if you have one, although we should be able to provide cooking facilities for those who don't have one. More details on 

3. TRANSITS OF MERCURY: (Sorry, I forgot to include the dates for these in the last bulletin). We now have two Transits of Mercury to look forward to, on 2016 May 9 @ 14.58; and 2019 Nov 11 @ 15.21 (times are for mid-transit), both all visible from Ireland.
4. ISS. The ISS continues its series of evening passes over Ireland. Details are on the excellent free site  
5. NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS (NLCs): We are now into the season when these beautiful high altitude 'night-shining' clouds can be seen lowish on the N horizon near local midnight. They can be seen only when the Sun is at a certain distance BELOW the horizon, when all other normal tropospheric clouds could not be illuminated. They appear a silvery blue in colour, and are thought to be due to high altitude dust from meteors. You often see them near Capella, twinkling in the summer twilight. Send any photos if you capture them.
7. Dunsink Solarfest, 23 June. Following on from the success over the last 3 years, IFAS in conjunction with Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and Trinity College Dublin 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 has been finalised: see
 or the IFAS website
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 Please state in the e-mail how many seats you would like to reserve.
  Regards & Thanks, Michael O'Connell

(NB: Dunsink Observatory is on Dunsink Lane, Castleknock, Dublin. The Observatory is at 53 deg 23' 14.3"N, 6 deg 20' 19.0" W, with the entrance off Dunsink Lane at 23' 16.6"N; 20' 14" W. But Dunsink Lane has been blocked on the city side, and the observatory is now only accessible from the New River Road end, off the Navan Road, near the junction of the N3 and the M50 - the Castleknock junction, Junction 6. Since the M50 upgrade this has become a very complex junction.

    If approaching via the M50 from the Dublin airport direction, you MUST get into the correct lane at the offslip, or you'll be way off course! So when you approach Junction 6, move onto the offslip lane (to the left, obviously), but then stay on the two right hand lanes of the offslip, signed for 'Castleknock'. Do NOT keep on going round to your left via the left hand lane on the offslip, which will take you on to the N3 and Castleknock village! (That seems wrong when you know where Dunsink is, but believe me - I learned the hard way! If your Satnav says something else, ignore it.)

    Then move into the left hand of the two 'right' offslip lanes (in other words, the middle one of the original three). This will bring you to the original big roundabout, with traffic lights, where you then keep left, and then immediately left again, signed for 'Dunsink'.

   This road leads directly on to New River Road. At the 'cul-de-sac' sign continue on straight, and it becomes Dunsink Lane. Go straight on for almost 2 km (past Elmgreen Golf Course) until you see the road blocked ahead of you: the entrance to the Observatory is on the right just before the block. 

   If you go this way, it's simple and easy, so don't be put off - just follow those directions exactly.

On the return journey you go back along Dunsink Lane, then follow signs for the M50 Northbound. (TM)


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


9. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
10. 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


Mirza Ghalib said...

Only shows that we still have very limited knowledge of space's dangers heading this way. In this case, I don't see what could of been done to stop this rock and the impact would of been a major event, possibly with catastrophic damage/consequences. Scary stuff.

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