Monday, 23 July 2012

Armageddon, Curiosity, Perseids, Solar day, eclipse book, NASA-IAA, weblinks etc

Hi all,
1. The December 2012 'End of the World' Predictions: I will be giving a free public lecture on this topic at the visitor centre at Tara, Co Meath, on Wednesday 25 July. This is one of a series on superstitions and other irrational beliefs being organised by Clare Tuffy, head of the OPW staff at Newgrange. Due to date confusion by a previous speaker, there will in fact be two talks that evening, both free. Prof Tadgh O'Keeffe of UCD was due to speak previously on the prophesied 'End of the World on AD 1,000', but he will now give that lecture on Wednesday starting at 8 pm sharp, followed by mine, which is entitled "The End is Nigh! - Or is it? - Should you worry about Armageddon on 21 December 2012?" 
    As many of you may know, this prediction is based mainly on various calendrical and astronomical ideas, on which I shall be commenting, and giving my conclusions.
   Tara Visitors Centre lies South (SSE to be more precise) of Navan, and is signposted and easily reached via the old Dublin to Navan Road (N3, now renamed the R147), or the new M3, via the junction SE of Navan town.
   Two free lectures in one evening - good value if ever you saw it!

2. Curiosity Rover to Land on Mars: Nasa's most ambitious Mars mission to date will reach a crucial milestone on 6 August when the SUV sized rover is due to land on the Red Planet. This will involve the most complex landing sequence ever attempted: see, and, and:
3. Perseid Party, 11 August, Delamont Country Park. The Irish Astronomical Association will host another 'Perseid Party' for the maximum of the most popular of the annual meteor showers on the evening of Sat 11 August, at DCP just S of Killyleagh, Co Down. We will start off with a fry-up, or BBQ depending on your tastes, in the early evening, followed by an observing session in the nice dark skies of the country park late into the night if it stays clear. Obviously this is weather dependant, so check the IAA website ( before going, to check on the latest situation. Moon conditions this year are very favourable - see below.
4. PERSEID METEORS to peak on August 12. The Perseids are the best-known of the year's meteor showers, and are usually the most popular as the nights do not get as cold as the other major showers in the winter! Maximum this year is predicted for 10.00 on 12 August, which means that the night of 11-12 August should give the highest observed rates, with the night of Aug. 12-13 next best. The Moon will be only a thin waning crescent, and won't rise until late in the night, so moonlight won't interfere this year.
   The shower actually begins with a low level of activity at the end of July, building up gradually in intensity until the maximum, and then declining until it ends about 19-20 August. With Full Moon occurring on 2 August, the best period for observation will be from about 7 August onwards.
  The meteors appear to come from the constellation of Perseus, which will be rising in the NE as darkness falls, but they can be seen anywhere in the sky. The best area to look is to centre your gaze on an area of sky about 50 degrees to the left or right of the radiant (whichever is clearer and darker), and about 55 degrees above the horizon. The Perseids are tiny particles cast off by comet 109p Swift-Tuttle.
   Perseids are swift, and often bright, and in a clear dark sky you should see an average of at least one per minute, including a few spectacular fireballs. Don't miss it.
5. Solar day at WWT, 12 August: Rounding off a busy weekend, the IAA will be running another one of our popular Solar Days at the WWT, Castle Espie, near Comber, Co Down, on Sunday afternoon, 12 August, from 2 - 5 p.m. This will comprise viewing the Sun in visible light, H-Alpha and Calcium light, using special solar telescopes and filters, if the sky is clear. We will also have starshows in the Stardome portable planetarium (thanks to Dr Tom Mason of Armagh Planetarium), and an exhibition of amazing meteorites from outer space, space photos, memorabilia, and other items. A great day for all the family, even if it is cloudy. See: for more details.
6. Eclipse Chasers book by IAA member ready for pre-order.  "Total Addiction: The life of an Eclipse Chaser".  (This is from Dr Kate Russo, edited by TM):
   I am delighted to announce that my book about eclipse chasers is now finished, and available to pre-order on Amazon with a release date of end of July. I hope all eclipse chasers will find it an enjoyable read.  It nicely bridges the gap between astronomy and psychology. But I think the book really comes alive through the interview analysis I undertook with nine eclipse chasers. Through the detailed analysis of these interviews, I have been able to tease out the key features of what we experience during totality.  I also try to explain what motivates all of us to be so passionate about chasing eclipses. 
   Many thanks to all of you who completed the survey, participated in interviews, and have contributed by way of comments, suggestions, quotes, explanations and photographs.  Special thanks to Terry Moseley, Jay Anderson, David Makepeace, James McClean, Dave Balch, and Rick Brown for participating in the interviews.  Thanks also to Glenn Schneider, Michael Zeiler, Fred Espenak, Jay Pasachoff, Daniel Lynch, Xavier Jubier, Miloslav Druckmullar for your contributions. 
   Special thanks also for contributions by Dava Sobel, Diane Ackerman, and Sir Patrick Moore who was one of the nine chasers featured.  It was a real privilege to meet with Sir Patrick, even if I did leave his house rather tipsy after several strong G&T's!  The whole project from start to finish was really quite enjoyable, and I have been touched by how supportive, friendly, open and helpful folk have been.  It is a great community to be involved with.
   If you are planning to read the book (and I hope many of you do), then I'd be really interested in your feedback.  You can do this via Amazon, or directly to me at my preferred email  I am also in the final stages of developing a website where folk are welcome to add comments.  Details of the site will be announced when it is ready (note – I am not an IT expert, this may take a few weeks). 
   Next steps – I will be having a book launch party here in Belfast most likely in September, before I then go to Australia for six months where I plan to be involved in various outreach activities related to the eclipse, in addition to doing a little book tour in the path of totality.  Kate Russo, Eclipse chasing Psychologist.
   (IAA members had a very interesting talk by Kate last year, and some participated in the surveys for the book. I've seen the proof copy, and it really does make fascinating reading. I thought that I was addicted, but just wait until you read some of the accounts from other eclipse-chasers!)
7. NASA Chief meets IAA members. The new chief administrator of NASA, Col. Charles Bolden, was honoured to meet IAA members Lee Gordon, Andy McCrea, Terry Moseley and Pat O'Neill at a recent event in Trinity College Dublin, organised by the US Embassy and TCD. So much so, in fact, that he insisted on having his photo taken with the four of us! Check the IAA website and look out for the next edition of the IAA's excellent magazine STARDUST for the photo!
 (I have another dozen or so interesting space and astronomy weblinks - if anyone wants more, let me know by return!)
Finally, for any romantics among you, you might like to listen to a track called "Stargazers of the world unite: a love song for astronomers" by local artist Duke Special. It's not my style, but who am I to judge? Check:
9. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account:  @IaaAstro

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