Thursday, 12 July 2012

'Doublin' Lectures, Moon+Jupiter, Sun active, NLCs, Astronews, TV, Eclipse Book

Hi all,
A. Free Lecture by head of NASA: 13.00, July 12, TCD. Join NASA administrator Charles Bolden for a Lunchtime Lecture: 'Pushing the Limits to Achieve Success'. Presentation will include a special performance by singer Beth Neilsen Chapman. Limited seating, early arrival essential. Details from:
 B. 17.30, July 12th, Science Gallery, TCD: Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognised for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. As part of the Science Foundation Ireland speaker series, Professor Greene will give a talk at TCD's Science Gallery in Pearse Street. See 

2. Moon just grazes by Jupiter early on 15 July: A Close Shave: Not Wallace & Gromit, but a very near miss with the waning crescent moon. The following details apply to Belfast: from further South the miss will be even closer. All these figures are from the edge of the Moon to the edge of Jupiter, not centre to centre.

  At 03.00, Jupiter will be 7 degrees above the ENE horizon, with the bright limb of the crescent Moon only 2' 13" away. As they both rise higher in the sky, the Moon will gradually slide past below Jupiter, with the separation gradually decreasing: at 03.05 it will be only 1' 39", and at closest approach at 03.09 it will be just 1' 30" away. That's less than three Jupiter diameters, and closer to Jupiter than Europa, Ganymede and Callisto at the time!

   At closest approach Jupiter plus its four bright moons will be strung out in a line parallel to the edge of the 'horn' of the crescent, plus the continuation along the 'dark' edge of the Moon which will be quite brightly lit by Earthshine (the light reflected from the Earth onto the Moon, commonly known as 'the old moon in the new moon's arms'). With N at the top, the order from L-R is: Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, Europa. After this very close approach the Moon will then move gradually further away to the lower left.

   From the South of the island it will be an even closer miss – the separation will be only 1' 0" from Cork, at 03.06: that's only a bit more than the diameter of Jupiter itself.

  This will be a superb photo opportunity with a telescope, as it should be possible to record Jupiter, plus all four of its moons, plus the thin crescent Moon, plus the Earthshine.

   And if you are on holiday in the far South of England, or on the continent or in the Mediterranean area at the time, you will see the Moon actually occult Jupiter. For example, from Barcelona, the occultation starts just after moonrise: at 03.27 BST (NOT local Spanish time!), when Jupiter is just 1˚ 13' above the horizon. As you go further East from there, the occultation occurs with Jupiter and the Moon higher up: e.g. from Nice it starts at 03.28 BST, at an altitude of 5˚. So if you're going to that region at that time, at the very least bring a pair of binoculars, or even better a small portable telescope.

3. HIGH SOLAR ACTIVITY: Sunspot AR1515 has grown into a behemoth more than 10 times wider than Earth. The active region is crackling with M-class solar flares and seems poised to produce even stronger X-flares in the days ahead.  At least one CME is en route to Earth, and ham radio operators are reporting short-wave solar radio bursts roaring from the loudspeakers of their receivers. See for more information and updates.
4. 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.
5. UK Infrared Telescope discovers 'impossible' binary stars. A team of astronomers have used the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) on Hawaii to discover four pairs of stars that orbit each other in less than 4 hours. Until now it was thought that such close-in binary stars could not exist. The new discoveries come from the telescope's Wide Field Camera (WFCAM) Transit Survey, and appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. An image accompanying the release can be downloaded from

The team publish their work in the paper, "Four ultra-short period eclipsing M-dwarf binaries in the WFCAM Transit Survey", S. V. Nefs et al. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, in press. A pre-print of the paper can be downloaded from

6. TV featuring Armagh Observatory (from Barry Pickup):
This was shown earlier this year, but given the timing, it is definitely one for the Sky box to record..... He Michael Portillo) visits Armagh Observatory in this one:
7. 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!)
8. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: (Sorry there are so many of these all at once - they kept on appearing before I got a chance to complete & send this bulletin! But they are all worth checking.)
   Apologies for all the references to the 'God Particle' in the following. It's nonsense of course: it seems to be based on the fact that without the Higgs Boson we wouldn't be here. Which is true, but the same applies to the proton, the neutron, the electron, etc.
(end of Higgs Boson sequence)
Saturn's giant moon Titan appears to have an underground ocean of liquid water, according to a newly-released analysis of data from NASA's Cassini probe. See
THE MAJESTY OF A SPACESHIP: UP-CLOSE WITH ATLANTIS: In the quiet, peaceful setting of a storage bay in the northwest corner of NASA's cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on Monday afternoon, Spaceflight Now photographer Walter Scriptunas II used the tranquil opportunity to shoot this gallery that captures the space shuttle Atlantis in exquisite detail.
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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