Friday, 26 October 2012

New Lectures, Aurora cruise, nearby planet discovered, ISS, Hallowe'en, weblinks

Hi all,
1. IAA PUBLIC LECTURE: The next IAA Public Lecture is entitled "Searching for the Rarest Objects in the Universe", and will be on October 31, at 73.0 p.m. 
It will be given by Dr Daniel Mortlock of the Astrophysics Group, Imperial College London. Dr Mortlock led a team which recently found the most distant quasar yet discovered, with an amazing redshift of 7.1. See
  Admission is free, including light refreshments
N.B: this lecture will be in the Bell Lecture theatre (NOT the Larmor, as used for the last lecture), Physics building, main QUB Campus.

2. "Meteorites Tamed" Lecture Series, Ulster Museum, by Dr Mike Simms: 

The second lecture in this series will be on Monday 29 November, at 7.30pm. Free admission.

SYNOPSIS: Every year visitors from Outer Space arrive on Earth. These are meteorites, messengers from beyond our planet. This series of six lectures from Dr Mike Simms will explain what meteorites are, where they come from, how they get here, and what they can tell us about the far reaches and earliest history of our Solar System. 

3. Northern Lights Cruise: I recently received notice of a cruise round the coast of Northern Norway to observe the aurorae, among other things. This comprised direct flights from Belfast to Tromso, departing on 24 Feb 2013, then joining the Hurtigruten cruise ship. This seems quite attractive, but beware: the Moon will be Full on 25 February, seriously restricting the views you might otherwise get. It would only be near the end of the cruise that you would get a few hours of reasonable darkness before moonrise to get good viewing conditions.


4. LECTURES: "The Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity' – In Search of Origins" The Planetary Society, in association with the School of Physics NUI Galway, Galway Astronomical Club and CIT/Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork will present a public lecture, in both Galway and Cork, during Science Week 2012 titled "The Mars Science Laboratory 'Curiosity' – In Search of Origins". The talk will describe how the mission is currently proceeding, show the latest images, outline the geography of Mars for those attending to become more familiar with the planet itself and invite discussion from the audience on topical matters of space exploration and its value to society.

Galway Talk: 8.00pm, Wednesday 14th November 2012, O'Tnuathail Theatre, NUI Galway

Cork Talk: 8.00pm, Friday 16th November 2012, Blackrock Castle Observatory, Blackrock, Cork

Admission Free. Places allocated on a first come first served basis - simply turn up on the night! Suitable for the general public and expert alike, and for children of about eight years and older.

   The presenter is Kevin Nolan, Co-ordinator to Ireland for The Planetary Society and author of the book "Mars, A Cosmic Stepping Stone".  Full details on the lectures, including media and lecture based downloadable resources available at:

5. School of Theoretical Physics Statutory Public Lecture 2012, in association with the School of Cosmic Physics.
 "Cosmic perspectives: from planets to the multiverse" by Professor Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, O.M., F.R.S. Mon 19 Nov 6:30pm, Theatre L, Newman Building, Arts Block, UCD. Admission free


6. Robinson Lecture 2012, Armagh, 8 p.m., 22 November: 

 The eleventh Robinson Lecture will be held on Thursday 22nd November in The Armagh City Hotel, 2 Friary Road, Armagh. It will be delivered by Professor David Southwood, Imperial College London. Professor Southwood has recently retired from the position of Director of Science and Robotic Exploration at the European Space Agency and is now President of the Royal Astronomical Society.  The lecture will begin at 8.00 pm and is scheduled to end at 9.00 pm, followed by light refreshments.
   Title and abstract: "To Mars, Titan and the Universe Beyond! Europe's Arrival on the Space Frontier"
    The lecture will review how in the first decade of the 21st century the European Space Agency became an increasingly obvious presence in space science. ESA spacecraft were sent to the Moon, Venus, Mars, and a probe put down on Titan.  In a couple of years a European lander will land on a comet nucleus.  Beyond that comes a mission to Mercury.  At the same time, European missions like Herschel and Planck, looking at the evolution of the Universe from Big Bang through formation of galaxies, stars and planets, have taken a dominant position in current space astronomy. Some of the successes will be described from a personal point of view as well as some of the frustrations.  Moreover, the wider case will be made for why space science and exploration is important for a modern society.
    Attendance at the Robinson Lecture is free, but if you would like to attend, please contact the Armagh Observatory to obtain tickets.  Please write, telephone or send an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; Fax: 028-3752-7174; e-mail:


7. RDS Lecture: UCD graduate Sandra Delamer will give a lecture on the JWST: 'How Did We Get Here? Pointing the James Webb Space Telescope at the distant past', on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 at 6.00pm in the RDS Concert Hall.

The lecture is free of charge and all are welcome.  Booking essential.
8. Earth-sized planet found orbiting Alpha Centauri B. This attracted a lot of media attention, as the Alpha Centauri star system is the closest one to our Sun. And although the planet discovered is far too close to the star to harbour life, there was speculation that there could be other planets further out, in the 'habitable zone'.
    Perhaps, but as the star is a member of a fairly close binary system, the orbits of any more distant planets are liable to be highly chaotic, as the star system has an orbital eccentricity of about 0.5, which means that Alpha Centauri B's distance from the bigger, hotter and brighter A component varies from about the distance of Saturn to the distance of Pluto, from the Sun.
   Tough primitive life forms might be possible on an earth-sized planet in the habitable zone, but it's unlikely to have any advanced life forms. So don't worry about an imminent alien invasion! See
9. The International Space Station (ISS) continues its series of evening passes over Ireland, until October 30. Tonight, for example, it will commence a pass at about 18.55 - 18.57 - a bit earlier for those West and South of Belfast. See for details for your own location.
10. Hallowe'en at Armagh Planetarium: If you are into spooky spectaculars at this time of year, check out the programme at Armagh Planetarium. Build a rocket and see if you can make it out-fly Sinead on her broomstick! See: for details.
11. IAA Annual Subscriptions: All IAA members are reminded that if they have not yet renewed their subscriptions for 2012 - 2013, they should do so at once, otherwise they will not receive the next issue of STARDUST. You can do this easily online:, or via, or download a form, see Item 11 below.
13. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

14. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
15. 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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