2. Public Lecture: "From here to Infinity: Gravity and the Cosmos" by Professor (Lord) Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, O.M., F.R.S. Friday 7 December, MacNeill Lecture Theatre 3, Hamilton Building, TCD. This is the Synge Public Lecture for 2012. Admission free
3. Venus, Mercury and Moon: conjunction. On Dec 11, Venus and Mercury will be joined by a thin waning crescent moon, lying just to the right of Venus. You also get an excellent chance on the morning of Dec 12 to see a rare phenomenon: Mercury appearing further from the Sun than the Moon. On that morning the 1.7% illuminated Moon will lie as much as 5˚ below and left of the innermost planet. Look from about 07.40, low in the SE: find Venus first, then scan with binoculars to the lower left to find Mercury, and beyond it, the very thin crescent of the Moon. A lovely photo opportunity: Saturn, Venus, Mercury & an almost impossibly thin crescent moon.
4. Star of Bethlehem: Book Launch. IAA member David Collins will be giving a lecture on the Star of Bethlehem to launch his recently published book of that title. It will be on Friday 14 December, at the Maynard Sinclair Pavilion, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, at 7.30 p.m. The Maynard Sinclair Pavilion is the home of the NICS Sports Clubs, and is on the LHS of the road as you go out from Belfast, a few hundred yards past the main entrance to Stormont - it's the first exit off that main road on the left after the Stormont main entrance. Admission is free, and all are welcome.
I read the book from cover to cover on my recent flight to Australia, and I was very impressed. I've read many other books on this subject, and in my opinion this is the most comprehensive, analytical, unbiased and best presented of the lot! He looks at everything from all the original source material, including other ancient non-biblical texts, the mythology, the social background, the theology, to the astronomy. I happen to agree with his conclusions, but even if you take a different view, you will find herein the most complete set of background information on the puzzle, and the best analysis of all the different theories which have been put forward over the years.
It should be read by anyone with an interest in the astronomical angle, and by anyone with an interest in biblical scholarship and interpretation.
5. ISS: The International Space Station will commence another series of evening passes over Ireland on December 13. Full details for your own location, along with lots of other information, on the free site www.heavens-above.com.
9. IAA New Year Party. This will be held on Saturday 5 January. We start with a buffet meal at McBrides restaurant in The Square, Comber, followed by a special private screening of a film in the local Tudor private cinema. Meet at McBrides at about 5.30 p.m. for 6.0. p.m. The film will be "Men in Black 3". This film is supposed to be funny, but has some S/F violence, and has a rating of PG-13, so parental discretion is advised regarding any children.
We will also have free refreshments at the Tudor Cinema, including my notorious seasonal punch (notorious because no-one else can make one like it!), tea & coffee, and soft drinks. We will also have George's entertaining and challenging quiz. You MUST book in advance - see the IAA website www.irishastro.org for details.