Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lecture, THAT 'meteor', Missed!, Galileo @ Armagh, Sir PM event, Mars in Morocco

Hi all,
1.  IAA LECTURE: The next IAA public lecture will be on Wednesday 20 February, at 7.30 p. m. It will be given by Dr Chris Watson, Senior Lecturer in the Astrophysics Department at QUB. The title is "Mapping the Surfaces of Stars - Giant Spots and Shadows". Dr Watson is a leading researcher in the search for Exoplanets, and will describe this technique, and what it can also tell us about other stars. Once the stuff of science fiction, finding planets around other stars is now a reality, with the total discovered now approaching 900! What does this tell us about the chances of life on other planetary systems? You'll want to hear the answer.
   Admission is free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome.
This lecture will as usual be in the Bell Lecture theatre, Physics building, main QUB Campus.
2. ISS. The International Space Station continues its series of evening passes over Ireland. Details as usual on the excellent and free site: www.heavens-above.com
3. That 'Russian Meteor'. I use that name because that's what the media called it, but of course it was much more than a meteor! Even 'Fireball' seems inadequate for such a brilliant and spectacular event. And we can't call it a 'meteorite' until recovered pieces have been confirmed as extraterrestrial in origin. There are already many such claims on the internet, but as of now I've heard no official confirmation.
   IRISH TIMES ARTICLE:  I got two t/cs from Dick Ahlstrom, Science Editor of the Irish Times, one about the 'Russian Meteor', and one about the asteroid flyby due later that day. Both interviews were then combined into the one article, on Saturday 16 Feb, in which I get a couple of mentions. See   
It was a very spectacular sight. Here are some weblinks you may have missed:
WARNING: Following the Russian fireball event, at least we all now know that if we see a brilliant light in the sky like that, we should stay away from windows etc for the next few minutes. Or if it's possible, get out of the building very quickly provided we can get well away from any potential flying glass or other debris - but see below.
   Even if the object passes directly overhead (i.e. as close as it can be), there's going to be a delay of at least a minute between the flash and the sonic boom, because the object will be at its brightest at least 12 miles above the Earth's surface, and each mile of distance causes a delay in arrival of the sound by about 5 seconds
    BUT, if the object explodes violently, there will be a shock wave, which can travel much faster than the speed of sound. However, with the size of object that is likely to be involved, and the minimum distance above us, any shock wave will probably have slowed and become just a sonic boom by the time it reaches us. It needs someone with a lot more expertise in this field than me to work it out fully, but I would guess that there would always be at least 10 seconds between the flash from an exploding meteor similar to the recent Russian one and the arrival of a shock wave (blast wave or sonic boom) which would be strong enough to break glass.
    You might ask - how do we know that the object won't explode just about half a mile above the ground? That's because the maximum dynamic pressure and heating of the object will probably (maybe not always?) occur at least 12 miles above the Earth's surface. Of course, if it's a really big one (say 1km diameter or more) then it will almost certainly punch straight through the atmosphere & hit the ground, exploding then. But in that case, staying away from windows will be the least of your concerns! Fortunately, the chances of one as big as that hitting us are VERY remote.
   Anyway, if in doubt, just don't immediately rush to the windows if you see a bright flash like that one! TM
4. SEE MERCURY: You can just see Mercury for another few days, but it is fading and starting to move closer to the Sun. Look low in the West about 30 minutes after Sunset, with binoculars. It will lie about 5 degrees above and right of fainter Mars.
5. Asteroid Very Near Miss: I just managed to spot NEO 2012 DA14 with 15 x 70 binocs, as it was moving from Virgo into Coma, but it then passed behind a bank of cloud and I never saw it again. But Andy McCrea managed to image it: "Caught it around 9.30 between Megrez and Alioth - close to 74 and 75 UMa - It was very faint and through light cloud". A McC. See photo on www.irishastro.org.
 See also:
6. IAA Event at Bangor, 16 February - This was a huge success, with mainly clear skies in spite of a very pessimistic weather forecast! We got great views of the 6 day old Moon, Jupiter with all 4 moons, and TWO passes of the ISS! This email says it all: "On behalf of everyone at North Down Museum we would like to thank the IAA for a very successful event indeed. Please pass our thanks onto your members who assisted with the Star Dome, Exhibition and Telescope guidance, their enthusiasm was wonderful and it really came across. This was reflected in record visitor numbers on the night and from the comments and feedback we have received."

 7. GALILEO AT ARMAGH OBSERVATORY: THE LIFE OF GALILEO", by Bertolt Brecht, Performed in the Armagh Observatory.
   The Greenwood Players and the Armagh Observatory are presenting in the Armagh Observatory from 22nd to 24th February 2013 the first performance on the island of Ireland of the play "The Life of Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht in a new version by David Hare.
   The story of the Life of Galileo and its central drama of the conflict between science, religion and authority is one that resonates today. As remarked by Ian McDonald, author and Executive Producer with the Greenwood Players, "The Life of Galileo" is a story that needs retelling every generation, especially in a 21st century when we seem to be moving away from science to an authority and belief-based worldview.
   There will be five performances of the play: two matinees at 2.00pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th February, and three evening performances at 7.00pm on each of 22nd, 23rd and 24th February.  Tickets, which are strictly limited, cost 12 pounds and are available from 14th January 2013 at http://galileoattheobservatory.eventbrite.co.uk/.
For more information, see: http://star.arm.ac.uk/press/2013/galileo/

8. Sir Patrick Moore: commemoration. It is now certain that the public commemoration event for PM will not be held before late April or early May. There is going to be an event at Selsey on 4th March, but that will be a Selsey village event, organised by and within Selsey, for Selsey residents only (who are very keen to celebrate the life of Patrick as a long-time Selsey resident) - so that's not intended as a 'national' event. It is still planned to have a bigger public event, probably in London, bit nothing is final yet.

There is an obituary feature in the March issue of Sky & Telescope, on p. 16 "Alas no Moore". I was interviewed for that piece, so I get a little mention. 

9. COSMOS 2013: Advance notice: The next COSMOS star party will be held at Tullamore on 12-14 April. More details later.
10. MARS in MOROCCO: ISSUED BY THE AUSTRIAN SPACE FORUM. Mars in Morocco: (slightly edited for space: TM) Mars has come to Morocco - at least until the 28th February.  The Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) has begun a series of experiments under simulated conditions in a Mars analogue site in the Northern Sahara. As the centrepiece of the field tests the OeWF's two analogue Mars spacesuits, Aouda.X and Aouda.S, will be deployed. A total of 23 nations are participating in the simulation.
   The MARS 2013 simulation kicked off on February 11th 2013 at 10:40 CET with Flight Director Alexander Soucek, head of the Mission Support Center in Innsbruck, giving the command: "You are GO for SIM!"
    Out in Morocco, 'Mars' astronaut Daniel Schildhammer wearing the Aouda.X experimental spacesuit said, "It is a mistake to believe that a small group of dedicated people cannot change the world. In fact, it is the only way it always happens."
  However, Mission Support back in Austria had to wait to hear this communication - a time delay is an intrinsic part of this field mission. "During MARS2013 a time delay of ten minutes is embedded in the communication between Innsbruck (Earth) and Morocco (Mars), which is decisive for a successful Mars simulation and allows us to learn a lot," explained Soucek.
   Soucek added, "Currently the Morocco Mars Simulation is the only simulation in the world that incorporates a time delay. The one-way transmission time is 10 minutes, which means, we will receive an answer to our question from the team on Mars after 20 minutes."
   The lag-time for communications simulates the delay induced by electromagnetic waves travelling the distance between Mars and Earth. Depending on the position of the planets on their orbits around the Sun,
this can vary anywhere from 4 to 22 minutes. The radio interchange between Earth and Mars is hence complicated and can lead to problems in executing procedures and commands. The Morocco Mars simulation wants to uncover these potential issues to guarantee the safety and a smooth execution of future manned-Mars missions.
  More information about the Morocco Mars Mission of the OeWF and experiments as well as current pictures of the Mars camp in Morocco can be found online:
12. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

13. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on  
http://www.bbc.co.uk/thingstodo. Look under 'Countryfile'.
14. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is easy: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc. 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 www.irishastro.org
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley


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