Monday, 11 March 2013

Fwd: N.E. Comet, Lecture, Armagh events, GAN, Methuselah star, Cosmos, Weblinks

Hi all,
   Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) was discovered in 2011 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System a 1.8-m telescope in Hawaii that is used to watch for objects that might pose a danger to Earth.  
  The comet is already an easy naked eye object from the Southern hemisphere, and will soon be visible from our latitudes
   The best dates for us to look may be March 12 and 13 when it appears in the western twilight not far from the crescent Moon.  A comet and the crescent Moon in the twilight glow is a rare sight.  The head of the comet may well be visible to the naked eye, but a good view of the tail may require use of binoculars or a small telescope.
Visit for images, sky maps and observing tips.
The following site gives good viewing information for our latitude:
And this is an excellent guide to observing comets in general:
 Good luck, and send in all your reports and images to me and to
2.  IAA LECTURE: The next IAA public lecture will be on Wednesday 20 March, at 7.30 p. m.
It will be given by Andrew Dennis of Andor Technology: The title is "Andor and Cutting Edge Astronomy".
   Andor, a Belfast company, is one of the world's leading designers and makers of advanced digital cameras, which are used in some of the world's leading astronomical imaging systems, both on Earth and in space. We are delighted to have this presentation by an expert from the company.
Synopsis: I will spend a couple of minutes discussing the types of cameras we make and where the company came from (QUB Physics), but the bulk of the presentation is focussed on the interesting applications where our cameras are employed, these include:
 Lucky Imaging
 Hunting for Extra Solar Planets using various techniques
  Andor's involvement in the development of the Curiosity (Mars) Rover
 The Sofia Flying Telescope (it's a 14 tonne telescope in a Boeing 747) 
 Adaptive Optics 
 Tracking space junk, mapping the Kuiper belt and tracking comets.
  And a few other things
       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.
3. Armagh Observatory Public Events.
Students from the BA Hons in Fine Art, School of Art and Design at the University of Ulster, under the guidance of Associate Lecturer Aisling O'Beirn, will present the first performance of a new dynamic art project "Comet PANSTARRS is Coming" on the Observatory's Human Orrery at 12 noon on Tuesday 12th March.
   The work will provide an artist's interpretation of the arrival of Comet 2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) in the inner solar system from the Oort cloud, a swarm of comets which surrounds the solar system and extends more than halfway to the nearest star.
   This is an outdoor project for which an audience is welcome. There is no need to book, and the performance, which is part of Creativity Month NI and supported in part by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL), is free to all. It will start at 12 noon at the Observatory's Human Orrery and last for approximately half an hour.
(2). St. Patrick's Day Event
The Armagh Observatory and the Armagh Public Library are working together on St. Patrick's Day to provide an afternoon of guided tours and participative events as part of Creativity Month and of the St. Patrick's
Day celebrations in St. Patrick's City of Armagh.
(a) St. Patrick's Church of Ireland Cathedral will be open from 12.30pm to 3.00pm, followed by Choral Evensong from 3.15pm to 4.00pm. (
(b) The Armagh Public Library and No. 5 Vicars' Hill, the former Registry, will be open to visitors from 2.00pm to 6.00pm. (
(c) Those with an interest in astronomy may have a tour of the Armagh Observatory's Human Orrery, just south of the main Observatory building, and a tour of the Astropark.  These tours will begin at 2.00pm and 3.15pm respectively. From 3.15pm to 4.00pm, there will be a guided tour of the Observatory's Astropark, led by one of the astronomers. (
(d) If the sky is clear, there will be stargazing and views of Comet PANSTARRS at No 5 Vicars' Hill, beginning at 6.45pm.
   Attendance at these St Patrick's Day events, also part of DCAL's Creativity Month, is free, but to help us gauge interest please contact the Armagh Observatory in order to obtain tickets. lease write, telephone
or e-mail: Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; Fax: 028-3752-7174; e-mail:
4. Armagh Planetarium is proud to host "The Dragons of Azrael". The Dragons of Azrael is a magical heart-warming production that transports you through the Cosmos to the wonderful world of Azrael.  On this planet the Dragons await the birth of the chosen one who will restore the lost art of "imagination" within Dragon-kind.
   This is a brand-new interactive production with full 3D stage setting, amazing large scale puppets, visual effects and enchanting music. The Dragons of Azrael is a family show which is not to be missed! Spaces will be allocated on a first come basis.
Show Times:
Saturday 23rd March – 11:30am, 12:30pm, 1:30pm, 3:30pm
Tuesday 26th March – 6:30pm and 7:30pm
Duration: 30mins
Admission: FREE
(Weather permitting, the Planetarium's telescope will be available for visitors to see the stars for themselves throughout the evening.)

5. Join the Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2013 Campaign
 What would it be like without stars at night? What is it we lose? Starry night skies have given us poetry, art, music and the wonder to explore. A bright night sky (aka light pollution) affects energy consumption, health and wildlife too. Spend a few minutes to help scientists by measuring the brightness of your night sky. Join the GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaign ( The third campaign started March 3 and runs through March 12.
More information:
GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky. During five select sets of dates in 2013, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Orion or Leo in the northern hemisphere, and Orion and Crux in the southern hemisphere) with seven star charts of progressively fainter stars ( Participants then submit their choice of star chart at with their date, time and location. This can be done by computer (after the measurement) or by smart phone or pad (during the measurement). From these data an interactive map of all worldwide observations is created ( Over the past 7 years of 10-day campaigns, people in 115 countries have contributed over 83,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night the most popular, light pollution citizen-science campaign to date ( The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive, and holds an abundance of background information ( and Guides, activities, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign are available at Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. The remaining GLOBE at Night campaigns in 2013 are: March 3 - 12, March 31 - April 9, and April 29 - May 8. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night campaign.
Constance E. Walker, Ph.D. Associate scientist & senior science education specialist, NOAO;
Director, GLOBE at Night campaign (
National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO)
950 N. Cherry Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85719 USA
6. The Star Older than the Universe? Astronomers have discovered a star, in our own galaxy, which appears to be older than the present accepted age of the universe. Odd? In actual fact, it is of course impossible, unless our ideas of how the universe formed are totally wrong. So what have we got wrong: the age of the star, or the age of the universe?
   Well it's not quite as simple as that. There is an error margin for the estimate of the age of the star, and the lower end of that margin puts the star just within the estimated edge for the universe. The mysterious 'Methuselah Star' appears to be between 14 and 15 billion years old, while the universe itself is thought to have come into existence 13.7 billion years ago. But it's still a major mystery how a star can be that old. And the chances of one of the earliest stars in the history of the universe just happening to be so close to the Sun at this time are also rather remote. At magnitude 7.2, it's easily visible even in binoculars, in Libra. See below for its position.
    And even after using new information about the star's distance from us, its brightness and its structure, scientists are unable to place an estimate of its age much below 14.5 billion years - still older than the universe.
   Fortunately for the team from Pennsylvania State University and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, there appears to be a margin of error of about 800 million years, or so - enough to just barely place the star below the age of everything else.
   Known as HD 140283, or TYC 5601-694-1, the star is the oldest object currently known to astronomers. It was first discovered a century ago, moving more than 800,000 mph relative to the Sun. It is on a long and looping orbit around the galaxy, and is only briefly passing through our neighbourhood.
    In the study published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, astronomers said the star was born in a 'dwarf galaxy' which was swallowed by the Milky Way more than 12 billion years ago. Using new measurements the team was able to refine its estimate of the star's position, and learn more about its structure.
   The study suggests that further research might bring the age of the star down even further. See:
Information about TYC 5601-694-1

Visual magnitude:


Spectral type:



187 +/- 10 light years


3.51 +/- 0.38 x Sun's luminosity

Position information for 10 Mar: Apparent RA 15h 43m 46.88s, Apparent Dec

-10° 58' 36.1"

Alternate Names and Catalog Numbers:

Tycho catalog number:

TYC 5601-694-1

Hipparcos catalog number:

HIP 76976

PPM catalog number:

PPM 230636

SAO catalog number:

SAO 159459

HD catalog number:

HD 140283

BD number:

BD -10 4149

7. COSMOS 2013: The next COSMOS star party will be held at Tullamore on 12-14 April. Speakers so far confirmed: Sara Beck of the American Association of Variable Star Observers from Boston, USA; Prof. Ian Morison, former Gresham Professor of Astronomy, Gresham College, London; Simon Jeffrey, Research Astronomer at Armagh Observatory; Declan Molloy, Midlands Astronomy Club; Simon Todd, renowned Irish astrophotographer; Dave McDonald, IFAS Chairperson and renowned asteroid hunter. And more still to be announced!
9. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

10. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on Look under 'Countryfile'.
11. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is easy: 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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