Thursday, 20 June 2013

Thanks, Solstice, ISS, TV on TSE, NLCs, Astro Shop, Saturn, Solarfest, Weblinks

Hi all,
1. THANKS. First of all, thanks to all the many people who have sent me congratulatory emails or texts about my award of The British Empire Medal in the recent Queen's Birthday Honours, for 'Services to astronomy'. I have tried to reply to them all, but may have missed some!
2. SUMMER SOLSTICE. The Sun will reach its most Northerly point in the Sky on June 21 at 07.03, marking midsummer. From then on, days will shorten :-( but nights will lengthen :-)
3. ISS: NO longer visible from Ireland until the latter part of July. The Shenzhou and Einstein ATV supply vehicles have successfully docked with it.
4. TV PROGRAMME ON SUN & ECLIPSE: The BBC are showing "The Secret Life of the Sun" at 20.00hrs 23rd June on BBC 2.  The programme follows Dr Francisco Diego leading the Astro Trails solar eclipse project to Mount Carbine in Queensland for last November's Total Solar Eclipse.  It is claimed that it gives a fairly serious and sympathetic view of the eclipse following fraternity. The producer says he can make DVDs available after the transmission.
5. Noctilucent Clouds: We are now in the season for NLCs. Andy McCrea & Paul Evans got some superb images, look on the IAA website: Look low on the Northern horizon for the hour or two around local midnight (that's in GMT: by your watch, say around 01.00)
6. NEW ASTRONOMY SHOP IN DUBLIN: Scopes and Space Ltd is Ireland's newest online and retail store. Based in Unit A8 Airside Enterprise Centre, Swords, Co Dublin. Visit our website to see our wide range of products  Our shop will be opened on July first.
   We are stocking a large range of products which include for the first time in Ireland: Orion telescopes, Takahashi, Officina Stellare, Scope Dome and Lunt Solar Systems. We also carry a wide range of CCDs and Planetary cameras from SBig, Starlight Xpress, Finger Lakes Instruments to name just a few.      
   Scopes and Space are also delighted to be looking after the young astronomers of Ireland with our kid's range of telescopes and science and astronomy books. We will have lots more exciting products coming online soon so please keep an eye on the website  or contact us on The shop will be open 6 days a week; come and visit our new showroom from the first of July.
7. SMILE FOR SATURN: On July 19, 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will photograph Saturn and its entire ring system during a total eclipse of the sun.  Cassini has done this twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit, but this time will be different.
   "This time, the images to be collected will capture, in natural colour, a glimpse of our own planet next to Saturn and its rings on a day that will be the first time Earthlings know in advance their picture will be taken from a billion miles away," says Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.
   "While Earth will be only about a pixel in size from Cassini's vantage point 1.44 billion kilometres away, the team is looking forward to giving the world a chance to see what their home looks like from Saturn. We hope you'll join us in waving at Saturn from Earth, so we can commemorate this special opportunity."
    Unlike two previous Cassini eclipse mosaics of the Saturn system the July 19 image will be the first to capture the Saturn system with Earth in natural colour, as human eyes would see it. It also will be the first to capture Earth and its moon with Cassini's highest-resolution camera.
   This latest image will continue a NASA legacy of space-based images of our fragile home, including the 1968 "Earthrise" image taken by the Apollo 8 moon mission from about 240,000 miles (380,000 kilometres) away and the 1990 "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by Voyager 1 from about 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometres) away. July 19th, concludes Porco, "will be a day for people all over the globe to celebrate together the extraordinary achievements that have made such interplanetary photo sessions possible. And it will be a day to celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot."
   To learn more about the public outreach activities associated with the taking of the image, visit: .
7A: IAA SATURN EVENT, 19 JULY: To mark this significant event, the IAA will be holding a special Saturn Observing Event, probably at Delamont Country Park. This imaging event will take place between 22:27 and 22:42 BST, and Saturn will be visible in the twilight sky low in the SW, so we'll be in the picture. Bring your lasers and torches to shine at Cassini for the photo! More details later, or check the IAA website:
8. SOLARFEST 2013, DUNSINK: Saturday, June 29th, will feature 5 talks on our nearest star from both amateur and professional astronomers. There will also be a workshop on building a magnetometer and solar observing if the weather permits. Tours will be given of the Observatory and the South Dome. All are welcome and admission is free.
Note: Bring your own lunch. Complimentary tea and coffee will be provided.
  Among the amateur astronomer speakers are John Flannery, John O'Neill and Terry Moseley. More details can be found at
Admission FREE, but by ticket only: apply to

INTERESTING WEBLINKS: No Comment. Oh darn, I can't resist this one: If she is 'reptilian', why does he call her the Cat Queen'? T.^headlines But this ignores various other factors, such as the orbital stability of any planets, and their climatic variations. T.
10: HUNT FOR NEAREST EXOPLANETS: A RARE ALIGNMENT OFFERS OPPORTUNITY TO HUNT FOR PLANETS. The Hubble telescope will have two opportunities in the next few years to hunt for Earth-sized planets around the nearest star, the red dwarf Proxima Centauri. These will be in 2014 October and 2016 February when Proxima passes nearly in front of two other stars. 
    Red dwarfs are the most common class of stars in our Milky Way galaxy; about 10 times as common as sun-like stars.  Every such star ever born is still shining today, because they evolve very slowly. Since lower-mass stars tend to have smaller planets red dwarfs are good places to hunt for Earth-sized planets. 
    Previous attempts to detect planets around Proxima Centauri have failed, but it may be possible to detect any smaller terrestrial planets by looking for microlensing effects during the two rare stellar alignments. Microlensing occurs when a foreground star passes close to our line of sight to a more distant background star.  The image of the background star may be distorted, brightened and/or multiplied, depending on the alignment between the foreground lensing object and the distant star.
  The events should enable astronomers to measure precisely Proxima's mass, by seeing how far the background stars are offset from their real positions in the sky.  The offsets would result from Proxima's gravitational field warping space.  If there are any planets, their gravitational fields will produce small extra positional shifts. Because Proxima is so close, the area of sky warped by its gravity is larger than for more distant stars, making it easier to look for shifts in apparent stellar positions. Only the most sensitive telescopes will be able to measure the positional shifts. The proposed Gaia space telescope and the VLT in Chile may be able to make measurements comparable with Hubble's. (Adapted from an SPA item)

11. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

12. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on Look under 'Countryfile'.
13. 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 youYou can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button.  See also
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley
I'm now back on Twitter, after some temporary hiccups: @terrymoseley2

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