Friday, 30 August 2013

IAA Talk, SPA, Nova, Ast Course, Obs, PM, ISON, Research post, Galway talk, WSW

Hi all,
1. IAA OPENING LECTURE, 18 September. Prof Colin Cunningham. "Mega Telescopes: how and why?" The European Southern Observatory will soon blast off the top of a mountain in the Atacama desert, to start construction of a telescope five times bigger than any existing today. This telescope is known as the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT. The primary mirror will be made from 798 mirrors and will be 39m in diameter, and be controlled to nanometre accuracy. He will describe the engineering challenges of this giant telescope, and give a preview of some of the exciting astronomy discoveries that may result, from the first galaxies to Earthlike planets.
Prof Cunningham is Director, UK E-ELT Programme, and is also involved in projects with ESA and the UK Space Agency. 
   The lecture is free and open to all, including free refreshments. It will be held in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast, at 7.30 p.m. 
   Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for help in hosting these lectures.
2. SPA MEETING: On behalf of Queen's University Belfast, Armagh Observatory and the Society for Popular Astronomy, we would like to invite all amateur astronomers to an all-day meeting held in honour of the SPA's 60th anniversary.
   The meeting will take place in the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 9:30am until 5:30pm on
Saturday 21st September, and will consist of a series of popular-level talks given by professional
astronomers on their research here in Northern Ireland.
   Additionally, on Sunday 22nd September there will be an organised visit to Armagh Observatory.
Visitors will be given a guided tour of the observatory and astropark, followed by a lunch reception
hosted by the Lord Mayor of Armagh. Please note that this visit is restricted to 45 people due to venue
and transport limitations.
   More details and bookings can be made at the following website:
   Attendance at the meeting is free,  but we ask that people register so that we can estimate numbers
for tea/coffee.
  Best Wishes, Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen's University Belfast

3. Nova Delphini brightened after discovery, but is now slowly fading.
  The Nova was just below 6th magnitude when discovered, but later brightened to at least 5th magnitude, though it now seems to be fading again, to just below N.E. visibility. Lindsay Green estimated the magnitude at 5.8 on 25 August at 21.15 GMT, and Andy McCrea made it about 5.7 on the same night, but it has faded about half a magnitude since then.
   But like its famous nearby predecessor, Nova Del in 1967, it could brighten again. (I have a record of about 18 months observations of Nova Del 1967, and it not only brightened significantly after discovery, then faded a bit, but it then brightened again further a month or so later, becoming even brighter than the first maximum!) So you can never tell....
4. ASTRONOMY COURSES RESUME AT STRANMILLIS. Due to popular demand (yes, really!), my astronomy courses at Stranmillis are to be continued this autumn. The new series will build on what the last course covered, but with a more practical content, including on-site observing where possible. It's not necessary for anyone to have attended the first course, as no (or very little) prior knowledge will be assumed.
   The course will run for 10 weeks on Tuesday evenings, starting on 10 September, with a break on 29 October, resuming on 5 November, and finishing on 19 November.
 For details see the Stranmillis Lifelong Learning section website,396223,en.pdf, go to p 23 for my course.
You can download an enrolment form at,231524,en.pdf
Please pass this on to anyone you know who might be interested. 
IMPORTANT: Dr Pedro Lacerda of the Astrophysics Dept at QUB has asked me if any IAA members (or others), would be able to help with an important observation on Sep 15, at about 20.12 UT (21.12 BST). 
   2005 UQ513 is an Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Object that is predicted to pass in front of a 14th mag star, and so occult it. The magnitude of 2005 UQ513 is about 21, so in effect the star will disappear from any location along the actual occultation track, unless the star is an undetected double star: in that case if only one component is occulted, the other star may remain visible, depending on its brightness.
   The predicted occultation track (which may be slightly in error) passes right over Ireland, and in fact Ireland and Scotland are the best placed countries in the world to observe this event!
   Observing the duration of this event can give accurate information about the size and shape of the object. We need at least 10-second time sampling to get good ingress and egress times. 
    Ideally, if we could get someone in the Northern end of the island and someone else in the S end that would be even better because we'd get more chords sampling the shape of the EKBO.
   The details of the predicted event are at
I know that there are some amateurs (and professionals) in Ireland who have suitable equipment to attempt this observation, which could yield some very useful information not obtainable in any other way. Of course, even negative observations are valuable, as they constrain the maximum size of the object.
   The star is at: RA: 00h 30m 11.89s; Dec: + 30deg 37' 23.801". (That's near Delta Andromedae)
   If you would like to have a go, please report directly to Pedro at, copy to me, so I know what's happening.

6. Patrick Moore Event, Leicester:
On 28 September 2013 the Royal Astronomical Society, in collaboration with the National Space Centre, will be holding an event to commemorate Sir Patrick Moore and celebrate his life and legacy. The event will be held at the National Space Centre, Leicester, and tickets (which must be booked in advance) will cost £25.
Further details, along with a booking link, may be found at:

7. COMET ISON - LATEST: This comet has now been imaged several times after its reappearance after 'conjunction' with the Sun, and it does indeed seem that it has not brightened as much as expected. It has now just crossed the 'snow/frost line', where water ices sublimate, creating more of a coma and tail and should therefore have increased the brightness. So it doesn't look as promising as we had hoped.
   But as David Levy says "Comets are like cats: they have tails, and they do exactly what they want", i.e. they are not really predictable!  
We will just have to wait a bit longer to see. It will be best seen from Ireland in late November, and in early December if it survives its extremely close passage round the Sun. For the latest info, see
   Even if we don't see it well from here, we'll be able to watch its very close encounter with the Sun via the almost live SOHO images. It should be visible in the LASCO C3 widefield image from about 06.00 on 26 November to late on Nov 29, and it will shoot quickly through the LASCO C2 narrow-field imager in a few hours around perihelion, on Nov 28d 18h 49m.
8. Research Position at Dublin Tallaght IT. Project: Full time M.Sc. by research at IT Tallaght: Analysis of the public understanding and value of, and expectation from science. Principle Supervisor: Kevin Nolan, Lecturer in Physics, School of Science, IT Tallaght.
    Description: This project aims to survey and evaluate the public understanding, perception and value of (and expectation from) science in Ireland. Subsequent to development of a comprehensive survey, numerous means will be used to conduct it across all cohorts across society, including best traditional practices as well as using Web portals, social networks and science centres. The successful candidate will also engage a one week outreach internship at Blackrock Castle Observatory (BCO) Science Centre, one of the centres due to run the survey. Results will be published in a peer reviewed journal and presented at conference; providing new insights into science education and outreach as well as into national science priorities.
    The project is fully funded for two academic years, including college fees, a monthly stipend of 833 Euro (net), costs for conference and BCO internship, among other usual costs. The interested candidate should have an honours degree at 2.2 or higher in one of: Science, Engineering, Computing, Scientific Communications, Science Education, Social Science, Scientific Journalism or a related area. Interested candidates should send an email expressing their interest to Kevin Nolan at:

9. Talk By Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell,  NUIG Astronomy SocietyTuesday, 24 September, 19:00.
 "A lightweight introduction to gravitational radiation". Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves - sometimes called ripples in space-time. Was he right? What are these ripples? How would we 'see' them? What could produce them? And are they any use anyway? This talk introduces these waves and shows that we are on the threshold of detecting a whole new spectrum of radiation. All welcome.

10. WORLD SPACE WEEK: World Space Week 2013 'Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth' Global Analogue Campaign. From 4-10 October, more than twenty organizations spread across four continents will be exploring Mars - and discovering more about Earth in the process.  A campaign of networked Mars analogue demonstrations is being launched to celebrate World Space Week (WSW) 2013.
   In the most ambitious global outreach and education campaign for WSW to date, teams of researchers, explorers and educators will carry out Mars simulations and tests of rovers, spacesuits and other hardware at locations world-wide.  Activities will include the WSW 2013 Mission to Mars, a 4-day simulation of a human Mars expedition at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah.  The 6-person crew will be led by Jon Rask from the Space Biosciences Division at NASA Ames Research Center.  The Mission to Mars and all
satellite events will be co-ordinated from the WSW 2013 Mission Control Center, located at the Headquarters of the Austrian Space Forum in Innsbruck, Austria. 
  'Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth' is organized by the World Space Week Association, in partnership with the Space Generation Advisory Council, the Mars Society, the Austrian Space Forum and Kiwispace Foundation.
   Remco Timmermans, Executive Director of WSW said, "The 'Exploring Mars, Discovering Earth' analogue campaign incorporates science, engineering and education activities related to living and working on Mars. We are reaching out to millions of people around the world with the message: We are on the brink of an exciting new era and you can be part of it!"
   Gernot Grömer, President of the Austrian Space Forum, said, 'We are honoured to take on the task of operating the Mission Control Center, connecting many of the world's premier analogue research teams for planetary exploration. This year's Word Space Week will be an impressive showcase of what the solar
system exploration community has achieved up to now."
11. Alan Bean, Apollo 12: Dinner / Lecture, Pontefract, W. Yorks, 11-12 October. Info & tickets at, T. 01977 795535.
12. EVENTS AT BLACKROCK CASTLE OBSERVATORY: for details of the latest events at Blackrock Castle Observatory, including the Junior Space Camp on September 14.
13. PICS FOR NEW IAA WEBSITE PHOTO GALLERY. President and webmaster Paul Evans has produced an excellent new photo gallery on the updated IAA website. See  We would love to have any photos from members showing past IAA events and activities for a "Pics from the Archive" section. Credits will be given to respective owners of course. 
15. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

16. NEW LINK! 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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