Saturday, 7 September 2013

Lecture, SPA, Mars, Stran, Free event, LaPalma, BCO, PM, SAN, ISON + 12 more!

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. ASTRONOMY COURSES STRANMILLIS, DATE CHANGE. Stranmillis College have asked me to delay the start of this lecture series by one week, so it will run for 10 weeks on Tuesday evenings, starting on 17 September, and finishing on 19 November, i.e. without a break at the end of October. Other details as before:
   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.
 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. 
4. Mars enters the Beehive: No, it won't get stung: it's the celestial beehive, also called Praesepe, or M44, an Open Cluster in Cancer. It is gradually approaching the cluster, and will enter it (apparently, as seen from Earth) on the night of 8/9 Sep, and be well inside it the following night. Mars will be much brighter, at about mag 1.4, than the cluster stars, but it should still be a lovely sight in binoculars or a wide field telescope.
5. OBSERVATION WANTED: Sep 15: 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. See previous bulletin for details.
6. FREE SHOWS AT ARMAGH PLANETARIUM As part of European Heritage Open Days (EHOD), Armagh Planetarium will be opening for a free day on Saturday 14th September 2013.  You will get a chance to see a show of your choice for free. Opening hours 10am - 5pm.
Digital Theatre Show Times:
11am – Little Yellow Star (Suitable for pre-school children)
12 noon – Perfect Little Planet (Family show)
1pm – We are Aliens! (Age restricted – no entry for under 6's)
2pm – Beyond the Blue: A Stargazing Journey (Age restricted – no entry for under 6's)
3pm – Sun, Moon and Stars (Family show)
4pm – Astronaut (Age restricted – no entry for under 6's)
Pre-Booking is essential for theatre shows as seats are limited - Call on 02837 523689

7. NEW ASTRONOMY PROJECT ON LA PALMA:  Dr Ana Garcia Suarez, formerly at Armagh Observatory, has launched a new project in La Palma, Canary Islands, and asked me to circulate the following details (slightly edited). '' is an astrotourism project for tourists and also for amateur astronomers. We take astronomy tours, astroparties, organise workshops and rent telescopes for astronomers that do not wish to travel with heavy equipment.
   Next week I´ll have with me 7 amateur astronomers from Ireland. Also at the end of September I´m organising the first AstroMaster La Palma with Babak Tafreshi (TWAN, editor of Sky & Telescope....with 50 APODs to date) and Christoph Malin (TWAN, National Geographic and very experienced timelapser: ). If you are particularly keen on landscape astrophotography or timelapse check out the website. E:
Tel: +34 922 410 431, Mob: +34 622 805 618
  BTW, Ana's husband David is an astronomer at GTC: Gran Telescopio de Canarias.…
8. EVENTS AT BLACKROCK CASTLE OBSERVATORY: for details of the latest events at Blackrock Castle Observatory, including the Junior Space Camp on September 14.
9. 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:
10. BBC The Sky at Night: Fatal Attraction: Chris Lintott talks to the Astronomer Royal about black holes, the beating heart of galaxies which also have a destructive side. The longer version of the programme will be on Sun Sep. 08 at 02:20am on BBC FOUR
11. MAJOR FIREBALL IN USA: On August 28 a ~100 lb meteoroid travelling 53,000 mph hit the atmosphere over the south-eastern USA and exploded, producing sonic booms and a fireball as bright as a full Moon.  Researchers are now scouring the countryside for fragments that could reveal the nature and origin of the meteoroid.  A movie, more information, and updates are available on

12. COMET ISON - LATEST: Still fainter than originally predicted. 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.
13. 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. See previous bulletin for details, or contact

14. 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.

15. 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. See previous bulletin for details.
16. LARGEST METEORITE BICENTENARY: Another Irish meteorite has an impending anniversary. This time it's the Limerick meteorite fall of 10th September 1813. The largest piece, weighing more than 27kg (about 64lb) will be on display in the Ulster Museum (in the meteorite gallery) between 10th September (next Tuesday) and early November, on loan from National Museum in Dublin.
   It is by far the biggest meteorite to fall anywhere in Ireland / UK in historic times. There were several rather florid eyewitness accounts in newspapers of the time, and these show that it was a spectacular event with bright lights, loud bangs, a smoke trail (a bit like the Russian meteor earlier this year) and some substantial dents in the ground. (from Mike Simms, NMNI)
17. IAA Member's letter in Radio Times: this letter is in the latest Radio Times (7-13 Sep). (Mike features again!)
   "On 15 February a 10,000 ton meteor exploded, more than 100 times more powerful than the North Korean nuclear test of a few days previously. Nothing like it had happened for a century, and the shock wave injured more than 1,000 people. There was spectacular footage that media organisations could (and did) call upon. Yet what did BBC News lead with? More on the horsemeat scandal, which had already been running for several days. The meteor explosion featured as the third item. By contrast, Channel 4 News led with it. Dr Michael J Simms Ballycowan, Antrim"
18. 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. 
19. STARGAZING LIVE returns on 7 - 9 January 2014. The IAA has once again been asked to be principal partner with the BBC for this prestigious event. More details later, but mark your diaries now.
(amazing photos!) (A more interesting question is that if they do succeed in bagging an asteroid, and getting it into lunar orbit, would NASA then have exclusive rights to it?)
21. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

22. 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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