1. IAA LECTURE, 11 December. Supernovae And The HST: By Dr Justyn Mound, QUB.
Supernovae are just about the biggest explosions in the universe,
and certainly the biggest that we are ever likely to see. Not only
that, but they create all the elements above iron in the periodic
table, many of which, such as nickel, zinc, selenium, and iodine, are
essential for human life. They are also the key element in the
'distance ladder' used in large scale astrophysics and cosmology, as
they are used to measure the distance to distant galaxies and galaxy
And it's from studying distant supernovae that scientists now
believe that the expansion of the universe is speeding up, leading to
the theory of 'dark energy'. In other words, it's hard to think of any
other single phenomena that's more important in modern astrophysics
And of course it's the amazing power of the HST which gives us the
data we need on the most distant of these events. So this lecture will
be a fascinating account of one of the cutting edge areas of modern
The lecture is free and open to all, including free refreshments.
Venue: 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. COMET ISON - ISNO Comet? Comet ISON may not have had the same orbit
as Comet Kohoutek (1973), but they will probably go down in amateur
astronomy lore as two of the most disappointing comets in our
Originally billed as 'Comet of the Century' (even in 2013???), and
predicted to be a brilliant naked eye object, reaching magnitude -12,
and 'as bright as the Full Moon', it barely achieved naked eye
visibility, especially as seen from UK/Irish latitudes. Even at
perihelion it was much less bright than predicted, and could not be
seen even with the Sun shielded.
Angela and I could not see it even with 10x50 binoculars on the
morning of the 25th even from an altitude of 2,200 metres in the very
clear dark sky of the Mt Teide caldera on Tenerife, where it was much
higher above the dawn twilight than from Ireland. We saw Mercury and
Saturn shining brilliantly, and even nearby Zubenelgenubi (mag 2.7),
but no comet.
It seemed at first that a small portion may have survived
perihelion, but it now seems totally defunct: see
If there is anything left, it's currently moving through the region
of the borders of Ophiuchus, Scorpio and Libra, and for the next few
days can be found below and right of Epsilon and Delta Ophiuchi.
www.heavens-above.com gives its position for any time and date.
The latest images are posted at
http://www.isoncampaign.org/potw-oct21. More information on the
Comet ISON Observation Campaign website at
Also see: http://www.space.com/topics/comet-ison/ and
and there's a post-mortem on http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy.html
* At least there's one good aspect: not only was Comet ISON not the
harbinger of doom that the Nibiru Conspiracy Theorists and their ilk
were predicting: it was such a non-event that they have even more egg
on their faces than usual!
Sky at Night on Comet ISON: The 'team' including Alan Fitzsimmons
(QUB) at La Palma, used Isaac Newton and Liverpool Robotic Telescope
to look for and acquire data and images. Before ISON perihelion but
still very good. The extended prog.(30mins) is on BBC4, Thursday 5
Dec. at 7.30. The 'short' repeat is on BBc 2, Sat. 7 Dec. (Thanks to
Peter Paice for the info)
* Let's find Comet ISON observational web campaign! (Japan). A
Mega-Collection of "Your Observations" from the 1st of November 2013
to the 20th of January 2014: the Japan Astronomy council is collecting
Comet ISON observational information from all over the world.
Participation is very simple: just drop a marker pin on the on-screen
map and write your observational comment. If you take a photo of comet
ISON, please upload it onto the website. When your observation
information and photographs are submitted, they will be stored in our
database and used to update the map. We look forward to hearing from
For more information, follow the link:
http://ison.astro-campaign.jp/en/index.html or email
3. ECLIPSE BOOK LAUNCH: IAA Member Dr Kate Russo has just had her
second eclipse book published! She posted this (I have edited it a bit
"I have put together a souvenir book about the 2012 TSE from my
home region of North Queensland. This time, I used a blend of
fantastic images of the eclipse and the region as well as a bit of
storytelling from locals and visitors from all across the region. I'm
delighted to announce that the book, TOTALITY: The Total Solar
Eclipse of 2012 in Far North Queensland is now out, and ready to
order. The book is available within Australia for $49 (including
postage). The ebook version can be downloaded for a reduced price for
November only $8, after which the price increases to $18.
International pricing, ordering and full book information can be found
on my website link here:
Check it out, and do feel free to give me any feedback. Feedback
written on my website is especially appreciated.
Thanks to all in this wonderful international community of like
minded folk who contributed and shared their photos, and a special
thank you to Michael Zeiler, and Terry Moseley.
And would you believe, I have book three now in progress:
Transformed by the Shadow, which is the first time eclipse experience,
written for eclipse virgins. This will be next year's release. Kate"
I can add the following totally unbiased comment - "It's a fabulous
book - the pictures, often double page spreads, are amazing, and the
first hand accounts really make the whole eclipse experience come
alive. If you haven't already seen a TSE, you'll certainly want to do
so after reading this!" TM.
VENUS: Now Much Easier to See in Evening Sky: Venus is still near
maximum elongation from the Sun, but it's only now becoming fairly
easy to see from our latitudes, because the ecliptic lies at a very
shallow angle to the W horizon in autumn evenings. It's slowly
getting higher in the evening twilight sky now and it will become
easier to see in spite of the decreasing solar elongation. Look low
down in the bright SW evening twilight for a bright twinkling 'star'.
5. DIAS PUBLIC LECTURE, 4 December, 6 p.m: Dark Matter: One of the
greatest puzzles of our time will be discussed at a public lecture by
the secretary of the Nobel committee for physics. Amazingly, we still
don't know what 95% of the Universe is made of: scientists think that
about 12% of the matter in the universe is "standard stuff" – made of
protons and electrons, etc – but the rest is a mystery.
This public talk, on "Solving the Puzzle of Dark Matter?" – will be
given by Professor Lars Bergstrom, University of Stockholm, and
secretary of the Nobel committee for physics.
Admission free and all are welcome. Moore Auditorium, O'Brien
Centre for science, University College Dublin. This is the Dublin
Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) School of Cosmic Physics 2013
statutory public lecture. More info: www.dias.ie
See: Image: Hubble space telescope and Chandra composite photograph
with evidence of dark matter, showing two massive galaxies colliding
at astonishing speeds, to form a cluster known as MACS J0025.4-1222:
*About *Professor Lars Bergström:
6. IAA OBSERVING NIGHTS: The next observing nights, at Delamont
Country Park, will be on December 6-7, weather permitting. see the IAA
website for updates: www.irishastro.org
7. Supper with the Stars at Oxford Island 7 December: The IAA will be
partnering the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre (LNDC) at Oxford Island,
near Lurgan, to offer another one of their very successful "Supper
With The Stars" evenings. We'll have the usual formula: telescopes for
observing if clear, and on display if cloudy. And we'll also have
shows in the Stardome, on loan once again from Armagh Planetarium,
thanks to Director Tom Mason. Plus lots of other attractions. Tickets
must be booked in advance direct with LNDC. www.oxfordisland.com, E:
email@example.com, Tel: (028) 3832 2205. More details in
8. IAA at Silent Valley, Mourne Mountains, 8 December: Then we're off
to a new location: the dark and unpolluted skies on the South side of
the Mourne Mountains for an evening of observing (if clear), and talks
and other activities. More details on that in the next bulletin.
9. TYRONE ASTRONOMY EVENT, Stewartstown, 10 January. "Journey through
Space" will be held in St Patrick's Church, Ballyclog, 125 Coagh Road,
Stewartstown, Co Tyrone. Dr Patrick Harkness is an IAA member who
lecturers in Space Systems at the Univ. of Glasgow. The central theme
of his talk is "Gravity" and it will be accessible rocket science. We
are trying to stimulate interest in science and technology in the
local community. Details and booking at: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
10. Book Launch: Armagh Public Library, 7.30pm, 11 December: "A Mystic
Dream of 4"
The Armagh Observatory and Armagh Public Library are co-hosting
the launch of a new book "A Mystic Dream of 4" by Professor Iggy
McGovern, in the Armagh Public Library, 43 Abbey Street, Armagh.
Prof Iggy McGovern is a poet and Emeritus Professor of Physics at
Trinity College Dublin. His previous publications include "The King
of Suburbia" (Dedalus Press, 2005), and "Safe House" (Dedalus Press,
2010). He also edited the anthology 2012 "Twenty Irish Poets Respond
to Science in Twelve Lines" (Dedalus Press, 2012).
"A Mystic Dream of 4" is a sonnet sequence based on the life and
times of William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865), one of the foremost
mathematicians of the nineteenth century and the inventor of
Quaternions, a number system which extends the complex numbers. Today
Hamilton's name is perpetuated in
the 'Hamilton' of Hamiltonian Dynamics and, in quantum mechanics, of
the Schroedinger Equation. Iggy McGovern's sonnet sequence spans the
life and times of this remarkable Irishman, ranging from the aftermath
of events at the end of the eighteenth century through the Great
Famine and beyond. The
sequence consists of 64 sonnets, mainly in the voices of relatives,
colleagues and friends of Hamilton, who tell the story of Hamilton's
life and reflect the mores of the times.
For further information, please contact the Armagh Public Library by E-mail
at email@example.com or by telephone at 028-3752-3142.
11. ISS Evening Passes. The International Space Station will commence
a new series of evening passes over Ireland on Dec 11: Details on
12. GEMINIDS: The Geminids, the year's richest annual meteor shower,
will peak on Dec 13-14, but starts to become active about 8-9 Dec.
Oddly, the orbit of the meteors was found to coincide with that of
asteroid 3200 Phaethon, rather than a comet as in the case of other
meteor showers. Now the mystery unfolds a bit more: "Asteroid comet"
3200 Phaethon has sprouted a tail, confirming that the mysterious
object is indeed the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. See:
and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I80ZXrXucI. More details on the
shower next time.
13. December events at BCO, CORK: See www.bco.ie for details,
especially for their 'First Friday' events, and their Junior Space
Camp with a Jolly Christmas twist, where young ones can make a
sparkly snowflake and Santastic snowglobe to take home! December 7 and
21 from 12:00-13:30.
ALSO: A 6 month internship to work with Cork's Space for Science
(Ireland). CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory (http://www.bco.ie/) is a
non-profit visitor centre that is home to a working research
observatory, space science exhibit and workshop programme. The
facility also operates a dynamic outreach agenda. We are looking for
someone with a passion for science and astronomy to work with us on
maintaining and increasing our online presence. You will have
responsibility for the general running of the social media platforms
from creating and uploading content on a regular basis to developing
and managing digital and social media campaigns. More information at
14. Congratulations to Dr Pedro Lacerda.
Dr Pedro Lacerda has now been appointed Max Planck Group Leader in
Cometary Science at Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, in
Germany. Pedro, who was at QUB, is well known to IAA members, not just
for his excellent lectures, but for his welcome contributions to our
IAA / BBC Stargazing Live events. Well done Pedro!
15. A Final Reminder: IAA subscription renewals are now overdue, so if
you haven't renewed, you won't get a copy of the next issue of our
superb magazine STARDUST! See item 21 below for an easy way to pay, or
simply contact the Membership secretary Mr Philip Baxter at
firstname.lastname@example.org, (or the Treasurer Mrs Josephine Magill at
email@example.com). Remember to tick the 'Gift Aid' box if you are
a UK taxpayer, so we can reclaim the tax from the Inland Revenue! It
costs you nothing, but is a great bonus to the IAA.
16. STARGAZING LIVE returns on 7 - 9 January 2014, at Cultra. The IAA
has once again been asked to be principal partner with the BBC for
this prestigious event. The main local event will be at the Ulster
Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. Mark your diaries now. The IAA
has now formally presented its programme for the events to the BBC,
and we are finalising arrangements with them.
17. INTERESTING WEBLINKS:
They should try onions. They go well with cheese.....
(it depends what you mean by 'soon'. Maybe in the next millennium, if
18. Advance Notice: Trip to Newgrange: Mar 29, 2014: 09.30 – 17.00: I
will be leading an astronomy /archaeoastronomy trip to Newgrange, as
part of the Stranmillis Adult Learning programme. A day long coach
trip, with full commentary. More details later, but mark the date now
if you are interested. Booking is through Stranmillis College.
19. Advance Notice: STFC Roadshow at QUB, 19 - 25 May. The roadshow,
entitled "Seeing the Universe in all its light" features stunning
science images and interactive exhibits, including:
A replica model of English astronomer Thomas Harriot's first telescope
A 1:4 scale model of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT)
A 1:12 scale model of an Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) antenna
A 1:20 scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
A 1:10 scale model of Herschel Space Observatory
'Hands-on' exhibits including 'seeing the invisible', 'adaptive
optics' and 'micro autonomous robots'
An interactive control desk, providing details on the full spectra of
wavelengths used by astronomers
Historical science papers from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) &
the Thomas Harriot trust
An 8 metre interactive wall featuring an 'astronomical wow facts'
screen, interactive touchscreen and a large 3D screen.
Interactive apps, websites and resources
Non-slip floormats of telescopes from around the world
The Science & Technology Facilities Council's latest touring
exhibition is encouraging everyone to see the Universe in all its
light – showcasing the Big Telescopes family in all their glory and
focusing on both the UK's scientific expertise and the economic
benefits that astronomy can deliver.
The roadshow features stunning science images alongside a range of
interactive exhibits. Visitors will be able to experience a replica of
English astronomer Thomas Harriot's first telescope, as well as a
range of historical scientific papers from the Royal Astronomy Society
and the Thomas Harriot Trust.
There will be young scientists on hand from UK university astronomy
departments to enthuse about the work they do and answer questions on
any aspect of astronomy. They'll be able to guide visitors around
scale models of the Big Telescopes – ESO's Very Large Telescope, the
Atacama Large Millimetre Array, the Herschel Space Observatory and the
forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.
Hands-on exhibits aim to explain the importance of building
telescopes across the whole range of wavelengths, so that we really
can see the Universe in all its light. An interactive control desk
provides details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by
astronomers, and visitors will be able to learn more about seeing the
invisible, micro autonomous robots and the adaptive optics that are
essential for telescopes but are also proving invaluable in more
down-to-earth applications such as cancer screening.
Check the `Seeing the Universe in All its Light' webpage
20. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro
21. 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 you. You can also make a donation via Paypal if you
wish: just click on the 'Donate' button. See also www.irishastro.org.