1. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION/QUB ARC: Public Lecture, 5th Feb,
7.00pm: "The Gaia space mission and the origins of the Milky Way".
NB: Note START TIME IS 7 p.m., and it will be in the LARMOR Lecture
Theatre (not our usual Bell lecture theatre). The Larmor is at the
other end (SW end) of the Physics Building, with a separate entrance.
NB: You must pre-register for this talk - see below.
The Gaia mission aims to create a precise 3D map of the Milky Way.
The billion stars that Gaia will map is still only one per cent of the
Milky Way's total number of stars. It is Europe's successor to the
Hipparcos satellite which mapped around 100,000 stars. Hipparcos was
the very first mission for measuring astrometry - the positions,
distances, motions, brightness and colours of stars. It is hoped Gaia
will find also reveal new asteroids, dead stars, and test current
theories about our cosmos. Its map will also become a reference frame
to guide the investigations of future telescopes. See
Prof Gerry Gilmore FRS is Professor of Experimental Philosophy at
the Institute of Astronomy in the University of Cambridge. He leads
the effort to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy and
his team has provided us our current understanding of how the masses
of stars are distributed at birth. Professor Gilmore is lead
investigator on the Gaia-ESO Project.
Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for help in
hosting these lectures.
The lecture is free and open to all (but register first). Venue:
the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University,
Belfast, at 7.00 p.m. GPS co-ordinates for the entrance to the Larmor
Lecture Theatre: N 54deg 35' 0.6"; W 5deg 56' 7.7"
2. Supernova in M82 ('Cigar Galaxy') = SN2014J
The supernova which recently exploded in the nearby Cigar Galaxy (M82)
in Ursa Major is still brightening; some reports put it as bright as
mag 10.5, though not all agree. That puts it within range of a small
telescope, or good high power binoculars.
M82, which is an elongated irregular galaxy, lies close to the
bigger and brighter oval-shaped M81. You can find them easily by
following the diagonal line across the 'blade' of the Plough, or the
'bowl' of the Big Dipper, i.e. from Gamma through Alpha, and extending
it for its own distance beyond Alpha. The precise co-ordinates of the
supernova are: RA: 09 55 42.14; Dec: +69 40 26.0
This supernova had a V magnitude of 11.6 at discovery, but it
should peak over the coming days before dimming over the next few
SN 2014J is a Type Ia-HV supernova. HV = high-velocity, meaning
that the explosive matter has been blasted out from the progenitor
star at huge speed. Measurements on Jan. 22 indicated speeds of over
12,400 miles per second (20,000 km/sec). SN 2014J is highly reddened,
indicating that there is a lot of dust in the host galaxy through
which its light has to shine before reaching us. Without this
reddening, it would appear even brighter.
Astronomers think it was discovered about a week before maximum
brightness. That would indicate a peak on or around Jan. 29.
If you don't have a telescope but want to see a live image check out
the Virtual Telescope Project 2.0 featuring Italian astrophysicist
Gianluca Masi on astrowebtv.org . Starting on Jan. 25 you can join the
online observing session.
IAA Council member and Editor of STARDUST Dr Andy McCrea got some
nice images, which are on the IAA website www.irishastro.org.
You can find out more about Type Ia supernovae and how they help
astronomers study dark energy at:
3. GALWAY ASTROFEST, 1 February: UPDATE: Special Guest speakers: Tim
Puckett, and Guy Hurst, editor of "The Astronomer"
Full updated details of our Astronomy Festival is now available at
We have almost €2500 worth of equipment in our 10th anniversary raffle
this year! All details on our website at www.galwayastronomyclub.ie
Galway Astronomy Festival, where members of the public are invited
to a special event dedicated to unravelling the mysteries of the
Universe being held at the Westwood House Hotel.
"City of Stars" is the theme for the Galway Astronomy Festival with
an emphasis on how our exploration of the Cosmos has Inspired
communities and cultures in our city that would not otherwise do so;
to think about the Universe.
The Galway Astronomy Festival is a celebration and exhibition of
astronomy. A spectacle of stars, planets and space with presentations
from top names in the world of astronomy, activities, trade stands,
advice, Observing, Big Telescopes and guidance. Something for all ages
interests and experiences. The best thing about the Galway Astronomy
Festival, along with the incredible atmosphere, is the diverse age
range of people that attend annually; all brought together by one
common passion - their love of astronomy.
Galway Astronomy Festival 2014: Igniting Passions, Inspiring Minds,
Transforming Futures see our wonderful promo movie at
There will be a special stand, Apogee Imaging Instruments coming
over from California who will be represented by Tim Puckett, an
amateur astronomer and astrophotographer with over 30 years
experience. Experienced in the field of amateur CCD (digital)
astro-imaging, Puckett has operated numerous CCD cameras since 1989.
He has built several robotic telescopes and is currently operating an
automated supernova search patrol and comet astrometry program which
uses 60-cm and 35-cm telescopes.
Puckett's photos of comets and deep-sky objects have been published
in books and magazines in several countries, including Great Britain,
Japan, Italy, Germany, Australia and South Africa. His work has also
been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, BBC, The Discovery and
Learning Channels and Good Morning America. Puckett has been the
Astronomy Sales Engineer for Apogee Instruments since May 2006.
4. NO BLACK HOLES? Prof Stephen Hawking has stirred the cosmological
pot once again, claiming "there are no Black Holes, only 'Grey' ones".
But of course, as we know, there are Fifty Shades of Grey! At least!
'Grey' can be anything from 99% black to 99% white. (TM)
5. NEW IRISH SCIENCE BLOG: Note this new science blog by Dr Kevin
Nolan. Kevin is well known in astronomical circles in Ireland as the
Ireland representative of The Planetary Society, and author of the
book "Mars: A Cosmic Stepping Stone". He lectures widely on related
topics - he has given several well-received lectures to the IAA - and
is a tireless exponent of planetary exploration.
His new blog is centred on topical, open, sociological and emerging
issues in space exploration among other science topics; as well as
providing The Planetary Society in Ireland events and news.
He emailed me: "To start the blog off, I've posted a blog providing
details on the upcoming anniversary of MER-B Opportunity (that's Mars
Exploration Rover B, 'Opportunity': TM) on Saturday 25th January.
Apart from the blog, the "Documents" section of my blog provides a 20
page PDF document free for download with details on Mars Exploration,
the MER rovers, Opportunity's milestones and achievements, images with
source and credits and links to important Mars web sites, hash tags
and so on. My new blog is called "Planetarie" and can be found
at:http://planetarie.wordpress.com." Kevin Nolan.
6. Advance Notice: Thursday 27 March at 7.30pm Lecture: "Blowing up a
storm! Ireland's record of great winds and the Irish characters who
showed the world how to measure them." Dr Kieran R. Hickey, Dept of
Geography, National University of Ireland, Galway
The island of Ireland has a very long history of great storms because
of its exposure to the Atlantic Ocean. The first great storms were
recorded in the monastic annals as far back as the middle of the first
millennium AD and numerous have been recorded since. This talk will
examine this long record of great winds including mid-latitude storms
(e.g. 1839 'Night of The Big Wind'), and the tail-ends of hurricanes.
It will also assess the contribution to the study of wind by two of
the most important characters in the development of wind measurements
who came from Ireland, most notably Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort
(1774-1857) from Navan, and Rev. Dr John Thomas Romney Robinson
(1793-1882) from Dublin, who became one of the greatest Directors of
Venue: Room OG-029, School of Geography, Archaeology and
Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast,
Tickets: free, please email to indicate attendance E firstname.lastname@example.org
7. 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. Demand for this is already high, so book
now if you are interested. There is a maximum number allowed on the
trip, due to space restrictions within the Newgrange Mound. Booking is
through Stranmillis College.
8. Advance Notice: COSMOS 2014. This will be held from 4-6 April, but
this year it will be in Athlone, not Annaharvey, Tullamore! So don't
be booking any accommodation in Tullamore, as I nearly did! More
details when available.
9. Advance Notice: Major Astronomy Conference in Galway; Speed and
Sensitivity, Expanding Astronomical Horizons with ELTs. NUI, Galway,
13-16 May 2014
Led by Prof Andy Shearer: this will be a fascinating look at the
future of astronomy as offered by Extremely Large Telescopes, and ever
increasingly sensitive detectors. See
10. 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, Check the `Seeing the
Universe in All its Light' webpage at:www.stfc.ac.uk/2740
11. INTERESTING WEBLINKS:
Well, of course there are! It would be amazing if the Earth was THE
MOST suitable planet for life in the universe - or even in our own
(don't worry - nobody else understands how this works either!)
(What puzzles me is how the probe is going to orbit, always facing it)
an object with a mass of only 3 x 10>9 tonnes, and a surface gravity
of only 1/1000 m/s2)
(and how will it interact with the Higgs Boson / Higgs Field?)
12. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro
13. 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.
Finally, in tribute to the late great John Dobson, a quote from him
which is typical of the man, and very appropriate: "If you figure
something out for yourself, it doesn't make no never-mind who figured
it out first, it's yours."