Saturday, 4 January 2014

NY Party, Lecture, Big Sunspot, Stargazing Live, Many other events, SAN news

1. IAA's New Year Party 4 January: The film for the IAA New Year Party on 4 January is now confirmed as "Wall-E". It's 98mins long, and suitable for all.
  REMINDER: You must have already booked for this event - sorry, you can't just turn up on the night, since the meal had to be pre-booked!  
   EVENT DETAILS: It's the usual popular and successful format: We meet at 5.30 for 6.00 for a meal at McBride's restaurant, The Square, Comber, Co Down for a buffet meal, then we go to the nearby Tudor Private Cinema for a private showing of the SF film "Wall-E", along with seasonal refreshments.
  Then there will be the one and only George Brannan Quiz - with prizes for all!
 Cost: £15 for adults, £7.00 for children.  For those who can't go to the meal, the cost for the film and the refreshments at the Tudor cinema is £7 for adults and £3.50 for children; that kicks off at 7.30 p.m.
2. Large SUNSPOT GROUP APPEARING: John Nooney of Mullingar sent me an excellent shot of the Sun showing a new large group, AR 1944, just appearing over the Sun's limb. The whole group is much larger than the planet Jupiter, while the largest individual spot is about 4-5 times the size of the Earth. Well worth watching! And we might even get an aurora.....
3. PERIHELION: 4 January is also the day when the Earth is closest to the Sun for the year. It occurs at 11h 58m, when the distance will be 0.9833347 AU. At that distance, its light takes only 8m 10.7s to reach us. (It takes almost 17 seconds longer at aphelion, in July!)
4. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION: Public Lecture, Jan 8: "How to Blow Up A Star - Understanding Supernovae", by Dr Stuart Sim, of the Astrophysics Research Centre, 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 clusters.
   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 cosmology.
LATEST NEWS:  Astronomers with the SuperNova Legacy Survey (SNLS) have discovered two of the brightest and most distant supernovae ever recorded, 10 billion light-years away and a hundred times more luminous than normal supernovae. And interestingly, the mechanism that powers most supernovae (the collapse of a giant star to a black hole or neutron star) cannot explain this extreme luminosity. Discovered in 2006 and 2007, they were so unusual that astronomers did not know what they were or how far away they were.  One of them, named SNLS-06D4eu, is now thought to be the most distant and possibly the most luminous member of an emerging class of explosions called superluminous supernovae. Now latest research indicates that the objects may be powered by a magnetar, an extraordinarily highly magnetised neutron star spinning hundreds of times per second. (Adapted from SPA Bulletin)
   So this lecture will be a fascinating account of one of the cutting edge areas of modern astronomy.
     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.
5. 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 have agreed arrangements with them.
   Full details are on the IAA website:
  If anyone would like to volunteer to help out at this event, and can bring a telescope etc, please let me know by return, unless you have already done so.
6. 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: <>
7. BCO Events:  CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory is inviting the public to come and Wake Up Rosetta with ESERO on January 20 from 14:00-17:00. Entry to Cosmos at the Castle will be FREE all afternoon. Come see the live link up, learn about comet hunting in our planetarium and SAVE THE EARTH in our Comet Chaser game! See for more details
8. GALWAY ASTROFEST, 1 February: Full details of our Astronomy Festival is now available at
UPDATE: Galway Astronomy Festival is coming on Feb 1st, 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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 or
12. 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
14: NEW SKY AT NIGHT PRESENTER: The presenter of the new series, starting in February, will be DR MAGGIE ALDERIN-POCOCK. (thanks to Peter Paice for the alert)
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 you. You can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button.  See also
Finally, may I wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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