Friday, 17 January 2014

S-L, IAA Lecture, John Dobson, Chris Hadfield, Galway SP, Many more events, Web

1.  STARGAZING LIVE: This was an amazing success, with 4,100 people attending! And some people had to be turned away, as all the car parks, including the emergency overflow ones, were full. We were lucky with mainly clear skies, although some drifting cloud occasionally interrupted viewing of Jupiter and to a lesser extent, the Moon. The starshows which Andy, Brian & Paul ran in Armagh Planetarium's portable stardome, the iPad star walks, and all our other activities, were also very popular. I was so busy that I never got a chance to visit any of the other activities, but I believe that the activities run by the Observatory, Planetarium & QUB were also successful. As well as being live on Radio Ulster several times, & TV once, I must have shown Jupiter & the Moon to about 400 people through my telescope alone. Paul & William & others were also interviewed, and the queues for the big telescopes were unbelievable!
  A very big thankyou to all the IAA volunteers for a lot of hard work, which really paid off.
2. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION: Public Lecture, Jan 22, 7.30: "N.I. Space: Developing the Space Sector and opportunities in the Province", This will be given by the one and only, the indefatigable, Robert Hill, Director of the NI Space Office. Robert has also just been appointed by InvestNI, the Regional Business Development Agency for Northern Ireland, as the Space Sector Industry Champion to the province. Robert's role will be to assist InvestNI in advancing sectoral knowledge and development of opportunities for NI companies to become involved in upstream and downstream space sector activities.
   Robert was also almost solely responsible for getting astronomy and space topics included in the official NI schools curriculum!
   It's not widely known, but NI already has significant activity in the space exploration and technology sector, and Robert is very active in helping to develop and promote that. You'll be amazed at what''s already going on, and what's being planned.
  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.
3. Death of John Dobson:
John Dobson, inventor of the type of telescope which bears his name, has died peacefully in California, at the ripe old age of 98. He probably did more for observational amateur astronomy than any other person since Galileo. Many of us will remember meeting him at a Whirlpool Star Party in Birr in 2002. See   His obituary from the 'Sky & Telescope' website gives more detail about his life and career:
 He is irreplaceable: thanks, John, for your unique and invaluable gift to astronomy.
4. Commander Chris Hadfield visits Armagh and Belfast:
   Congratulations and thanks to Dr Tom Mason for securing a flying visit by Commander Chris Hadfield, astronaut extraordinaire, to Armagh Planetarium last Sunday. Admission was by ticket only, and needless to say, the event was booked out almost as son as it was announced! He was on a very tight schedule, so after a brief introduction, he just invited questions from the capacity audience. Preference was given to the younger ones present, so I was amazed to be allowed a question about the effects of long-term weightlessness on the first astronauts to land on Mars. I was then totally embarrassed to be called up on the platform beside him, where he used my body to demonstrate the effects of zero-G! A photo can be seen at (
  Then on Tuesday he did a 2-hour booksigning session at Eason's in Belfast. This totally overwhelmed the bookshop! I have never seen as long a queue in my life - they had 500 books in the store, and they were soon sold out, but people kept coming anyway. At the end, to so no-one was going to miss out altogether, they just skipped the photo options, and the last 200 or so just filed past for a quick signing. What totally amazed me was that when I got to him, he remembered me and my name from my question in Armagh! What a man!  If you haven't read his book, you really should do so.
  And Hannah & Hal Kempston got the first edition of Stardust Junior signed and also gave him a copy of the current edition of Stardust, which he passed to his wife to put it into her bag to read on the flight!
   Kate Russo also gave him a copy of her eclipse book, in return for a signature on his.
5. GALWAY ASTROFEST, 1 February: Full details of our Astronomy Festival is now available at
UPDATE: We have almost €2500 worth of equipment in our 10th anniversary raffle this year! All details on our website at
  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.
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 Armagh Observatory.
Venue: Room OG-029, School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast, Elmwood Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1NN.
Tickets: free, please email to indicate attendance E
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 or
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
11. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: (unfortunately many satellites are made mainly of non-ferrous materials, but it's a start. TM) There's a huge assumption here: Quote: "Ancient extraterrestrial civilizations, millions of years older than humanity, would need enormous amounts of energy. By creating a swarm of satellites in a spherical shell, they could harness much of the power of their star"
   How do we know they would need so much energy? What for? What would they do with it? For a start, it would mean that they were even less energy-efficient than we are! A star like the sun produces 3.90 x 10 to power 26 Joules every second. That is trillions of times more energy than we currently use. Even if our current population quadruples (which would be ridiculous), we could never need even a billionth of that amount of energy. Amazing photos!  and A very useful survey Great News!^editors_choice_six_of_the_best If that's the Hand of God, he's got a very bad case of arthritis, or he's in urgent need of a celestial orthopaedic surgeon. And I sincerely hope the rest of him is in better shape than that., and
I hate all this dumbed down anthropomorphism of astronomy and space items. First we had the "Eye Of God" (just a planetary nebula), then the "Hand of God", and now we have a star being 'murdered' by a Black Hole, which 'munched on it'. The first two are too ridiculous to warrant further comment. But does the author of this piece really think that we can only appreciate what's happening if it's referred to as 'murder', and that the Black Hole is a 'suspect' (although he seems to have already decided it is guilty, and that the murder method was the BH 'munching' the star? Perhaps a slap in the face by the 'Hand of God' would do him good....
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
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."
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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