Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lecture, ISS, Meteorite event, Aliens at Armagh, Diary dates, weblinks

Hi all,

1. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION Public Lecture, February 19,
7.30pm: Dr Ken Smith, QUB: "Sifting the Sky with Pan-STARRS1 -
Crunching data from the world's operational digital camera"
Pan-STARRS1 is sending 'astronomical' amounts of data to astronomers,
including in particular the team at QUB. It would be easier to list
the astrophysical objects about which it is NOT providing information!
Dr Ken Smith is involved in this project, and will enlighten us on all
aspects of this facinating project.
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. ISS: The International Space Station continues its current series
of evening passes over Ireland on. It's sometimes the brightest
object in the night sky, and you can get details of where and when to
look on the excellent and free website

Ulster Museum, Stranmillis Road, Belfast, will present a special event
on meteorites on the afternoon of 15th February to celebrate the first
anniversary of the Chelyabinsk meteorite fall. If the weather is ok,
the IAA will have some telescopes at the front of the Museum for solar
observing. We hope to have a telescope display inside instead, if the
weather is inclement.

4. ALIENS AT ARMAGH PLANETARIUM, 1 March: Planet Aliens is a free live
show that tells the story of the Planet Aliens and the wonderful world
that they come from. With a full script and unique music the story
will teach children all about the stars and the Cosmos. This is a
first of its kind, designed and developed by D-Signs and Displays
alongside the team at Armagh Planetarium. With a uniquely designed
set, along with props, puppeteers and local actors, this truly is a
heart-warming adventure into the Cosmos in search of these wonderful
characters. This is a family show which is not to be missed! Suitable
for children up to the age of ten. Spaces will be allocated on a
"first come first served" basis. Date: Saturday 1 March 2014. Times:
12.15pm, 1.15pm, 2.15pm and 3.15pm. Duration: 30mins. Price: Free

5: CORK: BCO Events: February's Space Camp is Sold Out! We are now
taking bookings for March Junior Space Camp: Sunday March 2 at 12noon.

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, NUIG.
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,
The link to the enrolment form is on the same page, but this is the
direct link:,231524,en.pdf

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. See

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. Jupiter / Venus Mystery - what mystery?
Eh? Since then was this a mystery? It's because Venus is 5 to 10 times
brighter than Jupiter as seen by the unaided eye. Since both objects
are too small to be seen as discs by the eye alone (i.e. without
magnification) we have no actual visual evidence of their size. The
irradiance effect in the eye makes the brighter image look bigger.
Also the brain also automatically makes the brighter object look
When we use a telescope (with equal magnifications of course) we
see the actual size of the planetary discs, so we can see that Jupiter
has a larger apparent diameter than Venus (except when Venus is a very
thin crescent approaching inferior conjunction, when its apparent
diameter exceeds that of Jupiter - and every other planet)
Similarly, Mars at its brightest is brighter than Jupiter's average
brightness, and thus appears bigger, but again Jupiter appears larger
in a telescope.
You might as well ask, 'Why does Sirius appear bigger to the
unaided eye than Betelgeuse, even though the latter is actually by far
the larger? It's the same effect - 'brighter appears bigger'.
And you get exactly the same effect when the general public report
bright meteors: they say that one was 'bigger' than the other, rather
than brighter.
You would also get exactly the same effect by comparing a bright
nearby LED torch with a car headlight a mile away: the former would
appear brighter to the unaided eye, though the latter is actually the
No mystery, really.

So any future lunar missions should carry new laser ranger reflectors
No, it's not like the one in Star wars. It's not even a 'cannon'. But
what do you expect from the tabloids?
Grrr! More anthropomorphising! - "Unruly" stars "gather material
hungrily from the space around them. A young star will continue to
feed its huge appetite". What next - 'bad table manners'?
'Indigestion'? What about 'adding sauce, and salt and pepper'? Where
will this end, as one writer tries to out-do another in dumbing down
science articles?
So the oldest star in OUR galaxy (see other item above) was formed
about 400 million years BEFORE this galaxy. Hmmmm....
If the Black Hole at the centre of the Milky Way had a brilliant
firewall, would we not see it?
If this daft theory was right, then the universe would probably
already have been destroyed by other alien scientists observing it a
long long time ago!.
But if they are right, and it will be possible to see 'The End'
approaching, it raises one very important philosophical and
metaphysical question: 'Will they get enough warning to be able to
send out an email to all their colleagues saying "We told you so!", or
will it be just a case of having time to say "Oh Shi"

13. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro

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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