Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lecture update, Aiurora, Occultation, IAA Events, Comps, GAM, Lectures, N'grange

Hi all,

1.  IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION Public Lecture, March 5, 7.30pm:   "Making Your Own Telescope", by Dave Grennan. NB: this replaces the previously advertised lecture by Carl O'Beirnes, who has had to cancel at short notice for personal reasons. We are VERY thankful to Dave for stepping in at short notice.
   Dave is also one of Ireland's best-known amateur astronomers, and he also has built a very advanced observatory, with which he was one of the very first to discover a new asteroid from Ireland. He's also a redoubtable telescope maker, with an amazing project under way at the moment, and he will tells us about that, as well as the simpler principles involved for anyone who wants to have a go at it.…
  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.
(This lecture forms part of the IAA's participation in National Astronomy Week)

2. Good aurora seen: A CME hit Earth's magnetic field on Feb. 27th @ 1645 UT), and the impact triggered geomagnetic storms around Earth's poles.  The CME was an after-effect of the X4.9 class solar flare reported on Feb. 25th.  Observation of aurorae were reported widely from UK & North Ireland - see IAA website for some nice photos: Also
3. Bright Asteroid Occultation, 7 March: (From the BAA)
On 2014 March 7 at 0308UT, (Night of March 6/7) the main belt asteroid (9) Metis (diameter 200km) occults a v7.9 star in Libra, HIP 78193.  This favourable event (99%) is visible over much of the UK & Ireland and presents an ideal opportunity to record an asteroid occultation visually.   Observe from 0306 to 0310 UT
Finder charts can be found on
  The maximum duration at the center of the shadow is predicted to be 24.5sec. and the magnitude drop is 3.3 magnitudes. To a visual observer the star will disappear, although the asteroid should remain visible with larger apertures, Video or CCD at magnitude 11.  Observers situated near the edge of the occultation path will experience shorter durations. A Miss event should be reported if no occultation was detected.
   Timings of the duration and UT of disappearance are desired over as wide an area as possible. Conditions allowing, this could be the first observation of a Metis event for UK observers. There have been 11 observed occultations since the first reported in 1979.  An event seen in California in 2008 was perhaps the best observed to date with 26 observations, with three observers operating an unattended video station.
 Please send timed observations (Aim for an accuracy of 0.5 sec or better) to, including your name, instrument, timing method, and your Google Earth co-ordinates. (Datum WGS84).
  Good luck and best wishes. Tim Haymes, BAA Asteroid and Remote Planets Section - Occultation Co-ordinator
Added by T.M. The Star is
Tycho catalog number: TYC 6191-1726-1
Hipparcos catalog number: HIP 78193
PPM catalog number: PPM 231016
SAO catalog number: SAO 159605
HD catalog number: HD 142943
BD number: BD -16 4185
NB: Metis was the first, and until recently the ONLY asteroid discovered from Ireland! (by Graham, at Markree Obs in Sligo, in 1949). The latest prediction shows the S limit of the track running roughly from Galway to Rosslare; all of the rest of the island of Ireland is within the track. The 1 sigma error limit at the S limit of the track would bring it roughly from the Burren to Waterford.
   Observations at the S limit would be particularly valuable, as they set a constraint to the diameter of the asteroid in that direction. If you observe and DON'T see an occultation, that is just as valuable, so report your details & exact location.
   Text in the link says it may be double, but Hipparcos lists it as single. However, any stepped variation in brightness (extinction or reappearance) should be carefully noted. The star is solar type (F5), a little bit bigger than the Sun, and at a distance of ~245 LY, so there would be no 'disc' effect - extinction of one, or both, components should be instantaneous.
4. IAA / St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon: Friday 7 March.

 The IAA will be returning to this venue with yet another of their very popular astronomy evenings, with observing using the school's own 14" Celestron in its big dome, and some of our own telescopes, if clear. Also presentations on astronomy & observing, telescope workshop, exhibitions, etc. Start 7.30 p.m. See IAA website for more details:
5. ESA selects planet-hunting PLATO mission  “A space-based observatory to search for planets orbiting alien stars has been selected today as ESA’s third medium-class science mission. It is planned for launch by 2024. The PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) mission was selected by ESA’s Science Programme Committee for implementation as part of its Cosmic Vision 2015–25 Programme. The mission will address two key themes of Cosmic Vision: what are the conditions for planet formation and the emergence of life, and how does the Solar System work?”. Read more at
And (Note that this is being led by Dr Don Pollacco, lately of QUB, who gave us several excellent lectures!)
6. Dark Skies Competition: Second “Dark Skies Rangers" contest (deadline 20 March 2014)   The second consecutive Dark Skies Rangers contest kicks off to inspire and make awareness of the importance of the dark skies. Our planet, seen from the International Space Station, looks like a Christmas tree. This light, visible from space, is called “light pollution” caused by street illumination that project the light to all directions, diminishing greatly the darkness of the night sky. Light Pollution is a global problem that we have to fight for. It contributes to a major waste of both energy and money, influence the climate change, affects living beings, prevents people from enjoying the beauty of the sky and disturb astronomical observations.
   In order to promote the project Dark Skies Rangers, the Dark Sky Alqueva Reserve, a night sky tourism destination certified by the Starlight Initiative, and NUCLIO – Núcleo Interactivo de Astronomia (Galileo Teacher Training Program) are organising the Dark Skies Rangers Contest for students and teachers with the objectives to stimulate the interest for research related to light pollution, promote the production of projects related to light pollution, develop skills in the field of: eLearning, writing, photography, video and artistic expression, contribute to establish a community of informed citizens, that participate in the solution to issues like this and with critical thinking about science in our daily lives.
   The contest is open to teachers and students between 6 to 18 from any country. Deadline is 20 March 2014. More info at: Winners will get a week in the Alqueva Dark Sky Reserve (Portugal), a tablet and a smartphone:
7. Global Astronomy Month, April 2014:
8. Public Lecture, Dunsink, 26 March. I will be giving a public lecture for families at Dunsink Observatory, Dublin, on 26 March, at 7.30 p.m. followed by observing with the Observatory's 12" South / Grubb Refractor, and other telescopes, if clear. More details in next bulletin.
9. 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

10. Trip to Newgrange - Update: Mar 29, 2014: 09.30 – 17.00 NB: this trip had been listed as 'Full' by Stranmillis College, but the demand has been such that we have upgraded it to a Double-Visit, so there are still places available:
   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

11. 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
12. 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

13. 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. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: This is of great local interest. John Bell was a physicist at QUB, and indeed the lecture theatre in which the IAA holds its meetings is named after him!
1. They omitted the rest of the information after "From March 1" It won't be at its best 'until 2026'! It should say for about a week from March 1....
2. And Jupiter will set in the WEST not the East  1. It's not lost - we know exactly where it is! In fact you can see it easily with the NE! ". And no, it WON'T create anything like the scenes in 'Gravity'!

You would think they would know better! Have a look at the back cover of this week's issue of New Scientist (a respected UK weekly science magazine, out today, dated 1 March) - an ad from Omega....
Shortcut, and scroll down...: He didn't waste precious fuel by cavorting around the way that idiot in 'Gravity' did!  The last 'fact' in the link is not true. Cosmic expansion only applies on the very large scale. It does not apply within galaxy clusters, such as our 'Local Cluster' containing, inter alia, the Milky Way, M31 and M33, where the gravitational attraction between the galaxies is stronger than the cosmical repulsion force whatever it may be. Indeed, it's probable that the expansion does not apply even at the scale of superclusters, such as the one containing our Local Cluster and the Virgo cluster.
   However, there is the possibility that all the clusters in a 'Local Cluster' will eventually merge, and even that it might also happen to all those on a Supercluster. This is not much better than the unofficial 'name a star' schemes which have no validity whatsoever, and exist only to make money for their operators. If it's true that the money raised on this one will go "to fund grants in space exploration, research and education, which is the company's stated chief purpose" then that's better than nothing, but I still wouldn't recommend it. I think they mean the 'number' of known alien planets! We don't know anything at all about their populations - if indeed they have any! This seems a contradiction in terms: WIMPs are Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, but this study is about very low mass particles. Or does it mean 'massive', but at the low end of the 'massive' category? Or do they just mean 'particles with mass'? A bit confusing to me.... Current turbines may be able to "withstand" winds of up to 112mph, but only in safe mode, i.e. not operating, with the blades either feathered, or turned sideways to the wind. So they would present minimal resistance to the hurricane winds, and thus slow them down only very slightly.
   Any turbines which were turning in such winds would soon tear themselves to pieces! And if the hurricane was category 4 or 5 (like Katrina) you wouldn't have many turbines left, even if they were in safe mode! I'm sure no energy company in their right mind would build that many turbines in a hurricane area. TM
(Those should keep you happy even if we get a week of cloudy nights! TM)
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 youYou 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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