Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Lecture update, Flyby, Occultation, IAA events, New planets, Other events, more.

Hi all,
1.  IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION Public Lecture, March 5, 7.30pm: Update   "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 Grennan has been an amateur astronomer for over 35 years. In 2006 Dave built his own private observatory in his backyard in Raheny, North Dublin, for the purpose of conducting astronomical science. In recent years Dave's research has resulted in a number of new discoveries including two main belt asteroids and two supernovae.
   In this presentation Dave will provide an overview of the equipment which underpins his research.  Dave will explain how the main telescope was recently replaced with a homebuilt 14" astrograph.  The new telescope was founded around a wide field 14" telescope mirror which Dave ground and polished himself. Dave will outline the process of making this mirror and show that undertaking such a project is well within the capabilities of everyone. The talk will conclude with an overview of his current research and future research plans.
  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. Close asteroid Flyby today: You can watch it live on line. See;
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 Andrew Graham, at Markree Obs in Sligo, in 1848 (sorry for the error in the date last time - a double typo, pointed out by John McConnell). 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. Three new habitable planets found: A group of astronomers from the UK and Chile reports the discovery of eight new small planets orbiting nearby red dwarf stars, three of which may be habitable.  From this result the scientists, led by Mikko Tuomi of the University of Hertfordshire, estimate that a large fraction of red dwarfs, which make up at least three quarters of the stars in the universe, has associated low-mass planets. The new work appears in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. See

6. March events at Blackrock Castle Observatory, including Space Camp. See, or email

7. COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey; Premieres March 9, 2014 on FOX TV. More than three decades after the debut of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Carl Sagan’s stunning and iconic exploration of the universe as revealed by science, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey sets off on a new voyage for the stars. Sagan’s original creative collaborators—writer/executive producer Ann Druyan and astronomer Steven Soter—have teamed with Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy, American Dad) to conceive a 13-part series that will serve as a successor to the Emmy Award- and Peabody Award-winning original series. Hosted by renowned astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson (Death By Black Hole, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier), the series will explore how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time. It will bring to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge and transport viewers to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest scale.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey will premiere Sunday, March 9, 2014 (9/10pm ET/PT) on FOX. (You'll need to try for this via satellite or on-line)

8. ISS: The International Space Station will commence another series of morning passes over Ireland on 13 March. Details on
9. 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:
10.  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. Booking via DIAS: More details in next bulletin.
11. 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
12. Global Astronomy Month, April 2014:
13. 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
14. 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
15. 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

16. NB: Change of Date - Advance Notice: STFC Roadshow at QUB, 17 - 24 May. Note that this event will now start 2 days earlier, and finish one day earlier, than in previous emails. The revised dates are as shown above. 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
17. Astronomy site in Morocco: This looks like a good option for serious dark sky observing and imaging fanatics. Dark and clear skies, great equipment, English language and nice facilities. Email, or see
18. INTERESTING WEBLINKS:  A few corrections are needed:
1. The area of an average wingsuit is 1.4 sq metres, not 1.4 metres squared (which is 1.96 sq m)
2. He would not be able to fly - he would be able to glide for a short distance before air resistance slowed him down to below glide speed.
3. There is no way he could reach the required running speed while wearing a wingsuit! (more bad news for the UFOlogists) Look at the image of Europe at night - awful light pollution! Watching the ones that watch us,,,, (The proposed 'Peoples Map' will be totally unofficial. And it may also be incomplete, if not enough people pay to have their chosen name applied to a crater or other feature. I presume that they have allowed for the corrosive acidic content of the Venusian atmosphere? Maybe it's not so bad at that altitude.
The dumbing down continues: "guts' is bad enough, although it might just scrape into acceptability as a term for 'the internal parts of the galaxy', but where does the blood come from? And as for a "cosmic crime" - the only crime here is that perpetrated on language by the author.
19. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

20. 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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