Monday, 17 March 2014

Lectures, Major News, LHC + Higgs Boson Lecture, Competitions, ISS, COSMOS, more

Hi all,
1.  IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION Public Lecture, March 19, 7.30pm:  
"Remote Sensing by Polarimetry", by Dr Stefano Bagnulo, Armagh Observatory. Don't let the title put you off - this will be a fascinating lecture, of interest to all.
   Dr Bagnulo has pioneered a technique for studying the atmospheres of planets going round other stars. Here are some article exerpts:
  "The odds of finding extraterrestrial life on Earthlike planets outside our own Solar System have suddenly improved. This is thanks to the pioneering work of a team of astronomers including Dr Stefano Bagnulo based at Armagh Observatory.
   The international team have devised a way to filter out the bright light coming from a nearby Star which blocked the view of astronomers when they were trying to look at a planet that might have life. The team also came up with a definitive way to test for the presence of life on other planets – by looking at Earth from space. This was achieved using the Moon as a large mirror to look back at Earth. Scientists know that light from the Earth bounces off part of the Moon's surface and is reflected back to Earth, as ‘Earthshine’.
    The signatures of life on Earth, in terms of composition of gases, can be determined by looking in detail at the information in Earthshine. The scientists found that a unique ratio of gases are present in the Earth’s atmosphere that can only be explained by the action of living organisms. If life didn't exist here, the gases would interact, and different ratios would be observed.
    So if something similar is observed on another planet, it can only mean one thing: Life exists there. This can be determined with certainty without the need to physically travel to that planet.
    This could be the method by which life is first discovered on another planet in coming years!" See
   "An international team of astronomers, including Stefano Bagnulo from Armagh Observatory, has used one of the largest telescopes in the world to pioneer a novel approach to study the surfaces and atmospheres of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun. They have tested the technique on the Earthshine, the light reflected from the Earth by the Moon, and showed that it can reveal the presence of life in our planet. In the not too distant future, this technique could be used to search for life on other worlds. Full details of this work are in the March 2012 issue of Nature."
   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)
But if they are announcing it on St Patrick's Day, it's bound to be the discovery of 'Little Green Men'  (Leprechauns?)
3. STEVE MYERS LECTURE; April 2: "The LHC and the Discovery of the Higgs Boson". The IAA is delighted to announce that the lecture on April 2 will be given by Dr Steve Myers, Director of Accelerators at CERN. Dr Myers is a graduate of QUB where he did Engineering, and went on to be head of the section of CERN dealing with all the big particle accelerators, including the LHC. In other words, without him, they wouldn't have discovered the Higgs Boson! More details in next bulletin, but mark your diaries now - this is one you won't want to miss!
4. Saturday 22nd March 2014: "aroundNorth": Launch of Award-Winning Sonic-Art Installation at Armagh Observatory
The Observatory has been working with artist Robert Jarvis for a number of years to develop a novel sound-art installation for the Armagh Observatory Grounds and Astropark, to be installed in the enclosed area of the Human Sundial close to the Observatory main building. The new exhibit, called aroundNorth, is a multi-speaker sound composition that will provide listeners with a novel aural experience demonstrating the
apparent motion of stars in the near Universe around the North Celestial Pole. It was made possible with funding through Beyond Borders from the PRS for Music Foundation, Creative Scotland, the Arts Council of
Northern Ireland and the Arts Council of Wales. This will be the first significant addition to the Observatory's Astropark for nearly a decade.
    Inspired by discussions with astronomers at Armagh, the new piece, called 'aroundNorth', will demonstrate the character and motion of the stars as they revolve around the north celestial pole every day, and provide a fascinating new educational exhibit for the Observatory Grounds and Astropark.  In addition to providing a unique musical experience for all visitors, the exhibit will make what is generally termed `the sky' more accessible to visitors, particularly those who may have poor sight, have visual disabilities or be registered blind.
   The official launch of aroundNorth takes place at the Observatory on Saturday 22nd March 2014, with an explanation by the composer and tours of the exhibit and of the Observatory Grounds and Astropark, at 2.00pm, 3.00pm and 4.00pm.
EVERYONE WELCOME. This is an outdoor event; please be prepared for inclement weather. To reserve your free place please telephone 028-3752-2928 or email: stating how many places and which time you prefer. See:

Write software for detecting asteroids, and win $20,000. See Go for it, all you IT nerds! (And that's a compliment)
6. ISS: The International Space Station has commenced another series of morning passes over Ireland. Details on
7. COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey; This new series is also available on the National Geographic channel, starting Mar 16th. (Thanks to Tony O'Hanlon for that new info)
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 co-ordinates 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). See: See also:, and
8.  Public Lecture, Dunsink, 26 March. I will be giving a public lecture for families at Dunsink Observatory, Dublin, on Wednesday 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.
9. Moon and Venus: On the morning of 27 March a n ice waning crescent Moon will lies less than three degrees above brilliant Venus, but very low in the dawn twilight.
10. 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
11. 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:
12. 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
13. Global Astronomy Month, April 2014:
14. 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. Astrophotography Competition:  The Royal Observatory, Greenwich includes a Robotic Scope prize in their Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014 competition.

   'The competition is now in its sixth year and welcomes entries from astronomy photographers of all levels from around the world. Last year we had a record number of entries, with over 1200 images being entered from entrants across 49 countries.

   The competition receives a vast amount of press coverage, both when the shortlist is released and when the winners are announced in September. The Robotic Scope prize was introduced in 2011 in recognition of the trend for astronomy photographers to use telescopes that are remotely operated and publicly accessible via the internet.'

   To take part in the competition follow the link below for more details: The competition is open for another seven weeks and the deadline for entries is midday (BST) on April 24th. Full details can be found on their website here:<>.


16. IAA Event at North Down Museum, Bangor, 3 May. After last year's very successful IAA event there, we have been invited back for another evening, on 3 May. More details in future bulletins.
17. 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
With reference to this, these articles may be of interest:  It doesn't say here what the diameter of the E-ELT will be: it was originally to be 42m (the answer to the ultimate question about 'Life, The Universe, and Everything" was "42"), but it was later scaled back to a still huge 39m.
   But how can any science journalist refer to a roughly circular mirror as 'thirty meters long'?
18. 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
Solarfest 2014 is now confirmed for Saturday 21st June. Further details will be posted here in due course:
20. 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
22. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  @IaaAstro

23. 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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