Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Free night @AP, STFC @ QUB, Lectures, Uinabox, ISS, new Meteors, NLCs, GRS, more

Hi all,
1. Free Night with the Stars, Armagh Planetarium, TONIGHT: Doors open at 7pm and events run until 10pm.
On Friday 16 May, forget our normal opening hours as all the action at the Planetarium will take place late at night!  And best of all, it's FREE admission.
   Blasting rockets is always great fun, but have you ever launched a rocket at night?  Well, now is your chance in our twilight rocket launches which take place during the "Museums at Night" festival.
  During the night we will also launch our night-time great balloon race!  Last year one of our balloons travelled as far as Germany!  Will your balloon go even further?
  Rex the Baby T-Rex, kindly sponsored by D-Signs and Displays, will also make an appearance.  Meet and get your picture taken with Rex between 7pm and 8pm.
   Come in fancy dress, maybe dress as an alien, an astronaut or your favourite character from Star Wars and you could be lucky to receive one of our spot prizes.
   With other activities planned and special Digital Theatre shows screened, this is a night you will not want to miss!
Digital Theatre Show Times: Sun, Moon and Stars (Family Show) – 7:30pm - FULLY BOOKED
Perfect Little Planet (Family Show) – 8:30pm
Please pre-book for Digital Theatre shows on 028 37 523689
2. STFC Roadshow at QUB, 17 - 24 May, + Public Lectures: all FREE. 
 Seeing the Universe" has been sponsored and provided by the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council. The exhibition will be in the Great Hall in the main Lanyon Building from Saturday 17th May until Saturday 24th May inclusive, 10am until 4pm each day.
   The exhibition features stunning science images and interactive exhibits, including:
    • Scale models of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT), The James Webb Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.
    • Hands-on exhibits including seeing the invisible, adaptive optics and micro autonomous robots
    • An interactive control desk providing details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by astronomers
    • An 8 metre interactive wall featuring an 'astronomical wow facts' screen, interactive touchscreen and a large 3D screen.
    • Historical science papers from the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) & the Thomas Harriot trust
The exhibition will be manned by astronomy students and young researchers from the Astrophysics Research Centre here at Queen's, explaining the exhibits and answering any questions.
   On each weekday Monday-Friday at 1pm in the Bell Lecture Theatre Department of Physics and Astronomy, Queen's University. Dr. Robert Ryans will be giving one of his 4 entertaining lectures on the "Science of Sci-Fi Weapons". Again entrance is free, just come along. Please note that there may be school classes at these talks.
 Additionally, there will be three public evening events. Public lectures will be given by Prof. Paul Roche (University of South Wales)  on Saturday 17th May and Dame Prof. Jocelyn Bell-Burnell (University of Oxford) on Thursday 22nd May. Also, our popular "Ask an Astronomer" event held last year returns on Tuesday May 20th. Attendance at these events is free but space is limited, so to book your seat please register at
 Check the `Seeing the Universe in All its Light' webpage 
3. And STFC then goes to Armagh Planetarium:
The STFC show will then move to Armagh Planetarium for the following week: The Science and Technology Facilities Council are bringing their wonderful "Seeing the Universe in all its Light" interactive exhibition to Armagh Planetarium!  The exhibition showcases the story of astronomy, from the past to the future and highlights some of the key inspirational moments and technical challenges along the way.
   Seeing the Universe will open on Monday 26 May and will run until Saturday 31 May from 10am until 5pm and admission is FREE.  The exhibition is suitable for all ages.  We would also encourage visits from schools but please contact us first if you plan to bring a group of 20 or more on 02837 523689.
  Dates: Monday 26 – Saturday 31 May 2014, Time: 10am - 5pm, Price: Free
   Universe Awareness launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to share the educational toolkit - Universe in a Box - with underprivileged communities around the world. The box contains various interactive physical activities including solar and lunar eclipse.
   The Kickstarter campaign runs for from 9 May until 10 June and aims to raise €15,000. The money will be used to distribute free Universe in a Boxes and train teachers to use it, both face-to-face and online.
   We'd appreciate if you can help us to get the word out and pledge. Even the smallest support can make a big difference and inspire a child out there.
5. Statutory Public Lecture of the School of Theoretical Physics, 19 May. 
  The 2014 Statutory Public Lecture of the DIAS School of Theoretical Physics will take place on Monday 19th May (time tbc) in UCD. The lecture entitled "Are Brains Analog or Digital?" will be given by Professor Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.
   This FREE lecture is not strictly astronomical, but Prof Dyson is well known in the field of cosmology and fundamental physics. See:
   ABSTRACT: We know that creatures like us have two separate systems for processing information, the genome and the brain. We know that the genome is digital, and we can accurately transcribe our genomes onto digital machines. We cannot transcribe our brains, and the processing of information in our brains is still a great mystery. I will be talking about real brains and real people, asking a question that will have practical consequences when we are able to answer it. I am not able to answer it now. All I can do is to examine the evidence and explain why I consider it probable that the answer will be that brains are analog.
    Location: Theatre D, UCD Science Hub, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4. Building 64 on map:
6. ISS Returns to morning skies. The ISS will start another series of morning passes over Ireland on 20 May. This series will eventually blend seamlessly into a series of evening passes in June, because of the very short summer nights.
7. New 'Camelopardalid' Meteor Shower, May 23-24
A new meteor shower is due to light up the sky on the early morning of 24 May, with some forecasters predicting up to 200 meteors per hour; some say even up to 1,000 per hour.
   The new Camelopardalid meteor shower is expected as the Earth passes through a debris stream left by Comet 209P/LINEAR nearly 200 years ago. The new meteor display could rival the brilliance of the annual Perseid meteors in August.
   The Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) team discovered Comet 209P/LINEAR in February 2004. The relatively dim comet crosses Earth's orbit once every five years in its journey around the Sun.
  In 2012 meteor experts Esko Lyytinen of Finland and Peter Jenniskens at NASA Ames Research Center forecast that Earth would pass through debris shed from the comet in the 1800s. See
 Maximum is forecast for 06.00 on the 24th (07.00 BST). The best place to observe in UK or Ireland will be SW Kerry, where the sky will stay darker for longest before sunrise, but even so it will be light well before 06.00 UT (= 07.00 BST/IST). But it will be worth having a look any time that night, or even as soon as it's dark on the next night. The radiant is in a very empty part of the sky (see the links above), but a general guide will be that just before the sky gets too bright it's about 10 degrees below and left of Polaris.
   But you shouldn't look directly at the radiant - look about 40 degrees away, high up in the direction where the sky is darkest.
8. Noctilucent Clouds. We are approaching the season of visibility for these ethereal high altitude clouds, visible when the sky is nearly totally dark, as they lie well above the height of ordinary clouds. They are thought to be connected with high altitude fine debris from meteors which have burned up high in our atmosphere. Look low in the Northern sky near local midnight
9. Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shrinking! But it should still be around for another few decades at least - after all it has been there for several hundred years. I regard it as an old friend, having timed and recorded hundreds of transits of the GRS, mainly with the Grub refractor at Armagh Observatory. I even recorded two transits in one night, which involved over 10 hours observation. In fact, in 1966-67 Patrick Moore and I recorded so many transits between us that we managed to derive our own rotation period for the GRS for that opposition.
10. SOLARFEST, DUNSINK Observatory:
Solarfest 2014 is now confirmed for Saturday 21st June. Further details will be posted here in due course:
11.  Google Lunar X-Prize and public events: Media Invitation for Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Summit: New pioneers of the Moon will meet in Budapest.
   Teams participating in of one the world's foremost technological challenges, the 30 million dollar Google Lunar XPRIZE race to the Moon, will hold their annual meeting in Budapest next month. The Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Summit will last from 4th to 6th of June 2014 and will be hosted by the Hungarian entry of the race, Puli Space Technologies, and Design Terminál.
   The goal of the Google Lunar XPRIZE is to land a robotic vehicle on the surface of the Moon, explore 500 meters and send back a "Mooncast" of high definition imagery and video before the end of 2015. The first team who reaches the Moon and completes the  challenge with a craft built from at least 90% private funding may claim the 20 million dollar Grand Prize.
  The initial field of 29 contenders has narrowed down to 18 teams still in the race, including the Hungarian Puli Space Technologies. The young engineers of Team Puli successfully tested their rover prototypes in Morocco and Hawaii last year and are still aiming for the Grand Prize. Representatives of the other Google Lunar XPRIZE teams will arrive from more than a dozen countries to attend the meeting. The majority of teams are based either in the United States or Europe but the competition also extends
to South America and Asia. The goal of the Team Summit is to provide an  opportunity of the remaining teams to share their experiences and plans for the rest of the competition.
   The Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Summit 2014, Budapest will kick off with a press conference on 2014 June 3rd, 11:00 am, at Design Terminál.  Media representatives are cordially invited to attend. For free registration, please email  The press conference will be streamed live over the Internet; details of how to access the live stream will be given on  closer to the time. Interviews with representatives of the teams competing for the Google Lunar XPRIZE can be scheduled after the press conference or during the Summit by contacting
   Alongside the Team Summit there will be a series of public events, including the "Google Lunar XPRIZE Rover Show" at Design Terminál on June 4th and 5th, which will showcase both the Google Lunar XPRIZE and the competing teams. The Utazó (Travelling) Planetarium will premiere the spectacular, full-dome
documentary, "Back To The Moon  For Good", at Akvárium. The show, which tells the story of exploration of the Moon and introduces the Google Lunar XPRIZE, is narrated by the Hungarian actor Oszkár Gáti.
   To illustrate the interrelation of modern technologies, Design Terminal will host a Budapest 3D Printing Days event in collaboration with prominent  members of the 3D-printing industry from Hungary and the surrounding countries.  The event will be held in parallel with the Team Summit between the 5th and 7th of June. The main goal is to demonstrate the various uses of 3D printing from industrial to commercial and household applications, and to provide a platform to introduce the newest innovations in the field.
  The Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Summit 2014 will conclude with the TEDxBudapest Future 2.0 event on June 6th at Akvárium, organized by, where the prominent players of 3D printing and the new Moon race will share their personal experiences and challenges.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Puli Space Technologies, Márton Albert, press contact,
 Google Lunar XPRIZE: Anita Heward, International Communications Officer, +447756034243,

   But why can't they get a decent illustration for this sort of story? Either they show the asteroid trailing flames before it even enters our atmosphere, or else as in this one they fail to show the huge fireball that would result once it did enter the atmosphere, which would be thousands of times brighter than the Sun! Remember Chelyabinsk? - it was brighter than the Sun, and it was only the size of a house!
   As for the information in the second 'box', about the even bigger impact in South Africa: There are at least two major inaccuracies in that: the S. African impactor might have been about 6 times the diameter of the Chixulub one, but what really counts is the volume, and that would have been 216 times greater than Chixulub! Also, the impact energy would have been MUCH greater than 10.8 on the Earthquake scale!
13. INTERNATIONAL METEOR CONFERENCE, 2014  Thursday September 18 till Sunday 21 September 2014, Giron, France. Giron is a small village located in the south of the Jura Mountains close to Geneva. The region is easily reachable by air (Geneva or Lyon airport), by train (TGV high speed train from Paris and InterCity trains from Geneva railway station) and by car (highway A40 Lyon-Chamonix). Part of the attraction for this event is that a free visit to CERN is included in the price! See
14. World's oldest working telescope discovered in Holland:  But as you may know, the telescope may well have been invented by Leonard Digges in England about 1570, although there's no record of him or his son using it for astronomy.
15. UFO Base on Earth discovered!???  You couldn't make it up!  BTW, I've just had a brilliant, highly original, brainwave! To all Aliens: If you want your Secret Underground Bases to be secret, don't put a face (or even something which, under certain lighting, if you screw your eyes up, and use a lot of imagination, looks vaguely like a face) on the rock outside! If there's a Galactic equivalent of the Nobel Prize, I want it, for that!
Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015
COSMOS: April 17th to 19th 2015, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
I still don't see the point of landing on a tiny asteroid in lunar orbit on the way to Mars! £10 or €12 to anyone who can persuade me of the rationale (including justifying the cost) for that step! Unfortunately there will be no welcome party like this for the first astronauts to land on Mars... And a small point for accuracy: Tyurin was not "the first to experience Earth gravity" - they all experienced it simultaneously once the capsule landed. See also 
Solar winds do NOT strike Earth with 'predictable regularity'! They are certainly not regular, and their predictability after the CME leaves the Sun is still far from perfect.  I can't officially endorse this, and the names are not recognised by any other organisation, but it seems to be in a good cause (though I can't even vouch for that; e.g. I don't know % of the money they receive actually goes out again to worthwhile causes). At your own risk!  At least they won't have slugs and weeds to deal with!
The following para: "There is no other event in the cosmos that can compete in terms of energy and intensity with stellar explosions on the outer reaches of the universe and which are known as LGRBs (Long Gamma-Ray Bursts): in just one second a single GRB can emit as many as hundreds of stars like the Sun during its 10,000-million-year-lifetime.
should read something like
"There is no other event in the cosmos that can compete in terms of energy and intensity with the stellar explosions known as LGRBs (Long Gamma-Ray Bursts), which occur mainly in the outer reaches of the universe. In just one second a single GRB can emit as much energy as hundreds of stars like the Sun during its 10,000-million-year-lifetime."
This is often suggested as one reason why they have not contacted us yet - we're not ready yet as a species.
Giant planet found VERY far from its star: NB:  The reference to "AB Doradus" should really be to the "AB Doradus Moving Group", see Obviously if the star is in Pisces it can't be in Doradus! GU Psc is an M3 red dwarf, mag 13.6, so not readily visible in most amateur telescopes.
MAVEN will study Mars' atmosphere loss:
Mars canyons formed by lava? It was not these features that Schiaparelli described as Canali! And I don't know where the ref to Prof Paul Tackley in para 3 fits in!
Radiation from early universe answers questions: Another variation on interpretation of the polarisation, following the claim that it indicated the presence of gravitational waves.
19. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: The account is now operational again as before: @IaaAstro.

20. 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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