Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Elements Talk, Cork curiosity, photo workshop, quiet Sun, MAC, INAM, WWT, more!

Hi all,
1.  Free Lecture at Ulster Museum: Thurs 24th July, 19.30: "Heavy elements from giant red stars" - Free, but places must be booked in advance. This lecture, by Dr. Amanda Karakas from Mt Stromlo Observatory, Canberra, ties in with the excellent exhibition on "The Elements" currently running at the Museum. Details on:
On a journey through the life and times of different stars Amanda, will tell the story of the origin of the elements through cosmic time.
  The origin of the elements is intimately tied to stellar evolution, the way that nuclear fusion changes stars with time.
   Astronomers can explain the origin of most of the elements in nature but an intriguing mystery is the creation of elements heavier than iron. Investigating the role of Sun-like stars during their advanced 'red giant' stage of evolution is playing a key role in solving this puzzle.
  This lecture is a collaboration with the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's University Belfast, where Dr Karakas, a world expert on giant stars, will be on a research visit.
* The lecture will take place in the Lecture Theatre on the ground floor of the Ulster Museum.
* This is a free event - to secure your place book online at the Ulster Museum website. For further information please ring 028 9044 0000.
2. BCO's Festival of Curiosity: After a sell-out festival in Dublin in 2013, The Festival of Curiosity has expanded this year into Cork to further ignite Ireland's curiosity.  In partnership with CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory (CITBCO) a host of curious and FREE activities will take place from July 24-27 at Cork's space for science.

Events are guaranteed to intrigue, challenge and inspire even the most curious of minds. At 'Tara Live' you can take your image of the night sky by day using Tara, a robotic telescope in the California Bay Area.  Dr. Niamh Shaw is hoping to be the 1st Irish woman in Space and she's going to share her progress on getting there at 'ToSpace'.

  If people-powered stargazing is your thing you can join in on 'Ride the Skies' – a bicycle astronomy event that will leave Pairc Ui Chaoimh at 22:00 head along the Marina to Rochestown under the evening skies stopping a while to learn about some astronomical objects.

 For the very first time CITBCO is giving the public the chance to look through their telescope in the iconic Dome on the Castle's Tower Top. Both researchers from BCOLabs and members of the Cork Astronomy Club will be on hand for guided stargazing.

 In keeping with the theme of science and culture a Musical Tour of Cork Harbour will take place on the Castle Turret on Thursday from 19:00 – 20:00. This sit-down show allows you to savour the unique mix of historical, musical, nautical and cultural riches of Cork Harbour while taking in the beautiful view.

 For more information on the great Curious Cork events visit or call CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory on 021 4326120

3. Free Astrophotography Workshop, Dublin: Sat 26th July in the Scopes and Space shop in North Dublin: Unit A8, Airside Enterprise Centre, Swords, Co. Dublin. Tel: +353 (01) 890 2736 Email: Tom O'Donohue will be running another free astrophotography workshop.
More details can be found at his site and where you can book seat. He says: There are 30 places available, for what will be an approx. 5 hours workshop starting at noon. While I'm more familiar with CCD cameras, I'll be showing DSLR image stacking also.
   I'll be discussing equipment, Darks, flats, calibration, stacking, and then I'll be showing examples of my processing steps from start to finish. This will include Levels, Curves, Deconvolution, Gradient removal, Colour Balance, Smoothing and sharpening to name a few steps. There will be plenty of other tips and tricks too.
Attendees are encouraged to add what they would like to learn in the workshop so I can tailor the workshop to peoples needs. If the time permits we could also process some data that people bring to the event.
4. Noctilucent Clouds (NLCs). There was another nice display last night: IAA members Sr Andy McCrea and Paul Evans got nice photos. See the IAA website
5: Sunspot number drops to zero: ZERO SUNSPOTS:  On July 17th, for the first time in nearly 3 years, the sunspot number dropped to zero.  Is Solar Max finished?  Forecasts and further discussion of this "All Quiet" event on

6. MAC memorial event: The committee of Midlands Astronomy Club would like to invite you to a special night of celebration and dedication to some of our departed friends and members who contributed to our club over the years, on Tuesday August 5th in Clonamore House Hotel, Arden Road, Tullamore at 8pm:
- Vincent McDonnell (founder, long-time Treasurer and our first Librarian, died July 2005).
- Carthage Morrissey (long-time member, staunch supporter of our Site clean-up days and maker of 2 observing chairs, died November 2012).
- Ollie Walsh (long-time member and maker of a 10 inch Dobsonian telescope, died December 2013).
- Trevor Rainsberry (former Chairperson, Librarian and the man responsible for allowing MAC (TAS) to purchase our 1/2 acre in Clonminch for the Observatory, the first of its kind of any club in Ireland, died April 2014).

7. Major astronomy event in Dublin, INAM: 13-15 August: REGISTER NOW:
You should register even if you only want to attend the public lecture.
Details: This year the ASGI is proud to announce the first Irish National Astronomical Meeting (INAM:2014), celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ASGI, and spanning 3 days. This will represent the new format of the future ASGI meetings, with more focused sessions, chosen by the Irish Astronomical community, aimed at developing meaningful and long-lasting collaborations and friendships. 
* We invite you to join us at the Hamilton Conference Centre on the main Trinity College Dublin campus, between August 13th – 15th.
* Full details are at the meeting website, but we highlight some key points here:
* Deadline for registration is 13th July 2014. There is no registration fee.
* Abstract submission and registration are handled on the website.
* The website provides information on travel and accommodation options.
* The ASGI intends on awarding a number of small grants of approximately €100 (or equivalent in GBP) to help support travel/accommodation costs of PhD students and young researchers from outside the immediate Dublin area.
* In addition to the scientific programme of 5 thematic sessions, the meeting will also feature an evening public lecture by Professor Paul Roche (University of South Wales), a conference dinner, and the inaugural INAM football tournament!
Register at
   NB: This is a professional level event (apart from the public lecture), so be prepared from some fairly advanced maths and physics! T.M.
8. IAA Solar Day, WWT, Castle Espie. We will be holding another one of these very popular events on Sunday afternoon, 17 August. More details later.
9. NI Space Capabilities brochure launched at Farnborough Airshow. From Robert Hill:
It was a great success for the province. Minister Foster met with Jean Jacques Dordain, Director General of the European Space Agency and he gave the Minister a personal tour of the ESA Space exhibit (which is a real coup as trying to get him for 30 seconds is difficult!). He also posed with Minister Foster to endorse the launch of the NI Space Capabilities brochure and development of the NI Space Industry. You cannot get a better endorsement than that!
  Also, I met with Astronaut Major Tim Peake and we discussed live links to the ISS for NI schools and a post spaceflight tour of the province. He was happy with both suggestions and I will work with the UK Space Agency and DE/DEL/CCEA/INI to get this in place for 2015/2016.
10. The Skelligs Star Party 2014, Taking place from Skelligs Lodge, Ballinskelligs Co Kerry on Aug 22nd to Aug 24th. Chosen as it is within the Kerry Dark Sky site.  Meeting Friday 22nd Aug at Skelligs Lodge from 7pm.… Here is the link to Skellig Lodge:
We will have a few speakers and workshops on Saturday 23rd Aug from 1pm..
Stephen Kershaw of Ktec Telescopes plus Carl O'Beirnes of Scopes and Space
Will be bringing a few astronomy goodies for us all to drool over.
I have set up a few events pages here are the links:
Kind Regards, Roy Stewart
11. EXCLUSIVE: Visit to Andor Technology Camera Facility, 13 September: The IAA has arranged a special visit to the Andor Technology Camera manufacturing facility in Belfast. As many of you will know, Andor make some of the best - in many cases the best - high-end digital cameras in the world. They are used in every scientific application imaginable, including of course astronomy, and they can be found in many of the world's top observatories, and in spacecraft. They are also moving into the range of amateur astronomers, having recently acquired Apogee Instruments. Thanks to Dr Andy McCrea we have arranged a free special visit for IAA members, and friends, to this facility, on Saturday 13 September.
Provisional Programme:
1200 Meet in Andor Reception
Introductory welcome and short talk
Lunch (provided by Andor) in their canteen
Tour of the Clean Room and factory assembly floor
Talks on the range of cameras and their applications
Talk on solar astronomy imaging using Andor cameras by Prof Mihalis Mathioudakis of the Astrophysics Research Centre in QUB (link from QUB/ Professor Smart)
Q&A Discussion
Finish - say 1530
  This is an exceptional opportunity to see and learn all about the latest developments and future plans for top class astronomical imaging equipment. Andor will also be interested in feedback from expert amateur users of digital imagers, so this is your opportunity to let them know what YOU would like to see available.
   Spaces are limited, so you must register your intention to attend. Please send your name and contact details to Dr Andy McCrea (of North Down Telescopes: email to ensure that you get a place, and mark your diaries now!
12. Name Exoplanets & Hosts stars: I don't think 'Christen' is the right word - unless all Atheists, Bahai's, Hindus, Humanists, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Sikhs, etc are to be excluded from taking part!
13. IAA ASTRONOMY VISITS - PLANS: As part of our 40th Anniversary celebrations, we are planning at least one astronomical trip to either GB or Paris. This is a preliminary enquiry to assess where the main interest would be. The options are broadly as follows: They would be in the form of a long weekend trip (Friday - Sunday, or Saturday to a BH Monday, or possible Friday to Monday)
1. GB Trip A: Visit to Jodrell Bank, The National Space Centre at Leicester, and possibly either the Spaceguard Centre in Wales or the astronomy centre at Cambridge.
2. GB Trip B: Visit to the historic Greenwich Observatory, Science Centre and Planetarium in London + a visit to the Royal Greenwich Observatory site and Science Centre at Herstmonceux in Sussex, + a visit to the South Downs Planetarium in Chichester (headed by Dr John Mason)
3. Trip to Paris: Visit to Paris to see the historic and still functioning Paris Observatory (made famous by Flammarion & others), and the Meudon Observatory near Versailles, just outside Paris: this hosts the famous 33" 'Grand Lunette' Refractor, the 3rd largest refractor in the world, and the largest outside the USA.
   If you are interested in any of these trips, please let me know by return, indicating them in order of preference.
14. 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
 After 30 June you will not be able to book extra nights before or after the IMC via the LOC. After 30 June extra nights should be booked on your own behalf.
15. New Scientist Live Lecture, London: How the universe began - 19 November, with: Prof Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics, University of Cambridge.
A second speaker to be confirmed.
   The recent discovery that the cosmic microwave background also bears the scars of gravitational waves - the squeezing and stretching of space time itself - is enabling us to build an increasingly detailed picture of the birth of the universe.
(A very limited number of tickets are available for this lecture) If you are going to be in London then, this might be worth attending
But these sites would only be practical for -
1. Launches from an aeroplane, not a direct ground launch by rocket.
2. For manned flights: - launches for sub-orbital hops only
3. For satellites, launches for high inclination orbits only, and only from some of the proposed sites.
If Virgin Galactic or Xcor etc ever extend their flights to much longer sub-orbital hops, e.g. SW USA to GB, they will have several additional problems -
A. They will need to launch in quite a high inclination orbit, which is not ideal.
B. They will usually have very much poorer weather conditions to cope with on landing: much more chance of low cloud, more chance of precipitation, more chance of ice and snow, more chance of strong winds. And if you are doing a gliding unpowered landing, you only have ONE chance!
C. How are they going to get the spaceplane back to the USA? - Even if they could launch again from some of these sites, and in most cases that would not be easy, they would have to have several other spaceports to the East of the UK to do the journey in several hops.  Unless they are going to launch 'the wrong way' i.e. against Earth's rotation. That would only work if they launch right out of the atmosphere altogether, to let the Earth rotate underneath them. The re-entry would then be at an unusual angle and speed.
   And if they ever extend their flights to full Earth orbits, then they will prefer to land back at the launch site in the USA.
   And if VG and/or Xcor are thinking of opening a new separate spaceport on Europe, they would choose somewhere less crowded and/ot with better weather.
  Of course, you CAN launch a rocket from anywhere if you so wish, and if you have the money for the extra fuel that may be needed, and if you don't mind the risks that come from possible launch aborts just after takeoff.
   I'm all in favour of a UK space programme, but the UK is not in the best geographical location for a general-purpose facility. 
Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015
COSMOS: April 17th to 19th 2015, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
18. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: I  hope that it was Huff Post rather than NASA which added 20 to 2014 and got 2026!  Interesting. But it's not these pits, nor even the bigger craters, which gives us the 'Man in the Moon' - that is due to the dark lunar maria contrasting with the brighter lunar highlands. None of these pits is visible to the unaided eye, nor indeed to most Earthbound telescopes, except in exceptionally good seeing. See also:  To me, it makes a lot more sense to use the Moon, rather than an asteroid, as a stepping stone to Mars. For a start, once a month, surely you'll get a chance to flyby Earth in a slingshot manoeuvre to get a free gravity boost towards Mars.
And I could add quite a few more:
1. Not even the conspiracy theorists dispute that the Apollo launches actually took place - hundreds of thousands of people saw them with their own eyes; hundreds of millions more saw them on live TV. But the conspiracy theorists claim that they stayed in Earth orbit, and all the rest of each of the missions were faked. But many other countries actually tracked the spacecraft as they flew to the Moon, and the CSM stayed in orbit round it, and then tracked them as they returned to Earth - that could NOT be faked.
2. If they had stayed in Earth orbit, every country with radio telescopes would have known about it, as they would have detected them each orbit. That includes not just UK, France, etc, but countries such as USSR and China, who would hardly have kept quiet about it!
3. Many thousands of radio amateurs tracked them for the initial parts of the flights to the Moon, before they got too far away. And they are not part of some international conspiracy!
4. Many thousands of amateur astronomers would have seen them if they had remained in Earth orbit. And they are not part of some international conspiracy either!
5. The Apollo astronauts left laser reflectors on the surface of the Moon so that the Earth-Moon distance could be measured more accurately: Scientists still use these on a regular basis to measure how the Moon is very slowly receding from Earth due to tidal friction.
   One point of clarification: the caption in the picture of the Moon rock brought back by the astronauts should make clear that these rocks are the same as other MOON rocks as found on Earth, i.e. meteorites which have come from the Moon.
  And there are photos from LRO etc which show even more clearly the tracks made by the lunar rover vehicles on the later Apollo flights, as opposed to the less clear tracks of the astronauts' footprints on Apollo 11 and 12.  An odd-looking object. But there's more sloppy reporting in this article. 
1. The object can't be 'illuminated' by the Moon as we see it, as the Moon is behind it. The  correct term is 'silhouetted'.
2.  Quote: "A supermoon occurs when the moon is 30,000 miles closer to Earth than the farthest point in its orbit making it look bigger and brighter than usual. In fact, it is just an optical illusion caused by its position in the sky." - The last sentence is wrong - it DOES appear bigger, because it IS closer.  And the Moon Illusion occurs with any moon seen close to the horizon - even an Apogee Moon.
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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