Friday, 12 September 2014

Aurora tonight? + many new news items

Hi all,
1. Possible Aurora Tonight:
On Sept. 9th at 00:30 UT the magnetic canopy of sunspot AR2158 erupted, producing a long-duration solar flare and a bright CME, and producing a strong X1.6-class solar flare. The CME, which billowed away from the sun at nearly 1,000 km/s, had an Earth-directed component.  A glancing blow is possible during the late hours of Sept. 11/early hours of Sept. 12.  High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the storm cloud arrives HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances have already been observed on the day-lit side of Earth. 
2.  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.
1200 Meet in Andor Reception
Introductory welcome and short talk
Lunch (Free, 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.
3. Free shows at Armagh Planetarium:

Free Shows for European Heritage Open Day
Saturday 13 September 2014

4. Special Krauss lecture at QUB: Taking advantage of the visit to Belfast by world famous cosmologist Lawrence Krauss (see last bulletin), the IAA is teaming up with the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB (to which sincere thanks are due) to present a public lecture by him on 22 October. Full details are being finalised by Prof Stephen Smart, but that talk will probably be on Cosmology and/or dark matter, on both of which Krauss is an expert. Start time 7.30 p.m., in Larmor Lecture Theatre, QUB. Free admission but by email ticket application only. More details in next bulletin, but keep the date free!
 In the meantime, keep looking at the QUB / ARC website
   Lawrence Krauss is a renowned cosmologist, and author of many best-selling books such as "The Fifth Essence" (Dark Matter); "The Physics of Star Trek"; "A Universe From Nothing"; "Quintessence, The Search For Missing Mass In The Universe", "Beyond Star Trek"; "Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth...and Beyond"; and many articles in various science journals. He is also the ONLY physicist to have received awards from all three of the major American Physics Societies. See:
   By coincidence, this story on dark matter has just broken: Intuitively, I like it, although the science is of course totally beyond me!
5. Asteroid to occult bright star Eta Gem, 16 Sep: (Thanks to Dr Tolis Christou at Armagh Observatory for this info).
The star to be occulted (HIP 29655) is eta Geminorum, a bright (V=3.3) binary pulsating star (sep=1.7 arcsec) see
    It is interesting that the apparent diameter of the asteroid (0.013") is comparable to the apparent size of the star (0.009"; primary component?) so there may not be a disappearance and reappearance as such but rather a gradual fading and brightening. The event is short (max dur  = 1.7 sec) but should be easily capturable on video. Presumably the prediction concerns the barycenter of the system so the path of the actual occultation by the primary may be somewhat off. 
  The track is predicted to graze the N coast of Ireland, but there is always some uncertainty, so have a look just in case
6. IAA New Season Opening Lecture 24 Sep: Latest Science Results from Rosetta, by Leo Enright
 This talk by Ireland's leading science broadcaster and journalist, will reveal the latest findings from the fantastic Rosetta spacecraft at Comet C-G. As you can see from some of the images, the comet is weird - absolutely unlike anything we've seen before. And Leo usually updates his talk from the Internet just about 10 minutes before he's due to start, so it will be the VERY latest information. Not to be missed!
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.
7. Astrophotography talk in Dublin: To coincide with the release of his new DVD "High Resolution Astrophotography" Damian Peach will be giving a talk/workshop and signing copies of his New DVD from the lecture room at Scopes and Space on 13th of September. Start time 13.00. Damian will also be on the astronomy show on 103.2 Dublin city FM on Tuesday 9 September at 20.00. Only 30 places available, book now to avoid disappointment. Price: €20, Location: Scopes and Space Ltd; call on 01-890 2736 to book your seat
8. Culture Night 2014, Sep 19 with Deirdre Kelleghan at Dunsink Observatory Dublin. FREE tickets for the Action Comet Children's Workshop (age 5-9) at Dunsink Observatory Sept 19th 5pm - Culture Night 2014 click the button on her home page and get your eticket !!!
9. IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park
These very popular weekend observing sessions will start again this month. Delamont is well signposted off the A22 just South of Killyleagh, (North of Downpatrick) Co Down. They are suitable for anyone, but are aimed especially at beginners.
We bring our own large telescopes; bring your own if you have a portable one.
  The events work like this: If it's clear on the Friday night, the event goes ahead. If not, we try again on the Saturday night. If both are cloudy, we try again on the following weekend, same procedure. To check if it's going ahead, check the IAA website: up to 6.0 p.m. on each day. Dates for first session: Sep 19-20 If cloudy, we'll try again on Sep 26-27.



10. Carrick-a-rede dark sky discovery site award: Congratulations to the folks at Carrick-a-rede (site of the famous rope bridge) in N. Antrim on getting this award - the first sine in N. I. to do so. see


11. ASTROMASTER LA PALMA, Sep 27 - Oct 3, 2014:  Advanced Landscape Astrophotography & Time-lapse. (From Ana on La Palma): There are a couple of places left for this Sept. Please share this if you know someone that might be interested. I´d really appreciate it.
"Join TWAN Photographers Babak Tafreshi (the founder and director) and Christoph Malin (dedicated timelapse photographer, TWAN-Austria) for a world-class week-long workshop on night sky photography and timelapse imaging and processing. Started in 2013 the Astromaster workshops have been a great success that inspired  photographers and amateur astronomers who attended the event from across the world. La Palma, home to one of the world's notable observatories, is  a stargazers paradise in the Canaries. Registration fees include full board accommodation, transportation and  course fees.
 More here:"
12. World Space Week: October 4 to 11; UK Launch in N. Ireland!
There will be events in various parts of the province. More news on this excellent coup by Robert Hill in the next bulletin.
13. ASTROARCHAEOLOGY TRIP TO NEWGRANGE and KNOWTH, 11 October: Following the success of last years' trip, Stranmillis University College Institute of LifeLong Learning have asked me to run another one, on 11 October, but this time including a visit to the Knowth Tomb as well. It has the largest collection of Megalithic art anywhere in Europe in one single site, some of which is reckoned to be astronomical. Booking for thus very popular, non-technical trip, is via the Stranmillis website, or go direct to,456138,en.pdf and scroll down to p. 23, or pick up a brochure from Reception.
   This trip is booking quickly, so reserve your places now if you want to go!
14. Astronomical Orientation of Lough Gur Stone Circle. This is the largest stone circle in Ireland, and well-known astro-archaeologist dr Frank Prendergast will be one of the speakers at the following event:
The inaugural Lough Gur Spirit of Place Celebration, featuring a series of public lectures, talks, contemplative tours and music in the heart of one of Ireland's most important archaeological sites, will take place on the 10th and 11th of October next.
   The event is on the home page of the website with a drop down menu appearing on the top left. This section includes programme and speaker information, and press releases.

15. The Elements in the Universe:  Ulster Museum, 11 October, 12.00 - 4.30). this event will be looking at the Universe from an elemental point of view. Dr Mike Simms will be there with his meteorites. He has also invited IAA members to participate, particularly those with telescopes, especially if linked to spectroscopy of the Sun and stars. If anyone is interested in being involved, please contact Mike so that he can plan the event. 



    The lectures will take place on consecutive Tuesday evenings, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in the Lecture Theatre on the ground floor. Some of these talks will be of interest to astronomers.  This is a free event – but to secure your place please use the Buy Tickets button on the web page. For further information please ring 028 9044 0000. Opening hours are Tue-Sun 10am-5pm.
 There are seven lectures:
 1. What's in my stuff? 7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday 21st October
     Bringing together science and art to raise awareness of the chemical elements contained within the everyday objects we own, such as mobile phones.
 2. The origin of the elements 7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday 28th October
     Discover how common elements formed in stars, supernova and the Big Bang help to answer some of the big questions in modern astronomy.
 3. The First World War: Its chemical origins 7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday 4th November
    The high explosives and synthetic propellants of WW1 can trace their origins back to the synthetic dyestuffs industry of the 19th Century.
 4. New challenges for geology in Northern Ireland 7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday 11th November
     How the distribution of 55 elements in soils and streams across the Province has implications for mineral resources and the environment.
 5. Bringing the Periodic Table to life 7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday 18th November
     The challenges of building real element displays around the world.
 6. From Test Tube to Turner: the role of the chemist in art 7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday 25th November
     How major changes in chemical techniques and elemental discovery influenced the subsequent development of pigments and their use in artworks.
 7. Dorothy Hodgkin, patterns and the Nobel prize 7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday 2nd December
     What led to the exceptional success of Nobel Prize winner Dorothy Hodgkin, discoverer of the crystal structure of penicillin and insulin?   

17. ROSETTA now orbiting Comet. The Rosetta spacecraft continues to 'orbit' round Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, sending back some jawdropping photos. After studying the 'binary' surface in more detail, it will land a probe on the surface. Watch out for some amazing photos.  See
This will be the topic for the IAA's opening lecture of the new season, by the incomparable Leo Enright.
 See above:



Comet Siding Spring will pass 134,000 kilometres from Mars on October 19. The neutral-gas coma of the comet, which extends for more than 100,000 kilometres in all directions from the nucleus, may well interact with the atmosphere of the planet. Ions may extend away than that, and the tail is millions of kilometres long. As a precaution, the orbits of the Martian orbiters have been altered to place them on the safe side of the planet during the most dangerous part of the encounter, which will occur when Mars' path through the comet's tail reaches the region of highest dust density, about 100 minutes after closest approach.

 Nevertheless, every effort will be made to get good observations from the comet from all the spacecraft on or near the Red Planet. Siding Spring is a long-period comet on its first visit to the inner Solar System and spacecraft designed to study Mars up-close are not idea for good observations of the tiny comet nucleus much further away. 

   The comet's coma of dust and ice particles are the main hazard for the orbiters, but will not affect the rovers on the surface which will be protected by Mars' atmosphere. Even though it's much thinner than ours, the tiny particles in the coma will burn up without reaching the ground.

Each spacecraft will observe the comet as best as possible using its respective instruments. Most attention will be on the comet's coma -- its size, composition, the size of the particles, how it varies with time, and the jets from the nucleus. They will also study the comet's effect on the Martian atmosphere. And one spacecraft may possibly be able to image the tiny nucleus of the comet, only 1-2 kilometres across, as it passes by at the challenging relative speed of 57 km/s. But most instruments will be able to see the coma or the coma's effects on the atmosphere.

The spacecraft involved are: 1. Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Has 3 cameras plus an imaging spectrometer and a radar sounder. 2. Mars Express. Will use HRSC camera and ultraviolet/infrared atmospheric spectrometer. 3. Mars Odyssey. Will use THEMIS thermal emission imaging system. 4. MAVEN, arriving 2014. Has a suite of instruments devoted to Mars' upper atmosphere, but no camera. 5. Mars Orbiter Mission, arriving 2014. Has a varied instrument suite but not sure if it will be performing Siding Spring observations.

Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015, Theme: "New Worlds - New Horizons" Excellent speaker line-up already!  See
 COSMOS: April 17th to 19th 2015, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
20. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: Actually, he says exactly the opposite!  That has to be the most misleading headline ever! - "On the verge of destroying the Universe...."? Sounds like it's both quite likely, and imminent. But they then go on to add - " there is a glimmer of hope which is that Hawking reiterates that not only is it extremely unlikely to ever happen, but that (it would need) 'a particle accelerator that reaches 100bn GeV (which) would be larger than Earth'.
   Another argument against it - If some other highly advanced civilization had got that far, then the universe would already have been destroyed, and we wouldn't be here discussing it!
   Scary, but fascinating 
21. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: The account is now operational again as before: @IaaAstro.

22. 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
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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