Saturday, 18 October 2014

Lecture, Sunspot, ISS, Meteors, Galileo, PSE, AP event, Science week, IAA Dinner

Hi all,
1. Special Lawrence Krauss lecture at QUB, 22 October: "Cosmic Connection: from the Big Bang to life on Earth and Beyond."
(This lecture is now fully booked. BUT you can get your name put on the waiting list for cancellations, no-shows etc.  Go to, and the top news link, beside the book snapshot
   Taking advantage of the visit to Belfast by world famous cosmologist Lawrence Krauss (see earlier 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.  
   Time 7.30 p.m., in Larmor Lecture Theatre, QUB. Free admission but by email ticket application only. 
    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 broke recently: Intuitively, I like it, although the science is of course totally beyond me!
2. Large Active Sunspot: A large and active sunspot has emerged over the Sun's SE limb. A few days ago this active region unleashed multiple flares and hurled a massive CME over the edge of the Sun.  If these eruptions continue, solar activity could sharply increase in the days ahead as the sunspot turns to face Earth.  Visit for photos and updates.
   REAL-TIME SOLAR FLARE ALERTS are available from (text) and (voice).

3. ISS Visible in Evening Sky. The ISS continues its series of evening passes over Ireland until 25 October, visible in the evening sky from about the time of early twilight. Full details of passes for your location, and lots of other information, are available on the excellent free site:
4. Orionid Meteors, Oct 21-22. This shower, caused by tiny particle remnants of Halley's Comet, will peak on the early evening of 21 October, with a ZHR of 10-20. The Moon will be out of the way, so conditions are good. The radiant is near Betelgeuse. Also see
5. 'Galileo' at Market Place Theatre, Armagh: Thur 23 OCT
After a successful tour of the US, and a sold-out run at the Brighton Fringe Festival, RSC veteran Tim Hardy brings his solo show 'The Trials Of Galileo' to the Market Place. 'The Trials Of Galileo' focuses on the events surrounding his trial for heresy in 1633. Galileo's tragedy was a mistaken belief that all he had to do was show the church his reasoning and his evidence and the church would fall in behind him. He understood the science better than any man alive, but never grasped the politics. Until it was too late. Book at the Theatre.
6. Large Partial Solar Eclipse, USA, 23 Oct: The eclipse will not be visible at all on this side of the Atlantic, but you can probably watch it on-line.
7. Hallowe'en events at Armagh Planetarium.
Lots of events including a telescope night, rocket launching, etc on Tuesday 28 October. Starshows must be pre-booked. See for details.
8. Nov 8-9 Science Week events in Dublin:
The makers of The Festival of Curiosity are celebrating Science Week 2014 in Dublin by transforming Smock Alley Theatre into a curiosity filled hub with some very curious family events and shows, including Dr. Niamh Shaw with MY PLACE IN SPACE, a lively talk and show which is perfect for young curious minds to find their place in space! Also, on Thursday Nov 13th at 7.30pm: join us as we delve into the future of space travel with special guests including former NASA Astronaut Greg Johnson and Prof. Ian Robertson. More details later, when available. Smock Alley Theatre is on the edge of Temple Bar, just S of the Liffey.
9. IAA 40th Anniversary Dinner: 28 Nov. ADVANCE NOTICE: As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the IAA in its present form (it was originally the Belfast Centre of the Irish Astronomical Society), we're having a special celebratory dinner. This will be on Friday 28 November, at the Stormont Pavilion. We have secured a VERY good value deal, for a 4-course dinner, plus wine if wanted, at an unbelievable price. We're still finalising the menu options, and then we'll know the final price.
   We also hope to have some nostalgic memorabilia, and an after-dinner speech by a VIP astronomer, so it promises to be a great evening!
   More details in next bulletin, but mark your diaries now. Provisional start time about 7.30 p.m.
10. ARCHAEOASTRONOMY TRIP TO NEWGRANGE and KNOWTH, 2015, These trips have proved so popular that as soon as I got back from the last one, Stranmillis University College Institute of LifeLong Learning asked me to lead another one next spring!  Like the last one, the next trip will include 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 will open later, but if you want to go, note the date in your diary: Sat 9 May. More details when the new brochure comes out.
11. Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Scholarships, NUIG: See Applications close 21 November.
13. IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park
These very popular weekend observing sessions have started again with some very successful viewing. 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 next session: If cloudy, we'll try again on the next date on the list.…

14. FAEROES ECLIPSE TRIP: The next Total Solar Eclipse visible on Earth will be on 20 March, 2015.

This total eclipse track will only cross land on Earth in two places: the Faeroes, and Svalbard in the far North Atlantic. IAA member and eclipse author Dr Kate Russo will be leading a tour to observe this eclipse in the Faeroes. I have the honour to be the 'eclipse/astronomy/aurora expert'  on the trip, on which we hope to be able to get good views of the aurora as well as the eclipse itself. See You can also find out more details on the eclipse blog site:

15. COMET NEAR-MISS WITH MARS, Oct 19: see and, and for latest images. 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.


16. TAMING THE ELEMENTS LECTURE SERIES, Ulster Museum, 21 October     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; the second one in particular will be of interest to astronomers:
" 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. See e.g.
17. ROSETTA's probe to land on Comet on 12 November. The Rosetta spacecraft continues to 'orbit' round Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, sending back more jawdropping photos. After studying the 'binary' surface in great detail, the site to land a probe on the surface has now been chosen.  But it's nothing like a pyramid. - Look instead at the shadows of the other 'boulders', in the second photo, to its bottom left and upper right (about 8.0 and 2.0 on clock face) - they have even longer / more pointed shadows. It's just slightly bigger than the others.
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.
Skelligs Star Party: 14-16 August, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry.  This is a Gold Medal winning Dark Sky site.  see
AI Starbecue: 15 August, Wicklow Mountains.


19: Interesting Weblinks:
Err - wouldn't it be easy to have most of the plants in a separate biosphere? With just a few in the inhabited quarters to produce just the right amount of oxygen? You can try out the Beta version of the latest Oculus Rift at IAA outreach events. It's very popular, so you may have to wait a while to have a go (courtesy of Tony Kempston)  Beware: NSFW images. Isn't it amazing that these ETs are basically human in form, except for the stereotyped 'alien' face. They all seem to live on a planet where there is very little light (hence the big eyes), and they can only east tiny amounts of food - hence the small mouth and jaw. Are there none who have 'human' faces and 'alien' bodies? Or would that be stretching the 'abductees' imagination too far?
Oh well, life would be that little bit duller without them! I had already suggested that they would need to grow most of their vegetables in a separate biosphere. But this points out additional problems. Has any reader signed up yet?
Russian space junk re-enters over Svalbard:
20. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: The account is now operational again as before: @IaaAstro.
21. 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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