Saturday, 13 December 2014

Geminids tonight, Lecture, ISS, IFAS, Xmas events etc

Hi all,
1:Geminid Meteors peak tonight, 13-14 December: The Geminids are the best shower of the year, both in numbers and in length of darkness to see them. At its very best, an observer in a dark site should see more than 100 per hour. The maximum is predicted for the night of 13-14 December. The Moon is now fading towards last quarter and there will be a dark window from end of twilight until about midnight, when rates should be good. Even after moonrise you can still observe fairly well if you keep the moon hidden behind some foreground object. The shower continues after the 14th until about the 16th, but with declining rates, but the night of 14-15 should still be quite good, before Moonrise.
  Geminids are slowish, compared with say the Leonids, with an average encounter velocity of 'only' 35 km/sec, which makes them easier to image, as they deposit more light per pixel as they move across the imaging CCD. The radiant is near Castor in Gemini. The best time to look will probably be from 10p.m. to midnight on the night of 13-14 Dec.
   NEWSFLASH: I'm being interviewed about the Geminids on the UTV (6.30) evening news this evening about the meteors.
IAA LECTURE: Next IAA public lecture: Wednesday 17 December, QUB, at 7.30 p.m. It will be given by Dr Ernst de Mooij . Title:  " Characterising the Atmospheres of Exoplanets."
Abstract: "Over the past two decades more than one thousand planets have been discovered outside our Solar System. What is even more interesting is that we have started to investigate atmospheres of these planets using telescopes both on the ground and in space. In this talk I will show how we can study the atmospheres of these alien worlds, and what we have learned from these observations."
By a happy coincidence, Ernst, who led this research, is featured in this link
  NB: We are aware that there had been problems hearing the speaker from the back of the lecture theatre, partly due to the noise from the twin data projector cooling fans. The speakers will all now use a mike and the PA system, which solves the problem. 

    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.
3. IFAS Calendar 2015 is now available. The Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies calendar is a monthly guide to all the key astronomical events visible from Ireland during 2015. It also lists astronomy and space anniversaries, space missions during 2015, star party dates, and much more. All money raised from the sale of the calendar will go to funding astronomy and outreach in Ireland being run under the auspices of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies. You can see a preview at
   The price is €7.65 including postage to anywhere in Ireland/Northern Ireland. Get one for yourself and another for a family member or friend. One of the photos was taken by past IAA president Paul Evans.
   You can order the calendar via  ... there are one or two minor issues to sort out with the Paypal e-mail address but that should be done in the next couple of days.
4. ISS: The International Space Station has commence a series of evening passes over Ireland. These will continue past Xmas Eve, perhaps leading to some claimed sightings of Santa on his way.... See for details for your own location.
5. IAA SUBSCRIPTIONS: Subscriptions for the current year (2014 - 2015) are now overdue. If you do not renew your subscription, your membership will cease, and you won't get the next copy of our excellent magazine, STARDUST. See last item below for details of how to pay.

6.  IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park
These very popular weekend observing sessions will recommence in January with the night of 16-17 as first option. 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, and for dates for next session: If cloudy, we'll try again on the next date on the list.…
7. Xmas shows at Armagh Planetarium. Join Armagh Planetarium this Christmas as we journey back more than 2000 years to Bethlehem, and seek to discover an explanation for the star the Wise Men followed to find the baby Jesus in "Mystery of the Christmas Star".  
  The Star of Bethlehem is an iconic astronomical event whose true origin remains unknown even today, in spite of years of speculation and research.  The show will guide the viewer through some of these investigations and the most likely causes of this interesting cosmological object which was remarkable enough to make the wise men travel across the desert from
Babylon to Bethlehem
to see the new born baby.  
   You will also explore possible dates for the birth of Christ and look at the historical records of significant astronomical events which occurred at this time.
 The show opens on Monday 1 until
Tuesday 23 December 2014
 Show Times:
Monday – Friday (1-19 Dec) at 2pm
Saturday/School Holidays at 1pm and 4pm
Evening shows every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 2-18 December at 7:30pm

Booking is essential


8. Cosmic stocking fillers & Christmas nights out at BCO

Xmas events include   Cosmic Christmas WorkshopBuildSkills Workshop, Christmas Stocking Fillers, A Christmas night with a difference,  Moon Observing We wish you a very Cosmic Christmas




10. IAA New Year Party: 3 January, Comber, Co Down. The film will be "Europa Report". More details and a booking form with next email. Note your diaries now.

11. 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:


12. 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.

NI Science Festival: 19 Feb - 1 March. More details soon, including an IAA event on 28 Feb.
Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015, Theme: "New Worlds - New Horizons" Excellent speaker line-up already!  Latest news on speakers: To provide detailed insight into space missions one of the agency's senior scientific advisors; Professor Michael Perryman will talk about the GAIA mission, while Professor Susan McKenna Lawlor will look at the Rosetta Comet mission for which her team built an instrument for the Philae lander.  See Check for latest updates. 
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 'Star-B-Q': 15 August, An Tochar GAA Grounds, Roundwood, Co.Wicklow.

14: Interesting Weblinks:
15. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
16. 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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