Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Lecture, NY Party, IFAS, ISS, Xmas @ AP & BCO, Rosetta, Geminids, Scopes 4 loan

Hi all,
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."
Ernst, who led this research, is featured in these links
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.
2.  The Irish Astronomical Association's New Year Party will be held as usual in the Tudor Cinema, Drumhirk Rd, Comber on Saturday 3rd January 2015. A buffet meal will be available in McBride's, The Square, Comber. Food will be served at 6.00pm, but it is advisable to be there at 5.30pm. After the meal, members and guests will then make their way to the nearby Tudor Cinema for the feature film "Europa report" starting at 7.30pm and followed by a prize quiz. Free refreshments will be available at the cinema, including Terry Moseley's hot punch. N.B. Due to seating capacity restrictions at the Tudor Cinema,  numbers will be limited to 60, so early booking is advisable. Booking form attached.
3. BBC "Sky At Night": BBC Four will be repeating the "Pillars of Creation" programme on Thursday 18 at 7:30pm, and Friday 19 at 2am)
4. 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.
5. ISS: The International Space Station has commenced 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.
6. 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


7. 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 



 9. GEMINIDS Reports: Partially cloudy skies didn't prevent members seeing quite a few meteors. Check the IAA website for details. But I doubt if they were quite as good as this seems to indicate:

There's something not right about the first photo. And the third one doesn't show any meteors that I can see!
What's wrong with the first photo? -
1. It's obviously a short exposure, as there's no star trailing, and it's not a driven exposure, as the foreground hasn't moved.
2. It's quite a long way from the radiant - trace the trails backwards to see how far you would have to go to get to the radiant.
3. It's a fairly small area of sky, given by the degree of divergence of the tracks.
4. It must have been taken when the radiant was high up: at least two more screen heights above this one, if you trace the tracks back (the very short one at top left must be a sporadic) - almost overhead?
5. That looks like M31 at top left centre, and that's the Milky Way at bottom, but I don't recognise any of the starfield.
6. And if that's M31, then the relative positions of the Milky Way and where Gemini must be does not fit. In particular, if Gemini is high up, with Milky Way low down where it is, and that's looking below Gemini you should see either Procyon or Sirius or both.
7. And even if it's not M31, the relative positions of where Gemini must be and that patch and angle of Milky Way to the horizon, and the possible time range in which it must have been taken, just don't fit.
8. And given all that, and that it's not an ultra-wide FOV, there is NO WAY you would record that many meteors in a small area of sky in such a short exposure, except maybe during one of the Leonid storms such as occurred in the '60's.
9. That patch of MW looks as if it could be in Cygnus, but if that's the angle it makes to the horizon, then it was taken looking NW in mid evening, and that would be M31. BUT there's no sign of the Square of Pegasus, and the meteor rates would not have been that high in mid evening, AND Gemini would have been well past the Zenith, fairly low down in the other part of the sky, even further away than indicated by the trail angles!
10. Finally, no-one in their right mind would set up a camera in the middle of a main road (probably the A3055) to take a time exposure to record meteors! Especially when there's a quieter side-road just about 20 meters ahead on the left with the same skyview!
A composite image, I would say....

10.  IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member  Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy Mcrea

11.  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.…


12. Major Science Event, 23 February (+ 24th or 26th in Dublin) Advance Notice: Another major science event as part of the 'Origins Project" will be taking place on the 23rd of February at UU Jordanstown (and one planned for Dublin on the 24th or 26th.) See
Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins are confirmed as attending. Tickets are £35 each. More details on how to book will be announced soon - but remember they will sell out quickly so be prepared to book online as soon as the booking website opens!


13. 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:


14. 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, NEWSFLASH: Cdr Chris Hadfield will launch this event! 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.

16: Interesting Weblinks: The basic idea is correct scientifically, and the technology should work - in principle. The question is how? How much water is there per tonne of Martian soil? Not all that much, in the 'tropical regions', where a manned base is likely to be set. And how is the soil to be fed into the machine - by people shovelling it into a giant hopper? That would take just about all the time and energy they have available! Or by robots doing that task? Robots powered by what? And who or what removes the giant waste-pile that will accumulate? More robots, I presume. All of which will have to be sent there well in advance of the first humans. Challenging, to say the least.
 and see
That's not really a mountain, is it? Even the Sugarloaf South of Dublin is much bigger, at 500m. More like the Little Sugarloaf. And no-one calls that a mountain! Still, we wouldn't want to be hit even by this one  This all makes sense, although the 'devil' will be in the detail. For example, an inflatable heatshield sounds only slightly less improbable than a chocolate fireguard. But I have faith in the scientists, if they think it can work.
   But I notice that there's no mention here of an asteroid capture mission as a 'stepping stone to Mars', and I'm still waiting to hear just how exactly that will lead to a manned landing on the Red Planet. Can anyone make sense of this? If the other universe moves backwards through time it must have been formed fully developed or evolved, and is now moving backwards towards a Big Bang. And in it, living things come alive from death, get younger, and then are born, then conceived, then their parents meet, etc. And water in rivers flows uphill, the raindrops go back up into clouds etc, and so on, which is pretty ridiculous, if not impossible. (It would contravene the laws of thermodynamics for a start)
  On the other hand, it could be that the other universe would, if we could observe it, just appear to us to move backwards through time, which is a totally different thing. Just like two trains sitting at rest in a station: you see the carriage opposite start to move relative to you, but at first you don't know if it's the other train that's moving, or yours, or both. But although appearing to move in opposite directions, both are in fact moving forward. No problem.
   So that would mean that each universe is moving forwards in its own time, which is not what the article says.
   And if it is a totally different universe, then we can have no contact with it, nor they with us, which means that to talk of time moving in opposite directions in each one is meaningless. One might as well say that in the other universe up is down and down is up - it's a meaningless statement.
  So does that solve the 'arrow of time paradox'? I don't think so..... They wouldn't need nearly so much extra fuel (which they have to lift up to the first stage's maximum altitude in the first place!) if they used parachutes to bring it down slowly until it was within about 1000m of the surface, or less, if their calculation of drift was quite good. Except that a Gamma Rays Burst, which lasts for no more than a minute or so, would only affect one side of the planet, not the whole Earth. Even then, sea life, particularly deep sea life, would probably have survived. A brilliant summary of some of the crazy ideas that people believe. Only some of them, BTW.... e.g. -
Stretched out exoplanets The illustration looks wrong, but actually in some cases these very close-orbiting Exoplanets are squashed N-S, as well as elongated, like a half-deflated rugby ball seen edge-on.
17. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
18. 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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