Saturday, 31 January 2015

Lecture, close miss, Science events, Comets latest, SAN, Observing, NISF, GSP...

Hi all,
1: IAA LECTURE: Next IAA public lecture: Feb 04, 7.30 p.m. by Tom O'Donoghue
"Astrophotography: From Single Pane to Mega-mosaic". This will look at medium focal length Deep Sky Astrophotography.
   Tom O'Donoghue, from Dublin, takes some of the best deep sky astrophotos you will ever see taken by any amateur astronomer. Visitors to any of the recent Irish Star Parties will have seen the amazing quality of his images. He is totally dedicated, indeed obsessed, to get the best quality images possible! Frustrated by the sky conditions in Ireland, he started travelling first to Southern France, and then Spain, to get the best possible conditions.
   As well as taking the superb shots you can see on his website he is now working on a 'mega-mosaic' of the whole Orion constellation and all its associated nebulosity, of which the best known are of course the Orion Nebula itself (M42), the 'Running Man Nebula', and the Horsehead Nebula. But there's much more!
   In this talk he will describe how he acquired his skills and his equipment, how he takes and processes the images, and describe his Orion Mega-Mosaic."
   Tom will have some of his smaller size, but same high quality, prints available for sale at £15 each.
    The lecture is free and open to all, including free refreshments. Venue: 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.
N.B: Our last lecture on Wednesday 21 January, by well-known QUB astronomer, Professor Alan Fitzsimmons, "Rosetta at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko", was probably our best-attended 'normal' lecture ever, with about 130 people present: almost every seat was taken!. All thoroughly enjoyed an amazing and very entertaining presentation - thanks Alan.
2. "Close" Asteroid Flyby on Jan 26.  There are two errors in this report:
1. The reference to 1 million asteroids 'in our galaxy' should of course be to 'in our Solar System'.
2. Quote: "Unfortunately the tracking of very large asteroids can only make a practical difference if we're then able to do something about the rock - deflecting or destroying it, preferably. And unfortunately - again - NASA's best guess on how to do that so far is… prayer."
   That is wrong on four counts: firstly that is not actually what NASA said; secondly there are several ways to deflect or reduce the threat from an incoming asteroid, provided that we get at least a few years warning; thirdly there is zero evidence that prayer changes the orbits of asteroids, or anything else. It doesn't prevent volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, mudslides, avalanches, hurricanes, tornadoes etc, so why would it deflect an asteroid? Quite apart from the fact that that would require altering the laws of physics.
   Fourthly, we do already track ALL "very large asteroids". It's the ones between 0.5 and 1km where we have only tracked about 99% of the dangerous ones so far, and the ones between about 100m and 500m where we may have only got about 90% of the dangerous ones so far, that the problem lies. And we COULD do something about them if we detect them in time. But they are NOT "very large asteroids": "Very large" for an asteroid would mean 10km diameter or more, and we are tracking 99.999% of them, and none will hit us within the next few hundred years, nor probably even in the next millennium or longer. And the chance that the one in 100,000 which we may have missed so far would hit us within the next millennium are infinitesimally small
   Very sloppy journalism.
For a video taken from UK see
And of course the usual UFO nutters are in on the act! and The folks at UFO sightings daily seem to have a neuron count equivalent to that of a jellyfish. And that's all of them - collectively.
   Why would an alien spaceship need to hitch a ride with a small boring slow-moving asteroid? That would be like a Bugatti Veyron tucking in behind a school bus to get a bit of reduced air resistance!
(See also 21 below)
3. ISS The ISS will commence a new series of evening passes over Ireland on February 7. Full details for your own location, along with lots of other up to date astronomical information, on the excellent FREE site Also try the ISS Spotter by Mediapilot 
   When it's making daytime passes over Ireland, you can see Ireland live from downloaded images from the ISS
4. Major Science Event, 23 February (+ 24th in Dublin): Booking Open  Another major science event as part of the 'Origins Project" will be taking place on the 23rd of February at UU Jordanstown. See
 Booking for the Belfast event at: and
"Outer Surface, The Origins Project", facilitates the creation of new knowledge by asking fundamental questions to better grasp our era's greatest challenges. 
   Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, two internationally famous scientists, will talk about "Life & The Universe" in Belfast on Feb 23 and in Dublin on Feb24
Tickets are £35 each. Details of Belfast event are on Belfast event page
5. Comet Lovejoy: Terry Lovejoy's 5th comet, official name C/2014 Q2, is now high up in the Northern sky and after reaching naked-eye visibility, will soon start to fade as it moves away from both Earth and Sun. Currently it shines at between 4th and 5th magnitude, just visible to unaided eyes in a dark sky, but relatively easy in binoculars. It's currently passing through Andromeda. IAA members have got some lovely photos of it - see the website:
 Positions and finder charts for the comet on a daily basis are on the excellent free site 
6. Comet 67P - Latest from Rosetta:  I made the point about light bouncing off the two lobes on either side of the neck, and thus increasing the radiation there, at Alan's recent lecture! 
7. SKY AT NIGHT BROADCAST:  Sunday 8th February at 22:00 on BBC4. They will be asking: What Have UFOs Done for Us? (A: sold lots of books, DVDs,  cinema tickets, generated lots of websites, and lately, via the Web, proved just how gullible lots of people are!)

8.  IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park

These very popular weekend observing sessions have recommenced, with the nights of Feb 13 & 14 as next 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.…

9. IAS Observing night: Saturday 31st January 2015 Meeting opposite the Clontarf Yacht club, Dublin, at 8PM to view the Moon. Please note that these events are weather dependent. Please check our website prior to the event. 
10. NI Science Festival: 19 Feb - 1 March. More details soon, including an IAA event on 28 Feb.
11. Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015: Cdr Chris Hadfield will launch this event - by videolink! 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. 
12. FAEROES ECLIPSE TRIP - Sold out!  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: 

If you are really keen to go you can ask to be put on a waiting list in vase there are cancellations

13. Safe Solar viewing material available: Baader safe viewing foil now in stock ... just in time for the big eclipse! £19 for an A4 sheet delivered. Contact Dr Andy McCrea at


14. IAA Event at Bangor, 27 March, 7 p.m:   Stars and Mars, Moon and Jupiter @ Night at The Museum 
See North Down Museum Come Alive at Night!
Bring along your telescope and get some expert advice.
Observing highlights will be a spectacular First Quarter Moon, plus Jupiter and its moons, the Pleiades and lots of other stellar wonders.
Inflatable indoor star dome
Meteorites on display.
Only £1:00 per person admission.
Coffee Cure @ The Museum will remain open until 9:00pm.
For further information telephone 028 9127 1200
15. Light Workshop at Blackrock Castle Observatory:

There is a partial solar eclipse in the morning of March 20. Do you know how to safely view this? Make and take away a pinhole camera and a spectroscope. Explore how lenses are used to make telescopes, experiment with prisms and use solar telescopes (weather permitting). For ages 8+. February 17 & 19. 11:00 - 12:30. €10 each. Booking and pre-payment essential Details at

Five Teams From Around the World Recognized with Milestone Prizes for Progress Toward Lunar Missions


17. 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.

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

20: Interesting Weblinks: But as it's to be in a geostationary orbit, it needs to be over the equator, not over the southern tip of South Africa, which is about 34 degrees South - so the illustration is wrong. Even if it is by NASA!
And it won't be easy to point or control! And the mountain-top test will be seriously hampered by looking through a large air mass and bad seeing, as the star will necessarily be quite close to the horizon. The pioneering technique of asteroseismology was beautifully described by Prof Don Kurtz in his recent lecture to the IAA  NB, Pluto may not be the largest body in the (Edgeworth-) Kuiper Belt - there is still some doubt as to whether Pluto or Eris is the larger.  Great images of the airglow, especially the one by Samantha Christoforetti. The airglow is what finally determines the faintest limiting magnitude of stars visible from the surface of the Earth - even from the darkest possible site, with no moonlight etc. The lights from the stars themselves, particularly if the brightest part of the Milky Way is overhead, also contributes. But even if the MW is low down, circling the horizon, and there are no bright planets up, there's still that background airglow.  It would be far more efficient to bring the rocket down most of the way slowly under a parachute before using the rocket engine to slow it down enough for a soft landing at the very end. That would mean they would need much less fuel for the descent operation, which in turn means that they would need much less fuel to get that extra fuel up to the cut-off stage in the first place!
No global firestorm from K-T Impact? But there would also have been giant hot lumps of rock blasted high into the atmosphere, and falling back over a wide area, which would have caused fires in a large radius around the impact site.
Black holes exist in certain gravitational theories I can't even start to understand this, but it may be of interest to some!
The Two Faces of Mars Just one question - where did a body of diameter 3200km, made MAINLY OF IRON come from? And since the mean density of Mars is only 3.93 (compared with 5.52 for the Earth), it has relatively little iron even now. Before that impact it must have had even less. So how come there was a substantial 'mainly iron' body circulating around, but very little iron available to the proto-Mars? Formation in different regions of the proto-planetary disc is one explanation, but even so it seems an odd dichotomy.  If that's 'God's hand', he obviously needs a good orthopaedic surgeon! Why is there this need to 'Deomorphise' (my new word for this, analogous to anthropomorphise) objects seen in the sky? First we had the 'Eye of God', and now this. What next - his mouth? his nose? his ear? his big toe?
21. UFOlogists Laughs section: 
UFO? -  It's just the Sun shining on & through a small lenticular cloud.
And So when, with almost everybody having a phone with a camera, and with 'on the spot' real life photos and videos from the public of everything from fireballs to plane crashes, are we going to get a CLEAR, genuine, incontrovertible image of an alien spacecraft? I'll bet not even in the next 10 years. And I'll back that up with £1,000, if anyone wants to accept the wager. Why? Because none of the 'sightings', or photos, so far has been a genuine alien spacecraft, and I doubt if any are suddenly going to visit us within the next 10 years.
Wow! That is SOOO convincing! But the commentary has got one thing wring - s/he's not wearing a helmet, as you can see the irregular outline of his/her wavy hair. So obviously s/he is either a Martian, or else a human who has been there so long that they have adapted to living in the almost non-existent Martian atmosphere. Isn't that AMAZING????
22. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
23. 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


Anonymous said...

Great blog this week. Shame how many journalists keep getting it wrong but I doubt Huffington Post is the best scientific source.

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