Friday, 2 January 2015

NYParty, Comet Lovejoy, Lecture, Meteors, IFAS, Scopes for loan, Obs at Delamont

Hi all,
1: 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 - Booking Now Closed. The buffet meal will be 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 are limited to 60.
 If you wish to do so, bring some small gifts as prizes for the Quiz.  Unwanted Christmas Presents, etc or whatever!  
2. Current and upcoming astro highlights: I'll be talking about the current highlights in the night sky, and the main events to look forward to in 2015, on Radio Ulster's "Your Place and Mine" at 08.50 on Saturday morning (3 Jan).
3. Major Science Event, 23 February (+ 24th or 26th 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 (and one planned for Dublin on the 24th or 26th.) See
 Booking for the Belfast event at: and
Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins are confirmed as attending. Tickets are £35 each. Details of Belfast event are on Belfast event page
4. IAA LECTURE: Next IAA public lecture: Wednesday 7 January, QUB, at 7.30 p.m. It will be given by well-known Irish amateur astronomer, John Flannery. Title: The Sky by Eye – How to Rediscover the Soul of Astronomy
   Arthur C. Clarke once described the Universe as a device contrived for the perpetual astonishment of astronomers. Anyone can discover that sense of wonder. You just have to look up. It's a common belief you need some form of optical equipment to witness those astonishing sights but that is not the case. The Sky by Eye is a list that encourages people to observe the Universe with the unaided eye. It comprises 110 sky objects and phenomena ranging from the whimsical to challenging. Examples include studying the colours of the Moon, tracking a planet through its opposition loop, using a UHC filter to observe deep-sky objects with the unaided eye, observing the broad spectrum of atmospheric optics, and even building medieval astronomical instruments.
   The beauty of the Sky by Eye list is that you can delve deeper into areas such as meteor observing or revisit some aspects as your awareness grows. You may take a lifetime to tick off all the sights but the goal is to open your eyes to understanding and appreciating the rhythms of the sky, as well as build a foundation to enhance your enjoyment of astronomy. The list draws on the work of others including Joe Orman, Fred Schaaf, and Chet Raymo who all touch the soul of why we are naturalists of the night.
   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.
NB: Glasses found after last lecture: a small pair of reddish glasses was found in the toilet outside the Bell lecture theatre after the last lecture. We gave them to Ernst de Mooij (the speaker, from QUB) for safe keeping. He said he would hold on to them and give them to reception for collection.
5. New Comet Lovejoy: A new comet discovered by Tom Lovejoy (his 5th!), official name C/2014 Q2, is heading North and has gradually brightened. Currently it shines at +5th magnitude, just visible to unaided eyes in a very dark sky, but relatively easy in binoculars. It's currently passing through Lepus, below and west of Rigel in Orion. See
   The comet will make its closest approach to Earth on January 7, at a distance of 45 million miles.
 Positions and finder charts for the comet on a daily basis are on the excellent free site e.g. see
Or you can use the attached chart.
6. Perihelion
The Earth will reach Perihelion, its closest point to the Sun in its annual orbit, on 4 January at 06.36, distance 147,096,204 km.

7. Quadrantid Meteors  The Quadrantids are expected to peak sharply at about 01h on 4 January, but the almost full Moon will spoil the view. Maximum rates only occur for a few hours.   You could also try just before dawn on the morning of the 3rd, again avoiding the Moon which will be slightly less of a problem that morning, as it sets around 06.40

The radiant lies about halfway between the end of the handle of the Plough (or Eta UMa) and the head of Draco. It is circumpolar from Ireland, so you can observe as soon as the sky gets dark on the evening of the 3-4th, but the radiant will then be low in the North, dipping slightly below the Pole at lower culmination, before starting to rise again in the NNE and then NE, and the Moon will be a major hindrance.  The ZHR in a dark sky would be expected to be about 80, but you'll be lucky to see even half that in the Moonlight. The best time will be just before dawn, when the Moon is low and not so bright. Find a spot where you are in the shadow of the Moon, and look away from that part of the sky.

   The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the rate which would be seen by an experienced observer, in a VERY dark sky, and with the radiant in the zenith: actual observed rates very rarely reach the nominal ZHR for various reasons.

8. 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  ... 
Comet 67P Churyumov Gerasimenko never ceases to amaze: now we need a new branch of archaeoastronomy - 'cometary archaeoastronomy'. Just look at the nice pair of 'stone circles' just right of centre! I wonder what the solar alignment is, if any? ;-)

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

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. 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.

There will be a feature on our eclipse trip to the Faeroes in the Irish Times on 10 January.

 See You can also find out more details on the eclipse blog site:


13.  Baader Astro-Solar safe visual 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. The "Moon in 2015" is a complete annual guide to our natural satellite. A table gives you the dates for each of the Moon's phases: New, First Quarter, Full and Last Quarter. The Moon swings through these phases every 29 and 1/2 days, but did you realise the exact length of this period changes from month to month? On what dates are the "Super Moon's" for 2015? And what about the dates of Perigee and Apogee, Ascending/Descending Nodes, and Lunar Standstills? You'll find all of this as well as a recap of solar and lunar eclipse for 2015 in Jay's blog.


15. 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.

17: Interesting Weblinks: Why this new trend to use terms like "The Spindle Galaxy (NGC 5866), a lenticular galaxy in the Draco constellation" (see caption to second photo)? We don't say "in Killarney in the Kerry County."  Nor "in Devon, in the England country". Nor "in Brittany in the France country". Nor "in Quebec in the Canada country".   That construction makes "Draco" an adjective, rather than a noun. If you have to make clear that Draco is a constellation, you should say "in the constellation Draco". That at least is grammatically correct!
   But in fact you simply need to say "in Draco". If anyone doesn't know what Draco is, a few seconds on Google will provide the answer.
18. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
19. 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
Finally: A Very Happy New Year to everyone, and good viewing.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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