Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Lecture 2nit, Binocs, Donation, Ireland to Mars? V young Moon + 22 other items!

Hi all,
1: IAA LECTURE TONIGHT: Next IAA public lecture:  Feb 18, 7.30 p.m. by Dr Jorick Vink, Armagh Observatory: "Star Formation in the Milky Way and in the early Universe".
We are delighted to have Jorick back again to give another of his excellent lectures. Jorick is a Senior Research Astronomer at Armagh, specialising in very massive stars and star formation. This is a fascinating subject, as we are constantly discovering older and older stars, including one which had a nominal age older than that of the universe itself. But within the error bars of the estimate, it just fell within the estimated age of the universe, which is 13.8 billion years. 
For other interesting related news items see
    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.
2. Lidl binocs bargain: Lidl (N.I.) will be selling Bresser Compact 12x32 binocs for only £9.99 a pair from Thursday 19th. These are not ideal for astronomy, as they are only 32mm aperture, and the field of view is not large, but they are compact & a lot better than the naked eye alone! I haven't had a chance to check the quality yet, but from past experience with Bresser they are probably OK, if not really good. At that price they would do for projecting an image of the Sun during the upcoming eclipse - more on that in next bulletin.
3. Thanks to Sam Lyttle for donation: Sincere thanks from me and all in the IAA to Sam Lyttle for a very generous donation of telescopes and equipment to the IAA! We will do our vest to ensure that they are put to good use.
4. Mars One Final 100: One from Ireland
Congrats to Dr Stephen Roche from TCD who has made it through to the final 100 for this challenging mission. See Good Luck to him (although as I've already stated, I have my doubts about whether they're ready to go as soon as they plan!). See One is 60 NOW? There had better be Pensions benefits on Mars, because that's the age he'll be when he gets there!
5. See a VERY young Moon, Feb 19. On the evening of the 19th you can look for the wafer-thin crescent of a very young Moon. New Moon occurs on Feb 18 at 23.47. If you see the Moon next evening at around 18.00 it will be just over 18h old! You will need exceptionally clear sky right down to the SW - W horizon, and you'll only have a 'window' of about 10 minutes to see it before it gets too low and sets. It will appear just as a thin curved thread of light, and you'll probably not see the whole 180 degrees of the curve. Use binoculars to look for it (but ONLY after sunset!), but it only counts as a sighting if you can see it with the naked eye!
6. Jupiter. Jupiter was at opposition on Feb 6, appearing at its biggest and brightest for the year mag -2.6, diam = 45.3" (arcsecs)
20 Feb: 00h 34m 55s - 00h 43m 25s: Io eclipses Ganymede, mag drop 0m.84
22 Feb: 02h 04m 37s - 02h 11m 02s: Europa occults Io, mag drop 0m.57
22 Feb: 02h 41m 28s - 02h 48m 51s: Europa eclipses Io, mag drop 0m.90
24 Feb: 01h 42m 00s - 01h 47m 30s: Ganymede occults Io, mag drop 0m.57
7. Venus conjunction with Mars:  Venus is now very prominent in the SW evening twilight, and getting higher in the sky at any given level of twilight.
  Watch it close in on much fainter Mars over the next few days, leading to a very close conjunction on Feb 21 & 22, and they will also be joined by a lovely thin crescent Moon on the 20th and 21st - a great photo opportunity.
  On Feb 19 Venus will lie only 1.2 degrees below and right of ruddy Mars: watch that separation shrink to less than half a degree on the 21st & 22nd.
Close conjunction: Also, on the evening of the 21st Venus (mag -4.0) will lie just 2' S of star TYC 4663, mag 6.3. That's just about 1/15 of the diameter of the Moon! That difference of 10.3 magnitudes corresponds to a difference in brightness of over 10,000. Yet of course Venus has no light of its own, shining only by reflected sunlight; whereas the star is 50 times brighter than our Sun! The star appears fainter simply because it's 470 Light Years away, whereas Venus is only 212 million km away, or about 12 Light Minutes.
8. Light Pollution talks: Prof Brian Espey of TCD will be giving a talk on the problem of LP to the IAS on Monday 23rd Feb in Ely Place, Dublin. And see this for some latest research 
9.  Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015: Cdr Chris Hadfield will launch this event - by videolink!  
Theme: "New Worlds - New Horizons"
Dark sky observing, Friday evening, Brigit's Garden (if clear)
Excellent speaker line-up, including
Professor Michael Perryman (UCD) will talk about the GAIA mission,
Professor Susan McKenna Lawlor (NUIM) will look at the Rosetta Comet mission for which her team built an instrument for the Philae lander. See 
Damian Peach: superb planetary photographer
Dr Chris Watson, QUB, on Exoplanets
Eclipse chaser Daniel Lynch
Nick Howes, Kielder Observatory, observer and science writer
Dave Grennan, discoverer of 2 asteroids and 3 supernovae – from Dublin!
Brian McGabhann, Galway: Building an Observatory
+ good craic, dark sky observing, trade and book stands, raffle, more
Venue: Westwood Hotel, Galway
10. ISS The ISS continues its series of evening passes over Ireland until February 22. 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 
11. 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 Feb 24
Tickets are £35 each. Details of Belfast event are on Belfast event page

12. IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park

These very popular weekend observing sessions have recommenced, with the nights of Feb 20 & 21 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.…

13. Hands-On Digital with the BBC, 26 - 28 Feb. 10.00 - 19.00 each day. The BBC Blackstaff Studios, Gt Victoria St Belfast, are offering a free chance to experience the latest in Digital technology, including IAA Secretary Tony Kempston and his amazing Oculus Rift Virtual Tour of the Solar System and the rest of the universe. You HAVE to try this out! No tickets needed, but it will be First Come First served for each event.
More details at:
14. Open nights at Armagh Planetarium: Tuesday 24th Feb & Tuesday 24th March 2015
Suitability: Public – Over 6 years for Theatre Show
Times: open 7pm – 9pm. Beyond the Blue Digital Theatre Show 7.30pm
Cost: FREE
Booking: Phone on 028 3752 3689
Pre-Booking is essential as there is a limited number of tickets
15. IAA / QUB Solar day, Saturday 28 February.
IAA in conjunction with QUB. Free event.
11.30 – 16.00, in front of main building
Solar Observing, visual, H-alpha, Calcium
Live links to Solar satellites such as SOHO Talks in the Council Chamber in the main building. All members with solar telescopes, or a projection system, please bring them.
For everyone else - just turn up, no need to book.
16: BBC Stargazer Mark Thompson at Armagh Planetarium: Sat 28 Feb
Public – All Ages
Times: Presentations at 12:30pm and 3:00pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: FREE
Booking: Phone 028 3752 3689
Pre-Booking is essential as there is a limited number of tickets
   Sorry about the clash of these two events - I've only just learned of the latter. :-(
17. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event "Discovering the Sun and Stars at Armagh"
18. LARGE PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, 20 MARCH: The IAA is finalising plans for SAFE public viewing of this really major event, at various locations around N.I. It will occur in the morning, with maximum eclipse around 9.30 a.m. These will include the North Coast, QUB in Belfast, North Down, and others. More details in next bulletin. Details of the eclipse itself were given in the last issue of our magazine STARDUST; I'll be updating and expanding these in the next bulletin.
Request: Eclipse viewing in L'Derry (From Prof Mark Bailey, Armagh Observatory)
We are doing an outreach event at St Cecilia's College, Londonderry, timed to coincide with the partial eclipse of the Sun on Fri 20th morning; and then a performance of "aroundNorth" that evening in a nearby housing estate in the same part of Derry, from around 7pm to 9pm. I was wondering whether any IAA members might be able/willing to travel to the site (particularly in the evening) to provide telescope-viewing
opportunities that evening (if clear) to complement the aroundNorth event. We could provide some financial assistance through the provision of a small mileage payment at the usual rate of 45p per mile.

   If there are any IAA members in that area who would be prepared to help out with this event, please contact Prof Bailey directly at 
19. 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


20. 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
21. 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 19. 11:00 - 12:30. €10 each. Booking and pre-payment essential Details at


22. ARCHAEOASTRONOMY TRIP TO NEWGRANGE and KNOWTH, 9 May 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.

23. 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.

25: Interesting Weblinks: I'm sure that the FILES exist, but that doesn't mean that there were any real aliens! I have a file on ghost sightings, but that doesn't make ghosts real. (For the record, I don't think they are.) He's just making sure that he gets plenty of invitations to do radio & TV interviews after he retires...
26 TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
27. 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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