Saturday, 14 February 2015

Lecture, QUB builds world's largest Solar Tel, Jupiter Venus & Moon, Many talks

Hi all,
1: IAA LECTURE: 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.
   And local company Andor Technology in West Belfast will be involved in designing and building the instrumentation. Mihalis gave us a hint of a major development in the offing when he gave a fascinating presentation at the IAA's visit to Andor Technology last year - now we know what he was referring to!
      Armagh Observatory is also a member of the UK consortium. Congratulations to Mihalis and the rest of the QUB team, and also of course to Armagh Observatory and Andor.
2. QUB building World's largest Solar Telescope!
Prof Mihalis Mathioudakis of the ARC at QUB heads the QUB team which is leading the UK consortium involved in building what will be by far the largest Solar Telescope in the world. The telescope will have a mirror 4 METRES in diameter, and will be located on a mountain top in Hawaii.
3. Jupiter, Venus, conjunction, and Moon.  Jupiter was at opposition on Feb 6, appearing at its biggest and brightest for the year mag -2.6, diam = 45.3" (arcsecs)
MUTUAL SATELLITE EVENT: Feb 14-15 Io will be eclipsed by the shadow of Europa: 00.20 - 00,27, Mag drop 0.8.
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 week, 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.
  On Feb 15 Venus will lie 3 degrees below and right of ruddy Mars: watch that separation shrink to less than half a degree on the 21st & 22nd.
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!
  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 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.
4. Light Pollution talks: Prof Brian Espey of TCD will be giving talks on the problem of LP in Castlebar GMIT on Monday 16th Feb, and a talk to the IAS on Monday 23rd Feb in Ely Place. And see this for some latest research 
5.  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
6. 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 
Valentine's ISS: Impress your 'significant other' with one or both of two lovely brilliant 'stars' moving across the sky: It will make two very good passes over Ireland this evening, at approx 18.05 & 19.40, but you'll need to check Heavens Above for exact times for your location. You could try saying that you've laid on the show just for your lover, but don't blame me if they tell you to 'Catch yourself on'!
7. 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

8. 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.…

9. 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:
10. 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
11. 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 solartelescopes, or a projection system, please bring them.
For everyone else - just turn up, no need to book.
12: 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. :-(
13. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event "Discovering the Sun and Stars at Armagh"
14. 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


15. 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
16. 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

17. MARS ONE PROJECT - Doubts and comments:
   I also think that the MARS ONE project is not ready to go ahead yet.
   But there are lots of other options which the MIT team which did the study don't seem to have considered.
   For example, rather than using LEDS and a heavy power source to provide extra lighting for growing vegetables, you can selectively breed ones that require less light. Any gardener knows that there are plants which will grow in relatively dark places!
   Also, if you need it, you can provide lots of extra sunlight by using large lightweight mirrors, e.g. with something like aluminised foil stretched over a light framework. (Although they might be vulnerable to dust devils!) 
   And solar panels, which are becoming ever more efficient, could power lots of LEDs. There is very little cloud on Mars, so there's more or less constant sunlight for half of every day. And with a very thin atmosphere, there's practically no absorption, so the Sun is almost equally bright all the time it's above the horizon: if you can angle the receptors towards it throughout the day, they will work at almost peak efficiency almost all the time. 
   Or a medium sized radio-isotope generator would provide plenty of power for decades. So it's doable - but not just yet!
Also see:
I've no idea of the chemical engineering involved, but one way to use the excess oxygen is to combine it with hydrogen to make water, which they will need in considerable quantities. Could it be sent from Earth in liquid form - possibly being used as radiation shielding in the process? And the temperature in space should be sufficient to stop it boiling back into gas on the journey.
See also A crass and puerile article on a serious subject.

18. 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.

19. 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.

21: Interesting Weblinks: (What civilisation? - ISIS, Ukraine, Middle East, Boko Harum, corruption, drugs killing gangs, huge wealth inequality, abuse of women, child sexual abuse, FGM, gender discrimination, religious intolerance, etc. By what standards are we 'civilised'? Perhaps if they ever do come here, it will be to civilise us!)
The ultimate Storm in a Teacup! Supermassive Black hole is producing a 'storm' in the 'Teacup' galaxy! (Sorry, I couldn't resist that one!)
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

1 comment:

Blogger said...

There is a chance you're qualified for a new government solar energy program.
Find out if you're qualified now!