Saturday, 28 February 2015

SunWatch at QUB, Stargazer, IAA Lecture, BBC, Ceres, Venus, Jupiter, more...

Hi all,
1:  IAA / QUB Sun Watch, Saturday 28 February.
This event is part of N.I. Science Festival.
   The Irish Astronomical Association in conjunction with QUB Astrophysics Research Centre will present a 'See Our Sun Safely!' event called "Sunwatch" in the main campus at Queen's University tomorrow.
   This is a free event.  It will run from 11.30 – 16.00, in front of the main Lanyon building, facing onto University Road.
   We will have a selection of special solar telescopes to allow safe observing, weather permitting, of our nearest star in visual light, and also in special wavelengths of light not normally visible to the eye such as Hydrogen-alpha, and Calcium.
   These will allow viewing of huge sunspots, and gigantic prominences which are massive eruptions of superheated gas from the Sun's surface. Some of these may eventually collide with the Earth, causing the beautiful aurorae, or Northern Lights.
   There will also be live links to Solar satellites such as SOHO, so there will be something to see in real time even if it's cloudy.
  There will also be free public lectures on the Sun in the Council Chamber room 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.
2: 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 - can't be helped.
3. IAA LECTURE: Next IAA public lecture:  Mar 4, 7.30 p.m. by Dr John Mason: "Mysteries of the aurora". John is giving this lecture as a special tribute to his great friend, the late Sir Patrick Moore, whose birthday was 4 March.
  We are delighted to have John back again to give another of his excellent lectures. Dr John Mason, FRAS, Writer, Broadcaster, Astro trip Leader, is a former President of the British Astronomical Association, and a full member of the International Astronomical Union. He has given us many lectures over the years, all of them superb! And he knows 'everything about everything' in astronomy.

   Next to a TSE, a good aurora is probably the most spectacular sight in the sky. They have been recorded since antiquity, and they are only about 50 miles above out heads, yet there's a lot we don't know about them. As well as some lovely pics, John will be telling us all about them, and what we still don't know.

     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.
4. 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:
5. Venus Is now rising higher in the evening twilight each day, and will soon be visible in a dark sky. It's above much fainter Mars and slowly moving away from it, and closer to Uranus, which it will pass very closely on the evening of 4 March, at a distance of just over 5 arcmins (1/6 moon diameter) to the upper right of it. Uranus will be about 6th mag, needing binoculars or a telescope to see it. The magnitude difference will be a staggering factor of 10,000!
6. TV: HORIZON "Secrets of the Solar System"    3 March, 9 pm. BBC2. Thanks to Peter Paice for the alert.
7. Anti-SuperMoon! After all the recent hype about Supermoons, you might want to note that the Full Moon on 5 March at 18h 05m will be the most distant, and therefore the smallest in apparent size, for this year. It will rise shortly afterwards at about 19.05, and will then lie at a distance of 406,321 km, and have an apparent diameter of only 29' 28" (both topographic, from Belfast, for the purists)
8. March 6: Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres
  The NASA-led Dawn spacecraft will arrive at the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It will initially enter a polar orbit, 13,500 km above the surface of this mysterious icy world. Over the following eight months a series of rocket burns will move the probe into an orbit just 375 km above the surface, enabling close up imaging, measurement of the gravitational field (giving insights into the interior of Ceres) and allowing analysis of the composition of its surface.
   Dawn was launched in 2007, and used ion propulsion for a flyby of Mars in 2009, and a successful 14 months in orbit around the asteroid Vesta. It will be the first spacecraft to visit a dwarf planet. The mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, with components supplied from the Netherlands, Italy and Germany.
   By then I hope we'll know the answer to this mystery: Really odd! And the brightest one is right in the middle of a large crater. Even odder is the Sun - reflector - spacecraft angle - it seems as if the reflecting surface must be at an angle of about 45 degrees to the horizontal - very steep for a natural object of that size. And if it's at a lesser angle, it means that the reflectivity must be exceptionally high.
9. Jupiter. Jupiter was at opposition on Feb 6, and is still appearing almost at its biggest and brightest for the year mag -2.6, diam = 45" (arcsecs).
   Some notable satellite events visible from Ireland:
28 Feb, 19.31 - 22.22: Shadow of Europa transits (crosses) the disc of the planet.
2-3 Mar: Ganymede transits the disc from 22.47 to 02.24
   "         Ganymede's shadow transits from 01.05 to 04.41
6-7 March: Callisto is eclipsed in Jupiter's shadow from 22.54 to 03.45. This event will happen on the E side of the planet, since Callisto orbits so far from Jupiter that the planet's shadow is offset completely to one side of the planet at the distance at which Callisto orbits. Imagine the shadow as a slightly tapering cone extending off into the distance behind Jupiter at an angle to the left (because the Sun lies to the right), and then picture Callisto passing through it.
   MUTUAL JOVIAN SATELLITE EVENTS: Next ones on Mar 11 and 16 - more details later.
10. ISS The ISS will commence another series or morning passes over Ireland on 13 March. 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.  Galway Astrofest:
This was another very successful event - well done to Ronan Newman & all in GAC.

12. IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park

These very popular weekend observing sessions have recommenced, with the nights of Mar 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.…

13. Open night at Armagh Planetarium: 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
14. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event "Discovering the Sun and Stars at Armagh"
15. 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 
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 19. 11:00 - 12:30. €10 each. Booking and prepayment essential Details at

17. 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

And from Peter Paice: See also: Information re ND filters. There is a good site to visit .There are ND 1000 filters shown; prices £20 - £35 depending on diameter. These filters look like the polyester type.  (I think that you would need several of these filters stacked to give safe imaging of the Sun, but I haven't tried them, and you try them at your own risk! TM)


18. 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

19. 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.

20. 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.

22: UFO SIGHTINGS Daily - the comedy section:
Hey! - So THAT'S where that book of mine on the early abstract painters has got to! I always thought that the guy I lent it to looked a bit odd....
(UFO sightings daily - the best comedy site on the Internet!)
23. New Online part-time, online Postgraduate Diploma in Astronomy from the University of York. 
The programme is taught wholly online, for maximum flexibility of learning, with optional residential weekends in York for the opportunity to meet your fellow students and staff, engage in discussion and share your knowledge of astronomy. 
   This programme will offer home astronomers, who may have graduated in subjects other than physics, the opportunity to gain a formal postgraduate qualification in Astronomy and Astrophysics, and is designed to give students a robust and up-to-date background in these areas. Over the course of two years, we will explore the solar system, stellar physics, infra-red, radio and high energy astronomy, as well as discussing the foundations of cosmology.
Address: Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of York, Heslington, York, North Yorkshire YO10 5DD, United Kingdom
24. Interesting Weblinks:
Major Breaking News - The Simpsons is set in the S. Hemisphere!  Or, of course, it was a VERY LATE dinner, after midnight, and thus it's the waning crescent, rising in the East, in which case it's correct.
But on balance, I'd have to agree with Phil - if it's early evening, as would almost certainly be the case, then it's wrong. You would be surprised how often that error occurs in films, TV, magazine articles, cartoons etc. The headline says that it's 12 BILLION times larger than the Sun, whereas the text says it's 12 MILLION times larger. I think that the latter is correct. BTW, the name "SDSS" stands for Sloan Digital Sky Survey.  What on Earth (!) is Buzz wearing? Two watches, a bracelet of some sort of crystals?, another item of a silvery metal which might be a bracelet, and a red plastic band. Not to mention 5 rings! Functional, ornamental, medicinal, identification, or what?
  As for 'No Return' missions to Mars - sure, it would cost a heck of a lot to design and build a mission to bring the crew back, but it would also cost an awful lot to build a base there capable of supporting at least 3 humans indefinitely. However, there's also the scenario that an attempted return flight might fail, either leaving the crew stranded there, or killing them if it crashed during the take off. Take your pick of the greatest risk & cost! Still, no one is under any illusion that any manned mission to Mars will be low-risk!
Does Dark Matter cause extinctions & geological upheavals?   If this argument is correct, then presumably dark matter particles would also accumulate in the Sun, and the Moon, and all the other planets in the solar system. So Solar activity would also increase, and just to take one other example, so would the temperature on Mars, with effects on the water/ice on the planet.
   But this thesis implies that the dark matter must be concentrated only in the very central plane of the galaxy, i.e. within a very narrow disc. And presumably so also for all other spiral galaxies. But how then would it be distributed in Irregular and Elliptical and Spherical galaxies? And what about globular clusters, especially large ones? The orbital motions of the stars in globular clusters would reflect all that extra mass, but as far as I know, they don't....
This has always been the general idea, but I've always been puzzled by the idea that originally the universe contained 20 billion times more matter than it does today (it takes 10bn +1 M particles and 10bn A-M particles to end up with 1 M particle!). And all that in a singularity....
    And the mutual annihilation of 20 billion times the current mass of the universe into pure energy would have produced an incomprehensible amount of energy - so much that it's not even worth writing down the figure!  
   Well, Ok then - each kg of matter annihilating 1 kg of antimatter produces as much energy as the largest H-bomb ever tested - about 50MT (mega tons). As the universe now contains about 10 to power 53kg, the total energy produced would be equivalent to 5x10 to the power 54 MT of explosive. That's 50000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 MT. But the original mass was 20 billion times greater than that! And I'm NOT going to type out all the zeroes for that figure!
Where's that energy now? - the CMBR, we think.
New insight into Black Hole collisions Is there something missing here?
Quote: "The energy lost to gravitational waves causes the black holes to spiral closer and closer together until they merge, which is the most energetic event in the universe," he said. "That energy, rather than going out as visible light, which is easy to see, goes out as gravitational waves, which are very weak and much more difficult to detect."
   If these are the most energetic events in the universe, surely they cannot emit ONLY gravitational waves "which are very weak"? Very weak waves cannot carry away a huge amount of energy. So there must be some other means of transferring all that energy.
MUSE reaches further than HUBBLE Amazing! I thought it would be a long time before anything beat the Hubble Deep (or Ultra-Deep) Field. BTW, "MUSE" stands for MUlti-object Spectroscopic Explorer
25 TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
26. 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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