Saturday, 14 March 2015

ECLIPSE SPECIAL, QUB disovery, Rainbows & rockets, ISS, LOTS more

Hi all,
1: IAA LECTURE: Next IAA public lecture:  Mar 18, 7.30 p.m. by Paul Evans: "The Large Partial Solar Eclipse of March 20th".  Everything you need to know about the large partial solar eclipse on March 20.
* How and why it happens
* IAA public outreach locations: QUB;  Scrabo Tower car park, Newtownards;  Chaine Memorial Park, Larne;  Seafront car park, Portballintrae.
* Observing it yourself
* Imaging it
* Eye Safety
      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. QUB Astronomers discover fastest known star
3. Jupiter. Jupiter was at opposition in Feb, and is still appearing almost at its biggest and brightest for the year mag -2.6, diam = 45" (arcsecs).
Mar 16, 01.33 to 01.44: Europa will be occulted by Callisto, with a drop in combined brightness on 0m.8 magnitudes.
4. Venus Is now visible in a dark sky; a brilliant beacon in the West, and it becomes visible even in bright twilight if you look carefully. It's now mag -4.0, and significantly brighter than Jupiter's mag -2.5. Because the magnitude scale is a log scale, that means that Venus is actually 4 times as bright as Jupiter.
5. ISS The ISS has commenced another series of 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 


 BCO + CAC Telescope workshop, 16 March:

On March 16 from 18:00 – 20:00 we're hosting a Telescope Clinic and Planet Watch with the Cork Astronomy Club. Bring us your telescope and tell us your astronomy problems – no question will be too basic!  Cost for the Telescope Clinic is €10 per person and includes admission to Cosmos at the Castle for a virtual night sky tour in the planetarium.


7. Armagh Planetarium: "Rainbows and Rockets" St. Patrick's Day , Monday 16th & Tuesday 17th March. See for details.


8. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event "Discovering the Sun and Stars at Armagh" Tuesday 17th March 2015, 11.45 a.m. A Free Morning Public Lecture, with Afternoon Tour of Observatory Including the New Sound Installation "aroundNorth".
   The Armagh Observatory is providing a Free Public Lecture on the Sun and the 20th March Great Partial Eclipse by Dr Eamon Scullion; and in the afternoon starting at 2.30pm, a Free Public Tour of the main Observatory Building. These will include an explanation of the new multi-speaker sound installation "aroundNorth" by the award-winning composer Robert Jarvis.
9. LARGE PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE, 20 MARCH: The IAA is running public observing events for SAFE public viewing of this really major event, at the following locations: QUB in Belfast, in front of the Whitla Hall, main campus; Scrabo Tower car park, near Newtownards; the Chaine Memorial Park at Larne seafront; and the seafront car park at Portballintrae, Co Antrim.
On the morning of Friday 20 March, about two hours after sunrise, the Sun will start to disappear. the long awaited eclipse of the Sun. This will be the biggest solar eclipse in Ireland since 1999, and the biggest until 12 August 2026.
   Ireland and Scotland are the best places in these islands to see the eclipse, with NW Mayo and Donegal seeing the greatest eclipse in Ireland. It will reach 95.5% in NW Donegal, and almost 95% in L'derry. All of Ulster will see at least 93% eclipse, and nowhere in Ireland will experience less than 91%.
   The Moon will appear to move across the Sun from West to East, i.e. from right to left as we look at it.
   The Moon's shadow will sweep across Ireland from SW to NE. Thus -
The eclipse will begin between about 08.19 in SW Kerry, and at about 08.27 in NE Antrim.
Maximum eclipse will be between 09.22 in SW Kerry and 09.31 in the NE of the island.
It will end between 10.30 in the SW and 10.39 in the NE of the island.
  (It will be a total eclipse, where 100% of the Sun will be obscured, in the N Atlantic, but the only land crossed by the track of totality will be the Faroe Islands (where I will be) and the Svalbard Archipelago inside the Arctic Circle.)
   EYE SAFETY: It is VERY IMPORTANT that you do not look at the Sun during any stage of the eclipse with any sort of optical instrument such as binoculars or a telescope, and you should NOT look at it directly even with just your eyes. Even though a large part of the Sun will be covered, the part that remains will be just as bright, and it will damage your eye if you look at it directly.

DO NOT attempt to observe it with any type of Sunglasses, 3-D glasses, photographic filters, coloured plastic or a CD, or anything like that.


Unless you have proper CE certified eclipse viewers, or a No 14 Welder's glass, or a proper solar telescope or solar filter, there are only 4 ways to observe safely.

1. PROJECTION  Use one half of a pair of binoculars (cap one front lens, and use the other one), or a small telescope with your widest angle eyepiece, to project the image of the Sun through the instrument onto a white card about A4 size, held about 20-30 cm behind the eyepiece. Adjust the focus until the image is sharp. Do NOT attempt to look through the eyepiece, or even through any small finder telescope! And don't let bare skin on your hands get behind the eyepiece or you may get a sore skin burn.

   To aim the telescope at the Sun, point it towards it without looking through it, and then adjust it so that its shadow on the card appears smallest – it should then be pointing at the Sun. This will give you the most detailed image You'll have to adjust the instrument periodically as the Sun moves across the sky. You can photo this projected image.

2. MULTIPLE PINHOLES: You can get a lovely artistic effect using a vegetable colander or cook's spoon with multiple small round holes: Let the Sun shine through the holes onto a piece of white card about a foot or two behind it, and you'll see multiple images of the eclipse - a particularly beautiful effect near the maximum stages of the eclipse

3. CEREAL BOX VIEWER: Make your own solar eclipse viewer, using a large sound empty cereal box. Cut a piece of white card or white paper which will just fit neatly into the bottom of the box. Dab glue on the back of it to hold it on the bottom of the box. Cut a 2 to 4 cm square hole in the top flaps near a narrow side of the box. Tape a piece of aluminium kitchen foil completely over this hole. Using a thick needle or a small nail, punch a neat hole through the middle of the foil. Then cut another hole in the other side of the top of the box so you can look down into the bottom of the box.

   Then stand with your back to the Sun and allow it to shine through the pinhole onto the bottom of the box, as you look through the other opening, and you'll see a nice small but clear image of the eclipse taking place! If the image is too faint, enlarge the hole slightly.

   Get someone to hold the box and try to photograph the image of the eclipse.

4. REFLECTION IN WATER: Fill a dark bucket 4/5 full with water, shelter it from wind so there are no ripples, and look at the reflection of the Sun

   PUBLIC ECLIPSE VIEWING: the Irish Astronomical Association will run public viewing events using special safe solar telescopes and filters at the following locations, from about 8.20 a.m. (weather permitting!)

Belfast: Queen's University, in front of the Whitla Hall, University Road (in association with the ARC, Dept of Physics)

Larne: Chaine Memorial Park, seafront.

Newtownards: Scrabo Hill Car Park

Portballintrae: Seafront car park

  Full details of the eclipse for 62 towns and cities in Ireland, together with the islands and headlands where the greatest possible eclipse in Ireland can be seen, are given in the attached document

   More details about the eclipse, including any last minute updates, will be on the IAA website

DON'T BELIEVE ALL YOU READ IN THE PAPERS:  How can they get it so wrong!?
 In the graphic, the Moon is shown moving Left to Right instead of Right to Left.
 AND they show the eclipse as a TOTAL for England.
 As for their advice on eclipse glasses - how can you use them WITHOUT looking at the Sun??? Doh!!!"
    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 
10. Eclipse on Stargazing Live - look out for us!

20 March  BBC1  9am. -  10 am. 'Eclipse Live' a stargazing Special. Coverage of the Solar Eclipse in Britain and Faroe Islands with Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain

NB: The BBC team in the Faroes will be based with the group led by Kate Russo and myself. So look out for us!

   20 March  BBC2  9pm - 10pm. 'Stargazing Live' with Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain at Jodrell  Bank to share  exclusive images of the Solar Eclipse, plus other astronomical topics. 
11. Eclipse event at Armagh Observatory, 20 March:
Any IAA members in the area with solar observing equipment are invited to go to the Human Orrery at the Observatory early that morning (from 7.45 a.m) to share in showing the eclipse to members of the public.
12. IAS Eclipse Observing at Dunsink Observatory
Irish Astronomical Society (IAS) members and friends are invited to Dunsink Observatory on the morning of March 20th next to view the partial solar eclipse. Observing will take place from 8:30 am to 10:30 am.
Throughout the event we will have a number of solar telescopes available and we will also have eclipse shades for distribution to our members. For those arriving early, Dr.Colm Coughlan, at 7:45 am. will give a thirty minute talk entitled " What has the sun ever done for us ". Please note places for this talk are limited and booking is advisable and available on the Dunsink website. This event is free with parking on site.
13. Eclipse Viewing in Dublin: Public Viewing Event organised by Republic of Astronomy, Scopes and Space, and Dave Grennan.  This is a free event open to all.  It's at the Papal Cross Car Park in the Phoenix Park, Dublin starting at 8am. 
14. ECLIPSE VIEWING and Light Workshop at Blackrock Castle Observatory:
On March 20th we're hosting a free observing event to give members of the public a chance to safely view the partial solar eclipse using numerous solar stations which will be set-up in our lower carpark.
    Running parallel to the public viewing event we're are also running solar workshops for schools which includes safely viewing the partial eclipse at the solar stations, followed by a one hour curricular linked solar workshop, planetarium show and solar talks.
  Our in-house astronomer Frances McCarthy is available for interview if you have any questions.

  . 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


15. Spring Equinox: The Earth will cross the celestial equator Northwards on 20 March at 22.45, marking the start of Northern spring.


16. Open Night at Armagh Planetarium, Tuesday 24 March

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

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. Course on Newgrange at QUB, 28 March.
Dr Patrick McCafferty will be giving a 1-day course on Newgrange on Saturday 28 March from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm - as part of Queens University Belfast's Open Learning programme. It's called 'Solving the Mystery of Newgrange'. The course can be booked on-line:
20. Easter Events at Armagh Planetarium: Monday 30 March-Saturday 11 April *(Please note we are closed on Sundays and Friday 3rd April)
Times: 10am-5pm.
 Digital Theatre Shows playing at 11, 12, 1, 2, 3 & 4pm
Cost: Workshops are free*   *Normal Admission applies to Digital Theatre shows
For more information call us on 02837 523689 or
Pre-booking essential for Digital Theatre shows
21. IAA Observing Nights at Delamont Country Park

These very popular weekend observing sessions have recommenced, with the nights of April 10 - 11 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.…

22. IAA AGM. The IAA's AGM will be held on 15 April. Details were sent out with the last email bulletin.

23. COSMOS: April 17th to 19th 2015, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.

Speakers include - Professor John Zarnecki, Director, International Space Science Institute, Switzerland.
- Mr. Brian Harvey, Spaceflight Writer and Broadcaster.
- Mr. Nick Howes, Astronomer and Freelance Science Writer.
- Ms. Kate Russo, Author, Psychologist and Eclipse Chaser.
- Mr. Keith Geary, Astronomer and Astrophotographer.
- Mr. Steve Richards, Author, Astronomer and Astrophotographer.
- Ms. Deirdre Kelleghan, St. Cronan's Stargazers and Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies.
- Mr. Emmett Mordaunt, Midlands Astronomy Club.
   The programme also includes an all-inclusive trip on Sunday morning to Birr Castle and stand in the shadow of the Leviathan, once the world's largest telescope.


24. 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.

25. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member  Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea
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.
27. Aliens TV Programme: More 4 are doing a major alien night, Saturday 14th March, at 7pm. IAA member Miles Johnstone is featured in a documentary shot last year, from 9pm. (Sorry this is too late to catch it live, but you can try one of the various 'watch it later' options.
Is the human species slowly losing its collective marbles? It's not just one or two individuals, but a surprisingly and terrifying large number of people, who believe this arrant nonsense! How can anyone with enough intelligence to operate a computer or a smartphone actually believe this? That's a serious question, BTW. Not to mention Evolution deniers and Young Earth Creationists...
29. Interesting Weblinks:
30.  TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
31. 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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