Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Lecture, Amazing comet photo!!! TV, Jupiter's Moon Dance, Venus, Spock, more..

Hi all,
1:  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.
2. The most amazing comet photo ever!
Stunningly incredible capture showing fabulous detail.
    Here's a 50mb version uncompressed and raw for unprecedented detail!
Thanks to Colin Morrison for the alert.
3. TV: HORIZON "Secrets of the Solar System"    3 March, 9 pm. BBC2. 
This will feature QUB astronomer Dr Chris Watson, who has given some excellent lectures to the IAA.
4. 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).
  Jupiter's Moon dances: Some notable satellite events visible from Ireland:
4 March: Moons in order: From about 19.30 to 21.00: The moons will lie West of Jupiter, in order: 1,2,3,4: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
5 March: Only 2 Moons? At about 21.30 a quick glance will show only 2 moons, as Io will be in transit and Ganymede and Callisto are so close together that without high power they will appear as one.
6 March: Only ONE moon! From 18.10 to 18.49 only one Moon, Europa, will be visible, as Io, Ganymede and Callisto are all in occultation or eclipse. The other moons reappear as follows: 18.49: Ganymede reappears from eclipse; 21.08: Io reappears from eclipse. 21.25: Callisto reappears from occultation. Then -
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.
5. Venus Is now rising higher in the evening twilight each day, and is now 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. 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). But we need a better name than 'Anti-SuperMoon'. How about 'Mini-Moon'?
7. 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:
Mystery bright spots on Ceres. 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.
   Anyone want to bet on what it is?  Prof Alan Fitzsimmons at QUB hopes they are fresh impact plumes....
See also I'm surprised that the UFOlogists haven't claimed evidence of an alien signal on Ceres! Look at the huge shallow crater near the bottom of the left hand image of the pair shown together. Note the central crater in that one, flanked by 4 others within the big crater, making a cross shape centred on the central crater. Obviously an alien version of a Pentangle... (Joking, of course!)
8. 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 

9. 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.…

10. Farewell, Spock:
The sad death of actor Leonard Nimoy, best known as the ultra-logical Human/Vulcan Spock in Star Trek was announced just as I was issuing the last bulletin, with no time to comment. He was first cast in that role in 1966, predating the Apollo moon landings, so next year would be the 50th anniversary of that character.
   Of course, he was only an actor, and a lot of credit must also go to the writers and directors of the programmes and films. But what we can learn most from Spock is to cast aside silly superstitious and irrational beliefs, and accept what logic and scientific deduction and experiment reveals. Otherwise we end up with things like Young Earth Creationism, and even a Muslim cleric maintaining that the Sun orbits the Earth! See 
Live Long And Prosper.
11. 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
12. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event "Discovering the Sun and Stars at Armagh"
13. 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 Portballintrae, Co Antrim; QUB in Belfast, Scrabo Tower car park, near Newtownards, and the Chaine Memorial Park at Larne seafront. 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 
14. 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

15. 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)


16. 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

17. 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.

18. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member  Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea
19. IAA members invited to Spotlight Special.
BBC Northern Ireland's flagship current affairs programme, "Spotlight" will be recording an audience special, presented by Noel Thompson, in Blackstaff Studios, Great Victoria Street, Belfast on Tuesday March 24th.
  The style of the programme is a Question & Answer format to a panel including politicians and commentators and we are looking for people of all ages who want to take part in the programme. We aim to feature a fair number of audience contributions - in the form of questions and comments - during the hour long programme.
   It's a busy night for the audience: people should arrive promptly between 6:30 and 6:45pm - this gives people time to submit questions, catch up on the day's events and have a cup of tea, before going into the studio and recording the programme between 8.15 & 9.30pm.  'Spotlight Special' broadcasts the same night at 10.35 on BBC1.
   Audience participation is at the heart of a successful programme and we would like to encourage people in your organisation who have something to say, are opinionated, are interested in the news and local affairs.
   If you would like more details about the programme, please e-mail or ring 0845 300 30 80 or 07864910147.
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: UFO SIGHTINGS Daily - the comedy section:
(UFO sightings daily - the best comedy site on the Internet!)
22. 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
23. Interesting Weblinks: Is this a good idea? What if they're like ISIL? Or indeed what the colonising Europeans were like several hundred years ago in Africa and the Americas? If you could go back in time and ask the native Americans such as Chief Sitting Bull, or his equivalents in South America, you might think twice about it. The caption to the 4th image is wrong - they would NOT see it as a central face-on spiral, but a bit more like the angle at which we see M81, although a lot closer.
Global warming disproved by snowball... ? And this guy is chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee!  Still, we have our own equivalents at Stormont!
24 TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
25. 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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