Thursday, 18 June 2015

Fwd: Solarfest, Lectures, Conjunction, binocs, Events, Dark Sky Park, BBQ, MUCH more

Hi all,
1: SOLARFEST 2015: Fri 19 - Sat 20 Jun, Dunsink Observatory, Dublin.
Tickets for Solarfest can now be booked at the DIAS web site.
Full details at
You can book for the Public Open Night on Friday. A certain Mr Terry Moseley is the guest speaker: title: "Our Sun: Friend or Foe?"; and/or the main event on Saturday. Tea & coffee available throughout the day but bring sandwiches, etc for your lunch. It is about 10 mins drive to the Halfway House pub at the Ashtown roundabout on the Navan Road if you fancy something a bit more substantial during the lunch break. There will also be a Special Sunday event (all free ): Sun 21st June Rathbeggan Lake, Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
2. June 19: Lecture, TCD: Dublin's Science Gallery in TCD hosts a talk "At Home in the Universe" by Ariel Waldman which will explore how the idea of 'home' may change as humans continue to explore space, and to move further out into the universe. See
3. 8x60 Bresser Binocs at Lidl.
Lidl currently have these binocs on offer at £26.99, which is a good price for 60mm objectives. BUT - the magnification is only x8, which is rather low for 60mm lenses. That's because the exit pupil - the bundle of light rays emerging from the eyepiece - is 7.5mm diameter, which is larger than the diameter of the fully expanded pupils of your eyes. Thus not all the light gathered by the lenses can enter your eyes, so you lose the benefit of the extra diameter of the lenses.
(The exit pupil is given by lens diameter/magnification, and 60/8 = 7.5. And even for a young person, the average maximum pupil diameter is 7mm; once you get past 30yo, the max diameter decreases - at 50yo it averages about 5mm.)
The glass is given as BK7, which is not quite as good as BAK4, but for most purposes is fine.
But if you're adventurous with a hacksaw you could separate the lens barrels and then put in an old eyepiece which would give a mag of x10, x12 or x15 and get a fairly good high power monocular and/or extra powerful finder!
4. Saturn at its best: Glorious Saturn is just past opposition, and thus at its best for viewing for the year. It's fairly low in the sky from Ireland, and one of the disadvantages of Summer Time (combined with our longitude W of Greenwich), is that it doesn't get to its maximum altitude in the south until well after 01.00! But once you see those beautiful rings through a large telescope in good seeing, you'll admit that the wait is well worth it!
The rings are almost fully 'open' as seen from Earth, and that also means that the satellites orbit in marked ellipses, passing noticeably N & S of the planet at each orbit.
Full details are in the last issue of STARDUST.
5. Venus - Jupiter Conjunction: Watch the two brightest planets in the sky gradually come together this month until they have a close conjunction on June 30. They will also form a nice triangle with the crescent Moon on 20 June, each being about 5-6 degrees away from Jupiter. By 20 June the separation will be only 3 degrees, and by the 29th they will be only 45' apart. closest approach for us will be just before they set on the evening of the 30th when Venus will be just 21' below Jupiter - that's only 2/3 of a Moon diameter, so they can easily be seen in the same telescopic field of view. Before they get too low it should be possible to get an image showing both the phase of Venus, the disc of Jupiter, and its 4 Galilean Moons.
But unlike a statement in one astronomy society's report, they will NOT appear to merge! And as for this - - What an appalling headline!
Next evening they will be 30' apart, and the separation will continue to increase until Jupiter disappears in the twilight in mid-July.
Send your photos in to the IAA website
6. NLC Season: NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: Some reasonable displays have been seen in NI already. Look low in the North around your local midnight, +/- 1 hour.
7. June 21: Cork Midsummer Festival at the Blackrock Castle Observatory ... more details of a special event to mark the mid-summer sunrise can be found at
8. RIA McCREA LECTURE, 25 June: by Prof Monica Grady, CBE:
Booking is now open for the forthcoming McCrea Lecture, Are Comets the Giver and Taker of Life? by Professor Monica Grady. The lecture will take place on Thursday 25 June at 6.30pm in Academy House, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. Online booking is essential as places are limited. Full price €5, Student/retired €3 for more details and booking please click here .
Professor of Planetary and Space Science at the Open University, Monica Grady was part of the science team at mission control when the landing of the Rosetta space probe occurred. In her talk she will introduce the topic of comets and explain why some people think they may have led to life on Earth and possibly its destruction through mass extinctions. She will also give a personal account of the Rosetta Mission, her involvement in it, and report on some of its latest results.
And as the Philae Lander has now come back to life, there will be much added interest in this subject! See, and if you missed it.
Monica Grady, was formerly the meteorite expert at the Natural History Museum. I was honoured when she gave me a personal tour of their collection, including allowing me to handle the famous Allen Hills Martian meteorite - in my bare hands!

An excellent podcast exploring Rosetta's results to date can be found at

Booking is now open ; see
NB: I have two spare tickets for this lecture, courtesy of the RIA, which I'll give away free to the first email bidder(s)
9. NEW! Monica Grady to give the lecture in QUB, Belfast, on the following evening. "Are Comets the Givers and Takers of Life?"
Friday 26th June, 7pm in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Queen's University Belfast
There is no attendance fee for this presentation, but as we expect this talk to be very popular we are requesting that all people who will attend to register at the following website:
10. Lough Gur Dark Sky Park, Co Limerick. Well done to Frank Ryan Jr, Albert White, and members of Shannonside Astronomy Club, together with Kate Harrold and staff at the heritage centre for driving the proposal to declare a new Dark Sky Park in Ireland. Apollo 15 Command Module pilot Al Worden officially launched the Initiative on June 8th. Lough Gur Centre will hold a Summer Solstice Festival: See more details about the Centre and the event at


11. 26 June: Launch of Falcon 9 (Space X CRS 7) to International Space Station. The latest resupply mission for the International Space Station (ISS) is scheduled for 26 June, when a Dragon cargo spacecraft will launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission, run by the SpaceX corporation, will deliver an adaptor to enable future spacecraft to dock more easily with the Station. After a number of launch failures, many Russian rockets are grounded, so the SpaceX system is an important route for supplies to reach the ISS and its crew.

12. IAA SUMMER BBQ, Sat 27 June, Armagh Observatory
Thanks to the Director, Prof Mark Bailey, and to Dr David Asher and Dr Tolis Christou who will be hosting us. Admission is free to all IAA members and guests: You bring your own food, drinks, eating utensils, plates cup, etc, and we provide the cooking facilities.
* Solar observing if the sky is clear.
* Tour of the historic Observatory
* Tour of the astropark and Hill of Infinity
* Try your hand at the amazing Human Orrery.
* We will have Bob Campbell and his amazing rocket-launching machine! - Many thanks to Bob (and Sean McKenna and Seanie Morris who'll be helping him)
* Special unique prize: I was delighted and amazed at Bob's special event last Saturday when he made a unique prize for the best rocket at this competition! He built his own furnace, crucible, and mould to melt and cast a solid aluminium display rocket as the prize. This is a unique item, specially made for the event, and well worth the effort.
Can anyone beat Alison Simms's amazing rocket which won the distance competition last year?
Provisional times: 14.00 -17.30.
More details in the next bulletin.
13. International Asteroid Day, 30 June. Asteroid Day is a global awareness movement where people from around the world come together to learn about asteroids and what we can do to protect our planet, our families, communities, and future generations. Asteroid Day will be held on the anniversary of the 1908 Siberian Tunguska event, the largest asteroid impact on Earth in recent history. See The second illustration makes the usual mistake - an asteroid does not 'trail flames and fire' while it is still out in space - that happens only when it enters the denser part of the Earth's atmosphere

14. Support Ireland's bid to join ESO
Ireland must get Government support to bid to join the European Southern Observatory so that Irish researchers will have access to large optical telescopes again.
Sign the petition now to show your support!
15. BCO Space Camp and Junior Space Camp: Bookings for these very popular events is now open. See

16. Science Foundation Ireland: The latest SFI Open Call for funding proposals is looking for submissions on engaging the Irish public with science. The deadline is July 28th and you can read more about applying at

17. Lights out for LightSail This technique is of little use within our solar system, as it's 'one-way only' - there's no way to stop, or even slow down, once you reach, say Jupiter, or Neptune. And the acceleration is so slow that it would take ages to get there. But at least as you move out, the pull of the Sun's gravity lessens by the inverse square ratio of the distance.

But if you want to send an unmanned probe to other stars or planetary systems, it has some slight potential. Say you want to travel to the nearest sun-like star, Alpha Centauri, 4.3 LY away. The actual acceleration the spacecraft will get from sunlight depends on the mass of the spacecraft, and the size of the sail, but it is basically VERY slow. But it gradually builds up, and the fuel is free. However, as you move further away from the Sun, the solar radiation also falls off as the inverse square of the distance. So by the time it gets to Neptune's orbit, the pressure of sunlight is only 1/900 of that at Earth! You would need a HUGE sail to get any propulsion at all. By the time it gets to a distance of 100 AU (say the edge of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, it's only 1/10,000 of the energy here. And after that, the energy available is negligible.

The maximum speed achieved will again depend on the size of the sail and the total mass of the craft, and that will be roughly halfway along the journey. But there's an additional problem - as you approach the halfway mark, not only is the energy from the Sun decreasing, the energy in the opposite direction from Alpha Centauri is increasing! At halfway, they balance out in opposite directions!
After that, what happens depends on the type of mission. If you want to get to your goal as fast as possible, you would have to turn the sail edge on to Alpha C and continue coasting at whatever maximum speed you had achieved. As you got closer to Alpha C, its gravitational pull would speed up the craft, just as a comet speeds up as it approaches the Sun. That would give you a very fast flyby of the star and any planets it might have.
But if you wanted to slow down and go into orbit around Alpha C, you would keep the sail facing Alpha C, and you would experience a very slow deceleration: remember that although the decelerating effect of Alpha C's light increases as you get closer to it, its gravitational pull also increases pro rata! So the rate of slowing as you get closer is marginal.
In either scenario, the total minimum journey time would be measured in multiple centuries, perhaps around a millennium in the second case. Would any equipment on board still be functioning? Would anyone back on Earth still be listening for the signals (with a 4-year time delay once it gets near Alpha C)? Would a new, more powerful, energy source have been developed, so that a faster rocket would overtake the LightSail long before it got to its goal?
And it's totally impractical for manned missions, as the total weight of a manned craft with its crew, all its provisions, shielding against radiation, etc would be so great that you'd need a sail about 50km in diameter! And the crew would have to be in hibernation for most of the journey.
The 'fuel' may be free, but it's not the panacea it's sometimes made out to be.

18. July 13 - 15: UK Space Conference, Liverpool. The UK Space Conference 2015 will take place from 13-15 July, at the Arena and Convention Centre in Liverpool. Expected to attract more than 800 delegates, the biennial conference will have the theme of 'Space Enabled Futures'. Sessions will take place on a range of topics including space, society and culture; space and the surveillance society; opportunities for business; earth observation; spaceports and spaceplanes, and space and life and biomedical sciences. See

19. Belfast Space Camp, 27 July:
Great to see one of our third level vocational colleges getting involved in the 'space' theme and offering this program. Attendees will be able to use this course and outputs as part of their accreditation for the Space Science Technology qualification in NI. We will also use the Camp to promote World Space Week and the Principia mission. Go to to find out more and register online.

Cosmic Light EDU kit

A. The Cosmic Light EDU kit has been launched! The main goal for this project is to involve schools around the globe in awareness campaigns for light pollution and to discover the nature of light. The project has assembled an educational kit, with simple resources and activities to support teachers. There are many and varied networks involved in this project so participants can benefit from many opportunities for a rich cultural interchange. The project aims to target diverse social and cultural audiences, and there is a special component designed for children with visual impairment incorporated in the kit to promote inclusivity. The kit will have printable materials, several digital tools and resources and training efforts will be implemented in order to empower teachers to make full use of the kit The campaign will reach teachers and students in 100 countries around the world.

Take a closer look at all the resources featured in the Comic Light EDU kit here:

B. Cosmic Light IYL2015: Dark Sky Meter app

The IAU Cosmic Light programme has just released the Dark Sky Meter (DSM) app for iPhones free of charge! All you have to do is point your phone at the night sky, and it measures the night sky brightness for you. Then, you can use the IYL DSM app to submit your measurement easily. All measurements will be entered into the Globe at Night database and be used by researchers.

The DSM IYL2015 app is already available for free on iTunes:

21. NASA WANTS YOU TO NAME FEATURES ON PLUTO When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto on 14 July, the spacecraft's high-resolution cameras will spot many new landforms on the dwarf planet's unexplored surface. They are all going to need names—and NASA wants you to help. FULL STORY:
22. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea
23. Sad death of Mary Mulvihill: Following the untimely recent death of Dr Ian Elliott who worked at Dunsink Observatory for many years, it was another blow to lose one of Irelands great popularisers of local science and scientists (particularly many unsung women scientists), Mary Mulvihill. Her book "Ingenious Ireland" is not just worth a read - it's an invaluable reference tool. Mary gave an excellent presentation at the COSMOS event in Athlone in April. Condolences to her partner Brian, and the family at this time.
Festival of Curiosity: Dublin once again plays host this July to the annual Festival of Curiosity. The event program has not been announced yet but you can subscribe to the Festival's newsletter at the link above to learn about what is planned. Dublin Maker will take place on Saturday, June 25th in a tented village in the grounds of TCD. See for more details.
SKELLIGS Star Party: 14-16 August, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry. This is a Gold Medal winning Dark Sky site. see A great programme, with interesting speakers.

25. Interesting Weblinks
(now arranged by subject matter):
New theory on Black Holes:
NIGHT SKY (there was a slight camera movement between some exposures, which is why the stars appear doubled. But still, a very good image!) It's not all that rare (I've seen scores), but this is a very good example. Note that the sky between the two bows is darker than the area inside or outside the bows. Why? - think about it....
Canals on Pluto? The latest New Horizons images show more intriguing features on the distant world. See
DAWN's Video: the spacecraft which is currently orbiting Ceres has imaged a flyover movie: and It looks like a smaller version of Mercury.
One serious error in the second illustration of the base - the shadows on the Moon are almost totally black (since there's no atmosphere), so you wouldn't see any detail in the shadowed area (as shown correctly in the first image). Also, the angle of the shadows doesn't match the angle of illumination of the Earth in the background
But NONE which look like the starship Enterprise! Nor indeed, the Millennium Falcon.... Nor anything which looks like what an alien spaceship would probably look like!
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 you. You 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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