Sunday, 7 June 2015

Venus, Jupiter, ISS, Saturn, Lectures, Solarfest, NLCs, BBQ, Congrats +MUCH more

Hi all,

 1: Venus at its best: Venus buzzes by the beautiful Beehive star cluster on the evening of 13 June. It will skim the N edge of the cluster, but will be so much brighter that it will overpower all but the brightest stars in the cluster.
2. 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 report, they will NOT appear to merge! 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
3. ISS: The ISS continues its evening (and into the hour or so past midnight) passes over Ireland until June 13. See the free site for all the details of this, other satellites, Iridium flares, and lots more astronomy & space info.
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. Lecture; June 7, Townley Hall, Louth: Prof Mark Bailey: one of the speakers at the School of Practical Philosophy's open day will be Prof Mark Bailey, Director of Armagh Observatory. See where you can download a pdf brochure of all the planned lectures. All are welcome to a symposium exploring the architectural and social history of Townley Hall. Mark's talk about Archbishop Robinson & the Observatory will be at 10.50 a.m. The evnt starts at 09.30.
6. 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
7. SOLARFEST 2015: Fri 19 - Sat 20 Jun, Dunsink Observatory, Dublin.
Tickets for Solarfest can now be booked at the DIAS web site.
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.
8. 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
9. RIA McCREA LECTURE, 25 June: Don't miss the RIA McCrea lecture by Prof Monica Grady, the meteorite expert from the Natural History Museum, now at OU. 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!

Synopsis: In November 2014 the European Space Agency landed a probe on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. As a member of the science team, Professor Monica Grady was at mission control when the landing 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 with it, and discusses some of the latest results from Rosetta.

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

Booking is now open ; see
10. NLC Season starts: NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: NASA's AIM spacecraft has spotted a luminous patch of electric-blue drifting across the Arctic Circle. The sighting marks the beginning of the 2015 season for northern-hemisphere noctilucent clouds (NLCs). Long ago, NLCs were a polar phenomenon confined mainly to the Arctic. In recent years, however, they have intensified and spread, with sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado. Learn more about these exotic clouds and how you might see them this summer on today's edition of
11. New Online Astronomy Magazine: First Light:
12. 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.
13. 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.
We also hope to have Bob Campbell and his amazing rocket-launching machine! Can anyone beat Alison Simms's amazing rocket which won the distance/height competition last year?
Provisional times: 14.00 -17.30.
More details in the next bulletin.
14. 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.

15. Congrats to two local amateurs:
(1) Mike Foylan lives near Trim, Co. Meath and uses a 25cm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope at his Cherryvalley Observatory (IAU code I83) to carry out a program of minor planet astrometry. During a recent observing run, Mike found a faint mag +14.5 eclipsing binary star never before noted. It lies in Ophiuchus and flickers by half a magnitude over a period of two to four hours.
(2) Eamon Ansbro, who has an amazing self-built observatory in Co Roscommon, was recently awarded a research degree from the Planetary Space Science Research Institute at the Open University. The work made a significant contribution to Solar System studies as Eamon carried out a survey at high-ecliptic latitudes on minor planets in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. The survey took place over a period of ten years and led to the finding of 43 suspect objects outside the boundaries of our solar system.
16. 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!
17. BCO Space Camp and Junior Space Camp: Bookings for these very popular events is now open. See

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
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.
AI 'Star-B-Q': 15 August, An Tochar GAA Grounds, Roundwood, Co. Wicklow.
24. Interesting Weblinks (now arranged by subject matter):
ALMA spots flare on Mira
Supernovae outside galaxies and
The very first stars;
merging supermassive black holes:
Champagne flow in nebula:
Mimicking Gamma Ray Bursts
Monitoring massive stars' magnetospheres
Supernovae help clean galaxies
Scattering may illuminate universe's birth This is not the same as saying that the universe "does not exist" until we look at it. If that was so, we could have never got here in the first place. poor protons! - what did they do to deserve that?
Theory of Everything - check out quantum entanglement:
Which exoplanets are habitable?
Aliens - where are they?
Origin of life on earth
NIGHT SKY This isn't quite accurate: it's not just as simple as enlarging the images. For example, M31 (Andromeda Galaxy) is 220,000LY across. So if its centre was 200,000 LY away, the near edge would be only about 90,000 LY away, whereas the far edge would be about 310,000 LY away: that would give us a totally different view!
Microbes could live on Mars
Alice's discovery on comet and - But local astronomers such as John McConnell, Martin McKenna, Paul Evans, Andy McCrea (and even me!) have got far better photos than any of those!
How comets are formed
Aurora on Mars . BUT the summary and intro is wrong! The aurorae on Jupiter and Saturn would be visible to anyone on all but their innermost moons. And also to anyone in a spacecraft or plane in their upper polar atmospheric regions. (the 'Moon' is Europa!) and Ignore all references to this being a 'plane'! It's a spacecraft.
SPACE Amazing images! But one comment made me laugh - the Philae lander bounced 0.62 miles "into the air" - what air??? Nice video of automatic docking with ISS. You can see the ISS pass into the Earth's shadow just before the docking, when only the Soyuz's own docking light is illuminating the area of the ISS where the docking port is. Neat!
Helping astronauts survive Nice. But if the pilot shown in the first image is to scale, there won't be room for many passengers! Though you might squeeze an extra one in at each end if they were lying down! So someone was VERY busy in the photo labs if the conspiracy theorists are right and they never went there!
Nice! Due of course to the fact that the equatorial regions of the Sun rotate faster (to the right in this image) than the higher latitudes.
UFOs, aliens etc A classic example of a lens flare! - it's diametrically opposite, and equidistant from the centre of the image, to the very bright overexposed Sun in the lower right: the total giveaway. Most of us with any common sense have known this for decades!
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 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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