Saturday, 18 July 2015

Pluto x 4, Asteroid flyby, Rosetta, ISS, Telescope sale, Events, space camps etc

 Hi all,
1. Pluto Revealed! And Charon too.
The pictures have been truly amazing, and the structures on both Pluto and Charon will give astronomers food for thought for years to come!
There's been far too much to give all the details here, but the following are worth checking;
Kevin Nolan has compiled an excellent 2-part blog on the mission - my apologies for omitting this from my last bulletin: "New Horizons to Pluto": It provides context on the discovery and reclassification of Pluto, The Kuiper Belt, as well as details of the New Horizons Mission to Pluto and onto other Kuiper Belt objects through 2018-2019. There's also a list of resources to follow the mission over the coming days, month and years. The blogs can be found at: I used to think these guys (& gals?) were just good for a laugh. Now I think it's so so sad. Not just because of their obvious paranoid delusions, but because they are missing out on some really exciting scientific discoveries. And because it really is disconcerting and sad that there are so many mentally disturbed people out there.
But that's just one opinion - I humbly beg to differ!
As Pluto is now the biggest object beyond Neptune, let's reinstate it as a planet! Especially with its 5 moons - more than the combined total for Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars! And Charon is in fact the tenth largest Moon in the Solar System, out of a total of at least 174 !
Arguments for:
* It's the largest object known beyond Neptune
* It's very nearly spherical - more so than Saturn!
* It has its own significant system of moons - see above
* It has nearly swept its own orbital path clear of other objects - as much as one would expect, given the very large distances between objects with such large orbits. In fact, if that was an important criterion, then Neptune would not be a planet, as it has not 'cleared its orbit', since Pluto comes inside the orbit of Neptune at perihelion.
* Its density is much greater than that of either Jupiter or Saturn
* It's much bigger than Ceres, the only other object to be re-classified as a dwarf planet.
* Its orbital eccentricity is only slightly more than that of Mercury
* For historical reasons: it was always regarded as a planet since its discovery.
* Nine is a nice number! - And by coincidence, that's nine reasons!
3. Special Sky at Night Programme: July 20 BBC4 10 - 11 pm Pluto Revisited.
4. NASA WANTS YOU TO NAME FEATURES ON PLUTO NASA's New Horizons spacecraft's flyby of Pluto on 14 July, has spotted 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:, and
5. Watch fairly close asteroid flyby on Sunday The text is very misleading - it implies that it has a core made of platinum and nothing else! Instead, it's thought to have a composition made up mainly of metals, including some platinum, but just how much is largely guesswork. However, to talk of a 'core' for an asteroid less than 1km in diameter is itself misleading.
There are still problems communicating with Philae, even though it is fully 'awake.
See also That's a lie, and it's then repeated! Rosetta did NOT image New Horizons at Pluto, as stated in the headline. It barely managed to image Pluto, and didn't even record Charon, let along NH. OK, it's just a headline, right? - But the text then says
"The image is one of the few moments in history that one spacecraft in the Solar System has imaged another.... "
No, it did NOT image the other spacecraft. It didn't even come close. In fact, the image wasn't even worth taking.
7. ISS The ISS starts another series of morning passes over Ireland today, and will then remain visible as it later transitions to evening passes, until 16 August! details for your own location on the excellent and free
8. IAA Solar Day, WWT, Castle Espie. The next popular IAA solar outreach day will be on 2 August. 2.00 to 5.00. All the usual attractions - solar observing if clear, telescope display, meteorites to handle, exhibition of space & astronomy items. 'Telescope fixit service'. And of course the ever popular starshows in the Stardome, courtesy of Armagh Planetarium. Book directly with the WWT:
Tel. 02891 875970, web,
9. Telescope & accessory Sale: Get ready for the darker nights! Andy McCrea, aka North Down Telescopes, is holding a major sale with bargain prices. see attached flyer for details.
10. 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!
11. Armagh Planetarium: News shows, and Train like a Jedi: See
12. Dublin Astronomy Cycle to Dunsink Observatory - Fri 24th July, 9 p.m., with stargazing. See
13. 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.
14. 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.
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.

16. Interesting Weblinks
(now arranged by subject matter):
Even NASA gets their illustrations wrong! The Sun is shining on the back of the heat shield panels, not on the front as shown here! OK, they have to try to illustrate what it looks like, but the simplest thing would have been just to omit the Sun from the image, so we could imagine the telescope being lit only by starlight.
Various errors in this report:
1. Having the base at an altitude of 2.5 miles will not increase atmospheric pressure, it will decrease it! For maximum pressure, the base needs to be at as low an elevation as possible!
2. The problem of CO2 ingress via the airlock is negligible.
A. There will be no ingress of CO2 as an astronaut exits.
B. When the astronaut enters the airlock again, there will be Martian CO2 in the airlock - but the pressure on Mars is so low (less than 1% of that on Earth), that the actual amount of gas will be minute. Then when the pressure in the airlock is increased by letting in air from the base, most of that air will be nitrogen and oxygen (as on Earth), so that the total percentage of CO2 in that mixture will again be very low - at most a few percent. When the astronaut steps back into the base again and the airlock shuts behind him/her, only a tiny amount of the airlock gas will enter the base. And it would be almost a zero amount if the pressure in the base was a little bit higher than in the airlock.
The greatest CO2 problem by far will simply be the amount that the astronauts themselves breathe out!
3. And there will be no significant difference in the way liquids behave in 3/8 Earth gravity compared with 1.0 Earth gravity. They will still stay in the bottom of any container, and if any is spilled it will still fall to the floor - just a bit more slowly. The only minor difference is that the meniscus where a liquid touches the side of a vessel will be a bit higher, because there's less gravity to hold it down. Also, any mixture of liquids of different densities will take a bit longer to settle out, but that should not be a problem. Oil will still float on water for example, and a lava lamp would still work - just a bit more slowly.
Once again, the whole scheme seems to be about 95% imagination!
SUN The Maunder Minimum lasted for 70 years, or almost 10 solar cycles: how did the magnetic cycles stay out of phase for each other for so long? Also, there were very low amplitude solar maxima in the late 1800s, and early 1900s, and there were no significant coolings then. Further, why should only NW Europe be affected?
UFOs/ALIENS etc Interesting. But it begs several important questions: if it was an 'Alien craft' -
1. What was it doing over Calvine? - There's nothing of interest there, or in that region. It's on the main A9 road North to Inverness, so a moderately busy road; and the hills there are popular with hill-walkers, so there would be a high probability that it would be seen. Did the craft's pilots not care if they were seen? Especially as they allegedly hovered for quite a while! If they didn't want to be seen, there are other much less populated areas they could fly around in. If they did want to be seen, then fly over Edinburgh or Glasgow instead!
2. Whatever sort of propulsion such a craft might have, it's still subject to the laws of aerodynamics while flying in our atmosphere. And that shape is not the best in aerodynamic terms!
3. Further, while it's not specifically stated, the implication is that it accelerated rapidly upwards while still in that horizontal mode. If that's so, then not only is that incredibly inefficient, it would put so much stress on the craft that it might well break up. Not a good idea.
4. The text says that the craft accelerated away vertically, but the video clip shows it going horizontally. Which was it?
I would think that the photos were probably very good fakes.
But we should always keep an open mind: From Miles Johnstone
"Hi; for your interest. The Bases Film Festival Award has been cast! Entries to the festival, which screens selected film on the Friday July 31st: entries must be in by July 20th with a 90 sec promo."
Event: July 31 - Aug 2, at Marlborough. See
17.TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
18. 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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