Thursday, 6 August 2015

INAM meeting, First Irish Eclipse, Perseids, Ballinskelligs Star Party, ISS

Hi all,
1. INAM, QUB, 26-28 AUGUST - REGISTRATION. A reminder about the major astronomy event in Ireland of 2015 - the Irish National Astronomy Meeting (INAM), organised by the ASGI (Astronomical Science Group of Ireland). It will be held at Queen's University Belfast, from 26 - 28 August - details at Information on the 2nd Irish National Astronomy Meeting (INAM 2015, August 26-28, QUB) can now be viewed on the ASGI's website:
Members of affiliated organisations such as the Irish Astronomical Association are entitled to the special discounted rate of £15 (NOTE CORRECTION!!) for the whole conference (extra for the dinner of course!)
Deadline for registration is 6 August.
I hope to see lots of you there.
2. ISS The ISS continues its series of passes over Ireland, these have now transitioned to evening passes, until 16 August. Details for your own location on the excellent and free
The Perseids may be the second best shower of the year, but they have the advantage of warmer nights than the December Geminids! Maximum is expected at 06.00 on the 13th, so the night of 12-13 will be best. And there's no moon to worry about this year. All you need is a clear sky and a dark location. In good conditions you could see about 1 meteor per minute on average in the early hours of the 13th.
This shower produces more fireballs than any other. The meteors are particles of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Check for updates and more information.
4. 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.
5. Earliest Irish eclipse? - Unfortunately, No!
Recent claims in two sources (see references in links below) say that the ancient Irish were first to record an eclipse of the Sun, in a cairn at Loughcrew in Co Meath.
But I totally debunked this theory many years ago when Paul Griffin's suggestion was referred to me for comment.
1. The eclipse was essentially invisible from LoughCrew.
(1) Maximum eclipse at that location (about 97%, not total) occurred at 17.49, when the Sun was 8.6 degrees below the horizon.
(2) The eclipse began (1st contact, which is essentially invisible) at 16.45, when the Sun was only 1 degree above the W horizon.
(3) As the Sun dipped below the horizon, maximum eclipse visible from Loughcrew would have been only about 8%, just barely visible to the naked eye, given a totally clear sky at the horizon.
2. But Paul Griffin's theory was that the local 'astronomers' viewed the very thin crescent Moon as it rose just before sunrise that morning, and were thus able to predict that an eclipse would occur later that day.
(1) But viewing such a very thin and very faint crescent Moon on the day of an eclipse is impossible with the naked eye, especially in Ireland. It has never been done anywhere in the world with the naked eye, even by experienced astronomers knowing exactly when and where to look, and from high altitude sites with exceptionally clear and transparent skies.
(2) That morning, when the Moon had reached an altitude of 1 degree (the VERY minimum necessary to see such a faint crescent), the Sun was only 3 deg 20' below the horizon - in other words it was bright twilight!
(3) The elongation of the Moon from the Sun that morning when it was 1 deg up was only 5.5 deg! And the 'age' of the Moon was 10h 14m from New. No-one has even come close to seeing the Moon so close to the Sun in Ireland, even using binoculars and knowing when and where to look!
(4) Even if they had been able to see the very thin faint crescent Moon on the previous morning, which would have been just about possible, that in itself would not have been enough for them to predict that an eclipse would occur.
3. Notable experts such as Sir Patrick Moore and Dr John Mason (the former a highly experienced lunar observer, and both very experienced eclipse observers, and both very knowledgeable in astronomy generally) totally agreed with my analysis of the circumstances.
4. For the purists, those figures are corrected for atmospheric refraction.
So, this theory is absolute nonsense, as I pointed out to Paul Griffin many years ago. That was several generations of my computers ago, so I don't have my original correspondence, especially as the theory had been so comprehensively debunked that it was not worth keeping the correspondence. (I might possibly have it on a Floppy Disc, but I've nothing to play it back on!). But that meant that I had to check all the circumstances of visibility from scratch again, ruling out any chance that I got it wrong first time round.
Much though I would like to find or agree that the ancient Irish were the first to record an eclipse, I regret that this theory does NOT establish that.
I'm amazed that this has arisen again, but unfortunately as we know, some people are more interested in publicity than astronomical accuracy.
(I should point out that Martin Brennan and Jack Roberts made no such claims about the eclipse: that claim arose more recently, as I have described above.)
However, LoughCrew is well worth a visit, especially at the equinoxes, when dawn sunlight illuminates the inner chamber.
6. Pluto Revealed! And Charon and minor moons too. Amazing images continue to arrive - too many to give here! But see Interesting interview, in English, by Dan Fisher, whom some of us met on our eclipse trip to Bulgaria in 1999.
8. 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.
9. 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!
10. Armagh Planetarium: News shows, and Train like a Jedi: These popular events with the Emerald Garrison will be available again at the end of August). For more details, and to book, see
11. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

12. Interesting Weblinks
(now arranged by subject matter):
ASTROPHOTOS: They got it a bit wrong - the ISS is not 'backlit' by the moon - it's silhouetted against it. So why do they STILL refer to it as the 'dark side'? You can see Australia come into view at the bottom at the end of the sequence
Closest rocky transiting exoplanet (note contribution by Dr Chris Watson at QUB, and Prof Don Pollacco, who was there until recently: both have given excellent lectures to the IAA)
SETI: Why not? Are they better than us, i.e. sinless? If so, how come THEY are not God's chosen people? Or, if they do sin, but are not similarly offered salvation, then they'll just be left to rot in hell, I suppose. Or would it be safe to assume that astronomy and religion don't make good bedfellows....?
SOLAR SYSTEM: Amazing! Did you spot the Burger King in one of those craters?!? No, neither did I, but I'm sure the Ufologists will find something!
13.TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
14. 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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