Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Lectures, ISS, Conjunction, close-miss, The Martian, Pluto, Mass extinctions,

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE: Wed 21 October, 7.30 p.m., "The Astronomer Astronauts", by David J Shayler, FBIS. This talk will cover the roles of the astronauts who were also full-fledged astronomers, an aspect not often considered. David J Shayler is an acknowledged authority on all aspects of manned spaceflight, with 20 books and many articles to his credit. Biography:
Spaceflight historian David J. Shayler, FBIS (Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society - or as Dave likes to call it - Future Briton In Space!) was born in England in 1955. His lifelong interest in space exploration began by drawing rockets aged 5 but it was not until the launch of Apollo 8 to the moon in December 1968 that the interest for human space exploration became a passion. His first articles were published by the British Interplanetary Society in the late 1970's and in 1982 he created AstroInfo Service ( to focus his research efforts. His first book was published in 1987 and now has over 20 titles to his name including works on the American and Russian space programmes, the topics of space walking, women in space, and the human exploration of Mars.

In 1989 he applied as a cosmonaut candidate for the UK Project Juno programme with the Soviet Union (now Russia). The mission was to spend seven days in space aboard the space station Mir. Dave did not reach the final selection but progressed further than he expected. The mission was flown by Helen Sharman in May 1991. In support of his research Dave has visited NASA in the United States and the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia, where visits to space training facilities and handling real space hardware has provided a valuable insight into the activities of a space explorer and the realities of flying and living in space. He is a friend of many former and current astronauts and cosmonauts, some of whom have accompanied Dave of visits to schools across the country. For over 20 years Dave has delivered space presentations and workshops to children and social groups across the UK. This lecture is part of the IAA's contribution to World Space Week.

Dave will have copies of some of his books available, and will sign one for you if you buy it.

VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. Admission free, including light refreshments.

2. ISS: Continues its series of evening passes over Ireland until 23 October. Details for your own location (and lots more) on the free site
3: Planetary conjunction.
See Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Regulus in a lovely conjunction in the early dawn sky, until 28 October. In particular, watch brilliant Venus pass close 'below' bright Jupiter on the 25th-26th. The separations will be: 25th = 1 deg 10', 26th, 1 deg 3'. That's over 2 moon diameters, so it will be pretty to see, but by no means a 'double planet' as described by one writer.
Full details are in STARDUST.
4. Pluto and Charon latest;
6. Asteroid to have close miss with Earth;

A just-discovered asteroid about 300 meters across (H=19.8), named 2015 TB145, will come very close to the Earth in late October. Only one object of that size is known to have ever come closer to the Earth (H=19.4) asteroid 2004 XP14 in 2006 at 1.16 LD,

The closest approach will be 1.26 lunar distances (485,000 km). The orbit is still uncertain, but it will likely brighten to about magnitude 10 or brighter on afternoon of October 31, then at declination +45. Magnitudes in the hours before closest approach:
29/10/2015 18 UT: 14.3
30/10/2015 00 UT: 14.0
30/10/2015 06 UT: 13.6
30/10/2015 12 UT: 13.2
30/10/2015 18 UT: 12.7
31/10/2015 00 UT: 12.0
31/10/2015 06 UT: 11.2
31/10/2015 12 UT: 10.2
31/10/2015 18 UT: 12.2

It will already be very close to the Sun on evening of October 31, making it unobservable.

See and This could have been a Halloween Rocky Horror Show!

7. Mass Extinctions caused by comet & asteroid showers:
(Edited from RAS press release): Mass extinctions occurring over the past 260 million years were likely caused by comet and asteroid showers, says a new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
For more than 30 years, scientists have argued about a controversial hypothesis relating to periodic mass extinctions and impact craters caused by comet and asteroid showers on Earth.
Michael Rampino, a New York University geologist, and Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, offer new support linking the age of these craters with recurring mass extinctions of life, including the demise of the dinosaurs. Specifically, they show a cyclical pattern over the studied period, with both impacts and extinction events taking place every 26 million years.
This cycle has been linked to periodic motion of the Sun and planets through the dense mid-plane of our galaxy. Scientists have theorized that gravitational perturbations of the distant Oort comet cloud that surrounds the Sun lead to periodic comet showers in the inner solar system, where some comets strike the Earth.
To test their hypothesis, Rampino and Caldeira performed time-series analyses of impacts and extinctions using newly available data offering more accurate age estimates. "The correlation between the formation of these impacts and extinction events over the past 260 million years is striking and suggests a cause-and-effect relationship," says Rampino.
He and Caldeira found that six mass extinctions of life during the studied period correlate with times of enhanced impact cratering on Earth. One of the craters in the study is the large (180 km diameter) Chicxulub impact structure in the Yucatan, which dates to about 65 million years ago—the time of a great mass extinction that included the dinosaurs.
Moreover, they add, five out of the six largest impact craters of the last 260 million years on Earth correlate with mass extinction events.
"This cosmic cycle of death and destruction has without a doubt affected the history of life on our planet," Rampino observes.
Comment: But how would that effect cause an increased rate of asteroid impacts? TM
8. Most Earthlike planets are still to be formed:
(From RAS press release) According to a new theoretical study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, when our Solar System was born 4.6 billion years ago only eight percent of the potentially habitable planets that will ever form in the universe existed. And, the party won't be over when the sun burns out in another 6 billion years. The bulk of those planets - 92 percent - have yet to be born.
This conclusion is based on an assessment of data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and the prolific planet-hunting Kepler space observatory.
"Our main motivation was understanding the Earth's place in the context of the rest of the universe," said study author Peter Behroozi of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, "Compared to all the planets that will ever form in the universe, the Earth is actually quite early."
Looking far away and far back in time, HST has given astronomers a "family album" of galaxy observations that chronicle the universe's star formation history as galaxies grew. The data show that the universe was making stars at a fast rate 10 billion years ago, but the fraction of the universe's hydrogen and helium gas that was involved was very low. Today, star birth is happening at a much slower rate than long ago, but there is so much leftover gas available that the universe will keep cooking up stars and planets for a very long time to come.
"There is enough remaining material after the big bang to produce even more planets in the future, in the Milky Way and beyond," added co-investigator Molly Peeples of STScI.
Kepler's planet survey indicates that Earth-sized planets in a star's habitable zone, the perfect distance that could allow water to pool on the surface, are ubiquitous in our galaxy. Based on the survey, scientists predict that there should be 1 billion Earth-sized worlds in the Milky Way galaxy at present, a good portion of them presumed to be rocky. That estimate skyrockets when you include the other 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe.
This leaves plenty of opportunity for untold more Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone to arise in the future. The last star isn't expected to burn out until 100 trillion years from now. That's plenty of time for literally anything to happen on the planet landscape.
The researchers say that future Earths are more likely to appear inside giant galaxy clusters and also in dwarf galaxies, which have yet to use up all their gas for building stars and accompanying planetary systems. By contrast, our Milky Way galaxy has used up much more of the gas available for future star formation.
A big advantage to our civilization arising early in the evolution of the universe is our being able to use powerful telescopes like Hubble to trace our lineage from the big bang through the early evolution of galaxies. The observational evidence for the big bang and cosmic evolution, encoded in light and other electromagnetic radiation, will be all but erased away 1 trillion years from now due to the runaway expansion of space. Any far future civilizations that might arise will be largely clueless as to how or if the universe began and evolved.
9. Irish Astronomy Books Launch
From Julie Ormonde, manager of the Kerry Dark-Sky Reserve:
Just letting you know that on Friday 25th September I launched a crowd-funding KICK-STARTER campaign to get Ireland's TWO Astronomy themed books published. Research shows that these may well be the first Irish Astronomy books (or at least Irish Authored) ... so am very excited about that.
The total needed to be raised is e6,700 in 40 days. NO MONEY is taken from anyone's account until ALL the money is raised, this protects the sponsorer. If the target cost isn't raised in the allotted time then these 2 books wont be published in the foreseeable future. PLEASE can you help by mentioning the campaign on all your, blog, email etc Acknowledgement of your help will be mentioned in the books.....Thank you so much. Julie 087 7845688
[I don't include images in these bulletins, as some servers block them, but I will gladly forward Julie's email with full details of the books to anyone on request. Terry M]
10. NameExoWorlds Contest, organised by the IAU, will end on Oct 31. This public voting for the 20 planetary systems comprising 15 stars and 32 exoplanets decides the names for these selected stars and exoplanets. The clubs and/or non-profit organisations that win ExoWorlds will receive a commemorative plaque and will be eligible to propose a name for a minor planet (subject to the usual rules for minor planet naming).
Astronomy clubs and non-profit organisations from 45 countries submitted 247 proposals for the names and so far the contest received more than 300 000 votes, becoming one of the largest outreach astronomy projects in the world. We, at the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach, would like to thank everyone that supported NameExoWorlds and to all participating institutions that sent special videos stating why their name proposals should win.
If you haven't voted yet, we urge you not to miss this chance.
And if you need any support from our team just let us know via
Best regards,The IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach team
12. Vote for name for 51 Pegasi b

Celebrate 51 Pegasi b's 20th anniversary by voting for its new name

October 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the announcement of the discovery of 51 Pegasi b; the first exoplanet to be discovered orbiting a Sun-like star. This is an exciting opportunity to celebrate the many discoveries that have been made since then. 51 Pegasi b is also one of the planets awaiting a new name as part of the IAU's NameExoWorlds contest. NameExoWorlds has been running since August, and the number of votes for the submitted name proposals have gathered more than 300 000 entries from all around the world. If you still haven't voted, don't miss this great opportunity, and vote before the closing date of 31 October.

You can find the details of the contest here:

13. "Earth's Place in Space: Discovering Our Celestial Heritage" Intergenerational Talk at PRONI, Thursday October 22 2015, 7.00 p.m., by Prof Mark E. Bailey, Director, Armagh Observatory. FREE ADMISSION.
Summary: Astronomy is the oldest science, with links stretching back more than 5,000 years to the construction of monuments such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, many of which contain remarkably precise astronomical orientations and alignments. This illustrated talk, which is linked to the Armagh Observatory's set of "From Earth To The Universe" (FETTU) posters, will take you on a journey in space and time from our Earth, through the Solar System, past nearby stars and our own Milky Way Galaxy, to the most distant parts of the known Universe until we reach the "Big Bang", the start of our known Universe some 14 billion years ago. The talk will also cover the work and recent discoveries of the Armagh Observatory; the principal components of our Solar System; and the sizes and relative distances of the planets and nearby stars.
PRONI is the Public Records office of N. Ireland, situated in Belfast's Titanic Quarter. For directions see For location see As there is no free parking in the area, it would be a good idea to car-share where possible, or use public transport.
14. Public Lecture, Ulster Museum, Tues 3 Nov, 7.30 p.m. Dr Mike Simms: "Elements in Space". Free, but places must be booked in advance at the U/M website.
15. DIAS lectures in Dublin celebrate 75th anniversary: See Highlights are: "Einstein's Universe: Relativity and the Big Bang" by Dr Cormac O'Raifeartaigh (WIT); "100 Years of Einstein's Gravity but where are the Waves?" by Prof Mike Cruise (University of Birmingham); "Celts in the Cosmos", by Prof Werner Nahm (DIAS), and "Mathematics vs astronomy in early medieval Ireland" by Dr Immo Warntjes (Queen's University Belfast). Admission free but advance booking is necessary.
16. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

17. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):
I like the 'Rainbow Gravity' idea philosophically; particularly the last para, which gets round the problems of the singularity of the Big Bang. Quote:

"The Rainbow Gravity theory suggests that gravity's effect on the cosmos causes different wavelengths of light to behave differently.

This means that particles with different energies will move in space-times and gravitational fields differently.

The theory was proposed 10 years ago in an attempt to reconcile difference between the theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics.

One consequence of rainbow gravity is that our universe stretches back into time infinitely with no singular point where it started."

Solar System
Telescopes, Instruments, Computing:
UFO's etc
19. 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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