Monday, 7 December 2015

Lectures, Seminar, ISS, Geminids, Astrophotos, T. Peake, Xmas Star Show, more

Hi all,
1. IAA Lecture Wed 16 December, 7.30 p.m. "Sherlock Holmes, Pocahontas, and the Star Atlas with no stars", by Tony Drennan (IAA Past President).
We are delighted to welcome back Tony as a speaker; he has given us some fascinating lectures over the years, with intriguing titles, and this one is no exception!
No, I don't know what it's about either, but I know it will be both fascinating and entertaining!
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. Admission free, including light refreshments.


2. Public Lecture: "The Next Generation Space Telescopes" by Dr. Nicholas Devaney: Monday 7 January at 7:30pm; Westwood Hotel, Newcastle, Clifden Rd, Galway


3. DIAS lectures in Dublin celebrate 75th anniversary: See Last one in series "Mathematics vs astronomy in early medieval Ireland" by Dr Immo Warntjes (Queen's University Belfast), 11 December. Admission free but advance booking is necessary.

4. Armagh Observatory Public Seminar: Beyond Limits
Thursday 10 December 2015
As part of the Armagh Observatory's ongoing collaboration with Artist in Residence Dr Sally Walmsley, the Observatory will hold a public seminar in Armagh Planetarium from 2.00pm to 4.00pm on 10 December, exploring the theme "Beyond Limits". Interested members of the public are most welcome to join the discussion.
A common theme in both arts and sciences is the exploration of limits. For example, we may create or discover ideas the imagination has never visited before. We may use techniques that are outside normal experience. Sometimes reality turns out to be stranger than fiction. In astronomy, most of our subjects are so remote they can only be interpreted by connecting tenuous signals with complicated mathematics. Communicating such ideas to a non-specialist audience can present additional challenges.
To explore these issues, three short talks given by members of the Observatory staff, will highlight different aspects of the Observatory's research in an accessible way. Participants will be encouraged to divide into small groups to discuss their reaction to broader questions concerning the ways in which astronomical research extends our 'normal' limits of perception, understanding, analysis and imagination. The proceedings will be filmed and may be used as part of Sally Walmsley's final exhibition.
The outline programme is:
Venue: Copernicus Room of the Armagh Planetarium
14:00 -- Introduction (Simon Jeffery)
14:10 -- Will McLean: Planetary Exploration with Polarized Light
14:25 -- Phil Hall: Evolving Stars with Computers
14:40 -- Stefano Bagnulo: Searching for Extraterrestrial Life with 3D Cinema Glasses
14:55 -- Group Discussions
15:15 -- Plenary Discussion (chair: Simon Jeffery)
15.30 -- Tea
Registration: Intending participants are encouraged to register by Wednesday 9th December, by telephone or email to Mrs Aileen McKee: Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: Registration is free.
This will be an informal and enjoyable opportunity to visit the Planetarium and learn about some of the Observatory's current research. Everyone welcome!
Professor C. Simon Jeffery, Research Astronomer, Armagh Observatory
Further Background Information
The seminar is being held in connection with Sally Walmsley's project as Artist in Residence at the Armagh Observatory, supported by the Leverhulme Trust Grant 2014-AIR-045, this seminar will explore how the Observatory's research addresses the theme "Beyond Limits".
The theme includes ways in which current astronomical research:
(1) revolutionizes scientific understanding (paradigm shift);
(2) extends the boundaries of human knowledge (normal science);
(3) discovers new worlds or places (exploration);
(4) pushes technological boundaries (e.g. through software or new instruments, techniques);
(5) challenges personal horizons (intellectually, emotionally, physically);
and more.
While the focus will be on science – approach, methods, results – the recorded discussion will facilitate the Artist's own interpretation of the Observatory's work, and help participants to identify what aspects of their own science or interpretation go 'beyond limits'.
5. ISS. Started a new series of evening passes over Ireland on 6 December. Details at
The ISS has just celebrated 15 years of continuous human presence in space See, and make sure to watch the video!
6: Comet is almost at Naked-Eye Visibility Comet Catalina is now visible from Ireland, though better into mid December, though it is gradually fading.
Keen observers with a good E horizon should be able to spot it given clear skies, and when the Moon is out of the way.
To find it, use any of the links below, or more simply: On the following mornings -
Jan 7 it will lie 4 deg left and slightly above Venus;
Jan 8 it will lie 4 deg above and slightly left of Venus;
Jan 9 it will lie 5 deg above and slightly left of Venus;
Jan 10 it will lie 6 deg above Venus;
7. Geminid Meteors: The Geminids are the best shower of the year, with maximum predicted for Dec 14 at 18h. The radiant, near Castor, rises at dusk, so you can observe all night long – and moonlight won't be a problem. Maximum ZHR can be around 100, so if it's clear on 14-15 December we could be in for a treat. The shower is active for a few days before and after maximum, so observe from around 10 to 17 December.

The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the rate which would be seen by an experienced observer, in a VERY dark sky, and with the radiant in the zenith: actual observed rates very rarely reach the nominal ZHR for various reasons.


If you have a digital SLR which can give longish time exposures, and you can manually focus it on infinity, and adjust it to a high ISO (film speed equivalent), you can image meteors with a bit of luck. Make a suitable lens hood, or heater, to prevent dew on the camera lens. You'll also need a locking cable release (plus a spare one), and preferably a tripod.

Point the camera about 50° up in the sky, about 40° from the radiant, for best results. Consult your camera handbook, or experiment with exposures, until the sky fogging becomes too severe. See:

8. Calling all Irish Astrophotographers
Calling all astrophotographers. Here is an opportunity for astronomers in Ireland to showcase their work to the public. The IAS and IFAS have organised a special exhibition to showcase the work of Irish backyard astronomers. The exhibition is taking place in the Botanic Gardens, Dublin from February 2nd - 21st. More details here:
You can submit your images and relevant details to
9. Tim Peake to become First British Astronaut since Helen Sharman, on 15 Dec:
I wonder is it coincidence that he's from Chichester, the city nearest to Patrick Moore's home in Selsey. Chichester is also the location for the Sir Patrick Moore South Downs Planetarium, which I'm sure Tim would have visited.
10. Star of Bethlehem Show at Armagh Planetarium: Journey back more than 2000 years to Bethlehem, and seek to discover an explanation for the star the Wise Men followed to find the baby Jesus in "Mystery of the Christmas Star".
The Star of Bethlehem is an iconic astronomical event whose true origin remains unknown even today, in spite of years of speculation and research. The show will guide the viewer through some of these investigations and the most likely causes of this interesting cosmological object which was remarkable enough to make the wise men travel across the desert from Babylon to Bethlehem to see the new born baby.
You will also explore possible dates for the birth of Christ and look at the historical records of significant astronomical events which occurred at this time.
The show opens on Tuesday 1 until Wednesday 23 December 2015.
Show Times:
Monday – Friday (1-18 Dec) at 2pm
Saturday/School Holidays at 1pm and 4pm
Evening shows every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-17 December at 7:30pm
Tel - 028 3752 3689 to pre-book your seats
(N.B.. For the best analysis of the origin of the Star of Bethlehem story, I recommend "The Star of Bethlehem" by IAA member David Collins, pub by Amberley, 2012, ISBN: 978 1 4456 0675 0, which examines very thoroughly all the possible explanations, including planetary conjunctions; occultations; Venus; variable stars; novae and supernovae; comet Halley and others; comets in outburst like Comet Holmes in 1892, 1893 and 2007; Moon, Sun & eclipses; meteors, meteor storms, meteorites & asteroids; and other possible phenomena. Of course, he examines in considerable detail the varying Biblical narratives and their discrepancies, and various possible chronologies, as a starting point.. He also looks at prophetic, social and historical aspects in detail. I won't spoil the story by revealing his conclusion.
(I have to declare an interest, as I'm mentioned in the acknowledgements, but I would not recommend it if I didn't think it was the best and most comprehensive account yet. and I have no financial interest whatsoever.)
11. Comet 67-P and PHILAE
12. New Horizons, Pluto & Charon The number of craters shows that there are a lot of objects flying around out there! And yet, that far out, space is supposed to be almost empty!
13. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

14. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):


Stellar chameleon puzzle solved:

Giant young galaxies shrouded in Dark Matter and and

EHT reveals magnetic fields at MW's Black Hole In places they are confusing dark matter and dark energy. blinding-hypernova-explosion-Simulation-shows-jets-gamma-ray-bursting-centre.html


The composition of the universe:

Excellent background information on GWs.


This is us folks, plus our little neighbour Note that the Moon's albedo is much lower than Earth's.
Solar Geoglyphs? I doubt if these are artificial, or if they are, not astronomical - there are hundreds of them all over the desert in that area; most of them are irregular shaped, and even these ones are not anywhere near circular. Check out the area on Google Earth or
Half of Kepler's giant exoplanet candidates are false positives
Light Pollution / Dark skies
Solar System
Explosive energy in Saturn's magnetic bubble
For once they do really mean the Dark Side of the Moon!
Space If he does a Hadfield, they'll call him the 'ginger singer'. Or if he had flown on the Shuttle, the 'ginger winger'. (I'm with Buzz Aldrin in decrying the asteroid retrieval mission as unnecessary; but I'm open as to whether the best way is Direct to Mars, or via a Lunar Base.) We may see the two craft together as the supply ship approaches the ISS. More details after it launches.
Sun could release Superflares 1000 times more powerful than now
TELESCOPES, Equipment, etc
UFO's etc It's obviously the dome of a Martian observatory just over the ridge - about a 15" refractor, on a German Equatorial mount, I would guess.... I wonder is it as good as a Grubb?
15.TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
16. 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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