Monday, 28 December 2015

N/Y Party, Mercury, Quads, Lecture, Giant Comet threat, S-L, A/P, Astrophotog

Hi all,
1. IAA NEW YEAR PARTY: 2 January - Still places left!
This will follow the usual format: there will be a buffet meal first in McBride's, the Square, Comber, at 5 for 5.30 p.m, followed by a private film showing at the Tudor Private Cinema, Drumhirk Road, Comber. The film will be "Star Trek Into Darkness". (For a bit of light mental stimulus see: ) After that there will be a quiz, with lots of lovely prizes. A booking form is included with the latest Stardust, which IAA members should have got. Or book via the IAA website: Admission £15 per adult. Guests welcome too.
2. Spot Mercury in evening sky:
Look out for Mercury low in the SW just after sunset. You'll probably need binoculars now, but as the days progress to early January it will get higher up and visible in a darker sky. It's a greatest elongation on Dec 29, but will be visible into the first week of Jan. On Dec 31 it will be mag -0.4 (brighter than any star in the N hemisphere of the sky), but and starting to appear higher up. See if you can follow this apparition from 2015 into 2016! Look about 20-30 mts after sunset, but ONLY after the Sun has set!
3. Quadrantid Meteor shower, 3-4 January

The Quadrantids are named after the old constellation of Quadrans Muralis. The radiant lies about halfway between the end of the 'handle of the Plough' (or the tail of the great Bear), and the head of Draco. It's a shower with a sharp peak, lasting only a few days but can produce ZHR rates of almost 100 at times. The peak will occur in the early morning of Jan 4, and maximum rates are only seen for a few hours on either side of the peak. The Moon will be a waning crescent so not much of a problem. The radiant is circumpolar, so you can observe any time from nightfall on the 3rd through to the following dawn, but best rates will be seen from around midnight until the start of twilight.

The shower is not noted for bright meteors, but I once saw one that was as bright as Venus and left a train lasting for 15 minutes! But those are rare, so for best views of the fainter meteors get to a really dark site. This year the ZHR could be around 50.

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.

The parent object of the Quadrantid meteors is a mystery. In 2003, astronomer Peter Jenniskens suggested that the parent body of the Quadrantids was the asteroid 2003 EH1. If correct then the Quadrantids, like the Geminids, come from a rocky body, not an icy comet. However 2003 EH1 might be the same object as comet C/1490 Y1, which was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers 500 years ago.
4. IAA Lecture Wed 6 January, 7.30 p.m. "When Earth encounters interplanetary matter: Bananas, Wings and Totoro", by Dr David Asher, Armagh Observatory).
We are delighted to welcome back David as a speaker; he also has given us some fascinating lectures over the years, with intriguing titles, and this one is no exception!
David is an expert on the dynamics and orbits of objects in the Solar System, and how they interact with each other and the Earth.
See also item 6 below.
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. Admission free, including light refreshments.


5: Comet is visible in binoculars Comet Catalina is now higher up in the morning skies, and Andy McCrea in particular has been getting some nice images - see the IAA website. As it gets higher, now well above Venus, it's in a darker sky, though it is gradually fading. On Dec 31 / Jan 1 it will pass just below and very close to Arcturus, so that's a good opportunity to spot it.

It will be about 7 magnitudes fainter than that star, so you may need to put Arcturus out of the field of view of your telescope or binoculars to get a good view.
It had amazing double tail structure, see this fabulous photo:
6: Giant Comets threat to Earth - Armagh Obs + NASA:
These reports feature Dr David Asher, who will be giving the next IAA lecture (see above), and also Dr Bill Napier who previously worked at Armagh, and has also given us several fascinating lectures: See this video: Eh? 31m to 61m wide? Can the writers not use some common sense in converting metric to imperial units? Surely they know that such size estimates are approximate? They have obviously converted 50km and 100km to miles, and given an almost exact conversion. (Actually, 100km converts to approx 62 miles, but never mind.)
Would the article be any less accurate if they had written 30m to 60m? But as someone was said, the trouble with common sense is that it's not very common!
NB: A comet (or anything else) does not 'ricochet' off the gravitational field of a planet! Gravity is attractive, not repulsive! Ricochet means to bounce, or rebound, so it's totally the wrong word. The gravity field of a planet can alter the orbit of a comet OK, but by a sort of slingshot effect, not a bounce! But watch the amazing SOHO video of comets rounding the Sun!
7. Stargazing Live, BBC2 12-14 Jan: Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will be presenting Stargazing Live on 12-14 January, but there are no local activities this year, as BBC NI decided not to proceed.
8. Stargazing at Armagh Planetarium, 12 Jan
To experience the marvels of the Universe you should see them for yourself with your own eyes. Armagh Planetarium will be hosting another public telescope viewing session as part of our programme of free Open Nights on Tuesday 12 January 2016. We are excited to say that this is perfectly timed for the return of BBC Stargazing Live!
Visitors will be fascinated by the views of the spectacular winter constellations, Taurus and Orion and deep sky objects through our 12 inch telescopes.
The observing session will be held at the Planetarium and there will also be a free presentation of a spectacular Digital Theatre show at 7.30pm.
We hope to observe from 7.00pm to 9.00pm. If you would like to join in please be aware that observing can be done only if the sky is clear, the telescope cannot see through cloud and rain! The Digital Theatre show will go ahead regardless of the weather. Also dressing warmly is essential! If you already have a telescope or binoculars you are welcome to bring them with you for your own use.
If you are interested in participating please phone to book your place on 028 37 523689.

9. 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.
You are invited to submit an image to go on national display at the Botanical Gardens, Dublin next February 2016!
Here is an opportunity for astrophotographers in Ireland to showcase their work, presenting the wonders of the Cosmos at the Botanical Gardens in an exclusive exhibit in a collaboration between the Irish Astronomical Society ( and the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (, which includes members of its member clubs.
The Details: Irish astrophotographers are invited to submit an image to be showcased to the public as part of a display highlighting the wonders of the Universe for a limited time from February 2nd to 21st 2016. The Botanical Gardens in Dublin has freely allowed the use of their lobby to display 100 images mounted for display, and incorporate additional items like (a limited number of) telescopes, large format poster displays and more.
The Criteria: Your photo can be submitted in digital or printed format. The following are guidelines:
1. Digital prints must be at 300dpi and in its largest format aspect ratio.
2. TIFF format is preferred, or high resolution (300dpi) JPEG is also allowed (RGB or CMYK is allowed).
3. Physical prints must be of a high quality (uncurled or folded) and can have a gloss or matte finish. Do not send mounted prints.
4. All photos will be fitted in an A3 mount and frame, and therefore may be subjected to cropping, if necessary.
5. All images submitted MUST have information about how the image was taken (equipment, location, software and techniques used, etc.), information about the object(s) shown, and the photographer's information.
6. Please Note - If submitting a printed photo, it cannot be returned.
Interested? Digital images can be sent via email to as an attachment (do not include off-site links to images), while postal images are to be sent to Botanical Exhibition ℅ Seanie Morris, Anstee, Daingean Road, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
CLOSING DATE: All considerations must be received by Friday January 8th 2016.
More details here:
You can submit your images and relevant details to
10. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

11. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):


Einstein Lens revelations:

FRBs caused by asteroids colliding with neutron stars

Chelyabinsk Fireball videos (some overlap, some other images, some artists impressions, but all worth watching!)


13. 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

14. Finally: Wishing you all a Happy and Peaceful and clear-skied 2016!

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