Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Solstice, Mercury, NY Party, Lecture, Comet, Nearby Super-earth, Xmas FM, Photos

Hi all,
1. Happy Solstice to one and all!
The December Solstice brings the longest days to the whole Earth! - Confused? - See http://earthsky.org/tonight/longest-days-of-year-accompany-the-december-solstice.
There was a moderate aurora on the night preceding the solstice: Andy McCrea got some nice photos - see www.irishastro.org.
2. Spot Mercury in evening sky:
If you are both keen and sober, look out for Mercury low in the SW just after sunset on Xmas Day! You'll need binoculars on that occasion, but as the days progress into early January it will get higher up and visible in a darker sky. On Dec 25 it's mag -0.6, but very low. By Dec 31 it will have faded slightly to -0.4, but will be much 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. IAA NEW YEAR PARTY: 2 January
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: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/life-unbounded/do-we-live-in-a-star-wars-universe/ ) After that there will be a quiz, with lots of lovely prizes. A booking form is included with the latest Stardust, which IAA members will get in the next few days. Or book via the IAA website: www.irishastro.org. Admission £15 per adult. Guests welcome too.
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.
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. Admission free, including light refreshments.


5: Comet is almost at Naked-Eye Visibility 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.

Keen observers with a good E horizon should be able to spot it given clear skies, when the Moon is out of the way.
It has amazing double tail structure, see this fabulous photo:
6. Super-earth spotted just 14 LY away!
But to call it 'potentially habitable' and a 'Second Earth' is misleading -
With a mass more than 4 times that of Earth? We would have to go back to walking on all fours, AND lose a good bit of weight as well! We don't know the exact diameter, and therefore we don't know the surface gravity, but it's bound to be a lot higher than on Earth. Probably OK for snakes and earthworms however....
Details: The star is aka HIP 80824, & V2306 Oph, & TYC 5635 1241-1. Spectrum M4. Mag 10. It lies 2 deg 41' SW of Zeta Oph. Very slightly variable? BY Dra type (rotating variable with star spots (NB, any M-dwarf with star spots is prone to give false alarms for associated planets! Slightly suspicious?)
Planet period = 18d.
7. First Xmas Full Moon since 1977! And it won't happen again until 2034.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217151714.htm. It will occur at 11.11, so it will be nearest to Full early on Xmas morning - providing plenty of light for Santa on Xmas Eve, so Rudolf can rest his luminous nose this year! It will be just slightly past Full by the time it rises on Xmas evening.
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.
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 (www.irishastrosoc.org) and the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (www.irishastronomy.org), 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 skyimagebotanic@gmail.com 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: http://www.irishastronomy.org/index.php
You can submit your images and relevant details to
9. 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.)
10. Comet 67-P and PHILAE

12. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):


Imaging the first PREDICTED Supernova! Read how they did it - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3364560/Action-replay-Astronomers-predict-study-exploding-star-time-blew-10-BILLION-years-ago.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3365879/Clumpy-donut-spotted-supermassive-black-hole-Ring-dust-gas-distant-galaxy-lumpy-astronomers-don-t-know-why.html, and http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217154313.htm


Quasar outburst throws light on early universe http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151216105309.htm

Gamma rays from very distant galaxy

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151215134527.htm A light year is about 6 billion, not 6 trillion, miles


The Force Awakens in a new born star: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217160946.htm


Results from the world's most sensitive Dark Matter detector: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151214084740.htm

Galaxy clusters: clues on Dark Matter http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151215093943.htm

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/dec/21/aurora-australis-spectacular-light-show-in-tasmania-in-pictures. Not bad, especially as Hobart is at a latitude of about 43 deg! That's about the same as St Tropez on the French Riviera!
Meteorites helped bring first life to Earth: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151216105118.htm
'Monster planet' dancing between 2 stars http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151216115754.htm
History of astronomy:
Ancient Egyptians recorded eclipses of Algol; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151217151651.htm (I haven't read the original article, so I'm not fully convinced about the tying in the period of Algol to the calendar of Horus, but they might be right.)
Solar System
Obviously the Tethyn Godzillas were wounded in an attack by the Romulans and left these blood trails.... ;-)
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151215-why-mars-should-be-independent-from-earth The most likely eventual scenario is strife (verbal or worse), between the various groups who land there, over resources and who has first right to exploit them.
Let's say a good source of water and other useful minerals is located, fairly near the equator, and the first group land there. Can they 'fence off' say 10 or even 100, sq km and stop the next group from landing elsewhere in that area, or from using those resources? Shades of a California or Yukon Gold rush! How much can one group, or one astronaut, claim?
And we're going to need a new term to describe them. I suggest 'Areonaut', as in Areography, from the Greek for Mars: Ares.
Elon's at it again! http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/12/16/elon-musk-alien-life-on-mars-wont-be-harmed-by-a-human-colony_n_8817790.html?icid=maing-grid7%7Cuk%7Cdl21%7Csec3_lnk4%26pLid%3D412219 (But what about your proposal to Nuke them!?) And who proof checked this? - "Musk doesn't think he'll be alive to see human's land on Mars." What's that apostrophe doing in "human's"?
UFO's etc
14. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is easy: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
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 www.irishastro.org.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley

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