Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Moon occults Hyades & Aldebaran, lecture, comet, Galway AF, Dunsink event, LOFAR

Hi all,
1. LUNAR OCCULTATIONS tonight: On the morning of 20 January, Aldebaran (Alpha Tau), mag 0.8, will be occulted by the Moon. The Moon will have a phase of 83%, but it will be getting low in the West, altitude only 11 ยบ.

There will be a series of occultation of stars in the Hyades on the evening of 19-20 January, one of which is a triple star, so I'll give details of the main ones, in order as they occur. The following details are for Belfast, but will not vary very much throughout Ireland. But if you live much further West, start observing 15 mts earlier to be safe.

The Moon will be high up for the first of these occultations, but then starts to sink in the West, down to 20 deg by 02.13, and just under 11 deg by 03.23.

At 19.06, it occults Gamma Tau, mag 3.6

At 22.16 it occults 70 Tau, mag 6.4

At 23.58 it occults Theta 1 Tau, mag 3.8 (and HU 1080, mag 6.7, @ 23.59)

At 00.46 it occults HIP 21029, mag 4.8 * See below

At 00.53 it occults HIP 21053, mag 6.5

At 02.13 it occults HD 28879, mag 6.6

At 03.23 it occults Aldebaran, mag 0.8

As you watch, the invisible dark edge of the Moon slowly approaches the star and then, in the blink of an eye, it's gone! Instantaneously. Which shows very dramatically that even Aldebaran, although an orange K-type giant many times bigger than the Sun, is essentially a point source, since it's over 160 LY away.

*The occultation at 00.46, of HIP 21029, is of particular interest. This star is also listed as HD 28527 and LDS 2246, a multiple star. It has a fainter component, mag 6.5, at a separation of about 249" (4' 9") so you can see that one being occulted separately. But what is really interesting is that the main star is actually also a very close double, with components of mag 5.6 and 5.6. In fact it is so close, that it was only discovered to be double by observation during an occultation! The separation is quoted as 0.02", which is more than ten times closer than even the best amateur telescope will resolve! Its duplicity is revealed only by the fact that the occultation disappearance is not instantaneous, but occurs in 2 distinct steps, as each star is occulted. Of course, assuming that it is a close binary, it will have significant orbital motion, so the orientation of the pair during this occultation could well be different to the discovery observation, making the separation appear either greater, or even less! If you can take high time resolution video/ccd imaging, it will be well worth recording the occultation to see if you record the disappearance in 2 steps.

2. IAA Lecture Wed 20 January, 7.30 p.m. "Discovering Alien Worlds", by Dr Heather Cegla, QUB. We are delighted to have a speaker with such an impressive CV to talk to us on this fascinating topic. With new exoplanets being discovered almost daily, and new techniques getting us ever closer to discovering 'other Earths', this is bound to be a fascinating talk. SYNOPSIS:
"I will give a brief overview of the first ever confirmation of planets outside our solar system, the two main exoplanet detection methods, some stumbling blocks on the pathway to confirming an extra-solar Earth-analogue (which is my area of expertise), and discuss some prospects for the future and the efforts we're taking to discover habitable alien worlds."
A very hot and 'sexy' topic - constantly in the news. Check out "Exoplanets" in the weblinks section below. And see for example
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. Admission free, including light refreshments.


3. Comet is visible in binoculars Comet Catalina is now higher up in Ursa Major and is now circumpolar. Andy McCrea in particular has been getting some nice images - see the IAA website. As it gets higher, it's in a darker sky, though it is gradually fading. It's closest to earth this weekend, see http://earthsky.org/space/comet-catalina-c2013-us10-november-december-january-2015-2016?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=164c636236-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-164c636236-394571661

It had amazing double tail structure, see this fabulous photo:

4: Galway Astronomy Festival 30 Jan 2016
Beyond Earth - Dangers from the Cosmos
Galway Astronomy Festival themed "Beyond Earth: Dangers from the Cosmos" is taking place on from 9.15am on January 30th at the Westwood House Hotel, The theme reflects on the dangers posed to our home planet from the likes of Comets, Meteoroids, the Sun and other extreme cosmic sources.
Come along to a great day of events with workshops, trade and information stalls and talks by internationally acclaimed speakers. Now in its 13th year, the event has become one of the most popular events in the Irish astronomical ca lender, where amateurs and professionals meet, essential for exchanging information, successful stargazing and mutual progress. We look forward to seeing you, hopefully under clear skies.
Entry for the full day only €25 or why not come along to our FREE afternoon lecture entitled "The Chelyabinsk Impact: Lessons Learned" by Belfast based Astrophysicist Professor Alan Fitzsimmons.
For a comprehensive guide to all details about the Festival from the Speakers to the Science program, Accommodation etc, go to www.galwayastronomyclub.ie
Or please LIKE us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GalwayAstrofest/

5: IAA + IAS/IFAS event, Dunsink Observatory, 13 February. A major event is being arranged jointly by the IAA and other Irish amateur astronomy groups for Saturday 13 February at Dunsink Observatory, Dublin.


(14.00 Gates/Doors open).

14.30 Welcome & opening remarks: DIAS / IAA / IAS / IFAS
14.45 - 15.30: Talk No 1 - History of Irish astronomy up to & including Dunsink
15.45 - 16.00 Tea / coffee
16.00 - 16.40: Tours of Observatory - Two groups, one does main building, other does South Dome + Refractor, then groups swap.
16.45 - 17.40 - Talk No 2
17.40 - 18.30 - Break for food. Probable finger buffet. there are other local eating options, details next time. Or attendees are welcome to bring their own.
18.30 - 19.20: Observing or Talk no 3 or workshop.
19.20 - 20.10 - Observing or quiz
20.10 - 21.00: Talk no 5, or Observing.
21.00 - Close of formal programme + socialising or observing Jupiter etc.
Speakers confirmed so far are John Flannery and Paul Evans. More details next time.
Observing is possible from 18.30. Moon is waxing crescent, phase 34%; best viewed from 18.30 to 20.00. Jupiter rises at 19.52; best observed after 21.00
6. LOFAR Radio Telescope to go ahead at Birr!
This is great news, and well done to Peter Gallagher in particular for making it happen! http://www.irishtimes.com/news/science/radio-astronomy-facility-costing-1-4m-to-be-built-in-birr-1.2494186
7: Star Men - Astronomy Documentary Released on DVD January 25th: See www.vivaverve.com
We are delighted once again to bring you the full programme of the second NI Science Festival, an annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Thanks to the foresight and dedication of our sponsors and partners, we present you with an even bigger programme in 2016!
During the day the festival will present a range of workshops, talks and interactive activities for young people, parents and schools. In the evening the festival will come alive with an eclectic mix of scientific debates, talks, theatre, comedy, music and film for adults. As well as our core themes of science, technology, engineering and maths, we will be focusing on how science affects our everyday lives through exploring the science of food, music, art and sport.
With over 100 events across more than 25 venues, we invite you to discover the wonderful world of science in your lives.
9. Irish Astrophotographers Exhibition
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.
The Details: Irish astrophotographers were invited to submit an image to be showcased to the public as part of a display highlighting the wonders of the Universe.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.
CLOSING DATE: All considerations had to be received by Friday January 8th 2016.
10. ISS Imaged passing in front of Saturn! The skill and accuracy involved here almost defies belief! http://jwastronomy.com/news/ISS-transit-in-front-of-Saturn
11. New Chairman of ASGI: Congratulations to Matt Redman who has just been elected as the new Chair.
12. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart david.stewart22@ntlworld.com or Andy McCrea s.mccrea980@btinternet.com

13. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):

Astronomy & Astrophysics:
If the figures quoted are correct, it's definitely not a 'twin' of the Milky Way - its mass is less than 1/30,000 that of our galaxy! Even if the quoted figure of 6 million should be 6 billion, it's still only 1/30 of the mass of the MW.
Second largest Black Hole in Milky Way discovered: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160115085208.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29 There should also be corresponding high rates of local stellar motion.
Most energetic light ever observed from a Pulsar: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160112125423.htm and
Green Pea Galaxy sheds light on young universe: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160113195058.htm
The Assassin Supernova! http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160114152321.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29 and http://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/jan/15/assassin-supernova-discovered-that-is-570bn-times-brighter-than-sun BTW, the illustration of the SN from a planet in its galaxy very much depends on how close it is to the SN! If it was within 10 LY, you wouldn't even be able to look at it! And all life on that planet would be extinguished.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3402073/Archbishop-Canterbury-joins-calls-church-leaders-Easter-fixed-date.html He must have been reading my emails & articles! But it can't fall on the same day every year, as by definition it has to be a Sunday. But it could be defined as, for example, the second Sunday in April, which would restrict it to 8 - 14 April.
http://earthsky.org/space/kepler-100-new-exoplanets-k2-jan-2015 The animation of the exoplanets orbits is brilliant!
Follow a live planet-hunt at Proxima Centauri
Solar System
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3404641/I-ve-no-complaints-spacewalked-220-miles-Earth-watched-hurricanes-cartwheel-oceans-British-astronaut-Piers-Sellers-makes-emotional-announcement-terminal-cancer.html Piers is a great guy. I had been chatting to him, and was standing next to him when he was compering the tributes to Sir Patrick at the latter's 50th anniversary of the Sky At Night party at PM's house in Selsey. He came to a message from Lord Rosse in Birr, and turned to me and said, "Here, you're from Ireland: you'd better read this one out!" and handed me the letter and the mike! A very competent and sensible guy, and his reaction to this sad news is just what I would have expected.
Fosters don't seem to know that lunar shadows are completely dark, except where lit by Earthshine, but you would expect ESA to know that! See first illustration - the shadow of the near dome should be totally black, as there wouldn't even be Earthshine on it.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/peoplesdaily/article-3400623/China-shoots-landing-dark-moon.html Do they still not know the difference between the far side, and the dark side? They also use a photo of a lunar eclipse to illustrate the 'dark side'. That's wrong in itself, and doubly wrong because only the nearside can experience an eclipse! Also the montage of the Moon and the Earth and the Milky Way is wrong in lots of ways.
Use 5 legs - if any one fails, the remaining 4 encompass 288 degrees, so it's still stable.
Spectacular image of rover on the Moon, but all wrong!
1. What is that gigantic planet just a few thousand miles above the lunar surface?
2. Why land near the lunar limb where transmission to Earth is hardest (libration etc)?
3. Why land where the Sun altitude is so low, and therefore solar energy, and temperature, is lowest?
4. And it's also facing the wrong way - it would be driving into its own shadow!
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3397943/Nasa-s-female-pioneers-humans-Mars-New-recruits-speak-inspired-astronauts.html If they think that leaving family is going to be the hardest thing, they'll have a rude awakening if they go!
Telescopes, equipment, imaging etc;
Very useful for solar imagers and observers: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/tiltsun.htm
First light for future Black Hole probe, on VLT: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/01/160113101105.htm
UFOs etc
14. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
15. 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