Friday, 15 January 2016

Observing event tonight, Lecture, Comet, Occultations, Galway SP, Dunsink event

Hi all,
1. OBSERVING & OUTREACH EVENT, DUNGANNON, 15 Jan. The IAA will be back at St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, for another one of our very popular observing & outreach events this evening, starting at 7 p.m. We'll be using the school's own 14" Celestron, as well as bringing our own telescopes. We'll also have Stardome shows (courtesy of Armagh Planetarium for the loan of the mobile planetarium), an exhibition including a large meteorite, and a telescope 'fixit' session.
Your chance to see Comet Catalina if you haven't already done so!
All welcome. Wrap up warm!
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."
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

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

4. LUNAR OCCULTATIONS: On 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 º.

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.

5: Galway Astronomy Festival 30 Jan 2016
Beyond Earth - Dangers from the Cosmos
Following on from a very successful event earlier last year, the Galway Astronomy Festival returns to the Westwood House Hotel on Saturday, January 30th 2016. This years theme looks at dangers posed to the Earth and other planetary bodies from the likes of Comets, Meteors showers and the Sun, while also looking at how amateur astronomers can contribute to their research with real scientific observations. Finally we will look at the natural effects of Solar Flares with the beauty of the Aurorae from Arctic latitudes.
Nick James (British Astronomical Association)
Professor Alan Fitzsimmons (Queens College Belfast)
Professor Mike Redfern (NUI Galway)
Eamonn Scullion (Trinity College Dublin)
More to be confirmed,
6: 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
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.
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 ( 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
9. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

10. Interesting Weblinks
(arranged by subject matter):
Held over to next time!

11. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
12. 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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