Friday, 26 February 2016

Lectures, LOFAR @ Birr, Events @ Armagh, IAA Events @ Portballintrae & Benburb.

Hi all,
(This bulletin covers the next two IAA lectures. Next update towards the end of March....)
1. IAA Lecture Wed 2 MAR, 7.30 p.m. "The Largest Telescope in the World", by Nick Howes. We are delighted to welcome well-known astronomy populariser Nick Howes to talk to us on the ALMA Telescope.
Nick is a freelance science writer and amateur astronomer, whose work has included science writer for the European Space Agencies Science Portal.
A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he has written for Astronomy U.S, Sky and Telescope, Popular Astronomy and many other publications and websites, including occasional guest articles for NASA's website. His images of comets and asteroids have graced the NASA home pages on multiple occasions.
His comet and general imaging work has won awards and been featured by the like of National Geographic, The Times of London,Universe Today,, Financial Times and Discovery Channel Science as well as multiple books and peer reviewed journals.
He is the Pro-Am Programme Manager for the twin 2-metre Faulkes Telescopes, where he coordinates projects with the European Space Agency on their near Earth object programs, ESO on massive star cluster observations and NASA's CIOC project monitoring Comet ISON.
Currently Nick is also working as a research associate with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff on their LARI program, the 2-metre Liverpool Telescope on cometary observations and the Italian CARA comet research group on dust measurements for cometary bodies.
Nick has over 300 NASA ADS citations for observational work on comets and asteroids, and is in the Guinness Book of records for leading a team of UK Astronomers in creating the World's largest image composite of the Moon taken by ground based observations.
A STEM ambassador in the UK, he has appeared on both BBC television and radio and he regularly features as the official astronomer for the BBC in the South West of England. He is also the tour leader for astronomy holidays in Africa and a consultant to the GEO Observatory in Andalucia, Spain. For more info See
Lecture Synopsis -
The evolution of the telescope over the last 400+ years has led humankind to a greater and greater understanding of the Universe we inhabit. But as the LIGO experiment recently showed, looking at the Universe in optical wavelengths is only a part of the picture. Nick Howes will discuss one of the greatest scientific projects of the 21st Century and how its development will hopefully answer some of the great questions in science.
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. ALL WELCOME: Admission free, including light refreshments.

2. IAS Talk on Astrophotography:
If you have been inspired, intrigued or just interested by the IAS exhibition of Irish astrophotography at the National Botanic Gardens, John Dolan of the IAS will be giving an introductory talk on the techniques and possibilities at the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre on Sunday 28th Feb at 3pm.
3. IAA Lecture Wed 16 MAR, 7.30 p.m. " The Antikythera Mechanism", by Michael O'Connell, (MAC). The Antikythera Mechanism has been described as the 'World's Oldest Computer'. Dated to around 2,000 years ago, it was found in an ancient shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. It's incredibly complex for such an ancient artifact, and was capable of predicting eclipses and other astronomical events. This is bound to be a fascinating talk by one of Irelands leading amateur astronomers.
VENUE: Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. Free parking on Campus after 5.30 p.m. ALL WELCOME: Admission free, including light refreshments.
This is a major development, and excellent news. Well done to Peter Gallagher of TCD in driving this forward to successful approval. (I even get a mention in the Irish Times article.....)
5. Armagh Observatory St Patrick's Day Event: "Discovering the Stars at Armagh"
Armagh Observatory is providing on the morning of St Patrick's Day, Thursday 17th March at 11.15am, a Free Public Lecture on the first stars and black holes in the early Universe; and in the afternoon starting at 2.30pm, a Free Public Tour of the Observatory and its Grounds, Astropark and Human Orrery. The tour will also explain the Observatory's new multi-speaker sonic-art installation 'AroundNorth'.
Public Lecture: "The First Stars and Black Holes in the Early Universe", 11:15 to 12:30 in the Studio Theatre, The Market Place, Armagh, by Dr Jorick Vink (Armagh Observatory and Planetarium).
Afternoon: Free Public Tour of the Observatory and its Grounds, Astropark
and Human Orrery, and Guided Listening of 'AroundNorth'. The tour will begin at the Observatory at 2.30pm and last up to two hours.
Both these St Patrick's Day events are Free and Open to All.
Tickets for the Lecture are free and available from the Market Place
Theatre Box Office on 028-3752-1821 or online at
For free tickets to the afternoon Tour, please write, telephone or e-mail:
Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel:
028-3752-2928; e-mail:
6. IAA at Portballintrae, 18 March. The IAA will again be running another of our ever popular public astronomy outreach events on Friday 18 March at Portballintrae, Co Antrim. More details on the IAA website:
7: IAA at Benburb Castle, 9 April. And another similar event at a new venue, Benburb Castle, Co Tyrone. More details on that in the next bulletin.
8. COSMOS 2016: April 15 - 17, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.
Speakers so far: Prof Mark Bailey, Director Armagh Observatory; Damien Peach (astrophotographer extraordinaire); Dr Linda Spilker (Programme Manager, Cassini Mission, JPL / NASA); Dr Tom Spilker (Rosetta Science Team Co-Investigator, JPL / NASA), and others to be confirmed.
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. NB: if the title of the link does not give an idea of the subject matter, I provide a brief introductory summary. I also sometimes add a personal comment afterwards):

ASTROPHYSICS: The 'star' would have had to have been at least 60 times the mass of the Sun, not just 'a few times', in order to explain the LIGO detection!
Odd long-lived Supernova still shining bright
Pulsar web could detect gravitational waves
Black Holes banish mass into cosmic voids
Multiple cosmic impacts 790,000 years ago It would help if they at least were consistent. Was it the green/blue 'stone' or the dark one? The former is definitely not a meteorite; the latter could possibly be one, but looks more like a piece of metal slag.
New imaging technique to discover Ex-Earths.
Rotation of cloudy Super Jupiter measured directly: Sirius, Fomalhaut & Alpha Centauri would indeed be visible from that planet, but at a distance of 170 LY they would be a lot fainter than we see them from here. There's a major flaw in this conclusion. We already know of one Earth Twin. It's called Venus, and it would be habitable if it happened to lie a bit further out from the Sun!
SOLAR SYSTEM: The illustration by Danielle Futselaar / Seti Institute shows a fundamental lack of understanding of meteor showers. The tracks should all be radiating from a single point, not parallel to each other (and some are even convergent!). SETI Institute - get your act together!
SPACE That's OK provided that you just want to fly past Mars at many millions of MPH! And what would be the point? They seem to forget that you need to slow down, at least to orbital speed, and eventually to touchdown speed, when you get there! And this drive does not allow for that.
Scott Kelly's year in space to aid Mars mission:
TELESCOPES, INSTRUMENTS etc VERY poor journalism at the start - the telescope will NOT be 100 times bigger than the HST! It will cover an area of the sky 100 times greater, which is totally different!
I feel sorry for those aliens - they need to go back to school and re-learn their physics, maths and geography:
1. Physics: a light year is a measure of distance, not time.
2. Maths: A quadrant is a fourth part of something. How can you have 35 quadrants of something?
3. Geography: In December the N Pole is in total darkness (as well as being rather cold!) - thus a rather pointless exercise.
If that 'thing' is near Europa, then it's at the same distance as Jupiter. And as Jupiter is 88,000 miles across, that 'thing' must be about 100,000 miles long. That's some 'Mothership'! It would be massive enough to disturb the orbits of Jupiter's moons! (Do the guys who believe this nonsense have numbers of functioning neurons into double figures?) It is of course just an image flaw or reflection of Jupiter. Advanced alien spacecraft on Mars - but they're still using 1950s Earth-type handguns? Yeah, it looks just like an alien spaceship, doesn't it?? I'd say fake: objects don't rotate like that in space, where there's no drag and no wind. If they're not spinning they don't suddenly start, and if they're spinning, they continue to do so.
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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