Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mercury transit, public lecture, Jupiter impact, other events, IAA AGM, IFAS

Hi all,
1. Transit of Mercury, 9 May: The IAA will be holding a public observing session for this rare event, in conjunction with the ARC of QUB, in front of Queen's University, University Road, Belfast. The transit will be visible from 12h 12m to 19h 40m, BST. Bring your telescope if you have one - but see below.
The viewing session will finish with a special free lecture in QUB as part of the Michael West series - see below.
NB! You must NOT attempt to view this event without proper safe equipment. As a general guide, the rule is to treat it as if it was a partial solar eclipse.
DETAILS

This will be the first Mercury Transit visible from Ireland since May 2003, and the next one will occur on 11 Nov 2019, but the Sun will set before the end of that transit.

Of the 12 transits up to 2100, 2 are completely invisible from Ireland, 6 are partly visible, and only 3 more are entirely visible; the next one of those will be on 7 May 2049, so this is a chance that you really should not miss!

And this one will have the longest duration of any visible in Ireland this Century!

OBSERVING:

Mercury appears much smaller than Venus during a transit; the apparent diameter this time will be only 12.06", and so optical aid will be required. This can be either a proper solar filter on a telescope as used for normal solar observing, or you can project the image through a telescope onto a piece of white paper or card. Mercury will appear as such a small black dot that it will be barely visible with binoculars (also fitted with proper solar filters of course!) unless they are of fairly high power, say 12x or more.

Mercury will first appear as a tiny little black notch (if you use sufficient magnification - say 100x) at the E side of the Sun, and gradually move across the Sun's disc, passing South of the Centre, and exiting the disc on the SW limb. Remember that these directions are relative to the Sun's N Pole, not to its orientation in the sky, which will change during the transit.

Looking for First Contact is the hard part - once the transit is under way it will be fairly easy to follow. Also remember that in an astronomical telescope, directions can be reversed both N-S and E-W depending on the optical design, and whether a diagonal is used at the eyepiece!

The best way is to let the image drift through the field of view (switch off your drive for about 30" or so, and see how it drifts) – the side of the Sun's disc which is leading the direction of motion is the preceding side, and the opposite is the following side.

East will be fairly close to the following side at the start of the event. For more accurate location, at the start of the transit, Mercury will enter onto the Sun's disc just very slightly S of the E limb of the disc as the Sun appears in the sky at that time – say about '8.45' on a clock face. By the time the transit is ending, it will appear just very slightly W of the apparent S point on the Sun's disc at that time – about 5.45 on a clock face.

IMAGING:

Do NOT attempt to image with a camera unless the optical system is fitted with a proper filter as above. Above all, do not try to image through a telescope unless it has a proper filter! You will need quite a high effective magnification to get an image showing Mercury clearly.

You can however easily take a photo of the Sun's image projected through a telescope onto a piece of white card: you may need to get in close to see Mercury clearly.

TRANSIT END:

The Sun will be just N of West at the end of the transit, and down to an altitude of only 11 degrees, so make sure you have a good view in that direction if you want to see the whole event.

MORE INFO:

More info & details of how to observe & make a filter are on a post by Seanie Morris at http://www.irishastronomy.org/index.php?option=com_kunena&view=topic&catid=42&id=100894&Itemid=211.
ONLINE & SOCIAL MEDIA:
Online viewing: The European Space Agency (ESA) will web stream live images throughout the transit at: http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/cesar/streaming. Live images will also be broadcast via a live Google Hangout, which will be on air throughout the transit. For details, see: http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/cesar/09-may-educational-event-hangout-
Events: Details of public observing events relating to the transit of Mercury can be found at http://www.cosmos.esa.int/web/bepicolombo-mercurytransit/locations These can also be viewed on a map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=zB5L6eC8SrrI.kvW2fPgvdBA0.
Social Media: For live updates during the transit, follow the hashtag: #mercurytransit Share your selfies from Transit of Mercury observing events with the hashtag: #MercuryTransitSelfie.
Videos: Animation introducing the Transit of Mercury by Europlanet 2020 RI: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqFFJ6zdECw#t=12
The Open University's "Discover Mercury" series of videos include how to view the transit of Mercury safely, as well as features on the science and geology of Mercury and the MESSENGER and BepiColombo missions. http://www.open.edu/openlearn/discovermercury.
Transit of Mercury Schools Challenge: The European Space Agency is challenging European school students to observe the transit and to recreate the measurements made by astronomers around 300 years ago in order to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun. http://www.esa.int/Education/Teachers_Corner/Transit_of_Mercury_schools_challenge
LOCAL: For more local details see the IAA website www.irishastro.org and http://airmail.calendar/2016-04-25%2012:00:00%20BST
2: FREE PUBLIC LECTURE, QUB, 9 May 20.00: "Einstein's Gravity: from the transit of Mercury to the detection of gravitational waves": Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB: In the next Michael West Lecture, Professor Patrick Brady of the Center for Gravitation, Cosmology & Astrophysics, University of Wisconsin will describe the 100-year path of Einstein's theory of gravity, from explaining the orbit of Mercury to this year's first-ever detection of gravitational waves, and what we might see through the opening of this new window on the Universe. Admission to the Larmor Lecture Theatre is free, but registration is required. http://go.qub.ac.uk/arc-events. Registration for the lecture is now live so book now to reserve a place.

3. IMPACT ON JUPITER IMAGED IN IRELAND. John McKeon co-discovered of an impact on Jupiter! John was imaging Jupiter from his observatory in north county Dublin on 17 March; he later learned that an observer in Austria had imaged a possible impact. When John checked he found he had captured the same event on video taken through his C-11 telescope. Well done John on this observation. More details: https://astronomynow.com/2016/03/30/amateur-astronomers-video-impact-on-jupiter/ and http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/another-impact-on-jupiter-032920161/

4. Public lecture, May 10, entitled "Science from High Altitude Balloons" will be held in UCD as part of the ANSRI 2016 workshop. The talk will be given by Prof. Mark McConnell of the University of New Hampshire. Venue is Room 129 Science Centre North, UCD, at 6pm. More details at http://spacescience.ie/ansri2016/publictalk
5. PUBLIC LECTURE, May 18: "Beauty and Truth in Mathematics":
The statutory public lecture of the School of Theoretical Physics (DIAS) will be given this year by Prof Arthur M Jaffe of Harvard University. Venue is the Schrödinger Lecture Theatre, Fitzgerald Building (School of Physics), TCD at 7pm on May 18th. Book via https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/beauty-and-truth-in-mathematics-and-physics-tickets-24625519592
6. Pint of Science talks have definitely been organised for Galway (May 23rd and 24th) and Limerick (May 25th), and details for Dublin are expected shortly. More details can be found at http://www.pintofscience.ie/
7. Solarfest, Dunsink Observatory, Dublin: Sat 11 June. More details when available.
8. IAA Midsummer BBQ: 18 June. Venue and details TBA.
Festival of Curiosity 2016 (July 21st to 24th) See https://festivalofcuriosity.ie/
9. Space camps at Blackrock Castle Observatory. See http://www.bco.ie/blog/bcoevents/
10. IAA AGM & Fitzgerald Award, 13 April: At the AGM, a new Council was elected, headed once again by Paul Evans; details at http://irishastro.org/council.
The (usually) annual award of the FITZGERALD MEDAL was made to Ivan McAllister for his continuing enthusiastic support at all our public observing events. Anyone who has seen Ivan point his big Dob unfailing at one Messier or NGC object after another, faster than a GoTo telescope, will know just how much Ivan deserves this award. Congratulations from us all.
11. COSMOS 2016: Congrats to all at MAC on their 25th COSMOS, which was really excellent. They pulled out all the stops to make it really memorable - well done to all. And a special mention to Bob Campbell for making some unique prizes to commemorate the event.
12. IFAS: And congratulations to Michael Murphy of the Irish Astronomical Society who was recently elected Chairperson of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies, the umbrella group of clubs countrywide who work together to promote our great hobby.
13. 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

14. Interesting Weblinks
.
ASTROPHYSICS
COSMOLOGY:
EARTH:
Can anyone identify something in this image? http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3530329/There-s-no-place-like-home-Tim-Peake-snaps-stunning-image-UK-city-lights-framed-Earth-s-glowing-horizon.html Nice photo, but awful light pollution! What a waste of energy!
Note Triangulum (top left centre), and parts of Andromeda (M31 is just out of the frame near top centre); going from L to R you can see Beta Andromedae, then Delta (with Pi above it and Epsilon below it), then Alpha Andromedae (top left of 'Square of Pegasus'), then Beta Pegasi.
Alpha Arietis is just above the Airglow on the centre left, with Beta just shining through the Airglow.
M33 is within the shot, to the right of Alpha Tri, but I can't see it - it's too distended to register.
But what is the noticeable bright but quite small and well defined spot 2/3 (or 3/5) of the way from Dublin to Belfast, and just slightly to the right of that line? Newry is well to the left of that line, so it's not it. Newcastle lies slightly to the right of that line, but surely it can't be that bright? - it's brighter than both Drogheda and Dundalk (unless they are partly dimmed by fog or thin cloud). I wonder is it the lights of Warrenpoint harbour, although it also should be left of that line? Or Kilkeel & its harbour, which is in roughly the right position, although if that small town produces so much light, there's something badly wrong!
Larne is the similarly well defined bright spot in the line beyond Belfast, so perhaps that's a sign that it's harbour lights?
Light pollution maps of Ireland and British Isles don't show anything significant in the area of the mystery source, so it must be new. Any ideas?
EXOPLANETS
SETI
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/advanced-alien-civilisation-did-exist-before-us-say-scientists_uk_57237a05e4b0a1e971cb74f7 Why assume that most intelligent civilisations have such a short lifetime? Sure, some may well be in that category, but if even 1% are sensible and stable enough to last for a million years or so, then there will be plenty still around. Crocodiles have been around for many millions of years - why not us? (And yes, I know that they don't have nuclear weapons, or burn fossil fuels etc.....) A nice photo gallery at the end.
SOLAR SYSTEM:
SPACE:
http://breakthroughinitiatives.org/News/4 This is rather ambitious! But I'll allow them to send my DNA.....
UFOs, ALIENS, NIBIRU etc
15. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
16. 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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