Friday, 3 June 2016

Saturn, Mars, ISS, NLCs, Solarfest, Binocs, Lectureship, LP, BBQ, Spacecamp ...

Hi all,
1. Saturn at Opposition: Majestic Saturn is at opposition on 3 June, and best placed for observing for the year. However, it's very far South, in Ophiuchus, as it moves towards opposition on June 3. It's currently mag 0.0, diameter 18.4", but by the end of the month it's starting to fade and shrink again: the mag will be 0.1and the diameter is down to 18.1". The tilt of the rings is just over 26 degrees,. with the North pole presented towards Earth.
Of Saturn's many moons I've only ever seen 8: in order outwards - Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion and Iapetus. Titan (mag 8.3) and Rhea (9.7) are easy in any telescope; Tethys (10.2) and Dione (10.4) are only slightly fainter, but are closer in to the bright rings and disc of the planet. Enceladus (11.7) can be seen when near elongation in a good telescope with clean optics to reduce light scattering. I only saw Mimas (12.9) when Saturn's rings were edge-on to Earth, and so they were almost invisible, reducing their glare to almost zero.

Moving out from Titan, Hyperion is a lot fainter at mag 14.2, but is sufficiently far from Saturn when at elongation that you can move Saturn out of the field of view to reduce the bright glare; it can then be seen in a good 25cm telescope. Next is the mysterious Iapetus, the two-faced moon. One side is considerably brighter than the other, and as its rotation period is tidally locked to Saturn that means that it is always considerably brighter when at W elongation (10.2) than at Eastern (11.9), as on 21 June.

2. MARS still bright: Anyone looking at the S night sky for the last week or so can't have missed the glorious red beacon of Mars in Scorpius, which was at opposition on 22 May, and closest to Earth on 30 May, when its distance from us was 0.5032794 AU (~75m miles), and the apparent diameter was 18.4". It was mag -2.0, almost equal to Jupiter. It currently appears about 3 magnitudes brighter than its 'rival', Antares, which is a mere magnitude + 1.0.

By the end of June 30 it will fade to -1.4, with a diameter of 16.4". The N Pole is tilted towards Earth by about 10° but the N Polar cap will be small because it's Martian N summer.

3. ISS: The International Space Station continues its nightly passes over Ireland until 10 June. Details at the excellent free site which also gives lots of other night sky information.
4. Noctilucent Clouds: I saw my first display of the year last night, and Paul Evans got a nice photo. They can be seen for a month or so on either side of the Summer Solstice. These ethereal high altitude clouds can be eerily beautiful. They are visible when the sky is nearly totally dark, as they lie well above the height of ordinary clouds. They are thought to be connected with high altitude fine debris from meteors which have burned up high in our atmosphere. Look low in the Northern sky near local midnight, allowing for Summer Time, i.e. for an hour or more on either side of about 01.20 clock time. You will often see Capella glowing in the midst of a display of NLCs. They provide lovely photos if you get a good display.
5. Lidl binoculars offer: Lidl NI are offering 8 x 60 binocs from Monday 6 June for £26.99. I don't know the quality, but the extra aperture of 60mm over the usual 50mm might be worth considering. The field of view is quoted as 100m at 1000m (about 5.75 degrees), which is not great, but acceptable. However, the exit pupil will be 7.5 degrees, which is wider than the average fully dark-adapted eye pupil, so unless you have larger than average pupils you may not get the full advantage of the extra aperture. Still, they might be worth checking out.
If they have 'Fully Coated' optics, and BAK4 prisms, they should be of average quality or better. See
6. Lectureship in Astronomy, DCU:
Lecturer in Astronomy ( permanent post)
Further information on the above positions including the job description and criteria, are available from
7. Light Pollution Petition:
On the UK Astronomy Buy & Sell website (, one of the site members is organising a petition to get the problem of light pollution raised and discussed in Westminster. 10k signatures are needed to elicit a response, and 100k to have a chance of an actual discussion. The link to the petition posting is:
or if you just want to go to the petition signing page, its link is:
(thanks to Danny Collins for the alert)
8. Solarfest, Dunsink Observatory, Dublin: Fri-Sat 10 & 11 June.
FRIDAY 10th JUNE (EVENING EVENT) There will be a public open night at
Dunsink Observatory, with solar telescopes to enable viewing of the sun, and a talk about the new LOFAR telescope at Birr, and a tour of the Observatory.
(e-mail for further details)
All events are free to attend, but advance booking is essential, here:
Speakers for main event, on 11 June:
Kevin Stephen Smith: The Transit of Mercury
Tom O'Donohue: The Total Solar eclipse of 2017
Dr Martin Topinka: The Rise of the Robots:
Dr Robin Izzard: The Origin of the Elements
Mark Towney: Fun in the Sun and Solar Outreach
Dr Eamon Scullion: DKIST; The most powerful solar telescope in the world.
Dr Aline Vidotto: Planets Around Other Suns.
There will be a follow-up event at Rathbeggan lakes on the Sunday.
Full details of the talks and other events at Solarfest, plus booking link, are available on the Facebook page:
9. IAA Midsummer BBQ: 18 June. Venue and details TBA. At Armagh Planetarium, to include a starshow there. more details soon.
10. Space camps at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.
Space Campers will take a journey into the Secrets of the Solar System and look into how our solar system was born, learning about the mysteries of space. They will build upon their space science and engineering skills as they find inventive ways of saving the lives of the daring Eggstronauts that they will launch from the Castle Tower in landing craft they have designed and built.
The budding astronauts will Have a blast! building and launching their own rockets and will learn about wearable circuit technology while designing and making their own light-up badge or bracelet to take home and wear! Using real telescopes they will explore optics and lenses while also getting to visit the Observatory's telescope.
Space Camp will take place from 9:30 – 12:30 on July 11th – 15th or 18th – 22nd for 7 – 9 year old's or July 15th – 29th for 10 – 12 year old's. Booking is essential on 021 4326120
11. Festival of Curiosity 2016 (July 21st to 24th) See
12: INAM 2016, UCD, 7-9 Sep: The 3rd Irish National Astronomy Meeting (INAM 2016) will be held between Wednesday 7th and Friday 9th September 2016 in UCD. Currently it is expected that the meeting will consist of themed science sessions over two full days, Thursday 8th and Friday 9th, with a welcome reception the evening of 7th and conference dinner on Thursday 8th.
NB, this is a professional level event, but members of societies affiliated to the ASGI, such as the IAA, are welcome to attend.
13. Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 27-30 October
14. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

15. Interesting Weblinks
Small asteroid explodes over Arizona
Triple Moon transit on Jupiter captured by HST: Note that Callisto is noticeably bigger than both Io and Europa. And Ganymede (not visible) is bigger still. Note also that Io's shadow is sharp because it's closest to Jupiter; Europa's shows a slight penumbra, while that of Callisto shows a marked penumbra, as it's the furthest from the planet. (Of course! The UFOlogists say they've already spotted a fossilised toad on Mars, on rover images! But unfortunately -)
SPACE: A space wheel or cylinder to give reasonable artificial gravity is essential. Probably a wheel, as it would have to have a large diameter, otherwise the continually changing orientation of the crew could cause inner-ear/balance problems. I know that there's no other 'gravity' in space, but if the wheel is of a fairly small diameter, then not only are your feet experiencing considerably more gravity than your head, but the differential speed of rotation would almost certainly confuse the inner ear mechanism.
1,000 days exposure to radiation and total weightlessness, for very little! - Not worth it. The advance research on Mars could be done by robots with much less expense, and no risk to life or health.
When the time is right for a manned landing on Mars, which will be essential at some stage, you need to get them there quick, and into proper radiation-shielded accommodation on the surface asap. They will also then experience a period of Martian gravity - enough to restore bone tissue and muscle mass - prior to the return journey.
This has too much risk for too little gain.
16. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
17. 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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