Saturday, 2 July 2016

2001, Juno, Aphelion, Quiet Sun, LP, NLCs, UCD, Opal/meteorite, RAS/Brexit, more

Hi all,
1."2001 A Space Odyssey" showing at QFT to July 3.
The original version of this all-time classic is being shown at QFT, Belfast, until Sun 3 July.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the London Premiere of the film in May 1968, in the Odeon, Leicester Square, along with (Sir) Patrick Moore. With a brand new film print, in Cinerama, on a huge screen, and with the brand new 4-way Dolby Surround Sound, that was a mind-blowing experience! I've seen it again on TV since, of course, but you really do have to see it on a big screen to appreciate it.
If you've never seen it in a cinema, don't miss this chance. And while watching it, remember that CGI hadn't even been thought of then!
Wiki says "2001: A Space Odyssey is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential films ever made. In 1991, it was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The critics' polls in the 2002 and 2012 editions of Sight & Sound magazine ranked 2001: A Space Odyssey sixth in the top ten films of all time; it also tied for second place in the directors' poll of the same magazine. In 2010, it was named the greatest film of all time by The Moving Arts Film Journal.
2. Earth at Aphelion, 4 July. The Earth will be furthest from the Sun in its elliptical orbit, on 4 July at 16.23.
3. Juno arrives at Jupiter, 5 July. European involvement in the Juno mission: (Edited from Europlanet 2020 RI Press Release EPN PR16 /6)
NASA's Juno mission will arrive at Jupiter and begin its orbit insertion manoeuvre at 4:18 am BST on the morning of 5th July. Juno's goals are to study Jupiter's gravitational field, inner structure, deep atmospheric composition and magnetic environment in order to understand the origin and evolution of the giant planet. Europe has provided instrumentation for the mission and European scientists from Italy, France, Belgium, the UK and Denmark are part of the team of co-investigators that will help analyse data sent back by Juno. Amateur and professional scientists from across Europe are also involved in campaigns using ground- and space-based telescopes that will study Jupiter at a range of wavelengths to put Juno's close-up observations into context.
UK astronomers are involved in studies of Jupiter's magnetosphere, dynamic atmosphere and its polar auroras. They have coordinated HST observations of the effect of the solar wind on Jupiter's auroras during Juno's cruise phase to the giant planet.
Full details of the European involvement in the Juno mission and ground support campaign can be found at:
4. Sun spotless for a week.
The Sun has now been spotless for a week. The last time sunspots vanished for a whole week was in Dec. 2010--a time when the sun was bouncing back from a long Solar Minimum. In this case, the 7 day interregnum is a sign that a new Solar Minimum is coming.
5. UK Light Pollution Petition
Please note this UK government petition currently taking place to introduce legislation to regulate light pollution. The petition runs until 22nd July, by which time we're hoping to reach 10,000 online signatures. Please note that the petition is not restricted to one signature per household, and the more signatures we can get the higher the likelihood that we can effect a response from the government.
I would be grateful if you could pass on this information to anyone else you feel may be interested and consider signing the petition yourself. The petition website link is below:
It only takes a minute to sign the online petition. Please help ensure our children will still be able to see the stars when they grow up, as most urban locations have already lost the Milky Way. Loss of visibility of the night sky and the adverse effects of light pollution on wildlife is a gradual process that has been happening over decades and consequently goes unnoticed to many people. Future generations are quite unlikely to realise what has been taken away from them unless we take action now.
6. Noctilucent Clouds: These 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.
7. Astronomy Position at UCD: Applications are invited for the Maternity Leave post of Lecturer/Assistant Professor Astrophysics and Space Science, UCD School of Physics (Temporary)
The successful candidate will be expected to deliver and coordinate modules in the areas of Physics, Astrophysics and Space Science. The post-holder will deliver lectures of the taught 'Physics with Astronomy and Space Science' and MSc programme 'Space Science and Technology'. In addition, he/she will provide laboratory, field trip and project expertise students. S/he will be expected to play a full part in the academic life of the school. The successful candidate will also be expected to perform observational/experimental research which complements the existing astrophysics research activities in the School, leading to the publication of high quality peer-reviewed papers.
Appointment will be made on scale and in accordance with the Department of Finance guidelines
This competition closes on the 12th July 2016.
Applications must be submitted by the closing date and time specified via UCD's HR website ( Any applications which are still in progress at the closing time of 17:00 Irish time on the specified closing date will be canceled automatically by the system. UCD are unable to accept late applications.
Reference number is: 008489
8. Opal discovered in meteorite. Planetary scientists, led by Professor Hilary Downes of Birkbeck College London, have discovered pieces of opal in a meteorite found in Antarctica, a result that demonstrates that meteorites delivered water ice to asteroids early in the history of the solar system.
Opal, familiar on Earth as a precious stone used in jewellery, is made up of silica (the major component of sand) with up to 30% water in its structure, and has not yet been identified on the surface of any asteroid. Before the new work, opal had only once been found in a meteorite, as a handful of tiny crystals in a meteorite from Mars.
9. RAS statement on the outcome of the EU referendum The referendum on 23 June on membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union resulted in a vote to leave.
Although the RAS made no formal recommendation to its members, evidence from groups like the Campaign for Science and Engineering suggests that an overwhelming majority of scientists and engineers - including the astronomers, space scientists and geophysicists that we represent - were in favour of continued EU membership.
Now that the result is clear, albeit by a narrow margin, the whole scientific community, including the RAS, will need to consider the implications for research in the UK.
Exactly what the departure of the UK from the EU means for academic and industrial research is not clear. We would however urge the UK Government to consider the following points in its negotiations on leaving the EU:
* UK and European science benefit from the free movement of people between countries, something that has allowed UK research to become world leading. Although for example membership of the European Space Agency and European Southern Observatory is not contingent on EU membership, these organisations depend on international recruitment made easier by straightforward migration between countries. We therefore urge the Government to ensure it remains straightforward for UK scientists to travel and work in EU countries, and for EU scientists to come to the UK.
* The EU has fostered numerous collaborations in science and engineering, including programmes supported by the European Research Council, and the overarching Horizon 2020 Framework, and the UK has been a major beneficiary of these programmes. The Society asks the Government to continue UK participation in all of these, and to make the necessary financial contributions to allow UK groups to lead bids for these funds.
* The Leave campaign indicated that it would make good any shortfall in science funding that results from departure from the EU. The Government should now examine this pledge, and work to ensure that UK science continues to receive the support anticipated before the vote took place.
* Beyond the financial benefits, EU-supported collaborations enable multinational teams to tackle major scientific challenges, in both applied and pure disciplines. The Government should work with the 27 EU members to safeguard the right of UK scientists to continue these productive relationships, for the good of scientific output and wider society.
Professor John Zarnecki, the President of the Royal Astronomical Society, commented: "We must remember that whatever happens, science has no boundaries. It is vital that we do not give the message, particularly to our younger colleagues, in the UK and beyond, that our country is not a good place in which to do scientific research, however uncertain the economic and political environment is."
"I have been privileged during my career to have worked in a research environment in Europe which has had few borders for either people or ideas. We must strive to make sure that these rights are not taken away - this would be enormously to the detriment of UK society."
10. Belfast Metropolitan College Space camp: - Space Science Technology Camp. This is a free course, and you can earn a CCEA qualification.
25th July to 5th August 2016, 9.30am to 4pm. For over 17's . If you are interested, head over to to find out more and register online.
11. 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 olds or July 15th – 29th for 10 – 12 year olds. Booking is essential on 021 4326120
12. Festival of Curiosity 2016 (July 21st to 24th) See The only astronomy event I can see is this, on 21 July
13: Big Wild Sleep Out, at Cultra, 23 July: The IAA will again be participating in this event, in conjunction with the RSPB. Sun & night sky observing as usual, plus Starshows (if stardome is available). More details later.
14. Launch of AstroPhoto Exhibition, Linenhall Library, Belfast, 2 August. We're delighted to be able to bring to Belfast the amazingly popular and successful astrophoto exhibition that featured recently in Dublin. This will run until 30 September. Free admission. A MUST SEE! More details in next bulletin.
15. IAA Solar Day, Castle Espie (near Comber), 7 August, 14.00 - 17.00: More details later.
16. PERSEIDS OBSERVING & BBQ + Possible Outburst.
Details of an IAA Perseids event around 11-12 August to be confirmed. NB: an outburst of meteors caused by the Earth passing through several overlapping recent
trails is predicted by Dr's David Asher and Tolis Christou of Armagh Observatory around midnight on the 11/12th.
17. 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.
18. Stargazing at Silent Valley, Mourne Mountains, 8 October: The IAA has ben invited back to this really dark sky site for another stargazing evening. More details later.
19. Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 27-30 October
Ronan Newman asked me to mention this new link to the Mayo Dark Sky Festival website They now have an official IDA Gold Tier Dark Sky Park award for this site in Mayo see

20. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to David Stewart or Andy McCrea

21. Interesting Weblinks.

Archaeoastronomy: 1. They don't "focus" light in the slightest.

2. With the restricted view through the entrance, they certainly weren't ideal for viewing the constellations!

3. In 4000 BC, Aldebaran would have had its heliacal rising from there in mid-May, at an azimuth of about 105 degrees (just S of East). Midsummer solstice then was in late July, and in mid-May the Sun would have had a declination of +8 degrees, thus well into spring. So why would they have wanted to mark the heliacal rising of Aldebaran? - That would be too late to plant their first crops, and too early to harvest anything. In seasonal terms, it's roughly the equivalent of 10 April now, and no culture in the N hemisphere that I know of marks anything astronomical or agricultural at around that date.
I haven't read the paper, but from what's in this report, it's not very convincing.
Minor galaxy mergers drive star formation:
First observation of galactic centre using gravity
Probing the theory of Black Hole Accretion:
There are several misapprehensions here -
1. He doesn't understand the methods of PHO detection programmes & strategies.
2. No threatening large objects have been discovered yet - it's the undiscovered ones that we have to worry about.
3. If such an object is discovered in time, it CAN be deflected so that it will miss us.
4. As well as asteroids, there's the threat from comets - harder to get as much advance warning as we would like, but still it's better to know if one is coming our way to try either to deflect it, or to evacuate the target area as far as possible.
5. As for a Supervolcano such as Yellowstone, it seems totally outside the realms of possibility that we could do anything to prevent it erupting. However, there's no sign of any imminent eruption. A plan to deal with the consequences of an eventual eruption is certainly work having.
ET Life:
Nice mental juggling by the Vatican, 'just in case' we do detect alien life. But - the discovery of alien life would create 'no conflict with Catholic theology'? Eh? The Bible doesn't even mention the creation of the other planets in our solar system, let alone those orbiting other stars, and as for the possibility of life on any other planet (or moon) - that would be the exact opposite of the whole thrust of Genesis! It describes the creation of life on Earth, but zero mention of any other living thing anywhere else. (And no, 'angels' etc are not 'living things' they are described as being creatures of pure spirit (whatever that is.)
And Genesis 2: 1, says "Then the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them". No room there for any extra creations, either of new stars, or new planets going round them; whereas we know of course that new stars and planetary systems are continually being formed throughout our galaxy, and in all the billions of others. And of course, most importantly, that excludes the creation of any other life, as at the end of 'the sixth day', all creation was complete.
The whole theme of the Bible, not just Genesis, is that the creation of Earth, life, and mankind, was a unique, one-off, special event: so special that when humans started to deviate from the pre-ordained Plan, God was prepared to sacrifice "his only begotten Son" to save us from our sins. You can't reconcile that with the existence of even one other intelligent life-form elsewhere in the universe, let alone the possibility that there may be very many of them.
Indeed Rev Jose Funes, Director of the Vatican Observatory, says "The incarnation of the Son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe." No lack of clarity there! But I wonder just how he is so sure?
However, he then contradicts himself by saying "humans shouldn't put limits on God's creative freedom." So God could reincarnate his son again (or might have already done it) if he wants to!
But actually, it's not 'humans putting any limit on God's creative freedom' - it's God himself who has done it, in the one-off and finished act of creation described in the Bible, which is of course, according to all Christians, 'God's inerrant Word'. You can't have it both ways, folks!
Of course, we haven't detected extra-terrestrial life yet (and I'd be the first to admit that there's no guarantee that we will), but it seems that the Vatican is concerned enough that we might do so to start preparing its followers for that possibility. But if Zubenelgenubians (or Zubenelchamalians, or whoever) do land and go to the Vatican, does anyone really think that they'll ask to be baptised? Indeed, what do you think they would make of our creation stories? E.g. A talking snake, and Eve being made from one of Adam's ribs, because God forgot to make woman in the first place! I wonder what Zubenelgenubian laughter sounds like?
I'd have more respect for the Vatican (and the other monotheistic faiths) if they would just admit that their view of the universe does not allow for the existence of extraterrestrial life.
Desdemona Despair: Did the Kepler space telescope discover alien megastructures? The mystery of Tabby's star solved If the strange light-dips are not recorded again by further observations, what do we blame? A Dyson vacuum cleaner sucking them all up! (NB, I did not say occultations, or transits, though that seems the most favoured explanations)
From Prof Brian Espey: The talks of the Light@Night meeting which we held here in Trinity in April are now available on-line at:
Also, in the on-going discussion on blue-rich LEDs and their possible detrimental environmental and human health effects. The CNN report linked below also has a link to the AMA statement:
Chaotic orbit of Halley's comet explained
What's wrong with this photo?
1. Trails do not radiate from a single point.
2. Apart from one trail near the left, almost all the others are of similar magnitude - definitely suspicious
3. Very few show the typical 'faint - brighter - brightest - faint' profile along the trail.
4. What is shown behind the Mountain? - the Galactic centre.
- What direction is that visible from Washington state, USA? - The South
- So what direction was the camera facing? - South
- Where's the Perseid radiant? - in the North!
- Very unlikely to record so many meteors in that direction
- Any that do appear would be likely to have longer trails, and would be moving away from the camera.
5. There is a significant source of light pollution shown behind and to the left of Mount Rainier. But the only settlement in that direction is the small village of Packwood, population 342! Even the whole surrounding area has a population of just over 1000 - not enough to cause any significant light pollution.
6. If he had wanted to record meteors, he would have tilted the camera up a bit: enough to still show the mountain, but to show more sky.
A composite (or 'faked, if you like), photo. Comprising -
(1) A photo of the night sky, looking south, probably not taken from Mount Rainier.
(2) One genuine meteor photo - possibly as part of the above.
(3) A photo of Mount Rainier at night
(4) Other 'meteor trails' have been added, but most of them don't look like genuine meteor trails. Or -
(5) Possibly, but unlikely, a series of other exposures of the Perseids through the night, showing the movement of the radiant across the sky, so that there's no single direction from which the trails originate. But as per 4 above, they don't look like typical meteors.
Unexpected mineral Tridymite found on Mars
http:/ They'd need to be careful when taxiing that thing! And why only 30,000 feet? Most modern big jets can go up to 38,000 or even 40,000 feet.
3D printing of Moon or Mars habitats is undoubtedly the way forward. But first you need to -
1. Design a suitable printer.
2. Before you do that, you need to test Lunar & Martian surface materials to see what mixture & what treatment of the materials gives a suitable construction material.
3. Before you can do that, you need samples of the material, for extensive testing.
4. To do that, you either need to bring samples back to Earth for testing, or else send a suitable testing lab to the Moon and Mars to do it there. NB, the rock samples collected by Apollo from the Moon were not chosen with that purpose in mind!
5. You need to decide how much water, if any, is needed for the mixture, and where you're going to get it.
6. Once you've done that & designed a suitable large-enough 3D Printer you need to get it to the Moon / Mars and assemble it there, or else design one that's ready to use.
7. You then need a rover/digger to collect suitable material, grind it up if necessary, and deliver it into the printer.
8. You need sufficient power to do all that - considerably more than you get from solar panels on any of the current rovers. Probably a RTG, plus solar backup.
9. And you then need to either send a robot to assemble it ready for the first visitors, or else they will have to assemble it themselves when they arrive.
10. If the latter, you have to hope that everything fits together properly - no 'Flat-pack assembly horror story moments'!
11. And on Mars, you'll need to give the astronauts about a week after landing to re-adjust to gravity, get their balance, circulatory & respiration systems back to near-normal capacity after 18 months weightlessness. NB, the lower gravity on Mars is not really of much benefit if your balance is seriously out of kilter, not to mention the fact that your bones will have decalcified!
12. IMHO, the first habitation modules on Mars will be light-weight pre-fab inflatable ones sent from Earth, or from the Moon, with additional insulation and protection from radiation by covering them with Lunar/Martian soil.
13. Proper purpose-designed printed modules will be erected on-site later.
14. Since the orbits of Earth & Mars dictate a minimum stay on the surface of about 6 months, all the necessary survival habitation, transport, subsistence (food & water), and energy supplies have to be either there, or brought there, together with a return rocket to lift them off Mars and back to Earth. I reckon a minimum of 20 years, not 15. Radio Waves do not 'travel slowly in space"! They actually travel faster in space than in the atmosphere! But the distances are so great to Mars etc, that even at 300,000 km/sec, they take a long time to get there.
A nice photo, but let's not get carried away with these 'Moon names': After all, a Full Moon in June can be anywhere from June 1 to June 30, or indeed both, as happened in 2007. Which of these was the Strawberry Moon?
On the basis of this idea, I can predict that 2023 will have a very warm and sunny spring, as the strawberries will be ripe early, coinciding with the FM on June 4. Conversely, the spring of 2026 will be cold and cloudy, so strawberries won't ripen until the FM on June 29.
And pity poor February, which sometimes has no Full Moon at all, as in 1999, and again in 2018. Surely that's a form of discrimination against February, and shouldn't be allowed!
Joking of course, but it's just to demonstrate that the phases of the moon tie in with neither the months nor the seasons.
Em, you expect spotless days coming up to solar minimum....
It's just as well there was no Internet in the 1950s, or they would have been saying the Sun was about to explode (or implode, or whatever), as that brought the greatest solar maximum for a very long time, if not the greatest on record!
Scientists at Aberystwyth University have developed an automated method for three-dimensional tracking of massive eruptions from the Sun, called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). The Automated CME Triangulation (ACT) system uses data from three space-based observatories that orbit the Sun at different locations, allowing scientists to view the Sun and CMEs from different angles. ACT's ability to track whether a CME is heading towards Earth, and when it is likely to reach us, should lead to significant improvements in space weather forecasting.
1. There is absolutely no justification for saying it's a 'craft', i.e. a 'manned' spaceship - it could be anywhere from a few tens of miles to a few tens of thousands of miles away, with commensurate ranges of size and actual speed.
2. It couldn't be a star - moving at that apparent speed, even at the distance of Proxima Centauri, it would be traveling many times faster than the speed of light.
3. It could possibly be a very close pass by a small near-Earth asteroid, but almost certainly the various NEO automated search cameras and/or radar would have picked up such an object.
4. Since it's traveling roughly parallel to Jupiter's moons, and therefore its equator, that's very close to the plane of the ecliptic. So it's much more likely to be a satellite in a high altitude equatorial orbit.
22. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
23. 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


Blogger said...

There's a chance you qualify for a new government sponsored solar energy program.
Find out if you qualify now!

Blogger said...

Did you consider choosing the best Bitcoin exchange service - YoBit.