Thursday, 27 October 2016

Lectures, Mayo DarkSky Fest, IFAS Calendar, Science Week, Photo Exhib, TM honour

Hi all,


1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, 2 November;  "How We Tell The Time", by Dr David Malone, NUIM. The connection between astronomy and time is as old as astronomy itself, since the day and the year are determined astronomically, and the month has an obvious astronomical connection. But do you know that there are 5 different times for the length of a month, and of a year? And at least 20 different ways of measuring time itself? (AST, ET, DST, GMAT, GMT, GST, JD, LST, LST(2), MJD, MST, ST, TAI, TCB, TDB, TDT, TT, UT, UT1 and UTC. And you also have to allow for Delta T! And measurements must be made with respect to ICRF2 And, of course, it's all relative! 

  But don't worry - the talk won't be addressing all those, and it will be at a simple ad popular level.

  Why are there so many different 'types' of time, what are they used for (some are now obsolete, BTW), and how do we measure time anyway?

   This lecture will throw some light on something we take for granted, but is in fact far from simple

   TIME (BST or DST!): 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB.

 Free admission, including light refreshments. Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.


2. Lecture:  "Babylonian Astronomy and Modern Science", 27 October, 7.30 p.m. in the Armagh County Museum, The Mall East, Armagh.

The Armagh Natural History and Philosophical Society (ANHPS) is hosting a free event at 7.30pm on Thursday 27th October in the Armagh County Museum, in memory of Dr Denis Gerard McCartan (1944–2014), a distinguished former pupil of St Patrick's College (now St. Patrick's Grammar School), Armagh. The event will begin with a short introduction to Gerard McCartan by family members, followed by an illustrated talk on "Babylonian Astronomy and Modern Science" by Professor Richard Stephenson, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics, Durham University.  Professor Stephenson's main research interests are in Applied Historical Astronomy. 


3. Intergenerational Astronomy Talk, Friday 28th October 2016, 11.00am, Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, .
   "Earth's Place in Space: Discovering Humanity's Shared Celestial Heritage", by
Professor Mark E. Bailey, Emeritus Director of Armagh Observatory
   Summary: Astronomy is the oldest science, stretching back more than 5,000 years to the erection of monuments such as Stonehenge and Newgrange, many of which contain remarkably precise astronomical alignments.  This illustrated talk, which is linked to Dr Aisling O'Beirn's exhibition "Another Day in Futile
Battle Against the 2nd Law" (October 8 to November 23) and to Armagh Observatory's set of "From Earth To The Universe" (FETTU) posters is intended for a general audience.  It takes you on a journey from Earth,
through the Solar System, past nearby stars and our own Milky Way Galaxy, to the most distant parts of the known Universe until we reach the "Big Bang", the accepted start of our known Universe some 14 billion years ago. The talk will also cover the work and recent discoveries of the Armagh Astronomers; the principal parts of our Solar System; and the sizes and relative distances of the planets and nearby stars.


4. IAA Honour for Yours Truly:  In a moment of madness at the last IAA Council Meeting they voted (in my temporary absence) to make me an 'Honorary Life Member'. I can't really put into words how much I appreciate the honour, and it's quite humbling in a way, in that I'm only doing what I enjoy doing - promoting astronomy to as many people as possible. Thank you all very much, and I'll try to keep on doing what I'm doing for as long as possible.


5. Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 27-30 October Mayo Dark Sky Festival website They now have an official IDA Gold Tier Dark Sky Park award for this site in Mayo see

   Additional Item: Lorraine Hanlon of UCD Physics and Elaine O Boyle of UCD Parity Studios are planning a wonderful presentation to end the Mayo Dark Sky Festival - DON'T MISS IT (3:30pm Sunday 30 Oct in Hotel Newport)!... "Dancing with the Stars - A Voyage Through the Galaxy":
Synopsis:   Planet Earth orbits a star that is one of many stars in the Milky Way galaxy. We know from observations that the Milky Way is also home to planets around other stars, black holes (including a giant one at the centre of the galaxy) and lots of gas and dust.  But most of our galaxy's mass is in the form of 'dark matter' that is invisible to us. 
An amazing European satellite called 'Gaia' is making the best ever map of the Milky Way to help us understand how the galaxy formed and what it is made of.
In this presentation we will go on an illustrated journey through the Milky Way, exploring its shape, size and evolution and finding out why Gaia's survey of the stars is revolutionising astronomy."

   Those of you with a smartphone may wish to download our festival app to get the latest updates on events, speaker biographies etc.  This app (from will also send out alerts if there are any last minute changes to scheduled events (I'm thinking particularly of the Friday and Saturday observing sessions, which are of course weather dependent).  The link to the app is - and it's available for Android and iPhone (the app is free and has no ads, you'll be glad to hear!)

   TIME TO REGISTER NOW: Time to pre-register for the upcoming Mayo Dark Sky Festival in Newport County Mayo 28-30 October! By pre-registering (no payment necessary) your itinerary, programme and tickets will all be ready for you at the Fast Track Desk in Hotel Newport before the start of the festival and can be done at

6. Causeway U3A Astro Interest Group Lecture: "Our Sun: friend or Foe?" by Terry Moseley. Agherton Parish Centre, Portstewart, 2 p.m., Monday 7 November. Open to non AIG members for £3.00 - payable at the door.  Non members only - please email ( by Thursday 3rd November if you plan to attend.

7. IFAS Calendar 2017 . The FREE edition of the IFAS Calendar for 2017 is now available as a 735Kb pdf for download. It does not include the photos taken by IFAS members but these will appear in a printed edition of the calendar which will be available for purchase (details to be announced during October on the IFAS site The pdf contains extra pages with various useful tables of data. Grab your copy of the 2017 calendar now at

8. AstroPhoto Exhibition, Antrim, 9 December. We're delighted to announce that all the local photographs in this exhibition will feature in a further series of exhibitions, at venues including Clotworthy House in Antrim, and the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn.  

The Clotworthy Arts Centre will be hosting the event from 9 November until 3 December. Free admission. A MUST SEE! 


9. Science Week Ireland 13 - 20 November; see for more details.

10: Gravitational Waves; A New Astronomy, Monday, 21 November 2016 from 18:30 to 20:00 (GMT), Theatre D (ICON Theatre), UCD Science Hub, UCD, Belfield.

11. Fly A Rocket: The European Space Agency is looking for students for its new "Fly a Rocket!" programme. ESA's Education Office is looking for twenty students to participate in an online course about rocketry. Following completion of the course, the students will have the opportunity to take part in a full launch campaign at the Andoya Space Center in Northern Norway, and to launch a rocket. The course is aimed at younger university students, and it is accepting applications from education, media, and management students, showing that careers in the space sector do not necessarily require a detailed technical or mathematical background. Learn more about the program here:!_programme

12. ESO Astronomy Camp Date: 26 December 2016 to 1 January 2017; Location: Aosta Valley, Italy. More information:

13. IAA Subscriptions now overdue: You can pay by Paypal via the IAA website 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.

14: IAA NEW YEAR PARTY - 7 January. More details later.

15. Galway Astrofest, 28 January. Another top programme of events is already lined up. More details later, but save the date now.

16. The 2017 TSE in USA: Online course about 2017 Eclipse. On August 21, 2017, the United States of America (USA) will experience the first total eclipse of the Sun visible in the continental territory in almost 40 years. The total eclipse will only be visible within a narrow band, and everyone in North America located outside this band will see a partial solar eclipse. On 15 October 2016 the US National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is promoting the virtual conference "The Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 — Are You and Your Students Ready for the Sky Event of the Decade?". This course is open to international participants for a fee. There is a free booklet (in PDF format) about the eclipse and safe viewing, from NSTA's recently published book Solar Science, and it can be found here:  . Find out more about this online course here:

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

18: Interesting Weblinks


Largest image ever taken of Andromeda Galaxy: 

Eta Carina's raging winds 

Unexplained activity in distant stars 

Oldest known planet-forming disc discovered 



Did LIGO detect Black Holes or Gravastars? 


EARTH - MOON The description does not quite match the geography of the area, particularly the two small offshore islands, but it looks as if it was very far away by the time it disappeared.



Preferentially Earth-sized planets with lots of water: IGNORE the headline, and the bulleted sub-headlines - very misleading! But the main text is reasonably OK. Simply, if Alpha Centauri A moves in front of the more distant red giant S5, the way the gravitational lens effect of Alpha Centauri A affects the light from S5 could reveal the presence of planets in orbit around Alpha Centauri A. But not whether there is alien life on any of those planets, unless ways of analysing that light's chemical signature improve considerably between now and then.

   This will have absolutely no effect on, or connection with, the planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the third star in the Alpha Centauri system.
  Binary - binary system: Odd headline. No, 'everything we know about the formation of our SS' is NOT wrong. Just one odd example proves nothing. And they can't even say that the system is stable, as they haven't observed it for long enough. The usual counter argument to that is 'if it's not stable, it's very unlikely that we are observing it at a time when it is in that configuration'. Unlikely, but not impossible. And if there are, or have been, many other such systems, it's not all that unusual that we've spotted one of them. After all, a Type 1a Supernova is a VERY rare event in the total lifetime of a star, but we've observed many hundreds of them.


SETI:  NB: this article seems OK, but information on this site is not always reliable - I've had to send them corrections on several occasions.


SOLAR SYSTEM: NB: this article seems OK, but information on this site is not always reliable - I've had to send them corrections on several occasions. Even if it is there (which I'm not disputing), and even if it is found, they won't be able to officially call it a planet, because they won't be able to prove the third IAU requirement for being a planet: that the body "has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit". Since it is so far away, and with a fairly elliptical orbit, it will take a VERY long time for us to determine if the third requirement has been met. See also and NB: Someone at the DM can't add.

1. 16 months from October 2016 brings you to January 2018; not "2019"
2. Or alternatively, "the end of next (not this) winter" brings you to February or March 2018, depending on how you define the end of winter. But it's not 2019. Ignore all the Star Wars nonsense, and enjoy the rest.

Saturn's N Pole mystery 

Possible clouds on Pluto? 

How water escapes or stays on Mars: 

Microbial life on Mars? But is "Astrobiology" a peer-reviewed publication?

Curious tilt of the Sun? As the Sun contains 99% of the mass in the Solar System, it's not the Sun that's tilted, but the orbits of the planets. (And yes, I know the point about the angular momentum....)



SPACE:  That would be good going! 1 million people in spacecraft carrying 100 at a time? As the first such flight won't be for 10 years from now at the earliest, and more likely to be 20 years from now, that's 1 million in 80 years. That's 12500 per year, or 125 flights per year, on average. Since the launch rate will start off fairly slowly, it will need to rise considerably by the end of the period, and he would be launching more than one flight per day at the end of the period! And that's assuming no launch failures, and especially no flight casualties. A tad ambitious, perhaps?
UFO's Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, etc: This guy is an idiot - everyone knows it was not shot down at all, but was actually captured by the Reptilians from Zeta Ophiuchii!

19. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


20. 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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