Monday, 7 November 2016

Exhibiton, Meteors, Supermoon, Lectures, TV, ISS, Venus, IFAS, SWI, Outreach ...

Hi all,


1. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition, Antrim, 9 November. 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 Arts Centre in Antrim, and the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn.  

IAA Members are invited to the special VIP launch in the CAC Antrim on Tuesday evening at 7 p.m.  All should all have received the invitation by my previous email, but if you haven't already booked for the launch, with free wine, tea & coffee and nibbles by RSVP, you need to do so NOW! Do so: by phone, to 028 9448 1338, or via email to 

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

You can get directions here 


2. Taurid Meteors: These slow but infrequent meteors are noted for producing a higher than usual percentage of fireballs. They are active up to the middle of November, but are rather spoiled this year by the bright Moon.


3. "SuperMoon", 14 November.

Full Moon on 14 Nov, at 11.21, will be the closest perigee during the period 1990 to 2034, and it will be the closest 'SuperMoon' since 1948.
   A 'Supermoon' is a Full Moon occurring very close to its perigee, the time when it is closest to Earth in its elliptical orbit. It then appears larger and brighter than usual - about 14% bigger, and 30% brighter.
   Perigee is at 11.21 UT. Distance = 356,509 km.  Full Moon is at 13.52 UT, so it's closest to Earth at about our midday, when it's obviously below our horizon. So we will see it at its best just before it sets on the early morning of 14 Nov, and as it rises that evening.
   The diameter of the Moon as it sets in the West at about 07.00 will be 33' 31.95" and as it rises at about 17.05 in the East, it will be 33' 31.83" as seen from Belfast.
   The Moon will lie in Western Taurus, to the right of brilliant Aldebaran. It will rise between East and North East, at an azimuth of 67 degrees, where 0 degrees is North, 45 degrees is NE and 90 degrees is East.
    In case it's cloudy when the moon rises that evening, you could play safe and also try to observe it just before it sets in the West to Northwest that morning, at around 07.00, when it will appear just as big and bright. The azimuth from Belfast will be 290 degrees.
   It will be well S of the ecliptic, with an ecliptic latitude of -5.8 deg, which will actually make it appear even brighter, because the Moon's S hemisphere will be more tilted towards us, and that hemisphere is brighter than its N hemisphere.
   Further, because the Earth will be getting quite close to Perihelion (Jan 04, 2017), when it is closest to the Sun, the Moon will be receiving more sunlight than average, also helping to boost its apparent brightness.
   If you want to try to image it, choose a location where you'll get some nice terrestrial feature in the foreground: a well-known landmark such as a tower or a spire will provide a nice comparison, particularly if you stay back a bit and use a zoom or telephoto lens which will magnify both objects.
   (The most Super of Supermoons in the next few decades will be on 2034 Nov 25, when it will come within 356,445 km. That's 64km closer than in 2016, and within 35km of the absolute theoretical closest distance. And even better, it will coincide almost exactly with the time of FM: Perigee will be at 22.05, and FM occurs at 22.32, which is amazingly close. And better still, the Moon will be 43 deg above our horizon then, so we'll see it well, and in Belfast we'll also be a few thousand kilometers closer to it than the quoted geocentric distance of 356,445 km. The apparent diameter at that perihelion, from Belfast, will be an amazing 33' 57.05".
  However, as the Earth's rotation will bring us (in Belfast) closer to the Moon as we rotate until the Moon crosses our meridian, and that motion is a greater factor than the slow movement of the Moon away from its perihelion, our closest approach to the Moon will occur between 00.17 and 00.20 on 2034 Nov 26th, when the apparent diameter of the Moon from Belfast will just break the 34' mark, at 34' 0.1"!
   Anyone observing from further South, and particularly anyone at the sub-lunar point (i.e. with the Moon in their zenith) at the moment of perigee will see it slightly bigger than that.
   The Moon's S hemisphere will again be tilted towards us, so it will again be exceptionally bright. If I'm still doing these bulletins then, I'll give exact details closer to the time!)
   For reference, the average diameter of the moon as seen from Earth is 31' 05.2".

An example of a mixture of hype and getting things wrong is here: 

Erroneous and misleading statements in this -
1. "When this Earth-Moon-Sun system occurs with the perigee side of the Moon facing us".  There is no such thing as 'the perigee side of the Moon'! The Moon always presents the same face to us (ignoring the minor effects of libration) whether it's at perigee or not. - That should read  ".... with the Moon at the perigee point of its orbit ...)
2. " .... and the Moon happens to be on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun, we get what's called a perigee-syzygy." - That's wrong too, because you can have the Moon at perigee, and on the SAME side of the Earth as the Sun, and it would still be a 'perigee-syzygy'. That's because syzygy simply means that the three bodies are in a straight line, not in what order they lie.
3. "That causes the Moon to appear much bigger and brighter in our sky than usual, and it's referred to as a supermoon - or more technically, a perigee moon." Not quite. A 'Supermoon' refers only to a Full Moon occurring at perigee, whereas a perigee moon can occur at any phase of the Moon.
4. "Depending on where you're viewing it from, the difference between a supermoon and a regular full moon can be stark, or difficult to tell. If the Moon is hanging high overhead, and you have no buildings or landmarks to compare it to, it can be tricky to tell that it's larger than usual. But if you're viewing from a spot where the Moon is sitting closer to the horizon, it can create what's known as 'moon illusion'.". Wrong again. The 'Moon illusion' occurs when the moon is seen close to the horizon, no matter whether it's a Supermoon or not, and no matter what the phase of the Moon is. A nice crescent moon low in the twilight appears bigger than when it is high up, even if it's not a perigee Moon. The Moon illusion appears purely as a function of the Moon being seen close to the horizon, nothing else.
5. "If you're planning on viewing the November 14 supermoon, be sure to get somewhere nice and dark, away from the lights of the city, if you can." Not necessary at all! This is a Full Moon after all, and one that's bigger and brighter than usual to boot. So Light Pollution is not a problem at all. In fact, the Moon will appear even more dramatic if seen and imaged near to some familiar landmark, such as the Albert Clock or Scrabo Tower.


4. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, 16 November;  "Beginners Astrophotography", by IAA President Paul Evans; and "The Space Academy" by IAA Council Member/schools Officer learn Edwards. This meeting is aimed at newcomers/beginners, and will cover everything you need to know about getting started in astrophotography, using just your camera, and leading on to simple imaging through a telescope. Eleanor will then describe her involvement with the UK's Space Academy, and how it relates to teaching astronomy and space science in schools.

   TIME: 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.


5. TV Interview with Emeritus Professor Director Mark Bailey.

"Behind the Science: Geoff McGimpsey talks to the former director of Armagh Observatory, Professor Mark Bailey". This broadcast can now be viewed at    On the page there's a dropdown called "Regular series quickfinder:" and from it you select "Behind the Science".  (Eventually) you get a number of tiles - the one you want is "Armagh Observatory". Also:  for the web-page version  (Thanks to Mark, and Peter Millar)


6. ISS The International Space Station continues its series of morning passes over Ireland on Nov 3, continuing until Nov 20. Details for your location, along with lots of other useful information on space and astronomy on the excellent free site This new link may also help 


7. Venus is now becoming more readily visible in the early evening twilight as it moves out from the Sun, and the angle of the ecliptic gradually improves for us in these latitudes.


8. 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


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. Newport Astronomy Society: Next talk is Tuesday 29th November, upstairs in the Grainne Uaile Pub, Newport at 8pm. Topic: 'The Drake Equation and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence' by Derek Dempsey - admission FREE - everyone welcome! #mayodarkskies

12. IAA Public Astronomy Outreach Event, Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, 4 December, 5 p.m. More details later, but mark your diaries now.

13. 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

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

15. IAA Subscriptions now overdue:  Your Last chance to pay! Any members who have not renewed their subscriptions by the time the next issue of STARDUST is being sent out will be deemed to have lapsed, and will not receive that or any further issues. 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.

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

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

18. FUTURE EVENTS ALERT: Note the dates:

COSMOS 2017: 31/3 to 02/04. Athlone.

SSP: Major Event: The International Space Studies Programme (SSP) will be coming to Ireland next year. It will be based at Cork Institute of Technology, running from 26 June to 25 August.

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

20: Interesting Weblinks:


A Tsunami of stars and gas produces eye-shaped feature in galaxy and Trust the DM to give it the nickname of the "Evil Eye"! - I think it's quite a nice eye....

HST images the Toucan 

The 'Pillars of Destruction' and Watch the zoom-in video!!

Nearly 'naked' Black Hole from close encounter 


New profile of dark matter and for a simpler version.


New clues on origin of life 

I don't agree that a 3.5 year warning period is too short to try a deflection. When something that serious is about to happen, you would throw everything at it! You would put every available scientist and rocket engineering firm to work 24/7 building big powerful rockets. You would buy up every rocket available from ESA, Russia, China, India, & Japan. You would forget about testing for 99% reliability - if 90%, or even 75%, of them work, you're in business. Even smaller rockets could be used - you wouldn't use them to lift a heavy payload, all you need is to get the final stage of the rocket out of Earth orbit and aim it at the asteroid. Bigger rockets would just carry as much mass as possible to deflect its orbit as much as possible.
   You would use every available nuke to explode on its surface, with the resulting ejecta pushing the asteroid in the opposite direction. If you hit it early enough, only a very slight push will make it miss the Earth - not by much, but a miss by even 50 miles is enough. If it breaks up, you just target each big piece separately. JMTW!


Detection of water on asteroid Psyche 

Quote: "

The mission involves astronauts making the journey to their captive space rock by hitching a ride on the next-generation Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

After the Orion and the asteroid are attached, the astronauts take a spacewalk to the captured object.

Once the Orion docks with the remote-operated asteroid capture device, the crew performs a spacewalk that sees them climb almost the length of the conjoined vehicles to an exposed section of the asteroid they take photos of and scoop samples from, the video shows.

After the mission is complete, Orion returns to Earth on the same path it journeyed out on, loops around the moon included, and splashes down in an ocean - likely the Pacific - 10 days later.

The mission is seen as an important step towards eventually sending humans to Mars and returning them safely." 

   - Can anyone tell me what this has got to do with getting humans onto Mars? How does visiting a tiny space rock in orbit around the Moon relate to getting a human crew to Mars?

   (I can see how it might be useful in planning for an asteroid redirect mission, but not for getting to Mars.) 

Unusual region on Mars 


Navcube could support X-ray comms in space The ISS can never pass overhead for anyone North of 51.6 degrees, but it's so high up that it can be seen from much further North than that. However, the further North you are, the lower the ISS will pass across in the S Part of the sky, and the fainter it will appear, simply because it's further away. The good news is that it's easily visible from the whole island of Ireland.
  From the far S of Ireland it can appear almost as bright as Venus, but from Antrim, Derry and Donegal it never gets brighter than Jupiter.
Telescopes, equipment, etc:
New instrument could search for signs of life on Mars 
 UFO's Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, etc: 
Is paranoia the most under-reported mental disorder on the planet, in terms of the numbers displaying it?
21. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


22. 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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