Monday, 28 November 2016

Lectures, Public event, Observing, ISS, Venus, Exhibition, Earth's Future, Moon,

Hi all,


1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 30 November:  "Recent space exploration: small guys take the spotlight", by Dr Wes Fraser, QUB; 

   Summary: In the last few years, we have witnessed a second renaissance in robotic space exploration. Unlike the era of Voyager and Magellan however, the missions that have truly caught the public's eye have visited the Solar System's small objects. New Horizons to Pluto, Rosetta to comet 67P, Dawn to Ceres and Vesta.

   We now have a deep understanding of these small bodies implicating facts about their formation that we are still yet to fully appreciate. Working our way from the asteroid belt outwards, I will give an overview of each mission, including details of the spacecraft, and summarize the astrophysical import of some of the landmark results each mission has produced. Along the way, I will show some of the most spectacular space photos ever taken, and some of social media's often hilarious reactions to humanity's latest space explorations.

    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.


2.  IAA Public Astronomy Outreach Event, Cullyhanna, Co Armagh, 4 December "Winter Sky Spectacular". 5 p.m. to about 9.30 p.m. Join members of the Irish Astronomical Association as they show you the wonders of the winter sky through their powerful telescopes at Cullyhanna Community Centre on Sunday 4 December.
 See Venus, Earth's sister planet, and the one closest to Earth, and the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon: it's also known as the beautiful Evening Star.
  There will also be a lovely crescent moon, with the 'Old Moon in the New Moon's Arms'. And we'll also view mysterious Mars - possibly the abode of simple life forms.

   Another treat will be a pass over Ireland of the International Space Station - easily visible with your own eyes if you know when and where to look.   Then there are all the usual wonders of the winter night sky - the lovely Pleiades or Seven Sisters; the huge Andromeda Galaxy - twice as big as our own Milky Way galaxy, lying at the incredible distance of 2.5 million light years, or about 25 milllion million million miles! Even at that distance you can see it with your own unaided eyes and we will show you where to look.

And there's everyone's favourite constellation: Orion, the Might Hunter, with his famous 'Sword', which is actually a gigantic cloud of shining gas and dust, in which stars and planets are being born as we look. Orion's two brightest stars are truly amazing: Betelgeuse is a Red Supergiant, so big that it would engulf the orbits of the three innermost planets in our solar system: Mercury, Venus and Earth! Rigel is not so big, but it's very very hot, and tens of thousands of times brighter than our Sun.

  And there's much much more all around the night sky, in Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Auriga, the Great Bear, and so on.
Even if it's cloudy there will be plenty to interest everyone: We'll have the portable Stardome, kindly loaned by Armagh Planetarium, in which we will give amazing starshows touring the universe from our own Earth to the far reaches of the universe.
We'll also have an exhibition of all sorts of interesting things to do with astronomy and space, including a selection of meteorites: rocks which have actually come from outer space to planet Earth.
   More details on the IAA website


3. IAA Observing Evenings, Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh, Co Down:

Next sessions: December 2 or 3 . Check IAA website, for details.


4. ISS The International Space Station starts a new series of evening passes over Ireland on  2 December. 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 


5. 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. The crescent moon will lie 10 deg above right of Venus on the evening of 2 Dec, and 5 deg 21' above it on the next evening.


6. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition, Antrim. We're delighted to announce that local photographs feature in a further series of exhibitions, at venues including Clotworthy Arts Centre 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!

You can get directions here 


7. "Another SuperMoon" on Dec 14: The Full Moon on 14 Nov, at 11.21, was the closest 'SuperMoon' since 1948. Many members saw and imaged it. But contrary to what was said by an 'expert' in an interview on Radio Ulster that day (I'll spare his blushes by not naming him....), the next Full Moon will not be an 'ordinary full moon'. It will in fact be another 'supermoon', as they come in clusters of 3. The next one, on Dec 14, won't be quite as close, but very nearly so. The closest we saw the Moon (from N.I.) on Nov 14 was 356,560km; on Dec 14 the closest will be 361,270km: still very close compared with its mean distance of 384,400km.  Send in your best photos to the website


8. Mystery of the Christmas Star, at Armagh Planetarium, 1 - 22 Dec

Visit Armagh Planetarium this Christmas as we journey back more than 2000 years to Bethlehem, and seek to discover an explanation for the star the Wise Men followed to find the baby Jesus in "Mystery of the Christmas Star".  The Star of Bethlehem is an iconic astronomical event whose true origin remains unknown even today, in spite of years of speculation and research.  The show will guide the viewer through some of these investigations and the most likely causes of this interesting cosmological object which was remarkable enough to make the wise men travel across the desert from Babylon to Bethlehem to see the newborn baby.  You will also explore possible dates for the birth of Christ and look at the historical records of significant astronomical events which occurred at this time. Details at


9. IFAS Calendar 2017. Hard copy ready for purchase. Prices in Euros. Details at The calendar is printed on 100gsm paper with a 200gsm cover. There are 28 pages printed on A3 saddle stitched to A4. Contact me (T.M.) right away if you would like one collected from Dublin, and brought to the IAA meeting on Dec 14, at a price of E6.50.

Number Collected Delivered to Ireland Delivered World-Wide
1 6.50 8.50 10.50
15.00 17.00
23.00 25.00


10. Earth's Future Inhabitability 

Step 1. First, find another suitable planet.
Step 2. Check if it's already occupied.
    2A: If it is already inhabited by another intelligent species*, move on.
    2B. If it's not, but is suitable for carbon-based life, there almost certainly will already be such life on it. So check if that life is compatible with ours; (e.g. poisonous life forms, bacteria and viruses against which we have no defences, and that the existing life can survive the bacteria and viruses which we will bring with us)
Step 3. Proceed to transfer many millions, or billions, of humans from Earth to new planet. - Eh?
Alternative: look after our own planet, so we can live on it in harmony with it, with nature, and with ourselves.
   * Defining 'intelligent' will be tricky. If they are already have complex speech, written or symbolic writing, use of fire, agriculture, and simple buildings, then they are equivalent to human beings as we were only 10,000 years ago, and we have no right to take over their planet. If their development is at a less advanced stage than that, then it becomes borderline, with complex moral and ethical elements to consider.
  In my personal & humble opinion: this should be COMPULSORY viewing for every human being old enough to understand it. Particularly those who are against contraception. We are raping our own planet through uncontrolled population growth and exploitation of its resources. What it doesn't show is the number of species of other animals that we have hunted or otherwise driven to extinction through our greed and selfishness. Before the Europeans arrived in N. America, there were 20-30 MILLION magnificent bison roaming the plains. Now they exist only in zoos or protected areas. 
   As a species, we don't deserve this beautiful planet, the way we are treating it, and its other occupants, right now. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Before looking for other planets, we should learn to look after this one. And I haven't even mentioned Climate Change! Please pass this on to EVERYONE you know.

11: Job vacancy Head of Corporate Services at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP). The position of Head of Corporate Services at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium (AOP) in Northern Ireland is now being advertised.  Further details are available via the NICS recruitment website at    We are seeking an individual who can bring the right balance of strategic thinking, operational leadership and organisational change management and development skills to this position. The successful candidate will support the Director as we develop a programme to deliver alignment between the research, educational, outreach and heritage aims of the newly merged Observatory and Planetarium at Armagh.    This is the first of three positions being advertised for the Senior Management Team at AOP.  Two further positions, for the Head of Research and the Head of Education & Community Outreach, will hopefully be advertised early in the new year.  These principally involve, respectively, the research conducted in the Observatory and the education & outreach conducted in the Planetarium arms of the AOP.    Please note that any enquiries about this position should be directed to the Operations Manager, as specified in the candidate information booklet on the above website.

12. 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. 13th JL Synge Public Lecture, 1 December: "The Birth of the Universe" by Professor George Efstathiou, FRS. (Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and the first Director of the Kavli Institute of Cosmology at Cambridge). The School of Mathematics of Trinity College Dublin cordially invite you to the above lecture and to the wine reception after the lecture. See
  Venue: MacNeill Lecture Theatre 3, Hamilton Building, Trinity College Dublin, Date: Thursday 1st December, Time: 7.30pm. 
RSVP to Emma Clancy ( or 01 896 1949).

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

15. Cassini Scientist for a Day Essay Contest
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has announced the 2016–17 staging of its Cassini Scientist for a Day essay contest. Since the Cassini mission to Saturn will be ending on 15 September 2017, this will most likely be the last essay contest for the Cassini mission, for which students are asked to write an essay of up to 500 words about one of three possible imaging targets that the Cassini spacecraft has observed during the past few years. Winners and their classes are invited to participate in a teleconference with Cassini scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The deadline for entries is 24 February 2017.
For contest rules, a flyer, frequently asked questions, and more information, please visit:

16. Train like an astronaut in 2017. Mission X is an international challenge for pupils aged 8 to 12 years old and is an initiative of NASA, ESA, and other space agencies around the world. It focuses on fitness and healthy eating — two very important topics for astronauts.  During the challenge, the students take part in six weeks of training to get fit like astronauts. Don't miss the chance to register your class onto the Mission X challenge 2017 and train with ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet and his crew members! You have until 31 December 2016!
Read ESA's press release here:
You can also visit the official website here: 

17. 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

18. 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.

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

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

21. FUTURE EVENTS ALERT: Note the dates:

For Professional Astronomers only: A workshop to discuss the CTA and Ireland's involvement will take place
at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium on January 27, 2017. Details can be downloaded from the ASGI
web page.
N.I. Science Festival: 16 - 26 February. The NISF is coming back for a third year! And it's set to be the biggest one yet. Mark it in your diaries and join us. Programme announcement on Dec 2.

COSMOS 2017: 31 March to 02 April. Athlone.

ISSP: 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.

International Symposium on Astronomy and Astrobiology Education: 3–8 July 2017; Utrecht, Netherlands. More Information: 

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

23: Interesting Weblinks: (Disclaimer - Use of material herein from various sources does not imply approval or otherwise of the opinions, political or otherwise, of those sources)

ASTROPHYSICS: Is there Dark Matter? ?

Large number of dwarf galaxies in early universe - and a popular version - and and 


New network to study evolution of universe: Wot, no acronym? Surely it's as simple as CETECA? 

New theory challenges Einstein Interesting. I've never really liked 'Inflation' - it's an ad-hoc hypothesis.


EARTH & MOON  Most objects will just fly straight through the net and the sail!  But even the large trees would die very quickly as the water in their cells would freeze and expand, bursting the cells.
EXOPLANETS: With such a short orbital period, and therefore high velocity, would there be differential gravity between the side nearest to and opposite to, its star?

FILM & TV: Well, that's a load of nonsense for a start! Just because whatever 'artificial gravity' they may have has been 'lost' doesn't mean that the water suddenly starts going wild. The water will stay where it is, thanks to the Law of Inertia. Some special effects folks decided a scene with JL in a swimsuit and lots of water sloshing around would look good, so to heck with the facts.


SETI  and And he gets paid for dreaming up this untestable flight of fancy?

   Just one question - what was the universe like before this superintelligent alien species took it over? When we look back in time, we don't see any significant changes in anything, other than what we would expect. So galaxies that we see 1 billion years ago are much the same as those we see 2 billion years ago, and 3 billion, 4 billion and so on. Of course there are the gradual changes of a generally aging star population, apart from colliding galaxies etc where starburst regions are found. And the laws of physics and chemistry seem to be the same too, as far back as we can look.

   And what has happened to all the other super-intelligent but 'less super-intelligent than this one' species that have evolved also? - Are they just inhabitants of this 'super-brain'?

   Or maybe the universe is actually a giant spider, with all the galaxies the little baby spiders that you see when a nest breaks open. So what we really have is not the World Wide Web, but the UWW....



New views of Ceres from Dawn and They should call it Valles Messengeris, following example of Valles Marineris on Mars. 


SPACE:  I suppose the conspiracy theorists will claim it's all being done from a secret film studio somewhere in Russia! The specific impulse is exceedingly low, but if it works, it's the principle that counts. The first internal combustion engines had very low efficiency, but look what they do now. But I'm still skeptical....
Optical clock to improve GPS precision;  Quote " The suit will fully shield users from the hazardous cosmic and solar radiation raining down from space onto the red planet's surface." Just like that, eh? I'd love to know how.
UFO's Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, etc: Of course, it's the implant in the back of her neck which is making her say that... (Only joking, folks, but some UFOlogists  will say that!)
24. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


25. 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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