Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Lecture, Geminids, Supermoon, Mercury, ISS, Venus, TV, Photos, NY Party, A/P,

Hi all,


1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 14 December:  'Sunspots and Solar Flares - How can we forecast space weather?', by Dr Aoife McCloskey, TCD; 

   The most obvious and dramatic features on the Sun which are visible from Earth are the Sunspots and solar flares on the disc. They tell us a lot about the workings of our nearest star, but more importantly, they can have serious consequences for us here on Earth. This talk will give us all the latest information on these fascinating features, and show us the latest research on how to predict them in advance.


   One of the most challenging endeavours in modern technological society is predicting the occurrence of adverse space weather conditions in the near-Earth space environment that are hazardous to technology and human life. The main source of adverse space weather is our active star, the Sun. Solar flares are highly energetic events that occur on the Sun, but can directly impact day-to-day technologies in space (e.g. satellites, GPS signals, astronaut radiation) and on Earth (e.g. radio communication).
   The main scientific questions to answer are when, where and why do these events occur on the Sun? If we can answer these, then we can better prepare for their impact here at Earth. The energy that powers these energetic events is known to come from magnetic energy stored in sunspot groups – dark regions/spots of strong magnetic field on the surface of the Sun. This talk will address the present state of space weather prediction and ongoing research, including using sunspots to predict solar flares, that aims to improve the capabilities of current space weather forecasting."


At this meeting, Prof Stephen Smartt, head of the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, will announce the winner of the best photo from the IAA's PHOTO EXHIBITION (see 8 below), and reveal the special arrangements for the winning photo.

EXTRA EXTRA: FREE SEASONAL REFRESHMENTS in the form of hot mince pies will be available, as well as the usual biccies, tea and coffee.

 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. http://irishastro.org.uk/lecture


2. GEMINIDS: Earth is passing through a stream of debris from the "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.  The shower's peak is not expected until Dec. 13-14, and observers are already seeing fireballs from Gemini as these meteoroids hit Earth's atmosphere traveling at about 35 km/s (78,000 mph). The view will be rather spoiled by the Full Moon / Supermoon on the 14th. so only the brighter meteors will be seen. But the shower will continue, although at a diminishing rate, for a few more days, so you can try to get a view in the brief period in the early evenings before the Moon gets too high up to be really bright.


3 "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 www.irishastro.org.


4. Mercury: Although it's not a very favourable presentation, you might just glimpse Mercury very low in the SW after sunset in the bright twilight. Over the next day or so, look for it with binoculars by extending the line from Mars through Venus down towards the horizon for about the same distance again, and a little bit to the right. Start looking about 20 minutes after sunset (although Mars will be quite hard to see in that brightish twilight).


5. ISS The International Space Station continues its series of evening passes over Ireland until 21 December. Details for your location, along with lots of other useful information on space and astronomy on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com. This new link may also help http://earthsky.org/human-world/how-to-spot-the-international-space-station 


6. Venus is now becoming prominent 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.


7. TV, Media: Prof Alan Fitzsimmons: NVTV (Freeview channel 7),Wednesday 14 Dec at 19:40: "Behind the Science". Geoff McGimpsey talks to astronomer Alan Fitzsimmons about minor bodies in our solar system, comets and asteroids.  Alan is a member of the WASP consortium which built the SuperWASP facility on La Palma.  (Thanks to Peter Millar for this)


8.  IAA NEW YEAR PARTY - 7 January..This ever-popular social event will again be based in Comber Co Down. We start off with eats and drinks at McBride's on The Square, Comber, at 5.15 for 5.30 p.m.; then make our way to the Tudor Private Cinema about a mile away, for more seasonal hot drinks, a special showing of "The Martian" (highly recommended), and the usual quiz for all. Details are on the IAA website, and a booking form will be issued with the next Stardust to IAA members shortly.


9. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition, Antrim - EXTENDED.

The superb exhibition of locally taken astro-photographs continues at Clotworthy Arts Centre in Antrim will now continue until 27 December. Free admission. A MUST SEE! http://www.antrimandnewtownabbey.gov.uk/Things-To-Do/Events/Heavens-Above

You can get directions here http://www.discovernorthernireland.com/Clotworthy-Arts-Centre-Antrim-P2976 


10. Mystery of the Christmas Star, at Armagh Planetarium, until 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 www.armaghplanet.com


11. IFAS Calendar 2017. Hard copy ready for purchase. Prices in Euros. Details at ifascalendar2017@gmail.com.  The calendar is printed on 100gsm paper with a 200gsm cover. There are 28 pages printed on A3 saddle stitched to A4.

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


12: 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 https://irecruit-ext.hrconnect.nigov.net.    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.

13. ESO Astronomy Camp Date: 26 December 2016 to 1 January 2017; Location: Aosta Valley, Italy. More information: http://www.eso.org/public/announcements/ann16031/ 

14. 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:

15. 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: http://trainlikeanastronaut.org/ 

16. 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: http://www.esa.int/Education/ESA_Academy/ESA_looking_for_students_for_its_new_Fly_a_Rocket!_programme

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:

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: http://ise2a.uu.nl/ 

19. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to Andy McCrea: s.mccrea980@btinternet.com

20: 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)


HST images odd galaxy in nearby Virgo Cluster https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161209121738.htm 

Magnetic reconnections drive many astronomical phenomena: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161208121905.htm 

   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4025562/Brightest-supernova-seen-fact-rapidly-spinning-supermassive-black-hole-shredding-distant-star.html QUB astronomers, led by Prof Stephen Smartt, were also involved in this research, and Morgan Fraser, cited, recently gave one of our popular public Irish Astronomical Association lectures on supernovae.


Amateur helps solve mystery of unique binary pulsar. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161208143343.htm


2nd Generation stars identified https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161206155638.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29 






Dark Matter may be smoother than expected.  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207092910.htm




Earth's Technosphere now weighs 30 trillion tons https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161130085021.htm 

World to end this month!! http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4002130/Will-world-END-month-Computer-programmer-claims-Jesus-return-destroy-planet-latest-bizarre-claim.html

Again? It's been destroyed for the 'Second Coming' several dozen times in my lifetime alone, and I've always missed it! With my luck, it will be the same thing again this time. (Will these idiots never learn?)


UN proclaims June 30 as International Asteroid Day http://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/informationfor/media/2016-unis-os-478.html 




   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3993632/We-dangerous-moment-development-humanity-Stephen-Hawking-warns-risk-destroying-Earth.html Sorry, Stephen: we do NOT have the technology to destroy the Earth - to make it uninhabitable, or nearly so, yes; but to destroy it - no.


An astrological alignment explanation has been theorized for decades! And the Vernal equinox had been in Aries for many centuries - that's why it's called the 'first point of Aries'. Doh!


ALMA measures size of protoplanetary seeds https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161205085932.htm 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-4021658/Excitement-builds-impressions-Rogue-One-Star-Wars-Story-positive.html Good news. But, quote: " Fans are going to lose their s*** "? Personally, I'm glad to lose mine every time I flush the loo, but why has that anything to do with this film? Or does s*** mean 'shoe'? Or shop? Or shed? IOW, what's the point of that stupid, crude, expression?


"Arrival" is wrong about talking with space aliens:   https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161129085022.htm

One minor error - SETI never listened for signals from other galaxies ; it was from other planetary systems within our own galaxy.


METEORITES: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4016890/Third-natural-quasicrystal-discovered-Russian-meteorite-hosted-two-examples.html 



"Arrival" is wrong about talking with space aliens: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161129085022.htm One minor error - SETI never listened for signals from other galaxies; it was from other planetary systems within our own galaxy.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3993824/Dyson-sphere-star-dimming-ALIENS-mining-energy-surface-claim-scientists.html - I VERY much doubt it.



http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4025910/The-giant-WORMS-Mars-NASA-reveals-stunning-images-coolest-landscape-Mars-red-planet-s-frozen-South-Pole.html Some of those images would be better candidates for the Turner prize than the actual winner!



Saturn's Moons younger than thought https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207132346.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29

First pics from Cassini's new orbit https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207155755.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Ftop_news%2Ftop_science+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Top+Science+News%29 and    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4009938/From-Saturn-s-atmosphere-icy-halos-Cassini-captures-stunning-images-ring-grazing-orbit.html 

New evidence on formation of SS https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161202101023.htm 

Chemicals found on comets https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161203154535.htm 



Asteroid Impact Mission: Please keep sharing the open letter with friends and colleagues, please keep tweeting messages of support with the Hashtag #IsupportAIM 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4024398/Nasa-Stephen-Hawking-work-habitable-planet-20-YEARS.html Getting it there is the 'relatively' easy part! How are they going to get signals, let alone pictures, back across 4.3 light years from a nanoscale craft? Even with a much bigger spacecraft, powered by a RTG, with a relatively large antenna, it was only possible to send signals back from Pluto (only a few light-hours away) at the rate of an old dial-up modem! A nanoscale craft couldn't get a single byte back from that distance, let alone a picture. And a slingshot manoeuvre would be impossible to navigate with no onboard computer nor thrusters. It's a flight of fancy, IMHO.
New night-vision specs might be good for stargazing: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161207093027.htm 
New telescope chip offers clear views of exoplanets https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161206111740.htm 
UFO's Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, etc:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4024198/Has-UFO-spotted-crossing-MOON-Video-shows-disc-shaped-object-flying-lunar-surface.html  If that object was near or orbiting the Moon it would be lit up by sunlight like the Moon, and thus bright, not dark. It would also be many miles in diameter. It's almost certainly a weather balloon high up in the dark side of the Earth's atmosphere, which is why it's unlit, and therefore dark. Sorry, Ufologists!
Xmas Prezzie
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. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
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Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

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