Monday, 2 January 2017

Meteors tonite, Lecture, IAA N/Y Party, TSE, Astrophotos, Venus, comps, events

Hi all,
Happy New Year to all!


1. QUADRANTID METEORS, 2-3 Jan: The Earth will tonight pass through a stream of debris from the unusual object 2003 EH, which is more like an asteroid than a comet. Others think that the parent object might be comet C/1490 Y1, which was observed by Chinese, Japanese and Korean astronomers 500 years ago. 

Conditions are very good this year, with only a crescent moon which sets fairly early. Maximum is predicted for 14h on the 3rd, so we should observe on the nights of 2-3, and 3-4 Jan. The radiant is in N. Bootes, not far from the end of the 'Plough' handle. ZHR rates could peak at 120 per hour, but unfortunately the Quadrantids peak is fairly sharp, and those rates will only obtain for a few hours on either side of the time of maximum. The sky gets dark quite early on Jan 3, but unfortunately the radiant, although circumpolar, will be quite low as the sky darkens, dipping below the pole a few hours later, before starting to rise again in the NE.

   For us, best rates will be available just before dawn on the 3rd, and again that evening as the radiant rises. For once, observers in the far N of the island will get the best view.


2. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 4 January:  "Explorers of the Galaxy: "Mapping the Molecular Gas of the Southern Milky Way , by Professor Mike Burton, director of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

We are delighted to have Prof Mike Burton, the new Director at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, to give the opening lecture of our 2017 Season.

  For further details, see

FREE REFRESHMENTS in the form of 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.


3. Earth at Perihelion, Jan 4: The Earth will be at perihelion, or closest to the Sun, at 14.17.



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 has been issued with the latest Stardust to IAA members. All are welcome, including guests and non-members.

   Details are on the IAA website - see the entry for 7th Jan labeled "New Year Party", which is clickable and downloads the PDF flyer.

  You can pay by making a PayPal donation to the IAA and emailing the details to Pat O'Neill: 


5. Total Solar Eclipse, USA, 21 August: Lots of people are asking about seeing this eclipse - the most accessible one for many years to come. See If you haven't already made your arrangements, or plans, you might be interested in the following: Ulster Travel have already booked accommodation along the track, and depending on demand they will run a trip, provisionally to be led by Terence Murtagh, former Director of Armagh Planetarium. Contact 2 Church St, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT71 6AB Tel: 028 87722985 (Intl +44 28 87722985), Email: Contact them ASAP if you are interested. Ulster Travel did the travel arrangements for the very successful IAA eclipse trip to Bulgaria in 1999.


6. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition.

The superb exhibition of locally taken astro-photographs, which had very successful runs in the Linenhall Library In Belfast, and Clotworthy Arts Centre in Antrim, will now be opening in the Arts Centre in Lisburn on 5th January - more details later.


7. Venus, aka 'The Evening Star' heralds the New Year. Venus is now very prominent in the SW in early evening twilight as it moves out from the Sun, and the angle of the ecliptic gradually improves for us in these latitudes. It completely outshines its neighbour but one, Mars, which lies about half the length of the 'Plough', or 'Big Dipper', away to the upper left


8. 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:

9. 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 

And also see the UK Youth Build a Rocket Challenge

10. Jan 11 - 14: BT Young Scientist Exhibition, RDS, Dublin. See

11. Galway Astrofest, 28 January, Westwood Hotel. Another top programme this year:

Friday evening, 27 Jan: Observing at Club's dark Sky site at Bearna, if clear.

Sat 28th Jan, Lecture Program

0900 – 1000: Registration

1000 – 1015: Opening Address and Welcome

1015 – 1115: Exploring the Cosmos – The View from Hubble and Beyond.  Dr. Deirdre Coffey, Assistant Professor, School of Physics, UCD

1115 – 1215: A Mayan Adventure in Historical Astronomy, Dr. David Asher, Armagh Observatory & Planetarium.


1230 – 1400: Lunch break and workshops


1400 – 1500: An Introduction to Space Law and the Challenges It Faces.  Dr. Zeldine O'Brien, Barrister & Lecturer.


1500 – 1600: Robotic Exploration of the Solar System. Dr. Wesley Fraser, Queens University Belfast


1600 – 1630: Tea & Coffee


1630 - 1730:  The Patrick Moore Memorial Lecture: ET- Where are you?  Terry Moseley, Irish Astronomical Association.


1730 – 1830: Guided Tour of the NUIG Astrophysics Observatory


1830 – 2000: Astrofest Evening Meal


2000 -      Fiendishly Difficult (only kidding) Table Quiz.



Guests: €25. Club Members: €15.  Students/OAP: €15 Children (U16): Free

Evening Dinner: €30

12. Major Lecture on the Geology of Mars, Wed 22 February, 6.30 p.m.: Lecture jointly hosted by the IAA, Belfast Geologists Society, and Geological Society of N.I. as part of N.I. Science Festival  by Prof. Sanjeev Gupta (Imperial College London). Professor Gupta is an expert on the geology of Mars and a long term science planner on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover mission. His lecture is entitled: 'Exploring the red planet – adventures of the Curiosity Rover'. Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB. More details on booking TBA, but keep the date free.

13. FUTURE EVENTS ALERT: Note the dates:

* 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 updates coming soon. See You can now book for some of these events.

* Messier Marathon Fri Mar 24, 2017 at 2 PM to Sat Mar 25, 2017 at 11 PM, at Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry. See 

* 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: 

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

15: 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)


EARTH & MOON: One of the captions reads ".... traveling as fast as 270mph...." Eh?! Even an ordinary passenger jet does double that speed! Another rubbish illustration. That's neither a star nor a comet - just a figment of a febrile imagination. And the star will NOT become the fastest moving object in our night sky - it won't move anywhere near as fast as the planets or asteroids. What it will have is the largest parallax and proper motion of any star in our sky, but even that will only be detectable by powerful telescopes over a period of weeks or months. 

Nice shots of the Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds, but Tasmania is not far enough South to get really good aurorae. It's a pity that not one of the scenes or sequences is identified. I only recognised two - the artificial islands off the coast of Dubai, and the Nile + Red Sea / Gulf of Aqaba + Sinai peninsula near the end.




SETI  They won't be monitoring Proxima B with the E-ELT in 2017, as it won't be built by then! Maybe we could ask them to be Friends on Interstellar Facebook?




SPACE:   If they want to send a signal back, would it not be better to send a few slightly larger craft, with enough power and equipment to ensure that a signal gets sent back to Earth? Using a laser rather than radio gives a better signal ratio, but it's still going to be difficult to isolate any laser signal sent from the close proximity of even a faintish star like Proxima: A narrow bandwidth in the blue or green might do it, but the pointing and focusing of the beam would have to be very accurate. See also  Please, no! Not selfies from Mars? Sure, it will just keep taking another one, and another one, and another one, until it gets one it likes!
ALMA starts searching for water in the universe using 'Band 5'.
UFO's Aliens, Conspiracy Theories, etc: Slugs on Mars? Please say it's not true! - what about all the potatoes and lettuce that the astronauts will be growing??? - It obviously belonged to the monkey: Martian monkeys are very civilised!
16. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


17. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION: 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


18. Finally: Season's greetings: Wishing all of you a very happy and healthy 2017, with clear skies when you need them most!


Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

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