Friday, 24 February 2017

Exoplanets Lecture, NISF, Talks, Film, AOP events, Photo-Ex, Outreach, ISS, more

Hi all,


1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 1 March: "Exotic worlds: planets in other solar systems and what they might look like  ", by Dr Katja Poppenhaeger,  QUB 

SYNOPSIS: Dr Poppenhaeger will talk about how astronomers discover planets in other solar systems, and show a few of the most breathtaking scenarios for what those planets may look like. What would life be like on a habitable world around a tiny red sun? Could a moon around a giant planet be habitable? What would happen if an Earth-like planet were just a tiny bit closer to its sun than we are to ours? She will give a glimpse into the science behind these questions, and show which stars out there actually have possibly habitable worlds around them. There will be ample opportunity for asking questions after the talk.

   With almost unbelievable serendipity, NASA has just made the major announcement of the newly discovered 7-planet system round TRAPPIST 1, all of which are roughly Earth-size, and 3 of which are in the habitable zone!

For more details see In the EXTREMELY unlikely event of any advanced life there, they are going to have very big eyes because of the longer wavelength of their light. Just thought I'd mention it.... See also and and A lot of imagination here, but good illustrations and graphics. But half a billion years is a short time for anything but the most basic life to evolve. We also don't know how stable those orbits are. And are any of them still undergoing a heavy bombardment by 'asteroids'?

And for a different exoplanet system, see 

This promises to be one of the most interesting lectures we've ever had.

FREE REFRESHMENTS in the form of the usual biccies, tea and coffee.  All welcome!

 TIME: 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB.

 Free admission.  Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.


2N.I. Science Festival: continues to 26 February. The NISF is back for a third year! And it's the biggest one yet. . Programme update now at You can now book for all of these events. Although some are booked out, there are always some 'No-shows', so you can often get access by paying at the door (if there is a charge) if there are seats vacant as the event is about to start.


3. Venus, aka 'The Evening Star' still high and bright. Venus is still very  prominent  in the SW in early evening twilight but is now starting to move in closer to the Sun as we see it as it heads towards inferior conjunction in late March. However, the angle of the ecliptic to the horizon is still increasing for us in these latitudes, and further, Venus is moving gradually further North of the ecliptic as we see it. These factor all combine to keep it well up in the darkening sky, at least for another few weeks. more on what happens after that in later bulletins! It is now just about peak brightness, at mag -4.6, and completely outshines neighbouring, Mars, which lies about a third of the length of the 'Plough', or 'Big Dipper', away to the upper left. Venus can be seen in daylight if you know just where to look.

  Venus's phase is now noticeably decreasing as it moves between Earth and Sun: it's now about 20% similar to a 2-3 day old Moon, but that will decrease to only 16% by 1 March.


4. Friday 24 February Department of Physics at Maynooth University: Lecture entitled "The Surprising Look of Massive Stars before Death", by Prof Jose Groh of TCD: 16.00h in the Physics Chemistry Theatre, Science Building, North Campus (off Kilcock Road).


5. Irish Film documentary on Voyager Mission, 26 Feb.

I am the producer of a brand new Irish documentary called 'The Farthest'. The documentary tells the story of the Voyager space mission which will be screened for the first time as part of the Dublin International
Film Festival on 26 February at 2pm.
   We are delighted to share the link to The Farthest Facebook page if you think your members and friends would be interested to learn of our film
   We will be posting brand new teasers and a trailer in the coming days. The tickets are apparently selling fast and we would love to see some Astronomy enthusiasts in our audience so I am just letting you know as soon as possible.
   If people are interested to come to the screening, the tickets can be bought here: The Line Productions, IRE +353 87 772 6236, Skype zlatafilipovic


6. IAS meeting, 27 Feb. Ely House,  Monday at 8pm. John Flannery will give a talk on "Naked Eye Observing", and Mick McCreary will outline the work he has been doing over the past year installing a telescope and dome in his back garden.


7. Niamh Shaw at Armagh Planetarium Saturday 25th February 2017

We are very excited to have the amazing and funny Dr Niamh Shaw at the planetarium during the NI Science festival! Dr Niamh Shaw, an Irish performer, scientist and engineer, is passionate about awakening people's curiosity and she is coming to Armagh Planetarium. Niamh is passionate about all things Space and plans to get to Space within the next 8 years. Attending the International Space University's annual Space Studies Programme in 2015 in association with NASA, she was selected as a crew member on Crew 173 Mars analog mission, in January 2017 in the Utah desert in partnership with The Mars Society. Come meet Niamh here at Armagh Planetarium and hear her thoughts on her trip to Utah and what it will take to become the first Irish Astronaut!
   Niamh will be doing 2 presentations during the day, at 1pm and at 3pm. Tickets cost £2 each. Pre-booking is essential. To book call 02837523689 or via private message on Facebook. There is limited availability.


8. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition, re-opens 28 Feb.

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, and the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn will transfer to the St Patrick's centre, Downpatrick, from 28 Feb - 31 March. Thanks again to Bernie Brown for setting this up.

9. (New) IAA Public outreach event, St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, 3 March. We will be holding another event at this school, beginning at 7.30 p.m. Observing with the school's own 14" Celestron and our own telescopes if clear, plus starshows in the stardome mobile planetarium, courtesy of Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, plus exhibition, meteorites, and 'fix your telescope help'. Book with the school for the stardome shows.


10. ISS. The International Space Station will commence another series of morning passes over Ireland on 3 March. Details as always on the excellent free site this site also has general information on most things visible in the night sky, including comets.


11. Sidewalk astronomy, Dublin, 3 & 4 March;

The IAS's next Sidewalk Astronomy sessions are scheduled for the evenings of Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th March at Sandymount and Clontarf respectively - see their Facebook page for details.


12. Observing night, Armagh Planetarium, 7 March;

Armagh Planetarium will be hosting a Digital Theatre show, talks by an astronomy student and a public telescope viewing session at our Late Night Opening on Tuesday 7 March 2017. Our spectacular Digital Theatre show at 7.40pm guide you through the Night Sky and the constellations that can be seen at this time of year. We will also be hosting a talk from a research student at 7.10pm and again at 8.20pm which will be suitable for all ages.

   We hope to observe through our 12 inch telescopes from 7.00pm to 9.00pm. If you would like to join in please be aware that observing can be done only if the sky is clear, the telescope cannot see through cloud and rain! The Digital Theatre show and talks will go ahead regardless of the weather. Also dressing warmly is essential! If you already have a telescope or binoculars you are welcome to bring them with you for your own use.
   If you are interested in attending the Digital Theatre Show please phone 028 37523689 or email to book your place. We're looking forward to a wonderful night of astronomy and stargazing!
Digital Theatre Show Costs:
£3 for Adults, £2.50 per Child, £10 per Family (2 Adults + 3 Children). Free Admission for Talks and Telescope Viewing.
Places for the theatre show are limited and pre-booking is essential. To book call us on 02837523689.


13. St Patrick's Day events, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

A. 11.15 a.m., Public lecture on recent developments in astronomy, Market Place Theatre, Armagh. Suitable for all. Free, but must be pre-booked at

B. Armagh Observatory Tour, 2.30 p.m. £7, children free. Must be pre-booked at 


14. NSS Art Competition: The National Space Society (NSS) is looking for student artists to create original illustrations for the NSS Roadmap to Space Settlement. Submitted artwork should realistically illustrate one of 2017's two themes: People Living and Working in Space Settlements or Medicine and Medical Manufacturing in Space. By realistic, the organisation means as accurate as possible both in science and engineering terms and as closely as possible to what a real space settlement would look like. The contest is open to all full-time students between the ages of 12 and 25. Deadline for submissions is 16 March 2017 (at 11:59 pm UT). Learn more about the contest here:  


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. 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

17. Odysseus Space Science Challenge
Odysseus is a European space science contest for young people, where three age groups are eligible to participate: Skywalkers (primary school pupils), Pioneers (secondary school pupils) and Explorers (university students). The contest is organised in three rounds — National, Regional and pan-European — that will be held in Toulouse, France in July 2017.  The competition offers a unique learning experience for everyone involved, allowing students to push the boundaries of their knowledge by answering fundamental scientific questions.
   Learn more about it
here and explore the official website:  

18. 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.

See also 365 Days Of Astronomy: It's time for Totality 2017 | 365 Days of Astronomy and 

   The weather prospects are much better on the West side of the Mississippi - see:



* 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.

* Global Astronomy Month:  April 2017. More information: 

* Earth Day / March for Science, April 22: In view of the latest attacks on science, this would be an opportunity to stand up and show support for science and scientists. It is hoped that something will be organised locally, in both Belfast and Dublin. More later.

* European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS): 26–30 June 201,: Prague, Czech Republic. More information: 

* 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: 

* International Observe the Moon Night, 28 October 2017. More Information: 


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

21: 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)

Solar System:

Surprising dunes on comet 67P 

A chaotic early solar system 

Osiris Rex searches for Trojans. 

Why are there different flavours of iron around the solar system?


some great photos Much though I would like to see humans on Mars in my lifetime, I think that a failed mission would be a total disaster, not just for the crew involved, but for the whole future of space exploration. There is still so much to be done before we can get a crew to Mars and back with a high degree of probability that I think we should build a lunar base first.

Telescopes, Instruments

Neural networks promise sharpest ever images:

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


23. 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


Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

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