Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Lectures, NISF, Venus, ISS, A/P, Meteorites, Photos, Competitions, TSE etc

Hi all,


1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 15 February: "Icy Worlds of the Outer Solar System" , by Dr Michele Bannister,  QUB 

Michele is an expert on these mysterious worlds, from 'ex-planet Pluto', to Eris, Haumea, Sedna, Makemake and Quaor and many others, and the mysterious 'Planet 9'. And what about 'Planet X'? Even the classification indicates the mystery; alternative names include Plutinos, EKBOs, Kuiper Belt Objects, Dwarf Planets, Trans-Neptunian Objects, ETNOs, SDOs, and Cubewanos,

  Then we have the giant comets residing in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt, and the Oort Cloud: what's their story? Did comets bring water to planet Earth?

   These objects are of much more than academic interest, as they contain the pristine original material from which our solar system formed.


Recent discoveries are revealing intricate structure in the populations of tiny icy worlds that orbit far beyond Neptune. Surveys with some of the world's largest telescopes are mapping the depths of this vast region. With the >800 discoveries from the Outer Solar System Origins Survey, we are writing the history of how our Solar System was sculpted into shape by the migration of Neptune and the other giant planets. I'll also discuss the few known extreme orbits in this region, and whether they hint at the elusive presence of a distant giant Planet Nine.

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 the light refreshments. Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.


2. Major Lecture on the Geology of Mars, Wed 22 February, 6.30 p.m.: "EXPLORING THE RED PLANET - ADVENTURES OF THE CURIOSITY ROVER" by Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Imperial College, London. "Since the first flyby in 1965 Mars has been extensively explored by orbiters, landers and rovers and today we know a great deal about the planet's surface, atmosphere and geological history.  This lecture will focus on the results from the most recent NASA Mars Science Laboratory mission - THE 'CURIOSITY' ROVER MISSION.  It will also look forward to the upcoming European mission."    Professor Gupta is a FIELD GEOLOGIST AND expert on Mars GEOLOGY.  He is A SCIENCE TEAM MEMBER AND long term science planner on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover mission which is currently exploring Gale Crater.  He has published extensively both on Martian and terrestrial geology.

This Lecture is jointly hosted by the IAA, Belfast Geologists Society, and The Geological Society Northern Ireland Regional Group, as part of N.I. Science Festival . Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics building, QUB, 6.30 p.m.
BOOKING - via the NISF website:


3. N.I. Science Festival: 16 - 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.


4. 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 less than 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 28% similar to a 3 or 4 day old Moon, but that will decrease to only 16% by 1 March.


5. ISS The ISS is now ending the current series of evening passes over Ireland; it will commence a new series of morning passes on 3 March. see for details for your own location. Click on a date and time to get a diagram of each pass across the sky as seen from your location.


6. NEW SHOW AT ARMAGH PLANETARIUM, commenced 4 February: "Journey to a Billion Suns"

The age-old history of measuring the stars and a stunning journey through our Milky Way emerge in a modern astronomy show about stars, space science and the distances in the Universe. This brand new 4K show has been produced with ESA and 30 planetariums. Tickets can be pre-booked on 028 37523689.


7. Meteorites at the Museum: 18 February.  Dr Mike Simms (who gave our fascinating last lecture) will present a special meteorite event at the Ulster Museum on Saturday 18 Feb. See an amazing collection of all types of these rocks from space, and learn where they come from, what they are made of, and what they can tell us about the birth of the solar system.  Free admission.


8. 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, 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. Life as an astronaut, for schools: Mon 20 - Fri 24 February

10:00am - 12:00pm:Suitability: Key Stages 1, 2 & 3. For bookings contact 02837 523689

Armagh Planetarium will be running very special 2-hour sessions for students which focus on the everyday life of an Astronaut! During these sessions, students will be treated to a special theatre show about what it takes to be an astronaut. After the show, the students will experience two workshops. One workshop will be building our famous water rockets to inspire budding rocket engineers, the other will focus on the details of an astronauts life today and in the future and will include experiments which will test the students to see if they have what it takes to become an astronaut!


10. 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.


11. 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

12. 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:  


13. 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:

14. 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

15. 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:  

16. 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:

17. FUTURE EVENTS ALERT: Note the Updates:

* Global Astronomy Month:  April 2017. More information: 

* 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.

* 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: 


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

19: 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)

Middleweight black hole hiding in star cluster 
Starlight test of Bells' Inequality: This is the John Bell after whom the Bell Lecture Theatre in QUB where we have our meetings is named!
Barred galaxies spin supports Dark Matter
   Solar Storms cause beachings? Would the magnetic changes not also cause problem for birds which use magnetic fields for migration? Perhaps they should also study any data available on that phenomenon.
. Maybe this explains Fermi's paradox - cyborgs may have no interest in exploring!



SPACE: How to get them back to Earth has still to be decided! This is adventurous and risky, but may be a step towards a manned lunar landing before going to Mars? 

This makes a lot more sense, although it's all ones eggs in one basket. And for a fuller account, see There's one major danger in this concept. The gravitational slingshot to Alpha B, and on to Proxima, depends critically on how closely it flies by Alpha A. And that depends equally critically on the braking effect from the radiation from Alpha A. That radiation can be calculated fairly accurately in advance.

   However Alpha A and to a lesser extent Alpha B, are sunlike stars. Alpha A is the same spectral type as our Sun, but is slightly larger, and 60% brighter, so its radiation would provide a greater deceleration than our Sun would do. Alpha B is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun, and is only about half as bright. It's a reasonable assumption that both stars, particularly Alpha A, emit Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) just as our Sun does - huge blasts of actual particles, rather than just photons, in random directions, on a fairly frequent but unpredictable basis. If a CME hits a sail of that size, it will not only slow it down much more than required, it might also seriously change the sail's orientation and therefore its steering effect. The effect could be that the slingshot round Alpha A would be affected so much that it would not get anywhere near the required distance to slingshot on from Alpha B to Proxima


Estimating the Solar Nebula's lifetime: Oops! - The nebula did not have 'weight'; it had mass. Weight is what you have when you measure the gravitational pull of one body on another, weight on planet Earth, which is different to the weight I would have on the Moon, although my mass would be the same. The nebula contracted because of its own gravitational pull - it wasn't actually on anything else!


Telescopes, instruments

Increasing the sensitivity of next gravitational wave detectors


UFO's ALIENS, CONSPIRACY THEORIES: Darn! Feb 16 is the first day of the NISF - and I've already booked for 6 events.....  I hope somebody follows this up with the guy on Feb 17!
20. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


21. 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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