Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Lectures, PLE, Close comet, ISS, NISF, Venus, Major Mars talk, space comps, film

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.

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. Partial Penumbral Lunar Eclipse, 10 - 11 February. The Moon will pass into the partial outer part of the Earth's shadow on the night of 10-11 February, causing a Partial Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. To clarify:

* Total Lunar Eclipse. if the whole Moon passes into the main central part of the Earth's shadow, called the umbra, we get a TLE - if you were anywhere on the Moon, the whole Sun would be hidden behind the Earth.

* Partial Lunar Eclipse. if only part of the Moon passes into the main central part of the Earth's shadow, we get a Partial Lunar Eclipse - part of the Moon would be able to see the whole Sun, but from the rest of the Moon, it would be hidden.

* Total Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. If the whole Moon passes into the outer partial part of the Earth's shadow, called the penumbra, we get a TPLE - if you were anywhere on the Moon, part of the Sun would be hidden behind the Earth.

* Partial Penumbral Lunar Eclipse. if only part of Moon passes into the outer partial part of the Earth's shadow, the penumbra, we get a PPLE. On part of the Moon, the whole Sun is completely visible, on the rest of the moon, part of the Sun is hidden by the Earth.

For a diagram see: and and 

This will be a very large partial PLE - 99% of the Moon will be within the Penumbra. The N part of the Moon will be deepest inside the penumbra, and if you look carefully, you may notice that the N part of the Moon appears darker than the rest.

It starts at 22.34, maximum is at 00.44, and last contact is at 02.53.


3. GREEN COMET CLOSE TO EARTH: The small green comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova, or 45P for short, is approaching Earth for one of the closest recent comet flybys. It's currently in Aquila, heading towards Hercules. On the nights around Feb. 11th, Comet 45P will be visible binoculars and small telescopes, looking like an emerald colored fuzzball, when it will be only 7.4 million miles from Earth. It will appear in the morning sky in Hercules. It will then pass through Corona Borealis, Boötes, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major and Leo, by the end of February. Because it is so close, its apparent motion is fast, hence its rapid track across the sky. 

See for a chart which is valid for your location and time - just reset the date and time in the relevant boxes to get details for subsequent nights.


4. 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, continues to February 9 in the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn . Viewing from 9.30 a.m. to 10.00 p.m., Monday to Saturday.

It will then transfer to the St Patrick's centre, Downpatrick, from 28 Feb - 31 March. Thanks again to Bernie Brown for setting this up.


5. ISS The ISS commenced a new series of evening passes over Ireland on 30 January; there are some lovely close passes to Venus: 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.

   And IAA President Paul Evans got a lovely sequence of shots showing the ISS passing in front of the Moon as seen from Sprucefield yesterday! I'm sure he'll have the photo up on the IAA website shortly.

6. Lecture: 8 February, 6.30 p.m. Dr John Butler – 'The transit of Venus 1769, Captain Cook, Charles Mason and Donegal'. Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society: old Museum building, College Square North, Belfast. Visitors welcome.


7. 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.


8. 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.


9. 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:


10. Venus, aka 'The Evening Star' getting higher and brighter. 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 improves for us in these latitudes. It completely outshines its neighbour but one, Mars, which lies about on third of the length of the 'Plough', or 'Big Dipper', away to the upper left. Venus is now as bright as it ever gets, at mag -4.5, and can be seen in daylight if you know just where to look.


11. 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.

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:
12. 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.

13. 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!


14. 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.


15. 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

16. 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:

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  And also see the UK Youth Build a Rocket Challenge

18. 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:  

19. FUTURE EVENTS ALERT: Note the dates:

* 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.

* 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: 


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)

Spacetime is actually 4-d, not 3-d. Space alone is 3-d.
   HST captures brilliant star death in Calabash Nebula
Testing Einstein's Equivalence principle 
EARTH & MOON: Also, iron meteorites are denser than stony ones, so exert greater pressure per unit area on the ice beneath. This pressure melts the ice below, particularly for the larger ones, making them gradually sink.
No link between giant asteroid break up and Earth's biodiversity 

Very 'dumbed-down'. Not to mention the fact that all those happened BEFORE 'she' was a teenager (and why 'she'?)


THz very high speed transmission via satellites 


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!
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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