Saturday, 22 July 2017

AOP, Ian Elliott, ISS, Mayak mystery, Sunflower Fest, Exhibs, Saturn, NLCs, GRS

Hi all,
Summer Events at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium. 
We have a packed schedule of events that has something for everyone!
  • Brand New Shows – Secrets of Gravity for Kids and Asteroid: Mission Extreme (Narrated by Sigourney Weaver) for Adults – Pre-booking required by calling 02837523689
  • Heroes and Legends returns to Armagh Planetarium on Saturday 5th August and Sunday 6th of August (exceptional Sunday opening!)
  • Astronaut Sculpting Week  from 21st - 25th August
  • The Micro Zoo are visiting on  26th August
  • Evenings with an Astronomer on 26th July and 16th & 30th August. – Pre-booking required by calling 02837523689
  • As well as all these amazing events, our famous water rocket workshop and space arts and crafts will be running throughout the whole of the summer and 6 digital theatre shows will be running daily!
 2. Memorial Book for the late Dr Ian Elliott
Dr Charles Mollan asked me to circulate this:

"Dear Colleague

May I please bring to your attention the proposed publication of a book as a memorial to the late Dr Ian Elliott. I'd be grateful if you would also consider passing this notice on to others who might be interested.


    Many people were saddened by the early death of Dr Ian Elliott on 10 May 2015. Most will probably not know that he had hoped to publish a scientific biography of William E. Wilson (1851-1908) of Daramona House, Streete, County Westmeath, the gentleman astronomer. Unfortunately, although he had collected quite a lot of relevant material, Ian did not manage to complete the task, presumably for health reasons or due to other commitments.

   On learning to my dismay of his death, I asked his sons to look out for hard copy and electronic material relating to Wilson, and they were kind enough to do so. I sorted this out and added more, and decided that, based on this material, I could write a biography as a memorial to Ian, crediting him as first author. John C. McConnell and David H. Davison have kindly provided illustrations. I am making good progress, and would hope to complete the text soon.


The title of the book is: William E. Wilson (1851-1908), the Work and Family of a Westmeath Astronomer, by Ian Elliott and Charles Mollan

   Apart from appreciation and recognition of Ian Elliott, it will have five main chapters.
1.  John Wilson (William's father)

2.  William E. Wilson, Astronomer and Scientist (the largest and main chapter)
3.  Wilson's Diaries (a picture of the lifestyle of a wealthy gentleman)
4.  Kenneth Edgeworth and some of his relatives  (Wilson's nephew and the joint discoverer of the 'Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt', plus Richard Lovell Edgeworth)
5.  Friends and colleagues of William Wilson.
(Central photograph album on art paper)

(Bibliography and Index)
   The book is designed for the 'educated layman', and will avoid or explain unfamiliar scientific terms and concepts.

 FINANCE: Then comes publishing and its cost. I have recruited an Irish typesetter and Irish printer, and I reckon I can keep the cost to around €4,000. I would hope to attract two forms of sponsorship, and seek help from Ian's friends and admirers.


The first form of sponsorship is from relevant organisations, public or private. If you know of any such potential bodies I might contact, please let me know. Getting names of actual people in the organisation who might be supportive would be ideal.


I hope Ian's friends and colleagues might wish to support this initiative. Anyone who would be willing to give support is asked, please, to contribute €50 (or, of course, more if you wish). Those who do so will have their names listed in the book, and will receive a "free" copy.

   Such donations can be made by cheque to Charles Mollan, 17 Pine Lawn, Newtownpark Avenue, Blackrock A94 X956, County Dublin (please include your postal address), by PayPal to, or by direct bank transfer to: Dr R Charles Mollan No. 2 Account, AIB Westmoreland Street, Dublin 2, IBAN: IE77 AIBK 9312 2529 3743 32. Please ensure that you include your name when you make an electronic donation, and e-mail me ( with your postal address.

  Your support would be greatly appreciated and, please, spread the word to your friends and contacts.

 If you need any further information or, indeed, have comments or advice, please contact me, at the address above.  Tel: 01-2896186; Mobile: 086-8144570; Email:

Thank you

 Charles Mollan"

[Personal note: I knew Ian well, and he gave several interesting lectures to the IAA over the years, the last in 2011. Originally from Bangor, he was a perfect gentleman, and it was a pleasure to know him. he spent most of his professional career at Dunsink Observatory, specialising in solar research. I'm glad to be able to help support this worthy tribute, in the form of a book which itself will be a valuable contribution to the history of Irish astronomy.

   Regarding Wilson, according to my own research, after the demise of the Leviathan at Birr, in the late 1800s (it was still there, but basically it was unusable) the largest operational telescope in Ireland was the 24" reflector at Daramona Observatory. It was built in 1881, and was used up until its owner, W. Edward Wilson died in 1908. The telescope was transferred to the University of London Observatory in 1929. TM.]


3. ISS in morning skies. The ISS continues its series of passes over Ireland in the sky after midnight, but this series is gradually transitioning to become visible in the late evening sky as well. It will continue until 9 August. Details on the excellent free site
Website now has a provisional orbit from Space-Track which you can use to generate predictions.
   Update: We have had several reports that Mayak has not been seen when expected, although the project team has stated that the reflector has been deployed. This could mean we have the wrong object. Space-Track are still calling the object we think is Mayak simply "Object F".
   Update 2: An observer in Germany has now reported seeing Mayak using our predictions. He said it was very bright.
NB: I haven't had a chance to look for it myself yet. TM

5. Sunflowerfest, Tubby's farm, Hillsborough, 28-30 July. We are delighted to be partnering with the NI Science Festival in bringing some astronomy to this event. The theme this year is "A Parallel Universe", which sounds interesting! We'll be doing solar observing during the day, and planet- and star-gazing at night, if clear. The farm is at 31 Cabra Road, Hillsborough, Co Down. Full details at 


6. IAA Photo Exhibition "Heavens Above" & public outreach event, Bangor.  The Irish Astronomical Association's "Heavens Above", an exhibition of astonishing photographs of the sky taken exclusively by members of the Association, continues in the Bangor Carnegie Library. The exhibition will run to 29th July.

7. Saturn . Our celestial showpiece, and undoubtedly the most beautiful sight in our solar system, if not the entire sky, was directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and so visible all night, on 15 June. It's just past its closest to Earth, so it's still a good time to observe it. BUT - it's also almost as far South in the sky as it can be, so it's poorly placed for observing from our latitudes. Not only is it always quite low down in the sky, with atmospheric absorption and poor seeing, it's above the horizon only for a fairly short time (pace the comment above - think about it; this is when the nights are shortest!). Nevertheless, it's always worth a look just to see those glorious rings!
 And the amazing Cassini spacecraft exploring Saturn and its system, continues its series of amazing and hazardous dives through the gap between Saturn and its rings. Watch out for more amazing images coming back.
   IAA members will have full details of how to observe and what to see in the current issue of STARDUST
8.  "Space:Out Of This World": this exhibition continues at Belfast Central Library, and is supported by the IAA with the loan of various exhibits, mainly from Andy McCrea.
9. NLCs At last! Some good displays were visible a few weeks ago, and more recently. See this by IAA President, Paul Evans There are still a few weeks to see these beautiful and mysterious high-altitude Noctilucent Clouds, thought to be caused by meteoric dust high in our atmosphere. . Look low down in the Northern sky, just as the brightest stars become visible.
10. Juno's close up of Great Red Spot: See Having observed and timed many many transits of the GRS, including measuring its size by timing the transit of the leading and following ends, I have a particular interest in this feature! Also see 
11. Summer of Space at BCO. CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory in association with Cork County Council has just officially launched the Summer of Space programme to celebrate the International Space University's 2017 Space Studies Program (SSP17) running in Cork until August 25 this year.
   The Summer of Space comprises over fifty public events taking place across Cork City and County and the island of Ireland. Most of the events are free and aimed at people of all ages and interests.
   For more information about the Summer of Space please see the official press release attached and our website -


12.  IAA Solar Day, 6 August, WWT, Castle Espie, near Comber, Co Down, 2 - 5 p.m. More details later.


13. Skellig Star Party, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, 18-21 August. See, Facebook: Skellig Star Party, Twitter @SkelligStarParty, E: In the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve.


14. AstroCamp 2017 The European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto (CAUP) are collaborating to support AstroCamp 2017, an astronomy-focused summer academic programme for secondary school students. The Summer AstroCamp 2017 will be held from 6 to 20 August in northern Portugal, at the Centre for Environmental Education and Interpretation of the Corno de Bico Protected Landscape. The applicant with the best application from one of ESO's Member States who is eligible to apply will win a bursary offered by ESO that will cover the camp fee.
Read more


15. Backyard Worlds: Planet Nine. Backyard Worlds is hoping to discover a large planet at the fringes of our solar system — a world astronomers call Planet Nine. But Backyard Worlds need your help! Finding such dim objects requires combing through images by eye, to distinguish moving celestial bodies from ghosts and other artifacts. So come and join the search — there are many images to look through. In the end you might discover a rogue world that's even nearer to the Sun than Proxima Centauri! Discover more about the project and how to contribute here:



Astronomy Museums, Visitor Centres, & Public Observatories Workshop, 27-29 September 2017, Leiden, the Netherlands. See:  
World Space Week 2017: 4–10 October 2017, Location: All around the world. More Information: 
International Observe the Moon Night: 28 October 2017, Location: All around the world, More Information: 

* NEXT LECTURE: The first lecture of the new IAA season will be on Wed 20 September 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Free admission.  Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.

* 36th International Meteor Conference, in Petnica, Serbia, from September 21 to 24, 2017. For details contact the Local Organizing Committee at 

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


17. 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).  NB: If the title in the weblink does not indicate the subject matter, I give a brief simple intro before the link. I may also comment about the link afterwards.
Superluminous Supernova at Cosmic High Noon 
Earth & Moon  
Moon Express to commercially harvest lunar rocks in 2020 Are they allowed to do that? They don't own even 1 sq cm of the Moon. (The samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts were distributed to scientists around the world for analysis, not for profit.) 
The "roof of the bowl collapsed" ? The only way a bowl can have a roof is if it's upside down! Do they mean the "rim" of the bowl?
New Brown Dwarf discovered by citizen science 
Solar System:
Moon Express to commercially harvest lunar rocks in 2020 and 
(They get the shadows wrong almost every time. And are they allowed to do that? They don't own even 1 sq cm of the Moon. (The samples brought back by the Apollo astronauts were distributed to scientists around the world for analysis, not for profit.)
NASA Neutron star mission begins operation 
18. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


19. 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