Friday, 11 August 2017

Perseids, Meteor BBQ, AOP, I-LOFAR, ISS, Mayak, Saturn, Exhibs, Space, etc

Hi all,
1. THE PERSEID METEOR SHOWER IS UNDERWAY:  Earth has entered a stream of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Specks of dusty debris hitting the top of Earth's atmosphere faster than 110,000 mph are burning up in the night sky, producing a spray of shooting stars from the constellation Perseus. Meteor rates are rising steadily, and will increase sharply in the nights ahead. The shower will peak on the nights of Aug. 11-12-13 with perhaps dozens of meteors per hour visible in bright moonlight. See this neat animation
   See item 2 below for some observing tips.
2. IAA PERSEIDS BBQ, Saturday 12 Aug The IAA will again celebrate the famous Perseids meteor shower with a BBQ and subsequent observing session at our main observing site, Delamont Country Park, on the A22, just a few miles South of Killyleagh in Co Down. It's well signposted, lying on the East (Strangford Lough) side of the road.
   Bring your own eats, drinks etc, and your own BBQ if you have one - even a disposable one will do. There are special metal BBQ plates on the picnic tables. If you haven't got one, you can probably beg some cooking space on someone else's. We suggest about 7.30 arrival for 8.00 to start cooking, allowing time for clearing up before starting observing.
   For that, bring a lounger or reclining chair, or a waterproof-backed rug. It can get chilly, so bring warm clothes and a wooly hat.
   The waning gibbous Moon won't rise until about 11.15, so that gives a reasonable period of fairly dark sky. After moonrise, position yourself so that the Moon is hidden behind a tree or something, and/or face away from it so that it's not in your field of vision. The Moon will be in Pisces, rising about due E, whereas the radiant, between Perseus and Cassiopeia, will be rising in the NE. It's actually best not to look directly at the radiant to see the most meteors, so I suggest looking towards the North, about 45-65 degrees above the horizon.
    This would also be a good direction for photography - if nothing else, you'll get nice circumpolar star trails.
   If you have a portable telescope, grab a last look at Saturn before it gets too low in the sky over the next few years.
3.  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
Astronaut Sculpting Week  from 21st - 25th August
The Micro Zoo are visiting on  26th August
Evenings with an Astronomer on 16th & 30th August. – Pre-booking required by calling 02837523689
The 16th of August is a talk all about Black Holes with one of the Observatory astronomers Jorick Vink, followed by a new show in our digital theatre, Phantom of the Universe  and on the 30th August the talk will be all about the wonders of the Hubble space telescope with the Director of AOP Michael Burton, followed by another new show in our digital theatre, From Earth to the Universe.–  Tickets cost £5 per person and pre-booking is required by calling 02837523689. Late opening 6pm - 8pm
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!
4. i- LOFAR is now operating! Heartiest congrats to Peter Gallagher and Joe McCauley, of TCD and team. Proper astronomical research returns to Birr at last.
5. ISS will reappear in morning skies on 4 Sep. Details on the excellent free site
6. Mayak Mystery. New Russian Satellite Mayak.
A new small satellite has been launched which was to deploy a large reflector once in orbit and had the potential to be very bright. However, the reflector has failed to deploy.
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. Happy 5th Birthday, Curiosity
See this for a realistic reconstruction of the landing 
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. Skellig Star Party, Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, 18-21 August. See, Facebook: Skellig Star Party, Twitter @SkelligStarParty, E: In the Kerry International Dark Sky Reserve.


13. Mayo Dark Sky Festival 27-29 October. A great line-up of speakers again this year

Booking opens on 12 August at


14. 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: 


15. 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.]


16: New books for kids on the aurora and light pollution. by Joan Marie Galat.

Dark Matters – Nature's Reaction to Light Pollution
 Published by Red Deer Press, 2017, Ages: 9 and up. ISBN: 9780889955158


Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories of the Aurora, Published by Whitecap Books, 2016
Ages: 9-13, ISBN:


17. THE FARTHEST.  This Irish film about the Voyager mission is on release in Ireland from 28th July 

We are so excited and proud to be able to show the film to Irish audiences! If you haven't already, I hope you can get to see it on the big screen, and please tell friends and family!



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: 


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).  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.
Astronomers This fascinating article is by Dr Aswin Sekhar, formerly of Armagh Observatory, and someone whom I'm proud to have as a friend! In the group photo you'll see Dr David Asher of AOP, front right.
Possible explanation of predominance of matter over antimatter
Dark Energy Survey measures Dark Matter 
Earth & Moon NB That second image is NOT the Moon! The topography, the scale of the crater, the lighting and the shadows are all wrong, And an exposure for the Moon's surface would be far too short to show all those stars in the background.
Getting there is only the start: imaging and collecting data as they whiz past at extremely high speed, and then sending the images and data back to Earth over a distance of 25 trillion miles, with a minuscule low-power transmitter will be almost impossible.
Solar System:
Astronauts to bring asteroid to lunar orbit 
Dr Stewart obviously 'knows' what she's talking about - she's been an astronomer at the "US Nasal Observatory'!
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