Wednesday, 20 September 2017

IAA Lecture, Mercury, Equinox, Astrophotog, Space week events, Cassini, Talks

Hi all,
1. NEXT IAA LECTURE: "Ancient Stones and Comets: Developing the Giant-Comet Hypothesis" Wed 20 September.  This will be given by Prof Mark Bailey, Emeritus Director of Armagh Observatory:
   This is the opening lecture of the new IAA season, and we are delighted to welcome back Prof Mark Bailey to talk on a fascinating topic, on which he is an acknowledged expert.
Synopsis; A bright comet can become the most prominent object in the sky other than the Sun and Moon and a source of wonderment and awe for those lucky enough to see one.
   This talk begins with an introduction to comets, their origin and proximate source in the Oort cloud; and then discusses evidence for exceptionally large, so-called "giant" comets with diameters 50km to 100km or more.  Such an object can be expected to arrive in the inner solar system at intervals of the order of 50 to 100 thousand years, and debris from their evolution may produce a very much more "active" sky than that experienced today. 
    Evidence for the arrival of the most recent giant comet some 10 to 20 thousand years ago suggests a possible explanation for mankind's early interest in the sky, a powerful motivation for the erection of monuments with astronomical associations, and the origin of religion.
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.
2. Mercury, Mars, and Morning Star 
Mercury, the innermost planet, and the most difficult of the 5 'classical' planets to spot, is still well-placed in the dawn sky for the next few days. Mars, and brilliant Venus, are also along the ecliptic. You can get sky charts on
3.  Autumn Equinox (in N. Hemisphere). The Sun crosses the celestial equator going southwards on 22 Sep at 21.02 BST. But although 'equinox' means (day equal to) night, that's not quite true, for several reasons. For an explanation, see the following link, which at last EarthSky has got right, after me correcting them for the previous last two equinoxes!
4. Astronomy photographer of the year awards
5. Space Week Public Lecture, Dublin: "Voyager: Reconnaissance of the Solar System, Toward the Stars" by Kevin Nolan.
   Description: A public talk for non-expert and expert alike about the Voyager 40 year and continuing mission of the outer Solar System and into interstellar space. Kevin Nolan of The Planetary Society will look at the Voyager's past successes at the gas giant planets and also their current interstellar mission; as well as the follow-on missions the Voyagers have inspired - Cassini,  New Horizons,  Pale Red Dot exoplanet search and the Breakthrough Starshot to Alpha Centauri within decades; among others. 
   Venue: The Lecture Theatre, National Gallery of Ireland, Merrion Square, Dublin 2
Date and Time: Thursday October 5th 2017, 7pm - 8pm (doors open from 6.40pm)
Charge: No advanced booking - pay at the door (cash only): Adults 5 Euro, Children and concessions 3 Euro, Family of 4 and over: 12 Euro
Contact: Kevin Nolan: (Mob: 087 238 6141)
SPACE WEEK: Our Planet  - Our Space - Our Time
Space Week is Ireland's national STEM week in parallel with World Space Week. It is YOUR week to focus on the wonders and realities of the Universe around us.
Taking place from October 4 – 10,2017, Space Week will enable all people to explore how, as 21st century citizens under one sky, we can use the power of critical thinking, science, technology, engineering and maths to shape our understanding of life on Earth and our place in Space.
   Plan an event: Organise an event in your school or community and register your details on All registered events will receive Space Week merchandise and promotional materials.
   Attend an event: Family-friendly events, stargazing, workshops and more will take place nationwide.  Or discover the Universe in your own home using the fun space activities on 
  Discover Your Universe! Find or register events on #SpaceWeek16
7. Goodbye, Cassini: The Final Countdown:

A fascinating illustrated animation of the highlights of Cassini's mission is here

An animation of the spacecraft's fiery end is here

To see the last images look at, and check and follow it to the end at and

More at

And for a look at its highest ever resolution image of the main rings, see 

For a gallery of images see

8. Galaxies to Girona Gold.  Portballintrae Community Development Group, Portballintrae Village Hall, Portballintrae, Saturday 30th September 2017 11am – 4pm. Light Lunch included.
Come and hear the latest thinking on a wide range of issues affecting Life on Earth. You will be hearing from experts on – The Cosmos, our Planet, the Oceans, Biodiversity, Archaeology, Wildlife, Butterfly Conservation, Geology. Irish Astronomical Association – Geology - Marine Archaeology
Biodiversity - Meteorology – Butterfly Conservation,
 Irish Whales and Dolphin Group with Ulster Wildlife Living Seas.
Admission £7.50 for adults & £3.50 per child. Tickets purchased through email button on Facebook, Contact Lorna on 07486290430 or email:
9. ISS. The International Space Station will then reappear for a series of evening passes on 26 Sep. Details on the excellent free site
10. DIAS Lecture, 19 Oct:  "Brave new worlds: the planets in our galaxy" by Professor Giovanna Tinetti, University College London.
The DIAS School of Cosmic Physics Statutory Public Lecture 2017 takes place on Thursday 19th October at 6:30pm in UCD. (Theatre C (O'Connor Theatre - Room H2.22), Science Hub, University College Dublin.  Admission is free but advance booking is required on eventbrite here. 
11. Saturn: Soon disappearing from our view until next spring, but what a finale!
  Our celestial showpiece, and undoubtedly the most beautiful sight in our solar system, if not the entire sky, is now sinking into the SW evening twilight . And 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  Nevertheless, it's always worth a look just to see those glorious rings!
12.  Mayo Dark Sky Festival 27-29 October.  "Our Place in the Cosmos" A great line-up of speakers again this year . See  

Booking now open at


13. 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:

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


15. 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.
Star formation influenced by local conditions.
Rapidly spinning Regulus emits polarised light
Colliding radio galaxies form tight black hole pairs 
Dark matter explanation for different galaxy rotations 
Conspiracy Theories, Apocalypse, UFOs etc.
The 'Rapture' on 23 September? More 'Prophetic' nonsense. I used to think it was only the Book of Revelation that was quoted, but apparently not!
and The current alignment of Jupiter, the Moon, the Sun and 3 planets in the Virgo region has happened many times before, e.g. in the last Millennium alone, in Sep of 1056, 1293, 1827 and 1843. Nothing happened then. Further, there are many more than 9 stars in Leo, or less than 9, depending on your cut-off point. For example, there are 12 above 4th magnitude, all easily visible to the unaided eye, and they are the ones that make up the conventional pattern of the lion. If we restrict it to just the main part, the head and the body, then there are only 8. Sorry!  And unfortunately for these deluded fanatics, neither the 12 nor the 8 even make up the shape of a crown, and they are so far away from her head that they don't even make up anything resembling headgear at all.
   Anyone who attempts to find any connection between real astronomy and the Bible is doomed to failure, and as for prophecies, I've been hearing scores of them since I was a child, and not one has come true. Scientists should stick to science, full stop.
Dark skies  Ignore the reference to astrology, and the photo of the 'meteor' is of course a trail of the International Space Station.
Earth & Moon  
Different light on exoplanets may require different photosynthesis
Size matters in detecting exoplanet atmospheres 
Solar System:


17. 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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