Thursday, 7 December 2017

Lectures, Geminids, GSO, Xmas event, Phaethon, ISS, IAA Observing, Exhibs, Comp.

Hi all,


1. IAA LECTURE,  Wed 13 December, 7.30 p.m. "Chasing the Shadow: the Total Solar Eclipse of 21 August in the USA" by Dr Andy McCrea and Terry Moseley

A Total Solar Eclipse is almost certainly the most amazing natural sight you will ever see in your life.

  Andy and I have seen a dozen TSEs between us, plus a couple of Annulars, and a few more which were clouded out. They took us to Bulgaria, Turkey, Zambia, China, Australia, the Faroes, Indonesia and the USA, plus Spain and Tanzania for the Annulars. But the latest one in the USA was a total success for us both: Andy observed in Idaho and I was in Wyoming. We will show you the highlights of this amazing experience, give some details of other forthcoming eclipses, and show you why we keep on 'chasing the shadow' all around the world.

Wed 13 November 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Free admission, including light refreshments.  Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.


2. Geminids will be best meteor shower of 2017:

The shower is active from about 8 to 16 December, with maximum expected at 06h on the 14th.

   The ZHR* at maximum in a dark sky is expected to be about 120, so this shower is very well worth observing if the sky is clear! The Moon will be a thin waning crescent, not rising until 03.00, and not really bright enough to be a problem unless you are looking straight at it. The shower radiant lies a bit above Pollux (Beta Gem), and so it's above our horizon for most of the night. Best rates will be obtained later in the night, when the radiant is higher, and also after midnight our side of the Earth is rotating into the direction from which the meteors are coming: this increases the collision velocity, and thus makes more meteors become bright enough to be readily visible.

    To get the best view you need a dark site, well away from light pollution, and allow at least 10 minutes for your eyes to dark-adapt. And note that full dark adaptation takes 20-30 minutes.

   The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, so you don't need to look straight at the radiant. The best area of the sky to look is about 40-60 degrees above the horizon, and about 40-50 degrees from the radiant, in whatever region your sky is darkest and clearest.

      * The Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is the rate which would be seen by an experienced observer, in a VERY dark sky, and with the radiant in the zenith: actual observed rates very rarely reach the nominal ZHR for various reasons.

METEOR PHOTOGRAPHY: If you have a digital SLR which can give longish time exposures, and you can manually focus it on infinity, and adjust it to a high ISO (film speed equivalent), you can image meteors with a bit of luck. Make a suitable lens hood, or heater, to prevent dew on the camera lens. You may also need a locking cable release unless your timer can give long exposures, and preferably a tripod.

   Point the camera about 50° up in the sky, about 40° from the radiant, for best results. Consult your camera handbook, or experiment with exposures until the sky fogging becomes too severe.


3. Archaeoastronomy lecture, Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, 7 December. "Facing the Sun". This talk asks (and answers) the intriguing question - why were solstitial and, in a few cases, orientations close to sunrise and sunset near the equinoxes incorporated into passage tomb architecture? This will be given by the well-known authority on this topic, Dr Frank Prendergast. The talk is based on a major article in the forthcoming winter issue of Archaeology Ireland by Frank Prendergast and colleagues.  

   Facing the Sun: understanding the significance of the winter solstice in passage tomb architecture.

December 2017 marks fifty years since M. J. O' Kelly first investigated the winter solstice at Newgrange. O'Kelly subsequently recorded direct sunlight entering Newgrange through the 'especially contrived slit which lies under the roof-box at the outer end of the passage roof'  on 21 December 1969.

    The discovery of this prehistoric phenomenon at Newgrange, dating back over 5000 years, captured the public interest and imagination at that time and ever since.

    In a major article in the forthcoming Winter 2017 Archaeology Ireland (publication 4 December), leading experts in this field, Frank Prendergast, Muiris O'Sullivan, Ken Williams and Gabriel Cooney, ask (and answer)

Why were solstitial and, in a few cases, orientations close to sunrise and sunset near the equinoxes incorporated into passage tomb architecture?

   Examining positional astronomy and solar alignments, the changing skyscape through the year and the sun at solstice, the authors consider solstitial alignments in Irish Passage Tombs, including Newgrange, Dowth, Loughcrew (Co. Meath) and Townley Hall (Co. Louth) passage tombs and draw specifically on evidence from a number of other sites, such as Slieve Gullion (Co. Armagh); Thomastown (Co. Meath) and Knockroe (Co. Kilkenny).

    This major article features stunning images from renowned photographer Ken Williams and provides a major introduction to the fascinating area of Archaeoastronomy and Cultural Astronomy.


4. Global Science Opera, 13 December 2017; Moon Village — new PR movie
On Dec. 13th, 2017 at 2:00 PM GMT, the Global Science Opera will livestream the opera "Moon Village". This science opera will be performed around the planet as result of a year-long creative inquiry shared by schools, universities, and art institutions in 25 countries. It will communicate the process, science and technology of the European Space Agency's Moon Village. The "Moon Village" Global Science Opera is the first opera initiative to produce and perform operas as a global community and is a cooperation organized by a vast network of institutions. The opera may be viewed online on Dec. 13th, 2017 at 2:00 PM GMT here: 
Find out more at  


5. DIAS PUBLIC LECTURE, 15 Dec; "The Physics and Astrophysics of Merging Neutron-Star Binaries" Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies – School of Theoretical Physics Statutory Public Lecture 2017. Friday 15th December 2017 at 6.00 p.m. By: Prof. Dr. Luciano Rezzolla (Goethe University of Frankfurt).

Edmund Burke Theatre (Room 1008), Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin.

Advance booking is required on eventbrite here.

Abstract: I will argue that if black holes represent one the most fascinating implications of Einstein's theory of gravity, neutron stars in binary system are arguably its richest laboratory, where gravity blends with astrophysics and particle physics. I will discuss the rapid recent progress made in modelling these systems and show how the inspiral and merger of a binary system of neutron stars is more than a strong source of gravitational waves. Indeed, while the gravitational signal can provide tight constraints on the equation of state for matter at nuclear densities, the formation of a black-hole–torus system can explain much of the phenomenology of short gamma-ray bursts, while the ejection of matter during the merger can shed light on the chemical enrichment of the universe.

 Prof. Dr. Luciano Rezzolla is presently the Chair of Theoretical (Relativistic) Astrophysics and Director at the Institute for Theoretical Physics (ITP) of the Goethe University of Frankfurt, Germany. He is also Senior Fellow at the Frankfurt Institute of Advanced Studies (FIAS).


6. IAS Event at Dunsink Observatory, 15 December: "Stars, Comets and Mince Pies". See All are welcome.


7. Flying Phaethon flyby! The asteroid 3200 Phaethon, with a diameter of 5km, which is associated with the Geminid meteor shower (see above), will make a close approach to the Earth on Dec 17, at a distance of 0.069 AU. It gets as bright as mag 10.7 on Dec 14. It's not the closest Near Earth Object (NEO), but that's quite close for such a big one!


8. ISS.  The current series of evening passes over Ireland continues until 17 December. Details for your own location, along with lots more information such as Iridium Flares, at


9. IAA Observing Evenings. The next of these events will be 15 – 16th December, at Delamont Country Park, near Killyleagh, Co Down. The format is that if it's clear on the Friday evening, we go ahead, but if it's cloudy, we try again on the Saturday evening. Check the IAA website , each of those afternoons to see if it's 'Go' or No-Go'.


10. Telescope for sale:

Noel Mc Cormack is offering a used Meade ETX70AT telescope & accessories, about 10 years old. Price about £80. Location: Belfast.  Telephone 0044 (0) 28 90660015


11. IAA Photo Exhibition, Carrickfergus Our very successful photo exhibition continues at its latest venue, Carrickfergus Museum and Civic Centre, until 6 January. Be sure to watch the excellent video display of some recent aurorae and other phenomena such as eclipses and conjunctions. Also on display are various antique telescopes and other astronomical equipment on loan from Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and myself, and some space items on loan from Dr Andy McCrea. It continues there until 6 January.

For further information please contact Carrickfergus Museum, T: 028 9335 8241 or E:


12. COSMIC CONNECTIONS EXHIBITION, Dungannon, 2-29 December.

IAA member Martin Campbell from Dungannon will be exhibiting some of his excellent astronomy photos at

Ranfurly House Arts and Visitors Centre, 26 Market St, Dungannon, BT70 1AB, from December 2  to December 29 2017. Open 9.00 – 17.00. Admission Free.


13. Catch A Star Competition. The aim of the Catch a Star programme is to encourage secondary school students around Europe to express their creativity through autonomous work, to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and skills, and to help the spread of information technologies in the educational process. The Catch a Star contest is the result of a collaboration between the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The deadline for all entries is 17:00 CET on 20 December 2017. Learn more about this competition here:


14. NASA invites names for next New Horizons target body.

See and . I have already suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that after visiting Pluto, the next target has to be called Goofy!

   But seriously, how about a campaign from all Irish astronomers to have it named 'Edgeworth', after Kenneth Edgeworth of Streete, Co Westmeath, who predicted the existence of the large group of small bodies in the outer solar system, of which this body is one. The accepted name for this band of smallish bodies is the Kuiper Belt, named after the Dutch-American astronomer who later gave it more publicity. However many local astronomers refer to it as the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. We are unlikely to get the accepted name for the KB changed, but naming this particular object after Edgeworth would give some long-overdue recognition to a noted local astronomer. So if you agree, vote Edgeworth, and pass it on!

See  and  


15. IFAS Calendars – UPDATE: I have now got copies of the 2018 edition of these calendars for those who ordered them via me. I'll bring them to the meeting on 13 December.


16. IAA New Year Party: 6. January 2018, at McBride's on the Square, Comber, Co. Down. We start off with buffet eats and drinks at McBride's, at 5.15 for 5.30 p.m.; then make our way to the Tudor Private Cinema about a mile away, for more seasonal hot drinks, a special showing of "Hidden Figures" (highly recommended), and the usual quiz for all. Details are on the IAA website, and a booking form will be issued with the latest Stardust which will soon be sent to IAA members. All are welcome, including guests and non-members.



* Galway Astrofest: Saturday 27 January 2018. More details later.

*IAU C1 Exobiology WS - Astrobiology Introductory Course'18, 4-10 March. The third session of the Astrobiology Introductory Course will be held from 4 to 10 March 2018 at the Ornithological Reserve of le Teich (33, France). Courses are designed for students preparing their PhD thesis in Astronomy, Geology, Chemistry, Biology, or History/Philosophy of science and any students wishing to acquire interdisciplinary training in astrobiology to complete their initial training and to be able to address questions about the origins of life, its terrestrial evolution, and its distribution in the Universe. The deadline for applications is January 15th, 2018. For program and registration, please see the website: 

*European Week of Astronomy and Space Sciences (EWASS2018).  This will be in Liverpool, from 3 to 8 April 2018. See and

* International Day of Light, 16 May 2018.    Plan ahead and register your event in the official International Day of Light 2018 calendar! Following the highly successful International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies in 2015, May 16th, the International Day of Light, will provide an annual focal point for the continued appreciation of the central role that light plays in the lives of the citizens of the world. The broad theme of light allows many different sectors of society to participate in activities to raise awareness of science and technology, art and culture, and their importance in achieving the goals of UNESCO — education, equality and peace. 

   A good opportunity to highlight (!) light-pollution! And promote Earth Hour as well.

Register your event by filling out the form:

* International Planetarium Society,  1–6 July 2018Toulouse, France. More Information:  
* Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education (RTSRE) & InterNational Astronomy Teaching Summit Conferences, 23-27 July 2018. The 2nd annual Conference on Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education (RTSRE) will be held in Hilo, Hawai'i from July 23-25, 2018. This conference series focuses on building a sustainable community around the educational, technical, and student research uses of robotic telescopes. The conference will be co-located with the interNational Astronomy Teaching Summit (iNATS) from July 25-27, 2018 providing worldwide networking opportunities and hands-on workshops designed to expand educators' teaching strategy toolkit designed for innovative astronomy professors, teachers, and outreach professionals.  Find more information here: 


18. 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.


MUSE on VLT goes even deeper than the HUDF!

Infant stars found surprisingly near SuperMassive Black Hole

Why is massive star formation quenched in galaxy centres?

New mechanism in turbulence in astrophysical plasmas

Neutron stars on brink of collapse

Mysterious fast gas mapped

New spin to solving mystery of stellar companions


COSMOLOGY:  The reason Relativity does not mesh with Quantum theory may not be because it has a flaw: it could equally be in the latter. Or in both. Or maybe there's something outside and beyond them both which brings them together.

Gravitational waves to help explain origin of primordial Black Holes

High energy neutrinos blocked by Earth

Bye bye WIMPS, hello SIMPS! and


Earth & Moon and Nice image.

Bronze age used iron from meteorites



Traces of life on exoplanets may be hidden by 'equatorial trap'.

Stellar wind problem for life on exoplanets

Two Super-Earths around red dwarf K2-18

WASP-18b has smothering waterless stratosphere



Newton's papers registered by UNESCO:



Stellar wind problem for life on exoplanets

Solar System Giant honeycombs? - Giant bees!

Trickle down method for planet cores

Plate tectonics on Europa? and

Comet 45P studied by IRTF

Meteorite analysis shows reduced salt is key in Earth's new recipe


SPACE Well worth reading. What an idiotic thing to do. A total waste of a car, and of the excess fuel needed to get it there. And I hope he has the whole thing sterilised, just in case it crashes on Mars and contaminates it.

Bacterial community on the ISS resembles homes




Telescopes & Equipment

MUSE on VLT goes even deeper than the HUDF!


UFOs, Apocalypses, Conspiracy Theories, etc No comment needed. A highly advanced civilisation still using cannon balls? Maybe they used the horse and cart to drag their rockets to the launch pad?


19. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.


20. 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

No comments: