Saturday, 16 December 2017

Lectures, IAA Observing, Space Xmas Party events, Phaethon, ISS, Solstice

Hi all,


1. 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).


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


3. 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'.


4. Flying Phaethon flyby! The asteroid 3200 Phaethon, with a diameter of 5km, which is associated with the Geminid meteor shower, 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!

See the following for charts and an ephemeris.


5. NEW: Inspire Space Xmas Party, Monday 18 Dec, Foley's Bar, Merrion Row, Dublin

Laura Keogh has asked me to circulate this invitation: NB, it's FREE!

here is the link to the Google Form or the facebook event with all the details and links can be found here: 


6. 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


7. Winter Solstice. The Sun will reach the most Southerly point on the ecliptic on 21 December at 16.28, marking the shortest day of the year, and Dec 21-22 will be the longest night of the year.


8. 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.


9. Next IAA LECTURE,  Wed 10 January, 7.30 p.m. "Einstein made (relatively) Simple." By Brian MacGabhann. More details later.

Wed 10 January, 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.


10. 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:


11. 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.


12. 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:


13. 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  


14. 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 10 January.


15. ESO launches new Virtual Reality Tours to experience its sites
ESO's Virtual Tours are a collection of hundreds of 360-degree panorama pictures that can be used for many purposes. ESO's latest release includes options to view the images in virtual reality mode or 360-degree panoramic mode. You can now use a cell phone with either a standard cardboard virtual reality headset or oculus rift glasses to experience tours of ESO's facilities in an exciting new way. This latest release also includes new and updated virtual tours of ESO's observatories and facilities, bringing better functionality on computers and new panoramic views.


16. Globe At Night Campaign, 2018 %C2%A0



* 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.


Most distant supermassive black hole discovered and

Heavy metal: How first supernovae altered early star formation

Black hole has weak magnetic field

Magnetic monopoles found in liquid helium. What happens if you take a length of wire, make it into a bar magnet, and then bend the ends around and join them? Heating them enough to weld them would destroy the magnetism, but what about 'cold welding', or superglue, or trapping them in contact with each other by pressing them together tightly between 2 non-magnetic materials, e.g. bits of plastic?

Stellar nursery 'blooms' into view.



Giant early galaxies in an ocean of Dark Matter and  Curioser and curioser, said Alice.

CERN's particles physics touched on cosmology

ESPRESSO will be quick and powerful exoplanet finder


Earth & Moon Unlikely, for several reasons. 1. The Sun rotates 1/3 of a full rotation in 9 days, so the same part of the Sun would not be directed towards Earth for even half that period. 2. The only way that such an event would not also have been recorded in Europe and USA would be if the CMEs were ejected at 24h intervals for a period of 9 days, and as noted above, from different parts of the Sun, but all pointed towards Earth. Chances of that are about 1 in a million. I'm not promoting, nor negating, this advertising feature, but the budget tips will be useful for anyone seeking the aurorae in Iceland. Make sure you go when moonlight won't interfere too much! Ideally that's within +/- 3 days of New Moon, but in practice any time from about 4-5 days after NM to about a day after LQ (when the Moon doesn't rise until after midnight) should be OK.

Why meteoroids explode in the atmosphere;

    Oh dear! A proper science site getting an illustration so badly wrong is not good. Firstly, if it was a meteor shower, they would all be coming from the same point - the radiant. Secondly, meteor trails are not curved, so the one in the middle isn't even a meteor. And the biggest and brightest one doesn't even look like a meteor either - they start off as very narrow lines, and only broaden as they brighten - that one looks as if it has been drawn on the sky background. Marks: 2 out of 10.

Cold Sun but warm Earth explained|main5|dl1|dl-image&pLid=868906204_uk&icid=maing-grid7|main5|dl1|dl-image&pLid=868906204_uk Oumuamua is not an alien craft – did anyone seriously think it was?



Chemistry of life-supporting exoplanets

Living on thin air -- microbe mystery solved:

Earth-sized exoplanet is getting closer

MAVEN data on Mars hints at habitability of exoplanets

Span disciplines to search for exoplanet life


SETI Make sure to watch the video at the end. Why Wright's wrong! Just as he was about 'Tabby's star'. 1. Most asteroids tumble.  2. Rocks shaped like that are found on Earth. 3. You wouldn't need a spaceship that size for interstellar travel. 4. It's going FAR too slowly to be an interstellar probe - it would have taken many millennia to get here even from the nearest star. Is he desperate for publicity?


Solar System

Mars' atmosphere protected from Solar Wind

Is there a Mars-sized planet beyond Pluto? and

Well, if it's needle-shaped to reduce resistance from interstellar gas, why is it tumbling rapidly? In the highly unlikely event that it's artificial, it has obviously had an accident along the way, and is unlikely to be working very well!

Juno reveals the roots of the GRS

Northern storms on Saturn affect whole atmosphere


SPACE Good idea. just as long as 'home' isn't set for somewhere like 'Boise, Idaho'!

Rescuing and digitising the Apollo voice tapes

Keeping satellites warm, or cool


Telescopes & Equipment

NASA's SuperTIGER balloon flies again to study heavy cosmic particles

ESPRESSO is incredibly powerful spectrograph


UFOs, Apocalypses, Conspiracy Theories, etc


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

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