Sunday, 31 December 2017

Lunar occultations, NY Party, Lecture, ISS, Mars/Jupiter, Supermoon, Meteors

Hi all,


1. May I wish you all a very Happy New Year.


2. (Apologies for a typo in the previous bulletin – the reference to the occultation of Aldebaran should say "New Year's Eve", instead of New Year's Day, as per the corrected version below.

 Lunar Occultations – we get a nice series ending December:

30-31 December. Ending the year in style, the Moon occults 5 stars in the Hyades, culminating with Aldebaran! First will be Gamma Tau (mag 3.6), at 17.08 on Dec 30; in twilight, with the Sun 8.2 degrees below the horizon, but visible in binoculars. Next, at 19.48, will be 70 Tau (mag 6.5). At 21.15 it will be the turn of 75 Tau (mag 5.0). That will be followed at 22.24 by HIP 21029 (mag 4.8). Finally, to see in NEW YEAR'S EVE, it will occult Aldebaran (mag 0.8) at 01.02, with reappearance at 01.55.

    In every case the event will be instantaneous: the star will literally disappear or reappear in a tiny fraction of a second, so it really is a case of 'blink and you'll miss it'. It's a nice proof that almost all stars really are just point sources of light, as seen from distances of many light years.

   Look up to about 10 minutes earlier than those times to be safe.


3. IAA New Year Party: Saturday 6th 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 was issued with the latest Stardust, sent to IAA members. Non-members can book via the IAA website All are welcome, including guests and non-members.


4. IAA LECTURE,  Wed 10 January, 7.30 p.m. "Einstein made (relatively) Simple." By Brian MacGabhann (GAC). We are delighted to welcome Brian back to Belfast, in anticipation of another one of his superb lectures.

  SUMMARY: Einstein's Theory of Relativity represents the best and most complete explanation of the way the universe works which we currently have, and underpins all of modern cosmology, astronomy and astrophysics. The talk is aimed very much at the interested lay-person, and no previous knowledge of the topic is required. It will guide the audience through the core building blocks of the theory, and explain how Einstein arrived at the sometimes bizarre conclusions that he did. 
   This is the ideal lecture for anyone who has ever wondered what the Theory of relativity was all about, or who wanted an easy to follow guide to Einstein's ideas.

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.


5. ISS.  A new series of morning passes over Ireland commenced on 28 December. Details for your own location, along with lots more information such as Iridium Flares, at


6. Mars- Jupiter Conjunction

On 1 January Mars lies only 2º 40' to the right of, and a bit above, much brighter Jupiter: Mars will be mag +1.5, whereas Jupiter will be -1.8. Over the next few days the separation decreases until on 6 Jan Mars will be only 23' to the right of Jupiter. Next morning just after they rise Mars will be only 13' below and a bit right of Jupiter – that's less than half a Moon diameter. Next morning the separation will have increased to 35' – a bit more than a Moon diameter.


7. Full Moons / Supermoons: The first of two Full Moon/Supermoons in January will be on the 2nd on 02h 24m; the second will be on Jan 31d 13h 26m, - but it won't be a 'Blue Moon'! The first one will be the closest Full Moon of 2018, at a distance of 356,600 km.


8. Earth at Perihelion. Earth will be at its closest to the Sun in its elliptical orbit on January 03 at 05.34, at a distance of 0.9833 AU.


9. Quadrantid Meteors, Jan 3-4. This shower will peak on the night of Jan 3-4, but unfortunately the Moon will be just past full, and will drown out all but the brighter meteors. The radiant, in the now defunct constellation of Quadrans Muralis, lies about halfway between the last star in the handle of the Plough and the head of Draco. It's circumpolar from Ireland, and especially from the N part of the island, it's high enough to give us a few meteors before the Moon rises at about 18.30. After moonrise, position yourself where the Moon is hidden behind a building or similar, and look away from that area of the sky.


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. 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:


12. 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.


13. 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.


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


15. IAU enlarges and updates list of official star names;



* 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: 

Inspiring Stars—the IAU Inclusive World Exhibition, 20-31 August 2018
"Inspiring Stars" will be an itinerant international exhibition promoted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to disseminate world efforts on inclusive research and outreach activities in astronomy. This inclusive world exhibition by showcasing assistive research tools and best inclusive outreach practices intends to broaden the horizons of children, parents, teachers and astronomers—everybody can become a scientist (astronomer)—inspiring the love for science in young people's minds. 
The exhibition will premiere during the IAU General Assembly 2018 in Vienna, from 20–31 August and will be shown around the world. Stay tuned as we keep you posted on all the progress of this IAU not-to-be-missed project for 2018! 

Centenary of IAU in 2019:  IAU100: Uniting our World to Explore the Universe
In 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will celebrate its 100th anniversary. To commemorate this milestone, the IAU will organize a year-long celebration to expand awareness of a century of astronomical discoveries as well as to support and improve the use of astronomy as a tool for education, development, and diplomacy under the central theme "Uniting our World to Explore the Universe". The celebrations will stimulate worldwide interest in astronomy and science and will reach out to the global astronomical community, national science organizations and societies, policy-makers, students and families, and the general public.
   For any inquiries, please contact Jorge Rivero González, the IAU100 Coordinator at: rivero[at]

 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.



Cosmic Lantern could help understand fate of universe


Earth & Moon


Solar System



Unknown space microbes identified on ISS




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

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