Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Lecture tonight, Venus & Mercury, Occultations, Mars car, GRS, Public events, and LOTS more

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE,  Wed 21 February, 7.30 p.m. "Live Fast, Die Young: The Life of a Cosmic Rockstar". By Dr Erin Higgins, AOP:
   The Life of a Cosmic Rockstar: The stellar giants of our universe are notorious for their drastic lifestyles : live fast, die young. Burning up to hundreds of times the mass of our Sun, these stars produce the heaviest elements in the natural universe. Though they are born in a stellar nursery like all stars, their violent deaths can shine brighter than entire galaxies. In this lecture we will travel through the lives and possible fates of the most massive stars in the universe. Taking a look back in time from Einstein to the early universe, we will discover what it takes to become a massive star that may one day evolve into a black hole. Ultimately exploring the most recent detections of black hole and neutron star mergers through the wonder of gravitational waves.
   This is a most entertaining and informative talk – recommended for all!
    Doors open about 7.15pm. There is free parking available on the campus in the evenings. Admission Free, including light refreshments. We are located in the Bell Theatre, Department of Mathematics and Physics, QUB
Wed 21 February, 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.
(Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for facilitating this lecture)

2. Venus and Mercury sneak out into evening twilight:
Venus, the brilliant Evening Star, is becoming visible as an 'evening star' from Ireland now. The ancient Greeks called it Hesperos when it was in the evening sky, and Phosphorus or Eosphorus, meaning 'dawn-bringer' when it was in the morning sky. And it will soon be followed, and overtaken by, swift Mercury, the innermost planet.
   Venus will become visible low in the SW evening twilight from about 21 February, when it will be mag -3.9, with an elongation from the Sun of 10.5º, and phase 98%. It then moves out gradually further from the Sun, and thus higher in the evening twilight, and brightens as well, over the coming weeks
    Many people have never seen Mercury, as it always appears close to the Sun in the sky, and thbus only ever visible in twilight, from our latitudes at least.
But now's your chance. Mercury will start an excellent evening elongation in late February and early March. Watch it follow Venus out from the bright SW evening twilight from about Feb 26 until it catches up with it on March 3. The earliest you're likely to spot Mercury is Feb 26, when it will lie 3º 42' below right of its bigger and brighter sister, at 18.15. Venus will be mag -3.9, while Mercury will be mag -1.4: that's as bright as Sirius, but it will be low down, and in the bright twilight, so a challenge to spot!
   On the 27th, at 18.30, it will have closed to within 3º; on the 28th to within 2º 30'; on Mar 01 to within 1º 53'; on Mar 02 to 1º 24', all with Venus lying above and left of Mercury. On March 3, it will lie only 1º 06' away, but now it will lie the same height above the horizon, to the right of Venus, and will have faded slightly to mag -1.3. On 4 March it will lie the same distance from Venus, but will now be above and right of Venus, and slightly fainter at mag -1.2.
   Over the next week it will climb higher above Venus, reaching a maximum of 4º above and slightly right of it on 14 March, although by then it will have faded to mag -0.3. However, as it will be much higher up than at the end of February, it will be much easier to see.

3. Moon occults two bright stars
On Feb 23, the First Quarter Moon will occult Aldebaran at 16.32 with reappearance at the bright limb at 17.41. Although that's in daylight, the Moon will be easy to see, and any telescope, or maybe even good high power binoculars, will show Aldebaran just off the L edge of where the full lunar disc would appear, It's a fairly central occultation so disappearance and reappearance will be fairly near the lunar equator.
   Then on Mar 01, the Full Moon will occult Regulus from 06.05 to 06.55 - once again a fairly central occultation.
   Those times are for Belfast – start looking about 10 minutes earlier to be safe, particularly if you're in the far West or SW of the Island.

4. The Mars Car – imaged from a record distance..

5. The Not So Great Red Spot It's definitely smaller now than when I made detailed observations of it from 1965 to 1970.

6. Online Astrobiology courses IAU 
The IAU working group on Education and Training in Astrobiology is pleased to announce the launch of its first platform for online courses in astrobiology. Online Courses in Astrobiology presents quality lectures in different disciplines related to the search for the origin of life, and has been designed for upper-level graduate students and recent postdocs, as well as interested and curious members of the public. Lectures are presented by international experts and are currently available in French, English and Spanish. 
The courses can be found at  and are continually updated.

7. 3-D Simulation of Night Sky at Ballycroy Dark Sky Park

The Mayo Dark Skies Community Group, in collaboration with Dr Frank Prendergast of the Dublin Institution of Technology, is pleased to launch a digital virtual experience of the Mayo Dark Sky Park. Following its designation as an International Dark Sky Park (Gold Tier), it is now possible to experience a part of this magnificent and pristine skyscape on your computer. This has been made possible using open source software (Stellarium and a specially commissioned digital panorama of the horizon surrounding the Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre.
   Stellarium is an open source planetarium for your computer and shows a fully realistic digital sky. The customised landscape file for Stellarium has been specially developed for this collaborative project. Once installed on your computer, this situates your viewpoint at the summit directly above the Visitor Centre. Real horizons are seen on the screen and, for the first time, the changing skyscapes throughout the year can be experienced and enjoyed. User control over the programme's location, time and direction settings provides an incredibly powerful educational tool to learn practical astronomy.
   A customised landscape file for Ballycroy, a display poster of the panorama surrounding the Visitor Centre and installation instructions on how to install the software and landscape file are available at
Prendergast, Frank. 2018. "A 3D Simulation of the Sky at Ballycroy National Park Visitor Centre, Co. Mayo." Mayo Dark Skies Community Group & Dublin Institute of Technology
8. IAA at St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon, 23 February:
The IAA will host another Observing and Mobile Planetarium Starshow evening at St Patrick's Academy, Killymeal Road, Dungannon, on Friday 23rd, commencing at 7.30 p.m. The school has ikts own 14-inch Celestron SCT in an excellent purpose-designed observatory, and we will have another telescope or two of our own for looking at other objects. Please book directly with the school to attend the mobile planetarium starshows: 37 Killymeal Road, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, BT71 6DS, Tel : 028 87 727 400.
9. 23 Feb: Cosmic Cuilcagh, Marble Arch Caves Visitors Centre, Co Fermanagh. Stargazing in a very dark sky location, plus alternative presentation if cloudy. Presented by Terry Moseley

10. NI Science Festival, 15 – 25 February
Highlights from our point of view is the appearance by astronaut, Chris Hadfield. See the full programme at Here are some events of interest. Some are free, but all require pre-booking via the above website, except where noted.
15 - 25 Feb: Museum of the Moon, W5, 10.00 – 17.00.
15 – 25 Feb. Shooting the Stars Exhibition, Garden of Reflection, L/Derry, 10.00 – 16.00
23 Feb: Cosmic Cuilcagh, Marble Arch Caves Visitors Centre. Stargazing plus alternative presentation if cloudy. Presented by Terry Moseley (who he?)
24 Feb: Look Up with Simon Watt, Black Box, Belfast, 13.00 & 15.00
24 Feb: Life as an Astronaut, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, 11.15 – 12.30.
25 Feb: A Celestial Journey, Nerve Centre, Magazine St, L/Derry. 11.00, 13.00, 15.00 & 16.30
11. HEAVENS ABOVE PHOTO EXHIBITION to open at BCH, 27 Feb. The IAA's highly rated astrophoto exhibition "Heavens Above" moves to a new venue on 27 February. It will open in the Tower Gallery, ground floor of the Tower Block, Belfast City Hospital, and will run there until 9 April.

12. NEW: IT, Tallaght, 28 February: 25th Anniversary Event: "The Citizen and Space" The Department of Applied Science and IT Tallaght, in celebrating the college's 25th Anniversary, is holding an event titled "The Citizen and Space", comprising three short inspirational talks:
- Dr. Norah Patten, Irish Astronaut Candidate, will talk about her endeavour to be the first Irish person in space
- Ian Boran, Science Teacher, talks on how his school , Tallaght Community School, engaged in a live link to the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2017
- Kevin Nolan, Lecturer at IT Tallaght will talk about what Ireland's imminent membership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will mean for the next generation of space scientists and engineers (ESO have sent a great selection of DVD's, brochures, post cards and stickers to take away from the event). 
    Wednesday 28th February, 7.30 - 8.30pm (light refreshments for all in main canteen after the talks)
Venue: Theatre 025, Main Building, IT Tallaght, Belgard Rd, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Free event, no booking required - just turn up on the evening. Family friendly event - all are welcome
Contact Kevin Nolan , or Sarah Maher  with any queries:

13. What will asteroid Ryugu look like? -- call for contest nodes
Asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 is fast approaching its destination. Between June and July 2018, the spacecraft will reach asteroid (162173) Ryugu and begin investigating this small world. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is now launching the challenge to imagine what Hayabusa2 is going to capture. The organisation is inviting science museums, planetariums, public observatories and other centres with space-related activities to become contest "nodes" and help gather the most imaginative artwork from around the world. Applications to become a node are being accepted until the end of February 2018.
   The details can be found on this webpage:

14. IOP Spring meeting, 3 March, in Limerick.
The annual Spring Meeting of the Institute of Physics in Ireland will be held on Saturday 3 March 2018 in the Limerick Strand Hotel.
The theme of the meeting is 'Sensing the Universe' and includes talks, the Rosse Medal competition for postgraduate communication, an exhibition on the Tactile Universe, a comedy spot and a prize for the best physics image.
The event gives an opportunity to meet colleagues from across the physics community in Ireland.
Students from colleges outside Limerick taking part in the Rosse Medal Competition may apply for a travel bursary of €50. Registration is now open at:

15.  International Day of Light – Call for astronomy programs
UNESCO will inaugurate the first International Day of Light at their headquarters in Paris, France, on 16 May 2018. The many events taking place worldwide on this day aim to raise awareness of both the many ways that light impacts modern society, and of how advances in light-based science and technology can help us achieve educational and sustainable development goals. In addition to encouraging you to take part in these events, we're calling out to all organisers of astronomy-related events around the world so we can highlight your activities through our channels. If you're planning any International Day of Light activities related to astronomy, please let us know via

16. National Schools' Observatory  Inquiry-Based Science Projects for Astronomy Students
Launched in 2004, the
National Schools' Observatory (NSO) provides free access to the two-metre Liverpool Telescope for school students and teachers throughout the UK and Ireland, and reduced access to anyone worldwide. It currently has over 4,000 users regularly engaging with the website resources and over 125,000 telescope observations requested since inception. As part of these resources, the NSO has developed an extended research activity on open clusters providing students with background material, research-grade data and instructions allowing them to produce their own Colour-Magnitude (or Hertzsprung-Russell) diagrams. Students are then encouraged to upload and discuss their results within a forum.
 Find the start page of the activity here

17. Globe at Night Campaigns
Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure night-sky brightness and submit their observations. It's easy to get involved—all you need is a computer or smartphone. Don't miss any of the ongoing Globe at Night 2018 campaigns at

18. Global Astronomy Month, April 2018
Date: April 2018. Location: All around the world. More information: 

19. Yuri's Night,
Yuri's Night, Date: 12 April,  All around the world. More information:

20. COSMOS 2018, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone, 13-15 April. More details soon on.

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

22. International Day of Light: 16 May 2018. Around the world. More Information: A good opportunity to highlight (!) light-pollution! And promote Earth Hour as well.
Register your event by filling out the form:

23. Asteroid Day: 30 June 2018: Around the world More Information:
24. International Planetarium Society,  1–6 July 2018, Toulouse, France. More Information:  
25.  Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal Issue 23 is now out! 
The 23rd issue of the Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal is now available. In this issue, you will discover upcoming plans for IAU's 100th year anniversary celebrations, interesting first results of studies on astronomy's influence on children's behaviour, and original ways of using gastronomy to conduct astronomy outreach. CAPjournal is a free, peer-reviewed journal for astronomy communicators published by the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).
Advance Notice:
26. 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: 
27. 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!

28. World Space Week 2018: 4-10 October 2018: 

29.  International Observe the Moon Night: 20 October 2018:  

30: Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 2-4 November FACEBOOK:
31. 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]
32. Starmus V — Star-studded Lineup for 2019  
Created by Garik Israelian, a researcher at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands (IAC), the Starmus Festival is a combination of science, art and music that has featured presentations from astronauts, cosmonauts, Nobel Prize winners and other prominent figures from science, culture, the arts and music. Now celebrating its fifth year, and timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings, Starmus V will take place in Bern, Switzerland, from 24 to 29 June 2019. The IAU is a partner organisation of Starmus and among the confirmed speakers will be IAU Secretary General, Piero Benvenuti, and IAU President-elect, Ewine van Dishoeck.  IAU announcement: 
33. 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.
The most distant supernova ever detected and
EARTH and Moon:
Asteroids provide clue to origin of life on Earth
Nocturnal animals navigate using stars and Milky Way and
Laser Ranging satellite provides high precision measure of tides 
Most people would welcome news of ET life

Asteroids provide clue to origin of life on Earth
How the JWST will reveal secrets of Mars


34. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
35. 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 .
The Irish Astronomical Association is registered with The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland NIC 105858
DISCLAIMER: Any views expressed herein are mine, and do not necessarily represent those of the IAA.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley


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