Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Lecture tonight, Job, New talk, Venus & Merc, ISS, ZL, Lunar Occ, Photos, COSMOS, Events diary

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE,  Wed 7 March, 7.30 p.m. ". "Mars Sample Return Technology: development and testing in Antarctica" by Dr Patrick Harkness, University of Glasgow.
   We are very lucky to have one of our own IAA members, Dr Patrick Harkness, come from Glasgow to give us this talk. Patrick is testing the techniques and technology to be used in returning samples from Mars for analysis back on Earth. The closest we have on Earth to the conditions on Mars are to be found in Antarctica, and so that's where the testing is being carried out.
   See this BBC film narrated by Patrick Harkness as background
Although the testing of the equipment and techniques is being done on Mars, the talk will of course focus on Mars – including what the technical challenges are, such as: Low gravity means low weight-on-bit, dust means you can't use screw threads very easily, working near the triple point makes you prone to freeze-in, sample preservation means you can't just throw power at the problem.
   To get samples from Mars, robotic rovers will have to drill into Martian rocks. Planetary drilling is more difficult than drilling on Earth. Low gravity reduces the possible weight-on-bit, and freezing conditions can seize the bit downhole. Furthermore, to reach any depth, it will be necessary to assemble the drillstring in-situ, which is a challenging task for robotic systems. This talk will discuss a recently-concluded technology development programme which created a testbed for a range of low-force drilling and sample caching systems, before testing those systems at a field analogue site in Antarctica. Interestingly, because polar exploration also requires low-force drilling in freezing conditions, the technology is currently being spun out to the British Antarctic Survey. We are now working to deploy a larger version back to West Antarctica, as part of a scientific sampling programme, as early as January 2019. The lessons learned from this programme, in turn, will inform research with respect to larger-scale planetary drilling in the future.
 This is a unique chance to learn about this fascinating experiment, so we will all be much better informed than most people on this groundbreaking technology.
     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 7 March, 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. Job Advertisement: Closing Date 9th March 2018
Astronomical Accuracy and Events Position:  iCandi Apps Ltd.
   (Sorry for the short notice – I've just learned of this from John Flannery)
iCandi Apps Ltd. the company behind the very popular app "Night Sky", is advertising for somebody who is passionate about astronomy and mobile technology to work with us on a freelance basis. Whether this be in your full time career and you want an opportunity to share your passion with millions, or a hobby you are very enthusiasticabout and wish you had a job in astronomy.
   We need the applicant to be responsible for delivering astronomical   event updates when required, and monthly updates about astronomical items of interest for the upcoming month, whilst also being responsible of the astronomical accuracy of the Night Sky app overall. Additionally you will provide smaller articles prior to space events taking place, this could be for items such as meteor showers, or less predictable articles such as rocket launches.  You should share our aim in making the content within Night Sky the "go to" source for iOS users for anything to do with space.
   In return we will offer you an opportunity to be part of a small but dynamic and exciting team.  Working to keep our millions of users worldwide up to date with space, and enabling them to actually discover these items with the power of Night Sky.
   More information about the Night Sky app and this opportunity, (including how to apply), can be found at;
3. IAA Programme Change, Wed 21 March: - Advance notice
We're absolutely delighted that Prof Alan Fitzsimmons of the ARC at QUB  has agreed to give us a special up-to-the-minute lecture on one of the most amazing of recernt astronomical discoveries: A visitor from another stellar system somewhere in our galaxy! You may have seen or heard Alan on both local and national media talking about this mysteriouis object, on which he and his team were leading researchers.
TITLE: "First Contact: Uncovering An Interstellar Visitor".
Synopsis: On 19 October 2017 an Interstellar Object was spotted passing through our Solar system, the first of its kind to be discovered. With little warning, astronomers had only a few days to study it before it became too faint for detailed investigation, even when using the world's largest telescopes. Studies revealed a body that matched some of our expectations, but that differed significantly in other aspects. This talk will cover how it was discovered, and what we have learned so far
4. Venus and Mercury come 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 is visible low in the SW evening twilight at mag -3.9, with an elongation from the Sun of 13º, and phase 98%. It 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 thus only ever visible in twilight, from our latitudes at least.
But now's your chance. Mercury has an excellent evening elongation in March. It followed Venus out from the bright SW evening twilight until it caught up with it on March 3. Venus is be mag -3.9, while Mercury is around 1st mag:   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.
5. ISS. The ISS continues its series of morning passes over Ireland, which will continue until 18 March. Details as usual on the excellent free site, along with lots of other information. A new series of evening passes will then commence on 25 March; a much shorter break than usual – can you work out why?
6. Zodiacal Light: To avoid moonlight, the best chance to see this faint cone of light along the ecliptic in the Western evening sky will be from March 10 to Mar 18. You'll need to have a very clear dark sky to see it. Look just as the last vestiges of twilight are disappearing.
On March 22 the waxing crescent (32%) Moon occults Aldebaran at 23.34 in a dark sky, although it will be fairly low down in the West, altitude a bit less than 10 degrees. From other locations it will occur a bit later: in Dublin at 23.38, Galway at 23.39, and Cork at 23.42. You'll see the Earthlit part of the Moon slowly creeping up to the star, and then – it's gone!
    The event is really instantaneous: the star will literally disappear 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.
8. HEAVENS ABOVE PHOTO EXHIBITION opened at BCH, 27 Feb. The IAA's highly rated astrophoto exhibition "Heavens Above" moved to a new venue on 27 February. It's in the Tower Gallery, ground floor of the Tower Block, Belfast City Hospital, and will run there until 9 April. Thanks again to Bernie Brown for arranging this venue, and setting up.
9.  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
10. 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
11. 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
12. Global Astronomy Month, April 2018
Date: April 2018. Location: All around the world. More information: 
13. Yuri's Night,
Yuri's Night, Date: 12 April,  All around the world. More information:
14. COSMOS 2018, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone, 13-15 April. More details soon on.

15.  European Week of Astronomy and Space Sciences (EWASS2018).  This will be in Liverpool, from 3 to 8 April 2018. See and
16. 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:

17. Asteroid Day: 30 June 2018: Around the world More Information:
18. International Planetarium Society,  1–6 July 2018, Toulouse, France. More Information:  
19.  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:
20. 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: 
21. 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!
22. World Space Week 2018: 4-10 October 2018: 

23.  International Observe the Moon Night: 20 October 2018:  
24: Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 2-4 November FACEBOOK:
25. 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]
26. 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: 
27. 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.
Astrophysics Great. Now let's just move the planet a few light years away from the BH!
Models of microlensed SNae will solve cosmic riddle
The thermodynamics of the birth of the universe:

EARTH and Moon:
Increase in Cosmic Rays poses space hazard
HST studies exoplanet atmosphere in greater detail than ever before
SETI: Scientists "could" find intelligent life in the next few decades. "Could" is a wonderful word. It's also so vague that it's useless.  They 'could' find intelligent life in the next few seconds. But it's not likely. Alternatively, it 'could' be within the next few centuries. Or millennia. Or never.
SOLAR SYSTEM Poor old NASA (as it should be) – it's responsible for more cover-ups than all the paint in B&Q, according to some! Actually, if there was definite proof of past multicellular life on Mars, they would be shouting it from the rooftops!
   Comet 67/P C-G's binary structure may be recent;
Increase in Cosmic Rays poses space hazard This would also allow Earth satellites to operate in lower orbits than before, making use of the very thin upper atmosphere instead of fighting against it!
QUB's Astrophysics Research Centre scientists make major breakthrough in understanding the Sun:
28. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.
29. 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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