Friday, 7 December 2018

Apollo 8 anniversary talk, Insight on Mars, Jobs at AOP, 4 new GW detections, Venus & Mercury, much more

Hi all,
1. IAA Public Lecture: "Apollo 8 – Christmas Around the Moon", By IAA Past President, Paul Evans, December 12.
Apollo 8 flew to the Moon 50 years ago this Christmas and was a major step on the way to achieving the goal set by John F Kennedy in 1961 of landing a Man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth. Indeed it deserves its own place in history being the first mission in which men went beyond low earth orbit and escaped the clutches of earth's gravity. The mission went according to plan and delivered one lasting surprise which nobody had anticipated. This is the story, beginning at the end of the Second World War, of how they got there.
Paul Evans was 7 years old when Apollo 8 went to the Moon and although he had been aware of earlier missions, this was the one which really piqued his lifelong interest in space and astronomy. Paul has lived in Northern Ireland since 2003 during which time he has photographed auroras, noctilucent clouds and many sky objects and has had his photographs displayed in numerous exhibitions and publications in the UK and Ireland. Paul was President of the IAA for five non-consecutive years between 2012 and 2018.
Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB, 7.30pm
All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.
1A. More Heavens Above Photos for sale at 12 December meeting!
We are going to sell the remaining prints from our very successful Heavens Above photo exhibition, which was a major success, being very well received when exhibited in many venues around the province. The prices are £10 for print only in a tube, or £25 for mounted prints in the original mount & backing. Bring cash or a chequebook for a chance to get a bargain of some superb exhibition quality photos!

2. Insight on Mars
It landed on target, in a sandy hollow.
3. Job vacancies at AOP
Two positions now being advertised at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium.  These are for an Education and Outreach Manager and for a part-time Education Officer.
 Full details are available on the NICS Recruitment website,
These are fixed term (12 month) positions, with the possibility of extension for a further 12 months.  Application deadline is 14 December.
4. LIGO and Virgo announce 4 new GW detections
5. Phosphorus and Mercury in the morning sky. OK, so the former is only our old friend Venus, but the ancient Greeks called it Phosphorus, the Bringer of Light, when it appeared in the morning sky before dawn (and Hesperus when in the evening sky). It has now moved far enough out from the Sun to be easily visible in the morning twilight.
   The innermost planet, Mercury, is also moving out from the Sun and brightening; as it moves further apart from Venus, it moves closer to brightening Jupiter, with a nice conjunction on Dec 21-22.
4. Nominate a scientist to feature on the new Bof E £50 note. The person nominated must be British and deceased, which rules out local superstar Jocelyn Bell Burnell, but QUB is supporting the nomination of John Bell, after whom the lecture theatre in which the IAA holds its meetings is named  You can vote, within the next 5 weeks, at
5. Win A Zero-G Flight
Inspire Space (fronted by among others, Dr Laura Keogh who gave us a great lecture last year, and Dr Norah Patten, who will be talking to us next spring) are promoting an amazing raffle. Unfortunately it's only open to residents of ROI for legal reasons.
   Fly like a superhero and float like an astronaut! All you have to do is buy a raffle ticket! Only 999 raffle tickets will be sold so be quick – a perfect Christmas present for anyone interested in space, weightlessness or flying! **Closing date to buy tickets is 29 January 2019 and the draw will take place on 31 January 2019**
6. ISS. The ISS continues its series of evening passes until 15 December. Details for your own location, and lots more info on space and astronomy, on
7. Winter Solstice events in Newry & Mourne
Newry Mourne and Down District Council and the Ring of Gullion Partnership as part of their Winter Solstice Festival is hosting a lecture on the major events which have shaped the landscape and culture of the area over the years.
   Check out the Ring of Gullion website for more details, and book your spaces early! or call into the office in Crossmaglen Community Centre, O'Fiaich Square, Crossmaglen, BT35 9AA Tel:-(028) 3082 8590.
8. Armagh Planetarium: "Mystery of the Christmas Star" Dome Show now showing.
Join Armagh Planetarium this Christmas as we journey back more than 2000 years to Bethlehem, and seek to discover an explanation for the star the Wise Men followed to find the baby Jesus in "Mystery of the Christmas Star".  
   The Star of Bethlehem is an iconic astronomical event whose true origin remains unknown even today, in spite of years of speculation and research. The show will guide the viewer through some of these investigations and the most likely causes of this interesting cosmological object which was remarkable enough to make the wise men travel across the desert from Babylon to Bethlehem to see the newborn baby.  You will also explore possible dates for the birth of Christ and look at the historical records of significant astronomical events which occurred at this time.  This modern retelling of the Christmas story in our digital theatre will charm and captivate audiences.
The show runs until Saturday 5th January 2019.
Show Times:
Tuesday – Friday at 2pm
Saturday/School Holidays at 2pm and 4pm
9. IAA ASTRO EVENT, Portballintrae, 7 December, 7.00, in Village Hall
Stardome, exhibition, telescope workshop, Bring & Buy, observing if clear.
10. Comet Wirtanen approaches. This comet, which may become visible to the unaided eye, will be at its best in mid-December, when closest to Earth. It will be at perihelion (closest to the Sun) on 12 December, and soon after that it will pass only 11.6 million km from Earth. That means it will appear quite large, but with a low surface brightness, so a wide-field low power eyepiece or good big binoculars will give the best view. On the night of 15-16 December it will pass just 3ยบ East of the Pleiades. The Moon will then be just past First Quarter, but if you wait until just after midnight it won't intrude.
 You could start looking for it from about 9 December. More details in next bulletin.
11. Geminid Meteors peak 13-14 December.
Maximum is predicted for 08h on the night of 13-14 December, so late on the night, especially in the hours leading up to dawn, should give good rates in a clear sky. The ZHR should be around 120, so this is a really good chance to catch quite a few meteors, especially after the 35% crescent moon sets around 10 p.m. The radiant is fairly well up by about 7 p.m., so you can start looking around then. As always for meteors, choose as dark a location as possible, and allow time for your eyes to dark adapt.
 The radiant lies a bit above Castor in Gemini, but the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky. Look about 40-50 degrees away from the radiant, and about 50 degrees above the horizon, in the clearest darkest part of your sky, to see the most Geminids.
   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.
12. APOLLO 8 remembered. This is an excellent video tribute, just coming up to the 50th anniversary in December.   This flight will be the subject of our lecture on December 12.
13. IAA New Year Party, 5 January.
The astrosocial event of the year will be held once again at McBrides in Comber, folloqwed by a film and team quiz in the Tudor Private cinema nearby. More details soon.
14. Participate in the 100 Hours of Astronomy Global Project, Jan 10 - 13.
In 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will celebrate its 100th anniversary (IAU100) and to commemorate, we will organise a year-long celebration to increase 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.
   The 100 Hours of Astronomy will be the kick-off worldwide event of IAU100 and will be composed of a broad range of activities aimed at involving the public. 100 Hours of Astronomy will take place over four days and nights, from 10-13 January 2019, with amateur and professional astronomers, astronomy enthusiasts and the general public invited to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for the Universe. Hundreds of local events are being planned by science facilities and astronomy enthusiasts around the world, including telescope observing sessions, exhibitions, lectures, art projects, classroom projects, field trips, special shows and more. In many countries, there will be public lectures by specially selected speakers, experts in astronomy, keen to participate in this planet-wide venture.
   It is only a few months before the yearlong centennial celebration of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will take place. As a big kick-off event, the global project 100 Hours of Astronomy is organised to take place 10-13 January 2019. Everyone around the globe can participate in this joint effort to bring astronomy to the general public.
   Find more: 
15. The Galway Astronomy Festival takes place on Saturday January 26th, 2019. The festival will take place in our new venue, The Harbour Hotel, New Docks Road, Galway.
 We were very happy with last year's festival and hopefully this coming year's festival will be equally successful.
16. International Day of Women in Science, 11 Feb
The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated each year on 11 February and was adopted by the United Nations to promote full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls. This Day is a reminder that women and girls play a critical role in science and technology communities and that their participation should be strengthened.
The IAU100 strongly encourages the organization of activities throughout 2019, especially events organised around February as the perfect opportunity to celebrate girls and women in astronomy - by encouraging girls to consider careers in astronomy and by celebrating women astronomers. We encourage everyone to get involved with the Women and Girls in Astronomy Day by running events in your local community. This can include public talks, activities, workshops, and more.  
17. 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.
 IAU100 Celebrations around the World  for details for your own country, check the link below.
With Astronomy events of all kinds, including national and cultural events, the IAU100 is engaging with different communities worldwide. Meet the
IAU100 National Committees and learn more about the people who are here to support you during the 2019 celebrations.  For the UK, it's Prof Robert Walsh, originally from Belfast, but now at U of Central Lancs (who gave a great talk to the IAA in Belfast some years ago); and for ROI it's the indefatigable Clair McSweeney from BCO in Cork.
Read more: 
18. 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: 
19. Festival of Curiosity, Dublin. July 18 – 21
20. 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.
Complex astronomy predictions 40,000 years ago?  My first reaction is "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". And as far as Gobecki Tepe is concerned, I debunked most of those claims as soon as the first report was published several years ago, and I'm glad to say that other experts in the field agreed with me.
   The first thing to look out for is backwards cross- cultural identification. At Gobecki Tepi they assumed that the animals depicted there represented the same constellations as we have had handed down from (mainly) the ancient Greeks .e.g Taurus = bull, Aries = Ram. But those constellations uniquely represent Greek mythology, and the Greek Pantheon, but there is absolutely no evidence that the Greeks inherited that from any earlier civilization. Nor indeed is a cave-art depiction of a bull, without star locators, evidence that it represents any star pattern in the sky, let alone the one we have now as Taurus.
   Also, remember that our 'Taurus' is only the head of a bull, depicted charging against Orion, so it's intrinsically part of that mythology. Most cave-art depictions of a bull show the whole animal, which would require a totally different group of stars.
   And other cultures interpret star patterns (if at all) totally differently to the ones we are familiar with. Indeed, they often divide up the patterns completely differently, as well as giving them different identities. With very few exceptions (Orion, the Plough / Big Dipper), you could make almost any figure from almost any group of stars, with equal claim to validity. And the Plough / Big Dipper are only parts of the whole Greek Ursa Major constellation, and unless they had ploughs and saucepans that long ago, those identifications are spurious in this context!
Many globulars in between galaxies in Coma Cluster I don't doubt this, but why have we not found the same thing in our own Virgo Cluster? – there have been galaxy close encounters there too.
   New supernova discovery complicates theories
COSINE-100 challenges DAMA on Dark Matter
Neon in our mantle sheds light on Earth's creation
SPACE  Most journalists still don't realise that there is no Dark Side of the Moon. It has day and night just like Earth. It should be 'far side of the Moon'. I wouldn't be surprised if someone refers to the Dark side of the Sun!
NASA document on alien visits explained It's not impossible of course.  But why would any advanced alien civilisation bother visiting Earth without actually doing anything, or leaving any messages? They could easily detect what stage of technology and civilisation we had reached by observing us unobtrusively from space. Landing and/or making themselves known would only cause alarm, consternation and confusion, without any benefits to us, unless they left us some useful information or technology. As opposed to just building pyramids, for example.
21. IAA subscriptions for the coming year were due on 1 September. If you haven't renewed, you'll not get the next issue of Stardust, due next month.
22. 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