Firstly, a very Happy New Year to all!
1. IAA New Year Party, January 4. We start off with a buffet meal in McBride's, The Square, Comber, at 5.30 for 6.00, followed by a private screening of classic SciFi Film: Destination Moon at the Tudor Private Cinema at 7.30, where there will be some light liquid refreshments in the form of mulled wine, light-alcohol punch, and soft drinks. And maybe a mince pie or two. The film will be followed by a quiz, with a selection of prizes.
BOOKING is essential. Booking forms will be sent out with the January STARDUST, which members will receive soon; or via the website.
Cost for meal and film: Adult £15, child under12 £7.
Cinema only, cost Adult £7, child £3.50.
Booking by 2 January please.
Cheque to the IAA, sent to Mr Pat O'Neill, 55 Cranmore Pk, Belfast BT9 6JG.
2. New Sunspot Cycle
TWO SUNSPOTS FROM THE NEXT SOLAR CYCLE: Solar Cycle 25 really is coming. On Dec 24 for the first time, there were two new-cycle sunspots on the solar disk--one in each hemisphere.
We know these sunspots belong to the next solar cycle because of their magnetic polarity. Simply put, they are backwards. According to Hale's Law, sunspot polarities flip-flop from one solar cycle to the next.
During old Solar Cycle 24, we grew accustomed to sunspots in the sun's southern hemisphere having a -/+ pattern. However, today's southern sunspot is the opposite: +/-. This identifies it as a member of new Solar Cycle 25.
Likewise, today's northern sunspot has a reversed polarity compared to northern spots from old Solar Cycle 24. It, too, therefore, belongs to Solar Cycle 25.
The Sun is currently in Solar Minimum--the nadir of the 11-year sunspot cycle. It's a deep Minimum, century-class according to sunspot counts. The scarcity of sunspots has been so remarkable that it has prompted discussion of a possible "extended Minimum" akin to the Maunder Minimum of the 17th century when sunspots were absent for decades. Such an event could have implications for terrestrial climate.
Today's new-cycle sunspots (along with isolated new-cycle spots earlier this year) suggest that the solar cycle is, in fact, unfolding normally. A new Maunder Minimum does not appear to be in the offing. Forecasters expect Solar Cycle 25 to slowly gain strength in the years ahead and reach a peak in July 2025. (from Spaceweather. Com, 24 December)
3. Calendar of space and astronomy for 2020
4. IAA Public Lecture, Wednesday January 8, 7.30 p.m. (NB, Note New temporary venue). Dr Chris Watson of QUB will talk on Exoplanets.
As the Bell Lecture theatre will be closed for an IT upgrade, this talk will be in the Emelaus Lecture Theatre, in the main Lanyon Building. The entrance is just opposite the entrance to the Physics building, and will be signposted.
Details; 7.30 p.m., EMELAUS Lecture Theatre, MAIN Building , QUB. Admission free.
5. BETELGEUSE FADING
There is considerable interest in the fact that Betelgeuse has faded since October by about 1 magnitude. Some conjecture that this is a prelude to a supernova explosion, but that is very unlikely. However, it's certainly worth watching. It's now about midway in brightness between Castor and Pollux.
My magnitude estimate on 24 December put it at +1.4, almost 1 magnitude fainter than its average of +0.5. That's the faintest I've ever seen it – and that's from 1963!
6. Quadrantids Meteor shower, 4 January. A major shower, peaking on the night of 3-4 Jan, just about dawn. It's a rich shower, but with a very sharp peak, so the early hours on the 4th, up until twilight interferes, will be best. The radiant is in N. Bootes, about halfway from the end of the Plough to the head of Draco.
7. ISS The International Space Station commenced a series of morning passes on 20 December. Full details for your location, and lots of other astronomy information, on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com
8. Perihelion. The Earth will be closest to the Sun in its annual orbit on Jan 5, at 07.47
9. SciFi entertainment in 2020
10. Galway Astronomy Festival
The Galway Astronomy Festival takes place on Saturday January 25th 2020.
The festival will take place in the Harbour Hotel, overlooking Galway Bay
11. Vesta occults naked eye star, 11 February. More details of this rare event, visible from the N of the island, will be in the January edition of STARDUST, and in later bulletins.
12. 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.
Milky Way centre hosts a 'cosmic candy-cane' https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191218153348.htm
Gamma ray halo round pulsar links to Antimatter mystery https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191219125956.htm
Betelgeuse fading Magnitude estimate 24 Dec, 21.00h, = +1.4
EARTH & MOON
Finding meteorite falls more quickly https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191219122526.htm
TELESCOPES, INSTRUMENTS, TECHNIQUES
Refurbished radio telescopes observe pulsars from S. America for the first time https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191217141537.htm
13. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION. This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
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 www.irishastro.org .
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.