Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Lecture, observing, ISS, TLEs, Women in science day, ESO at RIA, NISF events, Annie Maunder

Hi all,


1. IAA  Lecture, Wed 6 February.   "The Cow: An incredible Transient Event", by Dr Simon Prentice, QUB.


Whether it's a massive star exploding, or clouds of hydrogen cataclysmically burning off the outer layers of a white dwarf, the Universe is never dull for transient astronomers. The last year was no exception with the discovery of AT2018cow (The Cow), a highly luminous and rapidly evolving event with no known analogue. Despite extensive multi-wavelength follow-up campaigns covering X-rays to radio, the nature of 'The Cow' remains a mystery. Suggestions put forward include a tidal disruption event, a magnetar powered explosion, or an unusual supernova. In this talk I will summarise the observed properties of 'The Cow' and where it lies in the transient "zoo", and discuss the theories that have emerged to explain the origins of this rare event. 


Dr Prentice is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen's University Belfast working on "faint and fast" transient objects. He was previously a PhD student at the Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University. His research interests are primarily based around high energy transients, in particular gamma-ray bursts and supernovae, with an aim to better understanding the explosion parameters and progenitors of these objects.

Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.


2. IAA Observing Evenings, Delamont Country Park, Killinchy, Co Down

Friday 11 or Saturday 12 January. Check the IAA website at 6.00 each evening to see if the event is going ahead, taking account of the weather. If it's cancelled on the Friday evening, we try again on the Saturday, if it's clear then.


3. NEW , 7 February. The Royal Irish Academy invites you to attend the RIA's McCrea Lecture Series 2019, with Director of the European Southern Observatory, Rob Ivison. Very timely, following ireland's historic decision to join ESO.

 "The ESO in 2019 and the evolution of galaxies as probed by ALMA" by Rob Ivison

 Time: 6.00 pm. Venue: Royal Irish Academy,19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Booking essential via: here

Synopsis.  The European Southern Observatory (ESO) - with Ireland as its latest Member State - is conducting an ambitious programme, building and operating world-class astronomical observatories on the ground and fostering cooperation in astronomy. In this presentation, the Director of Science for ESO, Rob Ivison, will provide an update on recent progress in the various ESO programmes, the La Silla Paranal Observatory, the now fully operational Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), and what will be the world's largest observatory, the 39-m European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT), under construction in Chile. Rob Ivison will close with a look at the latest breakthroughs in our understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, based largely on observations with ALMA. 

    This is part of the Royal Irish Academy Lecture Series which is held in honour of Sir William McCrea MRIA (1904-1999), an eminent and influential astronomer.

    Any queries, please contact Marie Coffey, RIA Programme Manager:

   All are welcome. This event is followed by a wine reception.


4. ISS. The ISS continues its series of evening passes until 10 February Details for your own location, and lots more info on space and astronomy, on

If you want to check for transits of the ISS across the Sun or the Moon which occur somewhere near you, visit


5. Future Total (and partial) Lunar Eclipses visible in Ireland – your definitive guide

   After a lot of erroneous and misleading information on the internet and the media about future lunar eclipses visible in Ireland, I gave a summary in my last bulletin, and promised a more comprehensive guide, which follows

    All the information below applies to Belfast, but is generally true for the whole of Ireland. Where relevant, I give details of any variation.

   This list includes all Total (TLE) and Partial (PLE) lunar eclipses visible in whole or in part in Ireland over the next decade, but does not include eclipses which are only penumbral, or only visible as penumbral, here.

   NB, it's a TLE if it's visible as total somewhere on Earth; it's a PLE if it's only visible as a partial no matter where you are on Earth.

   Ones marked with a * will have at least some part of totality visible from Ireland. Those marked with ** have all of totality visible from Ireland

   I describe below what we'll see in Ireland. All times are UT; during Summer Time, add an hour.

1. 2021, Nov 19. PLE. Large partial, umbral magnitude 0.978. That means that 97.8% of the Moon's diameter enters the umbra, or main shadow, at maximum. This is so close to being a TLE that if we could see it all, the edge of the Moon nearest the centre of the umbra would be very dark, and might even show hints of the reddish colour of a TLE. However the Moon is setting, and will be down to altitude 4.8º when it enters the umbra at 07.18, and will be 7º below the horizon at max eclipse.

*2. 2022, May 26. TLE. The Moon sets during totality, nevertheless if the sky is clear we'll see a TLE, even if we don't see all of totality. Totality starts at 03.28, with the Moon at altitude 4.9º. Maximum eclipse will be at 04.11, with the Moon down to altitude 0.6º. Observers in the West of the Island will get a better view.

3. 2023, Oct 28. PLE. This is a small partial, umbral magnitude only 0.128. All of the eclipse will be visible, with maximum eclipse at 20.13, Moon's altitude 28.9º.

4. 2024, Sep 18, PLE. An even smaller partial, umbral magnitude only 0.09, which means that only 9% of the diameter of the Moon enters the Earth's umbra, at 20.14, altitude 24.6º.

*5. 2025, Mar 14, TLE. Totality just visible here. Moon setting during total phase. Moon enters umbra at 05.08, altitude = 13.4º; totality starts at 06.25, altitude = 2.7º; Maximum eclipse at 06.58, altitude = -2.3º. Observers in the West of the island will get a better view.

6. 2025, Sep 7. TLE. Moon rises just after end of totality, so it's only visible as a partial here. Moon's altitude as totality ends will be -1.5º; End of umbral phase, altitude = +7.4º.

7. 2026, Aug 28. PLE. Another large partial, umbral magnitude 0.935, and we get to see the maximum eclipse. Moon's altitude at start of umbral phase at 02.33 = 19.1º; altitude at max eclipse at 04.12 = 9.5º. altitude at end of umbral phase at 05.52 = -3.1º. Observers in the West will again get the best view.

8. 2028, Jan 12. PLE. Another very small partial, umbral magnitude = 0.072. For what it's worth, we get to see the whole event. Maximum eclipse at 04.13, altitude 39.8º.

**9. 2028, Dec 31. TLE. The best one from Ireland since 2019. Magnitude = 1.251, with the Moon passing just North of the Centre of the Earth's shadow. All of totality will be visible, except from the West of the Island. Totality starts at 16.15, Moon altitude = 1.5º; Mid eclipse at 16.52, Moon altitude = 5.4º; Total phases ends at 17.28, Moon altitude = 9.6 º; umbral phase ends at 18.36, Moon altitude = 18.5 º. From the West of Ireland, the Moon will be just below the horizon at the start of totality, and a few degrees lower at all the subsequent stages. The Moon will be in Gemini, with a beautiful starry background.

*10. 2029 June 26. TLE. Totality partly visible from Ireland. Moon enters umbra at 01.32, alt = 9.6º; totality starts at 02.30, Moon altitude = 6.6 º; max eclipse at 03.22, altitude = 2.7 º; totality ends at 04.13, altitude = -2.4 º. From the far West and SW of the island, all of totality will be visible before the Moon sets.

This is a very deep eclipse, magnitude = 1.8436, with the Moon passing almost centrally through the Earth's shadow: the quantity gamma (how close the centre of the Moon passes to the centre of the Earth's shadow, in Earth equatorial radii) is just 0.0124. As a result, totality lasts for 102m 32s. That's not far off the current theoretical maximum of just over 106m!

  If the weather prospects are good it would be worth going to SW Cork or Kerry for a longer visible duration and a darker background sky for photography – from Ulster, the sky will be fairly bright twilight throughout the eclipse, and especially in the latter stages.

   The Moon will be in Sagittarius, in a rich star-field, and not far from globular clusters M28 and M22 and M8 the Lagoon Nebula.

        [The next TLE which has a longer totality than this one will be on 2123 June 9, with a totality duration of 106m. The magnitude of that one is a little less, at 1.7487.  Also, the gamma figure (how far the centre of the Moon passes from the centre of the shadow) is a bit higher (0.0406 compared with 0.0124) so it's less central. So why is the duration longer? – simply because the Moon is then near apogee, and therefore will be moving more slowly, and also will have a smaller apparent diameter.

   The TLE on 2217 May 22 will have a gamma of 0.0167, and an umbral mag of 1.8444, but a lesser duration of 100m. Amazingly, the following lunar eclipse, on 2217 Nov 14 will also be total, with an umbral mag of 1.8171, and a gamma of 0.0100. The duration of that one will be 103m.]

**11. 2029, Dec 20. TLE. All of eclipse visible from all of Ireland. The penumbral phase starts at 19.41, Moon altitude 30º; umbral phase starts at 20.55, moon altitude = 40º. Totality starts at 22.14, altitude 50º; Maximum eclipse is at 22h 41m 30s, altitude 53º. Totality ends at 23.09, altitude 55º. The umbral phase ends at 00.28, altitude 58º, and the moon exits the penumbra at 01.42, altitude 55º. Totality lasts for a respectable 55m, so it's a really good one to observe. The Moon will be in Orion, near the borders of Taurus and Gemini, just above the top of Orion's raised club. That's about halfway between Zeta Tau (the lower of the bull's horns) and lovely red giant Mu Gem, at Castor's feet. It's not far from the lovely open cluster M35, so a grand area for imaging.

   NB. During the 12 month period from 2028 December 31 to 2029 December 20, there will be THREE Total Lunar Eclipses where all or part of totality will be visible from Ireland! They form a 'Triplet', where three consecutive lunar eclipses are all total.

   However, according to self-styled "Ireland's best-known astronomer" the next TLE to be entirely visible in Ireland will be on 2032 Oct 18. As you can see from the above, that's not true. And the 2032 eclipse is not even strictly "entirely visible in Ireland", as the Moon will be below the horizon when the penumbral phase starts: -7.4º from Dublin, to be precise. In fact, the West of the island won't even see the start of the main umbral phase!

     Finally, an interesting fact – there are more TLEs this century than in any other century from 0CE to 2500CE!

   BTW, the next solar eclipse to be visible from Ireland will be on 2021 June 10. It's annular in very high Northern latitudes, but in Ireland it will be a partial, ranging from 45.7% in NW Donegal to 38.5% in SE Wexford. Dublin gets about 40%; Belfast about 43%.


6.  International Day of Women in Science / Women and Girls in Astronomy Day 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.  

   Under the theme "Inclusive Astronomy" the IAU100 celebrations will organise a wide array of global activities and events throughout the year to promote inclusivity, equity, and diversity in astronomy. These events will kick off around 11 February 2019 with the celebration of the IAU100 Women and Girls in Astronomy Day within the framework of the United Nations' International Day of Women and Girls in Science. This is 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.
Read more: 


7. NI Science Festival, February 14 – 24. Various events in various locations throughout N.I. including several at Armagh Planetarium. See

   The programme includes "Cosmic Cuilcagh" at the Marble Arch Caves Visitors Centre on Feb 22, which will be delivered by several members of the IAA. This is a superb dark sky location, so if there are clear skies the viewing will be superb.


8. NEW Saturday 16 February. Lecture on notable Irish female astronomer, Annie Maunder, in the Ulster Museum, Belfast. See


9. IAA Lecture, 20 February – NEW

Women in Astronomy: from the Maunder Mininum, to Leavitt and Hubble's expanding Universe", by Dr Jorick Vink, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium


I will start with a discussion about the role of the Maunder Minumum, a period 300 years ago when the Sun underwent a phase during which Sunspots were hardly seen at all. This observation is of great importance for understanding not only the Sun and the Stars, but also the climate on Earth.

I will subsequently discuss the role of stellar variability for the determination of distances to far-away galaxies. Here I will discuss the important role played by Henrietta Leavitt. Thanks to her work, and

subsequent studies by Hubble & others on galaxy redshifts, we now know we live in a huge, expanding Universe that started 13.7 Billion years ago with a Big Bang. I will discuss the Genesis of the First Massive Stars in this Exciting Cosmos.


10. 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.  See
Read more: 


11. Turn on the Night Educational Kit

The IAU100 Global Project Dark Skies for All project aims to raise awareness of the need to preserve quiet, dark skies and claim the right for future generations to continue to access our true night skies. The IAU100 is issuing a call for proposals to receive the "Turn on the Night" educational kit and encourages educators, astronomy professionals, and enthusiasts around the world to apply.
Throughout the IAU100 Global Program, about 200 educators around the world will be able to have this kit at production cost. Around 50 additional kits will be attributed and distributed for free by the IAU100 Secretariat to those who cannot afford the production cost. To apply for these IAU100 special conditions, please submit the completed application by 1 March 2019.
   More information here: 


12. Call for Participation in the Open Astronomy Schools Project
The Open Astronomy Schools project will build teachers' capacity to deal with scientific topics and teaching techniques by organising teacher training worldwide that enables the development of scientific literacy and acquisition of modern teaching skills. The call for proposals is targeted at providing seed funding (up to 500 Euros) and basic support to stimulate teacher training workshops in developing regions. This funding to support the OAS activities that can be used to produce materials to distribute to workshop participants or travel/subsistence support for teachers to attend the workshop.
   The call for proposals will be open until the end of the IAU100 celebrations. Proposals requesting funds have to be submitted by 28 February 2019 at 11:00 pm UTC. All applicants requesting financial support will receive feedback regarding the decision in March 2019.
   Find more information here:
Official Website:


13. NEW  COSMOS 2019. 5-7 April, Athlone. More  details later


14. New IAU100 Amateur Astronomy Day Event on 13 April 2019 in Brussels

On Saturday 13 April 2019 at the Palace of the Academies in Brussels, Belgium, the International Astronomical Union will organise its first event for amateur astronomers. With an inspirational full-day event that will include NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld, renowned scientists involved in hot topics in astronomy and presentations from the amateur astronomical community. With this event, the IAU aims to further build the relationship between amateur astronomers, their organizations and the IAU. The IAU100 Secretariat hereby invites amateur astronomers to engage with the event by attending and/or sharing their work as an amateur astronomer.
You can find more information here: 


15. European Week of Astronomy and Space Science
Date: 24 – 28 June 2019
Location: Lyon, France
More information:


16. 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: 


17.  IAU100: Moon Landing 50th Anniversary - Let's All Observe the Moon! 
Date: 20 July 2019  
Location: All around the world
More information: 

The Moon will be waning gibbous, and not rising until about midnight, but at least some spectacular formations will be visible for those prepared to stay up late!


18. Festival of Curiosity, Dublin. July 18 – 21, 2019


19. 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.



Detailed maps of thousands of galaxies

HST discovers small nearby galaxy. and It's not "in" the globular cluster – it's well beyond it!

Organic molecules round young star



Tweaking gravity removes need for Dark Matter 



Ancient asteroid impacts helped form continents

Amazing South Pole aurora video. I've never seen such strong yellows in aurorae before – anyone know what causes that colour?




IMAGES  They've mixed up results from Gaia and PanStarrs. And the map is NOT centred on Polaris, which is well away from the Milky Way.





Curiosity Rover does gravity-map traverse on Mars.




20. 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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