Monday, 1 April 2019

Lecture: moving an asteroid, calendar reform, Dark Sky events, ISS, COSMOS Athlone, Yuri's Night events, more

Hi all,


1. IAA Lecture: "DART and Hera – how to move an asteroid", by Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, ARC, QUB, Wed 3 April.
SYNOPSIS: Over the past few decades, our knowledge of how to handle the threat posed by Near-Earth Objects has increased enormously. Astronomers surveying the sky find over 150 new NEOs per month. We understand the gross characteristics of that population; how many there are, what they are made of, their overall structure and how their orbits change. Now the final stage of threat assessment is under way. In three years time, humanity will test whether it can move a small asteroid for the first time. The NASA DART and ESA Hera missions are the first planetary experiment to significantly change the orbit of a celestial body.  This talk will describe the background to the missions, the preparations happening this year, and what we hope to accomplish in 2022–2026.

   Alan needs no introduction to IAA members, having given us many superb lectures over the years, and this one promises to be as interesting as any of the others!

   Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.


2. Much-needed Calendar Reform:

Exclusive! A proposal by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures (BIPM, or International Bureau of Weights and Measures based in Sèvres near Paris in France. ) to reform our outdated and irregular calendar may receive a mixed welcome.

   Pari Follo, who headed a committee of the Institute said that their primary objective was to remove the anomaly of February. The proposal will also harmonise more with the lunar calendars of some religions.

   Also, looking ahead to future colonies on the Moon, the aim was to tie in the calendar month as closely as possible with the lunar month of 29.5 days, although exact correspondence is not possible.

  The main effect will be that there will be no 28-day month, and two fewer 31 day months.

All months will have either 30 or 31 days. Apart from Leap Years, this gives 7 months of 30 days and 5 of 31.

   They considered three main options.

Option A was based on alternating months of 30 and 31 days as far as possible. 

Option B was based on having 2 x 30 days between singles of 31 days, as far as possible. But neither of these works perfectly.

Option C was based on keeping all the 30s together, and all the 31s together.

 Month & days options

            A          B          C

Jan      31        31        30

Feb      30        30        30

Mar      31        30        30

Apr      30        31        30

May     31        30        30

Jun      30        30        30

Jul       31        31        30

Aug      30        30        31

Sep      31        30        31

Oct      30        31        31

Nov     30        30        31

Dec     30        31        31

  They preferred C, as the simplest and easiest to remember.

For Leap Years: July would have 31 days, and would follow the present pattern of one every 4 years, except for century years divisible by 400.

   It is proposed that the new system be introduced on 1 January 2025, giving time to plan new calendars, design it into new IT software & introduce updates for existing software. It also marks the First Quarter of the 21st Century


3. Light Pollution and Dark Skies in Ireland

Note the lead article by Prof Brian Espey on Dark Skies / Light Pollution in

the Spring 2019 Heritage Ireland e-zine which is now live on Issuu at the following link:


4. Mayo: International Dark Sky Week 31 March – 7 April: We have lined up a week full of free events in various venues around Mayo for this annual celebration of dark skies. The programme includes talks by Gary Fildes of Kielder Observatory Northumberland, and a welcome return by Mayo Dark Skies patron Duncan Stewart.

   There are 8 exciting Dark Sky events for Mayo and the largest programme we have hosted for International Dark Sky Week so far.  
   A couple of firsts for this year include "Dánta in the Dark" - a social evening of compositions by candlelight at the GN Mulranny Park Hotel on Wednesday 3rd April.  We are delighted to welcome local writers; John Davitt, Michael Chambers, Poilin nic Somhairle and Seán Lysaght to frame the evening with their work.  We also have a few open slots for anyone who would like to present a favourite poem, short story or their own creation - the only criteria is that it has a night theme.   Please get in touch if you would like to take part. 
    Another 'first' this week is "An Astronomer's Tale" with Gary Fildes, head of Kielder Forest Observatory in Northumberland.  Gary will be sharing his transformational story from 'bricklayer to astronomer' and the steps that led him to develop a world class observatory in rural England.   We are thrilled that he agreed to travel to Mayo just for this one event and to support our own aspirations for future projects in Ballycroy.  
    All dates and venues for the week are listed below.  Please spread the word that folks should book soon as already our Sunday 7th event (at Enniscoe House) is full and others are filling up quickly.  

   Some venues have capacity restrictions so we kindly ask that you register in advance via Eventbrite and please, only register if you definitely plan to attend.

Queries to


5. STEM Week Workshops at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, 1-5 April

Now booking Dark Skies Week for April 1 to 5, 2019. Light Pollution affects us all - this part-ICT and part-design-and-make workshop will introduce your students to the issues around this global concern. If you cannot join us next week, then download the resource from The school's Dark Skies/Light Pollution resource can be found under the section for teachers.


6. The ISS continues its series of evening passes until 6 April. 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


7.  Global Astronomy Month, April.



8. Dark Sky Week Workshops at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory, April 1-5

 For Dark Sky Week, discover how your students can participate in citizen science with Globe at Night. Learn about constellations and get ready to report on how light pollution affects your view of the night sky.  How can light fittings be designed to give us light where we need it and still let us see the stars? Each visit also includes a Planetarium Show and Castle Tour.

Time: 10 am – 1pm. Audience: 3rd Class to 6th Class. Admission: €5 per student. Further details here:


9.  4th April: Schroedinger 'What is Life?' public lecture series
Professor Barry Lewis will explore: 'What is life? One question, many answers. The language of life in early Ireland and Wales'. Part three of the four-part lunch time lecture series exploring the question: 'What is Life?' from a number of different perspectives. Register in advance here


10. COSMOS 2019. 5-7 April, Athlone.

Aimed at all levels of interest, ages and demographics, COSMOS brings together astronomers, scientists, rocket engineers as well as amateurs, families and enthusiasts for a celebration of Irish Astronomy.

Speakers so far include

Dr Linda Spilker (Cassini Mission Specialist)

Dr Tom Spilker (Mission space flight Architect)

Paul Evans (IAA)

Prof Peter Gallagher (DIAS)

Dr Sam Green (DIAS)

Catherine Overhauser (C. Ansbro)

Seanie Morris (MAC)

More details later.


11. NEW  YURI'S NIGHT EVENT, 12 April, with Inspire Space, Dublin

We are once again organising a Yuri's Night event again! Like last year, it will be on April 12th at the Russell Court Hotel, 21-25 Harcourt St, Dublin. The tickets and info are available here:

This was a great event last year, so book early if you want to go! T.M.


12. NEW. Starstuff at BCO, 12 April

The final session of 'StarStuff' will take place 12 April at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory. Interested in knowing more about human spaceflight? Join Dr Niall Smith of Cork Institute of Technology on Yuri's Night. If you're not sure who Yuri is ... then even more reason to attend! The first two sessions of StarStuff have already taken place - you can download the notes on the Moon from this link. The lectures are free of charge, book via eventbrite.


13. NEW. Yuri's Night, Friday April 12;

Event at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory

 Have you ever wanted to see what the Moon looks like through a telescope? Well this is your chance! Join us at CIT Blackrock Castle Observatory where we'll be celebrating the anniversary of humanity's first orbit of Earth, by checking out our nearest celestial neighbour with FREE telescope viewing sessions.

   Observing, as always, is weather dependent.

Time: 6 pm – 8 pm. Audience: Public/Families, Admission:  Free.

Further details here:


14.  25th April: Schroedinger 'What is Life?' public lecture series
Professor Werner Nahm FRS will explore: 'Beyond the 'What is Life?' lectures and book: The legacy of Professor Erwin Schroedinger...' The final lecture of the four-part lunch time lecture series exploring the question: 'What is Life?' from a number of different perspectives. Register in advance here


15. Become an IAU Dark Skies Ambassador. The IAU100 Global Project Dark Skies for All project aims to raise awareness for the preservation of quiet and dark skies and claim the right to future generations to continue to access our true night skies. The project now opens the registration for becoming one of its ambassadors. Additionally, 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.
You can find more information here: 


16.  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 attend the event.
   You can find more information here:


17. Centenary of IAU in 2019:  IAU100: Uniting our World to Explore the Universe
In 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) celebrates 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: 


18. WAGIA special prize

Women and Girls in Astronomy Special Prize
A new special prize has been announced for event organisers that conduct activities for IAU100 that innovatively celebrate Women and Girls in Astronomy. We strongly encourage the organization of activities throughout 2019, as the perfect opportunity to celebrate girls and women in astronomy.
More information: 


19. Einstein Schools program new resources announced
The Einstein Schools program is taking off with over 160 schools working to become IAU-certified Einstein Schools. All participants in this program can now find more teaching resources that can be used in classrooms. For example, there are now a number of black holes' related activities together with more resources on teaching about solar eclipses in preparation for the special ceremonies on May 29 in Principe and Brazil related to the 100th anniversary of Eddington eclipse expedition of 1919 that confirmed Einstein's Theory of General Relativity.
Finally, the project has also added three classroom-useful graphic short stories called "Tales of the Modern Astronomer". These stories were developed at the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory and highlight research related to black holes that are being done today at observatories around the world. 
Find more information at the Einstein Schools official website: 


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


21. Starmus 24 – 29 June — 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: 


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


23. 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!


24. Apollo 11; 50th Anniversary. Armagh Observatory and Planetarium will be holding a suite of events through July and August to celebrate this event. More details soon.


25. 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.



ABRACADABRA finds no evidence of axions. This deserves a prize for the best acronym ever!





TESS has interesting data on star hosting Saturn-sized planet

GRAVITY instrument on VLT images exoplanet





Saturn's rings coat its tiny moons and

Deep groundwater may generate surface streams on Mars

Spinning asteroid produces 2 tails!

Bennu is a rough tough customer!

Rivers raged on Mars until late in its history




26. 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

No comments: