Friday, 31 May 2019

New IAA Council, New kG, Apollo photos and videos, NLCs, Next solar cycle, Starlink, Solarfest, IAA BBQ

Hi all,


1. IAA AGM – New council members. At the recent AGM, the existing council and office-bearers were re-elected, and two new council members were also proposed and elected: Hannah Kempston, and Mary Kirwan-Mackey. This will add two females to the council, as well as one of our youngest ever council members!


2.  It's massive! New definition of the kilogram.  Well, it's massive compared to the mass of a hydrogen atom.

At tongue in cheek example of the correct use of the word 'massive'! (Does anyone else grit their teeth when they hear even abstract things like ideas being described as "massive")


3. NEW. Photos commemorating the Moon Landings.


4. Apollo 10 – looking back to the landing rehearsal flight 50 years ago.


5.  NEW: 13 Minutes to the Moon: Brilliant series (based on the first 2 of 10 episodes so far available (Thanks to Brian Beesley for the alert).


6. NLCs. The season for seeing these ethereal silvery-blue high altitude Noctilucent, or 'night-shining' clouds starts about now. Look low down in the North within a period of an hour or so on either side of local midnight, ignoring BST. Very roughly, within N.I, that's from about 00.30 to about 02.30 BST. When all other clouds are in shadow because the Sun is so far below the local horizon, these very high altitude clouds, thought to be caused by meteoric dust can sometimes be seen.



A NOAA/NASA co-chaired international panel – charged with forecasting the upcoming 11-year solar cycle, Solar Cycle 25 – released a preliminary forecast on April 5, 2019. The consensus is that Cycle 25 will be similar in size to the current cycle, Cycle 24; in other words, it's likely to be weak. These solar experts said they expect solar minimum – the period when the sun is least active – no earlier than July 2019 and no later than September 2020. They expect sunspot maximum to occur no earlier than the year 2023 and no later than 2026, with a minimum peak sunspot number of 95 and a maximum of 130. That's in contrast to the average number of sunspots, which typically ranges from 140 to 220 sunspots per solar cycle.

   We expect Solar Cycle 25 will be very similar to Cycle 24: another fairly weak cycle, preceded by a long, deep minimum. The expectation that Cycle 25 will be comparable in size to Cycle 24 means that the steady decline in solar cycle amplitude, seen from cycles 21-24, has come to an end and that there is no indication that we are currently approaching a Maunder-type minimum.


8. The ISS, and STARLINK. The current series of ISS passes is coming to an end and a new series will begin in July.

   Meanwhile, the 'train' of Starlink satellites is currently visible, reaching a maximum of about 3rd magnitude.

Details of both ISS and Starlink 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


9. 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: 


10. Solarfest, Dunsink Observatory, 8 June. This annual event goes from strength to strength. More details soon.


11. IAA Midsummer BBQ: Sat 15 June: Delamont Country Park. More details in next bulletin..


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


13. 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: 


14. Asteroid Day, 30 June


15. Portballintrae Apollo celebrations: 6 & 7 july. More details later.


16. Apollo 11 Remembered, 18 July, Bangor Library. Public talk by Paul Evans, IAA. More details later.


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


18. Moon on the Mall, Armagh; 20 & 21 July. Part of AOP's celebrations of 50th anniversary of Apollo 11.


19. 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!


20. 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.


21. 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.



   Remnants of 2,000 year old Chinese nova discovered in globular cluster M22

Remnants of a nova explosion found in meteorite

Black hole wobbling like a spinning top sprays swirling ejecta jets

Faster than light particles emit gamma-ray flashes circling pulsars – but don't violate relativity;

SMBH is aiming jets at us;

Strange MW star is from dwarf galaxy

HST spies Buckyball molecules wobbling in space

  Blue supergiants' shimmering waves

   Physicist calculates the exact signal of merging BHs

Neutron star merger provided our solar system's gold and platinum and

Rare supernova reveals origin mystery

   First stars exploded with jets

   Milky Way had star formation burst 2-3 million years ago

Early galaxies brighter than expected!

Light interacting with light

Galaxy encounter spawns star formation

ALMA finds aluminium round young stars

Dark matter impactor in Milky Way?

The violent universe – gravitational waves being detected at increasing rate

   When the Gaia Sausage Galaxy collided with the Milky Way

   Double white dwarf star merger



Gravitational waves leave permanent records of their passage. Note contribution of Abraham Harte of DCU!

The universe is moving too fast, and we don't know why



Moon was formed largely by Earth's magma after collision

Carbon remnants of a nova explosion found in Antarctic meteorite

Earth's water may have come from asteroids like Itokawa.

The source of Earth's gold and platinum

Earth's climate in jeopardy[22739_News_NLB_Wk16_Fri_10_May]-20190510-[bbcnews_climate_newsenvironment_climate]

The Moon is shrinking!

   Giant impact caused difference between Moon's hemispheres ignore the text anomalies!

   Grace satellite shows effects of climate change:—and-scientists-couldnt-be-happier/ar-AABThLH?ocid=spartandhp

Earth's water came from the collision that formed the Moon

Warming Arctic gives us extreme weather

Did ancient supernovae lead to development of bipedal human ancestors?



Exoplanet interiors will play crucial role in habitability

Super-Earths may migrate in towards their stars   There's also a significant observational selection effect, as such system are 'relatively' easy to discover. A system like ours with Venus and Earth fairly far out from the Sun, and Jupiter with a period of 12 years, would be much harder to discover.

   Small rocky dense exoplanets are most likely to survive death of their star

  Finding giant exoplanets that could guard their inner neighbours

Neptune-sized planet found in unexpected zone. . It's good to see Chris Watson of QUB, and Don Pollacco (ex QUB) contributing to this research. (NGTS stands for Next Generation Transit Survey)





HST images centre of stunning spiral galaxy

HST images globular cluster M75

   Photo timeline of the universe from BB to now.



Deep Learning uses big data from Cassini to explain Saturn's storms

Long icy corridor discovered on Titan

Water found in Asteroid Itokawa

Pluto's atmosphere is freezing out

Aluminium round distant star tells story of our SS.

Periodic hole in Martian atmosphere allows water to escape into space

  Look at different rocks for signs of life on Mars

  Has Pluto a sub-surface ocean?

   Hyperactive comets contain water similar to Earth's

  Sand dunes on Mars moves differently to those on Earth

  Is Jupiter's GRS dying?

   Comet hints how to create breathable oxygen from CO2



Squid skin inspires new type of space blanket

   How the LM landed on the Moon

Proposed Space Sustainability Rating (SSR) could reduce amount of space debris Why didn't they make the living quarters, and most of the working areas, of the ISS rotate (as in 2001 A Space Odyssey) to give permanent gravity? Only instruments that need to be pointed continually at Earth or an astronomical target don't have to rotate. And the direction to the Sun for the solar panels changes only slowly, and in fact these panels do point constantly to the Sun even as the ISS rotates slowly each orbit. The problem is that acceleration is so incredibly slow that they're not really practical for solar system exploration, and also that they reach their maximum speed just as they reach their target (say an outer EKBO), making for a very fast flyby. For interstellar missions, once again the acceleration is so slow that we're talking centuries to reach a target, with an even faster flyby! Or, if we want to decelerate by using the sail as a brake using the target star's light, that almost doubles the total journey time. By the time such a probe would reach its target its technology would be out of date, and it would probably have been overtaken by newer faster probes using, e.g. nuclear ion propulsion.

I wish they would cut out the dumbed-down language. Shackleton crater is not a 'splotch', and it's not 'parked' at the S. Pole: parking is temporary, but the crater isn't going anywhere. And they're NOT 'divining' the lunar surface for water - modern science uses techniques like spectroscopy rather than crossed sticks! And "eternal sunshine of the spotted rind" is not just inappropriate, as it doesn't relate to any aspect of the text - it's just ridiculous. They should stop insulting the intelligence of their readers!

   Otherwise it's quite a good article! Another faulty illustration – if it's going to land on the Moon, it will be slowing down, not speeding up! But good luck, ISRO! Please, no! The galaxy has done nothing to deserve a trillion human beings in space!

   Remember what happened to the last 2 planned Apollo missions1

Origami can soften landing impacts for spacecraft and

   Comet hints how to create breathable oxygen from CO2



Irish astronomers make important findings re solar plasma


Telescopes, Instruments, techniques.

Pinpointing Gaia's position to improve its accuracy

   Wait until they apply all this to DSLRs etc!


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