1. IAA New Year Party, Jan 14 – You must book now! Venue: McBride's, The Square, Comber, Co. Down, Sat 14 January, at 6 p.m. Cost, £10 per person.
Good news: after the break caused by Covid, we're now resuming this annual event. Unfortunately the local Tudor Cinema is now closed, but we will have the use of the room in McBride's for the whole evening, and we'll be showing a space- or astronomy-themed DVD film or documentary – We will bring along a selection, and the one(s) chosen will be decided by popular vote.
There will be an enhanced selection of finger food, buffet style, plus tea or coffee, and you can buy your own drinks as you wish in the adjoining bar. After that, the film, and then a quiz, with lots of prizes to choose from. The best value in the galaxy!
N.B. – Bring your own pens to write down the quiz answer; we'll supply the paper.
LOCATION: 1-3 The Square, Comber: BT23 5DX. Or: H723+4P . Parking is available on and around The Square.
Payment MUST be made in advance, either by Bank transfer, or Paypal, or cheque to the Treasurer, or
* Paypal: See https://irishastro.org/join-the-iaa/ Instead of 'joining' just click on the 'Donate' button and say it's for the NY Party
* Cheque: Send to : Mr Pat O'Neill, IAA, , 55 Cranmore Pk, Belfast BT9 6JG.
### Payment MUST be received no later than 13 January!
NB Please bring along as many empty 2-litre carbonated (i.e.fizzy) plastic drinks bottles as possible, for our rocket launching at the NISF event at LNDC on 25 February! Source them from family, friends & neighbours =- we need as many as possible!
2. IAA Lecture, Wed 18 January, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB, by Dr Ernst de Mooj, Astrophjysics Research Centre, QUB
"Searching for molecules in the atmospheres of exoplanets"
Since the discovery of the first exoplanet almost 3 decades ago, thousands of additional exoplanets have been discovered. Most of these planets orbit in systems that do not resemble our own Solar System. What is more, advances in instrumentation and observing techniques have enabled us to start to study the atmospheres of these planets, even directly measuring the signatures of different atoms and molecules in their atmospheres.
In this talk I will explain how we can study exoplanet atmospheres to determine their compositions, and what this has revealed to date.
NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees. Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It's on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road. There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.
ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!
3. Possible naked-eye comet
Amazing photos of gorgeously green Comet C/2022 E3 (ZFT) |gallery | Space A comet which just might become visible to the unaided eye, if you live somewhere without any light pollution, is hardly going to be an 'amazing show for skywatchers'! It won't look anything like what these long exposure photographs show, even in a telescope. If you overhype these events or phenomena, you just end up with very disappointed viewers, and it may put them off stargazing altogether. Let's hope for the best, but prepare to be disappointed by the visual view.
4. Major discovery by Dr Simon Jeffery at AOP
Hot white dwarfs and pre-white dwarfs discovered with SALT | Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society | Oxford Academic (oup.com) This warrants a special mention! One of the stars discovered has a surface temperature of 180,000 deg C, compared to 'just' 5,500 deg C for the Sun.
5. Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition opens
6. Women in Dark Skies 2023, Mayo Dark Skies
Our online series of talks, Women in Dark Skies, restarts on Monday 6th February (St Brigid's Day!) at 7pm. We welcome Dr. Sibylle Schroer to talk about light pollution and aquatic ecology.
7. Venus is now appearing low down in the SSW evening twilight. Watch it gradually move out towards much fainter Saturn, which lies above and to its left. On 10 January the separation will be about 14 degrees. By the 20th they will be only 2.5 degrees apart, and on the 22nd Venus will pass only 232 arcminutes below Saturn; about 4/5 of a lunar diameter. On the 23rd, a slim crescent Moon will lie to the left of the pair.
8. ISS. The International Space Station will start a new series of evening passes over Ireland on 18 January . Details on www.heavens-above.com
9. Galway Astrofest Saturday 28 January,
New Venue: the Menlo Park Hotel, Headford Road, Galway,
Lecture Program; Trade Displays and Exhibition; Lunchtime Workshop; Festival Evening Dinner
More details soon
10. N. I Science Festival, 2023, Feb 16 – 26,
The IAA will be doing a major event, at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, N of Lurgan, on Saturday 25 February. There will be a water/compressed air rocket launching demo and competition in the afternoon, solar and night-time observing if the skies are clear, starshows in our mobile planetarium, a wide selection of meteorites on display, some of which you can actually handle, telescopes on display with advice on buying and using them, a workshop on simple astrophotography, meet the guy who will probably be N.I's first astronaut, bat and moth discovery walks, and more!
Bring your own 2-litre fizzy drinks plastic bottle to make into an amazing rocket, and we'll have some of our own if you can't. NB – they must be for carbonated, ie fizzy drinks, not still, to withstand the pressure of the compressed air!
More details later. Keep the date free!
11. Mars still near its best.
Our ruddy neighbour is still well placed for observing, bright at mag -1.0. and with an apparent diameter of about 13", and now gets higher up earlier in the evenings. Any moderate-sized telescope will show the South polar cap, and a larger one will show other features on the disc. It forms a nice trikangle with Aldebaran and the Pleiades.
The giant planet is still by far the brightest object in the night sky apart from the Moon. It still shines at around mag -2.3. The 4 Galilean moons will be easy to see, even in binoculars.
13. Irish Astronomy Week, 20 - 26 March – UPDATE (from Ronan Newman)
The goal behind Irish Astronomy Week and its theme "The Stars for Everyone" is to inspire, encourage and help provide opportunities for people of all ages to connect with the Universe, to promote an appreciation and understanding of the night sky, and to enjoy it in a non-intrusive and non-destructive manner.
There has been an excellent response to this project, far exceeding expectations and I hope participants will make their events free of charge as happens with Science Week, Space Week and Heritage Week, but of course donations can be welcomed for their organisations.
There is a wide variety of interested groups including the National Parks, Geoparks of the Cooper Coast, Joyce Country and Cuilcagh Lakelands, eco-tourism destinations, all three Planetariums, Observatories, Science Centres, Telescope shops, official IDA Dark Sky locations, Dark Sky Groups, and even remote communities like Clare Island and Inishbofin. As you can imagine several are looking for support and ideas, or just a need for people to give children's workshops, night sky tours or even ways to explore their own dark sky tourism potential. I am asking fellow outreach co-ordinators of the Irish Astronomical community to please reach out and help in this endeavour.
The go-fund me page has raised over a phenomenal €1700, the majority of this is going towards a new website which will be online next month. The remaining money will be spent on bookmarks and posters that are being designed for the 150+ libraries that will be sharing our passion with astronomy themed displays of books, e-books, and e-comics. Any remaining donations will be transferred to an IFAS account for the 2024 event. Other libraries will be hosting astronomy talks, if your local library wants to get involved or if you would like to give a talk there, please let me know so I can add to the website.
None of this could happen without support from all the Irish Astronomy Clubs and Societies, Science Foundation Ireland, fellow amateur astronomers around around the country and the IFAS (Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies) Council who are fully behind and involved in running this project.
Website coming next month.
The dates: March 20th to 26th begins with a New Moon and as the days continue there will be three Lunar conjunctions of Jupiter, Venus and M45, its also a perfect time for an "Irish" Messier marathon, the possibilities are endless. Finally, I am delighted to see the return of the COSMOS Starparty in Tullamore and the Skellig Dark Sky Festival both taking place that weekend and I wish them success in their respective events. Happy New Year
14. COSMOS 2023: This has now been confirmed for Saturday 25 March. It will be great to have this annual midlands attraction back again. The new venue is a dark sky location: Midlands National Shooting Centre at Boora, County Offaly on Saturday 25th March, and there will be six speakers.
The shooting centre is less than 15 minutes from Tullamore and has a rustic feel to it, a bit like Annaharvey back in the day
More details when available.
15. New Easy Teaser:
What's next in this sequence? Acrux, Rigil Kentaurus, Hadar (Beta Cen), Achernar, Canopus, Fomalhaut - ?
Clue: Overhead, you'd be getting warmer.
Another clue: You're leaving Penguins behind.
16. NEW DIFFICULT TEASER:
What links the following: 2, 34, 58, 99 and 112? A few wrong answers on this, so here's another clue. You can also add 80 to the list; thus 2, 34, 58, 80, 99, 112.
Still no right answers, so another clue: You can also add 93 to the list, thus 2, 34, 58, 80, 93, 99, 112.
17: Non-Astronomical Teasers:
Here's two for the holiday period for the non-astronomer spouse / partner / child / parent / significant other etc: Or indeed, yourselves
Difficult: Donegal and Wexford and one other Irish county share a distinction. What is it, and what's the other county?
Again, a few wrong answers, so here's a clue: It's nominal.
Another clue: it's non-repetitive
Easy: What town in Mayo is unique in Ireland (apart from the fact that every town is unique)?
Again only a wrong answer, so here's a clue. One Direction.
Another clue: you're looking for part of the name.
Please send all Teaser answers to me at my aol address email@example.com
18. 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.
The Universe is Brighter Than we Thought - Universe Today (maybe it's all that Dark Matter…. 😉 )
EARTH & MOON
First UK rocket launch ends in failure after suffering 'anomaly' (msn.com) Didn't go all the way, so still technically a virgin…
Fishermen furious as satellite carrying rocket set to launch off Ireland's south west coast tonight (msn.com) . In theory, the plane could take off from any runway capable of handling a Boeing 747. And since the launch from the plane was to the South, why did it have to be close to Irish territorial waters, affecting the fishing boats? It would be just as easy to launch it from 50 or 100km further South.
Lightweight Picogram-Scale Probes Could be the Best way to Explore Other Star Systems - Universe Today So a million or so bacterium-sized 'probes' arrive at an exoplanetary system, travelling at near-light speed (say 200,000 km per sec). Then what? The great majority will zoom through the system with no interaction with anything.
If the system is anything like ours, some (maybe 1% - 2%?) will collide with the particles of dust that pervade the plane of the system, and give us the Zodiacal Light: end of probes. Some (1-2%?) will collide with and be destroyed by the star's solar wind: end of probes. A few (0.01%?) will enter the atmospheres of the planets and be similarly destroyed.
Would any be captured by the gravity of either the star, or one of its planets? Traveling at that speed, they would have to pass so close to the body that they would certainly be destroyed by either the solar wind or the planet's atmosphere. End result of mission? - Zero.
Like solar sails, getting to another planetary system at relativistic speeds could be done, but getting any useful information back is damn near impossible.
ALSO – surely the two bright stars are Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri!?! Not, as stated, Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B, which are the two components of the double star Alpha, and are separated only by about 10 to 20 arcseconds, depending on when the image was taken!
Telescopes, Instruments etc.
19. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION. This link gives options to join the IAA.
https://irishastro.org/join-the-iaa/ If you are a UK taxpayer, please select 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 https://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.