Monday, 27 October 2008

Public Lecture, Another Irish Asteroid Discovery


Hi all,

1. "Is There Anyone Out There?" The next Irish Astronomical Association public lecture will be by Professor Phil Dufton of the Astrophysics Department in Queen's University, Belfast, and it will examine the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe.

   It will be at 7.30 p.m, in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Admission is free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome.

2. Another Irish Asteroid Discovery!  Dave Grennan from Dublin has just discovered a Main Belt asteroid from his observatory in Raheny. The object was found in southern Pegasus, and is provisionally designated 2008 US3. It was magnitude 19.5 at discovery. It's in the asteroid Main Belt, and more details will follow once the Minor Planet Center of the IAU computes its orbit.

Dave's discovery comes just after Dave McDonald's find of 2008 TM9 a few weeks ago. Dave G's achievement is maybe even more incredible, as his observatory is just metres from the DART line in Raheny! This is only the third asteroid ever discovered in Ireland.

Once again, I'm sure you will join me in congratulating Dave G on a superb achievement, which likewise involved much dedication, commitment and skill. This has been an amazing year for astronomy in Ireland, and is a superb lead-in to IYA 2009!

See for more details.

Will it be 'like buses' - you wait for ages and three come along one after the other? Who will be next? Or will it be a case of who will be the first to discover TWO asteroids from Ireland?

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

Monday, 20 October 2008

IAA Special Event: Bru na Boinne, LoughCrew, 2 Observatories


There are still some places left on the special IAA Weekend tour of the major astronomical attraction in Co Meath & Westmeath, on 24 - 26 October.

IAA ‘All-Island Trip’ to Newgrange, Knowth, Lough Crew, and Two Excellent Private Observatories, 24-26 October, 2008.

Since the IAA has members all over Ireland, we try now and again to organise an event which would be both accessible and of interest to members all over the island of Ireland. The last event, some years ago, was in Birr, and was very successful.

This time we have arranged a trip to the amazing World Heritage Site of Bru na Boinne near Drogheda, to include visits to both Newgrange itself and Knowth. (If any of you have already been to both those sites, I will also as an alternative conduct a private trip to the other great mound there, Dowth, which is no longer open to the public. Each of those sites has astronomical connections, as I’m sure most of you know. See: (Knowth); (Dowth);;

We will also visit another fascinating site, Lough Crew, near Oldcastle in Co Meath, which has a whole complex of hilltop mounds, at least one of which has a passage aligned with the equinox sunrise, and has some amazing interior rock-carvings, which are also thought to be astronomically significant. See:

and: for both Bru na Boinne and Lough Crew.

(I can send direct email hyperlinks to those sites on request, to save you typing them in!)

And we will also visit two superb private observatories in the area, those of Gerry Moloney at Oristown near Kells, and John Nooney at Clonkill near Mullingar. Gerry has just replaced his ‘mere’ 28-inch Dobsonian with a 32” computer-controlled Dob in a run-off shed observatory, and John has 3+ telescopes in three different domes, including an 18” equatorial Newtonian + a Meade LX200 14” Ritchey-Chrétien. He also has a small ‘lecture-room’ where we can have a talk etc if the weather is bad. We will also be able to observe at one or both those observatories, if it’s clear.

Obviously the observing is weather-dependant, and if it was raining we couldn't even see Gerry's ‘scopes, as you can't open them up in the rain. And Loughcrew is a hilltop site with fantastic views in good weather, but not so nice if it's wet & windy!  So the idea is to make some things as flexible as possible, to suit weather conditions at the time.


Friday Evening & Night:

1. Anyone who wants to, particularly those travelling some distance, book overnight accommodation in the Kells - Navan area for the Friday night. I will send details of local accommodation to all who book. We can arrange to meet somewhere locally for an evening meal, if we want to.

2. If it's clear that night, we could go to Gerry's for observing.

Saturday Morning:

3. All: Meet at Bru na Boinne at about 9.30-9.45, for tours of Newgrange and Knowth, or the alternative visit to Dowth. You MUST be at the Bru na Boinne Visitors Centre ABSOLUTELY NO LATER than 10.00, as you have to get your tickets AND make your way on foot to the departure point for the buses to the mounds. This walk takes 10 minutes, or allow longer if you can’t walk at a reasonable pace. (Sorry, but by the very nature of these sites there is no access for people with more than slight mobility disability.) These sites are accessible in all weather conditions, but you will have to spend a considerable time out in the open, so bring appropriate waterproof/warm clothing! NB do NOT go directly to either Newgrange or Knowth – you will NOT be admitted! You must obtain your ticket in advance at the Bru na Boinne Visitors Centre!

4. Approx. 1 p.m. Lunch at the B na B cafe.

Saturday Afternoon:

5. See Loughcrew. This requires a moderately stiff walk about 100 metres up a grassy hill, so bring good strong non-slip boots or shoes. It’s also usually windy on the top (it’s the highest point in Co Meath), so bring warm & preferably windproof outer wear, and waterproof too if it could be showery. ALTERNATIVE: If the weather is too bad for that, we will go to Clonkill, where we will have a lecture or a 'presentation' of some sort in John's 'classroom'. We can also at least get into John's domes to see the telescopes even if it’s raining, even if they can’t be opened up.

Saturday evening:

6. Dinner in Kells area or Mullingar, depending on where we are, followed by –

7. Observing (if clear) at Gerry Moloney's Observatory if we have been at Loughcrew, or at John Nooney's if we have been at Clonkill. ALTERNATIVE: We may have an informal event, such as a quiz somewhere local, or just stay on & socialise in the hotel after the meal.

Saturday Night:

8. B&B, GH, or Hotel accommodation in the Kells area, convenient for Loughcrew.

Sunday Morning:

9. See Loughcrew, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE: A good lie-in, devotions, or whatever suits you!

Sunday Lunchtime:

10. Lunch locally, in Kells or Mullingar, depending where we are.

Sunday Afternoon:

11. Visit John's observatory at Clonkill, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE: Loughcrew, if we haven't already done so. ALTERNATIVE 2: If we've already seen Clonkill & Loughcrew: Optional local sightseeing, e.g. the Kells High Crosses, the Kells 'Monument', Belvedere Castle & Gardens near Mullingar; Trim Castle (where part of ‘Braveheart’ was filmed), Ballinlough Castle & Gardens between Kells & Mullingar, etc. Then depart home.

Sunday Evening:

12. If it's the only clear sky we've had all W/E, a short observing session at either observatory for those who have time (if that suits you), otherwise depart home.

That programme is as flexible as possible, to suit the weather conditions. We will try to finalise it at least the day beforehand, depending on the weather forecast, and all who book will be notified by email, or telephone if you don’t have that option. But the Bru na Boinne visit has already been pre-booked, and cannot be changed, and since you will all want to book accommodation locally for either the Friday night or Saturday night or both, I suggest that you do that fairly soon. Details of accommodation in each area will be sent by return to all who book. Detailed directions and maps and GPS co-ordinates will be provided in advance for all sites for all who book.

This is an excellent chance to visit one of the most amazing sites in Europe, and probably the oldest astronomical ‘building’ in the world, predating both Stonehenge and the Pyramids by several centuries. I have been many times, and I still get a thrill every time I stand in the inner chamber in Newgrange! Lough Crew is also very well worth a visit.

And we are VERY grateful to Gerry Moloney & John Nooney for making their private observatories accessible to us, and for being flexible enough to try to accommodate our variable schedule as above.

COST: £16 or €20 per person. The cost includes admission to the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre, and the conducted tours to Newgrange and Knowth (or Dowth), and Lough Crew, and a token of appreciati

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Lectures, Asteroid Hit, Orionids, Robinson Lectures

Hi all,

1. SDAS LECTURE: The next meeting will be on Thursday, October 9th at 8pm
in Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, Dublin. The title of the talk is "Catch a
falling star" and it will be given by one of Ireland's most experienced
meteor observers, John Flannery. It will discuss meteor observing and meteor
science. All are welcome on the night and admission is free.

2. IAA LECTURE: The next IAA public lecture will be on Wednesday October 15,
at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's
University, Belfast. Albert White will give a talk entitled "Light Pollution
and What You Can do About It". Albert is chairman of ILPAC, the Irish Light
Pollution Awareness Campaign, and as the Ninth European Symposium for the
Protection of the Night Sky, under the auspices of the International Dark
Sky Association, will be held in Armagh next September, hosted by ILPAC and
Armagh Observatory, it's a very topical and important topic. Admission is
free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome.

3. DIRECT HIT: Details of a PREDICTED asteroid impact on Earth a couple of
days ago are on <>
-- this was the first time astronomers were able to predict that a
Near-Earth Object would actually enter our atmosphere. The object was only 1
to 3 metres across so it was barely an asteroid, more a big meteoroid. It's
reassuring that we were able to identify, track, and predict it's trajectory
all in a very short timescale. It exploded over northern Sudan with the
force of approximately 1 kiloton of TNT. More on the story can be found at

4. ORIONIDS: The next meteor shower is the Orionids, peaking on October 20,
with a max ZHR of about 25. But bright moonlight will seriously hamper
viewing so observed rates might be less than half of that. You can see some
Orionids from October 16 to 27, but they will be mainly concentrated around
a day or two either side of maximum.

5. 2008 ROBINSON LECTURE: The ninth Robinson Lecture will be held on
Thursday 20th November 2008 in The Armagh City Hotel, 2 Friary Road, Armagh.
The Lecture will be delivered by Professor Peter W.J.L. Brand FRSE, of the
Institute of Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh. The lecture will
begin at 8.00 pm and is scheduled to end at 9.00 pm, followed by light
The Armagh Observatory Robinson Lecture is a public lecture held
biennially in honour of the Founder of the Armagh Observatory, Archbishop
Richard Robinson (1708--1794).
The title of Professor Brand's lecture is: GOD AND THE UNIVERSE
Attendance at the 2008 Robinson Lecture is free, but if you would like to
attend the Lecture, please contact the Armagh Observatory in order to obtain
Please write, telephone or send an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee, Armagh
Observatory, College Hill, Armagh, BT61 9DG; Tel: 028-3752-2928; Fax:
028-3752-7174; e-mail: For more information, see

6. ROBINSON SCHOOLS LECTURE. In addition, Professor Brand is delivering the
Robinson Schools Lecture in the Royal School Armagh, College Hill, Armagh,
at 2.00 pm on Friday, 21st November 2008. Teachers and pupils who would
like to attend should contact Mr Warren Fowles, The Royal School, College
Hill Armagh. Tel.: 028-3752-2807; e-mail:
The title of Professor Brand's schools lecture is: BLACK HOLES AND THE
For more information on the Robinson Schools Lecture, see:

Clear Skies,

Terry Moseley