Friday, 26 November 2010

IAA Lecture, IAA Observing at DCP, Shuttle Launch, SDAS, ISS, Geminids, NY Party

Hi all,

1. The next Irish Astronomical Association Lecture will be on Wed 1 December, in the Bell Lecture Theatre, QUB, It will be given by Dr Brian Espey of Trinity College, Dublin. TITLE: "Symbiotic Stars" .
Among all the fascinating varieties of stars and star groupings, symbiotic stars are emerging as among the weirdest. These are binary stars which are so close together that they interact with each other in various ways, depending on their sizes and types. Some cannibalise each other, and some speed up, or slow down, the evolution of one or other of the pairs. Brian Espey, head of the astronomy section at TCD, is researching this area, and has some very interesting analysis of the evidence. It will be a fascinating lecture, with the very latest news.
Time: 7.30 p.m. Venue: Bell Lecture Theatre, main Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. Free parking is available on the main campus, right beside the lecture theatre, from 5.30 pm onwards. Admission free, including light refreshments: All are welcome. See for full details of the programme.

2. IAA OBSERVING EVENING, DELAMONT COUNTRY PARK, 3-4 December. The Irish Astronomical Association will be holding another observing night for members, and for any members of the public who want to come along, at a nice dark sky site at Delamont Country Park, near Killyleagh, Co Down. The format is: we observe on the Friday night if it's clear; if not, we try again on the Saturday night.
If both are cloudy, we try again on the following W/E - 10 or 11 December
Check on the afternoon of each of those dates for an update on whether we will be there or not, and for directions to the location, and other details.
It gets cold at night now these evenings, so wrap up REALLY warm, from head to toe, and bring along any portable telescopes or binoculars you may have


Problems with a fuel leak delayed launch until the Nov 30 'window'. This will be the final flight of Discovery before it is retired from service. Nasa’s Shuttle mission page is at and the launch schedule for future missions is at

4. The next IAS/SDAS meeting in Gonzaga College, Ranelagh, Dublin is tentatively scheduled for December 2nd but I will notify in the next bulletin if this date changes. The programme for the night will include an award winning recent astronomy documentary and a fun quiz. Food and soft drinks will be available to celebrate the last meeting before the Christmas break.

5. ISS MORNING PASSES. A new series of morning passes of the ISS starts at the end of November – get detailed predictions for your location from

6. GEMINID METEORS. The annual Geminid meteor shower, which peaks on the early morning of 14 December, is usually the best of the year, with about 100 meteors per hour under ideal conditions. But this year the 8 day old Moon will interfere with observing during the first part of the night, as its light will drown out the fainter meteors. It will set about 12.30 for most observers in Ireland, before the maximum of the shower, so wrap up EXTRA well for a late session to be rewarded with a view of one of the year's best free sky shows.

The radiant lies just above Castor (Alpha Gem). Geminids are moderately slow meteors, and there's a reasonable proportion of bright meteors, making this one of the best showers for photography or video.

As for all meteor showers, you'll get best results in a really dark sky, away from all sources of light pollution. Allow about 5 minutes for your eyes to dark adapt after exposure to white light, but note that full dark adaptation takes 20 - 30 minutes! So use a red torch for setting up, checking your camera, getting a cup of coffee etc.

Aim your camera about 40 - 50 degrees from the radiant, and about 50 degrees above the horizon, to maximise your chances of recording a meteor. You'll have to experiment to see how long an exposure you can give before the image starts to 'fog' due to background sky brightness. Also beware of dew forming on the lens. And bring spare batteries - the cold temperatures will shorten the life of those in the camera; keep the spare ones warm in a pocket to get the best out of them.

7. IAA New Year Party, Saturday 8th January 2011
The Irish Astronomical Association’s New Year Party will be held as usual in the Tudor Cinema, Drumhirk, Comber on Saturday 8th January 2011. A buffet meal will be available in McBride's, The Square, Comber. Food will be served at 6.00pm, but it is advisable to be there at 5.30pm. After the meal, members and guests will then make their way to the nearby Tudor Cinema for the feature film IRON MAN starting at 7.30pm and followed by a prize quiz. Free light refreshments will be available at the cinema, including Terry Moseley’s famous hot punch.

N.B. Due to seating capacity restrictions at the Tudor Cinema, numbers will be limited to 60, so early booking is advisable.


Name ……………………………………………………………………………

Address …………………………………………………………………………

E-mail ………………………………………………………………………

Contact phone number …………………………………………………

Number of adults @ £12 per person …………

Number of children under 12 years @ £6 …………

Total amount submitted £ ……………

Payment is by sterling cheque, payable to The Irish Astronomical Association, or cash. The booking form and remittance must reach the IAA Treasurer’s assistant: Mrs Josephine Magill, 5 Fairhill Road, Newtownabbey, BT36 6LY, no later than 20th December 2010.

Money will be refunded only if the event is cancelled due to circumstances beyond our control. N.B. Please note that tickets will not be issued. Admission is guaranteed on receipt of this booking form and remittance.

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

FW: Telescopes and Meteorites, Lectures, BCO movies, Shuttle delay

Hi all,
1. Armagh Planetarium: 'Telescopes and Meteorites'. The Irish Astronomical Association will be at Armagh Planetarium this evening (Tuesday 16th) to answer your questions about choosing and using a telescope or binoculars. We will have with a wise selection of telescopes and binoculars to demonstrate, and if the sky is clear, to show the Moon and Jupiter and other astronomical highlights.
   If you have a telescope that you're having problems with, bring it along if you can, and we'll try to sort out any user problems for you.
 In addition, Dr Tom Mason, Director of the Planetarium, will give a talk on meteorites, and if it is cloudy, there will be a show in the Planetarium dome. Doors open at 6.30 for light refreshments, the telescope demos will start at 7.0, and Dr Mason's talk will begin at 8.0. After that will be the viewing or the show in the dome. Contact Armagh Planetarium for more details:, or see
2. The next Irish Astronomical Association Lecture  will be on Wed 17 November, in the Bell Lecture Theatre, QUB, It will be given by Dr Patrick McCafferty of QUB. TITLE: "Tunguska Events in Ireland?" 
On 30 June, a comet nucleus, or perhaps a small asteroid, smashed into the Earth's atmosphere at about 40 miles per second, causing a multi-megaton explosion, which caused damage over an area of thousands of square miles, and blew people off their feet about a hundred miles away.
  Fortunately for us, the event occurred in an almost uninhabited area of Siberia, so there are no reports of human fatalities, although there were injuries, and some reindeer were killed. And the event occurred on 1908, just over a century ago, before the advent of modern news media, let alone the Internet, so relatively few people know about it.
   But what's really scary is that if the impact had occurred about 5 hours later, it would have obliterated St Petersburg, Russia's second largest city. Or just a little bit later, and Helsinki would have been flattened. Or a little later again, and there would have been no Oslo. Or if the trajectory and timing had been just a bit different, London would have been flattened, with deaths approaching a million, and casualties of many millions. And if something similar were to occur over London today, the effects would be unimaginable. Such is the luck of the Cosmic 'pinball' lottery - we were fortunate that time.
  But has Ireland experienced similar events in the distant past? Are some of these recorded in myths or folk memories? Dr Patrick McCafferty is researching this area, and has some very interesting analysis of the evidence. It will be a fascinating lecture, with the very latest news.
Time: 7.30 p.m. Venue: Bell Lecture Theatre, main Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. Free parking is available on the main campus, right beside the lecture theatre, from 5.30 pm onwards. Admission free, including light refreshments: All are welcome. See for full details of the programme.
3. PUBLIC LECTURE, ARMAGH, 18 November: The Biennial "Robinson Lecture" will be given by Prof Chris Impey of the University of Arizona, in the City Hotel, at 8 p.m. "Astrobiology: Implications of Life Beyond Earth"
    Either we are alone in the universe or not; either way, the implications are staggering. This talk considers the prospects for and implications of life beyond Earth. Biological adaptation to extreme conditions makes it very likely that variations on biology will be present on moons and planets around many of the billions of Sun-like stars in the Milky Way. The nearly 500 planets already found around other stars are forerunners of Earth-like planets that astronomers expect to be finding in the next few years. With exobiology still a blank slate, consideration will be given to potentially unusual forms of life.
     Attendance at the Robinson Lecture is free, but if you would like to attend the Robinson Lecture, please contact the Armagh Observatory in order to obtain tickets. 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: ambnat
    Saturday 27 November
Movies by the Moonlight BCO Members Film Club (8pm)
(Members €5\ guests €7, 50)
    2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)
In this sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey based on the novel by Arthur C. Clarke, American and Russian astronauts live in a world greatly affected by the Cold War.  Sent to Jupiter to determine the reason for the failure of the original mission, they must also discover the fate of H.A.L., the spaceship's sentient computer.  

    For more information on these and future events at Blackrock Castle Observatory
call us  00 - 353 - 21- 4357917, email or visit
Continuing problems with a fuel leak have delayed launch until the next 'window', at the end of the month.
Clear skies,
Terry Moseley