Thursday, 1 March 2018

Lecture, close miss asteroid, Venus & Mercury close, ISS, Moons, Heavens Above, Astro Events

Hi all,
1. IAA LECTURE,  Wed 7 March, 7.30 p.m. ". "Mars Sample Return Technology: development and testing in Antarctica" by Dr Patrick Harkness, University of Glasgow.
   We are very lucky to have one of our own IAA members, Dr Patrick Harkness, come from Glasgow to give us this talk. Patrick is testing the techniques and technology to be used in returning samples from Mars for analysis back on Earth. The closest we have on Earth to the conditions on Mars are to be found in Antarctica, and so that's where the testing is being carried out.  This is a unique chance to learn about this fascinating experiment, so we will all be much better informed than most people on this groundbreaking technology.
     Doors open about 7.15pm. There is free parking available on the campus in the evenings. Admission Free, including light refreshments. We are located in the Bell Theatre, Department of Mathematics and Physics, QUB
Wed 7 March, 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Free admission, including light refreshments.  Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m.
(Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for facilitating this lecture)

2. Watch asteroid 2018 DV1's very close pass live on March 2:
This asteroid will pass by Earth less than one third of the minimum Earth-Moon distance. You can watch it live at

3. Venus and Mercury sneak out into evening twilight:
Venus, the brilliant Evening Star, is becoming visible as an 'evening star' from Ireland now. The ancient Greeks called it Hesperos when it was in the evening sky, and Phosphorus or Eosphorus, meaning 'dawn-bringer' when it was in the morning sky. And it will soon be followed, and overtaken by, swift Mercury, the innermost planet.
   Venus is visible low in the SW evening twilight at mag -3.9, with an elongation from the Sun of 13º, and phase 98%. It moves out gradually further from the Sun, and thus higher in the evening twilight, and brightens as well, over the coming weeks
    Many people have never seen Mercury, as it always appears close to the Sun in the sky, and thus only ever visible in twilight, from our latitudes at least.
But now's your chance. Mercury has an excellent evening elongation in March. Watch it follow Venus out from the bright SW evening twilight until it catches up with it on March 3. Venus will be mag -3.9, while Mercury will be mag -1.4: that's as bright as Sirius, but it will be low down, and in the bright twilight, so a challenge to spot!
   On Mar 02 it will lie only 1º 24' below right of Venus. On March 3, it will lie only 1º 06' away, but now it will lie the same height above the horizon, to the right of Venus, and will have faded slightly to mag -1.3. On 4 March it will lie the same distance from Venus, but will now be above and right of Venus, and slightly fainter at mag -1.2.
   Over the next week it will climb higher above Venus, reaching a maximum of 4º above and slightly right of it on 14 March, although by then it will have faded to mag -0.3. However, as it will be much higher up than at the end of February, it will be much easier to see.

5. ISS. The ISS has just started a new series of morning passes over Ireland, which will continue until 18 March. Details as usual on the excellent free site, along with lots of other information. A new series of evening passes will then commence on 25 March; a much shorter break than usual – can you work out why?

6. Feeble February! Have you noticed? What was missing from last month? What do you mean 'You don't know'? After all the hype about the so-called 'Blue Moon' at the end of January, surely you know that poor little February had no Full Moon at all this year? And worse, March has two Full Moons (as did January). So, who stole February's FM? Was it January, or March? Well, the second FM in January was on 31d 13h 27m, or 10h 33m before the start of February. And the first one in March will be on Mar 2d 0h 51m, or 24h 51m after the end of February. Thus the January one was the closer to being in February, and so it must take the blame.
   But what the &%$£@ does it matter? Nor does it matter that there will be a second FM in March, on 31d 12h 37m. And once again, in spite of all the hype assuredly to come, that one won't be a 'Blue Moon' either.
   But just to complicate the issue even further, some people will argue that actually the FM on 2 March will be a 'Blue Moon'. How come? They argue that when there are 4 FMs in a season, it's the 3rd one of the 4 that's a 'Blue Moon'! (in this case, the season would be 1 January to 31 March.) Confused? – Not so much as they are! And actually, if you take the strict definition of this season, it's from the Winter Solstice last December to the Spring Equinox on March 20, so there aren't 4 FMs in this season after all.
   So just ignore all the hype, and all you need to know is that since the average interval between FMs is about 29.5 days, every so often we get 2 FMs in the same month. Just as we can also get 2 New Moons, or 2 First Quarters, or 2 Last Quarters, in the same month. Big Deal, huh?
   And of course we can also get 2 Lunar Perigees in the same month, as will happen this year in October. In fact, since the Anomalistic Month (Perigee to Perigee) is on average only 27.55455 days, even a non-Leap Year February with only 28 days can have 2 Lunar Perigees, as happened in 1990, on February 02d 02h 41m, and Feb 28d 08h 05m. It's just a matter of simple maths – there's nothing special about any of it.
   The only sensible meaning of 'Blue Moon' is the original one, which refers to the very rare occasions when the Moon does actually turn blue, because of tiny aerosol particles in the upper atmosphere thrown up by major volcanic eruptions. Hence the expression 'Once in a Blue Moon', meaning something exceptionally rare and unusual.

7. NI Science Festival
Congrats to Chris McCleary and his team for another excellent series of events, and I'm looking forward to February 2019 already.
8. HEAVENS ABOVE PHOTO EXHIBITION opened at BCH, 27 Feb. The IAA's highly rated astrophoto exhibition "Heavens Above" moved to a new venue on 27 February. It's in the Tower Gallery, ground floor of the Tower Block, Belfast City Hospital, and will run there until 9 April. Thanks again to Bernie Brown for arranging this venue, and setting up.

9. IT, Tallaght: 25th Anniversary Event: "The Citizen and Space" – Postponed. This event has been postponed because of the bad weather. Check with the two contacts listed below for updates on the new date.
   The Department of Applied Science and IT Tallaght, in celebrating the college's 25th Anniversary, is holding an event titled "The Citizen and Space", comprising three short inspirational talks:
- Dr. Norah Patten, Irish Astronaut Candidate, will talk about her endeavour to be the first Irish person in space
- Ian Boran, Science Teacher, talks on how his school , Tallaght Community School, engaged in a live link to the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2017
- Kevin Nolan, Lecturer at IT Tallaght will talk about what Ireland's imminent membership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) will mean for the next generation of space scientists and engineers (ESO have sent a great selection of DVD's, brochures, post cards and stickers to take away from the event). 
    Date and time TBA, (light refreshments for all in main canteen after the talks)
Venue: Theatre 025, Main Building, IT Tallaght, Belgard Rd, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Free event, no booking required - just turn up on the evening. Family friendly event - all are welcome
Contact Kevin Nolan , or Sarah Maher  with any queries:

10. IOP Spring meeting, 3 March, in Limerick.
The annual Spring Meeting of the Institute of Physics in Ireland will be held on Saturday 3 March 2018 in the Limerick Strand Hotel.
The theme of the meeting is 'Sensing the Universe' and includes talks, the Rosse Medal competition for postgraduate communication, an exhibition on the Tactile Universe, a comedy spot and a prize for the best physics image.
The event gives an opportunity to meet colleagues from across the physics community in Ireland.
Students from colleges outside Limerick taking part in the Rosse Medal Competition may apply for a travel bursary of €50. Registration is now open at:

11.  International Day of Light – Call for astronomy programs
UNESCO will inaugurate the first International Day of Light at their headquarters in Paris, France, on 16 May 2018. The many events taking place worldwide on this day aim to raise awareness of both the many ways that light impacts modern society, and of how advances in light-based science and technology can help us achieve educational and sustainable development goals. In addition to encouraging you to take part in these events, we're calling out to all organisers of astronomy-related events around the world so we can highlight your activities through our channels. If you're planning any International Day of Light activities related to astronomy, please let us know via

12. National Schools' Observatory  Inquiry-Based Science Projects for Astronomy Students
Launched in 2004, the National Schools' Observatory (NSO) provides free access to the two-metre Liverpool Telescope for school students and teachers throughout the UK and Ireland, and reduced access to anyone worldwide. It currently has over 4,000 users regularly engaging with the website resources and over 125,000 telescope observations requested since inception. As part of these resources, the NSO has developed an extended research activity on open clusters providing students with background material, research-grade data and instructions allowing them to produce their own Colour-Magnitude (or Hertzsprung-Russell) diagrams. Students are then encouraged to upload and discuss their results within a forum.
 Find the start page of the activity here

13. Globe at Night Campaigns
Globe at Night is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure night-sky brightness and submit their observations. It's easy to get involved—all you need is a computer or smartphone. Don't miss any of the ongoing Globe at Night 2018 campaigns at

14. Global Astronomy Month, April 2018
Date: April 2018. Location: All around the world. More information: 

15. Yuri's Night,
Yuri's Night, Date: 12 April,  All around the world. More information:

16. COSMOS 2018, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone, 13-15 April. More details soon on.

17.  European Week of Astronomy and Space Sciences (EWASS2018).  This will be in Liverpool, from 3 to 8 April 2018. See and

18. International Day of Light: 16 May 2018. Around the world. More Information: A good opportunity to highlight (!) light-pollution! And promote Earth Hour as well.
Register your event by filling out the form:

19. Asteroid Day: 30 June 2018: Around the world More Information:
20. International Planetarium Society,  1–6 July 2018, Toulouse, France. More Information:  
21.  Communicating Astronomy with the Public Journal Issue 23 is now out! 
The 23rd issue of the Communicating Astronomy with the Public journal is now available. In this issue, you will discover upcoming plans for IAU's 100th year anniversary celebrations, interesting first results of studies on astronomy's influence on children's behaviour, and original ways of using gastronomy to conduct astronomy outreach. CAPjournal is a free, peer-reviewed journal for astronomy communicators published by the IAU Office for Astronomy Outreach and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ).
Advance Notice:
22. Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education (RTSRE) & InterNational Astronomy Teaching Summit Conferences, 23-27 July 2018. The 2nd annual Conference on Robotic Telescopes, Student Research and Education (RTSRE) will be held in Hilo, Hawai'i from July 23-25, 2018. This conference series focuses on building a sustainable community around the educational, technical, and student research uses of robotic telescopes. The conference will be co-located with the interNational Astronomy Teaching Summit (iNATS) from July 25-27, 2018 providing worldwide networking opportunities and hands-on workshops designed to expand educators' teaching strategy toolkit designed for innovative astronomy professors, teachers, and outreach professionals.  Find more information here: 
23. Inspiring Stars—the IAU Inclusive World Exhibition, 20-31 August 2018
"Inspiring Stars" will be an itinerant international exhibition promoted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) to disseminate world efforts on inclusive research and outreach activities in astronomy. This inclusive world exhibition by showcasing assistive research tools and best inclusive outreach practices intends to broaden the horizons of children, parents, teachers and astronomers—everybody can become a scientist (astronomer)—inspiring the love for science in young people's minds. 
The exhibition will premiere during the IAU General Assembly 2018 in Vienna, from 20–31 August and will be shown around the world. Stay tuned as we keep you posted on all the progress of this IAU not-to-be-missed project for 2018!

24. World Space Week 2018: 4-10 October 2018: 

25.  International Observe the Moon Night: 20 October 2018:  

26: Mayo Dark Sky Festival, 2-4 November FACEBOOK: 
27. Centenary of IAU in 2019:  IAU100: Uniting our World to Explore the Universe
In 2019, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will celebrate 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.
   For any inquiries, please contact Jorge Rivero González, the IAU100 Coordinator at: rivero[at]
28. Starmus V — 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: 
29. 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.
Magnetic field reveals swirling gas and dust round our Black Hole
No relation between SMBH and its host galaxy?
Detection of the first stars, which formed only 180m years after the Big Bang! and
Problems with our assumed value of the Hubble Constant and the Expansion of the Universe
This is food for thought! - What's the basis for modern cosmology? - See for example this finding, which shows just what problems still remain, and the conjectures being put forward as possible explanations!
Radiation from the first stars, which formed only 180m years after the Big Bang! Interesting finding, using a small and simple radio telescope, and very clever and sensitive detectors. But that's yet another stupid/ignorant illustration from Getty Images, showing stars already shining as the Big Bang happened! As the article indicates, the first stars didn't shine until about 180 million years AFTER the Big bang!
Massive single star near MW's Supermassive Black Hole can be used for another test of Relativity

EARTH and Moon:


The best spots for growing crops on Mars

SPACE Let's hope they 'rotate' both fuselages at the same time when they come to take off ….
Enhancing our resistance to space radiation

31. 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

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