From: TerryMoselat

Date: 30 April 2008 23:39:30 BST

Subject: Lectures, Planetarium Prog, Mercury, Cassini Competition, Hale Bopp

Hi all,



Queen's University, Belfast; School of Mathematics and Physics: The Head of School cordially invites you to the Inaugural Lecture by Stephen Smartt, Professor of Astrophysics.

    ‘SUPERNOVA: A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH’, on Thursday 1 May 2008 at 5.00 pm, Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Admission free.


2. ARMAGH PLANETARIUM Mayday Programme: Armagh Planetarium’s new projection system accurately recreates the beauty of the night sky and will take you on voyages to distant worlds.

OPENING TIMES:         11.30am – 5pm  See: for details.


3. Mercury well placed in evening sky: Mercury, the elusive innermost planet, will reveal itself in the evening twilight in late April and early May. It can be fairly bright, but is always difficult to see as it never moves far from the Sun in the sky, and so can only be seen low down in the evening or morning twilight.

   By the end of April you should be able to find it easily using binoculars: start looking about half an hour AFTER sunset. (Never look anywhere near the Sun in the sky with binoculars or a telescope, so always wait until the Sun has set!). Once you've found it with binoculars you can usually see it with the unaided eye when you know where to look.

   If you don't know in just what direction to look, note the point on the horizon where the Sun sets, and then about 30 minutes later look about 7-8 degrees above and just to the left of that spot. 5 degrees is about the diameter of the usable field of view of most binoculars. If you don't spot it then, keep looking: by 40 minutes after sunset it will be a bit lower, and almost vertically above the point where the Sun set; - about 5 degrees above the horizon.

   On 2 May it will pass just to the left of the lovely Pleiades star cluster, although they will appear much dimmed in the twilight, and you'll need binoculars to see even the brighter members of the cluster.

    If you still can't find it, hope for a clear sky on the evening of 6 May, when the lovely thin crescent Moon will pass just over 2 degrees (4 Moon diameters) to the right of Mercury. Next evening the Moon will be about 12 degrees to the upper left of Mercury.


4. The next SDAS meeting will be on Thursday, May 8th at 8pm in Gonzaga College, Ranelagh. Topic on the night will be notified to you all in a few days time. We are hoping to have Al White along to talk about his recent trip to Australia where he visited the Parkes Radio Telescope. Al was awarded a MSc in Astronomy while there and congratulations are also due on his recent engagement!


5. A.I. Public Lecture, TCD: "Robert Hill of the Northern Ireland Space Office at Armagh Planetarium will present a special Public Lecture on May 12 in Trinity College, Dublin, entitled "Engaging Youth: An Astronomical Journey in 3D". Robert will tell us how he uses astronomy as an educational 'hook' for science and mathematics learning. He is also engaged in the possibility of using astronomy and space science as a key skills developer for adults returning to education. The lecture will include an amazing 3-D display that is not to be missed.  He will describe how educating people about astronomy has taken him all over the world and given rise to some hair-raising stories like what do you do when there is a two foot fruit bat hanging from your telescope?  Robert is a brilliant public speaker and his anecdotes combined with the incredible 3-D special effects is sure to make this one of the best lectures we have ever held." The lecture takes place on Monday May 12 at 8pm in the Physics building.  For more details, maps, parking etc. see


6. Cassini schools competition

 Prof Carl Murray has asked me to pass on details of the Cassini competition to N Ireland schools and parents through the various networks available. See:

It would be great to see a few NI schools enter the competition.


7. Comet Hale-Bopp: Dr Mike Simms of the Ulster Museum asked me to send this out:

"As you know only too well, the museum is putting together a whole load of new displays. Included will be a section on meteorites and the early history of the Earth and Solar System. I also want to briefly mention comets as a possible source of organic molecules and water for the early Earth. A picture of Hale-Bopp would be nice to include. There are thousands available on the internet but it would be nice to use an image (fully acknowledged of course) by someone in the IAA. It would need to be fairly high resolution but then, most of you starmen seem to have pretty fancy cameras these days!

    Could you send out a call to any IAA members to send me any good images of Hale-Bopp (probably best to use that one as it is the one most people will remember seeing) that they would like us to consider.

All the best, Mike". Send to Mike at: michael.simmsat


8.  Newgrange Lectures, June 11.

Two Short Lectures by  Robert Hensey, NUI Galway  


1.    When Space and Time Collided:

A Ritualistic Perspective on the Beginnings of Astronomical Alignment in Passage Tomb Tradition




2.    Between Salmon and Ceremony: 

Seasonal Ritual in the Boyne Valley

 Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, Wednesday June 11th 2008, 7.00pm, Free of Charge.




Clear Skies,


Terry Moseley