From: TerryMoselat

Date: 21 September 2010 01:47:55 GMT+01:00

Subject: IAA Lecture, Jupiter closest, Equinox, RIA & Southwood & Cork lectures, WSP

Hi all, 


1. The opening IAA Lecture of the new season will be on Wed 22 September, in the Bell Lecture Theatre, QUB, It will be given by Prof Alan Fitzsimmons of the Astrophysics Department at QUB. TITLE: "The 2008 Outburst of Comet Holmes - What Happened?"

   Almost all of you will remember the amazing outburst of Comet Holmes, which very suddenly brightened by a factor of over a million from well below naked eye visibility to become a 2nd magnitude object in Perseus. And it was the oddest comet I have ever seen - a big circular bluish white disc! See for example: This was the greatest known outburst in cometary history. So what caused it? - Alan Fitzsimmons, one of the world's leading comet and asteroid experts will tell us all about it, and what that tells us about the nature of comets.

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.

    (NB Alan had to change the title from the original version, as part of what he was going to talk about is still under embargo! But we might persuade him to drop a few hints....)   



Jupiter is at its closest opposition for 47 years tonight (Sep 21), so the apparent disk is larger than at any time since 1963.  It will also reach its highest declination this year for the last 6 years, so it will appear higher in the Irish sky. (Uranus is also at opposition on the same date, about 1 degree N of Jupiter.) Jupiter's minimum distance from Earth is now 3.95393 AU, where an AU = the average Earth-Sun distance.

   One of Jupiter's two major belts - the South Equatorial Belt (SEB) - has almost disappeared under a layer of brighter higher clouds, so the planet looks very odd!  But the Great Red Spot (at L2 = 155 deg) has become very prominent and red.  These changes happen occasionally on Jupiter, but this time it is an unusually marked effect.

   The revival or reappearance of the SEB starts with an outbreak of spots at a single location, which spreads around the planet at the latitude of the belt, producing an ever-changing vista.  This could start at any time so observers should look out for any unusual new spots in the SEB.



The Sun will cross the celestial equator Southwards on Sep 23 at 03h 09m UT (= GMT), marking the start of autumn, and longer nights and shorter days.


4. Royal Irish Academy / Irish Times Public Lecture

  Sponsored by Science Foundation Ireland; Thursday 23 September, 7pm, Emmet Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin

   "SOLAR VARIABILITY AND INFLUENCES ON CLIMATE", by PROFESSOR  MIKE LOCKWOOD FRS, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, UK & Space Science and Technology Department, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK 

Admission is FREE but Booking is essential. More details and booking at 

     Abstract: The Sun seen from Earth varies on a range of timescales including the 27-day solar rotation period, the quasi-decadal solar cycle, solar variations over several centuries between grand minima and grand maxima and millennial scale changes due to changes in Earth's orbit.  

    Many reports of responses of Earth's climate to solar variations have been reported, mostly based on unreliable statistical tests and/or inadequate logic. There is a 

huge body of evidence that solar effects are relatively minor on global scales but there is also recent evidence that certain regions and seasons show greater solar modulation.

    This talk will concentrate on our work on the world's longest instrumental record of surface temperature, measured in central England since 1650, and in particularly on winter temperatures and their relationship to solar conditions including the Maunder minimum. We 

interpret this in terms of solar UV variability effects on the stratosphere influencing the underlying jet stream and causing "blocking" events. Our analysis of modern satellite data supports this concept of "top-down" solar modulation of regional European temperatures in winter.


5. David Southwood Public Lecture: The Director of the European Space Agency's Science and Robotic Exploration Programme, Prof. David Southwood, will give a public lecture at Dublin Castle conference centre on Wednesday September 29th, 2010 at 8pm, entitled 'Space Science in Europe: What's Ahead?'

Tickets are free, but places should be reserved by going to the website:



Yes, that's me, I'm afraid. I'll be giving a lecture entitled  "Sun, Moon, Stars and Stones - the story of Archaeoastronomy in Ireland." It's on 1 October, at Blackrock Castle Observatory, at 8 p.m.

    Synopsis: "Newgrange is the oldest confirmed astronomical structure in the world, but there are many other megalithic monuments in Cork and elsewhere in Ireland which have some astronomical significance. Just how much did the builders of these prehistoric passage tombs, mounds, circles etc know about the objects in the sky above them? Did they have accurate calendars, and predict eclipses? What can these ancient sites tell us? This lecture will attempt to explain all."

   For full details of this, and the rest of the excellent BCO programme, see


7. Whirlpool Star Party - I'm just awaiting confirmation of final programme details for Ireland's longest running star party, on the weekend of October 8th to 10th in Dooley's Hotel, Birr, Co Offaly. The following speakers are confirmed:

Prof John Brown, Dr Lyndsay Fletcher, Mr Tom Boles, Mr Leo Enright, Dr John Quinn, Dr Niall Smith. I'll give the running order and other details as soon as I get them.


Finally: the IMO Conference: The conference in Armagh was a huge success, with by far the largest number of delegates ever attending in its 14-year history: over 130, from as far away as Japan, Nepal, Venezuela, USA Russia, & many countries in Europe. And it was great fun too, with the best socialising at any event I've ever attended. Congrats to the main organisers: David Asher, Geert Barentsen, Tolis Christou and Miruna Popescu.


Clear Skies,


Terry Moseley