From: TerryMoselat

Subject: Curiosity to Mars, Perseids, Solar day, Eclipse book, Weblinks, Balbriggan AC

Date: 4 August 2012 00:47:59 GMT+01:00

Hi all,


1. Curiosity Rover to Land on Mars: Nasa's most ambitious Mars mission to date will reach a crucial milestone on the morning of 6 August when the SUV sized rover is due to land on the Red Planet. This will involve the most complex landing sequence ever attempted: see,,,

    (A) Celebrate the Curiosity Landing Live on Google + Starting at 03:00 UTC August 6th (8:00 p.m. PDT August 5th) a live, 4-hour webcast, accessible via Google Hangout on Air, will highlight the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. During the webcast, scientists, engineers and other experts will provide unique insight into the rover and the landing, and viewers will have the chance to interact and ask questions.

   Hosted by Universe Today's Fraser Cain, along with Dr. Pamela Gay and Dr. Phil Plait, the webcast will feature interviews with special guests, a live video feed from NASA of the landing, and live coverage from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Planetary Society's PlanetFest by reporters Scott Lewis and Amy Shira Teitel, who will be on location to interview members of the MSL team.


   (B) MSL Live coverage by NASA JPL: As Curiosity prepares to make its historic descent to the surface of

Mars, the Earth's inhabitants will be watching... and waiting. Officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity is the largest and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to explore the surface of another planet.  With a landing system specially developed to lower the 900 kg rover safely to the Martian surface, Curiosity will be on its own for seven minutes as it descends towards Mars. There's nothing controllers at JPL back on Earth can do but wait, and the rest of the world will watch and wait with them. Catch the live

coverage at:

2. Perseid Party, 11 August, Delamont Country Park. The Irish Astronomical Association will host another 'Perseid Party' for the maximum of the most popular of the annual meteor showers on the evening of Sat 11 August, at DCP just S of Killyleagh, Co Down. We will start off with a fry-up, or BBQ depending on your tastes, in the early evening, followed by an observing session in the nice dark skies of the country park late into the night if it stays clear. Obviously this is weather dependant, so check the IAA website ( before going, to check on the latest situation. Moon conditions this year are very favourable - see below.


3. PERSEID METEORS to peak on August 12. The Perseids are the best-known of the year's meteor showers, and are usually the most popular as the nights do not get as cold as the other major showers in the winter! Maximum this year is predicted for 10.00 on 12 August, which means that the night of 11-12 August should give the highest observed rates, with the night of Aug. 12-13 next best. The Moon will be only a thin waning crescent, and won't rise until late in the night, so moonlight won't interfere this year.

   The shower actually begins with a low level of activity at the end of July, building up gradually in intensity until the maximum, and then declining until it ends about 19-20 August. With Full Moon occurring on 2 August, the best period for observation will be from about 7 August onwards.

  The meteors appear to come from the constellation of Perseus, which will be rising in the NE as darkness falls, but they can be seen anywhere in the sky. The best area to look is to centre your gaze on an area of sky about 50 degrees to the left or right of the radiant (whichever is clearer and darker), and about 55 degrees above the horizon. The Perseids are tiny particles cast off by comet 109p Swift-Tuttle.

   Perseids are swift, and often bright, and in a clear dark sky you should see an average of at least one per minute, including a few spectacular fireballs. Don't miss it.


4. Solar day at WWT, 12 August: Rounding off a busy weekend, the IAA will be running another one of our popular Solar Days at the WWT, Castle Espie, near Comber, Co Down, on Sunday afternoon, 12 August, from 2 - 5 p.m. This will comprise viewing the Sun in visible light, H-Alpha and Calcium light, using special solar telescopes and filters, if the sky is clear. We will also have starshows in the Stardome portable planetarium (thanks to Dr Tom Mason of Armagh Planetarium), and an exhibition of amazing meteorites from outer space, space photos, memorabilia, and other items. A great day for all the family, even if it is cloudy. See: for more details.


5. Eclipse Chasers book by IAA member ready for pre-order.  "Total Addiction: The life of an Eclipse Chaser".  (This is from Dr Kate Russo, edited by TM):

   I am delighted to announce that my book about eclipse chasers is now finished, and available to pre-order on Amazon with a release date of end of July. I hope all eclipse chasers will find it an enjoyable read.  It nicely bridges the gap between astronomy and psychology. But I think the book really comes alive through the interview analysis I undertook with nine eclipse chasers. Through the detailed analysis of these interviews, I have been able to tease out the key features of what we experience during totality.  I also try to explain what motivates all of us to be so passionate about chasing eclipses.  

   Many thanks to all of you who completed the survey, participated in interviews, and have contributed by way of comments, suggestions, quotes, explanations and photographs.  Special thanks to Terry Moseley, Jay Anderson, David Makepeace, James McClean, Dave Balch, and Rick Brown for participating in the interviews.  Thanks also to Glenn Schneider, Michael Zeiler, Fred Espenak, Jay Pasachoff, Daniel Lynch, Xavier Jubier, Miloslav Druckmullar for your contributions. 

   Special thanks also for contributions by Dava Sobel, Diane Ackerman, and Sir Patrick Moore who was one of the nine chasers featured.  It was a real privilege to meet with Sir Patrick, even if I did leave his house rather tipsy after several strong G&T's!  The whole project from start to finish was really quite enjoyable, and I have been touched by how supportive, friendly, open and helpful folk have been.  It is a great community to be involved with.

   If you are planning to read the book (and I hope many of you do), then I'd be really interested in your feedback.  You can do this via Amazon, or directly to me at my preferred email umbraphilliaat  I am also in the final stages of developing a website where folk are welcome to add comments.  Details of the site will be announced when it is ready (note – I am not an IT expert, this may take a few weeks).  

   Next steps – I will be having a book launch party here in Belfast most likely in September, before I then go to Australia for six months where I plan to be involved in various outreach activities related to the eclipse, in addition to doing a little book tour in the path of totality.  Kate Russo, Eclipse chasing Psychologist.

   (IAA members had a very interesting talk by Kate last year, and some participated in the surveys for the book. I've seen the proof copy, and it really does make fascinating reading. I thought that I was addicted, but just wait until you read some of the accounts from other eclipse-chasers!)




7. Balbriggan Astronomy Club from Carl O'Beirnes.

I’m very happy to report after a long and hard road Balbriggan Astronomy Club is now up and running. Our first public watch will be for the Perseid meteor shower and will be held on Saturday and Sunday August 11th and 12th in the dark grounds of Ardgillan Castle, just south of Balbriggan itself.

    The Perseids will be a great start for the clubs first observing session as you don't need any telescopes to view the meteor shower. There will be lots of telescopes on hand though to view other wonders of the night sky.

    Contact Carl at carlat for more details. Please note, only confirmed attendees will be permitted access to the grounds of Ardgillan Castle for the watch!


8. Dublin Stargazers meet up for the Perseids

The Dublin Stargazers Meetup group are planning to get together for observing the Perseid meteor shower on the night of August 11th. The venue is the car park at the foot of the Sugarloaf in Wicklow and more details can be found at   

(courtesy of John Flannery)


9. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account:  @IaaAstro

10. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on


11. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: 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.  See also


Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

mob: (0044) (0) 7979 300842