From: TerryMoselat

Subject: Star Party, Lectures, BBC Stargazing, IAA/Radio, Galway, Comet, Venus, Aurorae

Date: 5 January 2012 14:48:35 GMT

Hi all,


1. IAA NEW YEAR PARTY, 7 January: The annual social event of the year will be on Saturday 7 January. The format is the same as before: meet first for buffet eats at 5.30 for 6.0 at McBrides in The Square, Comber, then on to the Tudor Cinema for some hot punch or soft drinks and the film "Cowboys and Aliens", followed by George's renowned quiz, with lots of prizes. We have ordered more food per person this year, so even the late arrivals should get enough!

   And of course there will also be my seasonal hot punch on arrival at the Cinema: this will be available in two varieties of alcoholic strength to suit all tastes, and driving options.

   We have also arranged for the car park to be treated with salt/grit if necessary, after the very slippy conditions there last year.

   Directions: McBrides is in The Square, (NE corner) in Comber, at the junction of the A21 towards Ballygowan and the A22 towards Killinchy. GPS: 54 deg 33' 1" N; 5 deg 44' 44" W. You can park in the Square itself.

Directions to the Tudor Cinema from Comber: Take the A22 towards Killinchy, and about 1 mile beyond the end of the 30 mph speed limit sign, take the FIRST RIGHT into Drumhirk Road. GPS for this junction: 54 deg 31' 59.5", 5 deg 43' 54.6" W. The entrance to the Cinema is about 500 yards along Drumhirk Road, on the left - look out for signs for our event. Follow this laneway to the end, and it will bring you to the car park. GPS: 54 deg 31' 47" N, 5 deg 44' 15" W.  Advance Booking is essential: see the IAA website: if you haven't already got a booking form.


2. IAA LECTURE, 11 January:  The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by Prof Stephen Smartt of QUB: Title: "Astronomy with the PanSTARRS1 Telescope"

   The PanSTARRS1 is a 1.8 meter (60-inch) diameter telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, and is designed to automatically search the skies for objects that either move or change their brightness from night to night. It contains the world's largest digital camera, with 1,400 megapixels, and can image a patch of sky about 40 times the area of the full moon, much larger than any similar-sized telescope on Earth or in space.

   The giant digital camera will take over 500 exposures each night and send about four terabytes of data (equivalent to what 1,000 DVDs can hold) for analysis. Computers will rapidly compare each exposure with corresponding ones taken either a few minutes or a few days earlier to find objects that have moved or whose brightness has changed.

   Primarily designed to search for 'killer asteroids', it is expected to discover about 100,000 asteroids and to determine if any of them are on a collision course with Earth. It will catalog five billion stars and 500 million galaxies. It will also be used to compile the most comprehensive digital map of the 75 per cent of the universe visible from Hawaii.

   Astronomers will also use the data to find brown dwarfs and distant quasars, to watch supernova explosions in distant galaxies and to test their latest theories concerning dark matter and dark energy. PS1 is the experimental prototype for the larger PS4 telescope, which will have four times the power of PS1 and is planned for Mauna Kea.

   Prof Smartt is actively engaged in supernova research, and is recognised as a leading authority on the subject, and leads a very progressive and well-respected team in QUB in this field. Supernovae are not just the most powerful and violent explosions in the universe (if we include the latest evidence for 'hypernovae' in the same genre), they are vital tools in establishing the distance to remote galaxies, and hence the size of the universe. And they provided the first clues that the expansion rate of the universe is speeding up, the so called 'accelerating universe'.  On top of that, the heavy elements that make life possible here on Earth are created in supernova explosions - without them, we wouldn't be here! So interest in them is at an all-time high, and the results from PanSTARRS1 will provide much invaluable data.

   The lecture is on WEDNESDAY 11 January, at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. ADMISSION IS FREE, as always, and includes light refreshments. Everyone is welcome! Full details of the rest of the programme are on the website:  


3. MAC EVENT: Midlands Astronomy Club presents a Telescope night for Beginners - Tuesday January 10th. Taking place in the Presbyterian Church, High Street, Tullamore at 8pm, MAC members and experienced amateur astronomers will be on hand to provide demonstrations and tips on how to get the most out of your telescope or binoculars. The latest version of SkyMaps for January will be available free and copies of our 2012 Calendar will also be on sale (€5 each). Admission is €2.00 and all are welcome (children and adults alike).


4. Major Public Lecture at QUB: "Latest News From the Large Hadron Collider", by Dr. Tara Shears, Thursday 12th January, 6:30 pm

   The School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast presents a lecture on the latest news from the largest science experiment ever built. The talk will be given by Dr. Tara Shears from the University of Liverpool, a renowned expert in particle physics and accomplished public speaker.

   The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle collider ever built. It is capable of creating (fleetingly) the fundamental particles which form everything in the universe. In particle physics we've understood much about these tiny objects, and can describe their behaviour in an incredibly successful theory. However, there are many known unknowns: where and what is the mysterious Higgs particle? Why is there so little antimatter in the universe? What is dark matter? We have built the LHC to try to find answers, and in this talk, Dr. Shears will show you the latest findings.

   The lecture will be at 6:30 pm on Thursday 12th January in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Complimentary tea and coffee will be served in the Great Hall in the Lanyon Building (main entrance) from 6:00 pm - 6:20pm.

   If you wish to attend this lecture, please reserve seats by either going to the website or by calling 028 9097 3202.

    This talk has been sponsored by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast.


5.  BBC's STARGAZING LIVE returns on 16-18 January, featuring the Irish Astronomical Association with a 2-hour broadcast extravaganza from Lough Neagh Discovery Centre (LNDC) near Lurgan, Co Armagh, on the evening of Tuesday 17th, and other activities on the Monday and Wednesday.

   The IAA has been recognised by the BBC as an official 'Partner' in delivering this part of the programme. More on the IAA website:

 Final details are still being fine-tuned, but look out for the following highlights:

   Monday 16th: A public "Jupiter Watch" will be held by members of the IAA in association with the School of Mathematics and Physics in front of the main building at Queen's University, from 6 pm to 9pm. If it's cloudy, Dr Chris Watson will give a public lecture in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, entitled "Jupiters around other stars". See:

   Tuesday 17th: IAA Events at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre: 

*Public Observing if clear: Venus, Jupiter, + all the usual Deep Sky wonders with a selection of powerful telescopes and binoculars.

*Stardome presentations: due to the expected demand, these will be ticket only, issued on a first come - first served basis.

*Amazing Photo Exhibition: The fantastic A0 size photos produced for IYA 2009 will again be on show, plus some of the best from other sources.

*Telescope and binocular exhibition: see all the varieties available, the pros and cons of each, and learn how to use them to their best capacity.

*Meteorites: an exhibition of many different sorts of meteorites - hold in your hand a piece of outer space (if you can hold it!), with experts there to talk about them.

*Our first "Ulsternaut" - Derek Heatly from Co Down, who has booked to go into space with Virgin Galactic's Spaceship One will be there to talk about his training experiences and forthcoming flight, with videos.

*Astrophotography for beginners" - A 'taster session' by our own expert, Paul Evans.

*Q&A session: 'Everything you always wanted to know about astronomy' - a panel of experts will be there to answer questions from the public on everything from the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zeeman Effect.

*Hands-On demos: How to make a comet, etc.

*3-D Modern Astronomy show, presented by Robert Hill from N.I. Space Office.

*Children's activities, such as making willow stars.

In other words, something for everyone.

See: and for updates.

See also: - put "Belfast" in the search box and see all our next events!

  Wednesday 18th: Armagh Observatory and NIEA: Stargazing LIVE at An Creagan and Beaghmore: Where the Heavens Meet the Earth

Armagh Observatory and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) together with An Creagan and the Omagh and Cookstown District Councils are hosting a day of FREE Stargazing LIVE activities at An Creagan and the nearby Beaghmore Stone Circles.  This is a unique megalithic site and the best Dark-Sky site in Northern Ireland.

    Following a series of Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE) astronomy and science-based activities for local KS2 school children at An Creagan, in the afternoon there will be an opportunity, weather permitting, to visit the Beaghmore Stone Circles and learn more about the stones from Living History players and a professional archaeologist. This element of the FREE Stargazing LIVE event will take place from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm. Participants will watch the Sun going down and observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible in the southern sky, as well as the first stars to appear after sunset. See

Further information about this Stargazing LIVE event will be available from the Observatory website.  Meanwhile, anyone wishing to participate in either the afternoon or evening events is requested to obtain their FREE ticket(s) by telephoning or sending an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: ambnat

 Armagh Planetarium will also be presenting a Stargazing Live event on Wednesday 18th January. They will be screening special FREE presentations of their brand new digital theatre show ‘Experience the Aurora’ at 7pm and 7.45pm.  All seats for these shows must be pre-booked in advance.  Places are limited so you are advised to book early to avoid disappointment (Tel: 02837 523689). They will also be joined by experts from the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomical Society who will be bringing along a range of telescopes for public night sky viewing.  They will also be on hand to help with any telescope queries you may have.  So if you have a telescope and are not sure how to use it, this is your chance to get some expert advice from the NIAAS members.

   Planetarium Director Dr Tom Mason has over 40 years experience working with meteorites. He will show you how to identify meteorites and also provide examples of the most commonly misidentified objects which are not meteorites.  On display for the first time will be the Planetarium’s latest lunar meteorite acquisition, as well as a fragment of Mars and various other specimens.  Feel free to bring along any rock samples that you would like Dr Mason to identify.

   For younger visitors there will be a special Stargazing arts and crafts room where they can have fun making space objects.

6:30pm Doors open; Public telescope viewing commences; Stargazing arts and crafts commences

7:00pm Experiencing the Aurora show *Remember to pre-book your seats!

7:30pm Meteorite Workshop

7:45pm Experiencing the Aurora show *Remember to pre-book your seats!

8:30pm Meteorite Workshop

9:30 Doors close


6. IAA 2-hour Live Radio Broadcast!  The Irish Astronomical Association has also been invited by the BBC to present a 2-hour live programme on Radio Ulster on the evening of Friday 27 January from Delamont Country Park, near Killinchy! More details on this later.

7. Galway Astronomy Festival - January 21st 2012 is on "New Frontiers of the Universe". Oscar Wilde reminds us that although we are all in the gutter, some of us are looking at the stars. This years Galway Astronomy Festival addresses the theme "New Frontiers of the Universe" from a professional as well as an amateur astronomer's perspective. The event, now in its 9th year, has become one of the most popular events in Ireland, where amateurs and professionals meet in friendship. This is essential for exchanging information, successful stargazing and mutual progress.  We look forward to seeing you, hopefully under clear skies. For more details see:


8. ISS: the International Space Station is just ending a series of evening passes over Ireland, and will commence a series of morning passes on Jan 13. See for details of this, and other bright satellites, Iridium Flares etc, for your own location.



The International Space Station's commander has again seen the grandeur of comet Lovejoy in new pictures taken from the orbiting outpost, this time also capturing the Earth's horizon and background stars in exquisite detail. see


10. Venus, the Evening Star: Is visible as a brilliant ‘evening star’ from Ireland through the end of March, and will be very well placed in late March as it approaches the Pleiades.   It's already visible low in the SSW after sunset. It is already as bright as magnitude -4.0, and apparent diameter 13” (arcsecs). It is gradually moving out from the Sun, and will become a brilliant and unmistakable object through February and March.


11. Aurora alerts. A lot of people who are not particularly interested in astronomy have asked me about seeing an aurora from Ireland/UK. I'm therefore going to set up a separate alert bulletin for possible aurora events only. If you know anyone who would like to get alerts of chances when aurorae might be visible from here (but not these more comprehensive bulletins), send me their email address, or ask them to email me directly.

   I will of course include such information in these general astronomy bulletins too!


12. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitterat signIaaAstro

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


14. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA.  See also


Finally, I hope you all have a very healthy and happy New Year. And just for the record, it won't end on 21 December 2012!


Clear skies, 


Terry Moseley

Mob: (+44) (0) 7979300842