From: TerryMoselat

Subject: Solstice, Ursids, Lectures, NY Party, Venus, ISS, S-L, Tyrone ast, Galway SP etc

Date: 19 December 2013 14:07:55 GMT

Hi all,


1. Solstice: The Winter Solstice, marking the Sun's most southerly point in its annual journey along the ecliptic (apparently!) will be on Dec 21, at 17.11. That's the shortest day / longest night, and marks the beginning of astronomical winter, as temperatures usually lag somewhat behind the Sun's altitude in the sky. But even though January, February, and even sometimes March, temperatures may be the lowest of the year, at least the days are getting longer.


2. NIEA SOLSTICE EVENT: The Northern Ireland Environment Agency will hold this year's traditional Winter Solstice Event on Fri 20 December, from 1.00 - 2.00 p.m., at Waterman house, 5b - 33 Hill St, Belfast, BT1 2LA.

A talk entitled "Marking Time Through The Millennia" will be given by Lynne Williams and Boyd Rankin of Irish Arms. This illustrated talk will look at how astronomical events such as solstices and equinoxes were a vital part of the agricultural year. Were stone circles and alignments built as calendars as well as ritual places?

Admission Free, including Seasonal refreshments.


3. Solstice Lecture, Slane, Co Meath, 20 December. The 2013 Solstice at Slane Lecture will take place on Friday 20th December at 8pm in the Conyngham Arms Hotel to celebrate the close links between Slane and the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site. This is the night before the morning of the Winter Solstice sunrise alignment at Newgrange. 

   The lecture will be given by Prof. Tom Ray, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and is entitled 'From the Solstice to Pulsars: Using the Sky to Measure Time'. 

   There will be a €5 charge to cover costs. Registration in advance by replying to this email would help us to organise the numbers. The Solstice at Slane Lecture is one of a series of events in Slane over the Solstice weekend celebrating the Winter Solstice. For further information please visit Solstice at Slane Festival on Facebook. 


4. Ursid Meteors: This shower is usually poorly observed as it occurs on 22/23 December, at the height of the shopping Mammon-fest which is also known as Christmas. But rates of 20-30 per hour are sometimes seen, although there is some interference from moonlight this year. But as an antidote to all the usual excesses, why not pop out for a look, if the sky is clear? The radiant is near Kocab, or Beta UMi, the second brightest star in Ursa Minor, the Little Bear. A line from Eta UMa (the last star in the handle of the Plough), to Polaris, will take you fairly close to it.


5. IAA's New Year Party 4 January; Yes, the astro-social event of the year is almost upon us again. It's the usual popular and successful format: We meet at 5.30 for 6.00 for a meal at McBride's restaurant, The Square, Comber, Co Down for a buffet meal, then we go to the nearby Tudor Private Cinema for a private showing of one of the latest SF films, along with seasonal refreshments. The choice of film is still a matter of hot debate (we rejected 'Gravity', as it's best in 3-D which we couldn't manage, and also lots of people have already seen it, not to mention the fact that most of the science in it is crap! Apart from that, it's very enjoyable!). As soon as we decide, I'll let you know, and it will be on the IAA website

  Cost: £15 for adults, £7.00 for children.  For those who can't go to the meal, the cost for the film and the refreshments at the Tudor cinema is £7 for adults and £3.50 for children; that kicks off at 7.30 p.m.


6. PERIHELION: 4 January is also the day when the Earth will be closest to the Sun for the year. It occurs at 11h 58m, when the distance will be 0.9833347 AU. At that distance, its light takes only 8m 10.7s to reach us. (It takes almost 17 seconds longer at aphelion, in July!) 


7. IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION: Public Lecture: "How to Blow Up A Star - Understanding Supernovae", by Dr Stuart Sim, of the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB.

   Supernovae are just about the biggest explosions in the universe, and certainly the biggest that we are ever likely to see. Not only that, but they create all the elements above iron in the periodic table, many of which, such as nickel, zinc, selenium, and iodine, are essential for human life. They are also the key element in the 'distance ladder' used in large scale astrophysics and cosmology, as they are used to measure the distance to distant galaxies and galaxy clusters.

   And it's from studying distant supernovae that scientists now believe that the expansion of the universe is speeding up, leading to the theory of 'dark energy'. In other words, it's hard to think of any other single phenomena that's more important in modern astrophysics and cosmology.

   So this lecture will be a fascinating account of one of the cutting edge areas of modern astronomy.

     The lecture is free and open to all, including free refreshments. Venue: the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast, at 7.30 p.m. 

   Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for help in hosting these lectures.


8.  VENUS: Visible in Evening Sky: Venus is now at about its easiest to see from Ireland for this elongation.  It's slowly getting higher in the evening twilight sky, but is gradually getting closer to the Sun. So it's a trade-off between altitude and its decreasing solar elongation. Look low down in the bright SW evening twilight for a bright twinkling 'star'.


9. ISS Evening Passes. The International Space Station is continuing its series of evening passes over Ireland: Details on


10.  MYSTERY OF THE CHRISTMAS STAR, Armagh Planetarium: Monday – Friday at 2pm, Saturday at 12 noon, 2 pm and 4 pm

Evening shows every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3-19 December at 7:30pm. For more information on show times please visit the website at Tel - 028 3752 3689


11. STARGAZING LIVE returns on 7 - 9 January 2014, at Cultra. The IAA has once again been asked to be principal partner with the BBC for this prestigious event. The main local event will be at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum at Cultra. Mark your diaries now. The IAA has now formally presented its programme for the events to the BBC, and we are finalising arrangements with them.


12. TYRONE ASTRONOMY EVENT, Stewartstown, 10 January"Journey through Space" will be held in St Patrick's Church, Ballyclog, 125 Coagh Road, Stewartstown, Co Tyrone. Dr Patrick Harkness is an IAA member who lecturers in Space Systems at the Univ. of Glasgow. The central theme of his talk is "Gravity" and it will be accessible rocket science. We are trying to stimulate interest in science and technology in the local community. Details and booking at: <ballyclog.spaceat>


13. GALWAY ASTROFEST: Full details of our Astronomy Festival is now available at

   There will also be a special stand, Apogee Imaging Instruments coming over from California who will be represented by Tim Puckett, an amateur astronomer and astrophotographer with over 30 years experience. Experienced in the field of amateur CCD (digital) astro-imaging, Puckett has operated numerous CCD cameras since 1989. He has built several robotic telescopes and is currently operating an automated supernova search patrol and comet astrometry program which uses 60-cm and 35-cm telescopes.

  Puckett’s photos of comets and deep-sky objects have been published in books and magazines in several countries, including Great Britain, Japan, Italy, Germany, Australia and South Africa. His work has also been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, BBC, The Discovery and Learning Channels and Good Morning America. Puckett has been the Astronomy Sales Engineer for Apogee Instruments since May 2006.

  We hope to change things around and maybe line him up for either a talk or workshop


14. Advance Notice: Trip to Newgrange: Mar 29, 2014: 09.30 – 17.00: I will be leading an astronomy /archaeoastronomy trip to Newgrange, as part of the Stranmillis Adult Learning programme. A day long coach trip, with full commentary. Demand for this is already high, so book now if you are interested. There is a maximum number allowed on the trip, due to space restrictions within the Newgrange Mound. Booking is through Stranmillis College.


15. INTERESTING WEBLINKS:  IAA members got a preview of this at Leo's excellent lecture last week Oops! Sack the PR agency! Well, Stone the.... OK, maybe not. (not 'anti-gravity' - it's 'zero gravity') (I hope the science is better than that in 'Gravity'!) (Image of Toutatis)  Or maybe it will turn into a gigantic banana.... (NASA has now approved a long spacewalk to try to fix the problem) (Is NASA looking in the wrong place for life?) and (Did asteroid impact send life from Earth to Mars?) (Launch is due today) Modern theories of the cosmos seem to be edging ever closer to a modern version of the Ptolemaic System - adding more and more deferents and epicycles - with a touch of alchemy thrown into the mix. What next? (Interesting account) and 

Quote  "Northumberland, which has just been declared the darkest place in Europe". No it hasn't! But it's welcome news. Time for a similar site here!  Quote: Mr Willetts said that any British-led effort could be based in Stevenage: “In the old days it was Cape Canaveral, in the future it will be Stevenage at the heart of the global space effort." Well, you may as well set your sights high! But I somehow think that the Chinese in particular are going to do their own thing, without consulting Stevenage!


16. Advance Notice: STFC Roadshow at QUB, 19 - 25 May. The roadshow, entitled "Seeing the Universe in all its light" features stunning science images and interactive exhibits, including:

The Science & Technology Facilities Council's latest touring exhibition is encouraging everyone to see the Universe in all its light – showcasing the Big Telescopes family in all their glory and focusing on both the UK’s scientific expertise and the economic benefits that astronomy can deliver.

   The roadshow features stunning science images alongside a range of interactive exhibits. Visitors will be able to experience a replica of English astronomer Thomas Harriot's first telescope, as well as a range of historical scientific papers from the Royal Astronomy Society and the Thomas Harriot Trust.

   There will be young scientists on hand from UK university astronomy departments to enthuse about the work they do and answer questions on any aspect of astronomy. They'll be able to guide visitors around scale models of the Big Telescopes – ESO’s Very Large Telescope, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, the Herschel Space Observatory and the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

   Hands-on exhibits aim to explain the importance of building telescopes across the whole range of wavelengths, so that we really can see the Universe in all its light. An interactive control desk provides details on the full spectra of wavelengths used by astronomers, and visitors will be able to learn more about seeing the invisible, micro autonomous robots and the adaptive optics that are essential for telescopes but are also proving invaluable in more down-to-earth applications such as cancer screening.

  Check the `Seeing the Universe in All its Light’ webpage 



17. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter:  at signIaaAstro


18. NEW LINK! JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is easy: 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 youYou can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button.  See also


Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

mob: (0044) (0) 7979 300842

I'm now back on Twitter (occasionally - I don't have enough time!), after some temporary hiccups: at signterrymoseley2