From: TerryMoselat

Subject: Lecture, ISS, NearMiss, IAA @ Bangor, S-L @ Armagh, Fire @ SSO, Ast Course, more

Date: 23 January 2013 00:03:11 GMT

Hi all,


1.  IAA LECTURE: The next IAA public lecture will be on Wednesday 23 January, at 7.30 p.m. It will be given by Dr Tolis Christou, of Armagh Observatory. It has the intriguing title "Horseshoes, Tadpoles, and other weirdnesses: Asteroids and Planets Learning to Live Together". That should pique your curiosity! The only clue I'll give is that Tolis is an expert on the orbits and interactions of all the objects in the Solar System. Admission is free, including light refreshments, and all are welcome.

This lecture will as usual be in the Bell Lecture theatre, Physics building, main QUB Campus.


2. ISS. The International Space Station is doing another series of morning passes over Ireland. Details as usual on the excellent and free site:


3. Asteroid Very Near Miss: On Feb 15 we will have a very near miss from a ‘Near Earth Asteroid’, which will come so close to Earth that it will pass inside the orbits of the geostationary satellites! Asteroid 2012 DA14, which is about 50m (165 feet) in diameter will pass about 21,000 miles from the centre of the Earth, or about 17,000 miles above the surface. There is no risk of a collision, but if an object of this size did hit the Earth, the damage would be very significant. 17,000 miles seems like a significant distance, but think of it this way: It’s just over twice the diameter of the Earth. If a bullet was to miss your head by just twice your head's diameter, you would think that you had been very very lucky! It will be travelling at 7.8km/sec.

   Closest approach will be at about 18.00, and the object should be visible in binoculars as it speeds past the Earth, with a maximum magnitude of between 7 and 7.5. Since it will be so close, and moving so fast, predictions need to be based on your own location, not geocentric. I’m very grateful to Dr Tolis Christou of Armagh Observatory who has generated an ephemeris for Belfast, giving the RA, Dec, Azimuth, Elevation and magnitude of 2012 DA14 from Belfast ( 54.6000° N, 5.9167° W) for the night of the 15th to the 16th of February 2013 every 5 min. The asteroid rises at 20:00 UT in Virgo, and will move rapidly Northwards through Coma, Canes Venatici, Ursa Major and Draco during its period of best visibility from here. It will remain brighter than mag 10 until 22:20 UT. At that time its altitude is 53 deg.

   This ephemeris is too long and detailed to include here, but I will forward the details to anyone on request. It should be possible to record its motion with a time exposure on a digital camera with a reasonable zoom lens, and set to a high ISO setting.

   This will be the brightest-ever NEO to be observed approaching the vicinity of our planet (<0.1 AU). It is predicted to be 30 times brighter and more than 150 times more massive than the next largest known object to approach as close or closer to our planet in recent years: that one was 2012 MD. 

    If you want to see what ‘Armageddon’ might look like before impact if one of this size was going to hit us, then have a look!


4. IAA Event at Bangor, 16 February - UPDATE. The IAA will be running another of its very popular astronomy evenings, this time at a new venue: the North Down Heritage Centre near Bangor Castle, Co Down. This is not a dark sky location, but we have chosen an evening when both Jupiter and a nice 6-day old Moon will be visible, so there will be spectacular sights for public viewing. There will also be a good pass of the ISS, which should please anyone who hasn't seen it before.

    We will of course have the Stardome shows, which will run whether it's cloudy or clear, and the usual exhibition of telescopes, binoculars, meteorites and other items. Our own local Ulsternaut, Derek Heatly, will be giving an update on the latest details for his flight into space with Virgin Galactic.

   NB: To guarantee a place for one of the Starshows you must book in advance with the ND Heritage Centre.

   Location: Bangor Castle, Castle Park. The Heritage Centre is just behind (South of) the Castle. Access is via Castlepark Avenue and Castlepark Road, or on foot via the Castle grounds by continuing along Castlepark Avenue. GPS: 54deg 39' 21" N; 5 deg 40' 09" W. Tel. 028 9127 1200.

   Start time is now confirmed as 6.30 p.m. 


5. Stargazing Live at Armagh: Armagh Planetarium will be presenting a Stargazing Live event on Tuesday 29 January. They will be screening free digital theatre shows which must be pre-booked in advance.  Also attending will be experts from NIAAS who will be bringing along a range of telescopes for public night sky viewing.  They will also 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.

   Planetarium Director Dr Tom Mason and Dr Mike Simms from the Ulster Museum will show you how to identify meteorites and also provide examples of the most commonly misidentified objects which are not meteorites.  Feel free to bring along any rock samples that you would like identified.

6:00pm - Stargazing Begins

6:30pm - Theatre Show

7:00pm - Meteorite Presentation

7:30pm - Theatre Show (Fully Booked)

Guaranteed to be a fun filled evening of stargazing, weather permitting! To book your seat call us on 02837 523689.


6. Bushfires at Siding Springs Observatory:

On January 13 a fierce bushfire ravaged the area around Siding Spring Observatory in Australia, destroying the Visitors' Centre, accommodation blocks, and, more importantly, residences of several of the staff. The telescopes survived essentially intact and no-one has lost their life or been badly injured. See for example:

   One of the people badly affected is the well-known Scottish-Australian astronomer, Robert McNaught, who started his career as a BAA member, was awarded the Merlin Medal by the Association in 1987, and who has since gone on to achieve great things, discovering many more comets than any other person (his Daylight Comet of 2007 was especially spectacular), and finding several hundred near-Earth objects, mainly through his survey work at Siding Spring (part of the Catalina Sky Survey). Rob and his partner Tanya Smith 

suffered the loss of their home and all of their possessions last weekend as a result of the fire that swept through the area. Rob's tale is featured on the Sky and Telescope website at: 

    Some funds have been set up to help the astronomers and their families. In particular there is the ANU Siding Spring Observatory Fire Staff Emergency Relief fund at: 

   And the "Robert McNaught and Tanya Smith Bushfire Recovery Fund" at: 

    (I feel a particular affinity with Rob, as I have an A1 size signed copy of his amazing photo of his own 'daylight comet' of 2007, showing that fantastic sweeping feathery tail.)


7. ASTRONOMY COURSE at STRANMILLIS COLLEGE, BELFAST. I will be delivering a two part course, introduction to astronomy, as follows:

Astronomy:  Our place in the Universe

Looking to the sky for the first time you may feel overwhelmed and confused by the spectacle of thousands of stars above your head.  Astronomy is a great gateway science that can inspire you to do great things!  Participants will gain enjoyment from exploring the wonders of the night sky.  The topics covered include Greek mythology, Egyptian and Babylonian cosmology, Astrobiology, Quantum Physics, Terrestrial and Jovian planets and Solar System to help us understand our place in the cosmos.  This is a great way for the community to come together and take a fresh look at our night belongs to us all.  No experience necessary and questions encouraged! 

Tutor:             Terry Moseley, Time:              7.00pm - 9.00pm

Session 1:         Tuesdays, 5 weeks; dates:      19th February 2013 – 19th March 2013 

Location:        Central Building.

Session 2:         Tuesdays, 5 weeks. Time: 7.00pm - 9.00pm. Dates:      9th April 2013 – 7th May 2013.   Location:        Central Building

There will also be a daytime visit to Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, provisionally on 17 May.

Full details and booking at:

8. Galway Star Party: UPDATE: NB if you are going to this event, you are advised to book accommodation soon, as the Galway Rally will be on the same weekend.

The 10th Galway Starparty: "Ireland, the Final Frontier" takes place on Saturday, 2nd February, 2013 at the Westwood House Hotel, Galway City.

The speakers include:

Dr. Andy Shearer (Centre for Astronomy, NUIG): "Kepler: The Search for Habitable Planets"

Dave Gradwell: “OSCAR: A unique Irish Solar Observatory”

Ronan Newman (workshop): “Celestial Light: Chasing the Elusive Irish Aurora”

John Flannery (South Dublin AS): “What makes a Great Comet?”

Prof. Tom Ray (DIAS): “Making Stars and Planets: The First Three Billion Years”

Dave Grennan: “Hunting Extra-Galactic Supernovae from Ireland”

Terry Moseley (IAA): "Untold Stories of Sir Patrick Moore, FRS" 

Professor Lorraine O'Hanlon (UCD) “The GLORIA project"

Details & bookings at:


9. GALILEO AT ARMAGH OBSERVATORY:THE LIFE OF GALILEO", by Bertolt Brecht, Performed in the Armagh Observatory.

   The Greenwood Players and the Armagh Observatory are presenting in the Armagh Observatory from 22nd to 24th February 2013 the first performance on the island of Ireland of the play "The Life of Galileo" by Bertolt Brecht in a new version by David Hare.

   The story of the Life of Galileo and its central drama of the conflict between science, religion and authority is one that resonates today. As remarked by Ian McDonald, author and Executive Producer with the Greenwood Players, "The Life of Galileo" is a story that needs retelling every generation, especially in a 21st century when we seem to be moving away from science to an authority and belief-based worldview.

   There will be five performances of the play: two matinees at 2.00pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th February, and three evening performances at 7.00pm on each of 22nd, 23rd and 24th February.  Tickets, which are strictly limited, cost 12 pounds and are available from 14th January 2013 at

For more information, see: 

10. INTERESTING WEBLINKS: (I'll bet a bottle of bubbly that they don't start it within even THREE years! T.M.)

The item in the link below is a bit odd. Prof Wickramasinghe gave us an interesting but controversial lecture in Belfast on this topic about 10 years ago: But that doesn't even look like a meteorite to me! And I would trust Prof Monica Grady (who has also given lectures to us in Belfast) on anything to do with meteorites. (And not just because she let me hold the famous Allan Hills Martian meteorite (see:, and in my bare hands when I visited her at the NH Museum about a year after her lecture to us!):

(BTW, I'm not a Daily Mail fan, nor have I shares in it, but it has a greater range of topical space and astronomy stories online than any other UK paper)


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

12. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on Look under 'Countryfile'.


13. 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 you.  See also


Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

mob: (0044) (0) 7979 300842