From: TerryMoselat

Subject: UK spaceport? STFC at Armagh, Updates: other events

Date: 3 May 2014 01:37:00 BST

Hi all,


2. UK to Launch Rockets from home soil?

   As I have already pointed out in an earlier bulletin, it's an unfortunate geographical fact that nowhere in the UK is well situated to launch space rockets, except those going into polar or high inclination orbits.

 Launching from an aircraft would be slightly better than launching from the ground, but still not as good as a lower latitude site.

   Of course, it would be OK for launches for sub-orbital hops like Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which don't actually go into orbit, although our weather is not ideal for that sort of launch & landing. But it's hardly worth developing a 'Spaceport' just for that sort of launch - who would use it when they have much better sites in the USA for example?

Factors for a proper Spaceport:

1. You should be as close to the equator as possible, to take advantage of the Earth's rotation speed, launching to the East. In practice anywhere in or near the tropics is fine, but North of about 40 degrees it gets less and less favourable.

2. You need a good long clear expanse of uninhabited and shipping-free sea to the East, so that any rocket booster stages, or indeed aborted or failed launches, can fall safely into the sea. Particularly if there is any nuclear or radioactive material on board!

3. S. Cornwall would just about be acceptable on the latter aspect with no land to the East until you get to Brittany, but you would be launching over one of the busiest shipping routes in the world - the English Channel! It's just not feasible to keep shipping clear of that area during a launch.

4. S Cornwall also fails on another aspect: it's highly populated, with no suitable large empty area for a safe launch area and surrounding exclusion zone. Goonhilly Downs comes closest, but is still not ideal.

   But for Polar or high inclination orbital launches, N Scotland would be fine: assuming that they are still in the UK by that time!


3.  The Giro d’Italia is coming to Armagh on Sunday 11 May 2014.  In preparation for this amazing occasion Armagh Planetarium will have a fun and action packed Saturday! For lots of free events, see: 


4. Major Astronomy Conference in Galway;  Speed and Sensitivity, Expanding Astronomical Horizons with ELTs. NUI, Galway, 13-16 May 2014

 Led by Prof Andy Shearer: this will be a fascinating look at the future of astronomy as offered by Extremely Large Telescopes, and ever increasingly sensitive detectors. See or

With reference to this, these articles may be of interest:  It doesn't say here what the diameter of the E-ELT will be: it was originally to be 42m (the answer to the ultimate question about 'Life, The Universe, and Everything" was "42"), but it was later scaled back to a still huge 39m. But how can any science journalist refer to a roughly circular mirror as 'thirty meters long'?



5. STFC Roadshow at QUB, 17 - 24 May. The roadshow, entitled "Seeing the Universe in all its light" features stunning science images and interactive exhibits. The exhibition covers the whole story of astronomy, past and future, featuring some of the crucial moments and technical challenges along the way.

  Main highlights include the Big Telescopes, on both ground and in space. These instruments cover the full electromagnetic spectrum from Gamma Rays to radio waves. It explains why astronomers use different telescopes, imagers and other detectors to get a more complete picture of the universe. You can view some incredible images from the control desk, and look at all the information on the wall of facts.

   The exhibition includes an 8 metre interactive wall and replica telescopes, including ALMA, located 5000 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert - the driest place on Earth.

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


6. And STFC then goes to Armagh Planetarium:

The STFC show will then move to Armagh Planetarium for the following week: The Science and Technology Facilities Council are bringing their wonderful "Seeing the Universe in all its Light" interactive exhibition to Armagh Planetarium!  The exhibition showcases the story of astronomy, from the past to the future and highlights some of the key inspirational moments and technical challenges along the way.

   Seeing the Universe will open on Monday 26 May and will run until Saturday 31 May from 10am until 5pm and admission is FREE.  The exhibition is suitable for all ages.  We would also encourage visits from schools but please contact us first if you plan to bring a group of 20 or more on 02837 523689.

  Dates: Monday 26 – Saturday 31 May 2014, Time: 10am - 5pm, Price: Free


7. Statutory Public Lecture of the School of Theoretical Physics, 19 May. 

  The 2014 Statutory Public Lecture of the DIAS School of Theoretical Physics will take place on Monday 19th May (time tbc) in UCD. The lecture entitled “Are Brains Analog or Digital?” will be given by Professor Freeman Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

   This FREE lecture is not strictly astronomical, but Prof Dyson is well known in the field of cosmology and fundamental physics. See:

   ABSTRACT: We know that creatures like us have two separate systems for processing information, the genome and the brain. We know that the genome is digital, and we can accurately transcribe our genomes onto digital machines. We cannot transcribe our brains, and the processing of information in our brains is still a great mystery. I will be talking about real brains and real people, asking a question that will have practical consequences when we are able to answer it. I am not able to answer it now. All I can do is to examine the evidence and explain why I consider it probable that the answer will be that brains are analog.

    Location: Theatre D, UCD Science Hub, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4. Building 64 on map:



8. SOLARFEST, DUNSINK Observatory:

Solarfest 2014 is now confirmed for Saturday 21st June. Further details will be posted here in due course:


9.  INTERNATIONAL METEOR CONFERENCE, 2014  Thursday September 18 till Sunday 21 September 2014, Giron, France. Giron is a small village located in the south of the Jura Mountains close to Geneva. The region is easily reachable by air (Geneva or Lyon airport), by train (TGV high speed train from Paris and InterCity trains from Geneva railway station) and by car (highway A40 Lyon-Chamonix). Part of the attraction for this event is that a free visit to CERN is included in the price! See



Galway Astrofest: Feb 21, 2015

COSMOS: April 17th to 19th 2015, Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone.



More on Dave Grennan's supernova discovery:  But why do they keep bringing her back? Actually, there's no need to answer that!

Spring events at Blackrock Castle Observatory: see 

and SCARY! Well, it is the 'red' Planet!

Fastest spinning planet:, and Here's a little puzzle for the mathematicians: Given the details in the link, work out what you would weigh on the equator of that planet, vs at its poles, allowing for the 'centrifugal force' (OK, purists, I know, I know....). (They would need to time their bounces well.....) I'd prefer my spacesuit design to be chosen by experts, rather than public opinion! If the system is to beam power to Japan, why is it shown beaming down over N America?, and, and  I have a feeling that the main driver for this sort of mission is to move towards asteroid mining for profit, rather than as a stepping stone to Mars. and

I'm still no wiser about how the plan to lasso a tiny asteroid & drag it into lunar orbit fits in with the plan to get to Mars!

Entire star cluster thrown out of galaxy: Quote: The newly discovered cluster, which astronomers named HVGC-1, is now on a fast journey to nowhere. Its fate: to drift through the void between the galaxies for all time. Not true: it could eventually be captured by another galaxy.

When did the universe emerge from its dark ages?

Getting rid of space junk:

Mature galaxies in early universe? Or could it be that these galaxies are not as young as we think? If the remote cosmic distance scale is wrong by a small but significant amount, then they are not as far away and as young as we think.

Cosmic Web Imager images dim matter:

Search for ET may be difficult:

How jets form in space:

First gravitationally lensed Type 1A Supernova:

Nearby 'Fossil' galaxy:



12. TWITTER: Follow the IAA on Twitter: The account is now operational again as before: at signIaaAstro.


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 youYou can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button.  See also


Finally, in tribute to the late great John Dobson, a quote from him which is typical of the man, and very appropriate:  "If you figure something out for yourself, it doesn't make no never-mind who figured it out first, it's yours."


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