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From: TerryMoselaol.com
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 18:08:32 EST
Subject: Free Mars Poster, Lecture, Geminids, Venus

Hi all,

The Sunday Times will include a large double-sided colour poster on Mars this 
coming Sunday, to mark the landing (we hope!) of Beagle 2 on the planet on 25 
December. It's 594 x 840mm.

The last IAA lecture this year will be by yours truly, again on the subject 
"Aliens, - Where Are They?" As this will be the 6th performance in Ireland, I 
can only presume that they aren't already here in disguise, or that they 
actually like the lecture....  Come to think of it, there was one visitor who looked 
suspiciously too good to be true at the last one....

The Geminid Meteors, probably the best of the regular annual showers, will 
peak on the morning of December 14, so the night of 13/14 will be best for 
viewing. But the display this year will be spoiled by a waning 3/4 gibbous Moon, 
not far away in the sickle of Leo. There will be a 'window' of about an hour 
before moonrise (at about 20.150 on the 13th when the radiant, lying just 'above' 
Castor, is getting higher in the NE sky, but before the Moon actually rises 
to spoil the show. 
   After moonrise you can still observe by looking well away from it, so it's 
not in your field of vision, or observe from a spot where it is hidden behind 
a building, for example. E.g. you could try looking up into the South, with 
the Moon hidden behind a building behind & left of you: you don't need to look 
at the actual radiant to see the meteors. Try looking in the direction of 
Taurus & Aries, for example. After moonrise, highest rates will be visible in the 
late 'early hours' of the 14th, as maximum approaches, and the radiant is 
highest in the sky. But even so, you might only see about 20-30 per hour. At least 
this is one occasion where you don't have to go far away to a 'dark-sky' site 
- reasonably dark suburbia will do just as well! 

Finally, despite some of the hype you may have seen elsewhere, don't expect 
Venus to be really prominent as 'the Christmas Star' or the 'Star of 
Bethlehem'. It won't be at its best until next April! It's still quite hard to pick out 
unless you look at just the right time, with a clear SW horizon, and even by 
25 December it won't be very prominent: even from Dublin it's less than 12 
degrees above the horizon at 16.40, which is half an hour after sunset. But there 
will be a nice crescent Moon just below it on that date.

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley

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