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From: TerryMoselat signaol.com
Date: 9 December 2007 21:01:09 GMT
Subject: Big Sunspot, Lidl Scopes & binos, IYA 2009 meeting, Lectures,
Geminids, ISS

Hi all,

 1. SUNSPOT ALERT: The Sun is near minimum of its 11-year solar cycle
 and there have been very few sunspots recently, and any seen have been
 small. But sunspot 978 popped over the Sun's eastern limb on Friday and
 is quickly becoming quite large. This rapidly growing sunspot group is
 more than five times wider than Earth, making it an easy target for
 properly-filtered amateur telescopes. So far it poses little threat for
 strong solar flares, but this could change if the active region's
 development continues.

 2. LIDL TELESCOPE & BINOCULAR OFFERS: There are a number of great offers
 starting on Monday 10 December, including -

 (1) Meade ETX-70AT. This is a 70mm refractor with computerised GoTo and
 tracking, on a tripod, with 3 eyepieces and a Barlow lens. The price in
 N. Ireland is £109.99. An excellent starter package, but note that it is
 only 70mm aperture, so it won't be much good for faint Deep Sky Objects.
 It will be excellent for the Moon, & will give reasonable views of
 Jupiter & Saturn & bright double stars & star clusters.

 (2) Bresser 70mm Skylux refractor, on equatorial mount & tripod, with 3
 eyepieces, barlow lens, and 6x30 finder. The website and the brochure
 both state that it has "dual-axis motor drive system": this is
 misleading, as there are only manual drives, i.e. you turn knobs on the
 end of flexible handles. But it's only £49.99 in N.I. so it's excellent
 value, if you don't mind a bit more work in setting up & using it.

 (3) Bresser 10x50 classic binoculars, with high quality BAK4 prisms, and
 fully coated lenses. Price - £11.99! Truly amazing value - you can
 hardly buy a single 6x30 finder for that amount, let alone 10x50 binos!
 The quality is 'good' to 'very good', but not quite 'excellent', but at
 that price, you can't argue! Of course, if you do get a defective pair,
 simply bring them back & get them changed.

 (4) Bresser "Messier R-102" Refractor. This is a 102mm (4") achromatic
 refractor on equatorial mount, with polar alignment finder, 3 eyepieces,
 Barlow, 8x50 finder, and manual slow motions. The price is  £219.99 in
 N.I., so in my opinion it's not so much a bargain as the other offers.
 But if you are looking for a bigger more powerful 'starter' telescope
 than either of the 70mm ones, this would do well. But it's a bit bigger,
 heavier & requires a certain amount of dedication or enthusiasm to use
 it regularly! The weight is 19kg, so don't drop it!

 (5) Bresser 90mm Spotting Scope. This is an erect-image telescope,
 mainly for birdwatching, but you could do some astronomy with it too - a
 90mm lens is quite reasonable for a starter astro telescope. It has an
 extending tripod, and zoom magnification from x25 to x75, and high
 quality BAK4 prisms. The tube is nitrogen filled to prevent
 internal fogging. I have no experience of this one, so don't know what
 the quality is like. But Bresser is usually quite good for quality, so
 for only  £99.99 including the tripod it might be worth considering.

 See link and click on N.I. or ROI for appropriate prices.

 3. A final reminder about - MEETING ABOUT IYA 2009, at the RIA, DUBLIN,
 Monday 10 December.

 Prof Mike Redfern has asked me to circulate this:

 "The calendar year 2009 will be designated by the UN GA as
 "International Year of Astronomy" - this is partly to commemorate the
 400th anniversary of Galileo's first telescopic observations. It is
 actually a great achievement to get UN approval - most "Years" have
 UNESCO approval, because the UN GA is loathe to do so, normally. The
 motion was proposed by Italy, and co-sponsored by Ireland, amongst
 others. There will be huge activity Worldwide, and this is a great
 opportunity to publicise and promote science in general and astronomy in
 particular..

 The major goals of IYA 2009 are to: 
1. Increase scientific awareness.
2. Promote widespread access to new knowledge and observing experiences. 
3. Empower astronomical communities in developing countries. 
4. Support and improve formal and informal science education. 
5. Provide a modern image of science and scientists.
6. Facilitate new networks and strengthen existing ones.
7. Improve the gender-balanced representation of scientists at all
 levels and promote greater involvement by underrepresented minorities in
 scientific and engineering careers. 
8. Facilitate the preservation
 and protection of the world's cultural and natural heritage of dark
 skies in places such as urban oases, national parks and astronomical
 sites. IYA2009 will be evaluated by a qualitative and quantitative
 analysis of how well each objective, as implemented in hundreds of
 national, regional and global activities, has been reached. Data will be
 collected by online questionnaires after the completion of each
 activity. The IYA2009 Secretariat will co-ordinate the evaluation. A
 rigorous evaluation procedure will follow each of the four phases of the
 project:

 This is from the IYA2009 website.

 I have been designated by the IAU/IYA2009 organisation as the single
 point of contact (SPOC) for Ireland, to include the whole of the island
 of Ireland. There has been little more than preliminary discussions so
 far, but now is the time to become very active. Actually, there are
 advantages to waiting until now - the international programme is now
 firmly set up, and we can learn from the experience and gain ideas from
 many other national organisations.

 I would like to invite anyone who wishes to become involved in
 IYA2009-Ireland to an open meeting to be held in Academy House, 19
 Dawson Street, Dublin 2 at 11.15-~4.00 on Monday 10th December 2007. A
 (light) lunch will be provided courtesy of the Discover Science &
 Engineering Programme.

 The purpose of the meeting will be to exchange information and ideas and
 to set up a steering group to drive IYA2009-Ireland forward. An
 important first step will be to identify a major corporate sponsor. In
 my opinion we are talking of employing at least 2 people for ~2 years.

 It would be very welcome if you were able to attend, and I would
 appreciate your suggestions for who else I might invite - I want to make
 this as inclusive as possible.

 Draft Agenda:

 What is IYA2009                                     Mike Redfern IYA2009
 Cornerstone Activities                              Robert Hill, NI Space Office
 IYA2009 - Plans from other National Nodes           Mike Redfern
 Formation of Steering Group Work Plan for Steering Group Date & Place of
 Next Meeting

 Everyone is welcome, but I would like to have some idea of numbers for
 lunch, please. Confirm your intention to come to me, please.

 Mike Redfern

 Professor Michael Redfern Physics Department, National University of
 Ireland, Galway 
 +353 (0)91492717 or (0)91494529   (office)    
 (0)91494584 (fax)    
 (0)878071426 (mobile) 
 Secretary,  Royal Irish Academy Committee for Astronomy & Space
 Research Director, Centre for Astronomy, NUI Galway 
 Single Point of Contact, Irish Organisation for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009-Ireland)

 4.  IAA LECTURE: The next public lecture hosted by the IRISH
 ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION will be on Wed 12 December, at 7.30 p.m., by Dr
 Lorraine Hanlon of UCD. The title is "Observing Gamma-Ray Bursts and
 their Afterglows", and promises to be yet another fascinating talk by
 one of the leading researchers in this field. VENUE: The Bell Lecture
 Theatre, Physics Building, main campus, Queen's University, Belfast.
 Admission free, and all are welcome.        Since it's the last meeting
 before Xmas, seasonal refreshments will be provided free, as usual by
 the one & only Derwen. Don't miss.....

 5.   GEMINID METEORS: The main meteor shower of the year, the Geminids
 peak on December 14th, with a zenithal hourly rate (ZHR) of about 100.
 Since the radiant, near Castor, gets quite high up later in the night,
 this is one shower where actual observed rates can get very close to the
 theoretical ZHR rate.  Moonlight conditions are excellent, with the 4d
 old Moon setting early in the evening, before shower activity reaches
 its peak.    The maximum is forecast for 11.00 on the 14th, so the best
 night will be December 13-14, with highest rates just before dawn on the
 14th. If you are really committed, stay up late, or get up early, and
 for the hours from about 03.00 until twilight starts to interfere, you
 should see about 80-90 Geminids per hour from a really dark site! Add in
 the usual occasional sporadics, and actual observed meteor rates could
 touch 100 per hour!    Geminids can be seen from December 7/8 to 15/16,
 but the peak is fairly sharp, and high rates are only seen for a day or
 so on either side of maximum. They tend to be slow, with a fair number
 of bright meteors, making them an excellent photo target.

 6. ISS Passes: The ISS is currently making a series of evening passes
 over Ireland.  The launch of the Space Shuttle has been postponed
 because of faulty fuel sensors, but another attempt may be made soon. If
 it goes ahead, depending on time, we might see both the very bright ISS
 and the rather fainter Shuttle tracking each other across the sky
 simultaneously. As always, see the excellent and free www.heavens-above.com for latest details.
  
 Clear skies,
  
 Terry Moseley

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Last Revised: 2007 December 10th
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