From: TerryMoselat

Subject: Lectures, Stargazing Live, IAA/Radio, Galway AF, IFAS award, E-ELT, ISS, Venus

Date: 9 January 2012 16:54:05 GMT

Hi all,


1. IAA LECTURE, 11 January:  The Astronomical Association's next public lecture will be given by Prof Stephen Smartt of QUB: Title: "Astronomy with the PanSTARRS1 Telescope"

   The PanSTARRS1 is a 1.8 meter (60-inch) diameter telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii, and is designed to automatically search the skies for objects that either move or change their brightness from night to night. It contains the world's largest digital camera, with 1,400 megapixels, and can image a patch of sky about 40 times the area of the full moon, much larger than any similar-sized telescope on Earth or in space.

   The giant digital camera will take over 500 exposures each night and send about four terabytes of data (equivalent to what 1,000 DVDs can hold) for analysis. Computers will rapidly compare each exposure with corresponding ones taken either a few minutes or a few days earlier to find objects that have moved or whose brightness has changed.

   Primarily designed to search for 'killer asteroids', it is expected to discover about 100,000 asteroids and to determine if any of them are on a collision course with Earth. It will catalog five billion stars and 500 million galaxies. It will also be used to compile the most comprehensive digital map of the 75 per cent of the universe visible from Hawaii.

   Astronomers will also use the data to find brown dwarfs and distant quasars, to watch supernova explosions in distant galaxies and to test their latest theories concerning dark matter and dark energy. PS1 is the experimental prototype for the larger PS4 telescope, which will have four times the power of PS1 and is planned for Mauna Kea.

   Prof Smartt is actively engaged in supernova research, and is recognised as a leading authority on the subject, and leads a very progressive and well-respected team in QUB in this field. Supernovae are not just the most powerful and violent explosions in the universe (if we include the latest evidence for 'hypernovae' in the same genre), they are vital tools in establishing the distance to remote galaxies, and hence the size of the universe. And they provided the first clues that the expansion rate of the universe is speeding up, the so called 'accelerating universe'.  On top of that, the heavy elements that make life possible here on Earth are created in supernova explosions - without them, we wouldn't be here! So interest in them is at an all-time high, and the results from PanSTARRS1 will provide much invaluable data.

   The lecture is on WEDNESDAY 11 January, at 7.30 p.m., in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast. ADMISSION IS FREE, as always, and includes light refreshments. Everyone is welcome! Full details of the rest of the programme are on the website:  


2. Major Public Lecture at QUB: "Latest News From the Large Hadron Collider", by Dr. Tara Shears, Thursday 12th January, 6:30 pm

   The School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast presents a lecture on the latest news from the largest science experiment ever built. The talk will be given by Dr. Tara Shears from the University of Liverpool, a renowned expert in particle physics and accomplished public speaker.

   The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the most powerful particle collider ever built. It is capable of creating (fleetingly) the fundamental particles which form everything in the universe. In particle physics we've understood much about these tiny objects, and can describe their behaviour in an incredibly successful theory. However, there are many known unknowns: where and what is the mysterious Higgs particle? Why is there so little antimatter in the universe? What is dark matter? We have built the LHC to try to find answers, and in this talk, Dr. Shears will show you the latest findings.

   The lecture will be at 6:30 pm on Thursday 12th January in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB. Complimentary tea and coffee will be served in the Great Hall in the Lanyon Building (main entrance) from 6:00 pm - 6:20pm.

   If you wish to attend this lecture, please reserve seats by either going to the website or by calling 028 9097 3202.

    This talk has been sponsored by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen's University Belfast.


3.  BBC's STARGAZING LIVE returns on 16-18 January, featuring the Irish Astronomical Association with a 2-hour broadcast extravaganza from Lough Neagh Discovery Centre (LNDC) near Lurgan, Co Armagh, on the evening of Tuesday 17th, and other activities on the Monday and Wednesday.

   The IAA has been recognised by the BBC as an official 'Partner' in delivering this part of the programme. More on the IAA website:

 Look out for the following highlights:

   Monday 16th: A public "Jupiter Watch" will be held by members of the IAA in association with the School of Mathematics and Physics in front of the main building at Queen's University, from 6 pm to 9pm. If it's cloudy, Dr Chris Watson will give a public lecture in the Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, entitled "Jupiters around other stars". See:

   Tuesday 17th: IAA Events at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre: 

*Public Observing if clear: Venus, Jupiter, + all the usual Deep Sky wonders with a selection of powerful telescopes and binoculars.

*Stardome presentations: due to the expected demand, these will be ticket only, issued on a first come - first served basis.

*Amazing Photo Exhibition: The fantastic A0 size photos produced for IYA 2009 will again be on show, plus some of the best from other sources.

*Telescope and binocular exhibition: see all the varieties available, the pros and cons of each, and learn how to use them to their best capacity.

*Meteorites: an exhibition of many different sorts of meteorites - hold in your hand a piece of outer space (if you can hold it!), with experts there to talk about them.

*Our first "Ulsternaut" - Derek Heatly from Co Down, who has booked to go into space with Virgin Galactic's Spaceship One will be there to talk about his training experiences and forthcoming flight, with videos.

*Astrophotography for beginners" - A 'taster session' by our own expert, Paul Evans.

*Q&A session: 'Everything you always wanted to know about astronomy' - a panel of experts will be there to answer questions from the public on everything from the Andromeda Galaxy to the Zeeman Effect.

*Hands-on demos: How to make a comet, etc.


*3-D Modern Astronomy show, presented by Robert Hill from N.I. Space Office.

*Children's activities, such as making willow stars.

In other words, something for everyone.

See: and for updates.

See also: - put "Belfast" in the search box and see all our next events!

  Wednesday 18th: Armagh Observatory and NIEA: Stargazing LIVE at An Creagan and Beaghmore: Where the Heavens Meet the Earth

Armagh Observatory and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) together with An Creagan and the Omagh and Cookstown District Councils are hosting a day of FREE Stargazing LIVE activities at An Creagan and the nearby Beaghmore Stone Circles.  This is a unique megalithic site and the best Darksky site in Northern Ireland.

    Following a series of Universe Awareness (EU-UNAWE) astronomy and science-based activities for local KS2 school children at An Creagan, in the afternoon there will be an opportunity, weather permitting, to visit the Beaghmore Stone Circles and learn more about the stones from Living History players and a professional archaeologist. This element of the FREE Stargazing LIVE event will take place from approximately 3.30pm to 5.00pm. Participants will watch the Sun going down and observe the bright planets Venus and Jupiter, both visible in the southern sky, as well as the first stars to appear after sunset. See

Further information about this Stargazing LIVE event will be available from the Observatory website.  Meanwhile, anyone wishing to participate in either the afternoon or evening events is requested to obtain their FREE ticket(s) by telephoning or sending an e-mail to: Mrs Aileen McKee at the Armagh Observatory, College Hill, Armagh; Tel: 028-3752-2928; e-mail: ambnat

 Armagh Planetarium will also be presenting a Stargazing Live event on Wednesday 18th January. They will be screening special FREE presentations of their brand new digital theatre show ‘Experience the Aurora’ at 7pm and 7.45pm.  All seats for these shows must be pre-booked in advance.  Places are limited so you are advised to book early to avoid disappointment (Tel: 02837 523689). They will also be joined by experts from the Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomical Society who will be bringing along a range of telescopes for public night sky viewing.  They will also be on hand to 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 from the NIAAS members.

   Planetarium Director Dr Tom Mason has over 40 years experience working with meteorites. He will show you how to identify meteorites and also provide examples of the most commonly misidentified objects which are not meteorites.  On display for the first time will be the Planetarium's latest lunar meteorite acquisition, as well as a fragment of Mars and various other specimens.  Feel free to bring along any rock samples that you would like Dr Mason to identify.

   For younger visitors there will be a special Stargazing arts and crafts room where they can have fun making space objects.

6:30pm Doors open; Public telescope viewing commences; Stargazing arts and crafts commences

7:00pm Experiencing the Aurora show *Remember to pre-book your seats!

7:30pm Meteorite Workshop

7:45pm Experiencing the Aurora show *Remember to pre-book your seats!

8:30pm Meteorite Workshop

9:30 Doors close


4. IAA 2-hour Live Radio Broadcast!  The Irish Astronomical Association has also been invited by the BBC to present a 2-hour live programme on Radio Ulster on the evening of Friday 27 January from Delamont Country Park, near Killinchy! More details on this later.


5. Galway Astronomy Festival - January 21st 2012 is on "New Frontiers of the Universe". It will be held as usual in the Westwood Hotel, Newcastle, Galway (just on the outskirts of the city, on the N59 road to Clifden).


9am-10.00 Registration

10.00-10.15 Official Opening

10.15-11.15 Carl O’ Beirnes: Irish Astrophotography

11.15-12.15 Brian Harvey M.A.: Future Missions to the Moon and Mars

12.30-14.00 Midday break and Workshop by Jan Kotek on celestial maps

14.00-15.00 Dr. Niall Smith: Refurbishing derelict castles and defunct dishes – frugal innovation with real scientific impact

15.00-15.30 Tea/Coffee

15.30-16.30 Dr. Ronan Mc Nulty: Faster than light Particles and the latest results from CERN

16.30-17.00 Raffle and closing session

19.00 Dinner

21.00 Observing in Brigit's Garden

We look forward to seeing you, hopefully under clear skies. For more details see:


6. IFAS ASTRONOMER OF THE YEAR, 2011: Congratulations to Irish Astronomical Association member Neill McKeown, who has been voted IFAS astronomer of the year. Neill has written the comprehensive monthly Observing Guide for IFAS for the last five years, and also produces a modified version for all the IAA's fortnightly meetings throughout our lecture season. Well done indeed to Neill: a well-deserved award for all the hard work!


7. CHILE APPROVES SITE FOR THE E-ELT: How would you like a 40 meter telescope? Not 40 meters long: 40 meters in diameter! The European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) is now a step nearer, as Chile has agreed to provide a site and support for this behemoth.

    The telescope's 40-metre (some sources say 42 metre, and that was the original proposal) main mirror will make it by far the largest optical/near-infrared telescope in the world and enable it to take images 15 times sharper than the HST.

   To try to grasp just how big that is, it's almost the size of 5 doubles tennis courts!

   At a ceremony in Santiago, the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Alfredo Moreno, and ESO’s Director General, Tim de Zeeuw, signed an agreement that secures donated Chilean land for the telescope, a protected area around it, and support from the Chilean government for the establishment of the E-ELT.

   The new telescope will be completed by early next decade and will be placed at Cerro Armazones, 20kms from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory.

See for example:


8. ISS: the International Space Station  will commence a series of morning passes on Jan 13. See for details of this, and other bright satellites, Iridium Flares etc, for your own location.


9. Venus, the Evening Star: Is now readily visible in the evening twilight, and will be a brilliant ‘evening star’ as seen from Ireland through the Spring, and will be very well placed in late March as it approaches the Pleiades. It's visible lowish in the SW after sunset, at magnitude -4.1, and apparent diameter 13” (arcsecs). It is gradually moving out from the Sun, and will become a brilliant and unmistakable object through February and March.


10. Aurora alerts. A lot of people who are not particularly interested in astronomy have asked me about seeing an aurora from Ireland/UK. I'm therefore going to set up a separate alert bulletin for possible aurora events only. If you know anyone who would like to get alerts of chances when aurorae might be visible from here (but not these more comprehensive bulletins), send me their email address, or ask them to email me directly.

   I will of course include such information in these general astronomy bulletins too!


11. TWITTER: the IAA now has a twitter account. twitterat signIaaAstro

12. BBC THINGS TO DO WEBSITE: See the forthcoming IAA events on


13. Welcome to all the new members who have joined the IAA over the last few months - far too many to name here!


14. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION is now even easier: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA.  See also


Clear skies, 


Terry Moseley

Mob: (+44) (0) 7979300842