Lunar Eclipse of 31 December 2009

Lunar Eclipse of 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve Lunar Eclipse


In the last day of the International Year of Astronomy (early evening of 31 December 2009), the Moon had the smallest partial eclipse that we have seen in Ireland and the UK for 40 years: the Moon was 8% covered by the Earth's shadow.  Incidentally, this was also a "Blue Moon" - the name given for the second full Moon within a calendar month. 

This photo was taken at 7.30 pm, a bit after the eclipse's maximum phase, from my backyard in Armagh.

Have you got your pictures of the eclipse? If you would like to share them  please send them to us.

Happy New Year!


Partial Lunar Eclipse: 31 December 2009

Eclipse2In the last day of the International Year of Astronomy - in the early evening of the 31st December - the Moon undergoes the smallest partial eclipse that we have seen in Ireland for 40 years - in that the Moon will only just dip into the umbral shadow of the Earth.  At mid-eclipse (19:23) the lower right of the Moon may just be seen to have a faint ruddy colour as indicated in the diagram.  The Moon begins to enter the penumbral shadow at 17:17, and will thus begin to darken.   A small part of the Moon at its lower right enters the umbral shadow at 18:52 and leaves it at 19:52 with…

Beautiful October Morning skies in Ireland

4planets091007Things to see in the morning skies, from Terry Moseley, IAA:

ISS IN MORNINGS: The International Space Station is making a series of morning passes at the moment - see  Look out for it when it passes close to.....
BRILLIANT MORNING STAR VENUS: Venus is still the brightest object in the morning sky. It currently rises in morning twilight, preceded by much fainter Saturrn, and followed by Mercury, which is about midway in brightness between Saturn and Venus. But both Mercury and then Venus will soon move too close to the Sun to be seen, so look in the next few mornings…

Armagh astronomer made today's highlights around the world

090914-jupiter-moon-comet_bigArmagh Observatory astronomer Dr David Asher made highlights around the world with a new study he presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Potsdam, Germany, on Monday 14 September.

The research was led by David's colleague Katsuhito Ohtsuka of the Tokyo Meteor Network, Japan. Their team showed that sixty years ago, Jupiter had a "brief encounter": it carried on a 12-year fling with an extra "moon" then casually cast it aside.

Their calculations show that comet 147P/Kushida-Muramatsu entered Jupiter's neighbourhood from the outer solar system in 1949 and dallied in a highly

Two Irishmen are Astronomy Photographers of the Year!


Out of the Four prizes given in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, organized by the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, two of them went to Ireland!

Michael O'Connell won the category prize for "Our Solar System". Michael's image, "Blue Sky Moon", is an unusual picture of the Moon - simple, well composed and framed, of outstanding quality and on a blue sky background.


The "Young Astronomy Photographer" section was won by Ireland, again: 14 year-old Paul Smith won this category with "Occultation of Venus". ‘It was amazing to see Venus disappearing and then reappearing from behind…

Irish Astronomer Gets Prestigious Award for Outreach


Deirdre Kelleghan gets The Astronomical Leagues Master Outreach Award  one of 25 given out this year and the first International one :-)  Presented by Dr Mike Reynolds Outreach Chair for the League.  "I do not do outreach for awards , but it was nice to get one. There are only 25 people in the world getting the Master award this year and I am the first European to be given one . The Astronomical League is the largest organisation for amateur astronomers in the world.I am a Member at Large for many years." said Deirdre. More info on her blog.

Possible Perseid Meteor Outburst on the morning of 12 August


Although the major northern hemisphere Perseids are badly affected by the last quarter Moon near their best this year, there is the possibility they may produce somewhat increased rates. The usual maximum is due around August 12, 17h30m-20h00m UT, but Esko Lyytinen suggests we may encounter the 1610 Perseid trail earlier on August 12, around 9h00m UT (λo = 139°661). This could produce activity additional to the normal Perseid ZHRs then of a few tens, maybe up to a hundred. Mikhail Maslov confirmed this but for 8h00m UT and with only 10-15 meteors per hour. Both reseachers further suggest that…

Jupiter to occult star on the night of 3 to 4 August

Jupiter_2009Aug03From Terry Moseley, IAA: "There will be quite a rare event on 3 August, when Jupiter will occult the 6th magnitude star 45 Capricornii, at about 23.50 BST (the exact time depends on your location). The star is one of the brightest that Jupiter will ever occult during our lifetimes, so this will be interesting to watch, and video. The star will be a bit fainter than Callisto, the faintest of the 4 Galilean moons. It will disappear behind the Southern limb of the planet, at about the position of the SSTB (South South Temperate Belt). Jupiter will be only 11 days before opposition, so the phase…

Observing Jupiter

j20090719_155537utcThe observing season of Jupiter's Galilean satellites (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) occultations start in Ireland on the 24th of July and end on the 11th of November.

The occultations are seen from Earth only once every six years.

This is a special IYA projectSee the page dedicated to the observers who never made such observations.

Think you're up for it? Continue reading and get prepared. See example of good observations by Hristo Pavlov.

An even more rare event (the following will be visible from Europe in more than 200 years from now) happens on the night of the 3rd to the 4th of…

IYA Solar Eclipse: 22 July 2009

In the special year of IYA 2009, on Wednesday 22 July 2009, a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes most of eastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean. 

With the maximum duration of 6 min 39 s, it is the longest solar eclipse in the 21st century.  Since the weather conditions in this region on July 22 are very hard to forecast, the Chinese Astronomical Society, the host of IYA 2009 in China, is organising a large scale live broadcast…

Observing alert: has Jupiter been hit?


Has Jupiter been hit, or does it have a new storm?

From Anthony Wesley, Australia: "Yes, believe it or not, it seems that Jupiter has been hit by something and there is a jet black impact mark near its south pole. Here is an image I captured a couple of hours ago - if you have the chance to get out and see this longitude yourself then you should do it! This sort of thing doesn't happen very often. The last one I remember was the Shoemaker-Levy impacts in 1994."

"... Or it could be a storm, like the one seen on 23 October 2003", says Dr Apostolos Christou from…

ISS and Space Shuttle

From Terry Moseley: 
"ISS + SPACE SHUTTLE. The ISS is making some good evening passes over Ireland at the moment - see for details for your location. If the Space Shuttle ENDEAVOUR launches on time (or nearly so) this Saturday 12 July evening, we will see both the ISS and the Shuttle orbiting over our evening skies for the next day or two, with the Shuttle gradually closing in and docking with the ISS.
In fact, if the timing is right, we might be able to see the ISS, plus the Progress 33 and the Shuttle, all in the same orbit, in fairly close proximity! That would be a…

From Earth to the Moon DVD offer

674353_DV_M_F.JPGThere is a nice offer on this DVD at Asda at the moment:

From Earth to the Moon, Tom Hanks Signature Edition (5 disc DVD) £ 14.93 (reduced from £ 44.29) @ Asda

<<Tom Hanks, Imagine Entertainment and HBO present - From the Earth to the Moon, the dramatic story of the unforgettable Apollo missions and their heroic astronauts, from President John F. Kennedy's historic speech, through the first manned expeditions into space, to the defining moment of the space program - putting a man on the moon. "One small step for man... one giant leap for mankind.">>

Mystery Flare

Mystery flare, from Terry Moseley: 
"While observing a pass of the ISS tonight (now last night, July 10!) , I saw a bright 'star' temporarily appear, brighten to about zero magnitude, and then fade again to invisibility over a period of about 10 seconds, at around 23.15 BST. It was in the general region of Gamma Ophiuchi, although the sky was too bright, with too few stars visible, for me to get an accurate position. AHA, you'll say - an Iridium Flare! Well, I've seen nearly seven hundred Iridium Flares - I actually make a point of observing them - and I don't think it was one.

Get ready for galilean satellites occultations season!


The observing season of Jupiter's Galilean satellites (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) occultations start in Ireland on the 24th of July and end on the 11th of November.

The occultations are seen from Earth only once every six years.

This is a special IYA project. See the page dedicated to the observers who never made such observations.

Think you're up for it? Continue reading and get prepared. See example of good observations by Hristo Pavlov.

An even more rare event (the following will be visible from Europe in more than 200 years from now) happens on the night of the 3rd to the 4th of…

No eclipses, but...


Unfortunately there are no eclipses to be seen from Ireland this month: neither the lunar one on 7 July, nor the solar one on 22 July.

Next lunar eclipses visible from Ireland are the partial ones on 5/6 August 2009 (very hard to see with naked eye; 23:01:04 UT to 02:17:23 UT) and 31 December 2009 (penumbral phase should be quite visible; 18:51:38 UT to 19:53:51 UT).

Next solar eclipse to be seen from Ireland not until the morning of 4 January 2011!

But, some other interesting events on the Irish sky are round the corner this summer:  mutual events between the galilean satellites, starting on…

May 2009 Newsletter from Sentinus


May 2009 STEM newsletter from SENTINUS

"Please find attached the latest issue of the STEM e-newsletter for Northern Ireland, we hope you will find the contents both useful and interesting.  It is intended to provide you with useful and information and links for science, technology, engineering and maths.

We will be producing another issue in the Autumn term and would encourage you to submit any appropriate material for inclusion, including photographs by 31st October."

Jocelyn Bell Burnell: top living woman scientist

Jocelyn Bell Burnell: top living woman scientist

IOP president, Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, was voted one of the most inspirational women scientists of all time in an online poll run by the New ScientistRanked fourth in the pool, Jocelyn was voted as the top living woman scientist.

See the full story here.

Space Concert by the Carnival Supergroup

Space Concert by the Carnival Supergroup

Listen to the Special Space Concert from the Belfast Carnival 2009, performed by the Carnival Supergroup, which includes members from the Jane Bradfords, John Shelly and the Creatures, Mojo Fury and Katie and the Carnival, as well as John D'Arcy, Cara Cowan, Shauna Tohill and Steve Toner.


ISS passes over Ireland


The International Space Station (ISS), now the second brightest object in the night sky, is currently passing over Ireland in the very early morning (or very late evening!) - around 2 to 3 am each day - for the next couple of weeks.

This link takes you to the Heavens Above website where you can see the times of the ISS passes (and other interesting information, like for example times for iridium flares). 

This link is set for Armagh.

If you live anywhere else please remember to change the location.

The above photo is one of the most dramatic Earth-science photos ever taken from space. It was…

Are we heading towards a weak solar cycle?


An international panel of experts led by NOAA and sponsored by NASA has released a new prediction for the next solar cycle. Solar Cycle 24 will peak, they say, in May 2013 with a below-average number of sunspots. "If our prediction is correct, Solar Cycle 24 will have a peak sunspot number of 90, the lowest of any cycle since 1928 when Solar Cycle 16 peaked at 78," says panel chairman Doug Biesecker of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center. Read the full story here.

The Solar Cycle 24 Prediction Panel has agreed that solar minimum occurred in December, 2008 (which still qualifies as a…

ISS passes over Ireland

DSC_0245The International Space Station (ISS) - now the second brightest object in the night sky - is currently passing over Ireland in the evenings. 

This link takes you to the Heavens Above website where you can see the times of the ISS passes (and other interesting information, like for example times for iridium flares). 

This link is set for Armagh. If you live anywhere else please remember to change the location.

The above photo of the ISS was taken by Jonathan Bingham from Antrim, on 19th March 2009. 

Two new satellites successfully launched by ESA today


Herschel and Planck, two new satellites, were successfully launched by ESA today.

Herschel has a 3.5m mirror - the largest mirror ever launched into space - and is an infra-red mission to look at stars and galaxies.

Planck will be taking measurements to map out the cosmic microwave background, in order to understand more about cosmology and the big-bang.

Watch the news from here.


the Ariane 5 launcher before the launch, on 13 May 2009, enclosing Herschel and Planck and the International Year of Astronomy motto: "The Universe, Yours to Discover" (credit: ESA)

Mysterious music source revealed

Mysterious music source revealed

Use your camera or the Faulkes Telescope to win a photo competition


The Royal Observatory is running a free-to-enter competition for both amateur and professional photographers, as well as under 16s. Images can be taken on any camera, so options range from mobile phones through to the colour images taken with the Faulkes Telescopes.

The winning photos will be displayed at the Royal Observatory and the overall winner will receive a prize of £1000. A further prize of £100 is available to the ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009' for entrants under 16 years of age. 

The closing date is 19 July 2009.

For more details click here.

One of the latest entries…

Is this a meteorite?

"My father and I found a small stone on Ballygalley beach.  This stone is unusally heavy for its size and has the appearance of a meteorite to our untrained eyes.  As you can see from the attached photos, it contains enough metal to be lifted by a 5lbs magnetic pick up tool.  An experts advice on this object would be most appreciated.

Yours sincerely June and Thomas Elliott"

m1             m2

m3             m4

Some people think this is not a meteorite but rather some derby of terrestrial origin, while others think that it has the characteristics of a space rock. What do you think? Write down your…

Bright fireball seen over Ireland

From Terry Moseley: "A very bright fireball was seen widely over Ireland, and even as far away as Liverpool, at about 00.30 on Sunday morning, 4 April. John McConnell saw it from Maghaberry, Co Antrim, and a woman saw it from her home in Newry, Co Down. The Liverpool observer reports that the fireball appeared at 30 - 40 degrees altitude in the western sky at 00:33 UT on 2009 April 05.

And here's part of John's McConnell's report: 
"(I saw it) early Sunday morning at 00:32 BST.  I was talking to a friend on the phone and had just sat down to finish a cup of coffee when I saw what appeared to…

Major Astronomy Competition in Ireland Announced

 As part of International Year of Astronomy 2009, the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA) is pleased to announce a major public competition, with substantial prizes, for all ages, and in various categories, so that anyone can enter. Full details here.

IYA2009-Ireland grant opportunities

Banner_NN_IEProposals are invited to form part of a second round proposal by IYA2009-Ireland to the Discover Science and Engineering Grants Programme.

Suggestions are invited for small proposals – up to €5,000 (and only exceptionally to €10,000) – to form part of a second round submission for IYA2009 to DSE.

Proposals must be received by 27th March at the very latest – the deadline for submission to DSE is close of business April 3rd. We will attempt to vet them in the same way that we did previously. 

Proposals will be judged on how well they fit into the overall IYA2009 project, and how well they conform…

ISS passes over Ireland


The International Space Station (ISS) is passing over Ireland from now till Monday the 30th of March. Its magnitude is estimated to be between 1 and -2 , pretty bright, but you might be the lucky one to see it flaring to super-Venus levels!

On 21 of March, observers in the Netherlands saw the ISS's luminosity reach magnitude -6: four times brighter than Venus and 40 times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

"The bright flash is sunlight glinting off the station's enormous solar arrays. On March 20th, astronauts unfurled a new pair of arrays on the space station's starboard…

Enterprise Ireland Scholarships for Postgraduate Students

Enterprise Ireland, together with the European Space Agency, is pleased to announce details of a number of scholarships for postgraduate students to attend courses at the International Space University in Strasbourg and also the Summer School Alpbach in Austria. These scholarships are for Irish graduates in engineering, science, physics and related subjects and are intended to encourage those students to start a career in space research or in the European space industry.

    The International Space University (ISU) runs an intensive two-month Space Studies Programme intended to give students…

Wonderful Moon - Venus Conjunction


This evening (Friday 27 February 2009) those with clear skies after sunset will be able to see another wonderful conjunction between the crescent Moon and Venus. Today's conjunction is quite special because Venus is at maximum brightness: magnitude -4.6. The planet is twenty times brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. It is so luminous that it can actually shine through thin clouds and cast subtle shadows on the ground.

Click here to see photos from the 1 December 2008 conjunction.

Comet Lulin and Saturn

A note from Tolis (Dr A. Christou, Armagh Observatory): "In the early evening of 23 February, 6th mag comet C/2007 N3 (Lulin) will be 2-3 degrees away from Saturn."


Comet Lulin passing just north of the bright star Alpha2 Librae (Zubenelgenubi) on 6 February 2009. Photo by Gregg Ruppel, Ellisville, MO

Satellite Collision

In an unprecedented space collision, a commercial Iridium communications satellite and a presumably defunct Russian Cosmos satellite ran into each other Tuesday above northern Siberia, creating a cloud of wreckage, officials said today. 

 Iridium satellite
An artist's concept of an Iridium satellite orbiting the Earth. Photo: Iridium
The international space station does not appear to be threatened by the debris, they said, but it's not yet clear whether it poses a risk to any other military or…

Eye on the Sky - Astronomical Photo Competition

m3To celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, DCU's School of Physical Sciences and the National Centre for Plasma Science and Technology are holding an astronomical digital photo competition “Eye on the Sky”. Entries are welcome from residents in both the North and South of Ireland.  The closing date is 30 September 2009. 

The competition has been divided into three categories: schools, the general public and DCU students and staff.  Three prizes per category and an extra class prize for schools will be awarded. 

The awards ceremony will be held during Science Week (November 2009) in…

One of the best annual meteor showers: 1 to 5 January 2009

QUADRANTID METEORS. Message from from Terry Moseley: "This is one of the best annual meteor showers, and is expected to peak during the late morning of 3 January. This means that best views from Ireland will be just before dawn on the morning of the 3rd, with reasonable views also later that evening when the sky gets dark again, although the radiant will be a lot lower down at that time, and the First Quarter Moon will interfere. But you can see some Quadrantids any time from New Year's Day to 5 January, so keep a look out if the sky is clear. 

The radiant lies in Ursa Minor, about half way…

Blast! Controversial adventure story to screen at the Irish Astronomical Association New Year Party

IAA NEW YEAR PARTY & FILM - Northern Ireland Premiere, from Terry Moseley: "I'm glad to be able to confirm that through the hard work and good offices of IAA Council Member Robert Hill we have been able to obtain the new film 'BLAST!' for its first ever showing in N.I., and only the second screening in Ireland (the first was in a film festival). We are very grateful to Armagh Observatory and the Northern Ireland Space Office (a.k.a Robert Hill) for sponsoring this special preview showing! It will get IYA 2009 off to a flying start for the IAA!

The IAA New Year Party is on Saturday 3 January,…

Winter Solstice Webcast

Thank you all for the enthusiasm of watching the Winter Solstice Webcast with us. Most people liked it, although some did not. Some Mac users (like myself) did not have Windows Media Player installed (my fault for not being more specific about  this, although if you checked the window  webcast in advance you would have seen if it works on your computer or not). I wish we'd have been luckier with the weather - but hey, that's Ireland! Good to have last year's footage, though.

Click here to see this year's recording (you still need Windows Media Player to run it...)

Click here to see last year's…

Spectacular Planetary Alignment to Brighten up the New Year's Eve Skies

This New Year's Eve, five planets and the Moon will put on a spectacular show in the evening sky to celebrate the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009, the United Nations International Year of Astronomy.
Uranus, Venus, Neptune, Jupiter and Mercury, along with our own Moon, will be visible in the evening skies over Ireland in the same stretch of sky. The most spectacular of all will be a blazing Venus beside the Moon. This event only happens a few times every century so don't miss out!

Live webcast of the winter solstice from Newgrange

The Irish Node of IYA2009 and the Office of Public Works in Ireland are inviting you to join in watching a  live webcast of the winter solstice sunrise on December 21st from the megalithic passage tomb of Newgrange, in County Meath, Ireland. 

Click Here to see the Live Webcast from Newgrange

This Webcast will be live from 08.30 to 09.30 GMT on December 21st. The sunrise is at ~08.55 GMT (8.55 am in UK and Ireland).

Send us your comments on the event!

ng3           newgrange-light

  image courtesy The Office of Public Works, Ireland                   photograph by Cyril Byrne, courtesy of The Irish Times 


Winter Solstice: Sunday 21 December 2008; Ursids Meteor Shower: 18 to 24 December

WINTER SOLSTICE. The Sun reaches its maximum Southerly declination on December 21d 12h 04m, so if you see it transit at local noon that day it will be just about as far South in the sky as it crosses the meridian as it can ever be. After that the days start getting longer again (in the Northern Hemisphere). 

The next shower is the Ursids, with a radiant not far from Kocab, or Beta Ursa Minoris. It's not one of the major showers, with a usual ZHR of about 10, but there have been significant outbursts, in 1945, 1982, and 1986, so it's always worth watching. The maximum is predicted for Dec 22,…

Geminid Meteor Shower: 13 to 16 December 2008

The best annual meteor shower is the Geminids, which are expected to peak this year on December 13th at 18h. Some activity will persist until about Dec 15/16. Unfortunately this year's display will be spoiled by a Full Moon at maximum, but you should still see some of the brighter meteors. 

The ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate: the standard measure of meteor activity) is predicted to be around 100, but you will probably only see about 1/4 of that rate because of the Moonlight. Grab any few hours when the Moon is out of the sky on the days on either side of maximum to get the best view, or if the Moon…

Venus Occultation Egress Sketch by Deirdre Kelleghan

"As it got darker more and more detail became visible on the crescent moon. Between finishing the Venus vanishing sketch and the reemergence of Venus I put as much lunar detail as possible in the time and under the conditions as I could. The view as Venus once again sparkled like a diamond stuck on the moon was stunning."

Details: Meade LX 90 FL 2000mm; 35mm eyepiece = 57X; Dec 1st 2008 - Greystones Co Wicklow: Freezing; Pastels/Conte on FineArt Pastel Velour Paper; 15:35 - 17:10 approx (too cold to time with any great regard)

Apply for a Free Telescope!

Free Telescopes for Schools in Northern Ireland

Robert Hill of NI Space Office at the Armagh Planetarium has arranged that every school in Northern Ireland can receive a free telescope, provided that they submit an application form before Tuesday 23 December 2008.

The Society for Popular Astronomy is leading a project to give 1000 telescopes to secondary schools, with support from the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Royal Astronomical Society, to encourage schools to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.

The idea is to encourage schools to develop an interest in…

More photos of the 1 December events

Some more photos of the 1 December events received from Jonathan Bingham. Thank you very much, Jonathan!


Venus coming out from behind the Moon; photograph by Jonathan Bingham


ISS; photograph by Jonathan Bingham


Night sky view; photograph by Jonathan Bingham

The Magnificent Conjunction

miruna-tripleconjunction1 photograph by Miruna Popescu

The conjunction, occultation, iridium flare, ISS passes, were all viewed successfully from Armagh Observatory. The view was truly spectacular, so fascinating that words cannot describe its beauty.

How did you see it? Send us your photos!

LONEOS DEC1ST-4  photograph by Martin Mc Kenna

"I have to say that this was absolutely spectacular, clearly one of the most stunning night sky scenes I have seen since the Summer NLC displays. I give the event 10/10 - easily getting the 'wow factor'. The dusk sky made for the perfect festive scene and ultimate Christmas Card material. When Venus…

The Best Sky View of the Year - this afternoon, Monday 1 December 2008

LONEOS TCON-1  photograph by Martin Mc Kenna

The Best sky view of the year - this afternoon, Monday 1 December 2008: look out this afternoon after the Sun sets to see the most impressive night sky view of the year!

Triple Conjunction, Occultation and ISS passes 

Triple conjunction: After the Sun sets this afternoon, Monday 1 December 2008, look towards the south: Jupiter, Venus and the crescent Moon are now in a beautiful conjunction that some astronomers are calling "the best sky show of the year". This is a wonderful photograph opportunity, as Venus and Jupiter are the two brightest 'starlike' objects in…

Two Events not to be Missed in the Night Sky This Week

DSCF4241 photograph by Martin Mc Kenna

Planetary Alignment and Double Flyby

Planetary Alignment: Jupiter and Venus are now in a beautiful conjunction; you can see both planets just after sunset, towards the west. On 30 November, the crescent moon will join them in a three-way conjunction that some astronomers are calling "the best sky show of the year". Check SpaceWeather for conjunction photographs from all around the world.

Double Flyby:  Space shuttle Endeavour undocked from the International Space Station, and the two spacecraft are now orbiting Earth in tandem. Until Sunday, 30 November, when…

Planet Earth: Our Place in Space

A new exhibition - 'Planet Earth: Our Place In Space' - was recently opened at the National Museum of Ireland in Co. Mayo. This temporary exhibition will feature a sample of moon rock, complete with an Irish tricolour flag that was brought to the moon. Other exhibits will include meteorites – rocks from space that are debris from the early solar system. A highlight is the Limerick meteorite that fell near Adare, County Limerick in 1813, Ireland’s largest ever meteorite weighing in at 27 kilos. These specimens will be used to explain what meteorites tell us about the early solar system and…

Another Irish Asteroid Discovery

Another piece of asteroid discovery news, from Terry Moseley: "Dave Grennan from Dublin has just discovered a Main Belt asteroid from his observatory in Raheny. The object was found in southern Pegasus, and is provisionally designated 2008 US3. It was magnitude 19.5 at discovery. It's in the asteroid Main Belt, and more details will follow once the Minor Planet Center of the IAU computes its orbit.

Dave's discovery comes just after Dave McDonald's find of 2008 TM9 a few weeks ago. Dave Grennan's achievement is maybe even more incredible, as his observatory is just metres from the DART line in…

Amateur Astronomer Becomes Second Ever to Discover Asteroid from Ireland, After 160 Years 

Major news, from Terry Moseley: "Irish amateur astronomer Dave McDonald has just discovered an asteroid - the first one to be discovered in Ireland for 160 years! This is a phenomenal achievement when you consider that there are so many professional automated asteroid-search programmes using much larger telescopes in some of the best and least light-polluted observing locations in the world!  Dave's observatory in Celbridge in Co Kildare is favoured neither with dark skies, nor good weather! And the object was unbelievably faint - about magnitude 19.8 - 20.0. That is about 400,000 times…

Why Asteroid 2008 TC3 Represents a Landmark - Dr David Asher, from Armagh Observatory, Explains

Those of us that study one aspect or another of the Earth impact hazard are sometimes asked, "If one of these dangerous space rocks really is on course for Earth, how much warning will we have before it collides with our planet?" The answer has been - and still is - that the most probable situation is a warning time of just a few seconds.  That is, despite the excellent work of telescopic "Spaceguard surveys", most objects capable of causing a serious amount of damage have not yet been discovered.  So the first the inhabitants of Earth would know is when the intruder from space starts to…

Small Asteroid might Hit Earth on 7 October 2008

A small, newly-discovered asteroid named 2008 TC3 is approaching Earth and chances are good that it will hit.  Measuring only a few meters across, the space rock poses no threat to people or structures on the ground, but it should create a spectacular fireball, releasing about a kiloton of energy as it disintegrates and explodes in the high atmosphere.  At least one expert estimates that atmospheric entry will occur on Oct 7th at 0246 UTC over northern Sudan.  Stay tuned to for more information and updates to this developing story.

ISS and ATV visible from Ireland in Evening Skies

ISS and ATV visible from Ireland in Evening Skies

The International Space Station is undergoing another series of evening passes over Ireland/UK until October 8th. On board are 3 astronauts Sergei Volkov, Oleg Kononenko, Greg Chamitoff. When the I.S.S. makes a favourable high pass it can be the brightest starlike object in the sky (after Venus, and sometimes equalling Jupiter).
Also currently visible in the evening skies over Ireland is the recently discarded ATV, or Jules Verne Transfer Vehicle, which has been detached from the ISS and is being brought down for a planned re-entry over the Pacific Ocean. It can get as bright as the brightest…

Autumn Equinox

A message from Terry Moseley: "The Autumn Equinox occurs on 22 September at 15h 44m, when the Sun crosses the celestial equator going from North to South. So on this date the length of day and night are equal. Right? Wrong! An honourable mention to whoever gives me the best explanation of why this simple, generalised statement is not true. (Yes, I know I have sometimes quoted that simple conventional statement myself!) BTW, even if the equinox occurred exactly at local noon it still would not be true, and I'm not counting the effects of twilight either. So get your thinking caps on, and let's…

The Greatest Experiment in History Turns on: Wednesday 10 September

On Wednesday, 10 September 2008, physicists turn on the multibillion-pound machine that will recreate the birth of the universe: the LHC (Large Hadron Collider). Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, applauds the greatest experiment in history.

Science is a global birthright: it's an intellectual impoverishment to be unaware of the chain of events whereby, from a mysterious beginning, atoms, stars and planets have emerged, and - on at least one planet - creatures have evolved that are able to ponder their origins.

And those creatures have come up with a colossal…

"Portal to the Universe"

Pamela Gay writes:
The International Year of Astronomy Cornerstone Project "Portal to the Universe" (PTTU) seeks information on all RSS based astronomy content feeds (Blogs / Podcasts / Vodcasts / etc) and embeddable widgets.
   The Portal to the Universe seeks to become a one stop shop for finding online astronomy content, including news, blogs, pod/vodcasts, image feeds, and astronomy related widgets. We will not be creating content - we will be showcasing content from the community. Details on the Portal to the Universe can be found here.
   We are set to go into beta on December 1, 2008,…

Armagh Planetarium Unveils New Hubble Images

Armagh Planetarium has unveiled some of the most fantastic astronomical images ever taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The new images form part of the 'Earth to the Universe' exhibition at Armagh, with the images framed in gothic arches to create the Armagh Celestial Cathedral.

Three new European Space Agency models are also now on display at the Planetarium. These are scaled replicas of the IntegralXMM Newton and SMART-1 spacecraft.

Astronomy Tutors wanted by Astronomy Ireland

Astronomy Ireland is looking for people to give their Evening Classes ( in more venues around Ireland. They have the course fully designed, they just need tutors with a good knowledge of astronomy. 

especially if you live in:  Kerry,  Carlow,  Sligo,  Galway,  Dundalk

Friday 4 July: Aphelion Day

Are you ready to celebrate? 

No, not USA Independence Day. For everyone on Earth, it's Aphelion Day. this is  the day when the Earth is furthest from the Sun in its annual circuit around its elliptical orbit. From that day on, we'll start gradually getting closer to the Sun again as we head for Perihelion, or our closest point to the Sun, early in the New Year. The difference is not huge: the variation is from 152m km to 147m km, and it's not enough to outweigh the seasonal effects of the tilt of the Earth's axis, which gives us our Northern and Southern summers and winters. But if you are…

Send Your Name in Space! 

Send your name to the Moon on LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter): the deadline is 27 June 2008

Send your name in search of a habitable planet on the Terrestrial Planet Finder mission, KEPLER; the deadline is 1 November 2008. 

On the KEPLER mission you can write some words as well.  You can also download a starmap showing its field of search plus the location of those exoplanets already discovered. KEPLER is linked to International Year of Astronomy 2009.

More info:

Strong Gravity in the Vicinity of Supermassive Black Holes - by Eamon Scullion, Armagh Observatory

Strong Gravity in the Vicinity of Supermassive Black Holes - by Eamon Scullion, Armagh Observatory

Black holes are found at the centres of galaxies which are similar in size to our own Milky Way Galaxy or larger. When black holes collide and merge they form supermassive black holes which are events among the most powerful in the universe. Supermassive black holes have a mass range between 7 and 10 orders of magnitude greater than our Sun.

Active Galactic Nuclei form in the accretion disks of supermassive black holes and have unusually large luminosities which can be 4 orders of magnitude greater than that of 'ordinary' galaxies. The increased luminosity is largely due to energy release by…

Astronomy Survey - Questions Proposal

Astronomy Survey - Questions Proposal

23 March: Asteroid Occultation

On the 23rd of March we will have the opportunity to observe an occultation from a known asteroidal *satellite*. I, for one, intend to give it a go (depending on the weather conditions of course)- says Dr. Apostolos Christou from Armagh Observatory. For such observations, amateur observations are always more than welcome, as they help improving knowledge about the trajectory of the asteroid. Please contact Tolis (aac AT  if you wish to join with your observation.

See predictions at IMCCE:…

SDAS 2008 Sky Guide

John Flannery has produced a FREE 20-page guide to the night sky for 2008 for Ireland. The booklet is a 1.15Mb pdf that can be downloaded by right-clicking on the following link and selecting "Save As": 

    The almanac gives a month-by-month summary of planetary phenomena, detailed notes on the Sun, Moon, visible comets, meteor showers, eclipses, minor planets, variable stars, space missions in 2008, and much more. He notes that the meteor shower notes and space mission details originally appeared in the IAS's Sky-High…

Extrasolar Planetary Systems: More Like Ours - by David Perez-Suarez, Armagh Observatory

Extrasolar Planetary Systems: More Like Ours - by David Perez-Suarez, Armagh Observatory

When children learn that we live on the surface of a planet, that there are other planets orbiting around the Sun and, finally, that our Sun is like the stars that we see at night, one of their first thoughts is that those stars may have planets as well. And they are right; there are planets around other stars but they are very difficult to see without sophisticated astronomical instruments. Since 1995, when the first so-called "exo-planet" was discovered, almost 250 have been detected. Most of them are more massive than Jupiter (itself weighing 318 Earths) because the techniques used are…

It's Raining Again - It Must Be Wednesday! By Caroline Pereira, Armagh Observatory

In an article published in January 2008 in the Journal of Geophysical Research, NASA atmospheric scientists claim that the average summertime rainfall in the southeast US is significantly higher during the middle of the week than on weekends. These findings come from data measurements taken by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite from 1998-2005.

According to Thomas Bell and his team, midweek storms tend to have more rainfall and cover larger areas than weekend storms, and these variations are likely due to air pollution from humans, as the timing of fiercer storms…

20/21 February: Total Lunar Eclipse

A total lunar eclipse will occur on the night of 20/21 February and will be fully visible from Ireland. The totality will last for 51 minutes.

Partial eclipse (dark inner shadow)  begins at:           01:43 am

Totality (reddish colour) begins at:                            03:01 am

Mid Eclipse:                                                           03:26 am 

Totality ends at:                                                      03:51 am

Partial eclipse ends at:                                             05:09 am

7 February: Shuttle Launch

At 1945 GMT, the space shuttle Atlantis is set to launch on a 10-day mission to deliver the Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). The Columbus laboratory is a European Space Agency module for the ISS and will be used by astronauts to carry out experiments in a weightless environment.

   ESA astronauts Leopold Eyharts from France and Hans Schlegel from Germany will be aboard Atlantis and will help commission the laboratory. Former fighter pilot Eyharts will then live on the ISS for the next three months. See:;  http://spaceflightn…

Doomsday Confirmed! by Thomas Barclay, Armagh Observatory

An investigation into the fate of the Earth and of the life upon it has found that we are all doomed. According to a paper that will soon be published in MNRAS, by Klaus-Peter Schroder of the University of Guanajuato, Mexico and Robert C. Smith of the University of Sussex, England, the Earth will no longer be habitable in around a billion years and will be enveloped by the Sun in little over 7.5 billion.

As the Sun gets older, it will become 10% more luminous. This results in the habitable zone (the distance from the Sun within which water can remain liquid) moving outwards, away from the…

29 January: Asteroid Flyby

Asteroid 2007 TU24 flies past Earth this week at a distance of only 334,000 miles (1.4 lunar distances).  There is no danger of a collision, but it will be close enough for amateur astronomers to photograph through mid-sized telescopes. At closest approach on Jan. 29th, the asteroid will glide through the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia glowing like a 10th magnitude star.  Visit for celestial coordinates and a low-resolution radar image of the approaching rock.

23 January: Mercury in the Evening Skies

The elusive planet Mercury was spotted from Ireland with the naked eye last week. This week is the very best time to see it. Full details are on page 26 of Astronomy Ireland January magazine ( Very few people in the world (less than 1%?) have ever seen Mercury so this is your chance to join this elite club. Please send your sightings to

4 January: New Solar Cycle

The new Solar Cycle started on 4 January 2008! See full story from SoHO (The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory)

 International Year of Astronomy, Ireland National Node