Upcoming Events

10th February - Prof Stephen Smartt (QUB) - "Supernovae - the Latest Findings" - talk at QUB

12th (or 13th) February 2010 - Observing at Delamont Country Park

Q1 2010 TBC - I.A.A. at St. Patrick‚Äôs Academy Dungannon . IYA event solar and evening observing.

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The Irish Astronomical Association was formed in 1974 and draws its 200 members from both the UK and Ireland. The IAA membership ranges from complete beginners to accomplished observers and astro photographers.

Fireball reported over Ireland!

There was a very significant Fireball event over Ireland Wednesday evening (3rd Feb).

There were two separate events! The first, and almost certainly the most important, was at about 17.50 Wednesday and seems to have travelled from Kerry at least as far as Armagh and South Tyrone. That one may have been a 'meteorite dropper', though it's too early to say.

So far the evidence seems to point to a substantial body, travelling roughly S to N over the West half of Ireland, and possibly ending in Donegal, or maybe NW Co Derry, or maybe the sea. We've now had about 40-50 reports, including some replies to queries for further information. We have a lot of plotting on maps to do before we can narrow it down any more. What we really need is footage from any security cameras or similar. If anyone has any footage from CCTV or the like then please contact the Webmaster.


The second event was not as big or bright, but at least as bright as Venus, was at about 19.30 - 19.40, more than 1.5 hours later. It was seen from near Moy, and in a NE direction.

If you saw this event, and especially if you have any photos, video footage from security cameras or anything please email the Webmaster  with details of what you saw, your location, the direction of travel, the time, an estimate of the brightness, and any colour,  the duration of the event and any other description - sound heard, smoke effects etc

And many, many thanks to all of you who have already sent in your sighting reports to the IAA, Armagh Observatory and other bodies - your information is valuable for plotting the course of this fireball and possibly finding any resulting meteorite.

This example fireball image was taken by the Polar Bear Camera at Armagh Observatory on 22nd November 2009 - image used with permission


New! Observing Information page and Search Engine

http://irishastro.org.uk/observinginfo.html This new addition to the website gives live and up to date information on Weather, Moon phase, Sunspots, Corona and Aurora conditions as well as a monthly Sky map. Well worth a look before planning an observing session! Also, entering any search term into the search box above will bring up a Google results page listing occurences of the term on this site, in IAA news or on the IAA forum!

Mars at Opposition

King of the night sky right now is the Red Planet which was at its closest to Earth on 29th January and is, for us in the Northern hemisphere, placed high up in the sky at its best for many years. Rising close to sunset and staying up all night, Mars reaches an elevation of over 60degrees around midnight and is very well placed for visual observation with a 'scope or photography with a webcam. As an added bonus, Mars will pass close to the north of M44, the Beehive, in the nights around opposition.

Image credit: Brian Beesley

Ring of Fire in the Maldives!

Our correspondent Eugene Furlong caught this magnificent shot of the recent Annular Eclipse on the morning of 15th January from the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean. Due to the eccentricity of the Earth's orbit January is the time of year when the Sun appears largest in the sky, and on this occasion the Moon was close to its furthest away from the Earth, so appears smaller than usual. The combination means that there will not be another Annular Eclipse of this duration (over 11mins) until December 3043 - over 1000 years from now!

Some Recent IAA Talks....

IAA Lecture 27th January 2010 - Dr David Asher(AO) - "What do ancient eclipses, extragalactic radio sources, and bivalve molluscs have in common?"

Dr David Asher is an Astronomer at Armagh Observatory. A lot of  his research consists of theoretical (computational) studies in solar system dynamics. Dr Asher has spoken to the IAA many times before and has always delivered an entertaining and informative talk. With its intruiging title this one promises more of the same!


Image Credit:Armagh Observatory

Dr Jorick Vink (AO) - "The Most Massive Stars in the Universe "- 13th January 2010

The second half of the IAA's season kicked off on 13th Jan with Dr Jorick Vink, a Profressional Astronomer at Armagh Observatory. Dr Vink's Research interests include mass loss from massive stars as a function of metallicity, line polarimetry to probe circumstellar geometries in massive evolved as well as young stars (as to study star formation), and in Horizontal Branch morphologies. This talk  provided a fascinating introduction to this huge subject.


Peter Paice (IAA) - "Imaging our Nearest Star"  - 16th December

As the IAA's solar imaging expert, Peter's images are familiar to readers of "Stardust" magazine as well as regulars on spaceweather.com. In this talk Peter not only explained the considerable ingenuity that goes into his imaging, but also gave us a fascinating insight into what it all means. A most enjoyable talk from which I learned a great deal!

Image: Paul Evans

Dr Pedro Lacerda (QUB) -"The Small Bodies of the Outer Solar System" - 2nd December

Dr Lacerda gave an invigorating account of the smaller bodies of the solar system starting with cometes and asteroids, then working out towards the Plutinos and Edgeworth/Kuiper Belt Objects including some insight into the astrophysics involved, but delivered in an easily understandable format. This was a top quality lecture and brought many questions at the end.

Image: Peter Paice

Dr Simon Jeffrey, Armagh Observatory - "Smoking Stars" -  18th November

This was an excellent lecture which covered a very unusual category of star in which the fusion has progressed through Hydrogen and Helium to the point where the star is burning Carbon at its centre which occasioanlly explodes outward thus covering the star in a type of smoke.

A very enjoyable lecture made the more so by Dr Jeffrey's entertaining delivery and a lively Q&A session at the end!

Pictured: Dr Simon Jeffrey and IAA President Philip Baxter

Brian Harvey  - "The Chinese Space Programme" - 4th Nov

This talk by Irish Space Historian and Author Brian Harvey covered the complete history of the Chinese Space Programme from the invention of the rocket in 1272 through the beginning of the programme in 1956 right up to the present day and then into the planned future including Lunar Rover missions. So will the next man on the Moon be a Chinaman? Certainly it appears that stories of a Chinese manned Moon landing by 2019 are a little wide of the mark, but it may happen in the decade thereafter! This was a fascinating talk and we thank Brian for coming up from Dublin to talk to us.

Pictured: Brian Harvey with IAA President Philip Baxter and renowned Irish Astronomer John C McConnell

(C) IAA 2010