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Space Shuttle Program ends on a high note

The last Shuttle mission - STS 135 to the International Space Station - launched on Friday July 8th and landed at 1057 BST on Thursday 21st July 2011 (click to see landing video) - coincidentally 42 years to the day since Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon and more than 30 years after the first flight of Columbia in 1981.

The  STS-135 mission was the final journey of a Shuttle into space, carrying a crew of four astronauts and more than 3.5 tonnes of supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) and testing a robotic refuelling system.

The mission was faultless from start to finish - here's an infra-red shot of Atlantis safely home on the tarmac at the Kennedy Space Center.....

Image: NASA TV

Talks at QUB in association with the IAA


This summer will see the first in a series of public lectures at Queen's University where the sky is not the limit. Everyone is invited to hear how astronomers discover monstrous black holes and dangerous asteroids, from international scientists who are leading the work.

The Michael West Public Lectures in astronomy will be held each year to explain some of the latest and most exciting discoveries in the world of Astronomy. They are named after Dr. Michael West, who is supporting scientific research and public outreach in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queens.

The first talk on "SuperMassive Black Holes" will be held on Friday 22nd July" in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. It will be given by Professor Reinhard Genzel, Director of the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. Professor Genzel is an international expert on investigating black holes that weigh millions of times more than our Sun. In 2008 he won the prestigious Shaw Prize for establishing the existence of a huge Black Hole in the centre of our own Milky Way.

The second talk on "Killer Asteroids" will be given on Wednesday 3rd August by Dr. Robert Jedicke from the University of Hawaii. Dr. Jedicke is a renowned asteroid hunter, and is leading the search for dangerous asteroids with the new PanSTARRS1 telescope in Hawaii. "This telescope in one of a kind, and is allowing us to discover everything from nearby asteroids to exploding stars in the most distant galaxies" said Professor Stephen Smartt, director of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen's.

Both talks will take place in the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Queen's. Attendance at the talks is free of charge, but seats must be booked either by phone at 028 9097 3202, or by visiting the website MichaelWestLecture Series and registering there.

These talks have been organised by the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB, in association with the Irish Astronomical Association.

So you want to be a Rocket Scientist?

Have you ever wondered how to build a solid fuel space rocket?  Have you ever wanted to witness a rocket launch?  If the answer is yes, then Armagh Planetarium is the place to be on 30 and 31 July 2011 as we blast-off into a fun-filled weekend of rockets.

Rocket Man Andy Willis is looking to recruit some space engineers in his Rocket Workshop to construct some real rockets ready to be delivered to the launch pad.  Are you ready to be his apprentice?

You can watch as the rocket is launched to an altitude of 750 feet with a flight time of between 40-45 seconds.  But wait, there is a twist!  We thought we would give you budding scientists a challenge.  Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be to blast-off an egg inside the rocket, then return the egg and altimeter payload section safely and undamaged to earth using a single 15 inch parachute!

There will also be theatre shows on at the Planetarium. This promises to be an excellent weekend of fun and education not to be missed. Full details here...

Noctilucent Cloud Season gets into its stride!

Dr Andy McCrea, Past President of the IAA and current Editor of Sturdust magazine got a result on Saturday Night, 2nd July! The best Noctilucent Cloud (NLC) display of the current season appeared in the northern sky around 2am.

These clouds are called Noctilucent, or "Night Shining" as they appear a luminous electric blue colour in the night sky. In fact they are thin and very high clouds - 50-55 miles above the Earth's surface - which are illuminated by the Sun's light shining over the North Pole.

See more of Andy's shots in the gallery here....


(c) Irish Astronomical Association 2011 - All Rights Reserved