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Upcoming Events

  • 30th Nov - Tom Boles "Discovering Supernovae: Motivation and Rewards"
  • 2nd December - Evening Observing / Stardome at Castle Espie
  • 3rd December - Evening Observing / Stardome at St Patrick's Academy, Dungannon
  • 14th December - Dr Ryan Milligan (QUB) - "Exploring the current rise in Solar Activity"
  • 16th/17th December - Observing at Delamont
  • 7th January 2012 - IAA New Year Party
  • 11th January - Lecture - Prof Stephen Smartt - "Astronomy with the PANSTARRS 1 telescope"
  • 16-18th January - BBC Stargazing Live!
  • 25th January - Lecture - Paul Evans "Manned Space Exploration - the First 50 Years"

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BBC Stargazing Live!

Those who remember last year's series will be pleased to hear that "Stargazing Live!" is returning to BBC 2 in the New Year for another three nights of astronomy presented again by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain. This year the series of three programmes will be bigger and better than before, and the excellent news is that the IAA will be partnering Armagh Planetarium, Queens University Astronomers and the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre for the main event in Northern Ireland, currently scheduled for Tuesday 17th January. The programmes themselves will be on BBC 2 from 8:00 until 9:30PM on 16th, 17th and 18th January. Also, we expect the News and Weather teams in BBC NI to take an interest.

We will be involved in events on all three nights as follows:-

Monday 16th January 1800-2100 - Public Jupiter Watch in conjunction with the Astronomers at Queens University Belfast. In the event of inclement weather Dr Chris Watson will deliver a Public Astronomy Lecture in the Larmour Theatre.

Tuesday 17th January 1800-2100 - The Main event at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre nr Lurgan - programme of events as follows....

  • 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! Note that we are hoping for clear skies on both of these nights and it is likely to be cold, so please wear warm clothes - ie coats, hats, gloves and scarves.

Wednesday 18th January Time TBC - Talk by IAA Webmaster Paul Evans "Getting Started in Astrophotography" at The Meadows Shopping Centre, Portadown

Further details to follow......

IAA Lecture 14th December

December's lecture featured Dr Ryan Milligan from Queens University Belfast. Dr Milligan is a local astronomer who used to drive lorries for a living then decided to take up Astronomy as a full-time pursuit, studying at QUB then working at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington DC.

This talk, entitled "Exploring the current rise in Solar Activity" covered all aspects of Dr Milligan's work including a few clips from "disaster" movies exploring the hypothesis that the end of the world as we know it will be brought about by a solar flare next year, and why this probably won't happen!

The warm-up talk was delivered by Stardust Editor Dr Andy McCrea and can be seen below, in glorious 720p HD.

Image:Paul Evans

Lunar Eclipse 10th December at Moonrise - 1600 GMT

On 10th December as the Moon rises, we will, weather permitting, be able to catch the last few minutes of the Total Lunar Eclipse. Whilst we are not in a favoured location, those with a clear east coast view may be able to see the very end of this eclipse - see graphic to the right for the view at Moonrise from a Eastern location - in this case Larne.

Australia and Asia are the best locations to see this one from, where the full eclipse will be high in the sky much as was the 3rd March 2007 eclipse viewed from Europe, including spectacular views from a clear sky in Northern Ireland!

More details of this eclipse on Wikipedia here...

Image: Stellarium / Paul Evans

Observing Nights 2nd, 3rd December

We have not one, but two outreach events coming up! On Friday 2nd December we will return to Castle Espie for an evening of observing with the Stardome and an assortment of shows including meteorites, telescopes and literature, so even if the weather doesn't deliver there will still be plenty for everyone. Should the skies clear, and we hope they will, then Jupiter and the First Quarter Moon will be on show as will the Seven Sisters, Andromeda Galaxy and other wonders of the December sky including, later in the evening, Orion with its fabulous nebula, and later still, Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

On Saturday 3rd December we will be visiting St Patrick's Academy in Dungannon (click for map). As well as the same setup as at Castle Espie above, and more or less the same stars, though with a bit more of The Moon visible, we will be helping St Patrick's relaunch the school Observatory following refurbishment of the 14" scope and dome! See the event poster here....

Note the advice to pre-book Stardome places.

IAA Lecture 30th November

Our third lecture meeting of November featured Tom Boles, founder and owner of Coddenham Observatory in Suffolk. Tom is the world's greatest supernova discoverer, with about 140 discoveries to his credit.

Image:Paul Evans

Supernovae come in various forms, with different causes, but in general terms they represent either the explosive death of a giant star, or a very violent episode in the life of a binary star pair. Visually, they are the greatest explosions we see in the universe, with the exploding star sometimes becoming as bright as the combined light of all the other hundreds of millions of stars in its parent galaxy!

Tom's talk, entitled "Discovering Supernovae: Motivation and Rewards" was a fascinating account of the method, motivation and dedication involved in making Tom the world's top Supernova discoverer!

The warm-up talk was delivered by IAA Webmaster Paul Evans and can be seen on our YouTube Channel in glorious 720p High Definition!


Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity is on the way!

Those who attended Brian Harvey's excellent lecture will know all about this - the Mars Science Laboratory - nicknamed "Curiosity", has launched from Cape Canaveral today (26th Nov) beginning its 8.5 month journey to the Red Planet. Weighing roughly 1 ton, the Rover is the largest and most complex craft ever to land on Mars and promises to send back much more data than ever before, including of course more info on the possibilities of life.

So far the Atlas rocket has put the craft into a holding orbit around Earth and will soon fire again to put the craft on to a course for Mars.

Curiosity Launch

Image:Deirdre Kelleghan

IAA New Year Party

A date for the diary - the IAA New Year Party will be held again at McBrides Restaurant in Comber, County Down at 5:30PM on Saturday 7th January followed by a film, "Cowboys and Aliens" at the Tudor Cinema in Comber afterwards. Regular features including Terry's Hot Punch, and of course the Quiz will be included. Further details on the booking form here.....


Members are reminded that membership fees are now due for the 2011/12 year as of 1st September. Rates are of course the same as last year and are as follows:-

Single membership: £20 or €25

Family Membership (all members of a family at one address): £25 or €30

This includes an unmatched programme of lectures, observing nights, other events and a subscription to our highly regarded quarterly magazine, "Stardust", delivered to your door.

You can now join or renew your IAA Membership online by PayPal or Credit or Debit card online here...

(c) Irish Astronomical Association 2011 - All Rights Reserved