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Upcoming Events

  • 16th or 17th March (or 23rd or 24th) - Messier Marathon - Delamont Country Park
  • 17th March - Astronomy talks in Armagh - see Observatory website
  • 21st March - Lecture - Derek Heatley (IAA) - "Stop the World and Let Me Off"
  • 30th March - Observing and Event at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Island - details TBA
  • 4th April - Lecture - Dr Ian Elliott - "The Sun and Climate Change"
  • 18th April - AGM with talk TBA
  • 6th June (04:40am!) - Transit of Venus - event TBA

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Conjunction of the Planets - around 12th March

Keep an eye on the western sky after dusk - the two brightest objects in the sky after the Sun and the Moon are moving together for a close conjunction around 12th March when they will approach within 3 degrees of each other. They will be close enough a couple of nights either side of this date that both objects will focus onto the most sensitive part of the eye thus appearing extra-bright. Note that Mercury will also be apparent lower down for the first half of March - but beware - don't go looking for it until the Sun has completely set! With the Moon out of the way, this is also a good time to be looking for the Zodiacal Light!

Image:Paul Evans/Stellarium.org

IAA Lecture 21st March

The second lecture in March will be delivered by IAA member Derek Heatly. Derek, who features prominently at almost all our public events, is going to be the first ever astronaut from N. Ireland, assuming all goes to plan. He has booked a flight into space with Richard Branson's 'Virgin Galactic', and has already been given his number in the launch sequence, among other celebrities and private individuals. He may get his flight next year, depending on how well the first commercial flights go.

Derek has already been up to the edge of space in a high-powered supersonic Russian MIG jet fighter, and has done weightless flights in the Russian aircraft used to train their astronauts. He will tell us of the latest developments in the Virgin Galactic programme, and show videos of the test flights of the 'spaceplane' in which he is due to launch.

This lecture, entitled "Stop the World and Let Me Off!" will give an account of Derek's experiences so far, and looks to his future ride into space!

The lecture  is on Wednesday 21st March in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queens University Belfast and starts at 7:30pm sharp. Admission, as always, is free and all are welcome.

Image:Paul Evans

IAA at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, 30th March

DETAILS: Friday 30th March: 6.30pm 'til late:

'Supper with the Stars':  Join the Irish Astronomical Association for a spectacular evening of stargazing and culinary delights at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre.

There will be star shows in a mobile planetarium commencing at 7.30pm, followed by celestial views of the First Quarter Moon, brilliant Venus ("the Evening Star"), and fascinating Jupiter with its four large Galilean moons, plus a lot more! All this is of course weather dependent.

There will also be an exhibition of the best photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and the best ground-based observatories plus some amazing ones by IAA members, a display of telescopes and binoculars, and some amazing meteorites.

£5 entry for stargazing experience.

£15 includes the stargazing and a two course meal (6.30pm, Loughside Café, LNDC).

Booking is essential for this event. Please contact the Interpretative team at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on 028 3831 1673 for further details and to book a place.

IAA Lecture 7th March

Our guest speaker for the first meeting of March was none other than IFAS Chairman and Asteroid discoverer Dave McDonald.

This talk was entitled "Celtic Rock: Discovering Asteroids from Ireland"

Dave's own synopsis is as follows:-

In 1848, Andrew Graham stared through the telescope at Markree Observatory in County Sligo and saw a new object.  He had discovered an asteroid - a chunk of rock left over from the formation of our Solar System 5 billion years ago.  As it happens, this chunk of rock (about 230 miles in diameter) was the ninth asteroid ever discovered world-wide and the only one discovered from Ireland.


"Celtic Rock" will take you on a whistle-stop tour through our Solar System and put asteroids into context - where are they? How did they get there? Where are they going? The presentation will touch on the various discoveries made from Ireland and will mention some of the previous asteroid impacts on Earth and some very close-shaves.  The talk will wrap-up with a very brief history of Irish Astronomy and will look at what the future might hold.


The presentation is highly graphical and requires nothing more than an enquiring and interested mind.  Ideal for all.

Image:Paul Evans

As always, this was an excellent presentation from Dave combining a serious look at science and history together with some added humour that made for a great evening's craic!

Dave also made us aware that we had Three "Asteroid Men" present, so at John McConnell's suggestion we took the opportunity to catch a photo of the three...

Image:Paul Evans

L-R 21782 Davemcdonald, 16993 Moseley, 9929 McConnell


Cosmos 2012 - April 13th to 15th

This Spring, the 20th annual Cosmos Star Party will once be presented by Midlands Astronomy Club and will again take place in the rural and secluded surroundings of Annaharvey Equestrian Farm, Tullamore in County Offaly. This location affords MAC many advantages, such as being 3 miles from Tullamore on the Portarlington Road, and thus away from most of the light pollution, private surroundings, secure location, and overall a great and relaxed atmosphere.

The speakers this year include:

  • Thierry Legault, world-renowned French astrophotographer
  • Girvan McKay, Midlands Astronomy Club
  • Eamon Ansbro, Kingsland Observatory, Roscommon
  • Kevin Berwick, Dublin
  • Dermot Gannon, Midlands Astronomy Club
  • Apostolos Christou, Armagh Observatory
  • Lawrence Rigney, Midlands Astronomy Club

Further details will appear on the MAC website here..

IAA Lecture 22nd February

The second lecture in February marked a return to the IAA of one of our previous visitors. Last with us in 2004, Professor Bill Napier is a leading figure in the dynamics and physics of comets, and a pioneer of the modern versions of catastrophism. He also works on the origin and evolution of interplanetary dust, the effects of dust and small-body impacts on the Earth, and the analysis of extragalactic redshifts.

This lecture, entitled 'Spiral arms, giant comets and mass extinctions of life" looked at various factors affecting both the development off, and the possible space hazard risks to, life on Earth and elsewhere in the galaxy.

This was an excellent and informative lecture from an expert in the field!


Cosmic Cuilcagh 25th and 26th February

This event returned for a second year at Marble Arch Caves Geopark on 25th and 26th February and was a great success


Images:David Stewart


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 2012 - All Rights Reserved