Saturday, 18 March 2017

Lecture, Venus GGG? Exhib, ISS, Obs, Events, Comps, Hypatia, MM, EH, COSMOS, AGM

Hi all,

 

1. IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 29 March: "The Euclid Mission: finding out what Dark Matter and Dark Energy really are", by Dr Henry Joy McCracken,  

Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris 
As you would probably guess from the name, Dr McCracken is a local guy, but is working at the prestigious Institute of Astrophysics in Paris.
   This lecture follows neatly on from the fascinating one we had last Wednesday, which looked at the role of very distant supernovae in searching for dark energy. It's really amazing to think that well over 90% of the universe is composed of stuff that we can as yet neither see nor understand! It's a bit like astronomy two centuries ago, when all we knew about the universe was derived from, and the only tool we had to study it, was looking with the mark-1 eyeball, in visible light! There were hints of the infra-red, and ultra violet, but no-one even dreamed of the whole electromagnetic spectrum from extremely high energy gamma-rays, through X-rays, U-V, and on into microwaves and radio waves, themselves covering a huge range of wavelengths and energies. Studying those new wavelengths opened a whole series of windows on the universe, and no doubt when we finally get to grips with dark matter and dark energy, the effect will be the same.
SYNOPSIS: 
 
"The nature of dark matter and dark energy remains one of astronomy's most profound mysteries. Scheduled for launch in 2020,  ESA's Euclid satellite will map precisely the distribution of dark matter in the Universe and provide the most accurate measurement yet of the cosmic acceleration. Taken together, these two observations will provide a stringent test of our cosmological model. In addition, Euclid will provide an unprecedented legacy of high-resolution imaging over tens of thousands of square degrees of sky. In my talk I will describe the Euclid mission and the challenges of realising such a precise experiment." 
FREE REFRESHMENTS in the form of the usual biccies, tea and coffee.  All welcome!

TIME: 7.30 p.m., Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, QUB.

Free admission.  Free parking on QUB campus after 5.30 p.m. http://irishastro.org.uk/lecture

 

2. Venus - Going, going, - but not gone! 'The Evening Star' is now plunging into the twilight. Venus is still visible in the W in early evening twilight but is getting much lower in the sky as it moves in closer to the Sun as we see it, as it heads towards inferior conjunction on 25 March. However, the angle of the ecliptic to the horizon is at its best for us in these latitudes, and further, Venus is now well North of the ecliptic as we see it.

   It is now past peak brightness, at mag -4.2, which of course, is still very bright.  Venus's phase is now noticeably decreasing as it moves between Earth and Sun: it's now about 3%, similar to a 1 day old Moon.

  Here are its elongation from the Sun in degrees; phase; apparent diameter in arcsecs, and magnitude, for the following evenings in March:

 

17th: 14.7 deg; 3.2%; 57.8"; -4.2

19th: 12.4 deg; 2.2%; 58.5"; -4.2.

 

3. Watching Venus pass through Inferior Conjunction (I/C) on 25 March! This is only possible from our latitudes when Venus passes near its maximum possible distance North of the Sun, and when the ecliptic's angle to the horizon is very favourable. Both those occur this March. I/C occurs on the 25th at 10.17, so we try to observe it on the evenings of the 23rd or 24th and the 25th. The details below are for shortly after sunset, in bright twilight. You'll probably need binoculars or a telescope to see it, at least initially. DON'T look while the Sun is still above the horizon! Wait until it has set. But note the position on the horizon where it sets as a guide to locating Venus some 15-20 mts later. Both will be moving downwards and to the right as the minutes pass. If you have GoTo, the 'scope will find it for you, if it's aligned!

   On the 24th, Sunset at Belfast is at 18.45; Venus sets at 19.20.

In a telescope or good binoculars Venus will appear as a VERY thin crescent, probably not visible for the full half circle. Don't confuse Venus with Mercury, which will be much fainter, and lying some 10º to the left of Venus on Mar 19 – 21.

   Note that the quoted magnitude of Venus, -4.0, is the brightness it would have if all its light were concentrated into one point. In fact, it will be spread out into that very thin crescent, so don't expect to see a starlike object of that brightness when observing with binoculars or a telescope.

   You will need a sky that is very clear and transparent right down to the horizon in the West to NW.

    If you see it, especially if you can see it with the naked eye, please let me know, and send your observation to our website. If it's cloudy just before I/C, but you see it on the 25th, that still counts, as you would have been able to see it on the 23rd or 24th if it had been clear, as the 25th will be the most challenging date.

   The following details are for Belfast and for when Venus is 3º above the horizon on each date. Start observing about 5 minutes before these times, and continue trying for at least 15 - 20 minutes afterwards. If you are further West, adjust times by +4 mts for each degree of longitude. If you are further South, the azimuth figures will change too, but the relative positions will be much the same.

 

Date

Mag

Relative position

Phase

Elong.

Time

Azim

Sets at

17

-4.2

Above Sun

03.2%

14.7º

19.49

286

20.14

19

-4.2

Above & a bit Right

02.2%

12.3º

19.35

285

19.59

21

-4.1

Above Right

01.5%

10.2º

19.20

284

19.44

23

-4.0

Above Right

01.1%

08.7º

19.04

283

19.29

24

-4.0

Right & a bit above

01.0%

08.4º

18.57

283

19.21

25

-4.0

Right & a bit above

01.0%

08.3º

18.49

282

19.13

After the 25th it will become almost impossible to see from our latitudes until late June, when it reappears as a 'Morning Star', mag -4.2 in Aries, low in the summer twilight, and it will be more readily seen in July. Try looking for it on the morning of 20 June just 10º left of the waning crescent Moon. Next morning the very thin moon will lie just below Venus.

ADDENDUM. Some readers have pointed out that Venus already rises before the Sun as a 'morning star'. That's true, simply because it's so far N of the ecliptic, as mentioned above. But it rises only a short period before the Sun, so you won't be able to see it in the morning sky until I/C. In theory it would just be possible to see at, on the day/night of I/C, as an evening star after sunset, and a morning star before sunrise, although it won't be easy!

   From Belfast, here's the altitude of the Sun BELOW the horizon when Venus attains 3 degrees ABOVE the horizon in the mornings, on the following dates:
26 Mar = -5 deg 33'
28 Mar = -6 deg 02'
30 Mar = -6 deg 13'
01 Apr = -6 deg 27'
03 Apr = -6 deg 42'
05 Apr = -7 deg 05'.
   So, 10 days BEFORE I/C it was still quite easy to see in the evening with the N/E, but 10 days AFTER I/C, it's almost impossible to see in the morning with the N/E.
   It's not really until we're into the first week in April that it becomes really possible to see it as a morning star with the naked eye. In my bulletin, apart from the challenge of following it up to and through I/C, I was then referring to 'normal visibility' in a moderately dark sky.

 

4. Heavens Above: AstroPhoto Exhibition, now in Downpatrick.

The superb exhibition of locally taken astro-photographs, which had very successful runs in the Linenhall Library In Belfast, and Clotworthy Arts Centre in Antrim, and the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn has transferred to the St Patrick's centre, Downpatrick, and runs there until  31 March

   There are also 5 movies, covering solar eclipse, auroras and conjunctions, playing on a loop all day and now also viewing in the Centre reception.

 Thanks again to Bernie Brown for setting this up.

 

5. ISS. The International Space Station continues its series of morning passes over Ireland until 22 March. Details as always on the excellent free site www.heavens-above.com. This site also has general information on most things visible in the night sky, including comets.

 

6. IAA Observing nights, Delamont Country Park, Killyleagh Co Down:

Next session: 24/25 March, weather permitting. Check IAA website, www.irishastro.org for details.

7. PhD Studentship in High Energy Solar Physics

The Solar Physics Group at Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded PhD studentship in the area of X-ray imaging of solar flares. The student will use images and spectra from NASA's RHESSI mission to study the evolution of solar flares and their association with coronal mass ejections. In addition, the student will be involved in the development of X-ray imaging techniques for the Spectrometer-Telescope Imaging X-rays (STIX) instrument onboard ESA's Solar Orbiter spacecraft. Solar Orbiter, which is scheduled for launch in late 2018, will fly inside the orbit of Mercury and enable us to answer some of the most fundamental questions about the Sun and solar energetic events.

This 4-year PhD studentship includes an annual stipend of EUR 16,000, payment of tuition fees of EUR 6,700, and an annual travel award of approximately EUR 2,000.

Experience with IDL and/or Python is essential.

For general inquires and details of the application process, please contact Prof. Peter T. Gallagher (peter.gallagher@tcd.ie) and Dr. Shane Maloney (shane.maloney@tcd.ie). Further details on the research carried out in the group can be found at www.physics.tcd.ie/astrophysics.

Application deadline: March 31st, 2017

 

8. AstroCamp 2017 The European Southern Observatory (ESO) and the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto (CAUP) are collaborating to support AstroCamp 2017, an astronomy-focused summer academic programme for secondary school students. The Summer AstroCamp 2017 will be held from 6 to 20 August in northern Portugal, at the Centre for Environmental Education and Interpretation of the Corno de Bico Protected Landscape. The applicant with the best application from one of ESO's Member States who is eligible to apply will win a bursary offered by ESO that will cover the camp fee.
Read more http://www.eso.org/public/unitedkingdom/announcements/ann17006/?lang

 

9. HYPATIA DAY, 20 MARCH: For those of you unfamiliar with this 'universal genius', the world's first known female astronomer, often known as Hypatia of Alexandria,  Brittanica.com states:  "She was, in her time, the world's leading mathematician and astronomer, the only woman for whom such claim can be made. She was also a popular teacher and lecturer on philosophical topics of a less-specialist nature, attracting many loyal students and large audiences."  

   The historian Socrates of Constantinople described her in his Ecclesiastical History: "There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more." 

   Currently 20 March is being petitioned as an ideal date to commemorate the first female astronomer — Hypatia of Alexandria. As the petition gains momentum - there are 40 participating countries overall, Uruguay, Colombia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Chile having recently joined - the organisation is aiming to formalise a proposal to UNESCO so that on Hypatia Day we can globally celebrate Women in Science day. 

   I would like to see the UK and Ireland both supporting this. You can vote and learn more about the project here http://bit.ly/2kKt1TA 

 

10. Spring Equinox, 20 March: The Sun will cross the celestial equator northwards at 10.29, marking the start of Spring in the N. Hemisphere

 

11. Messier Marathon Fri Mar 24, 2017 at 2 PM to Sat Mar 25, 2017 at 11 PM, at Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry. See https://www.facebook.com/Kerry-Dark-Sky-Ltd-228216127519893/IAA Public Lecture Meeting, Wed 29 March: "The Euclid Mission: finding out what Dark Matter and Dark Energy really are", by Dr Henry Joy McCracken,  Institut d'Astrophysique de Paris 

As you would probably guess from the name, Dr McCracken is a local guy, but is working at the prestigious Institute of Astrophysics in Paris.
   This lecture follows neatly on from the fascinating one we had last Wednesday, which looked at the role of very distant supernovae in searching for dark energy. It's really amazing to think that well over 90% of the universe is composed of stuff that we can as yet neither see nor understand! It's a bit like astronomy two centuries ago, when all we knew about the universe was derived from, and the only tool we had to study it, was looking with the mark-1 eyeball, in visible light! There were hints of the infra-red, and ultra violet, but no-one even dreamed of the whole electromagnetic spectrum from extremely high energy gamma-rays, through X-rays, U-V, and on into microwaves and radio waves, themselves covering a huge range of wavelengths and energies. Studying those new wavelengths opened a whole series of windows on the universe, and no doubt when we finally get to grips with dark matter and dark energy, the effect will be the same.
SYNOPSIS:  
"The nature of dark matter and dark energy remains one of astronomy's most profound mysteries. Scheduled for launch in 2020,  ESA's Euclid satellite will map precisely the distribution of dark matter in the Universe and provide the most accurate measurement yet of the cosmic acceleration. Taken together, these two observations will provide a stringent test of our cosmological model. In addition, Euclid will provide an unprecedented legacy of high-resolution imaging over tens of thousands of square degrees of sky. In my talk I will describe the Euclid mission and the challenges of realising such a precise experiment." 

 

12. Earth Hour, March 25 This annual campaign, to switch off all but essential lights for one hour, from 20:30 to 21:30, is now 10 years old. It has two aims : to save energy, not just for that one hour, but to show that much lighting is not really needed, and to let people see the beauty of the night sky. Turn off and look up at the stars! Make your own starter kit of ideas. Please share your plans and any photos of the night - as more and more individuals turn off for an hour, the night sky comes to life.

 

13. COSMOS 2017: 31 March to 02 April. Shamrock Lodge Hotel, Athlone. Programme

 details are at http://www.cosmosstarparty.ie/pages/the-programme.php:

 

14. IAA AGM + Telescope Auction + Bring & Buy + Fix my 'scope! 12 April

The IAA AGM will be held in the usual venue at QUB at 7.30 p.m. Details are in an insert with the latest Stardust, which you'll get shortly. After the official business we will be having -

* An auction of surplus IAA telescopes, of all sizes up to a 200mm equatorial reflector. Also lots of ancillary equipment. No reasonable offer will be refused, so this is your chance to pick up a real bargain.

* A bring and buy sale - bring along any of your own surplus gear, DVD's, books & magazines etc, and sell at whatever price you'll accept. For buyers, there are usually some good bargains here too.

   So bring plenty of cash and change in notes, £1, £2, 50p's etc.

* If you already have a telescope, but are not sure how to use it, or you think something may be wrong with it, bring it along (if it's portable) and ask our experts for help.

 

15. Backyard Worlds: Planet Nine. Backyard Worlds is hoping to discover a large planet at the fringes of our solar system — a world astronomers call Planet Nine. But Backyard Worlds need your help! Finding such dim objects requires combing through images by eye, to distinguish moving celestial bodies from ghosts and other artifacts. So come and join the search — there are many images to look through. In the end you might discover a rogue world that's even nearer to the Sun than Proxima Centauri! Discover more about the project and how to contribute here: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/marckuchner/backyard-worlds-planet-9

 

16. Blackrock Castle Observatory Space Camps, July 10 - 21

Book your space camper in for a fun filled week of space and science activities.
Join us each day from 9:30 to 12:30.
Week 1 | July 10 - 14 | suitable for ages 7 to 9
Week 2 | July 17 - 21 | suitable for ages 10 to 12

The cost for each Space Camper is €95 per child which includes 1 week of Space Camp, Space Camp t-shirt & all activity materials.

Payment must be paid before your chosen Space Camp begins. 10% Discounts apply for members and siblings attending.

Please call us on 021 4326120 or email info@bco.ie to book. For more information see www.bco.ie

 

17. Fly A Rocket: The European Space Agency is looking for students for its new "Fly a Rocket!" programme. ESA's Education Office is looking for twenty students to participate in an online course about rocketry. Following completion of the course, the students will have the opportunity to take part in a full launch campaign at the Andoya Space Center in Northern Norway, and to launch a rocket. The course is aimed at younger university students, and it is accepting applications from education, media, and management students, showing that careers in the space sector do not necessarily require a detailed technical or mathematical background. Learn more about the program here: http://www.esa.int/Education/ESA_Academy/ESA_looking_for_students_for_its_new_Fly_a_Rocket!_programme  And also see the UK Youth Build a Rocket Challenge http://www.ukayroc.org.uk/

18. Odysseus Space Science Challenge
Odysseus is a European space science contest for young people, where three age groups are eligible to participate: Skywalkers (primary school pupils), Pioneers (secondary school pupils) and Explorers (university students). The contest is organised in three rounds — National, Regional and pan-European — that will be held in Toulouse, France in July 2017.  The competition offers a unique learning experience for everyone involved, allowing students to push the boundaries of their knowledge by answering fundamental scientific questions.  Learn more about it here and explore the official website: https://www.odysseus-contest.eu/  

19. Total Solar Eclipse, USA, 21 August: Lots of people are asking about seeing this eclipse - the most accessible one for many years to come. See http://eclipsewise.com/solar/SEnews/TSE2017/TSE2017.html.

I've just learned of this availability from a reputable eclipse travel firm based in Denver, Colorado. Denver is quite easy to get to from Ireland, (N and S) with just two flights necessary, and with new Norwegian Air offering cheap flights from Belfast to USA, that's also an option. BTW, I have NO connection with this firm whatsoever! BTW, "WY" is Wyoming, and "NE" is Nebraska.
.......................................................................
Sirius Travel are leading several groups for this eclipse.  We are not yet sold out but it is getting close! Our availability is the following:
1.    CM Ranch near Dubois WY and the Grand Tetons (trip is 1 week at the dude ranch) - 2 bedrooms remaining in a 3 bedroom/3 bath cabin on the line of totality. Whoever signs up would need to be willing to share the cabin with a couple already signed up. 
2.    Americana Tour (9 day circuit beginning and ending in Denver and including some of the best of kooky American sights) - Our limiting factor is the number of hotel rooms we have secured in Alliance NE on August 20.  We have 4 rooms left which means we can accept 8 more passengers traveling double occupancy. We will be viewing the eclipse from Carhenge. :)
3.    Day Trip by bus from Denver and Boulder.  We planned this trip for people who do not have a week to spend on a tour or who live in the area and simply do not want to manage the particulars of the day themselves.  It has been very popular and by itself should keep 400+ cars off the road!  We will be leaving the Denver area with 17 buses by 5am and we will be observing from a private ranch on the line of totality near Douglas, WY.  At this moment we have about 25 seats left from Denver and another 10 from Boulder. Full details at Sirius Travel – Specializing in eclipse travel globally.

   For information about the eclipse see also 365 Days Of Astronomy: It's time for Totality 2017 | 365 Days of Astronomy and https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170105133842.htm 

   The weather prospects are much better on the West side of the Mississippi - see: http://eclipsophile.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Cloudgraph-MODIS.jpg

 

20: FUTURE EVENTS ALERT:

* Global Astronomy Month:  April 2017. More information: http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/ 

* Earth Day / March for Science, April 22: In view of the latest attacks on science, this would be an opportunity to stand up and show support for science and scientists. It is hoped that something will be organised locally, in both Belfast and Dublin. More later. https://www.facebook.com/marchforscience/

* Solar Day, Dunsink Observatory: 17 June.

* Starmus Festival IV: Life And The Universe:  18–23 June 2017. Location: Trondheim, Norway. More information: https://www.starmus.com/ 

* IAA Midsummer BBQ event. 24 June.

* European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS): 26–30 June 201,: Prague, Czech Republic. More information: http://eas.unige.ch/EWASS2017/about.jsp 

* Asteroid Day: 30 June 2017. Location: Around the world. More Information: http://asteroidday.org/ 
* ISSP: Major Event: The International Space Studies Programme (ISSP) will be coming to Ireland this year. It will be based at Cork Institute of Technology, running from 26 June to 25 August.

* International Symposium on Astronomy and Astrobiology Education: 3–8 July 2017; Utrecht, Netherlands. More Information: http://ise2a.uu.nl/ 

* IAA Solar Day, 6 August, WWT, Castle Espie, 2 - 5 p.m.

* 36th International Meteor Conference, in Petnica, Serbia, from September 21 to 24, 2017. For details contact the Local Organizing Committee at imc2017@imo.net 

* International Observe the Moon Night, 28 October 2017. More Information: http://observethemoonnight.org/ 

 

21. IAA Telescopes for loan: The IAA has telescopes available to borrow, for any paid up member Enquiries to Andy McCrea: s.mccrea980@btinternet.com 

22: Interesting Weblinks: (Disclaimer - Use of material herein from various sources does not imply approval or otherwise of the opinions, political or otherwise, of those sources).  NB: If the title in the weblink does not indicate the subject matter, I give a brief simple intro before the link. I may also comment about the link afterwards.

Astrophysics:
Spins of ancient stars in clusters are aligned https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170314141435.htm 
 
Earth & Moon  
 
Exoplanets:
 

Space:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4322036/Scientists-want-turn-SUN-giant-telescope.html The text does not spell it out, but the diagram indicates that the telescope would be placed beyond 547 AU (about 50 billion miles) away. And presumably it would have some method to block out direct light from the Sun, and/or use wavelengths at which the Sun is not so bright. It does not say either how it could be pointed at any particular distant object.
 
23. TWITTER Follow the IAA on Twitter: @IaaAstro.

 

24. JOINING the IRISH ASTRONOMICAL ASSOCIATION: This link downloads a Word document to join the IAA. http://documents.irishastro.org.uk/iaamembership.doc
If you are a UK taxpayer, please tick the 'gift-aid' box, as that enables us to reclaim the standard rate of tax on your subscription, at no cost to you. You can also make a donation via Paypal if you wish: just click on the 'Donate' button. See also
www.irishastro.org.

 

Clear skies,

Terry Moseley