August 2012


Delamont Perseid Observing is ON

We have decided that in spite of the high cloud that has been a round all day, we will go to Delamont Country Park for the Perseid Barbeque as there is a good possibility of some clear spells, at least before midnight. There is also an excellent ISS pass at 2245 whether you come an join us or not! We will be there from 7:30-8:00pm onwards.

Sir Bernard Lovell 1913-2012

Very sad news from Jodrell Bank – Sir Bernard Lovell, Emeritus Professor of Radioastronomy at the University of Manchester and founder of the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope has died aged 98. A full obituary is available on theJodrell Bank website here….

IAA member John McConnell had this to say…

 "Sir Bernard was a lovely man, i had met him on several occasions going back to the 1970's and he was always the same, a perfect gent"

Here is Sir Bernard pictured with John McConnell at Birr Castle….

Sir bernard Lovell, John


Curiosity lands on Mars!

At 0531 UT on the morning of 6th August 2012, there was jubilation at the JPL Control Centre in Pasadena, California as the Curiosity Rover landed safely on Mars.

Officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity is the largest and most sophisticated vehicle ever sent to explore the surface of another planet.  With a landing system specially developed to lower the 900 kg rover safely to the Martian surface, Curiosity was on its own for seven minutes as it descended towards Mars.

Pictures were not slow in coming – here's one of the first….

Curiosity on Mars

More details are available from NASA here….

Summer Programme

We have a solid programme of outreach events lined up for the Summer season with something for everyone and of course don't forget, the 2012-13 season of meetings will kick off on Wednesday 19th September at the Bell Lecture Theatre, Queens University Belfast, at 19:30hrs sharp.


Castle Espie 12th August

On Sunday 12th August we will return to WWF Castle Espie in County Down for another Solar Day – again from 2pm to 5pm. This venue has become a regular on the Summer calendar over the last few years and a s well as Solar Observing we will be offering displays of meteorites and other astronomical paraphenalia and of course Star Shows in the Mobile Planetarium. Also, if you are one of the many who has bought a telescope but found it a bit tricky to set up, bring it along and one of our experts will show you how to get it set up to give its best.

Castle EspieImage: Pat O'Neill 2010


Perseid Meteor Shower 11th/12th August

This date also coincides with the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower – that actual peak is 10am on 12th this year, and the conditions are very good with The Moon in a waning crescent phase not visible until the early hours of the morning. Our intention is to hold the annual Perseid Barbeque at Delamont Country Park on the night of Saturday 11th August, however given that the peak straddles two nights we will hold the night of Sunday 12th in reserve in case we are rained off or clouded out on the Saturday night.

Note that the peak is not a sharp one and meteors can be seen a week or so either side of the 11th/12th – indeed Perseids can be seen from the end of July until the end of August so it's worth a look on any clear night over that period!

Image: Paul Evans 2004

Jupiter / Moon Close Encounter

On the night of 14th/15th July around 03:00 BST Jupiter passed very close to the waning crescent Moon. In fact, viewed from more southerly locations there was an occultation, however from Northern Ireland a near miss was observed, and amazingly the weather allowed a quick glimpse of this between the clouds!

Jupiter Moon conjunction

Image: Paul Evans 

IAA Members pictured with NASA Administrator 

Some members of the IAA travelled south to Trinity College, Dublin to attend a lecture, entitled "Pushing the Limits to Achieve Success" , given by Charles F. Bolden, Jr. (Major General, USMC Ret.), the currrent Adminstrator of NASA.

Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, retired Marine Corps Major General Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., began his duties as the twelfth Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration on July 17, 2009. As Administrator, he leads the NASA team and manages its resources to advance the agency’s missions and goals. 

Pictured here L-R, Lee Gordon, Charles Bolden, Andy McCrea, Terry Moseley and Pat O'Neill.

IAA members with
                  Charlie BoldenImage: Pat O'Neill


Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond