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IAA Lecture, Weds 29th November – Dr. Jean Costes (QUB)

Title: Toward the discovery and characterisation of Earth-like planets

Abstract: More than 25 years after the first discovery of an exoplanet around a main-sequence star, more than 5000 exoplanets have been detected and confirmed.

These new discoveries have shown us the great diversity of exoplanets present in our galaxy. In the next decade, one of the major scientific challenges will be the discovery of habitable Earth-like worlds.

 For example, the next European Space Agency mission PLATO (due to launch in 2026) is specifically tasked with finding Earth-analogue transiting planets. After describing basic concepts on the discovery of exoplanets, I’ll present during this talk some of the latest updates on the detection and characterisation of exoplanets. My focus will be on the remaining challenges that we are facing in order to detect our Earth 2.0.

Biography: I’m Jean Costes, a Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.

I’m mainly working on the detection of exoplanets, focusing on the mitigation of stellar activity. As part of the HiRISE core team (a new instrument that we installed last summer at ESO Paranal in Chile)

I’m also looking into exoplanet atmospheres. 

Venue: Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics building, Queen’s University Belfast, 7.30 p.m.

Admission free, including light refreshments. All welcome.

IAA PUBLIC LECTURE, Wed 15 November, “Living with a (Active) Star”, by Dr Elizabeth Butler, ARC, QUB

Synopsis: Space weather is a very complex field, involving many different subject areas, that as a community we are still working to grasp. This talk will discuss what some current points of concern are, and the science and missions being directed at them. 

Biography: Elizabeth Butler grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, hating physics. She wanted to write novels about dragons instead. Something shifted in high school – enough that she graduated from Northern Michigan University with a double bachelors in physics and writing.

After taking a gap year to drive mowers and utility carts around 32 miles of hiking trails while composing poetry in her head, she was accepted as a graduate student by the Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department of the University of Colorado in Boulder. There, she fell in love with planetariums, solar physics, and the developing field of space weather, and later used all three to become a Fellow in the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research program.

After weathering two wildfire evacuation notices, a mass shooting, and a global pandemic, she graduated with her PhD in 2022, defending a dissertation that was two thirds solar flare physics and one third human subjects work on bridging the space weather research and forecasting communities.

She then accepted the opportunity to move across the pond to work at Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre, where she has only received one of the seven visits threatened by friends and family. “

IAA PUBLIC LECTURE, Wed 1 November, Apollo to Artemis – The Next Giant Leap, by Paul Evans


In 1961 President Kennedy set NASA the goal of landing a Man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth by the end of the decade. This goal was achieved by Apollo 11 in July 1969 and further Moon missions followed until the program ended in 1972. The US presence in space changed focus to the Space Shuttle which ran from 1981 until it was ended in 2011.
In the 1990s the idea of returning to the Moon began to gain traction and in the 2000s the Constellation Program took shape with the design of the Orion capsule and the Ares rockets, however this program was cancelled after only one test launch.

 The program returned as Artemis in the mid-2010s and the first Mission – unmanned- took place in 2022 and was successful. Further mission will follow, this time crewed. 

This talk will look back at the Apollo history and the intermediate steps and will then focus on the upcoming next steps in the Artemis program giving a guide to what to expect in coming years.


Paul was a schoolboy in the 1960s and had some interest in Space. In 1968, with the Apollo 8 crewed Moon mission, this interest really lifted off, boosted by a Christmas present of  Patrick Moore’s “Oberservers’ guide to Astronomy” which began his lifelong interest in all things space.

Paul has lived in NI since 2003 and is currently in his sixth non-consecutive year as IAA President and has also been Chair of IFAS where he is currently Vice-Chair.

He lives on the Antrim Coast with wife Jude and cat Ollie and during the day he keeps the TV and Radio on air.

Venue: Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics building, Queen’s University Belfast, 7.30 p.m.

Admission free, including light refreshments. All welcome.

 IAA PUBLIC LECTURE, Wed, 18 October, by Richard Goodrich

Fear and Loathing in the Heavens: The 1910 Return of Halley’s Comet”

SYNOPSIS: In 1705, Edmond Halley liberated humanity from the belief that comets were portents of doom; two centuries later, in 1910, as Halley’s Comet returned to perihelion, newspapers and magazines, religious leaders, misguided theorists, and shameless grifters managed to rekindle that fear. When astronomers announced that the earth would pass through the comet’s tail, opportunists exploited human anxiety—often with fatal consequences.

  Richard Goodrich, author of Comet Madness: How the 1910 Return of Halley’s Comet (almost) Destroyed Civilization, will give us an entertaining lecture about the comet’s 1910 return and the reasons that many believed the earth would not survive the encounter.


Richard J. Goodrich (Ph.D., University of St Andrews) is an author and historian. After twenty years teaching in British and US universities, Richard resigned his position to pursue a full-time writing career. His interests range from Ancient History (the Roman Empire and early Church history) to the modern age. Comet Madness, Richard’s first foray into popular history is available from Amazon, Waterstones, WH Smith, and other fine bookstores. Learn more about Richard and his work at his website:

Larmor Lecture Theatre, Physics building, Queen’s University Belfast, 7.30 p.m.

Admission free, including light refreshments. All welcome.

2023/24 Lecture Programme

The Lecture Programme is held in association with the School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast.

It runs from September until the end of April and is held in the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Physics Building, main campus, Queen’s University, Belfast. Meetings start at 7.30pm sharp and consist of a short talk given by one of our members followed by the main lecture, usually given by a Professional Astronomer.  

The lecture over, light refreshments are available free of charge. At this time members are free to mix and discuss the latest astronomical news and events. The meeting finishes at 10.00pm.

Non-members are also welcome to attend!

Sep 20: Prof Tom Ray, DIAS: JWST – Highlights of the First Year.

Oct 4: Robert Hill, NISO: Developing the N.I. Space Economy and Ecosystem

Oct 18: Richard Goodrich: Fear and Loathing in the Heavens: The 1910 Return of Halley’s Comet

Nov 1: Paul Evans: Apollo to Artemis – the next Giant Leap

Nov 15: Dr Elizabeth Butler, QUB: Solar mysteries ( Exact title TBC)

Nov 29 Dr Matt Nicholl, QUB (date TBC): Luminous Fast Coolers 

Dec 13: TBA: (Two QUB Students?)

Cosmic Corner – A New All-Ireland Astronomy Podcast

HI Guys, Welcome to Cosmic Corner – this is a new Night Sky Guide for Ireland put together by me and Sinead Mannion and gives you a tour around some of the highlights of the September Sky. Do please have a listen, and if you like it, share it!

On Apple Podcasts now –…/cosmic-corner/id1705184817

On Spotify –

Clear Skies,