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Lecture Weds 8th January 2020 – Dr Chris Watson, QUB

This talk is titled  “The Terra Hunting Experiment – finding Alien Earthlike Worlds”

Despite having found more than 4,000 planets around ‘normal’ stars since the initial Nobel prize-winning discovery in 1995, no true Earth-like planet (or Earth-analog) has yet been found. While Earth-size, Earth-mass, and Earth-density planets have been discovered, these are all in tight orbits around their host stars (e.g. Kepler-78b was, at the time of discovery, the exoplanet most similar to Earth in size and mass, but has a ‘year’ lasting just over 8 hours!).
Why have we yet to find an Earth-analog? I will review both the technical and astrophysical challenges of finding another ‘Earth’ with humanity’s current level of technical and scientific expertise. This will naturally explain how this spawned the ‘Terra Hunting Experiment’ – a bold 10-year long intense survey of a select number (~40) solar-type stars to look for the Doppler-wobble signature of an Earth-like planet orbiting in an Earth-like orbit around a solar-type star. Might this reveal, for the first time, some potential homes of E.T.? I’ll finish by providing my own personal opinion on the prospects for the discovery of life – the ultimate goal of such work.

I am a senior lecturer and head of the extrasolar planet research group, as well as Deputy Head of the School of Mathematics and Physics at Queen’s University Belfast. I arrived here in October 2008, following on from a PPARC Postdoctoral fellowship held at Sheffield University (working on binary stars). Now my main interests are in developing methods of reducing the impact of stellar inhomogenities (such as starspots and convection) on the detection and characterisation of extra-solar planets. I am also interested in how hot Jupiters ended up where they are, as well as characterising their atmospheres (QUB was only the 3rd group to recover a z-band secondary eclipse, for example). My activities include involvement in a number of international projects, and I am one of the UK Co-Investigators of the HARPS-N project, as well as Co-Principal Investigator of the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS). My research has attracted major national and international press attention, with several global press releases, documentaries in the UK and further afield (such as Australia) with typical viewership measured in the millions. I have also written ‘expert’ articles for the BBC News, as well as numerous interviews and press articles across the UK/Ireland and globally.

Doors open about 7.15pm. There is free parking available on the campus in the evenings. Admission Free, including light refreshments. We are located in the Bell Theatre, Department of Mathematics and Physics, QUB – Details here….. With thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for assistance with this event. 

Note this is in a different Lecture Theatre in the Main QUB building opposite the Physics Dept – to the left from the end of the Car park QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.

IAA Double Public Lecture, Wednesday December 18th, 7.30 p.m.

1.) “The Cosmic Compass” by IAA President, Brian Beesley.

Summary: Part 1 is a (non technical) description of how astronomy has been used to find where you are and what direction you’re moving in from ancient times up to the Apollo missions. Part 2 is a description of the basics of satellite navigation together with how this technology developed from WWII radio navigation and blind bombing aids with starscommesse.it.

(2) “Deep Sky Astrophotography with a Small Telescope.” by IAA C/M Adam Jeffers

Summary: This talk will outline the equipment, stages and software involved in capturing and processing an image of a deep sky object from your back garden.

Doors open about 7.15pm. There is free parking available on the campus in the evenings. Admission Free, including light refreshments. We are located in the Bell Theatre, Department of Mathematics and Physics, QUB – Details here….. With thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for assistance with this event. 

Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.

Lecture Weds 20th Nov 7:30pm – Dr Meg Schwamb (QUB) “New Perspectives Big and Small of the Trans-Neptunian Region”

Pluto resides beyond Neptune orbiting in a sea of small icy bodies in the Trans-Neptunian Region. These distant objects are truly the fossils relics left over after our Solar System’s formation. Digging into the orbits, dynamics, and physical properties of these bodies provide new insights and windows into the origins and past history of the outer Solar System. This includes hints of a possibly unseen planet or an event long-since erased from the rest of the Solar System with http://Insanejackpot.com. In this talk, I’ll explore the changing views of the outer Solar System from the discoveries of ground-based surveys to the New Horizons fly-bys of the Pluto system and Arrokoth.

 
Bio:
 
Dr Meg Schwamb is an lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. Meg’s research focuses on how planets and their building blocks form and evolve, applying ground-based surveys to probe our Solar System’s small body reservoirs. She is also involved in the Planet Four citizen science projects, which enlists the public to help study the seasonal processes of the Martian south pole and map the distribution of ridges on the Martian mid-latitudes. Meg also serves as co-chair of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope’s Solar System Science Collaboration. Meg was awarded the 2017 Carl Sagan Medal for Excellence in Public Communication in Planetary Science from the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science.
 
Doors open about 7.15pm. There is free parking available on the campus in the evenings. Admission Free, including light refreshments. We are located in the Bell Theatre, Department of Mathematics and Physics, QUB – details here……
 
With thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for assistance with this event.
 

Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.

 

TRANSIT OF MERCURY, 11th November

A Transit occurs when one of the inner planets (Mercury or Venus) passes across the disc of the Sun as seen from Earth.
   The closest planet to the Sun, little Mercury, transits the Sun only 13 times per century on average.
    The last Mercury transit was on 9 May 2016, and the next one won’t be until 2032 Nov 13. This transit will have the longest duration of any until the one on 2190 Nov 12.
 
 Because Mercury is quite small, and quite far from Earth, you need optical aid to see it. But this can be done only with special safe equipment. The IAA will be holding a public observing event to let everyone see the transit (weather permitting) at the Divis Car Park, where you can watch it in complete safety.
LOCAL DETAILS (for Belfast)
   The transit lasts from 12.35 – 18.04 UT, but the Sun sets before then throughout Ireland.
Mid transit = 15h 20m 57s,
   Mercury will first appear on the Sun’s disc as a tiny black dot a bit to the South of the East edge of the Sun, and will appear to move across to the West (Right) side of the Sun’s disc
OBSERVING ALTITUDE and DIRECTION
The Sun will be just past South as the transit begins, and at an altitude of only 18 degrees above the horizon. As the transit progresses the Sun will be moving towards the West, and getting lower in the sky, so you’ll need a good clear view to the South and Southwest in order to see most of the event.
 
   SAFE VIEWING: Like anything involving observing the Sun, eye safety is paramount. You should NEVER look directly at the Sun with any sort of optical instrument, or you will seriously damage your eyes, with possible permanent blindness.
 The only safe ways to observe and photograph this event are described on the IAA website; www.irishastro.org:
 
 WATCHING THE TRANSIT SAFELY.
The IAA will have a public observing event at the Divis Mountain Car Park, which is off the Divis road, which is off the B38.
TIME: from 12.30 to sunset (if the sky is clear)
The car park is on Divis Rd at N 54.5992635; W -6.0402635. Walk from there the short distance to
the site of the Barn Café, along the road towards Divis mountain..
   We will be there from about 12.30, and stay to sunset, or when clouds beat us. If the weather looks absolutely hopeless, check the IAA website for updates on whether we’ll be there or not.
NB: this is quite an exposed site, so dress warmly from head to toe!
   For more information see: www.irishastro.org
 
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. The Irish Astronomical Association is a registered charity dedicated to promoting interest in, and information about, astronomy and space and related topics. It is the oldest and largest astronomical society based in N. Ireland, and the largest amateur astronomy society in Ireland.
2. 1st Contact (when the edge of Mercury first appears to ingress on the Sun) = 12h 35m 18s,
3. 2nd Contact (when the whole disc of Mercury first appears totally silhouetted on the Sun)  = 12h 36m 58s.
4. Mercury will be 101 million km from Earth at the time of the transit
5. The IAA runs public events throughout the year, including free public lectures at QUB, and public outreach events in various locations throughout Northern Ireland, details of which are available on the website: