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David Beesley FRAS

I joined the Irish Astronomical Society when I was roughly nine or ten years old (c 1963-64) and one of my earliest recollections was of meeting David Beesley, who at the time was IAS Belfast Centre Honorary Secretary, and I remember well how keen he was to help and give advice to a budding young astronomer. 

David lived all his life in East Belfast and through the early sixties, seventies and eighties and even into the 1990s David was a leading light in IAS/IAA activity – organising, lecturing and observing. He was a principal driving force in the IAA after its formation in 1974 acting as Honorary Secretary and President for many years. His forte was double stars and he enjoyed nothing better than to explain the intricate details of how to use an eyepiece micrometer to measure the position angle and separation of these stars. He was a regular contributor to the prestigious Irish Astronomical Journal (IAJ), edited by Ernst Öpik from Armagh Observatory, and he submitted accurate double star observations to the BAA for many years. David was also Editor of Stardust for several decades and it was through his hand-delivery of the magazine that I grew to know him well. I lived close to David in East Belfast and he would frequently pick me up and take me with him to various observing events and trips – such as the visit to Patrick Moore’s house in the Mall in Armagh, or the observing sessions at the Giant’s ring etc. We travelled together to Birr on many occasions to attend the Star Parties there.  David also worked for a spell at the Planetarium as a lecturer although eventually he found the travelling too much and joined heating and plumbing suppliers, Beggs and Partners in Belfast where he worked until retirement. In 1989 David was the first person to be awarded the IAA’s Fitzgerald Medal for ‘outstanding service to the Association’, and in 2000 David was the first person to be awarded the IAA’s most prestigious award for ‘exceptional service to astronomy’ – the Öpik medal. 

David suffered from Parkinson’s disease for the last few years and it eventually forced him to drop out of Association life, but he passed away on 18th April 2020 as a result of contracting Covid-19. Although he spent his last year or so in a nursing home in Belfast, David did not lose his interest in things astronomical nor his sharpness of mind. We spoke just a few weeks before his death when he discussed measuring sunspot diameters using his trusty micometer and telescope from his nursing home room. 

David was a quiet and respectful person, a true gentleman who commanded significant respect through his knowledge, unassuming manner and dedication to his lifelong hobby. David is survived by his wife Hazel, who was also a member of the Association and they were both deeply committed Christians. David has a son Mark and daughter Fiona. He was a ‘giant’ of the Irish amateur astronomy community and will be sadly missed by all.

Andy McCrea, 19th April 2020.

The Sky in April

Following the cancellation of the remaining meetings due to Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown, one thing we can still do is observe from our homes. So here, in the format of the “Warmup” talks, is a guide to observing in April!

Covid-19 Virus

The IAA Council has met to consider the situation regarding the Covid-19 Pandemic and has reluctantly come to the conclusion that we must cancel the events planned for the remainder of the season. Therefore, the lectures on 18th March and 1st April are CANCELLED and the Annual General Meeting planned for 15th April is postponed until September.

There will be no Observing sessions organised for the remainder of the season (20th/21st, 27th/28th March, 17th/18th and 24th/25th April)

Further information will appear here as this situation develops

Lecture Weds 4th March – Dr John Quinn (UCD) – “Gamma-ray and Optical Astronomy with VERITAS”

Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of electro-magnetic radiation, produced by some of the most violent events in the universe, such as supernovas remnants and relativistic jets from supermassive Black Holes.

It’s only recently that we’ve developed instruments capable of studying them. The very highest energy rays (in the Tera electron Volt (TeV) range) produce showers of secondary emissions on our site, called Cherenkov radiation, when they stroke our atmosphere.  

VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) in Arizona is one of only 3 state of the art TeV observatories which can study this phenomenon, and this talk will describe how it works and the science it produces.   Visit sexsub xxxbeeg.

The Veritas Collaboration is now also using the telescope for optical astronomy, such as fast transients and interferometry, and the talk will also cover this new work.

John Quinn is an Associate Professor in the School of Physics at University College Dublin (UCD) and has been involved in the field of ground-based gamma-ray astronomy for 25 years. His PhD was conducted at UCD, under the supervision of Prof. David Fegan. and as a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona, under the supervision of Prof. Trevor Weekes, where the atmospheric Cherenkov technique was pioneered and the first detections of astronomical sources of VHE gamma rays were achieved.

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.

Astronomy Question Time & Star Watch

Saturday 22nd February, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Suitability: 10 Yrs +

Free.



Do you have a burning question about black holes? Do you want to know more about exoplanets? A panel of world-leading astronomers from Queen’s University Belfast will explore these colossal questions of the universe and so much more! This event will be followed by Astronomers from Queen’s and the Irish Astronomical Association setting up telescopes to give everyone the opportunity to look at stars and nebulae. Please dress warmly!

In the event of poor weather the IAA’s Stardome will be deployed

The main event is in the Larmor Theatre at QUB, observing will be on the lawn outside

Lecture Weds 19th Feb – Laura Murphy (TCD) – “The First Stars in the Universe “

Abstract

Understanding the nature of the first stars and their explosive deaths is key to understanding the early universe and the evolution of distant galaxies. With new facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope we may soon have the first observations of the earliest stars, but to understand these observations we will require detailed simulations. The first stars were very different to stars that we see today, they were more massive, much hotter and only contained elements formed during the Big Bang, meaning that they would have evolved very differently, and produced more black holes and explosive events. Using stellar evolution modelling, we investigate these first stars for a range of masses up to 120 times the mass of the sun, both rotating and non-rotating. This research sheds new light on the behaviour of the first stars and how they may have impacted their surroundings, particularly in relation to their final fates.

Bio

Laura is a PhD student in Trinity College Dublin studying the first stellar explosions and their progenitors. As an awardee of the IRC postgraduate research award she is a member of the Supernovae and Stellar Evolution research group led by Prof. Jose Groh. Her work aims to understand the nature of the first stars and their explosive deaths as supernovae, with particular emphasis on how rotation affects their evolution. She is also active in outreach and is an executive committee member of WITS (Women in Technology and Science) Ireland.

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.