Category Archives: Event

IAA Lecture Weds 1st February

Dr Mike Simms. “The Winchcombe meteorite: My part in its downfall.”

On 28th February 2021 a brilliant fireball streaked across the night sky. Within a few days meteorites had been found on the ground in Gloucestershire, the first recovered from the UK since 1991. This talk will describe my efforts to recover pieces of this unique meteorite, why it is so special, and what has been learned from subsequent analysis of the data.

Dr Mike Simms is Senior Curator of Geology at National Museums NI, but has been a geologist for more than 55 years (since the age of 6). From an original interest in fossils, he has diversified into many other aspects of geology and, since 2003, into meteorites. He was responsible for the many of the sciences galleries in the Ulster Museums, including a display of meteorites and the acclaimed Elements gallery.

   NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees. Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road. There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

   ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!


IAA Lecture, Wed 18 January, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB, by Dr Ernst de Mooij, Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB

“Searching for molecules in the atmospheres of exoplanets”

Abstract:

Since the discovery of the first exoplanet almost 3 decades ago, thousands of additional exoplanets have been discovered. Most of these planets orbit in systems that do not resemble our own Solar System. What is more, advances in instrumentation and observing techniques have enabled us to start to study the atmospheres of these planets, even directly measuring the signatures of different atoms and molecules in their atmospheres.

   In this talk I will explain how we can study exoplanet atmospheres to determine their compositions, and what this has revealed to date.

   NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees. Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road. There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

   ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!

IAA Lecture, Wed 4th Jan 2023, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB, by Professor Stephen Smartt, PhD, FRS, CBE, MRIA, Christchurch College, U of Oxford

The final fate of massive stars”

Abstract: We know that supernovae are produced at the end of the nuclear burning lives of some massive stars when the core collapses. But do all massive stars produce a supernova ? They must end their lives somehow as their cores can’t resist the pull of gravity for ever. Whether or not they produce a

luminous explosion or collapse to form black holes with little mass ejected and faint emission is still debated. I will review the latest work on trying to work out how massive stars end their lives. 

Biography.

Stephen was until recently Professor of Astrophysics at QUB, and is now the Wetton Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford and the Director of the Hintze Centre for Astrophysical Surveys.

   Stephen is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy and was awarded the George Darwin lectureship from the Royal Astronomical Society in 2018. He is a recipient of the Royal Irish Academy’s Gold Medal in the physical and mathematical sciences and the Royal Astronomical Society’s Herschel Medal. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2020 and awarded a CBE in Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honours list in 2022.

Research Interests:  I work on processing data from several large sky survey projects. One of them, the ATLAS project, is a network of 4 telescopes funded by NASA, which can scan the whole visible sky every 24hrs. We process the data in real time, linking discoveries to galaxy and star catalogues and trigger ESO and other facilities for multi-wavelength follow-up. I work on preparation for the Rubin Observatory’s Legacy Survey of Space and Time and have a scientific leadership role in the UK’s Lasair project. With colleagues at Queen’s and the U of Hawaii I search for the electromagnetic counterparts of gravitational wave sources, mostly from merging neutron stars. We use the Pan-STARRS twin telescope system and then the ESO telescopes for follow-up. I was one of the founding members of ENGRAVE which is a European wide effort to optimise the use of the VLT and ESO facilities for follow-up of the optical and near-infrared emission from gravitational wave sources. I sit on the Rubin Science Advisory Committee, the Virgo Science and Technology Advisory Committee and the Royal Society’s Schools Partnerships grant panel.

I can assure you that this will be a fascinating talk!)

   NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees. Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road. There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

   ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!

IAA Lecture, Wed 14th December, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB. 

“Life as a solar/stellar astronomer: 50 telescopes and counting.”

by Professor Emeritus Gerry Doyle, MRIA, Armagh Observatory & Planetarium.

Brief Synopsis:

During this talk, I will touch upon data and projects conducted on around 50 different space and ground-based telescopes.; the high and lows, e.g. how I misinterpreted data which could have lead to the discovery of the first exoplanet. Also, when I was the SMM instrument planner, contact between Earth and the mission was lost due to incorrect commands uploaded to the spacecraft; not my fault, HONEST.

Biography.

I was born a few miles outside of Armagh city in a lovely place of the county called Armaghbreague. I attended Granemore Primary School until the grand old age of 14 whereby I left school without a single qualification. I then went to the Armagh Technical College doing a series of pre-apprenticeship courses, brick-laying, joinery, etc. After six months, I decided that I wanted my life to move in a different direction. I returned to the College, this time taking more academic courses which resulted in me going to Queens University Belfast in 1974. After getting a degree in Mathematics, I did a PhD under the direction of another Armagh man, Professor Arthur Kingston. Arthur came from an atomic physics background, but was very keen to apply the atomic physics calculations to solar observations. Since obtaining my PhD in 1980, I worked in atomic physics, data from Tokamaks, solar and stellar physics.

Over the years, I have had the pleasure of working with many excellent tenure-track and PhD students producing over 550 academic publications to date. Although I have spent most of my research life in Armagh, I have worked at Queens for 2½ years, Mullard Space Laboratory for 1 year, plus shorter intervals (weeks to months) at many institutes world-wide. I find the golf course a great place to relax, solve problems and not just the line of the putt. Although I have officially retired, I am still research active with joint-supervision of two PhD students.

BTW, MRIA stands for Member of the Royal Irish Academy – Ireland’s most prestigious academic recognition.

NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees.

Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road.

There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!

IAA Lecture Weds 30th November – Larmor Theatre, QUB 19:30 – Prof Jorick Vink (AOP)

“First Science with the James Webb Space Telescope”

Brief Synopsis:

JWST was launched on Christmas Day 2021. It is expected to revolutionise our view of the Early Universe. While relatively nearby “Local” 

galaxies are observable in the optical part of the Electromagnetic spectrum with telescopes such as the Hubble Space Telescope, 

those at very large distances emitted their light already billions of years ago, which caused this starlight be a shifted into the redder wavelength parts of JWST. I will discuss JWST observations of individual massive stars Near & Far, as well as the “integrated” light of stellar Populations and early Galaxies.


Bio

Prof Jorick Vink finished his thesis on “radiation-driven winds of massive stars” at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, before moving to Imperial College London in the UK in 2001. 

He was awarded an RCUK Academic Fellowship at Keele University in 2005 before moving to Armagh Observatory in 2007  where he became a Research Astronomer. 

He was Acting director of Armagh planetarium in 2015-2016, and received  A visiting Professorship from the University of Leeds in 2017. 

His main research interests are in stellar evolution, atmospheres, and winds from massive stars up to explosion. 

He is currently Principal Investigator (PI) of the ESO-VLT Large Programme: “X-Shooting ULLYSES: the physics of massive stars at low Metallicity”. 

 NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees.

Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road.

There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!

IAA Lecture, Wed 16 November, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB. This will be a double-header meeting, with the following talks –

Sean O’Brien – ‘Hunting for Exoplanets using Citizen Science’

SYNOPSIS: The field of exoplanet science is booming with new surveys being built and huge amounts of data being generated at a rapid pace, but all of this data needs to be searched systematically and, ideally, quickly. Traditionally, astronomers have relied on a combination of computer algorithms and human “eyeballing” to identify the most promising exoplanet candidates that should be put forward for additional observations. The eyeballing process, where professional astronomers will view large lists of potential candidates, is time-consuming and open to error for any small team of astronomers. However, by harnessing the skills and enthusiasm of public volunteers through citizen science projects such as Planet Hunters and Exoplanet Explorers, we have been able to find exoplanets that would have likely remained undetected by professional astronomers. In this talk I will guide you through a brief history of exoplanets and how we find them, and give an overview of the process of citizen science searches and the interesting discoveries they have made.

Biography:

Sean is a 2nd-year PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast where he works with Dr Meg Schwamb as part of the Exoplanet Group. His PhD project is focused on using the help of public volunteers through the Planet Hunters NGTS project to find exoplanets that may have been missed in the initial searches of datasets from the Next Generation Transit Survey (NGTS). Prior to starting his PhD at Queen’s, Sean completed a Masters degree at the University of Warwick where he tested the precision of the NGTS telescopes by measuring the amount of scintillation, or “how much stars twinkle,” in the NGTS data.

and  

Thomas  Moore  – Discovery and Characterisation of Supernovae in the Local Universe’.

Synopsis: 

With the advent of large-scale robotic sky surveys, the number of supernovae has grown exponentially. In this talk I will discuss what supernovae are,  the history of supernova discovery and the processes we use to of find, characterise, and study supernovae. 

Biography: 

Thomas is a second-year astrophysics PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast where he graduated with and MSc in Physics with Astrophysics in 2021. His research currently focuses on observation and theoretical modelling of supernovae discovered by the ATLAS sky survey. 

   NB: The lectures are now held in the LARMOR Lecture Theatre, also in the Physics Building, which is much bigger, and will allow greater distancing between attendees. Directions. The Larmor is at the other end of the Physics building to the entrance to the Bell LT, which we used previously. It’s on the side of the Physics building which is closest to, and parallel to, University Road. There is a ramp to allow wheelchair axis. Please try to be there early, to facilitate a prompt start – access should be available from shortly after 7 p.m.

   ADMISSION FREE – All welcome!

IAA Lecture, Wed 2 November, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB

Brian MacGabhann.  “A History of Astronomy Part 2 – From Newton to Now”

SYNOPSIS:

This talk takes up the story of our understanding of the universe from where Newton left it off, by looking at what we still did not know; what are the stars? How do they shine?  How big is the Universe? Where did it all come from? The talk will look at how we slowly learned the answers to each of these questions, and thereby arrived at our present day understanding of the universe we live in. 

Bio:

Brian MacGabhann began amateur astronomy 45 years ago at the age of 14. He is the former education and outreach officer with Galway Astronomy Club, and later club chair. Founder and resident lecturer with the Renmore History Society in Galway. Has lectured extensively to clubs and groups throughout Ireland, including giving lectures at Dunsink Observatory, and the Kerry and Mayo Dark Sky festivals. 

Partial Solar Eclipse Tues 25th October

OBSERVING A PARTIAL SOLAR ECLIPSE.

This eclipse starts at about 10.05, reaches its maximum of about 25% at 10.50, and ends at about 11.40. It will be noticeable from about 10.15 to about 11.30.

Firstly, you should NEVER look directly at the Sun with the naked eye (or specs!), and ESPECIALLY NOT with any sort of optical equipment such as telescopes or binoculars – to do so risks serious permanent eye damage.

But there are several ways to observe this event safely.

1. Pinhole projection. Make a pinhole or needle-hole in a piece of card, such as a piece of a cereal packet. Hold that up at right angles to the Sun and let it shine through the hole onto another piece of white card held a few inches behind it. You’ll see a round image of the Sun with a small ‘bite’ out of it, caused by the Moon passing in front of the Sun. Do NOT look at the Sun through the pinhole! The larger the hole, the brighter the image, but the fuzzier it will be. About 1mm diameter is probably best.

2. If you have a small refractor type telescope mounted on a tripod, keep the cap on the lens at the front, and on any finder telescope attached to it. Insert the lowest power / widest angle eyepiece you have (usually the one with the largest number in mm marked on it, e.g 25mm), remove any cap from the eyepiece, and position a piece of white card behind the eyepiece. Adjust the angle of the telescope so that its shadow on the card is smallest, which means it’s pointed roughly at the Sun. 

   If there’s a finder, remove the cap, but don’t look through it! Make fine adjustments to the pointing of the telescope until you see a small image of the Sun projected onto the card. 

  Then, or if there’s no finder telescope attached, remove the cap from the front of the telescope, and move it in fine adjustments until an image of the Sun appears projected onto the card. Put the cap back on the finder for safety. Then use the focus knob until that image is as sharp as possible.

   Remember, NEVER look through either the finder or the telescope while doing this.

   And don’t leave the telescope unattended, in case someone else tries to look through it.

3. If you have a pair of special eclipse glasses left over from previous solar events you can use them, provided there are no holes or scratches in them. To test them, look at the brightest light in your house through them – you should see absolutely nothing, except possibly the filament itself in a very bright (100W+) incandescent light bulb!

4. If you have access to the darkest grade of Welder’s glass (14), you can use that, but no other sorts of filters are safe.

Do NOT use 3D glasses, CDs, DVDs, mylar type film, e.g. from packaging or the interior of wine boxes etc. Not even multiple pairs of sunglasses are safe, as they may let through harmful UV radiation.

But if you can just barely see the Sun through thick fog or cloud, you can look at that for short periods, but if it starts to brighten so you can see it clearly, look away.

Further information and guidance can be found here https://www.space.com/15614-sun-observing-safety-tips-infographic.html 

IAA Meeting 5th October 19:30 Larmor Theatre, QUB

5th Oct: Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, QUB: “Moving an Asteroid – Did we do it?” (the results of the DART impact on Didymos)

Abstract:

On 27th September at 00:14 BST, the NASA DART spacecraft hit the small asteroid moon Dimorphos at 6.1 km per second. Designed to change the orbit of Dimorphos around its parent asteroid Didymos, the collision was followed by the accompanying ASI spacecraft LICIACube and a multitude of Earth-based telescopes.

Two decades in the making, this was humanity’s first test of asteroid deflection technology, designed to prevent potentially catastrophic impacts on Earth in the future.

Did it work? What happened? This talk will briefly describe the background to the problem, and the mission plan for DART. First results from the encounter will be shown, and the talk will end with an overview of what happens next.