Category Archives: Event

“Images of Starlight” exhibition 2nd August – 30th Sept Linenhall Library

The Irish Astronomical Association (IAA), in conjunction with the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies (IFAS) and the Irish Astronomical Society (IAS), presents "Images of Starlight", a highly regarded exhibition of the best astronomical photographs taken by amateur astronomers throughout Ireland.
See coverage of the launch on NVTV here from 18.42 onwards….
This exhibition was launched at the Linenhall Library, Belfast, on 2nd August, and will run until 30th September. The Library is open 9.30am – 5.30pm Monday – Friday and 9.30am – 4pm Saturday. Admission is free. This exhibition originally opened in Dublin in February to great acclaim, and has been viewed by tens of thousands of people at three venues since then.
Images of Starlight
With modern high quality telescopes, standard digital cameras, and computer-aided guiding and post processing, amateur astronomers are now taking photos of better quality than those taken by the biggest and best professional telescopes in the world before the digital era.
The exhibition was originally organised by the IAS (Irish Astronomical Society, Dublin) and IFAS, and was open to all amateur astronomers in Ireland. Over 60 photos of extremely high quality were selected, printed at large scale to the highest possible standards by Canon Ireland, and professionally mounted. The Belfast incarnation of the exhibition adds another 21 images taken by IAA members.
The exhibition showcases amazing images of spectacular objects from the Aurora or Northern lights in our own atmosphere, to the Sun, Moon, planets and comets in our Solar System, to beautiful nebulae, star-forming regions and star clusters in our own Milky Way Galaxy, and on to other distant galaxies whose light has travelled many millions of light-years to reach our telescopes and cameras.
The exhibition will feature Irish category winners of the International Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, organised by the Royal Greenwich Observatory in London. It also includes what is believed to be the largest and most detailed image of a constellation ever taken by an amateur astronomer.
While the exhibition is aimed at the general public, the aspiring astronomical photographer will find inspiration and the advice they need to take their first steps.


IAA Perseid Meteor Shower Barbeque – Thurs 11th Aug – Cancelled

**Note this event is cancelled due to bad weather**

The Perseid Meteor shower is caused by the Earth passing through the debris trail of Comet 109P Swift-Tuttle which orbits the Sun with a 130 year period. The meteors hit the Earh's atmosphere comparitively fast, aprroximately 35 miles/sec or 120,000 mph and burn up at a height of around 50 miles. This year we are expecting a Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) of as much as 200 on the Thursday night which is outstanding – in fact this year it is possible that we will see an outburst, assuming we hold the event on the Thursday evening.

We have chosen Thurs 11th August for this event this year – it is actually the best night in terms of expected meteor numbers and the weather looks slightly better than the Friday, though if things change closer to the date we may postpone to the Friday – watch this space!. Meet at 8:00pm for the Barbeque with observing from 10:30pm onwards.

IAA Solar Day, WWT, Castle Espie – Sun 7th Aug 2pm – 5pm

The next popular IAA solar outreach day will be on Sunday 7th August from 2:00 to 5:00. All the usual attractions – solar observing if clear, telescope display, meteorites to handle, exhibition of space & astronomy items and of course the ever popular starshows in the Stardome, courtesy of Armagh Planetarium. Shows will run at 2:00, 2:45, 3:30 and 4:15 and tickets are bookable at the reception desk at Castle Espie
The "Solar Days" are generally held at one or two venues during the summer months and provide an excellent opportunity to promote astronomy at a time when dark skies don't arrive until late at night and we're getting prepared for our lecture programme which starts in September. They are always popular events and all ages are catered for.

Monday 9th May – Mercury Transit Observing & Talk

On Monday 9th May there will be a rare Transit of Mercury. This occurs when Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, passes between the Earth and The Sun – usually it will pass above or below but on rare occasions like this it will go directly in between and will be visible against The Sun for several hours as it makes its passage across.

This last happened in 2006 and will happen again in 2019, however this year's event is very well placed and can be seen in its entirety from Ireland, weather permitting of course! Unlike the Transit of Venus, which could be observed using eclipse glasses only, Mercury is both smaller and further away so can only be seen with optical aids.

DO NOT under any circumstances try and use Eclipse Glasses in conjunction with binoculars or any other optical aid to see this event, eye damage may well result.

Instead, come and join the IAA and members of the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB to view the event in complete safety.

Observing will begin outside the front of QUB at Midday and continue until the end of the transit after 7pm, then there will be a Michael West Lecture on "Einstein’s Gravity From The Transit Of Mercury To The Detection Of Gravitational Waves" by Professor Patrick Brady, Center for Gravitation, Cosmology & Astrophysics, University of Wisconsin.

Transit begin and end times are 12;12 BST and 19:42 BST

We will also be holding a similar event at Portstewart, Co Derry, at the Agherton Parish Centre, from 12.00 until the end of the event.

Further details on the observing here…..

Further details on the talk, for which registration is required, here…..

IAA at Benburb Castle, Sat 9th April, 7 p.m

The IAA has been invited to hold another one of our ever-popular public astronomy events at a new venue, Benburb Castle, Co Tyrone. We will have observing (if clear) of a lovely young crescent Moon, magnificent Jupiter, and maybe even glimpse the innermost planet, elusive little Mercury. Plus of course all the usual Deep Sky Objects visible in this darks-sky location.
There will also be a very good pass over by the brilliant ISS.
Benburb Castle is just S of the main street, the B128, in the village of Benburb. The B128 runs from Blackwatertown to Aughnacloy, and Benburb is just a few miles west of Blackwatertown, NW of Armagh City.
The entrance to the Castle from the B128 was misleading the last time I was there- it took you into the Priory instead! So to be sure, note this: the entrance drive is just West of the junction between the B128 and the B130 from Benburb to Dungannon. Thus, if coming from Blackwatertown, enter Benburb village along the B128 and look out for the junction with the B130 to the right. The entrance to the castle is the next entrance on your left.
GPS: The entrance to the Castle off the B128 is at N 54d 24' 43"; W: 6d 44' 46".
The 'Castle' itself (more of a collection of fortified houses, really) is at N 54d 24' 36"; W: 6d 44' 45".
Tea and coffee etc will be provided.

Lecture 30th March – Kevin Nolan (The Planetary Society) “An Emerging Cosmic Perspective”

For this talk we are very pleased to welcome Kevin Nolan who is the Irish representative for The Planetary Society.

The talk is called  "An Emerging Cosmic Perspective" and looks at some of the most recent images from The Hubble Space Telescope and ESO, including the 8-GigaPixel image of the centre of the Milky Way and the 1-GigaPixel HST image of M31. We'll examine what such images reveal about the Universe and how they are rapidly changing our perspective on the Universe. We will also look at their limits, pointing the way toward new capabilities in astronomical observation. This is a highly visual talk, suitable for non-experts and experts alike.

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.

Lecture 16th March – Michael O’Connell, MAC: “The Antikythera Mechanism: The World’s Oldest Computer” *Updated*

*Update* Michael mentioned the BBC Documentary on the subject. It can be seen here……..
The Antikythera Mechanism has been described as the 'World's Oldest Computer'. Dated to around 2,000 years ago, it was found in an ancient shipwreck off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. It's incredibly complex for such an ancient artifact, and was capable of predicting eclipses and other astronomical events. This is bound to be a fascinating talk.
Michael O'Connell is one of Irelands leading amateur astronomers, beng a past Chairman of the Irish Federation of Astronomy Societies and IFAS Astronomer of the Year 2009.
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.

Dr Lucie Green Lecture 17th October

Our lecture on 17th October will be something a bit special! We are teaming up with the Astrophysics Research Centre at QUB to bring Science Communicator, TV and Radio personality and Solar Expert Dr Lucie Green to Belfast to talk to us on the subject of “The Sun”.

This lecture will be held in the Larmour Lecture Theatre at QUB and though admission is free, seats will need to be booked due the expected demand. Further details regarding the lecture can be found here….

Details of Dr Green’s work can be found on her website here….

Dr Peter Gallagher Lecture 3rd October

Our guest on 3rd October will be Solar expert Dr Peter Gallagher from Trinity College, Dublin.

Dr Gallagher is Head of the Solar Physics Group at Trinity and his research is primarily concerned with the understanding of Solar Storms and their impact on Earth – of great interest to us as Solar Cycle 24 gathers pace!

Dr Gallagher obtained a first degree in Physics and Mathematics from University College Dublin, a PhD in Solar Physics from QUB and has since worked on Solar research including a six year stint in the US working firstly at Big Bear Solar Observatory in California and at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

His talk, entitled “LOFAR and The Rosse Observatory” will give us an insight into the latest Solar Reserch being conducted from Ireland.

Delamont Observers witness Massive Fireball


AT 22.54 BST on 21-9-12 at Delamont Country Park, 1 mile south of Killyleagh in Co. Down, GPS coordinates 531113, 351190, 54deg22’56” N 5deg40’39” W, a group of 12 members from the Irish Astronomical Association during a regular observing session observed an amazing group of fireballs rising from trees 10 to 15 degrees above the eastern horizon to the right of Jupiter as seen from the main car park.

It was immediately thought they might be fireworks but they continued to rise vertically at a steady pace and fan out slightly as they approached us from distance, with their numbers increasing and their brilliant intensity remaining unchanged. The trail was between 3 and 4 degrees wide and 50 to 80 degrees long at zenith. We estimated approximately 20-30 fireballs were seen following the same east to west trajectory each with an estimated brightness between mag. -5 to -7 depending on size, and each left a small/medium trail as they travelled almost directly overhead. Amazingly, all of it was captured on film and uploaded to Youtube, where it swiftly spread among astronomy fans without the need of hiring The Marketing Heaven.

The path of the fireballs was observed to the right of Aldebaran and M45 and rising vertically straight up past Alpha and Beta Cass’. At their highest point, they were some 5-8 degrees off vertical toward the eastern horizon. A group of 4 or 5 larger fireballs were at the front of the group and differences in size were apparent but each burned with a similar brightness and a distinct orange hue. After the fireballs passed the top of the summer triangle, 2 or possibly 3 sonic booms were heard before they passed to the left of the keystone of Hercules and set behind trees at approx 1 mile distance at 5 degrees above the western horizon.

The Uptown Jungle able to observe the fireballs for approx’ 1min 30 sec to 2mins from the trees in the east to the trees in western horizon as we had particularly good views in that direction big city maids. As the fireballs approached the western horizon their brightness began to fade and their numbers dwindled, possibly due to burning up and/or atmospheric extinction, at least 2 or 3 were seen disappearing behind trees at mag.+1 or +2.

They were travelling at a speed somewhat faster than the ISS but perhaps not as fast as a typical meteorite on entry into the earths atmosphere. Their speed remained constant throughout.

David Stewart, IAA Observing Coordinator

This story just became even more amazing – see this update from Sky & Telescope