Category Archives: Event

IAA Season Opener – Zoom Lecture Weds 15th Sept 19:30

“The Gravitational-Wave Optical Transient Observer and Cataclysmic Variables“, by Christopher Duffy, Armagh Observatory and Planetarium


Following the observation of the first binary neutron star merger in 2017 a new frontier in multi-messenger astronomy has opened up, combining Gravitational Wave and optical astronomy. The Gravitational-Wave Optical Transient  Observatory (GOTO) is a robotic observatory designed with this kind of astronomy at its heart, designed to make use of large instantaneous sky coverage and an automatic scheduler to rapidly followup on detected Gravitational Waves events. This talk will outline the need for observatories such as GOTO, its design and operation and what can be achieved using GOTO. It will further go into detail on one of the leading secondary science goals of GOTO, Cataclysmic Variables, their often varied behaviour and why they are of great interest to us.”

 Speaker Biography:

Chris is a third year PhD student at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium and Warwick University. Originally from Scotland Chris studied for his undergraduate and masters degrees at Glasgow University. His PhD is focused on studying transient objects in the night sky; mainly outbursts from Cataclysmic Variables, using wide field survey telescopes. As part of this work Chris is a member of both the GOTO and NGTS (Next Generation Transit Survey) consortia.”

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Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting
Time: Sep 15, 2021 07:15 PM London

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The annual Perseid Meteor shower is one of the two best each year, and this year conditions are favourable, with no bright moonlight to spoil the show.

Meteors, often called Shooting Stars or Falling Stars, are just tiny bits of debris in space which plough into our atmosphere at very high speed and ‘burn away’ in a streak of light lasting just a second or so.
Most of the annual meteor showers are caused by streams of tiny particles emitted from comets as they orbit around the Sun, and the Perseids originate from Comet Swift-Tuttle, named after the two astronomers who discovered it. The Earth passes through this shower of tiny particles each August, with the maximum occurring on the night of August 11-12th, and especially 12-13th, when up to 80 meteors per hour can be observed under ideal conditions in the early hours of the 13th. However, some Perseids can be seen from the beginning of the month up to about the 20th, although the rates are much lower the further away from the date of maximum.
They are called Perseids because they all seem to come from a point in the sky in the constellation of Perseus. They can appear anywhere in the sky, at random, but if you trace the direction of their tracks backwards, they will all appear to come from a small area in Perseus, which lies along the Milky Way. 

Perseus will be rising in the North East when the sky gets dark, and the number of meteors seen will increase from then as Perseus gets higher up in the East and then almost overhead, until dawn twilight gets too bright.
The young crescent Moon will set as twilight ends, so moonlight will not interfere this year.

You don’t need a telescope, or even binoculars, to see them, just your own eyes. But you must allow time for your eyes to adapt to the darkness before you’ll start to see any: if going out from a bright room, this takes 10 minutes for a reasonable view, but around 20 minutes to get the best view. For comfort, use a reclining chair or lounger, and wrap up well as it will get quite cool after a while.

And you should try to observe from the darkest location possible, away from light pollution, i.e. the effects of bright city lights, or even nearby street lights or security lights. If you can see the Milky Way, you’ve got a reasonably good location. The new OM/Davagh Dark Sky Park in the Sperrins is being developed for observing events such as this.
Although they appear to come from Perseus, they can appear anywhere in the sky, and the best place to look is about 50 degrees above the horizon (a bit more than halfway up to the overhead point, and about the same distance to left or right of the radiant, in whichever direction you can get the clearest and darkest view. Obviously if it’s cloudy, you won’t see any, but if you look on the few nights on either side of the 12th/13th, you should still see quite a good display if it’s clear then.
Perseid meteors are fast, as they collide with Earth at a speed of almost 60 km per second. There are a good proportion of bright ones, although as with all showers, there are many more faint ones than bright ones. That’s why you’ll see more from a very dark site, and when your eyes have fully dark-adapted.

METEOR PHOTOGRAPHY:   If you have a digital SLR which can give longish time exposures, and you can manually focus it on infinity, and adjust it to a high ISO (film speed equivalent), you can image the meteors with a bit of luck. Use the widest-angle lens you have. It will help to have a tripod.   Point the camera about 50° up in the sky, about 40° from the radiant, for best results. Consult your camera handbook, or experiment with exposures until the sky fogging becomes too severe. Start with exposures of about 10 minutes, and see if the background is still dark; if not, reduce the exposure times a bit. But usually the bright meteors pass just outside the field of view of the camera!

 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.  The meteors we see burn up at heights of about 100 km down to 80 km. We don’t see the actual meteor itself – just the streak of ionised light which is created as the particle burns away.
Terry Moseley

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 21st July 19:30

“A multi-wavelength view of galaxies”

by Dr Maritza Lara-Lopez of AOP.


The formation and evolution of galaxies is intimately dependent on the conversion of gas into stars, the production of heavy elements, recycling of this material into the interstellar medium, and repetitions of this cycle. A detailed understanding of the interplay between gas mass, star formation rate, and heavy elements is clearly important to understand the galaxy evolution process. In this talk I will provide a general overview of all the different telescopes, wavelengths, and the information they provide. From the hot gas, through to the cold gas, through to star formation and back again.


Maritza obtained her PhD in 2011 from the Astrophysical Institute of the Canary Islands (IAC)  in Tenerife, Spain. Later, she moved to a research fellowship at the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) in Sydney, Australia, followed by a 3 year ARC Super Science Fellowship at AAO. She then moved for 2 years to Mexico for a research position at the Institute of Astronomy at UNAM.  From 2017- 2020 she was a DARK-Carlsberg foundation fellow at the DARK Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

From August 2020 she is a STFC postdoc at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, UK.

 Her PhD thesis won a national prize in Mexico and an institutional prize at IAC/ULL, Spain for the best thesis. In 2016 she won the L’Oreal-UNESCO prize for women in science of Mexico. She has 84 refereed publications in international journals (first author of 11), with more than 2900 citations.

Topic: IAA Meeting 21st July 2021
Time: Jul 21, 2021 07:15 PM London

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IAA Zoom Lecture Weds 23rd June – Dr Samuel Grant, QUB

The Diverse Future of Solar Physics

We are at the advent of an exciting era in the study of our nearest star, thanks to the emerging signs of a new solar cycle, alongside a varied fleet of cutting-edge observing suites set to begin operations in the next decade. In this talk, the implications of entering a new solar cycle will be discussed, including the current conjecture on how this cycle will develop.

There will also be discussion of the space and ground-based observatories being developed world wide that will provide an unprecedented insight into the dynamic physics of the Sun.

Finally, I will present some of the earthly applications of our developments in solar physics, focusing on our bio-medical science collaboration here at QUB.

I am an STFC post-doctoral research fellow employed in the Solar Physics group at Queen’s University Belfast, with a focus on wave activity and energy transport in the lower solar atmosphere. I attained my PhD from Queen’s in 2017 under Dr. David Jess, after my undergraduate studies at Glasgow University, and until September 2020 was employed as a lead researcher on the industrial collaboration to advance bio-medical science through the application of astronomical techniques at QUB/Randox Laboratories.   

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AOP / IAA Online Telescope Clinic – 26th May 7pm


🔭✨Online Telescope Clinic✨🔭

Wednesday 26th May 7pm – 8pm

Zoom Session

Registration is FREE (donations are welcome)

We are delighted to be hosting an Online Telescope Clinic with members of the Irish Astronomical Association (IAA).

Join us as our panel of experts tell us everything from how to set up a telescope to what to look out for in the night sky.

Find out more and register for the event by following the link below:…



Introduction from Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

Telescopes 101 with Andy McCrea

June Sky Guide with Paul Evans

How to view the Partial Solar Eclipse on 10th June with Terry Moseley

Stargazing Tips with Danny Collins

Finish with Q&A session

If you have a promo code

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 28th April 19:30 – Prof Alan Fitzsimmons

“Meteorites – Revealing the history and evolution of our Solar system.”


The recent fall of the Winchcombe meteorite reminded everyone that meteors and meteorites are exciting to see. Studies of meteorites have revealed the history of our Solar system, while telescopic studies have helped understand their sources.

Combined, they have shown us evolutionary processes currently happening to asteroids. In this talk I will describe the main types of meteorite, and how they allow us to date the origin of our Solar system.

I will show how telescopic studies have revealed their origins, and how scientists have uncovered processes affecting them today. I will conclude with a brief discussion of the current golden age of asteroid exploration – the source of most meteorites – and mysteries still to be solved.

 Alan Fitzsimmons is a Professor in the Astrophysics Research Centre in QUB, and a renowned expert on all the small solar system bodies: comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, moons, EKBOs etc. He has given us so many excellent lectures that I’ve lost count, and this one promises to be just the same.

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Topic: Prof Alan Fitzsimmons
Time: Apr 28, 2021 07:15 PM London

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IAA Zoom Lecture Weds 31st March – Brian harvey

China: Moon, Mars and Space Station


This presentation tells the story of China’s space programme from 1956 and how it became a space superpower this century. China has astonished the world by landing a rover on the far side of the moon. Its probe Tianwen is now orbiting and preparing to land on Mars and China’s space station, Tianhe, will be launched next month. The presentation looks at the past, present and future of China in space and its ambitions for human and solar system exploration.


Brian Harvey is a writer and broadcaster on spaceflight. His first book was Race into space – the Soviet space programme. His books and book chapters have been translated into Russian, Chinese and Korean. He wrote China in space – the great leap (2nd, edition, Springer-Paxis, 2019), now in publication in Chinese. In the course of the research, he met China’s first space man, Yang Liwei and first space woman, Liu Yang. His next project, due for publication this summer, is European-Russian cooperation in space – from de Gaulle to ExoMars.

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Topic: Brian Harvey
Time: Mar 31, 2021 07:15 PM London

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IAA Zoom Lecture -Weds 17th March – John Flannery

“Charles Messier: His Life and his Legacy”


Two hundred and fifty years ago this year the French astronomer Charles Messier (1730-1817) submitted the first draft of a catalogue that would guarantee him lasting fame. Now recognised as a list of the sky’s showpiece objects, it contains highlights such as the Great Nebula in Orion (designated M42); the Andromeda Galaxy (M31); and the beautiful Pleiades star cluster (M45).

Tonight’s talk by Irish Astronomical Society member John Flannery will tell a little about the life of Charles Messier, how his catalogue came into being, and its importance in astronomy.


John is editor of the IAS quarterly journal and is active in astronomy outreach. His main interests as an amateur astronomer are the sky lore of world cultures; binocular observing; and astronomical history, Reporter Buzoian.

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Topic: John Flannery
Time: Mar 17, 2021 07:15 PM London

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IAA Zoom Lecture Weds 3rd March 7:30pm – Kevin Nolan

Title: Mars, the Search for Origins.


Mars shared an early history not dissimilar to Earth, and so the origin of life there is considered plausible. This talk looks at the history of our engagement with Mars; and examines the present day multi-decadal robotic exploration campaign to characterise the planet and what it has to reveal about life origins processes.

The reasoning for exploring the planet are considered, and the resulting scientific priorities, mission and instrument characteristics outlined. Finally, key results to date are presented, what they reveal about the planet and how they will shape the next missions there.



Kevin Nolan is a lecturer in physics at TU Dublin, Tallaght campus. Having returned to academia from industry, Kevin is also working on a part-time PhD under Dr. Niall Smith, Head of Research at CIT. The project originally involved developing a software pipeline for the ESA Integral / OMC camera in association with Prof. Lorraine Hanlon, UCD; and now involves the data analysis of AGN photometric data derived from the mission.

Kevin is also involved in science outreach and has been a Volunteer for The Planetary Society (founder Carl Sagan) since 1998. In 2008 Kevin had a popular science book published titled “Mars, a Cosmic Stepping Stone” examining the motivations for the robotic exploration of the planet Mars. Kevin also makes frequent contributions to Astronomy Ireland magazine, The Irish Times and RTE in the areas of space science and exploration. 

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Topic: Dr Kevin Nolan
Time: Mar 3, 2021 07:15 PM London

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IAA Zoom Lecture Weds 17th Feb 19:30 – Dr Ernst De Mooij (QUB)

Title: Investigating the atmospheres of alien worlds


It has now been over 25 years since the discovery of the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star. Since then, thousands of exoplanets have been discovered, most in systems that do not resemble our own Solar System. What is more, we have been able to study the atmospheres of some of these worlds.

In this talk, I will discuss how we can study exoplanet atmospheres and what we have learned so far. 


Dr. Ernst de Mooij is a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast. He obtained his PhD from Leiden University, after which he became a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto. Subsequently he moved to Queen’s University Belfast as the Michael West Fellow, following on from that he was an assistant professor for 3 years at Dublin City University.

His research is focused on the characterisation of exoplanets and their environment, including their atmospheres and exo-rings.

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Topic: Dr Ernst de Mooij
Time: Feb 17, 2021 07:15 PM London

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