Category Archives: Event

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”


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. 


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


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 

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)


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.

The Return of Face-to-Face Lectures

Well after two and a half years of Covid and the associated lockdowns we are finally returning to in-person meetings at Queen’s University, Belfast

This time we will meet in the Larmour Theatre which is in the same building as before but accessed by turning right just after the Whitla Hall.

The Larmour is much larger than the Bell and if our previous audience levels continue then there will be much more space for Social Distancing.

For those who are not yet ready to join us in a live situation our intention is to provide a recording of the lectures within a day or two where we can. These will be on our YouTube Channel where you will find an archive of many past lectures including those we ran on Zoom during the Pandemic.

We are currently finalising the Programme but the first two lectures are as follows:_

21st Sep: Dr Steph Merritt, QUB: “Last Horizons – the Edge of the Solar System” (synopsis below)

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

Synopsis of the first talk:

In 1930, Clyde Tombaugh’s discovery of Pluto seemed to mark the furthermost boundary of our solar system. Here, it was thought, was the mysterious Planet X, the ninth planet responsible for inexplicable irregularities in the orbit of Uranus.

The discovery of Pluto’s small mass briefly gave Planet X new life: but the discovery that Uranus’s orbit was not irregular after all seemed to kill it once more. There were nine planets in the solar system, with Pluto as the last: an idea that held for decades, an idea we were all taught in school.

But now, with Pluto demoted to a dwarf planet, and several other Pluto-like objects discovered in the distant frontiers of the system, the Planet X hypothesis has been unexpectedly resurrected. What lies beyond Pluto? Is there yet another planet out there in the coldest, darkest reaches of our solar system? What is the evidence for this new Planet Nine?  And if it truly exists, might the upcoming Legacy Space and Time Survey at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory discover it?

IAA AGM Weds 13th April

As previously advised this meeting will take place on Zoom. All are welcome but only paid-up members may take part in the formal business which will be conducted as swiftly as possible.

“Our Moon and Others” 
Terry Moseley will also be giving a short talk on the above topic after the business part is over. Since we had an excellent talk by Donnacha O’Driscoll on the Moon recently, he’ll be concentrating on some of the interesting moons around other planets.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA AGM
Time: Apr 13, 2022 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 898 3572 0922
Passcode: 499876

The room will open around 19:15 to allow for a prompt start This talk will also be Simulcast on our YouTube Channel

Supporting documents………

IAA Lecture Weds 30th March 1930 – Change of lecture – Paul Evans

Due to unforeseen events our planned speaker has had to postpone her talk – we hope to do this another time.

“Eclipses, Transits and Occultations – Some personal experiences”


Based on the prospectus that the Solar System is essentially flat, though importantly not quite flat, it occasionally happens that one object passes in front of or behind another. This is the story of some of Paul’s observations over the last 25 years and a look ahead to a couple coming up.


Paul Evans was brought up in England though he is also half-Irish and has lived in Northern Ireland since 2003.

He has been interested in Space and Astronomy since the time of Apollo 8 and is also a keen photographer who puts the two hobbies together to take photographs of the Night Sky. Examples of his work in this field have been exhibited in both the UK and Ireland.

He is a Past President of the IAA and current Chair of the Irish Federation of Astronomical Societies.

His “day” job is keeping the TV and Radio on the air.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting
Time: Mar 30, 2022 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 818 4596 8785
Passcode: 210097

The room will open around 19:15 to allow for a prompt start

This talk will also be Simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Lecture Weds 16th March 19:30 – Geoffrey Bowman

“Apollo 17 – Ron Evans and his Long Voyage to the Moon”

This talk, based on a book by the speaker, will tell the fascinating story of how Ron Evans got from a farming town of 900 people in the Mid-West, to a Moonbound spacecraft. 

Biography: Geoffrey Bowman was born in Bangor in November, 1954, and went to Bangor Grammar School, where he developed a fascination for science and geography.  He then studied law at Queen’s University, obtaining an Honours Degree before spending 39 years as a solicitor. 

From as far back as he can remember, Geoffrey has been fascinated by the night sky and, growing up in the 1960s, by the unfolding drama of the Space Race.  News of the historic flights by Gagarin, Shepard and Glenn helped to ignite a life-long passion for space exploration.

A Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Geoffrey is also a Member of the Irish Astronomical Association.  Over a 30-year period from 1983, Geoffrey has met 20 of the 29 flown Apollo astronauts, including 10 of the 12 Moonwalkers, but – significantly – he never met Ron Evans, command module pilot on Apollo 17. 

After Geoffrey retired in 2017, he was approached by the inspirational Colin Burgess, managing editor of the “Outward Odyssey” series of space-books published by Nebraska University Press  Geoffrey had contributed two chapters to a 2010 book (“Footprints in the Dust”) and Colin suggested “doing a whole book.” 

After some discussion, it was agreed that Geoffrey would write a full biography of one of the lesser-known Apollo astronauts, Ron Evans, whose untimely death in 1990 is largely responsible for his relatively low profile. After much research, the story which emerged was of a man regarded by many as one of the true unsung heroes of Apollo.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting
Time: Mar 16, 2022 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 844 3425 8581
Passcode: 162552

The room will open around 19:15 to allow for a prompt start

This talk will also be Simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Zoom Lecture 2nd March 19:30 – Dr Deirdre Coffey

Star and planet formation: a whistle-stop tour! 

Studies of the birth of a star and its solar system have become particularly relevant in this exciting new era of extrasolar planets discoveries.

I will outline our current understanding of how a star is born, and how observations of newly forming stars can hint at sites of newly forming planets.

Finally, I will outline Ireland’s involvement in the European Space Agency’s upcoming space mission ‘Ariel’ to probe exoplanet atmospheres. 

Brief Biography
Dr Deirdre Coffey is an Assistant Professor at the UCD School of Physics. She earned her PhD at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), which she followed with five years of post-doc experience based at Arcetri Observatory in Florence, Italy, and also at DIAS.

She joined UCD in 2012. Her research interests are in the area of star and planet formation. Currently, she is National Program Manager for the European Space Agency’s upcoming space mission ‘Ariel’ to probe exoplanet atmospheres; she is Chair of the Astronomical Society of Ireland; and committee member of the Institute of Physics in Ireland, as well as the Royal Irish Academy’s Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences Committee. 

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA Zoom Lecture
Time: Mar 2, 2022 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 886 1305 9568
Passcode: 383639

The room will open around 19:15 to allow for a prompt start

This talk will also be Simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Zoom Lecture Weds 16th Feb 1930 – Ben McKeon

“SETI and Adaptive Optics: A Match Made in the Heavens”


This presentation gives an overview of SETI (the search for extra terrestrial intelligence) and the various methods by which this search is carried out. In the first part of the talk, I outline the history of SETI before detailing more recent work in this area, focusing briefly on the use of the I-LOFAR radio telescope for SETI activities. The disadvantages of conventional radio SETI techniques are discussed, while also highlighting the value of optical telescopes to the SETI cause.
The second part of this talk introduces my research on adaptive optics (AO) and how this technology is crucial for imaging exoplanets directly. I describe the main components of an AO system and how they work before speculating on how adaptive optics may be able to detect evidence of advanced alien civilisations.


I’m Ben, an avid space geek and first-year PhD student researching adaptive optics at NUI Galway. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the world of SETI last Summer when I took part in an internship with Breakthrough Listen and the Berkeley SETI Research Center. An active member of the NUIG Astronomy Society, I always enjoy talking about the wonders of the night sky. When I’m not tinkering with my own telescope or designing a new one, I’m usually found running, reading or knee-deep in a pile of Lego.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting. Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting
Time: Feb 16, 2022 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 860 3685 1590
Passcode: 833900

The room will open around 19:15 to allow for a prompt start

This talk will also be Simulcast on our YouTube Channel