Category Archives: Event

IAA ZOOM LECTURE – WEDS 16th DEC 19:30 – Dr Gavin Ramsay – “Gravitational Wave Optical Transient Observer”

The direct detection of gravitational waves from merging black holes and neutron stars using the Ligoand Virgo detectors is one of humankind’s greatest triumphs. However, the exact position in the skyof these bursts is not well constrained, often to within hundreds or more square degrees.

For merging neutrons stars, it was predicted that an electromagnetic counterpart would be visible. If this could be identified then so would the location of the merging event. The Gravitational-wave Optical Transient Observer (GOTO) is a project whose goal is to detect these optical counterparts of gravitational wave events. One prototype has been running on the island of La Palma for more than 2 years, but next year will see a second array on La Palma, with two more nodes in Siding Spring being planned. 

Gavin did his PhD at UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory using data from the Rosat X-ray satellite to study magnetic accreting binaries. After several years at the University of Utrecht, he returned to MSSL, and came to Armagh in 2007.

He still studies accreting binaries, but has led several wide field photometric surveys and also uses Kepler and TESS data to study the activity levels of Solar type and low mass stars. Visit adult He leads Armaghs contribution to the GOTO project.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA – Dr Gavin Ramsay
Time: Dec 16, 2020 07:15 PM London

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Meeting ID: 886 9637 8331
Passcode: 180521

The room will open at approximately 19:15 to get everyone in for a 19:30 sharp start.

The meeting will also be simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 2nd Dec 19:30 – Dr Caitriona Jackman, DIAS

“Adventures in the Outer Solar System”

In this talk we will Zoom (pun intended) to the outer solar system to
explore the gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn. I will furnish the
audience with plenty of fun facts about the amazing worlds of dynamic
auroral displays, diverse moons, and mysterious atmospheres. I will
focus on some of the famous spacecraft including Cassini which spent 13
years exploring the Saturn system, and NASA’s Juno which is currently in
orbit around Jupiter.

Dr. Caitriona Jackman is an Honorary Professor at the Dublin Institute
for Advanced Studies where she leads a research group on Planetary
Magnetospheres. She has worked with data from missions including NASA’s Cassini at Saturn, ESA’s Cluster mission in orbit around Earth, NASA’s Juno at Jupiter, and with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Her research interests include understanding how the aurora works, and how machine learning and complexity science can be used to study huge volumes of data from space.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA – Prof Caitriona Jackman
Time: Dec 2, 2020 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 897 0423 4875
Passcode: 551722

The room will open at approximately 19:15 to get everyone in for a 19:30 sharp start.

The meeting will also be simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 18th Nov 19:30 – Dr Jorick Vink

“Thirty Years of Hubble: opening the Treasure Chest”


Over the last 30 years the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has spoilt us with the most beautiful, colourful images one can image. In addition to this inspirational role these observations have provided key insights into a vast number of astronomical research fields varying from the formation of planetary systems to Cosmology.

In this talk I attempt to give an overview of some of the most ground-breaking Astrophysical insights that HST has given the world of Astrophysics, revealing the stories behind those pretty pictures. 


Jorick Vink started his career at Utrecht University in the Netherlands while also spending an 8 month period at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre.After his PhD, he moved to Imperial College London, before eventually settling at Armagh Observatory in 2007, where he was also Acting Director at the Planetarium during the merger of the two organisations in 2015/16.

He obtained a Visiting Professorship from the University of Leeds in 2017, and is currently President of the IAU Commission of massive stars, and Principle Investigator (PI) of a Large Programme with ESO-VLT complementing the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) ULLYSES Project of massive stars.

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA – Dr Jorick Vink
Time: Nov 18, 2020 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 868 3329 6763
Passcode: 439102

The room will open at approximately 19:15 to get everyone in for a 19:30 sharp start.

The meeting will also be simulcast on our YouTube Channel

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 4th November 19:30 – Prof Alan Fitzsimmons

“What makes a comet great?”


Hopefully, many members of the IAA saw comet NEOWISE this summer. Although it was a great comet to see, it wasn’t a “Great Comet”. That title is reserved to the best and brightest of the comets. But what is it about a comet that can make it a “Great Comet”? This talk will look at the physical and dynamical reasons that make comets “Great”, illustrated by previous apparitions of these magnificent objects.


Alan Fitzsimmons is a Professor of Astronomy in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast. He saw his first comet in 1983 while walking to the pub, and hasn’t looked back since, find more info on He also still enjoys looking at comets.

Zoom details…..

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA – Prof Alan Fitzsimmons
Time: Nov 4, 2020 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 842 1371 8994
Passcode: 166505

YouTube Simulcast

The talk will appear as a Live Stream on our YouTube Channel shortly before 19:30 on 4th November

IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 21st October – Dr Marc Sarzi, AOP

“The Hunt for Supermassive Black Holes: a Short History”

This highly topical talk by Dr Marc Sarzi, head of research at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, is highly topical, not only because of the increasing number and variety of Black Holes being discovered, but because of the recent award of the Nobel Prize for physics to three astronomers working on the subject’


In this talk Dr Sarzi will describe the theoretical and observational milestones that lead to establishing the existence of supermassive black holes, and the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics.

Marc Sarzi graduated in Padua and did his PhD spending time both at the Asiago Observatory in Italy and the Max Plank Institute fur Astronomie in Heidelberg, working at the detection of supermassive black holes using Hubble Space Telescope observations, visit to find more information. After his PhD he moved on to post-doctoral research assistant positions in Durham and Oxford, after which he moved to the University of Hertfordshire where he held both a STFC Rutherford research fellowship and a Public Engagement fellowship before finally moving two years ago at the Armagh Observatory & Planetarium as Head of Research.


Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Dr Marc Sarzi, AOP
Time: Oct 21, 2020 07:15 PM London

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Meeting ID: 821 7036 0197
Passcode: 186232

YouTube Simulcast – non-interactive, goes live at 19:25

Please note Armagh Observatory & Planetarium is a registered charity and this talk is provided free of charge. Should you wish to support AOP in their work please follow this link to donate……..

IAA Zoom Lecture – 7th October 19:30 BST – Nick Howes

“How do you solve a problem like Debris…ahh?”  

Public awareness of the clutter and rubbish humankind is littering our planet and oceans with has never been higher. David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have firmly established the need to change our behaviour to avoid a catastrophe. But, whilst many companies and consumers are changing their behaviour to avoid plastic waste, a far bigger threat is looming, and one that will be much harder to solve. Currently over 130 million pieces of debris orbit our planet, ranging from microscopic to the size of a bus. 

These are all in an uncontrollable set of orbits, many of the debris objects are smaller than a few cm, and as such, cannot be tracked. Yet, travelling at around 17,000 mph, pieces the size of a pea, could devastate a spacecraft, kill an astronaut, or astro-tourist  and create a knock on effect, creating more and more debris, known as the Kessler Syndrome, famously seen in the Hollywood Movie “Gravity”. 

The impact of this would be devastating to global climate monitoring, defence, navigation, shipping and pretty much every part of our lives. With the launch of the so called “mega” constellations, adding tens of thousands of new satellites, we are at a crisis tipping point. 

Nick Howes, a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and Lead Research and Development scientist for a multinational research and engineering company, explains the issues, and possible ways to stop this from happening.

The meeting will be hosted on and where possible will be simulcast on YouTube.

The login details are as follows…

Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting Nick Howes
Time: Oct 7, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 826 7296 3441
Passcode: 966980

The Zoom Waiting Room will open at 19:15 with a view to getting started at 19:30 sharp.

IAA Zoom Lecture 23rd September 19:30 BST – Prof Peter Gallagher, DIAS

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues we cannot unfortunately resume our normal programme of lectures in the Bell Theatre at QUB. However what we can do is arrange for guest lecturers to talk to us using technology to bring us together. It looks as if this will be the way of things for some months to come, so here’s how it will work……

The meeting will be hosted on and where possible will be simulcast on YouTube.

The login details are as follows…

Topic: IAA Lecture – Prof Peter Gallagher
Time: Sep 23, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 843 3614 1064
Passcode: 381207

You do not need to have the Zoom app installed, it will run in a web browser if you click the above long link and agree to all the questions it will ask you
If you are using a Zoom app you’ll need the Meeting ID and Passcode above.

As with all of our lectures this is free and open to the public.

Zoom limits the number of participants to 100 so we will usually be able to simulcast on our YouTube Channel…

The difference between the two is that Zoom is interactive and YouTube isn’t so if you want to ask questions at the end, Zoom is the way to go.

Doors will open at 19:15 so we can get everyone logged in ready for a 19:30 prompt start.

Lecture details are as follows :-

 “Observing the Radio Universe from Birr, Co. Offaly” by Prof Peter Gallagher, Head of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Synopsis  The Irish Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR; was installed at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly in 2017 and now links Ireland into the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world, stretching nearly 2,000 km from the Irish Midlands to eastern Poland .

LOFAR is already giving us the answer to the question do you need a chiller rental new views of astronomical phenomena such as solar flares, exoplanets, star-forming regions and rapidly rotating stars called pulsars. In this talk, I will given an overview of the building of I-LOFAR and the recent scientific insights that this unique telescope is providing.”   

Prof Gallagher is now effectively at the top of the tree in astronomy in Ireland . Formerly professor in TCD specialising in solar physics, he was appointed head of the astrophysics section of DIAS last year. He was almost single-handedly responsible for getting I-LOFAR approved, funded, designed, installed and operational. It’s now the only astronomical facility producing top-end astronomical research results from the island of Ireland .


IAA MEDIA RELEASE:Irish Astronomical Association

The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on Tuesday and Wednesday, and with not too much interference from Moonlight, the conditions are good this year. All we need is a clear sky! Meteors, commonly called ‘shooting stars’, or ‘falling stars’, are not stars at all, but tiny bits of debris released from the surface of comets as they orbit the Sun. When the Earth happens to pass through one of these streams of debris as we orbit the Sun, we collide with those little particles at very high speed – about 60 miles per second – and they get burned away in our upper, giving the flash of light we see as a meteor. 

You may also see some starlike objects moving across the sky much more slowly: they are artificial satellites. But meteors move much more swiftly – usually lasting for no more than a second or so. Most are about as bright as the average stars, but if you observe for long enough you will probably see a really bright one, much brighter than any of the stars: these ones are called ‘fireballs’.  

The Perseids are so called because they all appear to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus, but they can actually appear anywhere in the sky. The Third Quarter moon will rise just after midnight on Tuesday night, and that will spoil the view a bit, so try to observe from a spot where the Moon is hidden by a tree or building, or at least look in the opposite direction. The best part of the sky to look at is either North or South to avoid the Moon once it rises, or almost directly overhead if that’s comfortable; choose the area that is darkest and clearest from wherever you are observing. Next night it will rise later, and won’t be so bright.   You should also choose a location as far away from artificial lights, particularly big town and city lights, and allow time for your eyes to adapt to the dark – at least 15 minutes if going out from a bright room. The shower is active through the first half of August, but maximum activity will occur on Tuesday and Wednesday, nights. 

The activity then dies away gradually over the following few days. The number of meteors seen will increase during each night as the constellation Perseus rises higher in the sky in the North East, and if you are keen enough to keep going into the early hours of the morning you could see a meteor about every minute or so on Wednesday night, from a dark location. While you are out, look for brilliant Jupiter low down in the southern sky, and close to the left, Saturn. It’s not as bright as Jupiter, but it’s brighter than most of the stars. And later in the night, around midnight, look to see brilliant ruddy Mars rising in the East – it’s about midway in between Jupiter and Saturn. 

IMAGING: You can try photographing the Perseids with any modern digital camera which can give long timed exposures: set to the widest angle if it’s a zoom lens, set the focus to infinity, set the ISO to a high value, and give exposures of a few minutes or so, until the sky brightness starts to fog over the whole image – you’ll just have to experiment with that. If you have a wide-angle lens, use that. Here you can read reviews of Big Bear Luxury Cabin. Point the camera about 50 degrees above the horizon, and watch to make sure the lens does not get covered with dew!You will then have to check your images on a computer screen afterwards to see if you have caught any – it’s not as easy as visual observing, as your eyes can cover a much wider area of the sky. 

THE GOOD NEWS!Firstly, you don’t need any special equipment – just your own eyes. For comfort, it’s best to use a recliner or garden lounger so you can look up at the sky for a long time without getting a sore neck, and wrap up warm.   Secondly, you can observe from anywhere in the country, but do try to get to a spot where the sky is fairly dark, and where you won’t be bothered by vehicle lights either. For more information see: 

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 Perseid meteors come from a comet called Swift-Tuttle, named after the two astronomers who discovered it. The comet itself is not currently visible.