Category Archives: Event

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

Join Zoom Meeting

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.

Lecture Weds 4th March – Dr John Quinn (UCD) – “Gamma-ray and Optical Astronomy with VERITAS”

Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of electro-magnetic radiation, produced by some of the most violent events in the universe, such as supernovas remnants and relativistic jets from supermassive Black Holes.

It’s only recently that we’ve developed instruments capable of studying them. The very highest energy rays (in the Tera electron Volt (TeV) range) produce showers of secondary emissions on our site, called Cherenkov radiation, when they stroke our atmosphere.  

VERITAS (Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System) in Arizona is one of only 3 state of the art TeV observatories which can study this phenomenon, and this talk will describe how it works and the science it produces.   Visit sexsub xxxbeeg.

The Veritas Collaboration is now also using the telescope for optical astronomy, such as fast transients and interferometry, and the talk will also cover this new work.

John Quinn is an Associate Professor in the School of Physics at University College Dublin (UCD) and has been involved in the field of ground-based gamma-ray astronomy for 25 years. His PhD was conducted at UCD, under the supervision of Prof. David Fegan. and as a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona, under the supervision of Prof. Trevor Weekes, where the atmospheric Cherenkov technique was pioneered and the first detections of astronomical sources of VHE gamma rays were achieved.

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. 

Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.

Astronomy Question Time & Star Watch

Saturday 22nd February, 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Suitability: 10 Yrs +


Do you have a burning question about black holes? Do you want to know more about exoplanets? A panel of world-leading astronomers from Queen’s University Belfast will explore these colossal questions of the universe and so much more! This event will be followed by Astronomers from Queen’s and the Irish Astronomical Association setting up telescopes to give everyone the opportunity to look at stars and nebulae. Please dress warmly!

In the event of poor weather the IAA’s Stardome will be deployed

The main event is in the Larmor Theatre at QUB, observing will be on the lawn outside

Lecture Weds 19th Feb – Laura Murphy (TCD) – “The First Stars in the Universe “


Understanding the nature of the first stars and their explosive deaths is key to understanding the early universe and the evolution of distant galaxies. With new facilities such as the James Webb Space Telescope we may soon have the first observations of the earliest stars, but to understand these observations we will require detailed simulations. The first stars were very different to stars that we see today, they were more massive, much hotter and only contained elements formed during the Big Bang, meaning that they would have evolved very differently, and produced more black holes and explosive events. Using stellar evolution modelling, we investigate these first stars for a range of masses up to 120 times the mass of the sun, both rotating and non-rotating. This research sheds new light on the behaviour of the first stars and how they may have impacted their surroundings, particularly in relation to their final fates.


Laura is a PhD student in Trinity College Dublin studying the first stellar explosions and their progenitors. As an awardee of the IRC postgraduate research award she is a member of the Supernovae and Stellar Evolution research group led by Prof. Jose Groh. Her work aims to understand the nature of the first stars and their explosive deaths as supernovae, with particular emphasis on how rotation affects their evolution. She is also active in outreach and is an executive committee member of WITS (Women in Technology and Science) Ireland.

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. 

Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building , QUB, 7.30pm

All welcome. Free admission, including light refreshments.