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.
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.
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….
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.
EXTRAORDINARY FIREBALL BURST SEEN BY IAA OBSERVERS AT DELAMONT COUNTRY PARK
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