Category Archives: IAA


Stardust is the quarterly magazine of the Irish Astronomical Association. As digital copies become available they will be included here for online reading, however the current edition will always be for members only!


Stardust cover Stardust 201404
July 2014 April 2014  




IAA Council

The IAA is governed by a Council elected by the members at the Annual General Meeting, traditionally being the last meeting of the season towards the end of April.

A new Council was voted in at the AGM held on 18th April 2019.

The full Council is as follows:-

President & Membership SecretaryMr Brian Beesley
Vice President & Stardust EditorDr Andy McCrea
Vice PresidentMr Danny Collins
Hon. SecretaryMr Tony Kempston
Hon TreasurerMr Pat O’Neill
WebmasterMr Paul Evans
PR Officer & Meetings OrganiserMr Terry Moseley
Observing Co-OrdinatorVacancy
Council MemberMr Adam Jeffers
Council MemberMs Mary Kirwan-Mackey
Youth Council MemberMs Hannah Kempston
IFAS RepresentativesMr Terry Moseley


Mr Paul Evans

Ex-Officio MembersProf. Mark Bailey, Emeritus Director, Armagh Observatory


Prof. Mike Burton, Director of Armagh Observatory & Planetarium 

Prof. Stephen Smartt, Astrophysics Research Centre, School of Maths and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast

Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, Astrophysics Research Centre, School of Maths and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast

Mr Robert Hill, Northern Ireland Space Office

IAA Council August 2015

The Council as of 25th August 2015

L-R, Danny Collins, Eleanor Edwards, Tony Kempston, Paul Evans, David Stewart, Dr Andy McCrea, Terry Moseley, Pat O’Neill, Brian Beesley

IAA Council July 2014

The Council as of 1st July 2014

L-R, Dr Andy McCrea MBE, Brian Beesley, David Collins, David Stewart, Danny Collins, Tony Kempston, Terry Moseley BEM,  Pat O’Neill, Allistair Gordon, Paul Evans

IAA Council November 2013

This photo shows the Council as it stood at November 2013

Back L-R : Pat O’Neill,  Brian Beesley, Tony Kempston, Dr Andy McCrea MBE, Terry Moseley BEM, Philip Baxter, Danny Collins

Front L-R: Paul Evans, Jo Magill, David Stewart, David Collins 

This photo shows the Council as it stood at March 2012

Back L-R: George Brannan, Terry Moseley, Philip Baxter, Danny Collins, David Collins, Paul Evans

Seated L-R: Andy McCrea, Jo Magill, David Stewart, Pat O’Neill

IAA Presidents

This history covers two distinct periods  of the IAA’s development. In 1946 it was formed as the Belfast Centre of the Irish Astronomical Society. Apart from Dublin there were other centres in Armagh, Cork, Derry, Galway, Clonmel and Dundalk though some of these didn’t last long. The IAS was formed in October 1937 in Dublin, but established the regional centres in the years afterwards. For the first five years the senior officeholder was designated “President”. This changed to “Chairman” in 1951.

In 1974 the only two remaining regional centres, Dublin and Belfast, went their separate ways with Dublin keeping the Irish Astronomical Society name and Belfast becoming the Irish Astronomical Association, find the useful source here. The senior officeholder designation returned to “President” at this time.
The Magnificent Seven
Pictured above:- Philip Baxter (2009-2012), Terry Moseley, BEM (1980-1983, 1994-1997, 2000-2003 and 2014- 2015), Paul Evans (2012-2014, 2015 – 2018), Dr Andy McCrea, MBE (1997-2000, 2003-2006), Tony Drennan (1977-1978), Brian Beesley (1978-1980, 2018- present), Pat O’Neill (2006-2009). Photo: Danny Collins 19th Feb 2014
The Roll of Presidents and Chairmen to date is as follows:-
AGM No. (IAS No.)YearPresident
Inaugural1946Sir David Lindsay Keir
1st1947Sir David Lindsay Keir
2nd1948Sir David Lindsay Keir
3rd1949Sir David Lindsay Keir
5th1951A P Fitzgerald
6th1952A P Fitzgerald
7th1953Brig. Papworth
8th1954Brig. Papworth
9th1955A S Merrick
10th1956A S Merrick
11th1957R Hayward
12th1958C McMahon
13th1959A Scott
14th1960A Scott
15th1961A Scott
16th1962W G McCusker
17th1963W G McCusker
18th1964I Grainger
19th1965I Grainger
20th1966I Grainger
21st1967Andrew Trimble
22nd1968Andrew Trimble
23rd1969Andrew Trimble
24th1970Ronnie Ormonde
25th1971Ronnie Ormonde
26th1972Ronnie Ormonde
27th1973David E Beesley
28th1974David E Beesley


The Belfast centre reconstituted on 17th May 1974 as the Irish Astronomical Association

  Ronnie Ormonde
I (29th1975Ronnie Ormonde
II (30th)1976Ronnie Ormonde
III (31st)1977Tony Drennan
IV (32nd)1978Brian J Beesley
V (33rd)1979Brian J Beesley
VI (34th)1980Terry Moseley
VII (35th)1981Terry Moseley
8th1982Terry Moseley
9th1983Dr H R Ormonde
10th1984Dr H R Ormonde
11th1985Dr H R Ormonde
12th1986J Flynn
13th1987J Flynn
14th1988J Flynn
15th1989David E Beesley
16th1990David E Beesley
17th1991Bruce Hardie
18th1992Bruce Hardie
19th1993Bruce Hardie
20th1994Terry Moseley
21st1995Terry Moseley
22nd1996Terry Moseley
23rd1997Dr Andy McCrea
24th1998Dr Andy McCrea
25th1999Dr Andy McCrea
26th2000Terry Moseley
27th2001Terry Moseley
28th2002Terry Moseley
29th2003Dr Andy McCrea
30th2004Dr Andy McCrea
31st2005Dr Andy McCrea
32nd2006Pat O’Neill
33rd2007Pat O’Neill
34th2008Pat O’Neill
35th2009Philip Baxter
36th2010Philip Baxter
37th2011Philip Baxter
38th2012Paul Evans
39th2013Paul Evans
40th2014Terry Moseley
41st2015Paul Evans
42nd2016Paul Evans
43rd2017Paul Evans
44th2018Brian Beesley
45th2019Brian Beesley

IAA Awards

The IAA issues two awards, the Fitzgerald and Opik medals.

“The Aidan P. Fitzgerald Memorial Medal is the prestigious award of the Irish Astronomical Association, and is named in memory of one of its leading members back in the 40’s and 50’s. It is presented not more than once per year for “Outstanding Service to the Association” to someone usually, but not necessarily in a Council post.

Aidan Fitzgerald was born in Limerick, Ireland and had a keen interest in astronomy since childhood. Later he bought telescopes and other equipment and set them up in an observatory in his back garden. He became a leading light in the Belfast Centre of the old Irish Astronomical Society, and later became Chairman. He was also on the editorial board of the Irish Astronomical Journal. By profession, he was a principal officer in the Northern Ireland Ministry of Health and Local Government, and had been awarded the O.B.E. He never married, and died suddenly in January 1965 from a heart attack, just short of his retirement.

In June 1954, the planet Mars was closer to earth than it had been for several years, but the most ideal conditions for observation were from the southern hemisphere. Astronomers from all over the world co-operated to make observations of the planet and a committee was set up under the chairmanship of Professor Earl C. Slipher from the Lowell Observatory in Arizona.

Slipher was probably the greatest authority on Mars and was to observe and photograph the red planet from the Lamont-Hussey Observatory at Bloemfontein, South Africa  using the great 27-inch refractor, (now dismantled)  Fitzgerald was invited to join him at the invitation of the National Geographic Society who sponsored the studies, which were to last some four months.

As to the medal itself, it is tastefully minted in bronze gilt, and on the obverse shows the profile of the famous “South Refractor” at Dunsink Observatory outside Dublin, while the reverse has the recipients name and date engraved inside a laurel wreath.” (Many thanks to John C McConnell for the above words)

IAA Fitzgerald Medal recipients

1989        David Beesley       

1990        Terence P Murtagh

1991        – none

1992        Terry Moseley

1993        Ronnie Ormonde

1994        Bruce Hardie

1995        Andy McCrea

1996        Dr Mart de Groot

1997        Sam Lyttle

1998        Pat O’Neill

1999        John McConnell

2000        John Hall

2001        Barry Loane

2002        George Brannan

2003        – none

2004        Danny Collins; Derek Heatly

2005        – none 

2006        Robert Hill

2007        Philip Baxter

2008        – none

2009        – none

2010        Paul Evans

2011        David Stewart

2012        Jo Magill

2013        Peter Paice

2014       Brian Beesley

2015     Tony Kempston

2016     Ivan McAllister

2017       Professor Mark Bailey

2018       Bernie Brown

2019 – none

IAA Opik Medal recipients

The Opik medal is a bit more special and is awarded for “Exceptional Service to Astronomy”.
Ernst Opik (1893-1985) was a noted Estonian astronomer and astrophysicist who spent the second half of hiscareer (1948–1981) at Armagh Observatory. He was born in Kunda, Estonia and studied at the Universities of Moscow and Tartu.
His astronomical work was varied and groundbreaking. In 1916 he devised a method of measuring the density ofbinary stars. His sample was Omega 2 Eridani, a white dwarf, which he estimated at 25,000 times the density of theSun which he dismissed as impossible. In fact this was an underestimate!

Later work included the 1922 determination of the distance of the Andromeda Galaxy – with a fair degree of accuracy, and the 1932 postulation of the existence of the Oort cloud, also called the Opik-Oort cloud.

His grandson Lembit Opik is the former Lib-Dem MP.
The medal has only been awarded twice as follows:-
  • 2000 First Opik award this year, presented to David Beesley by Lembit Opik

    2005 Terry Moseley