June 2012

Venus Transit 6th June

For the latest update on the IAA Observing Event at Garron Point, including a go/no-go decision, see this thread on the IAA Forum...


The last chance until 2117 to see a Transit of the planet Venus – where Venus passes in front of the Sun – takes place on 6th June. The most favoured locations are Eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand, but it is possible to see the some of the event from Ireland. However the choice of time and location is crucial, and Terry Moseley has put together an excellent article explaining the choices here….

Weather permitting there will be an IAA Public Viewing Event on the East Antrim coast – Terry has reconnoitred a number of sites considering a number of factors including visibility, accessibility and car parking and we have chosen Garron Point on the Antrim Coast Road as offering the best opportunity of any site on the Island of Ireland.

In the event of Sea Fog, always a possibility on this coast, a secondary site has been chosen at Ballycoose – aka Knock Dhu or the car park on the Feystown Road above Cairncastle. The sunrise is apparently just visible from this site if we use the southerly end of the car park for observing, and offers an elevation of 270m though the duration of visibility is some seconds shorter than Garron Point.

Note that even though the Sun will be low in the sky, the usual precautions still need to be observed – Never view the Sun directly with the naked eye or with any unfiltered optical device, such as binoculars or a telescope!

See here for safe viewing options….

Maps to the two sites are shown below – keep an eye on the forumfor any last minute changes – all are welcome – we will assemble from 0430 BST onwards.

There is more information on the Transit on the Transit of Venus Website here…

In the weeks before the Transit, Venus is sinking in the NW sky after sunset and is growing larger whilst showing a decreasing crescent phase – see the excellent image from the IAA's John Hall right.

Image: Paul Evans 8th June 2004

Image: John Hall


Garron Point

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One last look at Venus before the Transit

IAA President Paul Evans managed to capture Venus and Mercury setting over the Antrim Hills just after sunset on 1st June – this was within 100 hours of the Transit! Venus and Mercury were within a degree of each other moving in opposite directions – Venus was 0.7% illuminated at this point, Mercury by contrast was 96% illuminated.

Venus and Mercury setting

Image: Paul Evans

Summer Programme

We have a solid programme of outreach events lined up for the Summer season.

Carnfunnock 16th June

Firstly, on Saturday 16th June we will return to Carnfunnock Country Park after a break of a couple of years. This venue offers tremendous scenery looking out towards Scotland across the North Channel and boasts a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland. We will be there between 2pm and 5pm and will be offering Star Shows in the Mobile Planetarium and Solar Observing through filtered white light and Hydrogen Alpha telescopes outside, weather permitting of course. The former are best at showing sunspots while the latter scopes show prominences and filaments on the Sun, and with Solar Cycle 24 getting into its stride, there should be plenty of both on offer!

Note: In spite of the weather, this event is going ahead – we will have the Mobile Planetarium set up and other Astronomical paraphenalia on display, though we are unlikely to see the Sun today.

Image: Paul Evans 2007

Summer Solstice 21st June

Secondly, later in the week we will be celebrating the Summer Solstice on Thursday 21st June with an event atBeaghmore Stone Circles and An Creagan Visitors Centre where we will be working with Armagh Observatory and theNorthern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) – full details of the event are on the Observatory website here…

Castle Espie 12th August

On Sunday 12th August we will return to WWF Castle Espie in County Down for another Solar Day – again from 2pm to 5pm.

Perseid Meteor Shower

This date also coincides with the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower – that actual peak is 10am on 12th this year, and the conditions are very good with The Moon in a waning crescent phase not visible until the early hours of the morning. Our intention is to hold the annual Perseid Barbeque at Delamont Country Park on the night of Saturday 11th August, however given that the peak straddles two nights we will hold the night of Sunday 12th in reserve in case we are rained off or clouded out on the Saturday night.

Image: Paul Evans 2004

Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond