May 2012


IAA AGM 18th April

Wednesday 18th April marked the date of the 38th Annual General Meeting of the Association. The purposes of the meeting were to review the activities of the past year, elect a new Council for the coming year and for the Council to receive feedback from the membership on how they – that's you – would like to see the Association develop.

The new Council was elected and is shown here…

Also, the Aidan P Fitzgerald Medal was awarded – this year to IAA Treasurer and Membership Secretary Jo Magill – a thoroughly well deserved award for the work Jo puts in, not just looking after the finances, but for the effort she puts in to almost every Outreach event, Meeting and Observing session!

"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 the summer of 1964 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)

Image: Paul Evans

Image: Paul Evans

To provide some entertainment following the formal proceedings, long standing IAA member Michael Duffy talked to us about "Revenge of the Armchair Astronomer" which consisted of a look at the use of remotely controlled telescopes, notably itelescope.netwhich Michael uses for astrophotography.

Also included in the talk were some images from Michaels collection covering the rich history of the Association.

Michael is shown right with incoming President Paul Evans

Image: Danny Collins



IAA Lecture 4th April


In a change to the advertised fixture, we were very pleased to welcome John Flannery who talked to us on "The Outer Limits: Exploring the Outer Solar System"

John lives in Dublin where he is Chairperson of South Dublin Astronomical Society. His interests in the hobby are the history of astronomy, outreach work, and delving into the science of naked-eye astronomy.

His professional background is in IT and he is currently studying for a BSc in Natural Science with the Open University. Although a Dublin resident for the last 25 years, John is originally from Dromineer, a small village by Lough Derg on the River Shannon in North Tipperary.

This was an illuminating look at the large part of our Solar System beyond the planets that we know and love.

Many thanks to John for stepping in at short notice!

Image: Paul Evans


The Warm-Up talk was delivered by IAA Webmaster Paul Evans, and can be seen on our YouTube site here…



Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond