October 2012


Dr Lucie Green Lecture 17th October
NB this Lecture starts at the earlier time of 7:00pm!

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….

Dr Lucie Green

Delamont Observers witness Massive Fireball


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. 

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.  

We were 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. 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


2012-13 Lecture Programme

We have an excellent programme of lectures lined up for the 2012-13 season with something for everyone – the programme can be seen in full here…. Lectures are held at the Bell Lecture Theatre, Queens University Belfast, at 19:30hrs sharp.

Dr Peter Gallagher Lecture 3rd October

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.

Dr Peter Gallagher


Dave Grennan – 2nd Supernova Discovery

Many congratulations to Dave Grennan for discovering his second supernova – and not from some dark sky site with an ideal climate, but from his own observatory in Raheny, Dublin! Dave used his 36cm Schmidt Cassegrain telescope for the discovery images. 

Discovered on August 22nd, it has just been confirmed. Dave was the first person in the world to spot the light from the gigantic explosion of the dying star. It has been designated 2012ej and is his second supernova discovery in two years!

The exploding star was in 13th magnitude galaxy IC2166 (PGC 19064) in Lynx, and was magnitude 16.2 at discovery. It lies at a distance of about 123 million Light Years, and is a classic Type 1C supernova. The discovery was confirmed by Tom Boles (the world's leading discoverer of supernovae), who recently gave a fascinating lecture on the subject to the IAA in Belfast.

Dave Grennan


Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond