2023/24 Lecture Programme

The Lecture Programme is held in association with the School of Mathematics and Physics, Queen’s University Belfast.

It runs from September until the end of April and is held in the Larmor Lecture Theatre in the Physics Building, main campus, Queen’s University, Belfast. Meetings start at 7.30pm sharp and consist of a short talk given by one of our members followed by the main lecture, usually given by a Professional Astronomer.  

The lecture over, light refreshments are available free of charge. At this time members are free to mix and discuss the latest astronomical news and events. The meeting finishes at 10.00pm.

Non-members are also welcome to attend!

Sep 20: Prof Tom Ray, DIAS: JWST – Highlights of the First Year.

Oct 4: Robert Hill, NISO: Developing the N.I. Space Economy and Ecosystem

Oct 18: Richard Goodrich: Fear and Loathing in the Heavens: The 1910 Return of Halley’s Comet

Nov 1: Paul Evans: Apollo to Artemis – the next Giant Leap

Nov 15: Dr Elizabeth Butler, QUB: Solar mysteries ( Exact title TBC)

Nov 29 Dr Matt Nicholl, QUB (date TBC): Luminous Fast Coolers 

Dec 13: TBA: (Two QUB Students?)

Cosmic Corner – A New All-Ireland Astronomy Podcast

HI Guys, Welcome to Cosmic Corner – this is a new Night Sky Guide for Ireland put together by me and Sinead Mannion and gives you a tour around some of the highlights of the September Sky. Do please have a listen, and if you like it, share it!

On Apple Podcasts now – https://podcasts.apple.com/…/cosmic-corner/id1705184817

On Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/episode/0xpHvYbGmuzFL8ZgA1v8Rz

Clear Skies,


 IAA Lecture &  AGM, Wed 12th April, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB,

To start off, we’ll have a short lecture by Fraser Gillan  “Comets: Icy Messengers from the Edge of the Solar System”

We will explore the fascinating world of Jupiter Family Comets, a sub-group of short-period comets that originate from the Kuiper Belt region of the Solar System and have an orbital period of less than 20 years. These frequent visitors to the inner Solar System have orbits that are heavily influenced by Jupiter and undergo regular sublimation as they travel through the inner Solar System. By using large scale all-sky survey systems like the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS), we can monitor the behaviour of a large amount of these comets throughout a significant fraction of their orbit. In this talk, I will give a brief overview on comets before focusing on Jupiter Family Comets and discussing the dust production that we have studied.


Fraser completed his BSc in Astrophysics at the University of Central Lancashire in 2019 where his undergraduate research project focused on calculating the orbits and properties of near-Earth asteroids using data from the MHT at the Alston Observatory. Building on his interest of small Solar System bodies, Fraser completed his Masters (by Research) in Astrophysics in 2020 also at the University of Central Lancashire. This work focused on the design and implementation of an automatic detection system to search for Solar System objects in data from NASA’s STEREO mission. Fraser then started his PhD at Queens’s University Belfast in October 2021 working with Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons in the Solar System group investigating the dust production rates in Jupiter Family Comets.
AGM: This will be followed by the AGM,- the usual business matters

ADMISSION FREE, including light refreshments – All welcome!

IAA Lecture Weds 29th March 19:30 BST – Prof Simon Jeffery, AOP.

” SALT and the super-hot zombie stars.”


We are using the Southern African Large Telescope to carry out a survey of chemically-peculiar hot subdwarfs. Several of the stars observed could not be classified as conventional hot subdwarfs. Eight of these turned out to be extremely hot stars  with surface temperatures between 110,000 K and 180,000 K. One is a white dwarf, the remainder are pre-white dwarfs; that is they are contracting towards the hot end of the white dwarf sequence.

Follow-up photometry showed that two are pulsating GW Vir stars. One is the central star of a previously unknown planetary nebula (JeWeKi 1). Four are record-breakers: the hottest DO white dwarf, the two hottest GW Vir stars, and thehottest `naked’ O(H) star.

My talk will describe the background to the survey, the observations being carried out with SALT and the new discoveries. It will attempt to explain how these stars fit into the big picture of how stars approach their final fate and how some are – indeed – dead stars reborn. 

BIO: Simon Jeffery

Simon’s astronomical life started at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, and has taken him via a Physics degree at Imperial College, London, to St Andrews, Scotland and Kiel, Germany, before finally moving to the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in Northern Ireland, where he works as a senior research astronomer. He has held positions as adjunct Professor of Physics at Trinity College Dublin and a Visiting Byfellowship at Churchill College, Cambridge. He is a past president of IAU Commission G4 on Pulsating Stars and is currently president of IAU Commission G5 on Stellar and Planetary Atmospheres.

Pursuing a lifelong interest in how stars work and how they vary over time, Simon’s PhD in theoretical stellar structure and evolution was followed by observational and theoretical work on stellar pulsations and atmospheres. Most stars never fully exhaust their initial hydrogen store, but retain a hydrogen surface to the very end. However, in rare and extreme cases, some stars become true ‘helium’ stars. Simon’s goal is to demonstrate their elusive origins. The surprising conclusion is that the great majority appear to have formed from the merger of two very old and faint stars … a double white dwarf. His favourite is the pulsating V652 Herculis — the ‘born-again rocket star’.

Simon would like to spend more time dinghy racing, sings baritone, and hunts wild life and seascapes with a camera.

 IAA Lecture, Wed 15th March, 7.30 p.m, LARMOR LECTURE THEATRE, Physics Building, QUB

“Diving Deeper into the Radio Sky” – Solar, Stellar and Galactic Astronomy with the LOw Frequency ARray, by Jeremy Rigney, DIAS & AOP.

Synopsis: Radio astronomy has developed at an ever-accelerating rate in the past decade. With the construction of the Low Frequency Array, the largest and most sensitive low frequency radio telescope in the world, a new window into the universe has been opened. This has revealed jets from distant galaxies, new stars, and massive bursts from our Sun in higher detail than ever before.

Ireland plays a large role in the LOFAR consortium, providing the most westerly station for the telescope array and further improving its sensitivity and resolution. I will talk about the science being achieved with I-LOFAR since its construction in 2017, and my own research on other stars within our galaxy and the search for other planets with the potential to host life.

Jeremy Rigney is a Lindsay PhD Scholar at DIAS & Armagh Observatory, linked with QUB.

Jeremy graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in Physics with Astronomy and Space Science. He is currently the Eric Lindsay Phd Scholar based jointly between the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies and Armagh Observatory. He is registered as a PhD researcher at Queen’s University Belfast. Jeremy’s research focuses on simultaneous optical and radio signatures of dwarf stars to examine the potential impact on orbiting exoplanets. He also observes the sun at radio wavelengths to compare its emission to other stars.

ADMISSION FREE, including light refreshments – All welcome!

Rocket launching at Lough Neagh Saturday25th February


Note you can bring your own bottles and make a Rocket at this event on Saturday PM from 15:30 onwards. Also see the Sky in our Stardome and hopefull see the Moon, Stars and Planets in the real sky if the weather plays ball!

   “Bring your own 2-litre fizzy drinks plastic bottle to make into an amazing rocket, and we’ll have some of our own if you can’t. NB – they must be for carbonated, ie fizzy drinks, to withstand the pressure of the compressed air!

   You can also make your own rocket in advance and bring it along: it must be a ‘fizzy drinks’ bottle as above. The following link gives an idea of what it should look like. Ignore any other websites or videos that mention a cork – we’ll use a different system. All you need to do is fit 3 or 4 stabilising cardboard ‘fins’ at the NECK end of the bottle, and a streamlining nose cone over the BASE of the bottle – it will be launched upside down! It also helps if you fit a small weight (about 50 – 100gm) securely to the centre of the outside of the base of the bottle, before fitting the nose cone

Water Rockets (nasa.gov) Ignore the ‘plume’, and everything below that – we supply the launch equipment.”

Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond