IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 4th November 19:30 – Prof Alan Fitzsimmons

“What makes a comet great?”


Hopefully, many members of the IAA saw comet NEOWISE this summer. Although it was a great comet to see, it wasn’t a “Great Comet”. That title is reserved to the best and brightest of the comets. But what is it about a comet that can make it a “Great Comet”? This talk will look at the physical and dynamical reasons that make comets “Great”, illustrated by previous apparitions of these magnificent objects.


Alan Fitzsimmons is a Professor of Astronomy in the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast. He saw his first comet in 1983 while walking to the pub, and hasn’t looked back since. He also still enjoys looking at comets.

Zoom details…..

Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: IAA – Prof Alan Fitzsimmons
Time: Nov 4, 2020 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 842 1371 8994
Passcode: 166505

YouTube Simulcast

The talk will appear as a Live Stream on our YouTube Channel shortly before 19:30 on 4th November


IAA Zoom Lecture – Weds 21st October – Dr Marc Sarzi, AOP

“The Hunt for Supermassive Black Holes: a Short History”

This highly topical talk by Dr Marc Sarzi, head of research at Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, is highly topical, not only because of the increasing number and variety of Black Holes being discovered, but because of the recent award of the Nobel Prize for physics to three astronomers working on the subject’


In this talk Dr Sarzi will describe the theoretical and observational milestones that lead to establishing the existence of supermassive black holes, and the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize in physics.

Marc Sarzi graduated in Padua and did his PhD spending time both at the Asiago Observatory in Italy and the Max Plank Institute fur Astronomie in Heidelberg, working at the detection of supermassive black holes using Hubble Space Telescope observations. After his PhD he moved on to post-doctoral research assistant positions in Durham and Oxford, after which he moved to the University of Hertfordshire where he held both a STFC Rutherford research fellowship and a Public Engagement fellowship before finally moving two years ago at the Armagh Observatory & Planetarium as Head of Research.


Paul Evans is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Dr Marc Sarzi, AOP
Time: Oct 21, 2020 07:15 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 821 7036 0197
Passcode: 186232

YouTube Simulcast – non-interactive, goes live at 19:25


Please note Armagh Observatory & Planetarium is a registered charity and this talk is provided free of charge. Should you wish to support AOP in their work please follow this link to donate……..


IAA Zoom Lecture – 7th October 19:30 BST – Nick Howes

“How do you solve a problem like Debris…ahh?”  

Public awareness of the clutter and rubbish humankind is littering our planet and oceans with has never been higher. David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg have firmly established the need to change our behaviour to avoid a catastrophe. But, whilst many companies and consumers are changing their behaviour to avoid plastic waste, a far bigger threat is looming, and one that will be much harder to solve. Currently over 130 million pieces of debris orbit our planet, ranging from microscopic to the size of a bus. 

These are all in an uncontrollable set of orbits, many of the debris objects are smaller than a few cm, and as such, cannot be tracked. Yet, travelling at around 17,000 mph, pieces the size of a pea, could devastate a spacecraft, kill an astronaut, or astro-tourist  and create a knock on effect, creating more and more debris, known as the Kessler Syndrome, famously seen in the Hollywood Movie “Gravity”. 

The impact of this would be devastating to global climate monitoring, defence, navigation, shipping and pretty much every part of our lives. With the launch of the so called “mega” constellations, adding tens of thousands of new satellites, we are at a crisis tipping point. 

Nick Howes, a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and Lead Research and Development scientist for a multinational research and engineering company, explains the issues, and possible ways to stop this from happening.

The meeting will be hosted on Zoom.us and where possible will be simulcast on YouTube.

The login details are as follows…

Topic: IAA Zoom Meeting Nick Howes
Time: Oct 7, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 826 7296 3441
Passcode: 966980

The Zoom Waiting Room will open at 19:15 with a view to getting started at 19:30 sharp.

IAA Zoom Lecture 23rd September 19:30 BST – Prof Peter Gallagher, DIAS

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues we cannot unfortunately resume our normal programme of lectures in the Bell Theatre at QUB. However what we can do is arrange for guest lecturers to talk to us using technology to bring us together. It looks as if this will be the way of things for some months to come, so here’s how it will work……

The meeting will be hosted on Zoom.us and where possible will be simulcast on YouTube.

The login details are as follows…

Topic: IAA Lecture – Prof Peter Gallagher
Time: Sep 23, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 843 3614 1064
Passcode: 381207

You do not need to have the Zoom app installed, it will run in a web browser if you click the above long link and agree to all the questions it will ask you
If you are using a Zoom app you’ll need the Meeting ID and Passcode above.

As with all of our lectures this is free and open to the public.

Zoom limits the number of participants to 100 so we will usually be able to simulcast on our YouTube Channel…


The difference between the two is that Zoom is interactive and YouTube isn’t so if you want to ask questions at the end, Zoom is the way to go.

Doors will open at 19:15 so we can get everyone logged in ready for a 19:30 prompt start.

Lecture details are as follows :-

 “Observing the Radio Universe from Birr, Co. Offaly” by Prof Peter Gallagher, Head of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Synopsis  The Irish Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR; www.lofar.ie) was installed at Birr Castle, Co. Offaly in 2017 and now links Ireland into the largest low frequency radio telescope in the world, stretching nearly 2,000 km from the Irish Midlands to eastern Poland .

LOFAR is already giving us new views of astronomical phenomena such as solar flares, exoplanets, star-forming regions and rapidly rotating stars called pulsars. In this talk, I will given an overview of the building of I-LOFAR and the recent scientific insights that this unique telescope is providing.”   

Prof Gallagher is now effectively at the top of the tree in astronomy in Ireland . Formerly professor in TCD specialising in solar physics, he was appointed head of the astrophysics section of DIAS last year. He was almost single-handedly responsible for getting I-LOFAR approved, funded, designed, installed and operational. It’s now the only astronomical facility producing top-end astronomical research results from the island of Ireland .

IAA AGM HELD, New Council Elected

The postponed AGM was held on the evening of 26th August 2020 by Zoom. Thank you to all the members who took part, it worked very well and we now have a new Council elected – details here…..

This Council will meet early in September to evaluate the best way forwards given the continuing impact of Covid-19. We do not expect to be able to hold live lecture meetings for some time so we will endeavour to do the best possible for our members.

As always, the latest information will appear here.

IAA AGM 2020

Following the Covid-19 lockdown the Council cancelled the last two meetings of the season, including the Annual General Meeting scheduled for 15th April.

It now seems unlikely that we will be able to run a normal lecture programme for the rest of this calendar year, though we are working on alternative approaches to that.

As mentioned previously, it is our intention to hold the AGM online via Zoom Conferencing at 19:30 on Weds 26th August.

Paid-up members of the IAA can join the conference – details as follows……

Topic: IAA AGM
Time: Aug 26, 2020 07:30 PM London

Join Zoom Meeting here…….

This will open approx 5mins before the start time. Zoom gives us 40mins so please can we start promptly and get through the necessary business as quickly as possible. If there is any time left we’ll leave it open for chat. If important business remains outstanding after 40mins we can all reconnect using the same link above!

Those who haven’t used Zoom before, it is very simple – click on the link and any necessary software will download and install.

Note, I (Paul) will be the gatekeeper and host of this meeting and will only be allowing paid-up members in.

Supporting documents are as follows……

Astronomy in Northern Ireland