Society for Popular Astronomy to visit Northern Ireland – 21st/22nd September

As part of their 60th Anniversary celebrations, the Society for Popular Astronomy will visit Belfast and Armagh. This invitation from Prof Alan Fitzsimmons…

On behalf of Queen's University Belfast, Armagh Observatory and the Society for Popular Astronomy, we would like to invite all amateur astronomers to an all-day meeting held in honour of the SPA's 60th anniversary.

The meeting will take place in the Department of Physics and Astronomy from 9:30am until 5:30pm on
Saturday 21st September, and will consist of a series of popular-level talks given by professional
astronomers on their research here in Northern Ireland.

Additionally, on Sunday 22nd September there will be an organised visit to Armagh Observatory.
Visitors will be given a guided tour of the observatory and astropark, followed by a lunch reception
hosted by the Lord Mayor of Armagh. Please note that this visit is restricted to 45 people due to venue
and transport limitations.
More details and bookings can be made at the following website:

Attendance at the meeting is free,  but we ask that people register so that we can estimate numbers
for tea/coffee.
Best Wishes, Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons, Astrophysics Research Centre, Queen's University Belfast

IAA Opening Lecture, 18th September. Prof Colin Cunningham.

"Mega Telescopes: how and why?" The European Southern Observatory will soon blast off the top of a mountain in the Atacama desert to start construction of a telescope five times bigger than any existing today. This telescope is known as the European Extremely Large Telescope, or E-ELT. The primary mirror will be made from 798 mirrors and will be 39m in diameter and be controlled to nanometre accuracy. In this lecture Prof Cunningham will describe the engineering challenges of this giant telescope and give a preview of some of the exciting astronomical discoveries that may result, from the first galaxies to Earthlike planets.

Prof Cunningham is Director, UK E-ELT Programme, and is also involved in projects with ESA and the UK Space Agency.
The lecture is free and open to all, including free refreshments. It will be held in the Bell Lecture Theatre, Physics Building, Queen's University, Belfast, at 7.30 p.m.

Thanks to the Astrophysics Research Centre, QUB, for help in hosting these lectures.

Perseid BBQ – Delamont Country Park – 12th August

Paul Evans 2004


The Perseid Meteor shower peaks this year on the night of Monday 12th August – conditions are favourable with a crescent Moon setting early on in the night.  Our intention is to hold the annual Perseid Barbeque at Delamont Country Park on this night, weather permitting. Please keep an eye on this website and the IAA Forum for updates.

Note that the peak is not a sharp one and meteors can be seen a week or so either side of the 11th/12th – indeed Perseids can be seen from the end of July until the end of August so it’s worth a look visit website on any clear night over that period!

Castle Espie Solar Day – Sunday 11th August

Pat O'Neill 2010

On Sunday 11th August we will return to WWF Castle Espie in County Down for another Solar Day – again from 2pm to 5pm. This venue has become a regular on the Summer calendar over the last few years and as well as Solar Observing we will be offering displays of meteorites and other astronomical paraphenalia and of course Star Shows in the Mobile Planetarium chimera motors. Also, if you are one of the many who has bought a telescope but found it a bit tricky to set up, bring it along and one of our experts will show you how to get it set up to give its best.


Big Wild Sleep Out – Saturday 10th August 4pm until late

Come along to a world first for the RSPB and National Museums Northern Ireland!

For one night only you and your family can experience the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum like never before – all night long!

Join us from 4pm where, along with our friends at Cotswold Outdoors, we’ll help you set up your tent and prepare for a camping experience like no other.  Bring a supper and enjoy it around the campfire (and don’t forget to pack plenty of munchies to keep you going through the night!) before exploring all the museum grounds have to offer.

There will be lots of activities for everyone to enjoy from moth trapping and bat detecting, nature trails, and a movie in the cinema if you fancy spending a bit of time indoors to recharge your batteries.  Don’t stay inside too long though as we’ll be perfectly placed to watch nature’s very own firework display – the Perseids Meteor shower – take place overhead with help from the Irish Astronomical Assocaition.

There will be lots of arts and crafts as well and plenty of chances to make homes for nature that you can take away with you!  And of course, no camping experience would be completed without a singsong and some storytelling around the campfire! You’ll eventually turn in for the night to be woken by the savoury smells of a delicious cooked breakfast waiting for you the following morning. You can also avail of a reduced entry into the Museum the next day.

Tickets cost £16 per adult, £12 per child (under 16), which includes breakfast in the morning.

RSPB members receive a 10% discount off their ticket price! Just quote your membership number when you call to book – this can be found on your membership card.  If you can’t find it, just let us know.

Cotswold are also offering a 10% discount to all ticket holders for this event in their Castle Land and Boucher Road stores so you can get everything you'll need to sleep out in nature!

Book your place today by calling the team at RSPB Northern Ireland on 028 9049 1547 or call into our office and pick up your ticket in person.  You can find us at Belvoir Park Forest, Belfast, Co. Antrim, BT8 7QT (just off Belvoir Drive, head for the trees!  Our office is on the left by the car park).  Places are limited so don’t delay on booking your place for a wild night out like no other!

Smile for the Camera – Saturn Night 19th July

Pictures from ths event here….

The Observing Event will be held at Delamont Country Park – Bring your own BBQ if required from 9pm onwards – Saturn Observing from darkness – circa 10pm onwards.

On July 19, 2013, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will photograph Saturn and its entire ring system during a total eclipse of the sun.  Cassini has done this twice before during its previous 9 years in orbit, but this time will be different.

"This time, the images to be collected will capture, in natural colour, a glimpse of our own planet next to Saturn and its rings on a day that will be the first time Earthlings know in advance their picture will be taken from a billion miles away," says Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team lead at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

 "While Earth will be only about a pixel in size from Cassini's vantage point 1.44 billion kilometres away, the team is looking forward to giving the world a chance to see what their home looks like from Saturn. We hope you'll join us in waving at Saturn from Earth, so we can commemorate this special opportunity."

Unlike two previous Cassini eclipse mosaics of the Saturn system the July 19 image will be the first to capture the Saturn system with Earth in natural colour, as human eyes would see it. It also will be the first to capture Earth and its moon with Cassini's highest-resolution camera.

This latest image will continue a NASA legacy of space-based images of our fragile home, including the 1968 "Earthrise" image taken by the Apollo 8 moon mission from about 240,000 miles (380,000 kilometres) away and the 1990 "Pale Blue Dot" image taken by Voyager 1 from about 4 billion miles (6 billion kilometres) away. July 19th, concludes Porco, "will be a day for people all over the globe to celebrate together the extraordinary achievements that have made such interplanetary photo sessions possible. And it will be a day to celebrate life on the Pale Blue Dot."

The Irish Astronomical Association will also be holding a special Saturn Observing Event at  Delamont Country Park. This imaging event will take place between 22:27 and 22:42 BST, and Saturn will be visible in the twilight sky low in the SW, so we'll be in the picture.

IAA Past President in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Terry Moseley, currently PR Officer of the IAA, and previously President for 3 stints of 3 years each, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the 2013 Queen's Birthday Honours. This award is given for meritous service worthy of recognition by the Crown – in Terry's case for Services to Astronomy Education. This medal was awarded from 1922-92 and was revived by David Cameron only last year (2012).

Terry had this to say:- "I was delighted to get this award, which is a tribute to the work done in public outreach by many members of the IAA. I'd like to dedicate it to the late Sir Patrick Moore, who started and encouraged my interest in astronomy, and whose limitless enthusiasm and dedication was an example to everyone. I have simply tried to pass on to others the tremendous enjoyment I've got from this most fascinating of subjects."

So congratulations from all of us at the IAA to Terry Moseley, BEM!

15th June Carnfunnock – IAA Solar Day/Midsummer BBQ

On Saturday 15th June the IAA will be returning to Carnfunnock Country Park after successful visits in the past.This venue offers tremendous scenery looking out towards Scotland across the North Channel and boasts a maze in the shape of Northern Ireland and also the biggest collection of sundials in Ireland.

We will be there between 2pm and 5pm with the annual IAA Midsummer BBQ/Picnic afterwards. Astronomical exhibitions/paraphernalia will be on display and also the Mobile Planetarium with shows for the young and old. Solar observing through filtered white light and Hydrogen Alpha telescopes will take place 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 the Solar maximum well into its stride, there should be plenty of both on offer for everyone!

Afterwards the IAA will be holding their annual midsummer BBQ on the grounds, again weather permitting.



14th June Glenavy – IAA Astronomy Evening

The IAA will be presenting another evening of astronomy at Glenavy on Friday 14 June as part of the Glenavy Fun Week.

The event will run from 7 to 10 pm, with shows taking place in the Mobile Planetarium(Stardome). Telescopes and binoculars will be on display, with exhibitions of meteorites and space memorabilia. Weather permitting, we'll be observing a nice crescent Moon, and if we are lucky, be able to catch a view of Mercury and Venus.

Noctilucent Cloud Season gets underway – Pictures

The 2013 Noctilucent Cloud Season has kicked off to an electric start with a magnificently bright display starting almost immediately after sunset on 30th May. The display continued until the sky lightened after 0230 on 31st, though it was somewhat subdued by this time.

There will doubtless be more of these displays visible during the rest of the season which runs until the beginning of August. Look to the North an hour or so after sunset any time until the oncoming dawn lightens the sky.
These clouds form in the Mesosphere near the pole and are visible due to sunlight reflecting off them from the other sid of the pole. Northern Ireland is an ideal location from which to view them – further north the sky is too light to see them, further south and they are too far away This display was very early and is indicative of a good season to come!

Astronomy in Northern Ireland and Beyond