“Eclipses, Transits and Occultations – Some Personal Experiences” – Paul Evans, public Zoom lecture, 14 Feb 2022

Cork Astronomy Club looks forward to welcoming Paul Evans, prominent Northern Ireland amateur astronomer, maker of highly regarded monthly sky guide videos, and Chair of the Irish Federation of Astronomy Societies.        

Paul Evans at Meteor Crater, Arizona

Since the Solar System is essentially flat, though crucially not quite flat, it does occasionally happen that viewed from Earth, one object will pass in front of or behind another. Some of these events are of technical interest while some are truly spectacular celestial events.

Paul will describe some personal experiences of these events and will conclude by looking forward to some opportunities to see further events in the future.

About Paul

Like many of his generation Paul was inspired by the Apollo Moon missions and it was Apollo 8 which really piqued his lifelong interest in space and astronomy.

Originally from England, though his mother is from Athlone, Paul has lived in Northern Ireland since 2003 during which time he has photographed auroras, noctilucent clouds and many sky objects. His photographs have been displayed in numerous exhibitions and publications in Britain and Ireland.

Paul is a past President of the Irish Astronomincal Association and has been Chair of the Irish Federation of Astronomy Societies (to which our Club is affiliated) since April 2019.

We recommend Paul’s monthly sky guide videos, this link is to the January 2022 edition.

Lecture arrangements

Start time 7.30 pm, and we aim to finish at 9.00. There will be an opportunity to stay and chat for a few minutes after the end of the formal meeting if you want to. The Zoom link will be sent to all Club members and also to recipients of our guest bulletins. If you are on neither list you can request a Zoom link by emailing us no later than 4 pm on the day of the meeting.

Not familiar with Zoom? If you contact us in good time, we may be able to help. Email us or (except on the day of the lecture) ring Peter on 089-2004553.

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“Rethinking Planetary Protection Strategies for Robotic Mars Missions”, Dr Amanda Hendrix, public Zoom lecture, 10 Jan 2022

Cork Astronomy Club looks forward to welcoming Dr Amanda Hendrix of the Planetary Science Institute. In this talk, she will argue that planetary protection rules can be relaxed.       

Dr Amanda Hendrix

Planetary protection deals with trying to prevent terrestrial microorganisms establishing a foothold on other worlds and vice versa. The primary goal is to protect the viability of future search-for-life experiments, so they are not confounded by potential terrestrial microbes. Since the 1970’s, spacecraft bound for places that scientists think may be hospitable to life, first and foremost Mars,  must undergo rigorous pre-launch cleaning procedures. But Dr Hendrix, as the co-chair of the National Academies Committee on Planetary Protection, was charged with determining whether these rules can now be loosened, and is one of the authors of an October 2021 report arguing that some “bioburden” rules can be relaxed somewhat.  “Changes to planetary protection policies should be considered in the context of how much science has learned in recent years about Mars” she says.

Dr Hendrix is a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, based in Tucson, Arizona. She spent many years at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, including two years as the Cassini Deputy Project Scientist, and has been part of many planetary science missions, including the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

This lecture will be held via Zoom, and is open to all. There will also be club announcements and sky this month presentation, and if you are new to our Club you will get a feel for our activities.

Start time 7.30 pm, and we aim to finish at 9.00. There will be an opportunity to stay and chat for a few minutes after the end of the formal meeting if you want to. The Zoom link will be sent to all Club members and also to recipients of our guest bulletins. If you are on neither list you can request a Zoom link by emailing us no later than 4 pm on the day of the meeting.

Not familiar with Zoom? If you contact us in good time, we may be able to help. Email us or (except on the day of the lecture) ring Peter on 089-2004553.

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“Galaxies – One Gigayear at a time”, Dr Julian Onions, public Zoom lecture, 6 Dec 2021

Cork Astronomy Club welcomed Dr Julian Onions of Nottingham University’s outreach team.   He desribed his talk thus: “What are galaxies, how are they classified, how are they formed, what do we understand about their lives, and how many pretty pictures can I fit in one talk?”         

Dr Julian Onions

If a marble at Nottingham in central England represented the Sun, he told us, the next Galaxy would be as far away as in the Irish Sea or English Channel.  Julian traced the formation of galaxies, their morphology (shapes), their pasts and their futures.  He specialises in simulations of the universe to test our theories of how it works. Thanks Julian for a great night!

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“No need for Planet 9”, Ann-Marie Madigan, public Zoom lecture, 8 Nov 2021

Cork Astronomy Club was honoured to welcome Dr Ann-Marie Madigan,    Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at University of Colorado, Boulder. There’s something odd going on in our solar system, and presence of a new planet (‘planet 9′) or a black hole have been proposed to account for it, but Dr Madigan has other ideas.        

Dr Ann-Marie Madigan

Prof Madigan’s favoured explanation is a new Kuiper belt, further out than the actual Kuiper belt, and containing about 10 Earth masses of material. If found, will it be called the Madigan Belt? You heard it here first.

Dr Madigan explained: While the planets move on nearly-circular orbits in a disk, the icy bodies beyond Neptune appear to cluster together in a highly-inclined and eccentric structure. Astronomers have invoked the presence of a new planet (‘planet 9′) or even a black hole in explanation!

In her talk she showed that these theories are unnecessary. In analogy with spiral arms and bars in galaxies, the collective gravity of individually small but collectively massive bodies can create such structure in the outer solar system. This explanation predicts that there is a (highly-inclined) disk of minor planets, more massive than the Kuiper Belt, awaiting discovery at the edge of our solar system. 

This lecture was held via Zoom.

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Lecture Schedule 2021-22

During the public health emergency we have been holding public lectures by Zoom, and this will continue until at least Janaury 2022. In due course we intend to resume lectures at University College Cork. For Zoom links, you can email info@corkastronomyclub.com, or better still sign up for our guest bulletins.

The Zoom meetings will be on the second Monday of the month, plus occasional extra dates for especially prominent speakers. The centre piece of each meeting is a lecture by an invited guest. Monthly meetings will also include a briefing on what to look for in the sky that month. There will also be club announcements, and visitors will be able to get a feel for our actrivities.

Start time 7.30 pm. The formal part of each meeting finishes at 9.00 pm, though there will be an opportunity to join the meeting early, or stay for a few extra minutes at the end.

Here are the cureent season’s events as arranged so far. Further speakers and topics will be announced.

Mon 13th Sept 2021   “Taking the Measure of Our Universe” ─  Dr Robin Catchpole, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge.

Mon 11th Oct 2021   electronics engineer Cillian O’Driscoll on “How satellites revolutionised how we navigate – and tell the time”

Mon 8th Nov 2021  Dr. Ann-Marie Madigan, Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at University of Colorado – “No Need for Planet 9”

Mon 6th Dec 2021  – Dr. Julian Onions, Nottingham University- “Galaxies – One Gigayear at a time”

Mon 10th Jan 2022  – Dr Amanda Hendrix, Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute – “Rethinking Planetary Protection Strategies for Robotic Mars Missions”

Mon 14th Feb 2022  Viewing eclipses, transits and occultations – Paul Evans, prominent Irish amateur astronomer, maker of monthly sky this month videos.

Robin Catchpole Zoom lecture – How big is the universe? 13 Sep 2021

How big in the universe and how do we know?

To open our 2021-22 season of public lectures, Cork Astronomy Club welcomed Dr Robin Catchpole of the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy. He talked to us via Zoom.

The title of his lecture was “Taking the Measure of Our Universe”. Two thousand years after the ancient Greeks thought of the idea, we measured the
distance to the nearest star. Less than two hundred years later we are measuring the distance to a 1000 million stars almost a million times more accurately, opening a new era of discovery in astronomy. Soon we will measure the position of 3000 million galaxies in the hope that they might reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy. Robin explained how this is being done and what more we know about our universe.   

One member commented: “Robin was an amazing lecturer and had me spellbound.” 

Now an astronomer at the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, Dr Catchpole has held posts at various observatories around the world including Senior Astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

He has authored and co-authored over 120 research papers and articles and used a number of telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope. Research interests include the composition of stars, exploding stars, the structure of our Galaxy and galaxies with black holes at their centres. His current research interest is in the structure of the Bulge of our Milky Way Galaxy.

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“How satellites revolutionised how we navigate – and tell the time”, Cillian O’Driscoll – Mon 11 Oct 2021

Cork Astronomy Club welcomed Cork-based electronics engineer Cillian O’Driscoll who drew on his work with ESA on the Galileo project, Europe’s own global navigation satellite system, to review how satellites have changed the way we navigate the globe.   The lecture was held via Zoom.

Fantastic talk from someone who clearly is a master of his subject, was the verdict of one member in the audience.

Cillian O’Driscoll

Cillian explained the mechanics of GNSS systems (that’s any satellite navigation system with global coverage) and answered many detailed questions from members.  He also delved into the political ramifications. The Galileo system is a project of the Europe Commission, he explained, although the technical work is contracted to ESA.  In the early 2000’s the US government was keen to discourage Galileo and to persuade the EU to be satisfied with GPS, which is under US military control, and used to have a built-in 100m error margin.      

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“William Lassell 1799 – 1880, Telescopes, Planets and Drinking Beer”, Gerard Gilligan – Mon 10 May 2021

For our final lockdown lecture of the current season, Cork Astronomy Club welcomed Society for the History of Astronomy Chairman Gerard Gilligan to tell us about William Lassell, the Liverpool brewer and amateur astronomer who in 1846, using his own self built telescope, discovered Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, just 17 days after the discovery of Neptune itself. 

William Lassell (left) and Gerard Gilligan

This public lecture was held via Zoom

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“Vera C. Rubin Observatory: The Universe in Action – Coming Soon” – Mon 8 March 2021

Amanda Bauer, Head of Education and Public Outreach at Vera C Rubin Observatory, joined us by Zoom from Tucson Arizona to tell us about a sizeable telescope due to commence operations in Chile at the end of 2022 which will open a bigger window on the universe and allow citizen scientists to download an app and contribute to analysing data.

The Vera C. Rubin Observatory will conduct the 10-year Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) starting in late 2023. It will survey the southern sky every 4 nights and record every change – what dims, what brightens, what moves or disappears.  We’ll see the universe in action!  Citizen scientists can join in. One comment was “if the rest of the team are even half as enthusiastic, it’ll be finished ahead of time!”

LSST will deliver a 500 petabyte set of images and data products that will address some of the most pressing questions about the structure and evolution of the universe and the objects in it.  Rubin Observatory has an outreach team designing and building an innovative, modern, and inclusive program. Amanda demonstrated a prototype online astronomy investigation and highlighted citizen science opportunities with LSST data.

Above: The Rubin Observatory and Amanda Bauer

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“How to tell the Time”, David Malone – 12 April 2021

Calendars, clocks, and how the measurement of time links to the Earth and the solar system were Prof Malone’s theme when he joined us by Zoom from Maynooth University.  He called his talk “How to tell the time” and time was the one thing lacking, the question session lasting 25 minutes after the meeting was meant to close. David Malone is a mathematician on the staff of Maynooth University’s Hamilton Institute

Prof David Malone answers a question about Time

A little nugget of information was that the word “minute” comes from the Latin pars minuta prima, meaning “first small part”. This division of the hour can be further refined with a “second small part” (Latin: pars minuta secunda), and this is where the word “second” comes from.

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