On This Day in Space! April 11, 1960: ‘Project Ozma’ begins search for alien life

On April 11, 1960, astronomers began the first scientific experiment that would search for extraterrestrial life.

Known as Project Ozma, this experiment looked for interstellar radio transmissions coming from other star systems. This was the first time that radio astronomy was used to look for aliens. The effort was led by an astronomer named Frank Drake at Cornell University. He used an 85-foot telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia to check out two nearby stars called Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. He first pointed the telescope at Tau Ceti, but he didn’t detect any signals. 

When he pointed the telescope at Epsilon Eridani, he did see a signal, but it turned out to be a false alarm. He later found out that the signal was created by military radar equipment and was definitely not aliens.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

The Pope’s Astronomer at Blackrock Castle on 10 Aug 2019

Club members met Papal Astronomer Bro Guy Consolmagno, author of Turn Left at Orion, at Blackrock Castle Observatory on Saturday 10 August, from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.  Bro Guy will gave a talk “Discarded Worlds: Astronomical ideas that were almost correct …”. You can read his abstract below. As well as astronomers who were wrong he cited those who were right but for the wrong reasons – Galileo being a prime example.

Bro Guy (third from camera on right) at lunch with Club members at Blackrock Castle Observatory after giving his talk

The event was fully subscribed.   Bro Guy is an incisive and entertaining speaker,  and the author of numerous books on astronomy including  Turn Left at Orion – Hundreds of Night Sky Objects to See in a Home Telescope – and How to Find Them

You can find more about Bro Guy at his page on the Vatican Observatory website. He provided the following abstract for his lecture:

Astronomy is more than just observing; it’s making sense of those observations. A good theorist needs to blend a knowledge of what’s been observed, with a good imagination … and no fear of being wrong. Ptolemy in ancient Rome, the medieval bishops Oresme and Cusa, the 19th century astronomers Schiaparelli and Pickering, all rose to the challenge; and they were all almost correct. Which is to say, they were wrong … sometimes hilariously, sometimes heartbreakingly so. What lessons can 21st century astronomers take from these discarded images of the universe? 

March 4th 2019

On March 4th, 1979, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft took the first photos of rings around Jupiter. This was the first time anyone had seen Jupiter’s rings.

Because Jupiter’s rings are so thin and faint, it’s extremely difficult to see them from Earth with ground-based telescopes. Even for a spacecraft out near Jupiter, the rings are essentially invisible unless the cameras look at them edge-on or from an angle where sunlight shines directly through them.

Since Voyager 1 first saw the rings, other space missions like Juno and Galileo have continued to study them. Scientists believe that the rings formed by comets colliding with Jupiter’s moons and kicking dust into the planet’s orbit.

Source: https://www.space.com/39251-on-this-day-in-space.html

Sat 17 Nov – Buying a telescope

Thinking of asking for or giving a telescope for Christmas?  Cork Astronomy Club has a word of advice to offer: don’t!  Or at least, not until you have attended our “What telescope” workshop on Saturday November 17th.

What type of telescope? Dobsonian, Newtonian, go-to? Or would binoculars be better for you? How much to spend?  Is there such a thing as a beginner’s scope?  Where do I buy it? … So many questions … and one place to get the answers …  Tony Jackson’s “What telescope” workshop on November 17th, at Tory Top Library, 2:30 pm.  Our Club has no connection whatever to any business and you will receive impartial advice from an expert amateur astronomer.  Not a Club member?  You can still come, and it’s free, but need to book, please email info@corkastronomyclub.com.

Light Pollution news

In common with many cities around the world, Cork has a light pollution campaign pressing for more efficient and less wasteful lighting to mitigate the pollution of our skies by excessive light.  As an astronomy club, it’s easy to see why this is an issue for us – but light pollution goes far beyond nice-to-have dark skies. Light pollution also affects the health of humans and wildlife, wastes energy, and where that energy is produced by fossil fuels, contributes to climate disruption.

The Cork Sky Friendly Campaign was inaugurated in the spring of 2017, and Cork Astronomy Club is proud to have played a leading role in setting it up.  The campaign is also supported by Cork Environmental Forum, Cork Nature Network, Cork Green Party, and the Bere Islands Projects.  We encourage our members and others to get involved and support the campaign.  To find out how to do this, please email corkskyfriendly@gmail.com or ring 087-1321368  (Doroteja)