“Ireland’s Place in Space” – Mon 6 Apr 2020, 8pm

For our April lecture, ESA engineer Con McCarthy will describe the parts played by Irish companies ─ especially the local ones ─ in designing systems for and providing services to the European Space Agency.  The date is Mon 6th Apr 2020 at 8 pm, and the venue is UCC.   Please arrive 10 minutes early, or if you wish to join, then ideally at 7.40 if you can.

Con worked as an ESA engineer for many years,  his jobs there including  –

  • project manager for Mars Express Lander, arrived Mars 2003
  • systems engineer for Huygens, landed on Titan January 2005, which is still the most distant landing of any man made object
  • systems engineer Venus Express, launched 2005

and he also contributed to

  • Spacelab, the first European crewed space vehicle, 22 missions up to 1998
  • Earth Resources Satellite 1, the first earth observation satellite to monitor the surface via radar instead of optics giving it an all weather capability
  • Exomars, due for launch July 2020

Con is a member of our Club.

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Photo shows Con (right) with Russian cosmonaut Alexi Leonov, the first man to walk in space when in 1965 he exited the Voskhod capsule. 

“V1 – The star that changed the Universe” – Mon 9 Mar 2020, 8pm

For our March lecture, prominent amateur astronomer Tony O’Hanlon will tell how observation of single star was to change how we saw the Universe, and relegated our Milky Way to just one of billions of objects. The date is Mon 9th March 2020 at 8 pm, and the venue is UCC.   Please arrive 10 minutes early, or if you wish to join, then ideally at 7.40 if you can.

As recent as the early 1920’s, we believed the entire Universe consisted of what we called the Milky Way.  Some astronomers of the day believed it was much larger, but how to prove it was a huge mathematical and observational problem and much debate ensued.  Edwin Hubble, after whom the Hubble Space Telescope was named, then made a key discovery from his observations of a single star. It changed how we saw the Universe. Our understanding that our Milky Way is just one of billions of objects can be traced back to Hubble’s discovery.  In this talk, Tony will tell its story.

Tony is a member and co-founder of Limerick Astronomy Club, and a former V.P. of the Irish Astronomical Association.  His passions lie in deep sky objects and providing astronomy outreach.    

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Tony O’Hanlon

New members morning – Sat 19 Oct, 11 – 1

Our annual new members morning is at Blackrock Castle from 11 am – 1 pm on Saturday 19th October.  This is a members only event (but you can join at the door). “New member” can be interpreted flexibly. If you would like to know more about how the Club works and chat informally to committee members, then this event is for you.

Drop in, meet the committee and fellow new members.  Find out about the Club’s activities & getting the most from your membership.      Tea & scones from Blackrock Castle’s excellent café.      

Here you can find out about the monthly observers group meetings, how to get on the alert list for weather-dependent observing sessions, and how to get advice on buying a telescope. Find out about the workshop programme and make your own suggestions for topics you would like included. Discover our field trips, the annual outing, and social events, and let us know what you hope to get from your Club membership. We are always open to consider new activities.

Blackrock Castle
Blackrock Castle Observatory. The New members morning is held in the classroom on the left.

“The mysteries of Black Holes, large and small” – Mon 10 Feb 2020, 8pm

For our February lecture, UCC Professor of Physics and Astronomy Dr Paul Callanan talked about those mysterious and exotic objects so fundamental to astronomy, black holes.    The date was 10th Feb 2020.

Understanding the nature of black holes remains one of the great challenges of modern astronomy.

More than 100 years ago, Einstein produced a remarkable theory which could be used predict the basic properties of black holes, but it was only last year, in 2019,  when we finally got a glimpse of what a black hole really looks like. Paul explored what we know about black holes, and what the most recent observations tell us about them.

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Prof Paul Callanan, UCC
Prof Paul Callanan, UCC

“Back to the Future: Celestial Navigation for Ocean Positioning” – Mon 13 Jan 2020

At our January lecture, Master Mariner and nautical science lecturer Bill Kavanagh demonstrated his sextant. We learnt how traditional methods were used to obtain a ship’s position by observing astronomical objects, and how such methods are being used again today in an era of global navigation satellite systems.  GPS and other satellite navigation systems (including the not yet operational European Galileo system) are accurate, but subject to human error and malfunction. For 20 years the US navy and coastguard abandoned celestial navigation training for officers, but have now reinstated it – recognizing that the Sun and stars will never be disabled by solar flares, and can’t be shot down.

Bill is a committee member of Cork Astronomy Club and also lectures in the National Maritime College of Ireland at Ringaskiddy. After a 20-year career at sea including 8 years in command, he moved ashore to start a new career in education and training. He currently lectures and co-ordinates the award year of the BSc honours degree in nautical science, and is an adjunct lecturer in research methods with Jade University of Applied Sciences, Oldenberg, Germany. While at sea, he navigated the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans using celestial navigation techniques. 

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Bill Kavanagh
Bill Kavanagh

“Space Law: Weapons, Property Rights and Mining in Space” – 14 Oct 2019

Barrister Laura Keogh, a specialist in space law, gave an overview of space law and then focused on weaponisation and the legality of owning asteroids.    

LauraShe began by outlining the framework of international space law, starting with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basic framework, and then identified three challenges for space law – militarisation, space mining, and colonising Mars.   Space has been militarised since the very start of the space age, but what weapons are allowed? Nukes are definitely banned and so are weapons of mass destruction – but what are those?  A US act of 2015 says citizens can own asteroid resources, but is this legal in international law? 

If Mars is colonised, will it be a state and what are the implications of that?  The meeting broke into groups to discuss how a Mars state would cope with a refugee problem from Earth, giving rise to some daunting proposals.

Laura has campaigned, thus far without success, that Ireland should be represented at the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).  This will become more urgent with the launch next year of Ireland’s first satellite, Eirsat1. She works for MHL- Law dealing with space sector clients and data protection issues.  

Laura Keogh
Laura Keogh, Barrister

“The Active Sun: Solar Eruptions and their Impact on Earth” – Mon 11 Nov 2019

For our November lecture, Trinity College space weather scientist Dr Sophie Murray looked at solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and auroras. All this is called space weather, and she discussed its impact on the Earth’s upper atmosphere, and potentially on human civilisation. Dr Murray referred to the 1859 Carrington Event, which gave us the first alert that solar flares can interfere with our electronics. Since then solar flares have disrupted electricity grids, but no event of similar magnitude has yet occurred. Dr Murray and her colleagues are often called upon by industry and government to advise on how to protect today’s delicate electronics from the potentially catastrophic effects of solar flares. It is now a routine duty of Met Eireann and other meteorological services to forecast space weather.

Dr Sophie Murray