March 7th Public Lecture
Our next club lecture will take place on March 7th. The speaker, Con McCarthy, is a native of Skibbereen, County Cork. He spent his career with the European Space Agency working on projects such as Spacelab, the ERS 1(Earth Resources Satellite), he was Systems Engineer on Huygens, (Europe’s Lander to Titan on board the U.S. Cassini Saturn orbiter), communications system manager for Europe's Mars mission, Mars Express and systems engineer on the Venus Express on its mission to Venus. Although retired, he still travels to the ESA offices, which are dotted around Europe, to liaise with them on ongoing projects. In this talk he will share his knowledge of the Russian Space program, everyone is welcome to attend.
Half a century ago, when the space race was raging, no truly objective, truly honest observer gave the Americans much of a shot. The Soviet Union simply had too big a lead, having launched the first satellite (Sputnik), the first space dog (Laika), the first human being (Yuri Gagarin), the first woman (Valentina Tereshkova) and the first two- and three-person spacecraft. And 50 years ago in 1965, they seemed to have sealed the deal, when Alexei Leonov became the first human being to walk in space. Had things gone as planned, he would have been first on the Moon too? History notes that those flights never happened, that the U.S. overcame the huge Soviet lead and eventually won the race to the Moon.
It is with great regret and sadness that we announce the passing of one of Galway Astronomy Club's longest-serving members and stalwart supporters; Professor Dick Butler, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at NUIG. As an academic at NUI Galway, Chemistry was his teaching subject but Astronomy was his passion and in the late 70s he even formed an astronomy society at NUI Galway. For many years and right up to the present day he was a regular speaker at our monthly meetings that he delivered in his own inimitable style, and which always fascinated and captivated.
And whenever we had a guest speaker he could always be relied upon to come up with incisive and insightful questions that kept our speakers on their toes. It is not surprising therefore that he was selected to draft a question for Stephen Hawking on the occasion of his visit to NUIG some years ago. It's sad that he will not enrich us any longer with his profound scientific knowledge, his enthusiasm for astronomy and his great kindness. Our club has lost a superb colleague and friend of amateur astronomy, He will be greatly missed. Most recently for our New Year Lecture he enthralled us with an incredible talk on the Big Bang, Quantum Cosmology, and General Relativity. Galway Astronomy Club offers our sincerest sympathies to his family and many friends. Rest in Peace and God Speed.
Majestic Orion Region
The Orion Molecular Cloud Complex (or, simply, the Orion Complex) is a large group of bright nebulae, dark clouds, and young stars in the Orion constellation. The cloud is between 1 500 and 1 600 light-years away, and hundreds of light-years across. Several parts of the nebula can be observed through binoculars and small telescopes, and some parts (such as the Orion Nebula) are visible to the naked eye.
The nebula is important because of its sheer size, as it spreads several degrees from Orion's Belt to his sword. It is also one of the most active regions of stellar formation visible in the night sky, and is home to both protoplanetary discs and very young stars. The nebula is bright in infrared wavelengths due to the heat-intensive processes involved in the stellar formation, though the complex contains dark nebulae, emission nebulae, reflection nebulae, and H II regions. Despite what you might think this beautiful was photo was actually taken from a suburb of Galway City by Ray Butler, a lecturer from the Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway. He used an old Fuji S5 Pro with a deep-red sensitivity to achieve this shot.
Nacreous Clouds over Ireland
Cloudspotters across Ireland have witnessed fantastic displays of rare 'nacreous' clouds over the first few days of February. The formations are also known as 'mother of pearl clouds' due to their beautiful bands of colour, which appear as the cloud's ice crystals diffract the sunlight, separating it into its different wavelengths. While iridescent colours are seen in many cloud formations, they tend to look much more dramatic in nacreous formations because this cloud's tiny ice crystals are very regular in size.
Officially known as polar stratospheric clouds, nacreous are typically only observed close to polar regions. They form much higher than most clouds – at altitudes of 10-15 miles (15-25 km), within the stratosphere. They're only ever observed in winter, when moisture from the troposphere, the lower region of the atmosphere where weather happens, is lifted up into the stratosphere. The Atlantic storm Henry that passed over on the 1st and 2nd of February might have contributed to lifting the moisture for these displays. But particularly low temperatures in the stratosphere over Ireland have caused the perfect conditions for nacreous clouds. Cold stratospheric air that usually circulates around polar regions, known as the 'stratospheric polar vortex', has recently been displaced southwards to extend over the parts of the UK. It has resulted in a nacreous-cloud bonanza for British and Irish astronomers.
Back to Basics Workshop
As part of our outreach program we offer a series of free monthly "Back to Basics" beginner workshops held at NUI Galway where both the public and club members can expand their knowledge and observing skills as well as meeting new people. Workshops start at 7.30pm and take place at Room 220 in the Physics Department in NUI Galway just off the main concourse. We hope to see as many as you at them and remember entry is free, Beginners are most welcome.
Our next Workshop will take place on Monday the 15th of February with a talk by Ronan Newman entitled "The Northern Lights in Irish History: From Superstition to the Digital Age" Ronan is an accomplished Aurorae hunter for the past 25 years this talk will give the audience the tools needed to know when to keep an eye out for Celestial activity in the night sky. Photo taken at Knock Airport by Ronan on April 16th 2015.
Thanks to everyone who came along to
Galway Astronomy Festival 2016
To contact a member of the club at any time please email us at email@example.com or by calling 0857298831