April 4th Public Lecture

Our next club lecture will take place on April 4th. The speaker; John Flannery from Dromineer, a small village on the shores of Lough Derg in Co. Tipperary, and his main interests in astronomy are sky folklore, Comets, Meteor Showers, Aurorae and all aspects of astronomy with the unaided eye. He has also been a prominent member of the Irish Astronomical Society for over 30 years. John’s talk will also serve as a prelude to the next Transit of Mercury taking place on May 9th 2016, the last one until 2032 .For more information go to See http://www.irishastrosoc.org/

One hundred years ago at the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Albert Einstein gave the first in a series of lectures that rewrote Newton’s laws of gravity and changed the world. In the mid 19th century a discovery of a slight wobble in the middle of Mercury’s orbit that wasn’t caused by the tug of Venus or Earth had only one interpretation: there has to be an undiscovered world that was invisible and could not be seen as was too close to the Sun. Not only did that make absolute sense within the mathematical framework of Newton’s theory, it’s how scientists managed to figure out that Neptune had to be there based on the wobbles of the orbit of Uranus just a few years before.

Enter Vulcan—the so-called “other” planet—first supposedly observed in 1859; confirmed by Urbain Le Verrier most famous astronomer in the world and director of the Paris Observatory, who only a few years earlier had discovered Neptune and hailed by The New York Times as one of the great discoveries of the century. If he says Vulcan not only has to be there, but Vulcan has been found, then for almost everyone that makes it real and Vulcan-mania swept the World. Even is during the great solar eclipse of July 29th 1878 that attracted Vulcan-watchers from all over the world, one leading astronomer saw a little bright star where there was no star on his chart and said, that’s Vulcan. News of this discovery was reported all around the world within days. Trouble was, it didn’t exist but people kept discovering Vulcan because the way they saw the world required Vulcan to be there. It took Albert Einstein to provide the framework in which Vulcan became not only non-existent, but unnecessary and to hear the full story come to the lecture starting at 7.30pm.


Mother’s Day Aurora

A Sky of Fiery Green! Last Sunday night two honourable Galway photographers Conor Ledwith and Aidan Coughlan who were on a 1200km photography tour of Iceland witnessed one of Nature’s most beautiful phenomena the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). To view the spectacular display they had to transverse some serious snow and ice covered dirt roads to get to an area north of Reykjavik away from the city lights. The display peaked around 9pm so they got about 40 minutes of amazing viewing before snow showers sent them scurrying off the hills. Conor set a 10 second timer on his camera so they could be in this fantastic shot!!


The King Rules the Night


Image Credit: John McKeonJupiter; the King of the Planets will be well placed for observation, in the constellation Leo. It will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. From Galway it will be visible between 19:07 and 06:29 and then reaches its highest point in the sky at 00:50, 42° above your southern horizon. Over the weeks following its opposition, Jupiter will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months. This optimal positioning occurs when Jupiter is almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky (Opposition).

Since the Sun reaches its greatest distance below the horizon at midnight, the point opposite to it is highest in the sky at the same time. At around the same time that Jupiter passes opposition, it also makes its closest approach to the Earth – termed its perigee – making it appear at its brightest and largest. This happens because when Jupiter lies opposite the Sun in the sky, the solar system is lined up so that Jupiter, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as Jupiter. On this occasion, Jupiter will lie at a distance of 4.44 AU, and its disk will measure 43.5 arcsec in diameter, shining at magnitude -2.5. Even at its closest approach to the Earth, however, it is not possible to distinguish it as more than a star-like point of light with the naked eye, though a good pair of binoculars is sufficient to reveal it as a disk of light with accompanying system of Moons.



Thanks to everyone who came along to

Galway Astronomy Festival 201