Commemorative May 9th Public Lecture
Our next club lecture will take place on May 9th.Paul Mohr was born in England in 1931 and was educated at Manchester University. In 1977 he was appointed Professor of Geology at NUI Galway and retired in 1996. He is an amateur astronomer has had a keen interest in the life of John Birmingham and wrote a book about him in 2002 entitled "John Birmingham: Tuam and Ireland's New Star"
In 2016 we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of John Birmingham, a Galway based astronomer, amateur geologist, polymath who discovered who discovered T Coronae Borealis on the night of May 12th 1866, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago next month. Rising up the eastern evening sky in springtime, is the little constellation Corona Borealis, aside from its distinctive naked-eye shape, Corona Borealis holds a claim to fame: a faint star that on rare occasions turns bright, T Coronae Borealis also known as Blaze Star is a repeating nova. It spends decades on end simmering at 10th magnitude, then blazes to 2nd or 3rd magnitude. Its last eruptions came in 1866 and 1946.
John Birmingham grew up on the Millbrook Estate outside Milltown, County Galway and was educated at St. Jarlath's College in Tuam. After several years touring Europe he settled back in Milltown and from 1858 onwards he started contributing notes on astronomy to local newspapers. At Millbrook he built what the Tuam Herald called a large wooden house with a sliding roof, which formed his first observatory. Inside this observatory was a powerful 4.5 inch Cooke refractor telescope, fitted with a lens made by Thomas Grubb of Dublin. Using this he made a special study of red stars and revised and extended Schjellerup's Catalogue of Red Stars. Six hundred and fifty eight of these objects were included.
He presented this work to the Royal Irish Academy in 1876 and was awarded the Cunningham Medal. In 1881 he discovered a deep red star in Cygnus constellation that is named after him. Other subjects on which he published articles included meteor showers, Sunspots, the Aurora and the 1882 Transit of Venus. He had correspondence with other leading astronomers around Europe right up to his death at the Millbrook Estate in 1884. With his house left to ruin all that remained of his possessions was is his telescope, which is on display at the Milltown community Museum.
The May 9th, 2016 Transit of Mercury
On May 9th 2016, a Monday, our solar system's smallest and innermost planet will transit across the disk of the Sun, as seen from Earth, for the first time in nearly a decade, and here in the Asheville, North Carolina region, with clear skies, the entire 7½ hour event will be visible. This Mercury transit may be thought of as a special type of partial (very partial) eclipse of the Sun by a planet!
To observe this rare Mercury transit event and spot the disk of this elusive planet in front of the Sun, you will need 3 things: a clear sky, magnification (binoculars or a telescope), and proper protection for your eyes while using those binoculars or telescope. Remember — it is not safe to look directly at the Sun without proper solar eye protection.
Mercury, which is orbiting between the Earth and the Sun at this May 9th transit, is also near its aphelion position (farthest from the Sun in its elliptical orbit) which occurs on May 19th; so that places Mercury closer to Earth – making it appear somewhat larger – at this May 9, 2016 transit. During this 2016 transit, Mercury will be located some 52 million miles sunward from Earth. Its small disk will appear only 12 arc seconds across (requiring magnification to observe). That's only about 1/150th of the Sun's apparent diameter! See more information at http://eclipsewise.com/oh/tm2016.html
But before then and from mid month to the end of the April, Mercury will be well placed for observation in the evening sky, shining brightly at mag -2.2. From Galway on April 18th, it will be difficult to observe as it will appear no higher than 13° above the horizon. It will become visible at around 21:03 (IST) as the dusk sky fades, 13° above your western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 2 hours and 11 minutes after the Sun at 22:49. Over coming weeks, the distance between Mercury and the Sun will decrease each night, and it will gradually sink back into the Sun's glare, But before then if there are any events in Galway we will keep you posted.
Slam! Bright Jupiter Impact Seen by Irish Astronomer
Just three weeks after opposition and still big and bright in the early evening sky, Jupiter is naturally high on the observing list of both amateur and professional astronomers worldwide. To increase their chances of recording fine detail in the planet's churning weather systems, many amateurs use video techniques to overcome bad seeing in order to capture the fleeting, sharpest views. So it was that an Irish amateur astronomer saw more than he bargained for when reviewing his digital footage from the early hours of 17 March; John McKeon from Swords in Dublin was using an 11-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and saw a flash of light lasting less than a second on Jupiter's limb, possibly from the impact of a comet or asteroid.
John's video of the impact has already been viewed more than 900,000 times since being uploaded while from an astronomer's standpoint it simply serves to remind us that impacts in the solar system are real although Jupiter gets more than its fair share of impacts.
25th COSMOS Star Party
Interested in astronomy, but not sure where to begin? A first step can be to seek out your next Irish Star Party. One of the biggest public astronomy events of each year, drawing about 100 amateur astronomers comes to the midlands town of Athlone this month. The weekend long Cosmos Star Party now in its 25th year brings a stellar line up of speakers from the US, UK and of course Ireland.
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