December 7th Public Lecture: "The Next Generation Space Telescopes"
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched on April 24th, 1990, with its 25th anniversary this year, Dr Nicholas Devaney of the Centre for Astronomy at NUI Galway will deliver our December lecture that will build on its rich legacy and a look to the future and what new missions will shape the Cosmos. His background is in Astronomical Imaging with high spatial resolution, mostly involving Adaptive Optics and image Processing. His current work in this area concerns the is extremely challenging detection of extrasolar planets in data obtained using adaptive optics. NASA recently announced that the James Webb Space Telescope that is the successor to the HST is on track for an October 2018 launch. The $8.8 billion telescope will be the premier and largest space observatory of the next decade and has a 6.5 metre diameter mirror. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.
Dr Nicholas Devaney and his team from the NUIG School of Physics were recently awarded a €1 million contract from the European Space Agency's Technology Research Programme to design and build a functioning 'Active Optics Correction' system which mimics the human eye. This new technology will be used to solve the problem of image blurring associated with large space telescopes. This technology has already been developed for telescopes on the ground. In fact many Earth-based telescopes have systems called 'adaptive optics' which even correct for blur caused by atmospheric turbulence. We look forward to seeing you at the Westwood House Hotel at 7.30pm.
A New Year Comet
Living north of the Equator has advantages in seeing the Aurora but over the past decade has been at a disadvantage in the chance of seeing a decent bright comet. In 2002 we were graced with Comet Ikeya-Zhang but nothing since except for the disastrous Comet ISON that broke up circling the Sun with only a dim, fading, dispersing cloud of dust remaining.
This new one is more of a Binocular object is a difficult morning object at the moment, once it frees itself from the horizon haze in about a week, Catalina should be easily visible in ordinary binoculars. Watch for it to gradually brighten through the end of the year, peaking around magnitude +5 in late December and early January, when it will be well-placed high in the north-eastern sky near the star Arcturus (see MAP). Matter of fact, on the first morning of the new year, it creeps only 1/2° southwest of the star for a splendid conjunction. Its sunward journey has been nothing short of legendary, requiring several million years of inbound travel from the frigid fringe to the relative warmth of the inner Solar System. Catalina will pass closest to Earth on Jan. 12th at 66.9 million miles (107.7 million km) before buzzing off into interstellar space. Its sunward journey has been nothing short of legendary, requiring several million years of inbound travel from the frigid fringe to the relative warmth of the inner Solar System. Catalina will pass closest to Earth on Jan. 12th at 66.9 million miles (107.7 million km) before buzzing off into interstellar space.
December 21st Christmas Lecture "Rosetta the Comet Chaser: Up Close and Personal"
On December 21st at the Westwood House Hotel we are holding a special Christmas Public Talk. For this we are delighted to welcome Laurence O'Rourke, originally from Mullingar, Laurence is now based in Madrid at ESAC, where he is Science Operations Coordinator on the Rosetta Mission that is in orbit around Comet 67/P. The talk will be a highly visual one, with Laurence illustrating some astonishing images as well as explaining the history of this European mission that has had huge Irish involvement with Irish companies, Captec and STIL and of course our own government's contribution to ESA which was partly used to help fund the mission from the mandatory science programme.
Laurence will take us from the launch, the flybys, and the first selfie with Mars, to the landing of Philae, the size of a washing machine, which captured the world's attention and beyond. There are 21 regions on the comet – all with Egyptian names. The neck one is called Hapi, where those gargantuan cliffs are over 3.5 times the size of the Cliffs of Moher. He will explain about its 100-metre sized holes and sudden jets (outbursts) which can last only minutes – blink and you miss them. And it's not just dust and gas escaping from the comet surface. Huge boulders up to 50 metres high can be ejected into space. It's a dangerous place for the Rosetta craft, which navigates by the stars and can be confused by the thousands of dust particles floating around, forcing it to fly further from the comet nucleus. Remember you don't have to be a member to come to this astonishing talk; See you at the Westwood House Hotel on December 21st at 7.30pm
Galway Astronomy Festival 2016
Following on from a very successful event earlier this year, the Galway Astronomy Festival returns to the Westwood House Hotel on Saturday, January 30th 2016.
Next years theme looks at dangers posed to the Earth and other planetary bodies from the likes of Comets, Meteorids, the Sun and distant cosmic sources while also looking at how amateur astronomers can contribute with real scientific observations.
See the Science Programme HERE
Nick James (British Astronomical Association & Explorers Astronomy Tours)
"40 years of Meteor Photography" + After dinner talk on " The New age of Astro-Toursism"
Professor Alan Fitzimons (Queens College Belfast)
"The Chelyabinsk Impact: Lessons Learned"
Dr Ken Smith (Queens College Belfast)
"Sifting the Sky with Pan-STARRS 1; Crunching the Data from the World's Largest Operational Digital Camera"
Professor Mike Redfern (NUI Galway)
"O Silver Moon"
Eamonn Scullion (Trinity College Dublin)
"Superflares and the Sun"
Michael O'Connell www.nemetode.org
"Building a Home Meteor Detecting Station"