Club News & Events
March Meeting PDF Print E-mail

The next meeting of the NIAAS in on Monday 7th March, starting at 8pm sharp in Ballyclare High School lecture theatre. Directions can be found here!

Dr Chris

Space weather is a subject which has become very prominent in recent years, and the study of the activity of the Sun and its effects on Earth and the rest of the solar system is now very popular. Many different spacecraft have been launched in recent years to complement ground based observations. Dr Chris Watson from Queens University will be our speaker in March, and will provide the very latest up-to-date information on this fascinating area of research!

About Chris: I was awarded a 1st class degree in Astronomy and Astrophysics at St.Andrews University before undertaking a PhD at the University of Sheffield. My early work was on developing indirect imaging methods for mapping surface features in interacting binaries, and studying accretion and magnetic activity in these objects (starspots!). I completed my PhD in 2002 and continued as a postdoc where I became the first person to image starspots on the surface of the star in a system known as a Cataclysmic Variable. From this I was awarded 1 of four personal fellowships in the UK to carry on the research until I moved to Queen's to take up a lectureship position at the end of 2008 - where I now study the impact of stellar activity on the nature and detection of extra-solar planets.


Members: Free
Non-Members: £3
Associate Members: £2

As usual, tea, coffee, biscuits and craic will be available after the meeting!

BBC Stargazing live - Armagh Planetarium 5th January 2011 PDF Print E-mail

The NIAAS were invited to take part in an event at Armagh Planetarium, organized as part of the BBC Stargazing Live series of television programmes. The day was split into two parts, with organized events for children during the day, including rocket launching, the chance to record their own TV programmes etc, and later on, lectures, star shows and observing for adults. As it happened, many people actually brought their kids along in the evening as well.

The NIAAS were invited to bring along their telescopes to allow members of the public to view the skies through them. Luckily, there was clear skies for the whole evening, and everyone who attended took the opportunity to view Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Great Nebula in Orion, and many other objects. Everyone who did so was very impressed with the views.

Our other function was to provide advice and guidance to those people who brought their own telescopes along. Many took advantage of this, and we were able to show people how to set up and align their telescopes properly, how to find the Pole Star, how to use their finderscopes, and many other things.

There was a bit of a lull as people headed off to the star shows and lectures, but afterwards, there must have been nearly 120 people crowded on to the terrace at the front of the Planetarium. Eventually, people started to drift off home at around 9.00pm.

The BBC are to be congratulated on taking the initiative and showing a series of programmes about amateur astronomy during prime time. Judging by the comments of the people at the Planetarium, the series was a great success, and certainly succeeded in its object of bringing amateur astronomy to a wider audience.

Many Thanks to David and Aoife at BBC NI, and Sinead at Armagh, for inviting the NIAAS to participate. Many Thanks also to all the guys in the NIAAS who brought along their telescopes and binoculars, and especially to Mark, Neil, Simon and Brian, who spent most of the day at Armagh, and took part in the BBC news report of the event. Available to view here! 

Check out our members images from the event in our Gallery.

January 2011 Meeting report PDF Print E-mail

Prof Philip DuftonThe January meeting was due to be addressed by Dr Brian Espey of Trinity college, but, due to illness, he was unable to attend. Luckily, we were able to get in contact with Prof. Philip Dufton, who had been due to give a lecture in December. This had been called off because of the adverse weather conditions. We are very grateful that Philip took the time to come along at very short notice.

The subject of Philip's talk was "40 Years of Astronomy", in which he reflected on his long career as both a university lecturer and as a working scientist. His speciality is "Hot Stars" and he alluded to this throughout his talk. Philip's career got off to a really lucky start, as his first supervisor had booked time on a large telescope in South Africa. He offered Philip the chance to make use of this time, which he duly did.

November 1st 2010 meeting report PDF Print E-mail

john cox oct 2010

The latest meeting of the NIAAS took place on Monday 1st November. Our guest speaker for the evening was John Cox, a member of the Doncaster Astronomical Society. John’s subject for the evening was double stars, and he gave an in-depth analysis of these fascinating objects.

John started off by discussing the different types of double stars, noting that “double star” is in fact, a term which is often used to describe not just a system with two stars, but also multiple star systems. He explained that double stars fell into six different categories, from so-called optical doubles, ie those which are not connected gravitationally, but are merely line-of-sight effects, through gravitationally bound star systems which can be split in a moderate telescope, right down to those which consist of two or more stars which are so close that their atmospheres are mixed together.

He then went on to describe those systems in which the components are very close and cannot be split in a telescope, but careful observation will show a regular dip (or double dip) in the total magnitude as the pair orbit each orbit eg Algol in Persesus.


October 2010 meeting report PDF Print E-mail

There was a tremendous turnout for the second meeting of the new season on Monday 4th October. 44 people in total attended the annual beginner’s night. Many of these were first or second time visitors. The speaker for the evening, Andy McCrea, was on top form, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It was especially good to see one of our long established members, Simon Sloan, making the long trip up from his home for the meeting.

Andy started off by running through some of the main constellations in the sky, offering clues to the audience, who had to try and identify them. It would probably be a good idea not to mention which constellation a certain previous prime minister reminded us of!

September Meeting Report PDF Print E-mail

The new season of meetings got off to a good start on Monday 6th September, with a visit from Colin Johnston of Armagh Planetarium. There were over 30 people in attendance, on a cold and very wet night. Several members of the audience were first time attendees, and they joined the regulars in enjoying a thoroughly interesting lecture.

Colin’s subject for the evening was The Moon. He started off by describing the Moon in relation to other large moons and small planets in the solar system, comparing them by size, chemical composition and surface characteristics. Using a blow-up model Earth, a tennis ball, a piece of string and with the able assistance of young Patrick, he demonstrated the distance beween the Earth and Moon, and described how long it would take light to travel between the two.

2010 Perseid Meteor Watch PDF Print E-mail

The annual NIAAS Perseid meteor watch and barbecue will be held at Killylane on Friday August 13th, starting at around 9.30pm. With no Moon in the sky, this could be an especially good year.
The early weather forecasts are mixed, so we will have to wait until later in the week to see what conditions will be like. A final decision will be taken on the Friday, at around 6.00pm. Unless it is heavily overcast, or raining, we will probably go ahead, as the crack is always good.
If Friday looks bad, but Thursday night looks ok, we may have a session then. The absolute maximum activity, for observing purposes, is early in the morning of the 13th, if anyone feels up to it. Keep an eye on this thread in the forum for up-to-date reports.

As always, bring your own food and drink, cooking facilities will be provided.

There's no need to bring any equipment, as meteors are best seen with the naked eye, although no doubt, there will be a couple of telescopes set up for other viewing, especially Jupiter. Some people like to try and photograph the meteors, so feel free to try that if you wish. 

Make sure to wrap up warm, and bring along a reclining chair or sun lounger for comfort if desired. There is always scientific interest in the shower, so if anyone wants to bring along pens and paper, or an electronic counter, to record their observations, feel free to do so.

Don't forget to have a look outside during this week, there are usually early meteors to be seen in the build up to to the main shower, Jonathan, Neil and I saw a few last night.

For more information on the Perseids meteor shower, and tips on how to identify Perseid meteors, see our article here, and for a short report by Phil on last years watch, click here.

Hope to see you all there.


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