footer.jpgNewport Astronomy club is a brand new club which held its inaugural meeting at the upstairs in the Graine Uaile Pub in the town of Newport on May 11th 2016. If you’ve ever gazed in wonder at the night sky, pondered your place in the grand scheme of things or have an interest in Astronomy already and want to meet like-minded people then please come along to one of our monthly meetings or public observing evenings in Letterkeen.

Events

An Introduction to Astrophotography – by Steve Hanley

Venue: The Grainne Uaile, Newport.
Date : Tuesday, August 23rd 2016.
Time : 8pm.

There will be a €2 admission charge


From an Earth- to a Sun-centred Universe

In association with Culture Night 2016.

Venue: TBA.
Date : Friday, September 16th 2016.
Time : 8pm.
Duration : 40 minutes + Q and A.

The event is free and everyone is welcome.


A Tour of the Solar System

In association with Space Week 2016.

Venue: TBA.
Date : Tuesday, October 4th 2016.
Time : 8pm.
Duration : 40 minutes + Q and A.

The event is free and everyone is welcome.

For information contact Derek Dempsey 0n 0876264145 or check out the website HERE

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If your a Beginner to Astronomy and looking for some useful guide then the following links may e of some use

I bet you didn’t know you can see the Andromeda galaxy which is 2½ million light-years away with your unaided eyes? There is no “Man in the Moon” but with a small pair of good binoculars in your grasp you can see huge craters on the Moon or on a dark clear night you can be left amazed with the countless wonders await you. The first step is simply to look up and ask, “What’s that?” Begin your journey of stargazing and recognising the major constellations even from your dark or even light polluted back garden, and you’ll be taking the first step toward a lifetime hobby of cosmic exploration and enjoyment.

Astronomy is an outdoor nature hobby. Go out into the night and learn the starry names and patterns overhead.  Its important to get your bearings first, as looking at the night sky can be confusing. Random points of light appear on a dark background, and over a few hours these points will have changed position. The sky seems different because the Earth is rotating, but the patterns made by the stars stay the same relative to each other. This means that if you know just one shape in the sky, you can find the rest. The best one to use as a guide is the Plough, since it is large, bright and visible year-round in the north. It also has two stars called the Pointers that point to Polaris, the North Star. Polaris is positioned almost exactly above the Earth’s axis at the North Pole, so unlike the rest of the sky it doesn’t move and shows which way is north. The Plough is also a useful pointer to other conteallations  in the sky.

 

Constellations: Celestial Markers

 

To help finding your way around the night use a star chart With the monthly star charts see http://www.astronomy.com/observing/astro-for-kids/2008/03/learn-the-constellations. If your new to a circular star map map and confused then check out THIS useful video.

By the time you get used to it you’ll be ready to find a multitude of objects under a dark sky. It may look confusing at first. Why, for example, is it ‘backwards’, with west on the right and east on the left? Well, unlike most maps, this one shows what’s above your head, not beneath your feet. Hold it above your head with ‘north’ pointing north and you’ll find that east and west are in the right place after all.  To use it to look at things in different directions, hold it so that the bottom edge corresponds to the compass direction you are facing. It will then show the sky as it looks from that horizon and on up over your head. If you don’t know which direction is which, use the Plough to find Polaris. Once you find north, the rest will follow. It’s best to use a red-light torch to see the chart in the dark – that way it won’t ruin your night vision.

 

Hold the Universe in your hands

 

Astronomy is a learning hobby. Its joys come from intellectual discovery and knowledge of the cryptic night sky. But you have to make these discoveries, and gain this knowledge, by yourself. In other words, you need to become self-taught. A public library is the beginner’s most important astronomical tool. Comb the astronomy shelf for books about the basic knowledge you need to know, and for guidebooks to what you can see out there in the wide universe. Read about those stars and constellations you’re finding with the naked eye, and about how the stars change through the night and the season.

 

Two eyes on the Sky


 

People are always on about getting Telescopes, If your a beginner and planning to purchase one for atronomy then STOP!. A pair of good binoculars is the only way to start. We would recommend a pair of 7×50, 8×50 or 10×50 as the best for someone starting off in the hobby. Practise on the Moon first. Look at the Moon, then lift the binoculars to your eyes and focus while looking through them. To help hold them steady, give them added support other than your arms. When standing, rest your thumbs on your cheek bones, and when sitting or reclining, much of the weight of the binoculars can be rested against your face. For the steadiest views, you can buy L-shaped brackets that will attach any good pair of binoculars to a camera tripod. This lets you see the most detail, and you can share the stable view with others. Through binoculars, you’ll get an even better view of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31 and many other cosmic vistas including the same detail that Galileo did using his first telescope; the Moons of Jupiter. Whats the best Binoculars for Astronomy see HERE

If your looking for some top tips for using ordinary binoculars for stargazing start HERE

 

Buying equipment in Ireland

 

So where in Ireland are you going to buy your Binoculars?  The best place for sound and reliable advice is from the Dublin based company KTEC Telescopes. They are Ireland’s premier Telescope, Binocular, Astronomy Accessory and Spotting Scope supplier. Their online store was opened in 2011.

They stock a wide range of Binoculars and telescopes from 60mm refractors to 450mm reflectors, Binoculars from 8×25 to 25×100, as well as a full range of accessories, including CCD Cameras, Eyepieces, Filters,Mounts and Meteorites. They are the sole Irish agents for a number of leading Astronomical manufacturers, so rest assured everything is sold with full manufacturer warranty. KTEC telescopes now offer free delivery anywhere in Ireland for orders over 50 euro, to view their website go to  www.ktectelescopes.ie while to contact them please email them at sales@ktectelescopes.ie or phone Stephen Kershaw at 0852288692.

The best advice we can give is to get yourself along to an Astronomy club and talk to fellow astronomers before making that first purchase. Whatever type of telescope you end up buying, have fun and keep looking up! If you want to go further then the folowing link will also be of interest – So You Wanna Buy a Telescope… Advice for Beginners

 

Youtube Resources

 

     

     

     

 

 

Astronomy Apps

 

 

Picture it…Calm weather, Cloudless skies, Thousands of stars visible: It can be very difficult to identify planets, stars, and clusters at home from your back garden, especially if you are a beginner.

But look no further, there’s an app for that, of course. Astronomy apps on your smart phone are making it possible for anyone to be astronomer — you don’t even need a telescope. The apps use the GPS and compass in your phone to pinpoint your location and show you where all the surrounding celestial bodies are, even if your view is blocked. Most of the apps don’t even need an Internet connection to function so you can take them on camping trips. Just open the app, point your smartphone at the sky, and the app will identify the planets and stars around you. Simple.

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One of the most fascinating aspects of the science of astronomy is the concept of distance. Everything in the night sky is so incredibly remote! Even the closest star to our solar system, the Alpha Centauri triple-star system, is 25 trillion miles away. The thousands of other stars that we see every clear night with the naked eye, as well as the millions of stars visible through telescopes and binoculars, are farther still! The Winter skies contain a huge range of objects. Have you ever noticed that the night sky in winter looks different than the summer? We see constellations at different times of the year – Spring, Summer, Autumn, & Winter. This occurs because the Earth is orbiting the Sun. In winter, we see the constellation Orion in the south at night and during the day the Sun is in the sky with the constellation Scorpius. In summer, we see the opposite (we see Scorpius at night and Orion is in the sky during the day). This is why you cannot see Orion or any one constellation all year long…There are 5 planets you can see with your own eyes! From Earth, we can see the five closest planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. To your eyes they appear as stars. They do not create light like a star, rather sunlight illuminates their surfaces and we see them the same way we see our Moon, just not the same size. The Moon appears so large because it is close and the planets appear like dots or ‘stars’ because they are so far away.

The 5 planets were discovered before the invention of the telescope. Ancient people called these five planets ‘wanders’ because they appear to wander against the background of stars. This is due to the orbital movement of the planets. The word ‘planet’ comes from the Greek word ‘wander’. One good way to tell stars from planets is that looking at them with the unaided eye, stars twinkle and planets do not. The twinkling of stars, technically known as stellar scintillation, is caused by the Earth’s atmosphere. Because stars are so incredibly distant from us, any disturbances in the atmosphere will bounce around the light from a star in different directions. This causes the star’s image to change slightly in brightness and position, hence “twinkle”.

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun making it the most challenging planet to observe. It is only visible during twilight – just before sunrise or just after sunset. The window for observing Mercury is measured in minutes. The best times to view the planet is when it is furthest from the Sun in the sky called greatest elongation. When Mercury is at greatest elongation it is visible for about an hour before sunrise or after sunset. Binoculars and telescopes are recommended for viewing Mercury. Because it is an inferior planet (between Earth and the Sun) it has a cycle of phases similar to what we see on the Moon. Look for Mercury in the west durng May – June 2015.

 

 

 

Venus is the brightest planet. In fact, it is the 3rd brightest object in our sky (after the Sun and Moon). Venus is often referred to as the ‘Morning or Evening Star’ as it is only visible during twilight – before sunrise or after sunset. Even thought it appears as a star to your unaided eye, it is a planet and the light is coming from the Sun. Because it is an inferior planet (between Earth and the Sun) it has a cycle of phases similar to what we see on the Moon. Binoculars or a telescope is needed to view the phases but appears asa featureless white object due to it covering of think reflective clouds. The brightest planet is spending the first part 2015 of this year unmistakingly dominating the west after sunset.

 

 

 

Mars is known as the ‘Red Planet’ because it’s surface is colored by iron oxide. It appears as an orange-red star in the sky to your unaided eyes, but it is not a star. It is a planet. Sunlight shines on Mars and the distance between us on Earth and Mars makes Mars appear small like a star. The brightness of the planet varies depending where Mars is compared to Earth. When we are close to the Red Planet, it appears brighter than when Mars is on the opposite side of the solar system. When Mars is closest to Earth it does not appear significantly bigger to your unaided eyes, just brighter. Mars currently very low in e west after sunset and heading for solar conjunction so shortly it will not visble for the rest of 2015.
Jupiter is the biggest planet in the solar system, but not the brightest in the sky (Venus takes that title). It is still very bright and hard to miss. Jupiter is a favorite among amateur astronomers because it is always putting on a show. Even with the smallest optical aid such as binoculars, you can see the four largest moons called the Galilean Moons. The difficulty in seeing the moons through binoculars is to keep the binoculars sufficiently steady so that the image does not vibrate. This can be done by attaching the binoculars to a tripod or, if that is not possible, to rest the elbows on a solid wall or railing to keep the hands holding the binoculars sufficiently still. Jupiter is almost opposite Venus in the NE sky. Jupiter is bright and well up in the NE in Cancer at sunset as March begins. Small scopes reveal its four large Galilean Moons, and larger scopes show the belts and zones on the giant planet’s disk, as well as the Great Red Spot, and even shadow transits as the moons pass in front of Jupiter and casting their shadows on the planet’s rapidly rotating cloud tops
Saturn is the most distant of the five planets and most famous for its ring system. Galileo thought that Saturn looked like it had fuzzy ears when he observed the planet through his primitive telescope nearly 400 years ago. With your unaided eyes, you cannot see these rings.To your eyes Saturn will appear as a yellowish color. Saturn is still in the morning sky in the claws of Scorpius, but will come to opposition in the evening sky on May 23rd, so those who stay up late can observe it rising in the east about 11 PM in mid March, and about 10 PM at the end of the month. The rings are tilting more open, so Saturn will be brighter this spring than last year.
 Uranus and Neptune, the so-called ice giants, are the only major planets in our solar system that aren’t easily visible to the unaided eye.. If you’ve never seen these planets before, you might want to read our general instructions first. Uranus and Neptune are Pisces and Aquarius, respectively, from 2014 through 2017. Uranus is now just north of the celestial equator, and Neptune is considerably farther south — so neither gets very high in the sky for people at mid-northern latitudes. So it’s important to make the best of the relatively short window of opportunity for viewing them. Through a telescope he view is dissappointing as both appear as very small discs although their colour is certainly discernable.  Pluto is practically invisible unless you own a very large telescope.
Planetary Conjunctions

Planetary conjunctions are not uncommon events, as all the planets in our solar system race around the Sun like speed skaters, with those on the inside tracks catching up to and passing those on the outside. So, occasionally, a clustering of planets on the same side of the Sun will happen for short periods of time. Most conjunctions involve two, perhaps three planets; seeing six at one time is, indeed, a rare treat. For amateur sky-watchers, it’s a feast for the telescopic eye to have so many planets in one section of sky, and they all look different. Two club images below,

A conjunction is also an opportunity to clearly see the ecliptic, the plane of our solar system. All of the planets extend out from the Sun’s equator, within a few degrees of each other, in a remarkably flat plane, like dust mites on the surface of a spinning CD. When you look at the cluster of planets in the sky, you can see how they all form a line running up at an angle from the horizon.  Tilt your head to match that line and you are looking along the path we on Earth follow around the Sun every year.

 

Interesting upcoming Conjunctions in 2016

July 16, 2016 Mercury 32′ north of Venus
August 25, 2016 Mars 4°23′ south of Saturn
August 27, 2016 Mercury 5°16′ south of Venus
August 27, 2016 Venus 4′ north of Jupiter
October 11, 2016 Mercury 52′ north of Jupiter
October 30, 2016 Venus 3°02′ south of Saturn
November 24, 2016 Mercury 3°28′ south of Saturn

 

 

For more info on the Naked eye planets see HERE

 

The phenomenon known as Earthshine occurs when reflected sunlight from our planet illuminates the night side of the Moon. Typically, this results in the moon’s night side being bathed in a soft, faint light. It is also known as the Moon’s ashen glow or as the old Moon in the new Moon’s arms. Earthshine is most readily observable shortly before and after a New Moon, during the waxing or waning crescent phase. When the Moon is new as viewed from Earth, the Earth is nearly fully lit up as viewed from the Moon. Sunlight is reflected from the Earth to the night side of the Moon. The night side appears to glow faintly and the entire orb of the Moon is dimly visible.

 

 

A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth into its umbra (shadow). This can occur only when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned exactly, or very closely so, with the Earth in the middle. Hence, a lunar eclipse can only occur the night of a full moon. The type and length of an eclipse depend upon the Moon’s location relative to its orbital nodes. Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be viewed from a certain relatively small area of the world, a lunar eclipse may be viewed from anywhere on the night side of the Earth. A lunar eclipse lasts for a few hours, whereas a total solar eclipse lasts for only a few minutes at any given place, due to the smaller size of the Moon’s shadow. Also unlike solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are safe to view without any eye protection or special precautions, as they are dimmer than the full Moon. The animation to the right shows the Moon as it will transverse the lunar umbra on the morning of September 28th 2015 as seen fron Europe

Iridium Flares

These are a wonderful set of satellites that I have watched over the past ten years. . The would be moving along and then all of a sudden energise in brightness to about 40 times that of Venus similar to a First Quarter Moon for several seconds and the fade away. A fantastic sight and whats even more amazing is that you can find out when and in what part of the sky to see them. You do not need to know the constellations just face the direction given, you can’t miss them. Also the lower the magnitude, the brighter. Usually -8 is the best we can see.

The Iridium communication satellites have a peculiar shape with three polished door-sized antennas, 120° apart and at 40° angles with the main bus. The forward antenna faces the direction the satellite is traveling.

Occasionally, an antenna reflects sunlight directly down at Earth, creating a predictable and quickly moving illuminated spot on the surface below of about 10 km diameter. To an observer this looks like a bright flash, or flare in the sky, with a duration of a few seconds.

Ranging up to -8 magnitude (rarely to a brilliant -9.5), some of the flares are so bright that they can be seen at daytime; but they are most impressive at night. This flashing has been some annoyance to astronomers, as the flares occasionally disturb observations and can damage sensitive equipment. When not flaring, the satellites are often visible crossing the night sky at a typical magnitude of 6, similar to a dim star.

Viewing Satellite Flares

 

Looking for satellites whilst skygazing, or satellite spotting, is a hobby for many people. While satellites may be seen by chance, there is a  websites HERE which provide location specific information as to when and where in the sky a satellite flare may be seen.