Venue: Hotel Newport, Main St, Newport, Co Mayo

Phone:00353 (0)98 42464

                                                                          E: info@hotelnewport.ie

         Soup & Sandwiches Lunch for only €5 p/person or order from the Bar Menu


Talks by leading Scientists and Amateur astronomers

Entry Price only €15, €10 for a half day, €5 for Leo Enright Lecture

(Price of Lunch not included with entry fee)

Talks Starting @10am sharp


Opening talk by  Nick James : “One Thousand Years of Great Comets and Great Disappointments”


Although comets have been in the skies for 4.6 billion years, including the blip of time we know as human history, the first definitive mention of comets doesn’t come until the thirteenth century BC. Comets have been shooting across works of art for more than a millennium. Tapestries, illuminated manuscripts, woodblock prints, and early photographs provide us with 1,000 years of visual astronomy conducted by people who probably never thought of themselves as astronomers. but others like

Some of them are rough approximations of space phenomena as seen by the naked eye, while others are stunningly precise. Hale-Bopp imparted the warmest of memories, leaving an unforgettable performance in its wake while other Comets that like Comet Kohoutek of 1973 and Comet ISON that we both dubbed “Comet of the Century” ended up very disappointing. As the famous astronomer David Levy once said “Comets are like Cats: They have tails and do exactly what the want” Regardless, today they live on as shining reminders of our legacy as wanderers and explorers.

Dr Norah Patten: “Ireland: Our Place in Space”

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The International Space Station (ISS) serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields. The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of reboost manoeuvres using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day. The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US. The station has been continuously occupied for 15 years and 278 days since the arrival of Expedition 1 on 2 November 2000.

In 2013 Irish Transition year students were invited to take part in ‘The Only Way is Up’ – a once in a life-time opportunity to design an experiment and test it in space.The Irish Centre for Composites Research (IComp) based at the University of Limerick, through its partnership with NanoRacks LLC, is offered one lucky team of transition year students: the opportunity to send their research to the International Space Station (ISS). Students from St Nessan’s Community College, Limerick won competition. Their experiment that was coordinated by  Dr. Norah Patten investigated the effects of microgravity on reinforced concrete while spending 30 days orbiting the Earth. For more information look HERE or see their You Tube channel HERE

Tony O’Hanlon: “Exoplanets & the Potential for Life”

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In astronomy and astrobiology, the circumstellar habitable zone (“Goldilocks zone”) is the region around a star where a planet with sufficient atmospheric pressure can maintain liquid water on its surface. A potentially habitable planet implies a terrestrial planet within the circumstellar habitable zone and with conditions roughly comparable to those of Earth (i.e. an Earth analog) and thus potentially favourable to Earth-like life. However, the question of what makes a planet habitable is much more complex than having a planet located at the right distance from its host star so that water can be liquid on its surface: various geophysical and geodynamical aspects, the radiation, and the host stars plasma environment can influence the evolution of planets and life, if it originated.

In November 2013, astronomers reported, based on Kepler space mission data, that there could be as many as 40 billion Earth-sized planets orbiting in the habitable zones of Sun-like stars and red dwarfs in the Milky Way, 11 billion of which may be orbiting Sun-like stars. A 2015 review concluded that the exoplanets Kepler-62f, Kepler-186f and Kepler-442b were likely the best candidates for being potentially habitable. These are at a distance of 1,200, 490 and 1,120 light-years away, respectively. Of these, Kepler-186f is similar in size to Earth with a 1.2-Earth-radius measure and it is located towards the outer edge of the habitable zone around its red dwarf. The above image is that of a planet outside of our solar system, said to be the first ever directly photographed by telescopes on Earth, has been officially confirmed to be orbiting a sun-like star, according to follow-up observations.

Eamonn Ansbro: “A High Ecliptic Survey of the Outer Solar System”

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Edgeworth Kuiper Belt Objects (EKOs) orbit beyond Neptune and offer important clues about the formation of our solar system. Far from resembling an accretion disk leftover, the discovery of some EKOs with inclinations as high as 40 degrees demonstrates that the full latitudinal extent of the EK belt must be large. Ascertaining the true extent of the transneptunian objects (TNO) inclination distribution is important for planning TNO surveys. It is vital for determining the total number of TNOs and the past and present mass contained in the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. It will also provide data that may confirm or alter our understanding of solar system formation.Past surveys of TNOs are probably a poor representation of the true distribution of EKO inclinations because most were found in surveys centred on the ecliptic. Such surveys were biased towards finding low inclination objects which spend the majority of their orbit close to the ecliptic.

A one-metre telescope at Kingsland Observatory, County Roscommon, is carrying out a two year statistical survey by imaging a range of ecliptic latitudes that are equidistant from each other and measuring the density of EKOs found at each latitude. Imaging sets of fields spaced uniformly North of the ecliptic will also determine the resonance structure imposed on the belt by the gravitational effects of Neptune. At each longitude, fields at several ecliptic latitudes will map the inclination distribution of the belt, testing competing theories for the formation and orbital evolution of the giant planets. The survey will also include a search for a hypothetical ninth planet as a follow up of Murray’s 44 ‘suspect planets’.

 Leo Enright: “Europe at Mars: Red Hot News from the Red Planet”

The focus of Leo’s talk will be Exo Mars program, a series of missions being sent to Mars  jointly by two space agencies, the European Space Agency and the Russian Roscosmos Agency. The first mission of the ExoMars programme, scheduled to arrive at Mars in October 2016, consists of a Trace Gas Orbiter plus an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, known as Schiaparelli.This lander will touch down on Meridiani Planum, a relatively smooth, flat region on Mars, on 19 October 2016. From its approximately 400-km-altitude science orbit, the instruments onboard the Trace Gas Orbiter will be deployed to detect a wide range of atmospheric trace gases (such as methane, water vapour, nitrogen oxides, acetylene), with an improved accuracy of three orders of magnitude compared to previous measurements . A key goal of this mission is to gain a better understanding of methane and other atmospheric gases that are present in small concentrations (less than 1% of the atmosphere) but nevertheless could be evidence for possible biological or geological activity.

Finish at 1700

Evening Schedule

Festival dinner @ 6.30pm (Informal dress) only  €25 P/P

After dinner talk by John O’Mahony (Shannonside Astronomy Club)

“Astronomy Down Under: A Personal Voyage”

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This talk will discuss the amateur astronomy scene in Australia and how it is organised. The talk will be of particular interest to anyone who is considering visiting the county and would like to take in a day or two observing during their stay. Major Star parties and informal observing groups that anyone can attend near the major cities will also be discussed. No talk would be complete without mentioning the many stunning objects in the southern night sky which cannot be seen from northern latitudes, such as the Magellanic clouds, Omega Centauri and Eta Carina (just to name a few). John will show his collection of  images of these objects and how best to observe and photograph them.

Two images by John above, the  Milky Way rising over Lostock , New South Wales at the “Ice In Space Astro Camp” event using a Canon 7D and Vixen Polarie on a 120 second exposure. Secondly a shot of the globular cluster Omega Centauri, best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere and by far the largest cluster in the entire sky. Taken with a Celestron C11 and Canon 450D by stacking 16 frames of one minute each.