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Out of this World | Astrofest 2019

Galway Astronomy Club’s Astrofest 2019 will take place Saturday, January 26 in the Harbour Hotel, Galway with registration from 9:15am.

Set up in 1998 after Comet HALE-BOPP stunned astronomers across Ireland, the club has grown throughout the years. They host various space themed events – conferences, special slideshow exhibitions, planet and star watches, day trips – aimed at both beginners and experts in the field.

Their annual festival includes a day long series of talks, trade displays by Ireland’s largest telescope retailer, exhibitions of photographs by some of the country’s top astrophotographers, a lunchtime workshop and much more.

The day will kick off at 10:15 with a lecture titled ‘Stellar coronal mass ejections & implications for life on exoplanetary systems’, delivered by Dr Aaron Golden from NUI Galway. The talk will discuss solar flares and their effects on the star’s neighbouring planets.

This will then be followed an hour later with co-founder of the Shannonside Astronomy Club Tony Hanlon’s lecture ‘V1, the star that changed the Universe.’ It centres on the Andromeda Galaxy, the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way.

Then there will be a special lunch break / workshop hosted by one of Ireland’s leading astrophotographers and Galway native Tom O Donoghue. A well-known figure among the Irish astronomy community, his work has won several awards, and has been published in magazines such as Astronomy and Space, The BBC’s The Sky At Night, Astronomy Now, the French ‘Astronomie Magazine’, and Practical Astronomer.

Galway Astronomy Club recommend the workshop for those interested in the more hands-on, practical aspects of the field. It will also present an ideal opportunity to ask any of those astronomy questions you have always wanted answers to.

The talks resume with Prof Emeritus Mike Baille of Queen’s University Belfast attending. From 2pm, his more mythical lecture ‘Comet debris and Irish trees: what’s the connection?’ will explore the discovery of damagingly bad growth episodes in Irish oaks, linking the phenomenon to other worldly causes.

Rounding out the day of lectures is UCD’s Dr Morgan Fraser’s ‘Gravitational waves – a new window on the Universe,’ exploring recent groundbreaking discoveries in science; and Trinity College’s Dr Sophie Murray’s ‘The Sun-Earth Connection’, discussing how eruptions of particles, radiation, and plasma from the Sun can impact a range of vital technologies on Earth.

Following the talks, there will be a special Astrofest evening meal at 6:30. The festival will then come to its conclusion with a ‘fiendishly difficult’ table quiz where astronomy experts will have their supposed knowledge put to the test.

Running alongside the aforementioned events will be some of Ireland’s largest sellers of astronomical equipment, who will have their wares on display. The hall of the Harbour Hotel will also host stands providing information on Dark Sky festivals, presentations of astrophotography, information stands and more.

Meanwhile, one can prime themselves for the day of astronomy with a screening of Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures the evening before (Friday, January 25). Taking place at Galway’s The Eye Cinema, it centres on the three brilliant African-American women at NASA who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history – the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962.

Hidden Figures boasts an all star cast including Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae as the three lead characters, supported by Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst, as well as Academy Award winners Kevin Costner and Mahershala Ali. The biographical drama was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2016 and was nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscar nominations – Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer.

Ticket prices for the festival vary. Guests can enter for €25 (evening meal costs extra) while club members, students and OAPs have a reduced rate to €15. Children under the age of 16 get free entry.

For more details on Galway Astrofest 2019, visit Galway Astronomy Club’s site here or find the organisation’s Facebook page.

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