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Astrophysics Past News

Astrophysics Past News

The ‘comet factory’ that could explain how planets formed – DIAS astronomer in team using the world’s biggest Telescope, June 2013


A ‘comet factory’, that could help explain how planets form, has been discovered by an international team of scientists that includes a member of DIAS.
An unusual cloud of dust around a young star is a breeding ground for comets and could help explain how planets form. The ‘comet factory’ was discovered by a team of international scientists, including an astronomer from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). They were observing the star with the world’s biggest and newest telescope in Chile’s Atacama desert, called ALMA. [For the accompanying press release from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) see: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1325/]

The discovery, published today [June 7, 2013] in the prestigious US journal, Science, is an exciting early result for ALMA, which was less than half completed at the time of this discovery. The news means hopes are high for even more exciting discoveries, now that the telescope array has become fully operational in March of this year. According to Dr Vincent Geers, from the School of Cosmic Physics at DIAS, the problem is that: “We know planets exist – after all we live on one! But still we don’t understand how they form. We know that for a planet to form, dust particles in orbit around a star must collide and stick.” But under normal conditions, once objects grow to form rocks about 1 metre across, “they should spiral in fast and get eaten up by their star”.
New millimeter images from ALMA, of a young star about 400 light years from Earth, in the Serpent Bearer constellation (Ophiuchus, of Oph for short), reveal something unexpected however. The team, led by Nienke van der Marel (a PhD student at Leiden Observatory, in the Netherlands) found a crescent-shaped cloud of dust to one side of the star, and not the symmetrical dust ring they expected. They were looking at the star Oph-IRS 48, because Dr Geers and others previously saw an interesting dust ring around it. “At the time, we suggested that an unseen companion star might be causing this ring, but we needed better images and we had to wait for ALMA to get those.” According to Dr Geers, thanks to the new images, scientists now think that there is a ‘dust trap’ there. “We think it’s a region of high pressure. A kind of vortex, where the dust is captured and can stick, and grow to form objects as big as maybe a few kilometres across.” So, not yet big enough to be planets, and more like comets– but certainly bigger than a 1 metre rock. Hence the team have dubbed their dust cloud the ‘comet factory’. “What’s really exciting is that we saw this using only part of ALMA. Now that the full telescope array is working, we should be able to see so much more . . . By finding dust traps orbiting even closer to their star, we may be able to see planets forming.

Dr Vincent Geers, School of Cosmic Physics, DIAS: +353 (0)1 6621333

ALMA image of dust trap/comet factory around Oph-IRS 48 (annotated)


ALMA and VLT image of comet factory around Oph-IRS 48


ALMA image of comet factory around Oph-IRS 48


Video: Dust trap animation

This artist’s rendering shows the behaviour of different sized particles in the disc of dust that surrounds Oph-IRS 48 system. The bigger particles, millimetres in diameter, tend to clump together in a safe haven that allows them to grow even further, eventually forming boulders and then comets.


The team is composed of Nienke van der Marel (Leiden Observatory, Leiden, the Netherlands), Ewine F. van Dishoeck (Leiden Observatory; Max-Planck-Institut für Extraterrestrische Physik Garching, Germany [MPE]), Simon Bruderer (MPE), Til Birnstiel (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, USA [CfA]), Paola Pinilla (Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany), Cornelis P. Dullemond (Heidelberg University), Tim A. van Kempen (Leiden Observatory; Joint ALMA Offices, Santiago, Chile), Markus Schmalzl (Leiden Observatory), Joanna M. Brown (CfA), Gregory J. Herczeg (Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Peking University, Beijing, China), Geoffrey S. Mathews (Leiden Observatory) and Vincent Geers (Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, Ireland).

About DIAS: the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, founded in 1940, is Ireland’s premier independent research institute, with schools of Cosmic Physics, Theoretical Physics, and Celtic Studies, and a Geophysics unit www.dias.ie

About ALMA: The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

About ESO: The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

What have Captain Cook, Charles Mason of Mason-Dixon Line fame, and Ireland Got in Common?

On Wednesday morning (June 6th, 2012), weather permitting, Ireland will witness a transit of Venus when the planet will cross in front of the Sun. Transits of Venus are very rare and if you don’t see this one, you will have to wait until 2117 for the next and even then you will have to travel to the other side of the World to view it.
Back in 1769, it was realised that by recording a transit from several well-chosen locations on the Earth it was possible to get the distance from the Earth to Venus and then, using Newton’s Theory of Gravity, our distance to the Sun. Even in the 18thcentury astronomers knew that if we could determine how far away is Sun is, we could use it, as we do today, to measure the scale of the Universe.
Such was the importance of this task that Captain Cook was dispatched to the Pacific island of Tahiti to record the transit, but observations were also needed closer to home. This is where Charles Mason and Ireland comes in. Mason had recently returned to England after completing his survey in the American Colonies with Jeremiah Dixon. The resultant Mason-Dixon line subsequently became famous during the American Civil War as the dividing line between the northern and southern (Dixie) states. Nevil Maskelyne, then Astronomer Royal in Britain, asked Charles Mason to go to Ireland to observe the transit. Mason agreed and, travelling on the appropriately named ship Venus, he landed near Balbriggan with an array of scientific instruments. Mason decided to set up a temporary observatory near Lifford in Donegal so as to view the transit for the maximum period. On the day, 3rd June 1769, weather conditions were favourable and Mason managed to make some excellent observations. No only did he observe the transit but he also determined his position with respect to Greenwich with remarkable accuracy for the time to within 50 metres. Not bad even in comparison to modern GPS!
The transit of Venus can be seen on Wednesday morning 6th June immediately after sunrise, which occurs around 5 am. It will last for approximately an hour. Incidentally under no circumstances look directly at the sun with the naked eye, through binoculars or a telescope. The safest way to observe the transit is by using a telescope or a pair of binoculars to project an image of the Sun onto a white card.

While transits of Venus are now largely of historical interests, as we have much better ways of measuring distance in the Solar System, planetary transits are still important. They are our main method of detecting planets around other stars and also of observing what the planet’s atmosphere is like. Finally one of the best places to observe the transit in the Republic of Ireland is Skerries in North Dublin as it is sufficiently north and east to give maximum time of visibility. The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the Dublin Institute of Technology and Astronomy Ireland will set up telescopes in Red Island Car Park, Skerries from 5 am onwards to observe it. Ironically this is within sight of where Charles Mason landed his instruments, 243 years ago almost to the day.
Professor Tom Ray, Astronomy & Astrophysics Section, School of Cosmic Physics, DIAS.

2013 O’Ceallaigh Medal

The 2013 O’Ceallaigh Medal has been awarded to Professor Edward C. Stone (California Institute of Technology). Professor Stone is the project scientist for the Voyager missions which are now leaving the solar system and for the first time, entering interstellar space.
Professor Stone has served as project scientist for the Voyager program since 1972. He received the award on Thursday 4th July at the opening ceremony of the 33rd International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC2013) which is currently taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 2nd -9th July.

DIAS Professor elected Vice-President of the new IAU Division in High Energy and Fundamental Physics

Felix Aharonian is Professor of High-Energy Astrophysics in the Astronomy and Astrophysics section of the School. He is a world-leading expert in the phenomenology of high-energy, non-thermal astrophysics and astroparticle physics. He is a recipient of the Rossi prize of the American Astronomical Association and a foreign member of the Armenian Academy of Sciences, as well as being an external scientific member of the Max-Planck society. He was recently admitted as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation. Its individual members – structured in Divisions, Commissions, Working groups and Program Groups – are professional astronomers from all over the world, at the Ph.D. level and beyond, and active in professional research and education in astronomy.


Largest ever Cherenkov telescope sees first light

On 26 July 2012, the H.E.S.S. II telescope started operation in Namibia. Dedicated to observing the most violent and extreme phenomena of the Universe in very high energy gamma-rays, H.E.S.S. II is the largest Cherenkov telescope ever built, with its 28-meter-sized mirror.
Together with the four smaller (12 meter) telescopes already in operation since 2004, the H.E.S.S. (“High Energy Stereoscopic System”) observatory will continue to define the forefront of ground-based gamma ray astronomy and will allow deeper understanding of known high-energy cosmic sources such as supermassive black holes, pulsars and supernovae, and the search for new classes of high-energy cosmic sources.

More information on the H.E.S.S. II telescope can be found here.

Collaboration between Oskar Klein Centre and Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, April 06, 2011

An international collaboration between researchers at the Oskar Klein Centre (OKC) and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was formed last week at Dunsink Observatory, where the first joint OKC-DIAS workshop is to take place in September-October this year. For more information see the Oskar Klein Centre blog

First instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is completed and handed over to NASA, May 2012.

After more than 10 years of work by more than 200 engineers, the Mid Infra-Red Instrument (MIRI) has been declared ready for delivery by the European Space Agency and NASA.

Listen to Professor Tom Ray’s interview on RTE’s News At One 10 May 2012

The instrument for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), due for launch in 2018, is a pioneering camera and spectrometer, so sensitive it could see a candle on one of Jupiter’s moons. It will now be shipped to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center where it will be integrated with the other three instruments and the telescope.


MIRI is the first of the four instruments on board the JWST to be completed. The handover ceremony between the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA at the Institute of Engineering and Technology in London took place on 9th May 2012 and it was the culmination of a long-term collaboration effort from teams across both continents. David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science in Britain attended the ceremony.

Tom Ray, the Irish Co-Principal Investigator for MIRI at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies said: “We are all delighted that the European and US team’s hard work has produced an instrument that has exceeded expectations. No doubt when the James Webb Space Telescope is launched, our instrument will help us see the first stars and galaxies after the Big Bang and peer into new solar systems as they form. It is wonderful to be part of the team that has helped achieve this major milestone for the JWST project”

Ireland’s involvement in the project was to produce the special infrared filters required by the instrument that break up the light into its various components. The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) is now playing a major role in developing software to analyse the data from MIRI in collaboration with the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The involvement of DIAS in the James Webb Telescope is supported by Enterprise Ireland.

JWST will take up position four times further away from the Earth than the Moon. MIRI will allow astronomers to explore the formation of planets around distant stars and could even pave the way for investigations into the habitability of other planetary systems.

MIRI offers a sensitivity and resolution many times greater than any other mid-IR instrument in existence today or for the foreseeable future. It will be able to penetrate the dust obscuring distant objects, allowing for smaller and fainter objects than have ever been detected to be mapped in unprecedented detail. Its wavelength of 5 to 28 microns brings a unique scientific capability among the other instruments on the James Webb Space Telescope. MIRI will therefore have a key role in the study of light that has travelled from the early moments of the universe by JWST. These wavelengths bring additional technical challenges due to the extremely low operating temperatures necessary (-266.5ºc). Unlike the other JWST instruments MIRI will be cooled by a dedicated cooler provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JWST) in California.

MIRI will now be transported to the Goddard Space Flight Center in the US in a specially constructed environmental container designed to protect it from moisture and keep its temperature stable. Once there it will start the long process of integration with the other instruments, two years of testing to ensure that they all function together correctly, and then integration and test with the telescope optics. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope is scheduled for 2018.

Images available

Images and video of MIRI are available on request.


MIRI is provided by a nationally-funded consortium of European institutes in a partnership with JPL.

Highest Honour For DIAS Academic, March 2012

On the 16th March 2012 Professor Felix Aharonian of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was admitted as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. The criterion for election to membership is a significant contribution to scholarly or scientific research as shown in the candidate’s published academic work. Election to the Royal Irish Academy is the highest academic honour in Ireland.

DIAS astronomer provides explanation for radiation detected from the Crab Pulsar


An explanation for recently detected radiation from the Crab Pulsar – one of the brightest persistent gamma-ray sources in the sky – is proposed in Nature this week. The pulses of very high-energy gamma-ray emission are ascribed to a cold wind originating near to the site of emission.

Pulsars are neutron stars that are thought to eject electron-positron winds. Initially the winds are dominated by electromagnetic energy but as they move away from the pulsar their energy becomes more kinetic. Constraining where this acceleration takes place has been difficult, but Felix Aharonian and colleagues estimate the point where this transition occurs.

They suggest that the recent observations of pulsed, very high-energy gamma-ray emission from the Crab pulsar are produced by this accelerating wind.

DIAS astronomer discovers a failed star only 6 times heavier than Jupiter! October 2011

Using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope in Chile, DIAS astronomer Aleks Scholz and his team found a failed star known, as a brown dwarf, with a mass similar to a giant planet. How such a puny object formed is a mystery.


Professor Luke Drury, Director of the School of Cosmic Physics,
elected President of the Royal Irish Academy, March 16, 2011

luke drury We are pleased to announce that Professor Luke Drury, Director of the School of Cosmic Physics, was elected President of the Royal Irish Academy on 16th March 2011.

Prof Drury is the 54th President of the Academy since it was established in 1785. He will be president for the next three years, succeeding Professor Nicholas Canny of NUI Galway. Prof Drury is a member of the Council of the Institute and Director of the School of Cosmic Physics. He is Senior Professor and Head of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Section within the School.

He attended Wesley College, Dublin and won the Young Scientists Exhibition in 1969. He then studied experimental physics and pure mathematics at Trinity College Dublin where he won the gold medal for maths and the Fitzgerald Medal for physics before undertaking a PhD in astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, England. Following this, he worked at the Max-Planck Institute in Heidelberg, Germany before returning to Dublin and joining the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 1986. He was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1995.

e-INIS federated access pilot moves to Production

Press Release, November 12th, 2010

Students To Have Online Access to Lecture Notes, Books, Resources in Every Higher Education Campus

In a major technological development announced today, Ireland moves closer to a higher education system where courses can be delivered across campuses, students can access a vast array of educational and related material in a single, simple transaction and researchers can more easily collaborate in their work across several institutions.

HEAnet, Ireland’s National Research & Education Network, today launch Edugate, a new service that allows educational institutions in Ireland to share and access online resources, including lectures, electronic books and journals and student records.

Until the arrival of Edugate, institutions needed to create user accounts for every online service for which their staff and students required access. As a result, today’s campus user has a lengthening list of user accounts covering a growing myriad of online services (e.g. email, journals, calendar, content portal, etc). It was also a cumbersome process to gain access to information and materials in other higher education institutions. HEAnet has now reduced this list to just one user access mechanism: Edugate.

Now, where a student or member of staff logs on to Edugate, he or she will have access to everything they need in their own institution but also to relevant resources in other higher education institutions.

So, a student in the University of Limerick can access an electronic journal stored in NUIG or a staff member in Cork Institute of Technology can check the academic performance of a student who previously studied in Tralee.

The new system is at the cutting edge of work in this area in Europe and will result in major efficiencies across the higher education system.

Edugate also hits the right data privacy buttons and HEAnet’s approach to protecting user privacy within Edugate has generated positive feedback from the Data Protection Commissioner’s office.

“Edugate bridges the gap between proving your identity online and retaining control of your personal data by ensuring that only the minimum amount of personal data is shared with appropriate safeguards in place”.
According to Gary Davis, Deputy Irish Data Protection Commissioner,
With today’s launch of Edugate, HEAnet, with the support of the higher education institutions, has taken another step in the delivery of cost-effective shared services to the Irish education and research community.

John Boland, CEO of HEAnet stated that, “Edugate represents another excellent example of HEAnet collaborating effectively with the universities, institutes and colleges and responding to their collective need for cost-effective shared services”.

Edugate is funded by the Higher Education Authority’s Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions through the e-INIS National e-Infrastructure programme.

For more information please visit: www.edugate.ie

For further details, please contact:
Ronan Byrne or Glenn Wearen at HEAnet
Tel: 087 673 8561 or 01 – 660 9040

About HEAnet:

HEAnet is Ireland’s National Education and Research Network, and is a world-class provider of high quality Internet services to Ireland’s Universities, Institutes of Technology and the research and educational community, including all Irish primary and post-primary schools. It provides a high-speed national network with direct connectivity for its community to other networks in Ireland, Europe, the USA and the rest of the world.

Established in 1984 by the seven Universities with the support of the Higher Education Authority to promote the interchange of information electronically within third level education, HEAnet now plays a critical role in establishing Ireland as a global centre of excellence in Internet activity. These advanced Internet services are essential for HEAnet’s client community to develop the skills needed in the global information society.

About e-INIS:

e-INIS, the Irish National e-Infrastructure, provides Ireland’s research community with access to world-class computational, networking and support infrastructure. Coordinated by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies together with a number of key infrastructure and institutional partners, the project provides researchers from a wide range of disciplines with the best of ICT resources including leading-edge HPC, communications and data storage services. The project is funded by the Higher Education Authority under the Programme for Research on Third Level Institutions.

DIAS Shares the Rossi Prize

Professor Felix Aharonian has won a prestigious award from the American Astronomical Society. The 2010 Rossi prize was awarded to Felix Aharonian, Werner Hoffmann, Heinz Voelk and the H.E.S.S. (High Energy Stereoscopic System) collaboration for their outstanding contributions to imaging TeV Astronomy, which addressed fundamental questions related to particle acceleration and the origin of the Cosmic Rays through the study of SNRs, PWN and nearby AGNs. Professor Aharonian, originally from Armenia, has worked in Moscow, Yerevan, Chicago, Paris and Heidelberg before joining the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies in 2006. His work addresses fundamental issues to do with how some astronomical systems accelerate charged particles to very high energies and the possibilities of observationally detecting these particles through the high-energy gamma rays they produce. The H.E.S.S. collaboration, of which the Dublin Institute is a member, has revolutionised the field by opening up a new observational window for astronomers at extremely high energies. See press release for more details.

Launch of two new Europa Stamps to mark the UNESCO International Year of Astronomy


As 2009 is the UNESCO International Year of Astronomy, on May 15th 2009 An Post launched two stamps that spotlight areas of astronomy, that hold special interest for Ireland.

One of these stamps which shows an artist’s impression of jets from a   Brown Dwarf  holds special interest for DIAS. Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Dr. E.T. Whelan and Prof. T.P. Ray, two astronomers based at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, recently discovered that Brown Dwarfs launch “outflows” as part of their formation process, as shown in the image.

Check here for more information on this discovery.

For information on purchase of these stamps check www.irishstamps.ie

Press Release


Don’t Forget the Leap Second: 10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … 6 … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 … 1 … Happy New Year!

An extra leap second has to be inserted at the end of 2008, so this is how you should count down on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the start of the International Year of Astronomy according to Irish astronomers. The extra second is needed to bring the uniform measure of time used by physicists using atomic clocks back into nearly exact agreement with time as measured by the rotation of the Earth.

In effect, we stop civil time for a length of time exactly the same as that needed for the Earth to turn on its axis far enough to make sundials (if they were that accurate) agree with the atomic clocks to within one second. The decision whether to insert an occasional leap second, which happens roughly every few years, is made by the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, based in the Observatory of Paris, France.

The need to insert leap seconds into our calendar arises primarily because of the slowing down of the Earth’s rotation due to the tides raised by the Moon on the Earth as both objects orbit the Sun. The length of the mean solar day is now about 2 milliseconds longer than it was in 1820, when it was almost exactly 24 hours or 86,400 seconds long. Now, it is approximately 86,400.002 seconds. In addition, the world’s clocks are so accurate that we can detect that the Earth does not spin at an exactly constant rate. The movements of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and crust lead to further small changes in the rate of rotation, just as a spinning ice skater slows down if she puts her arms out or speeds up if she pulls them in again.

The leap second at the end of 2008 introduces the International Year of Astronomy 2009, which marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope to observe the heavens. There will be national and international events organized throughout the year to mark the occasion.

Issued jointly by the Island of Ireland’s public observatories: Dunsink Observatory, Dublin; Armagh Observatory, Armagh; Imbusch Observatory, Galway; and Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork.

The all-Ireland point of contact is Professor Mike Redfern, NUI Galway. For additional information on time and its definition in Ireland contact Dr David Malone, Hamilton Institute, NUI Maynooth, E-mail: david.malone@nuim.ie.

Saturn: Trippping The Light Fantastic

Planetary scientist Dr. Carolyn Porco studies and interprets the photos from the Cassini-Huygens mission, orbiting Saturn and its largest moon, Titan. She and a team of scientists from NASA and the European Space Agency have been analyzing the images that Cassini has been sending back since it left Earth in 1999. Having found many new rings and four new moons, they have produced breathtaking images and animations of the stormy face of Saturn, its busy rings, and its jumble of moons and moonlets.


Her ongoing work at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPs) has two goals: to process and interpret the Cassini images for other scientists, and to make sure the images connect with the general public. She is an advocate for the exploration and understanding of planetary space, and her frequent talks (as well as her “Captain’s Log” memos on the CICLOPS website) speak to everyone, scientist and nonscientist alike.

Carolyn will share the wealth of images from Saturn, the Jewel of the Solar System, at Dunsink Observatory on Tuesday June 30th.

If you wish to attend this event, please contact Hilary O’Donnell,
Tel: +353-1-6621333,  E-mail:

Dr. Carolyn Porco is appearing in Ireland in association with Armagh Planetarium, Cork’s Blackrock Castle Observatory and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies as part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 and the tour will highlight the IYA2009 cornerstone: She is an Astronomer .

National Capability System Makes The TOP500 List

Schrödinger, the National Capability Computing Blue Gene/P system owned by DIAS and operated by ICHEC on behalf of the entire third level research sector, is number 305 on the world TOP500 list of supercomputers as of June 2008.

New Honorary Professor of Computational Science

The Governing Board of the School of Cosmic Physics, at its last meeting, agreed to offer the position of Honorary Professor of Computational Science to the Associate Director of ICHEC, Dr J-C Desplat. Professor Desplat has accepted the offer and we look forward to collaborating with him and a further strengthening of the ties between DIAS and ICHEC.

Highest Honour For DIAS Academic

On the 16th May 2008 Professor Denis O’Sullivan of the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS) was admitted as a Member of the Royal Irish Academy. Election to the Royal Irish Academy is the highest academic honour in Ireland.

Professor Nicholas Canny, President of the Royal Irish Academy, said “It is a testament to Ireland’s formidable position in the academic world that the Royal Irish Academy is today able to honour such a variety of exceptional scholars in the Sciences and Humanities. Ireland can be proud of these brilliant women and men who are universally recognised as leaders in the world of learning.”

Professor Denis O’Sullivan is Professor Emeritus in the School of Cosmic Physics. Since 1969, Professor O’Sullivan had sixteen experiments completed on US, Russian, and European spacecraft including three Apollo missions to the moon on which some of the first investigations of galactic cosmic radiation outside the Earth’s magnetosphere were undertaken. This work was followed by experiments in the orbits of Earth and Mars, in cometary environments including Halley’s Comet, on several Space Shuttles and the International Space Station where he is currently studying the impact of cosmic radiation on human beings and bacteria.

The criterion for election to membership is a significant contribution to scholarly or scientific research as shown in the candidate’s published academic work. Membership of the Academy, which is by peer nomination and election, is limited to those scientists and scholars normally resident in Ireland.

About the Royal Irish Academy (RIA)

The Royal Irish Academy is an all-Ireland, independent, academic body that promotes study and excellence in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. It is the principal learned society in Ireland.

For 223 years membership of the Royal Irish Academy has been keenly competed for, as it is the highest academic honour in Ireland and a public recognition of academic achievement. There are now 404 Members of the Academy, in disciplines from the sciences, humanities and social sciences. Those elected are entitled to use the designation ‘MRIA’ after their name.

Among the membership of the Academy are many of Ireland’s leading scholars, the best known of whom include: Professor Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate; Dr Garret FitzGerald, economist and former Taoiseach; Professor Fergus Kelly, Director of the School of Celtic Studies, DIAS; and Professor Werner Nahm, School of Theoretical Physics, DIAS.

The Academy has also more than 50 distinguished honorary Members, who in the past have included J.W. Von Goethe, Maria Edgeworth, Albert Einstein and Max Born. Today the Honorary Members include Nobel Laureates, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg and Sir Andrew Huxley.

Further information can be found on www.ria.ie

DIAS makes the cover of Astronomy and Astrophysics


Dr Carlos del Burgo and Dr Gareth Murphy have made the cover of Astronomy & Astrophysics and been the subject of highlight articles on 1 January and 1 February respectively.

cover image

Cover illustration: Eastern shells in NGC 5982 (HST data) and Spitzer emission (C. del Burgo, et al., p. 116) Astronomy and Astrophysics, Vol. 477 No. 1 (January I 2008).


Cover illustration: Interacting magnetised jets from a young binary (G. C. Murphy, et al., p. 457) Astronomy and Astrophysics Vol. 478 No. 2 (February I 2008).