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Friends Events in 2016

These are the events which were organised in 2016 for Friends of the RAS.

 

Tuesday, 6 December, 6 pm

FRIENDS: Christmas Drinks Reception in the Council Room of the Royal Astronomical Society

The reception will be hosted by our President, John Zarnecki, Emeritus Professor of Space Science at The Open University. His research interests are in the field of planetary science, particularly in-situ measurements by space probes and landers. He has previously served as an RAS Councillor (1995-98) and Vice-President (2009-11), and was awarded the Gold Medal of the RAS for Geophysics in 2014.

Also hosting will be RAS Councillor Giovanna Tinetti, Professor of Astrophysics at University College London. Giovanna has served on TAC panels Hubble and Spitzer, ESA EPRAT and STFC Exoplanet panels. Since 2007, she has coordinated a research team on extrasolar planets at UCL, trying to understand the chemical composition of planets in our Galaxy, how do they form and evolve and why they are so diverse.

 

Tuesday, 22 November

The History of the Solar System Revealed by Lunar Samples
Dr Louise Alexander, Birkbeck University

The surface of the Moon has been exposed to the space environment since the formation of the Earth-Moon system approximately 4.5 billion years ago and contains a valuable archive of information about early Solar System processes. This talk will examine how samples returned from the lunar surface can provide information not only about the Moon, but also about the Earth, the Solar System and the Galaxy.

 

Louise is a postdoctoral researcher in planetary science at Birkbeck, University of London. She is interested in planetary materials and what we can learn from their composition and I am currently analysing some Apollo samples returned from the Moon. The aim of her research is to assess the potential value of lunar samples for galactic astronomy.

 

Wednesday, 21 September
Visit to Leicester Space Research Centre
The visit commenced with a buffet lunch where Friends of the RAS were able to meet and chat informally with members of staff. After there were visits to the two main buildings and some laboratories covering astronomy, planetary science and knowledge exchange activities. As well as a talk from a representative of the National Space Centre.

 

Tuesday, 13 September

Gravitational Waves: Discovery and Implications
Professor Mike Cruise (University of Birmingham)

In February this year it was announced that gravitational waves had, at long last, been detected. Predicted 100 years ago and searched for over a period of 40 years, this announcement marked a technological triumph of huge proportions. The talk will outline what gravitational waves are, how they are detected and what implications the new data have for astronomy.

Mike Cruise studied at University College London for his BSc and PhD and has been active in space astronomy for over three decades. He moved to the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1986 and became Associate Director for Space Science and then moved to the University of Birmingham in 1995. He has represented the UK at the European Space Agency and is currently the Chairman of the UK Space Agency Science Programme Advisory Committee.

His PhD thesis involved the development of novel imaging devices and led to the first synthetic aperture design at X-Ray wavelengths. For over two decades he has been interested in gravitational wave detection from space and ground based facilities and is a member of the LIGO consortium and the LISA International Science Team. His group at Birmingham was involved in the discovery of Gravitational Waves announced in February 2016 and built the Phasemeter electronics for LISA Pathfinder. For the past fifteen years he has been interested in gravitational-electromagnetic interactions and has designed detectors operating at GHz and Optical frequency bands as well as at lower frequencies.

 

Tuesday, 12 July

Martian meteorites
Dr Jane MacArthur (University of Leicester)

We currently have identified around 90 unique martian meteorites that landed on Earth. The initial group, known as "SNCs" after the Shergotty, Nakhla and Chassigny falls, have been expanded with the ancient ALH84001 orthopyroxenite and now 'Black Beauty' (NWA 7034 and pairs), the first basaltic regolith breccia from Mars. This breccia, formed in an impact event, provides our first opportunity to study an impact site on Mars with a meteorite. I have been examining this breccia with a range of techniques, including use of the Diamond synchrotron, to understand its thermal history and to look for evidence of water-rock interaction. I will also include a summary of work by our group at Leicester on alteration in the martian nakhlite meteorites.

Jane MacArthur is a PhD student at the University of Leicester, using electron microscopy and x-ray spectroscopy to analyse planetary materials. She completed her MSc in Planetary Science at UCL and Mathematics BSc at the University of Nottingham. She was elected to RAS Council to serve 2014-2017 and is on the RAS200 Steering Group and a trustee of the RAS Pension scheme.

 

Wednesday, 8 June

The Eclipse of 2015 revisited
Mike Frost

On March 20th 2015 a total eclipse of the Sun swept across the North Atlantic. The only places where a total eclipse could be seen from land were the Faroe Islands (where it was largely clouded out) and the territory of Svalbard in the High Arctic.

Mike Frost went to Longyearbyen on Svalbard, and then Tromso in northern Norway, with the Totally Insane Travel Society, a bunch of madcap and very talented imagers. This is the story of their arctic eclipse, a stunning sight in cloudless skies. And polar bears, shadow bands, frostbite, engima machines, fata morgana, reindeer pizza and pink bottoms.

 

Monday 9 May

Transit of Mercury

On 9 May 2016 a transit of Mercury took place, when the planet passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. Transits are rare - this was the first event of its kind since 2006, and the first seen in the UK since 2003 – and after this the next ones are in 2019 and then 2032.

The RAS invited the Friends to a special event in the courtyard of Burlington House. Experts were on hand to operate telescopes with safe solar filters, and a projection device, to give people the chance to see the transit at first hand.

As well as the live observing event, the RAS hosted a live feed of the transit in the RAS lecture theatre, and a special mini-exhibition of Mercury materials in the RAS Library. 

 

Tuesday, 19 April

Pluto: then and now
Dr Mike Goldsmith

In 2015, 85 years after Pluto was discovered, it was finally reached by the New Horizons space probe, and what the probe found there transformed our understanding of that distant world. Far from the dead dwarf planet that many were expecting, Pluto is an active world, whose internal heat sources maintain a complex surface with a wide range of features, many of which are unique in the Solar System. Meanwhile, the action of ultraviolet solar radiation on Pluto's thin atmosphere and surface ices is forming a range of organic material.

This talk will describe the history of the investigation of Pluto and its moons, the New Horizons mission, and the latest discoveries about the dwarf planet, as well as looking ahead to the next stage of the probe's ground-breaking exploration of the outer Solar System.

Dr Mike Goldsmith studied variable stars and cosmic dust at Keele University, receiving his PhD in 1987. Since then he has written more than fifty books and scientific papers on a variety of subjects, including astronomy and astrophysics. After working in the field of acoustics for many years, as head of the Acoustics Group of the UK's National Physical Laboratory, he is now a freelance researcher and science writer. He lives in Twickenham.

 

Thursday, 25 February 6 pm

New lessons from old books
Dr Rafał Szepietowski (University of Edinburgh)

Every great book from the past has a story to tell, through its drawings, diagrams and as a material object - much can be learned by simply viewing them. In this lecture and the accompanying visit to RAS library you will have a chance to see some of the great astronomical works published in the XVII century and before. We will try to learn from them but no Latin required! During the event we will visit a library of a medieval astronomer - take a more nuanced look at the Galileo affair, and experience the new visual astronomy that followed from the discovery of the telescope.

Dr Rafał Szepietowski is a cosmologist working on weak gravitational lensing, dark matter, and dark energy. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he went on to do a PhD at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation, University of Portsmouth, and later worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester. He is also a member of the Academic Committee for Curriculum and Development at Benedictus Trust - a liberal arts institution based in London.