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RAS PN 08/55: Space and astronomy digest: December 2008

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2010 15:01
Published on Friday, 28 November 2008 00:00
The December space and astronomy news briefing, from the Royal Astronomical Society.

This month sees an occultation of Venus by the Moon, a RAS meeting on the Aurora programme of solar system exploration, the 4th Appleton Space Conference and the introduction of the first leap second since 2005.

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 28th November 2008
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 08/55

Issued by:
Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
Piccadilly
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)794 124 8035, +44 (0)20 7734 4582
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Web: www.ras.org.uk

RAS SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: DECEMBER 2008

This release contains a summary of some astronomical and space events that will be taking place during December. It has been written to assist the media in planning and researching future stories related to space science and astronomy, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive. Dates and times may be subject to change.

1ST DECEMBER: LUNAR OCCULTATION OF VENUS

Just before sunset on the evening of 1st December, the crescent Moon will move in front of the planet Venus in an event known as an occultation. It should be fairly easy to see with binoculars or a small telescope as both the Moon and Venus will be about 10 degrees above the south-western horizon. The Moon will take several seconds to completely cover Venus and the bright planet will reappear about 80 minutes later, by which time both objects will be much lower in the by then much darker sky.

The timing of the event varies with location. In London the Moon covers Venus at about 1548 GMT, whilst in Edinburgh the occultation begins at 1542 GMT.

Whilst is perfectly safe to look at the Moon and Venus, observers should take great care not to look at the Sun before it sets. Without properly certified filters, looking at the Sun with the unaided eye, binoculars or a telescope can cause serious and permanent eye damage.

FURTHER INFORMATION

British Astronomical Association
http://britastro.org/baa/content/view/336/1/

4TH DECEMBER: 4TH APPLETON SPACE CONFERENCE, LECTURE THEATRE, RUTHERFORD APPLETON LABORATORY, DIDCOT, OXFORDSHIRE

The 4th annual Appleton Space Conference will bring together space scientists, policymakers, journalists and industry specialists. This year includes a planned address by Lord Drayson, the new Science Minister and a presentation on the outcome of the European Space Agency (ESA)’s ministerial meeting (including agreement to site an ESA centre in the UK and a commitment to the Aurora Solar System exploration programme).

Other talks will cover space-based experiments and instruments for the future, from satellites that will study climate change on Earth to ambitious spacecraft searching for planets around other stars.

STFC home page
http://www.stfc.ac.uk

CONTACTS

Julia Short
Press Officer
Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: +44 (0)1793 442 012
Mob: +44 (0)777 0276 721

9TH DECEMBER: RAS LUNCHTIME LECTURE: UNIVERSE OR MULTIVERSE? ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

In the latest public lecture at the RAS, due to take place at 1 pm on 9th December, Professor Bernard Carr of Queen Mary, University of London, will give a presentation on modern cosmology. In his talk, Professor Carr will consider the idea and evidence for our Universe being just one part of a vast ‘multiverse’ – and whether this speculative theory is really a legitimate part of science.


CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

12TH DECEMBER: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: UK PARTICIPATION IN THE AURORA PROGRAMME, GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

UK scientists are active participants in the Aurora programme, where a series of European space missions will explore the Solar System over the coming decades. In November ministers from the different ESA member states reached an agreement on funding Aurora as part of a 10 billion euro space programme.

Following on from this announcement, a RAS-sponsored meeting on 12th December at the Geological Society will bring together space scientists and astronomers for a one-day conference, where they will discuss the new opportunities that participation in Aurora will bring.

Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend this meeting should present their credentials at the registration desk for free admission.



CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

12TH DECEMBER: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: THE HIGHLY ENERGETIC UNIVERSE, ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

In a special meeting on 12th December at the RAS, scientists will gather to discuss the latest research on the most energetic (and some of the most exotic) objects in the Universe, such as gamma-ray bursts, blazars and pulsars. The astronomers will present results from space-based missions like INTEGRAL, Fermi and Swift and ground-based observatories like MAGIC and HESS.

Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend this meeting should present their credentials at the registration desk for free admission.

RAS (follow link to ‘Meetings’)
http://www.ras.org.uk


CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

20TH DECEMBER: LAUNCH OF CORONAS-PHOTON MISSION

On 20 December the Russian Coronas-Photon mission is set to take off from the Plesetsk cosmodrome on board a Ukrainian-built Tskylon-3 launch vehicle. Part of the International Living With a Star (ILWS) programme, Coronas-Photon will be used to study the physics of events on the Sun and the ‘space weather’ that results from its influence on the wider Solar System.

Coronas-Photon has a mass of 1900 kg, is designed to enter a circular orbit 500 km above the Earth and has an expected lifetime of 3 years.


31ST DECEMBER: LEAP SECOND

At the end of the 31st December, a positive leap second will be introduced. For authorities responsible for the measurement and distribution of co-ordinated Universal Time (UTC), the sequence of seconds will run:

2008 December 31. 23h 59m 59s
2008 December 31, 23h 59m 60s
2009 January 1, 0h 0m 0s

This is the first leap second to be introduced since the end of 2005. Leap seconds ensure that UTC (effectively standard time in the UK and very close to the former GMT standard) remains aligned with mean solar time (time measured using the position of the Sun as a reference point).

FURTHER INFORMATION

Bulletin C of the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service
http://hpiers.obspm.fr/iers/bul/bulc/bulletinc.dat

DECEMBER’S NIGHT SKY

Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena visible in the December night sky is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA).



NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), founded in 1820, encourages and promotes the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. The RAS organizes scientific meetings, publishes international research and review journals, recognizes outstanding achievements by the award of medals and prizes, maintains an extensive library, supports education through grants and outreach activities and represents UK astronomy nationally and internationally. Its more than 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.