RAS SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: MARCH 2007
This release contains a summary of some astronomical and space events that will be taking place during March. 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.2 MARCH
: OCCULTATION OF SATURN
On the morning of 2 March, observers in the eastern half of the UK will see the Moon pass directly in front of Saturn in an event known as an occultation. From the western half of the country, the Moon will appear to pass very close to the planet but will not cover it. At the boundary between these two zones, there will be a rare ‘graze occultation’ where the edge of the Moon just obscures the planet.
For observers with moderate sized telescopes, this will be an opportunity to create some spectacular photographs and video footage. With binoculars and the unaided eye Saturn will appear as a dot but it will still be possible to see the Moon moving in front of the planet.
During the occultation, Saturn and the Moon will be seen against the stars of the constellation of Leo and from the UK will be in the southwestern sky. In London, the occultation will last about ten minutes from 0245 GMT.
Further information: www.popastro.com/sections/occ/lunocc2007.htm3-4 MARCH
: TOTAL LUNAR ECLIPSE
On the evening of 3 March the Moon will move directly behind the Earth in a total lunar eclipse. This is the only eclipse visible from the UK this year.
The Moon will begin to move into the lighter part of the shadow of the Earth (the penumbra) at 2016 GMT and from that time it will take on a yellowish tint. It will enter the darker core of the shadow (the umbra) at 2130 GMT. The total eclipse starts at 2244 GMT when the Moon is completely immersed in the umbra. Totality will end at 2358 GMT, the Moon will move out from the umbra completely at 0111 GMT (on 4 March) and the eclipse will come to an end when the Moon leaves the penumbra at 0225 GMT.
Although fairly common, total lunar eclipses can be spectacular events. Normally the Moon does not disappear completely but is lit by sunlight scattered through the Earth’s atmosphere and takes on a beautiful brick-red hue. At the time of the eclipse, the Moon will be in front of the stars of the constellation of Leo and from the UK it will be high in the southern sky.
Further information: www.eclipse.org.uk6-9 MARCH
: INTERNATIONAL SPACE EXPLORATION WORKSHOP, KYOTO, JAPAN
Four-day event organised by the Japanese Space Agency, JAXA.
A number of international space agencies will adopt a declaration of common intention to cooperate in space exploration.
Further information: www.isas.jaxa.jp
David Parker, PPARC
: SCIENTIFIC RESULTS FROM AKARI SPACE MISSION
The Japanese / international AKARI infrared satellite observatory was launched in February last year and began mapping the whole sky in May. This is the first infrared survey of the sky since the IRAS satellite launched in 1983 and will allow astronomers to better understand how ‘warm’ material is distributed, for example the dust that shrouds young stars.
The AKARI map is now almost complete and scientific results from it will be announced at the Japanese national astronomy conference that runs from 19-24 March.
AKARI is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) mission with significant involvement from the UK, Netherlands, European Space Agency (ESA) and Korea.
Julia Maddock, PPARC
Tel: +44 (0)1793 44209428 MARCH
: COMMONS SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SELECT COMMITTEE – SPACE POLICY INQUIRY
Science Minister Malcolm Wicks will give oral evidence to the ongoing select committee inquiry into UK space policy.
Further information: www.parliament.uk
: SPACE CONFERENCE, CRANFIELD UNIVERSITY
Cranfield University is hosting a conference on space opportunities for British firms and academia. The meeting will outline the UK role in space applications and infrastructure, present opportunities for companies to grow their business in space-related markets and consider the idea of a space sector knowledge network.
James Barrington-Brown, Chair of Astos