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RAS PN 07/48: Space and Astronomy digest: December 2007

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 13:44
Published on Thursday, 29 November 2007 00:00
The December summary of upcoming space and astronomy events. This month sees the delivery of the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory to the International Space Station, a RAS meeting on astronomy from the Moon, the maximum of the Geminid meteor shower and Mars at its brightest for several years...

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 30 November 2007
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 07/48
 
Issued by:
Dr Robert Massey
RAS Press Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
Burlington House
Piccadilly
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 4582
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
RAS website: http://www.ras.org.uk
 
RAS SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: DECEMBER 2007
 
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.

6 DECEMBER: 3RD APPLETON SPACE CONFERENCE, RUTHERFORD APPLETON LABORATORY, DIDCOT, OXFORDSHIRE

The Conference and lunch will be free but participants will need to register in advance as the event is limited to 200 people.

Speakers include: Ian Pearson MP, Minister of State for Science and Innovation; Will Whitehorn, President, Virgin Galactic; Professor Keith Mason, Chief Executive, STFC; Ian Taylor MP, Parliamentary Space Committee; Professor Alan Smith, Mullard Space Science Laboratory, UCL; Professor John Zarnecki, Open University and Alex James, musician, journalist, farmer and space enthusiast.


CONTACT
Natalie Bealing
STFC Press Office
Tel: +44 (0)1235 445484
Mob: +44 (0)777 558 5811
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6 DECEMBER: LAUNCH OF COLUMBUS LABORATORY TO INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

On 6 December the Space Shuttle Atlantis is due to carry the Columbus laboratory into orbit where it will be fitted to the International Space Station (ISS). Columbus has been assembled by the European Space Agency (ESA) and is the first European laboratory dedicated to long-term research in space.

ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts will remain on the ISS for two months to oversee the commissioning of Columbus and its facilities.

FURTHER INFORMATION
ESA home page: http://www.esa.int

CONTACT
ESA media relations, Paris
Tel: +33 (0)1 5369 7299
Fax: +33 (0)1 5369 7960
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

13-14 DECEMBER: MAXIMUM OF GEMINID METEOR SHOWER

The evening of 13 and morning of 14 December see the annual maximum of the Geminid meteor shower.

At its peak and in a clear, dark sky between 50 and 100 ‘shooting stars’ or meteors may be visible each hour. Meteors are the result of small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. In this case the debris is associated with the asteroidal object 3200 Phaethon, which many astronomers believe to be an extinct comet.

The meteors appear to originate from a ‘radiant’ in the constellation of Gemini, hence the name Geminid. This year the Moon will not be present in the sky on the morning of maximum activity so the prospects for a good view of the shower are excellent. And unlike many astronomical phenomena, meteors are best seen without a telescope and are perfectly safe to watch.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
www.ras.org.uk

CONTACT
Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
(Details above)

14 DECEMBER: ASTRONOMY FROM THE MOON, ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY AND GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

In recent years there has been a new interest in robotic and human exploration of the Moon. In this context, from 1030-1530 on 14 December leading astronomers will gather in the Lecture Theatre of the RAS in London, to consider the prospects for using our neighbouring world as a platform for studies of the wider Universe. Topics for discussion include radio astronomy from the Moon, a Moon-based X-ray telescope and using a lunar observatory to detect planets around other stars.

At 1600, RAS fellows will reconvene in the Lecture Theatre of the Geological Society to hear talks by Dr Mike Griffin (NASA Administrator), Professor Mario Livio (Space Telescope Science Institute) and Professor Martin Rees (Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge, President of the Royal Society and peer in the House of Lords).
 
Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend these meetings should present their credentials at the registration desk for free admission.

FURTHER INFORMATION
www.ras.org.uk

CONTACT
Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
(Details above)

24 DECEMBER: OPPOSITION OF MARS

Mars will be easy to see throughout the month, but is at its best in the weeks on either side of 24 December. On that date the planet will be in line with the Earth and Sun and from the ground will appear to be opposite the Sun in the sky (at opposition). This year Mars remains fairly distant from Earth and never comes closer to us than 88 million km (or 55 million miles) but at opposition it will still appear to be brighter than all the other objects in the sky, apart from the Sun, Moon, Venus and Jupiter.

Around midnight, Mars will be high in the south, when it will be an unmistakeable sight to observers in the UK. The planet will look like a bright red dot, located in front of the stars of the constellation of Gemini and above the more familiar grouping of Orion. With moderate-sized telescopes, careful observers should be able to see hints of dusky markings on the Martian surface.

FURTHER INFORMATION
www.ras.org.uk

CONTACT
Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
(Details above)

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.