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RAS PN 07/54: Space and astronomy digest: January 2008

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 12:07
Published on Monday, 31 December 2007 00:00
The latest digest of space and astronomy news from the RAS. This month sees a conference on how the Solar System was shaped by impacts, a bright meteor shower and the close encounter of an asteroid with Mars.

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 31 December 2007
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 07/54

Issued by:
Dr Robert Massey
RAS Press 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.

RAS website: www.ras.org.uk

RAS SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: JANUARY 2008

This release contains a summary of some astronomical and space events that will be taking place during January. 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.

4 JANUARY: MAXIMUM OF QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER
 
The morning of 4 January sees the annual maximum of the Quadrantid meteor shower.
 
At its peak and in a clear, dark sky up to 120 ‘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 tentatively associated with the asteroid 2003 EH1, which may be the remains of a comet observed by Chinese astronomers in 1490.

The meteors appear to originate from a ‘radiant’ in a part of the sky included in the now-defunct constellation of Quadrans Muralis, hence the name Quadrantid. This corresponds to a location in the modern grouping Bootes near the more familiar constellation of Ursa Major (containing the well-known asterism of the Plough). From the UK, the radiant rises through the night moving from the northeast at midnight to high in the east at the time of the shower peak (predicted for 0640 GMT). The waning crescent Moon rises at around 0452 GMT, so for most of the night the shower meteors will not be obscured by moonlight.

Unlike many astronomical phenomena, meteors are best seen without a telescope. To have the best chance of seeing a meteor, simply look at the sky for a while on the morning of the shower peak and enjoy the view.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION

Meteor Section, Society for Popular Astronomy
http://www.popastro.com

CONTACT
Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
(Details above)

8 JANUARY: RAS LUNCHTIME LECTURE: ASTRONOMY BY MICROSCOPE, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

Monica Grady, Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University, will deliver the first of the RAS lunchtime lectures. In her talk, she will explain how astronomers can find out about the origin of the Sun and planets by studying meteorites, pieces of material from interplanetary space that survive a violent journey to the surface of the Earth.

The lunchtime lectures are open to all and take place in the newly-refurbished Burlington House, the headquarters of the RAS off Piccadilly in central London. The lectures will take place at 1pm on the first Tuesday of each month and the audience will be able to take their seats from 12.45.

FURTHER INFORMATION
http://www.ras.org.uk

CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

11 JANUARY: IMPACT-DRIVEN CHANGE IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM, ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

Much of the early history of the Solar System was violent, with planets, moons and asteroids all shaped by impacts with other bodies. From 1030 till 1530 on 11 January, leading astronomers will meet at the Royal Astronomical Society to discuss how these collisions influenced the evolution of the Sun and planets. In particular, they will consider how the energy released in impacts drives the destruction or creation of compounds ultimately associated with life - from the basic elements through to amino acids.

CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

FURTHER INFORMATION
http://www.ras.org.uk

30 JANUARY: ASTEROID IN CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH MARS

At about 1100 GMT on 30 January, asteroid 2007 WD5 will pass within 50000 km (30000 miles) of Mars. At the time of writing the exact path of 2007 WD5 is uncertain and there is a small – 1 in 25 – chance that the 50-metre wide body will strike the surface of the red planet. If this (unlikely) event does happen it will release the energy equivalent to a 3 megatonne nuclear explosion and could create a 1-km wide impact crater.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
http://www.nasa.gov

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.