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RAS PN 08/57: Space and astronomy digest: January 2009

Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 April 2010 14:54
Published on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 00:00
The January digest of space and astronomy events. This month sees the start of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), the Quadrantid meteor shower, a specialist meeting on super-Earths, a public lecture on astrobiology and the launch of a Japanese mission to study greenhouse gas emissions.

ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 31st December 2008
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 08/57

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: http://www.ras.org.uk
 
RAS SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: JANUARY 2009

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.

1ST JANUARY: INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 BEGINS

The International Year of Astronomy (IYA2009), celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of the telescope for astronomy starts on the 1st January. IYA2009 is endorsed by UNESCO and is now supported by 135 countries under the leadership of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Throughout the year, thousands of professional and amateur astronomers will be working with the public as part of a global effort to promote astronomy and its contribution to science and culture. A series of innovative projects will encourage public engagement, from observing sessions at observatories to online blogs, photographic exhibitions and the campaign to combat light pollution.

In the UK, IYA2009 is led by volunteers in amateur astronomical societies, universities, industry, museums and science centres and supported by the Royal Astronomical Society, the Institute of Physics and the Science and Technology Facilities Council. The number of events and activities is growing rapidly and a full list can be found on the UK IYA2009 home page at www.astronomy2009.co.uk

FURTHER INFORMATION
Steve Owens
UK Co-ordinator, IYA2009
c/o Glasgow Science Centre
50 Pacific Quay
Glasgow G51 1EA
Tel: +44 (0)141 420 5010 x.299
Mob: +44 (0)771 772 0479
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2ND-3RD JANUARY: QUADRANTID METEOR SHOWER

This year the Quadrantid meteor shower reaches its sharp peak of activity around midday on 3rd January. From the UK the best time to see them is in the last part of the night, before dawn on the morning of the 3rd, when perhaps a few tens of meteors will be visible each hour. Meteors (popularly known as ‘shooting stars’), result from small particles entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, heating and ionising the air around them to cause a short-lived streak of light.

The Quadrantid meteors appear to radiate from a region of the sky once marked by the now-defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis from which the shower takes its name and now near the more familiar Ursa Major (containing the ‘Plough’). From the UK on the morning of the maximum, the shower radiant will be high in the east. Quadrantid meteors can be fairly slow and bright and sometimes show strong blue or green colours and under a clear, dark sky, the shower should be easily visible to the unaided eye.

FURTHER INFORMATION

British Astronomical Association
http://britastro.org

CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

9TH JANUARY: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: EXO-SUPER EARTHS: DETECTION, ATMOSPHERES AND INTERNAL STRUCTURES: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

On the 9th January, astronomers will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society to discuss the large rocky planets (so-called ‘Super Earths’) recently discovered in orbit around other stars. The scientists will consider topics including the detection of more planets and their moons, the structure of these worlds and the chances of finding life on them.

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

A full programme for the meeting can be found at
images/stories/ras_pdfs/pdfs/Jan_2009_RAS_meeting_at_RAS_Lect_Theat.pdf

CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

9TH JANUARY: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: OUTER PLANET MAGNETOSPHERES: INFLUENCES, INTERACTIONS AND DYNAMICS: GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY,
BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

Scientists will gather at the Geological Society on 9th January, to discuss the latest research in the magnetospheres around the outer planets of the Solar System (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune). The magnetospheres are either observed from the Earth, for example by looking at aurora with the Hubble Space Telescope, or in-situ using spacecraft like the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn.

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)


13TH JANUARY: RAS LUNCHTIME LECTURE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF ASTROBIOLOGY AND THE SEARCH FOR LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE: ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY, BURLINGTON HOUSE, LONDON

In the latest public lecture at the RAS, due to take place at 1 pm on 13th January, Dr Ian Crawford, Senior Lecturer in Planetary Science, Birkbeck College, University of London, will give a presentation on the scientific efforts to find life elsewhere in the Universe. He will describe how understanding the origins of life on Earth helps us in this search, from Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa in our own Solar System to habitable planets in orbit around other stars.


CONTACT
Robert Massey (details above)

15-16TH JANUARY: OPENING CEREMONY FOR INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009, PARIS

More than 600 people will gather in Paris for the international opening ceremony for IYA2009. The guest list includes members of royal families, government ministers, Nobel Prize winners and other eminent scientists as well as 200 young students from over 100 countries.

Highlights of the year will be presented at a press conference at the UNESCO headquarters at 1230 CET on the 15th January.

Attendance at the event is by invitation only but members of the media are cordially invited to be present.

MEDIA ACCREDITATION

Isabelle Cassandre le Fournis
UNESCO HQ, Paris
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Pedro Russo
IAU IYA2009 Co-ordinator
European Southern Observatory (ESO)
Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2
D-85748 Garching bei München
Germany
Tel: +49 89 320 06 195
Mobile: +351 96285 4775 / +49 17661100211
Fax: +49 89 320 23 62
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

21ST JANUARY: LAUNCH OF GOSAT MISSION

On 21st January, the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) is set to launch the GOSAT greenhouse gases observing satellite from the Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

GOSAT (or ‘IBUKI’ – meaning ‘breath’ or ‘puff’) carries a suite of instruments designed to study the emission, movement and absorption of the greenhouse gases thought to be responsible for global warming.

CONTACT

JAXA public affairs department
Tel: +81 3 6266 6400

FURTHER INFORMATION

JAXA home page (English language version)
http://www.jaxa.jp/index_e.html

JANUARY’S NIGHT SKY

Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena visible in the January 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.