Space and astronomy digest: June 2011
The June digest of forthcoming space and astronomy events, from the RAS. This month sees a lunar and solar eclipse, the final landing of Space Shuttle Endeavour and a public lecture on remote sensing and geophysics.
1 June: Endeavour due to land at Kennedy Space Center
The NASA Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to make its final landing early on the morning of 1 June. In its last flight, the 16-day mission saw Endeavour carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), where they delivered parts and fitted the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2, an instrument designed to search for exotic types of matter in the Universe.
After landing, Endeavour will be decommissioned and eventually be moved to Los Angeles, where it will become an exhibit in the California Science Center.
NASA home page
1 June: Partial solar eclipse visible from extreme northwest of Scotland
At sunset on 1 June, a partial solar eclipse will take place and will be potentially visible from a few locations in the northwest of Scotland.
Partial eclipses occur when the Earth, Moon and Sun are almost exactly aligned and the Moon blocks out part of the bright surface of the Sun. This eclipse is visible from eastern Asia including northern Japan, Mongolia, north-eastern China, eastern and northern Russia, the northern tip of Scandinavia, north-western Canada, Greenland and Iceland.
In Scotland, the eclipse will theoretically just be visible from the northern half of the Shetland Islands and the northwest coast of the Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides. In both cases, the eclipse begins a few minutes before sunset and given the low altitude of the Sun will only be seen if there is an exceptionally clear sky and observers have an uncluttered horizon. If it is visible, a maximum of 4% of the solar disk will appear to be covered by the Moon.
Note that although partial eclipses of the Sun are spectacular events, they should NOT be viewed with the unaided eye. Looking at the partially eclipsed Sun without appropriate protection can cause serious and permanent damage to the eyes.
The partial eclipse visible from Scotland can be safely studied using purpose-designed solar filters available from reputable astronomical suppliers. Without these, the only safe ways to observe the Sun are to use a pinhole or telescope to PROJECT the Sun's image onto card.
HM Nautical Almanac Office eclipse predictions
Partial eclipse of the Sun: 1 June 2011
Eye safety during eclipses
14 June: RAS lunchtime lecture: A scientific eye: Geophysical imagery of the Earth and planets
At 1 pm on 14 June, Dr Sue Bowler, University of Leeds scientist and editor of 'Astronomy & Geophysics', will give the latest RAS public lecture. She will outline the ways in which geophysical information and imagery shapes research and exploration, not just on Earth but across the Solar system. In her talk, Dr Bowler will cover work stretching from Astronomer Royal and cometary discoverer Edmond Halley to remote sensing by satellites and space probes in the 21st century.
RAS public lectures
15 June: Total lunar eclipse
On 15 June a total eclipse of the Moon is visible from Australasia, southern Japan, a large area of Asia, India, Africa, Europe and the eastern part of South America. Total lunar eclipses take place when the Moon, Earth and Sun are in line, with the Moon on the opposite side of the Earth from Sun.
The Moon then passes through the shadow of the Earth, dimming dramatically but normally remaining visible as the lunar surface is illuminated by sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere. Terrestrial atmospheric conditions determine the appearance of the eclipsed Moon, which ranges from brick red to dark grey.
Across the UK, with the exception of northern Scotland, the Moon rises during the total phase of the eclipse as the Sun sets. Moonrise time varies with location, with observers in London seeing this at 2113 BST (2013 GMT). In Glasgow moonrise on the same evening is not until 2158 BST (2058 GMT).
The total eclipse ends at 2203 BST (2103 GMT), when the Moon begins to leave the darkest part of the Earth's shadow or umbra. By this time it stands only 5 degrees above the south-eastern horizon from London, whilst in Glasgow the whole of the lunar disk will not yet have appeared and from northern Scotland it will not be visible at all.
The Moon then moves into the penumbra, the lighter part of the Earth's shadow and will likely have a yellowish hue. The eclipse comes to an end when the Moon leaves the penumbra at 0002 BST on 16 June (2302 GMT on 15 June).
The Moon's low altitude in the sky during the total phase of the eclipse means that observers will need an excellent horizon and clear skies to see it well, but if it is visible it could be a spectacular opportunity for photographers. And unlike their solar counterparts, lunar eclipses need no special equipment and are perfectly safe to watch with the unaided eye.
HM Nautical Almanac Office eclipse predictions
Total eclipse of the Moon: 15 June 2011: HMNAO map
The Baker Street Irregular Astronomers (astronomical society running a free public eclipse event in Regent's Park, London)
24 June: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Scaling relations of galaxy clusters
In a specialist discussion meeting in the Peter Jost Lecture Theatre at Liverpool John Moores University on 24 June, astronomers will gather to discuss the latest research into clusters of galaxies and what this implies about the wider Universe. The meeting is supported by the Royal Astronomical Society.
All month: June's night sky
Information on stars, planets, comets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA), the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA) and the Jodrell Bank night sky guide.
The Night Sky: June 2011 (Jodrell Bank)
NOTES FOR EDITORS
The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS, www.ras.org.uk), 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 3500 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.
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