Space and astronomy digest: September 2011
The September digest of forthcoming space and astronomy events, from the RAS. This month sees the launch of a NASA mission to the Moon, the announcement of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year, a RAS public lecture on the Cassini mission to Saturn and a symposium at the University of Leicester on the next 50 years in space.
8 September: Launch of NASA GRAIL mission to the Moon
The launch window for the Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) probes opens on 8 September. GRAIL consists of two spacecraft (GRAIL-A and GRAIL-B) that will launch atop a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the USA and then take around 3.5 months to reach the Moon.
Once in lunar orbit, the two spacecraft will spend nine months transmitting radio signals to each other to precisely define the distance between them. Local variations in the Moon's gravitational field will expand and shrink that distance, allowing scientists to better understand the composition of the lunar interior.
GRAIL mission home page
8 September: Astronomy Photographer of the Year, Royal Observatory Greenwich
The winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition 2011, organised by the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG) and BBC Sky at Night magazine will be announced at a ceremony at the ROG on the evening of 8 September. The panel of judges, including Sir Patrick Moore and ROG Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula, this year assessed more than 700 entries from around the world.
The winning images will be displayed in a free exhibition opening on 9 September and due to run until February 2012.
Astronomy Photographer of the Year
13 September: RAS public lecture: the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn: Burlington House, London
At 1 pm on 13 September, Dr Emma Bunce of the University of Leicester will open the 2011-12 series of free public lunchtime lectures at the Royal Astronomical Society. Dr Bunce will present highlights of Cassini-Huygens mission in operation at Saturn since 2004, including the landing of the Huygens probe on the ringed planet's largest moon Titan. Her talk will include the many discoveries from the Cassini spacecraft such as geological activity on the moon Enceladus, the rotation rate of Saturn, the planet's auroras and its rapidly rotating magnetosphere.
RAS lunchtime lectures
Robert Massey (details above)
19-21 September: Observing the Earth and planets, University of Leicester
From 19 to 21 September, the University of Leicester will host a symposium on the next 50 years in space. The meeting, held in celebration of the University's 50 years of involvement in space, will bring together academia, industry, space agencies and related organisations. During the three day meeting, delegates will look at opportunities and possibilities in research in Earth observations, planetary science, astrobiology, extrasolar planetary systems and economic and societal impact.
Observing the Earth and planets
Night sky in September
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: 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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