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Space and astronomy digest: October 2011

The October digest of upcoming space and astronomy events, particularly those with UK involvement. Highlights this month include a large planetary science meeting, a possible meteor shower outburst, a free festival of astronomy in London and a specialist discussion meeting on oceans on icy worlds.


2-7 October: European Planetary Science Congress / Division of Planetary Science (EPSC / DPS) meeting, Nantes, France

In the first week of October, almost 2000 planetary scientists will gather in Nantes for a joint meeting of the European Planetary Sciences Congress and the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Delegates will discuss topics from the exploration of Mars to the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, the nature of planets around other stars and the prospects for life elsewhere in the Universe.

Bona fide members of the media are cordially invited to attend the conference and can register at no cost by contacting Anita Heward or Vishnu Reddy (see below). Press room facilities will be available for the duration of the conference. Daily press briefings will take place and a series of embargoed press releases will be issued through the week.

EPSC / DPS conference

Twitter: #epscdps2011


Anita Heward
EPSC Press Officer
Tel: +44 (0)7756 034243
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Vishnu Reddy
DPS Press Officer
Tel: +49 555 15787579623
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


3-7 October: International Astronautical Congress, Cape Town, South Africa

Delegates from across the space industry are expected to attend the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) that will take place in Cape Town from 3 to 7 October. The congress, including more than 150 sessions and 9 plenary talks, will bring together academics, researchers, students, commerce and industry professionals and senior executives of the world's space agencies.

IAC 2011

Twitter: @iafastro #iac2011



Local Organising Committee, IAC 2011
Tel: +27 21 426 1387
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


8 October: Possible outburst of Draconid meteor shower, Europe, Asia, northern Africa

A number of studies predict an outburst of the Draconid meteor shower on the evening of 8 October. According to the International Meteor Organisation (IMO), around 1 meteor may be visible each minute from across Europe, Asia except the far East and the northern half of Africa.

The peak in activity is predicted to be at around 2000 GMT (2100 BST in the UK). Although the IMO predict that up to 600 meteors each hour may theoretically be visible, the light of the nearly full Moon will make it hard to see the majority of these. Nonetheless, there is intense interest in this rare event.

Draconid meteors are caused by small particles that originate from the tail of Comet 21/P Giacobini-Zinner. During the shower, they enter the Earth's atmosphere at about 20 km per second. Frictional heating rapidly destroys the particles when they are still more than 50 km above the ground, which superheats the air around them that becomes briefly visible as a bright trail or familiar 'shooting star'. The meteor trails seem to radiate from a point in the constellation of Draco, hence the name Draconid, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

IMO: Draconids


11 October: RAS public lecture: Speaking for planet Earth: Our message to the cosmos: Burlington House, London

At 1300 BST on 11 September, Dr Francisco Diego of University College London will give the latest free public lunchtime lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society. His talk will consider how alien civilisations might react to an encounter with one of the space probes now leaving the Solar System and what these say about our own thoughts on our culture and civilisation.

RAS Public Lectures


14 October: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Exploring the Non-Thermal Universe


Non-thermal electromagnetic radiation is emitted by bodies in a way essentially unconnected to their temperature. There are a number of important astronomical objects that produce this, from the active regions that surround black holes at the centre of galaxies to the compact remnants of some stars. On 14 October astronomers will gather at the Geological Society, where they will present and discuss the latest research in this area.

Meeting programme


Robert Massey (details above)


14 October: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Oceans Inside Icy Planetary Bodies


On 14 October scientists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a conference on the exotic oceans thought to exist in the icy moons of the outer Solar System, some of which are possible habitats for extraterrestrial life. The meeting will bring together planetary scientists, oceanographers, geologists and astrobiologists, who will together consider the latest findings in this rapidly developing research area.

Meeting programme


Robert Massey (details above)


20 October: First Soyuz launch from ESA spaceport


Final testing of the Soyuz launch site in French Guiana in May 2011. Credit: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2011
20 October should see the first launch of a Russian Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport at Kourou in French Guiana. The launch vehicle consists of a first stage of four rocket booster engines, a second stage core engine and a Fregat upper third stage rocket. This system is expected to carry the first two satellites in the European Galileo navigation system into orbit.



ESA Media Relations, Paris
Tel: +33 1 5369 7299
Fax: +33 1 5369 7690
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


20-23 October: Your Universe festival of astronomy, University College London


Your Universe, part of the London Science Festival, is supported by the Royal Astronomical Society and will take place at University College London from 20 to 23 October. This free festival of astronomy is aimed at schools, families and the general public and includes events related to the Space Shuttle, the Large Hadron Collider, ExoMars and astrobiology.

Your Universe


Dr Francisco Diego
Mob: +44 (0)7974 917878
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Night sky in October


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



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 3500 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

Follow the RAS on Twitter via @royalastrosoc

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