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Space and astronomy digest: April 2012

Last Updated on Friday, 30 March 2012 17:06
Published on Friday, 30 March 2012 16:54

The April digest of upcoming space and astronomy events. This month sees a public lecture on tides in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a conference celebrating 50 years of the UK in space and the first private sector flight to the International Space Station.



17 April: Royal Astronomical Society lunchtime lecture: Tides in the (Magellanic) Clouds


577px-Small Magellanic Cloud (Digitized Sky Survey 2)The Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2At 1300 BST (1200 GMT) on 17 April, Professor Malcolm Coe of Southampton University will give a public lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society. In his talk he will describe how tides, so familiar to us in Earth’s oceans, also operate on the most massive structures in the universe. The tides that result from interactions between galaxies can even trigger huge waves of starbirth, producing stars of all masses, with the most massive of these leaving behind remnants in the form of ultra-dense neutron stars and black holes.

Professor Coe will describe such an event that took place 200 million years ago in the Small Magellanic Cloud (a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way galaxy we live in) and how X-ray telescopes are now discovering a huge nest of neutron stars produced from those tidal interactions. Along the way he will look at the observational history of the SMC, from the first drawings by John Herschel made in Cape Town in the nineteenth century to a massive X-ray survey just completed last year.

RAS public lectures



Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 x214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035



26-27 April: Celebrating 50 years of the UK in space: Science Museum, London


On 26 April 1962, Britain became the third space-faring nation with the launch of Ariel 1, the first satellite to be developed and operated by the UK.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the start of UK involvement in space, the Science Museum and the UK Space Agency are co-hosting a two-day conference. This event will bring together scientists and engineers involved in the Ariel 1 project, highlight historic milestones over the last five decades and look forward to an exciting future.

Celebrating 50 years of the UK in space




30 April: Launch of Falcon 9 (Dragon C2) spacecraft: first private flight to International Space Station

The second test flight of the unpiloted Dragon spacecraft is set to take place on 30 April. Built and launched by the Space X company under contract to NASA as part of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme, Dragon C2 will blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle. COTS aims to provide the United States with a private sector replacement vehicle to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), independent of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

In an important test, Dragon C2 will attempt to rendezvous and then dock with the ISS. If this is successful, the Station crew will remove cargo from the spacecraft and place cargo in it for return to Earth. After undocking, Dragon C2 will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere en route to its splashdown and recovery site in the Pacific Ocean off California.

Space X


Kirstin Grantham
Space X
Tel: +1 (202) 649 2716
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Night sky in April


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