YOU ARE HERE: Home > News & Press > News archive > News 2013 > Space and astronomy digest: March 2013

I want information on:

Information for:


Space and astronomy digest: March 2013

Last Updated on Friday, 01 March 2013 10:27
Published on Friday, 01 March 2013 10:27

This March digest of upcoming astronomy and space news events taking place during March, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be comprehensive and dates and times may be subject to change.

1 March: Launch of SpaceX CRS-2 cargo mission to International Space Station (ISS)


On 1 March, the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX is expected to launch its second operational mission to the ISS. The Dragon cargo spacecraft will be carried atop a Falcon 9 launch vehicle that will take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the United States. The spacecraft should arrive at the ISS on 2 March. The following day the Space Station crew will begin to unload supplies from the Dragon craft and then stow materials for return to Earth. Around three weeks later the Dragon craft should undock and make a controlled journey back to Earth, where it is expected to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Space X CRS-2 press kit


Media contact

Emily Shanklin
Director, Marketing & Communications
Tel: + 1 310 363 6733
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


8 March: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Comets' interactions with other Solar system bodies: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London


Comets have played an important role in the formation and evolution of the planets, through bombardment of their surfaces and consequent delivery of materials such as water to their surfaces. Such impacts occur remarkably frequently even today, most prominently in the Shoemaker-Levy 9 event at Jupiter in 1994, and are apparent in recent discoveries of impact plumes in Jupiter's atmosphere. At the same time space-based observatories have watched comets as they make close approaches to and are sometimes destroyed by the Sun.

On 8 March, leading astronomers, planetary scientists and solar physicists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a specialist meeting to review progress in this area. At the meeting, delegates will review recent progress in understanding comets' interactions with other bodies and their atmospheres, and what they have learnt about the solar atmosphere, planets, and comets themselves through these interactions.

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

RAS Specialist Discussion Meetings

Media contact
Robert Massey
(details above)



8 March: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Is a moon necessary for the co-evolution of the biosphere of its host planet? Geological Society, Burlington House, London

On 8 March, astronomers and planetary scientists will gather at the Geological Society for a specialist meeting on how the presence of a moon affects the habitability of and development of life on a planet.

Delegates at this interdisciplinary meeting will discuss questions including how common moon-planet couplings are in the universe, whether the Earth's magnetic field is unusually strong and whether plate tectonics are a prerequisite for driving biological evolution.

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

RAS Specialist Discussion Meetings

Media contact

Robert Massey
(details above)




12 March: RAS lunchtime lecture: What's that bubble we're in? Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, London

At 1 p.m. on Tuesday 12 March, Mandy Bailey, PhD student at the University of Keele, will give the latest RAS public lecture. In her talk, Mandy will describe the Local Bubble, the region of hot low density gas that surrounds our Sun for hundreds of light years in every direction.

Mandy is carrying out research into the Bubble by studying the absorption of light in the so-called Diffuse Interstellar Bands, features in the spectrum of astronomical objects connected with material found between the stars. Her project aims to map the walls of the Bubble for any fragments of gas that might someday cause a problem for our Solar system.

RAS public lectures

Media contact
Robert Massey
(details above)




Second week of March: Comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS should be visible to unaided eye

C2011L4discoveryDiscovery image of C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS. Credit: Pan-STARRS observatoryAlthough predictions for the brightness of comets are always uncertain, Comet C/2011 L4 Pan-STARRS, named after the telescope that discovered it in June 2011, looks as though it could be visible to the naked eye in the UK evening sky from around the second week of March.

Comets are small bodies composed of ices, rock and dust. Most of them spend long periods far from the Sun, but when they approach our nearest star, the ices heat up and turn to gas that streams away from the comet. The light of the Sun and the particles it emits (the solar wind) then blow this material to form the sometimes spectacular tails that stretch out from the comet across the Solar system.

If predictions are right, then from the UK the comet will be visible after sunset from around 12 March, although to begin with it will set not long after the Sun, so will be hard to spot in the bright twilight sky. Over the following days however, it will move further away from the Sun. Although the comet will fade as it travels outwards, on each successive night it will appear higher up and so be visible in a darker sky. This should make it easier to see until the light of the waxing Moon begins to have a significant effect on the sky brightness from about 19 March.

As with any comet, observers will find it much easier to see Pan-STARRS using binoculars, which should reveal it as a 'fuzzball' (the appearance of the gases around the cometary nucleus), with a tail that may be visible pointing upwards from the horizon.


Night sky in March


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,, 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