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Space and astronomy digest: April 2013

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 16:33
Published on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 16:23

The April digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events, from the RAS. This month sees the possible launch of the Antares rocket and scientific meetings on geophysics, supermassive black holes, astrophysics on timescales of less than a second and the lower part of the solar atmosphere.





4 April: Rutherford’s Geophysicists: University of Cambridge

In a special conference at the University of Cambridge, Earth scientists will gather to discuss the work and legacy of Lord Patrick Blackett and Professor Sir Edward Bullard, who both worked with pioneering physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford before pursuing their scientific careers. Both scientists went on to make leading contributions to geophysics.

Delegates at the meeting will consider Blackett’s and Bullard’s work and the problems connected with it that remain unsolved today, with topics ranging from cosmic ray particles to the generation of the Earth’s magnetic field.

The conference is supported by the Royal Astronomical Society, the British Geophysical Association and the History of Physics Group of the Institute of Physics.

Rutherford’s Geophysicists: A Celebration of the work of Lord Blackett PRS and Professor Sir Edward Bullard FRS on the Physics of the Earth




1 p.m. on 9 April: RAS Public Lecture: Planetary Magnetic Fields: Fyvie Hall, London

The latest RAS Public Lecture will see Richard Holme, Professor of Geophysics at the University of Liverpool discuss the present and past magnetic fields of the different planets in the Solar System. In his talk he will outline the results from space probes as well as the rocks on Earth that give an insight into our own geological history.

RAS public lectures

Media contact
Robert Massey
(details above)




12 April: High Time Resolution Optical Astrophysics: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

On 12 April the Geological Society will host a special meeting, where astronomers will consider the latest work on high speed imaging and spectroscopy, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the ULTRACAM system installed on the 3.6-m optical telescope in La Silla, Chile.

Delegates will discuss high time resolution (i.e. on timescales of less than 1 second) observations of compact remnants of stars, such as black holes, neutron stars and white dwarfs as well as brown dwarfs (objects considered to be intermediate between the heaviest planets and the lightest stars), planets in orbit around other stars and minor planets in our own Solar System.

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

High Time Resolution Optical Astrophysics

Media contact
Robert Massey
(details above)




12 April: Physics of Flares in the Lower Solar Atmosphere, RAS, Burlington House, London

Solar flares are dramatic events that release large amounts of energy from the Sun. The solar photosphere (which emits 99% of the Sun’s visible light) and the chromosphere above it contain the bulk of the energy that goes into flares and so studying this region of the Sun is an effective way for scientists to characterise these phenomena.

Space- and ground-based observatories have supplied solar physicists with an enormous dataset, including images that show flares and other activity in unprecedented detail.

In a specialist conference at the Royal Astronomical Society, astronomers, space scientists and solar physicists will come together to focus on how the lower solar atmosphere responds during flares, as well as discussing similar events that take place on other stars. The delegates will consider the latest observations and theoretical models in an effort to better understand this complex component of the Sun.

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

Physics of Flares in the Lower Solar Atmosphere

Media contact
Robert Massey
(details above)




16 April: Maiden flight of Antares rocket

Antares Wallops Virginia smallThe Antares rocket on the Wallops Island launch pad, Virginia, USA. Credit: Orbital Sciences. Click for a larger image.The US-based Orbital Sciences Corporation is scheduled to launch its Antares rocket on or after 16 April from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia in the United States. The launch is part of the Orbital Sciences contribution to the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme to engage the private sector in the supply of cargo and transportation of crew to the International Space Station. This launch should see the Antares rocket carry a dummy payload designed to simulate the mass of the Cygnus cargo spacecraft into orbit.

Orbital Sciences Corporation

Media contact
Griffin Communications
Tel: +1 281 335 0200



18-19 April: David Axon Memorial Meeting: Massive Black Holes in Galaxies: University of Sussex


Researchers will gather at the University of Sussex, Brighton, for a two day meeting on massive black holes in galaxies and a memorial service, both to commemorate the life and work of astronomer Prof. David Axon.

At the meeting the scientists will discuss topics including the supermassive black holes in the centre of galaxies, their impact on the galaxies they reside in and the most recent observations of these systems from the Herschel Space Observatory.

David Axon Memorial Meeting



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


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