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Space and astronomy digest: December 2013

Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 16:05
Published on Monday, 02 December 2013 16:05

The December digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events, from the. RAS. This month sees the launch of the Gaia spacecraft, a conference bringing together scientists and forecasters to discuss space weather and the maiden flight of a new Russian rocket.

 


10 December: RAS lunchtime lecture: Detecting the light of the Big Bang: ESA's cosmic microwave background satellite Planck and Jodrell Bank's contribution to its detectors: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

The European Space Agency’s Planck satellite operated from 2009 to 2013 and made the most detailed measurements yet of the content of the universe. In this latest RAS public lecture, due to take place at 1300 GMT on Tuesday 10 December, Professor Richard Davis OBE of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics will explain how the mission operated and the involvement of Jodrell Bank. He will conclude by discussing the key findings of Planck to date.

RAS Public Lectures
http://www.ras.org.uk/events-and-meetings/public-lectures

Contact

Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 x214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
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13 December: RAS specialist discussion meeting: The topology of the universe on large and small scales: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

Cosmological observations have shown that the Universe is very nearly flat but scientists struggle to assess its shape (topology) on the largest scales. On 13 December astronomers and cosmologists will gather at the Geological Society for a specialist discussion meeting to consider current research in mathematical topology, its application to cosmology and particle physics, and a discussion of recent observations from Planck and other missions.

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
http://www.ras.org.uk/component/gem/?id=244

Contact

Robert Massey
(details above)


13 December: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Space weather: a dialogue between scientists and forecasters: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

The Sun is currently at the peak of its activity cycle, a time when eruptions from our nearest star that affect the Earth are more frequent. These ‘space weather’ events give scientists the opportunity to study how a range of solar phenomena ultimately leads to disturbances in the ionosphere (the upper atmosphere of the Earth), the terrestrial magnetic field and on the ground. The inclusion of space weather in the UK National Risk Assessment in 2012 means that there is now an urgent need for dialogue between those doing the science of space weather and those using the data to mitigate the risks.

On 13 December scientists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society to discuss the current status of observations and recent new advances in the theories and models of the solar corona and the formation of the solar wind and solar eruptions. Delegates will discuss how to link these research areas with those of geomagnetic activity and sub-storms, including how the various data sets are coupled with modelling to improve forecast capability.

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
https://www.ras.org.uk/events-and-meetings/ras-meetings

Space weather: a dialogue between scientists and forecasters
http://www.mssl.ucl.ac.uk/~lmg/spaceweather/Overview.html

Contact

Robert Massey
(details above)


19 December: Launch of Gaia space observatory, Kourou, French Guiana

The long-anticipated launch of the European Space Agency (ESA) Gaia space observatory is set to take place on 19 December. Gaia will make the largest ever high-precision three-dimensional map of the nearby universe. Over the course of a five year mission, the two telescope observatory will measure the distances to around one billion stars within our Galaxy, the Milky Way and in nearby galaxies in the so-called Local Group.

Gaia spacecraftAn artist's impression of the Gaia spacecraft in operation. Credit: ESA–D. Ducros, 2013In the course of its work, Gaia is also expected to discover asteroids and small icy bodies in our own Solar system, planets around other stars, brown dwarfs (bodies intermediate between stars and planets) and quasars (the very active centres of galaxies at great distances).

Gaia will launch atop a Soyuz-STB / Fregat rocket from the ESA spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. It will travel to the second Lagrangian point (L2), located 1.5 million km from the Earth in the opposite direction from the Sun. The combined gravitational forces of the Earth and Sun mean that objects at L2 follow the Earth in its orbit in a stable path, maintaining the same relative position with respect to our planet and home star.

ESA: Gaia
http://sci.esa.int/gaia/

Contact

ESA Media Relations, Paris
Tel: +33 1 5369 7299
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23 December: Launch of Soyuz 2-1v, Plesetsk Cosmodrome, Russia

The newest variant of the Russian Soyuz rocket, Soyuz 2-1v, and its Volga upper stage should have their maiden flight on 23 December. The launch vehicle will take off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia, with a payload including an experiment designed for use by students from Samara State Aerospace University.

Russian Federal Space Agency
http://www.roscosmos.ru

Contact

Roscosmos press service
Tel: +7 (499) 975-44-58
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Night sky in December

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.

BAA
http://www.britastro.org

SPA
http://www.popastro.com

The Night Sky: Jodrell Bank
http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/


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.

Follow the RAS on Twitter via @royalastrosoc