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Space and astronomy digest: November 2013

The November digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events, from the RAS. This month sees the launches of Indian and US missions to Mars, the first flight of the Olympic flame to the International Space Station and a conference on the scientific prospects from the next 25 years of space exploration.


5 November: Launch of Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission



5 November should see the launch of the Mangalyaan mission, India's first attempt to send a spacecraft to Mars. The probe will blast off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Mangalyaan is expected to enter orbit around Mars in September 2014. After it arrives at the red planet, it will study the planetary surface and atmosphere with instruments including a camera, spectrometer and methane sensor.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)


Director, ISRO P & PR Unit
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6/7 November: Launch of Soyuz TMA 11-M to International Space Station (carrying the Olympic flame)



The Soyuz TMA 11-M mission is set for launch on 7 November. The Russian spacecraft will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) using a Soyuz-FG rocket, taking off from the Baikonur spaceport in Kazakhstan. On board will be Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin, American astronaut Richard Mastracchio and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata.

After reaching the ISS, the spacecraft will remain docked as an escape vehicle. Along with its crew, the mission will carry the Olympic flame for the Sochi Winter Olympics to the Station until it returns to Earth on another Soyuz five days later. This will be the first time that an Olympic flame has been to space.

Russian Federal Space Agency


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8 November: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Science Enabled by the Global Exploration Roadmap: Geological Society, Burlington House, London



On 8 November space scientists and astronomers will gather at the Geological Society for a special conference on the scientific opportunities presented by the Global Exploration Roadmap, the plan for humans and robots to explore the inner Solar system over the next 25 years.

Delegates will discuss how the missions under consideration in the roadmap will benefit planetary science, astrobiology and observational astronomy and how to raise the profile of the plan with the UK scientific community.

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


Robert Massey
(details above)


8 November: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Teaching, learning and outreach in astronomy: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London



The growth of e-learning has opened up many new ways for teachers and learners (of all ages/abilities/experience) to engage with astronomy, astrophysics and space science and has significantly changed educational practice.

On 8 November delegates will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a discussion meeting on current practises and approaches to the teaching and learning of astronomy, in higher education and beyond. Innovative methods by which astronomy is being taught by higher education establishments (including via distance learning) will be highlighted, as will examples of the external impact of research though engagement and outreach programmes to schools and the general public.

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


Robert Massey
(details above)


12 November: RAS lunchtime lecture: No telescope required: the night sky by eye: Geological Society, Burlington House, London



At 1300 GMT on 12 November, Charles Barclay of Marlborough College and the University of Oxford will give the latest RAS public lecture on observing the night sky with the unaided eye. In his talk he will use illustrations and photographs to explain how much our eyes alone can see under clear, dark, skies and discuss how observing techniques can give us the best possible view of this often overlooked part of our natural heritage.

RAS Public Lectures


Robert Massey
(details above)


13 November: Space Weather: The Importance of Observations: Imperial College London



On 13 November, a public meeting will take place at the Blackett Laboratory of Imperial College London on the topic of 'space weather', when conditions change in the region of space around the Earth.

Most space weather occurs due to the Sun's emissions which can affect the Earth's space environment. Modern society is ever more dependent upon ground-based and space-borne technology which can be vulnerable to space weather. Satellites, GPS, aviation and the electric power industry are all at risk from this and so it is now included on the UK's National Risk Register. It is important to have long-running, continuous observations for forecasting, nowcasting and for research in space weather. This public meeting, held during the peak of the 11 year solar cycle, addresses the deficiency in continuous, long-term observations and how this might be overcome.

This meeting is sponsored by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, an institute of Imperial College London and the Royal Astronomical Society and is part of the Royal Meteorological Society National Meetings programme, open to all, from expert to enthusiast, for topical discussions on the latest advances in weather and climate.

Non-members are welcome to attend these meetings. Where seating capacity is limited, priority will be given to members.

Space Weather meeting


Robert Massey
(details above)


18 November: Launch of MAVEN mission to Mars



The NASA Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission is set for launch on 18 November, from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in the United States. The space probe will be sent to its destination by an Atlas V rocket and should arrive at the red planet in September 2014.

MAVEN smallAn artist's impression of the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars. Credit: NASA / Goddard. Click for a larger imageWith a planned operational lifetime of one year, MAVEN will use a suite of instruments to study the Martian atmosphere. The altitude of the spacecraft will extend as high as 6000 km above the surface of Mars down to a 'deep dip' minimum of 150 km, the effective boundary of the upper atmosphere of the planet.



Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters
Tel: +1 202 358 1726
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Night sky in November



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.

One highlight is the much anticipated Comet C2012/S1 (ISON), a comet set to pass within 1.2 million km of the surface of the Sun on 28 November. If the comet survives this close passage it may go on to become visible to the unaided eye. Details will follow in a later RAS press release.



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

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