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RAS PN06/37: Space & Astronomy Digest October 2006

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 December 2013 20:40
Published on Friday, 29 September 2006 00:00
This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during October. It includes the delayed launches of Metop and Stereo, World Space Week and the first RAS meetings of the season.

30 SEPTEMBER - 1 OCTOBER: 3RD UK SPACE MEDICINE CONFERENCE
The 3rd UK Space Medicine Conference, entitled ‘One Step Beyond: Space Medicine Expertise In The UK’, will be held at the National Space Centre, Leicester, on 30 September and 1 October.
 
In the next few years humans will return to the Moon and then on to Mars and beyond. Humanity will be fulfilling its greatest destiny to spread out into the universe. For the right price, space travel will be available to all. The effects of space on the body and mind will require a unique understanding by specially trained doctors and scientists in the field of Space Medicine.
 
Although the UK government does not at present support human spaceflight, many British scientists and doctors carry out research in the fields of aerospace and space medicine. The UK Space Biomedicine Group is a body of doctors and health professionals involved in this fascinating field of modern medicine. The annual UK Space Medicine Conference provides a forum for research and education in this rapidly growing speciality. It is attended by doctors, health professionals, students and interested individuals from all over the globe. Topics covered in this year’s meeting include surgery in space, cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the Moon and Mars, and medical implications for space tourism.
 
Speakers include:
Dr Kevin Fong, Co-Director Centre for Aviation and Space Medicine, University College London.
Dr Simon N Evetts, Wyle Laboratories GmbH, European Astronaut Centre, Germany. Professor Charles Cockell, Planetary and Space Sciences Research Institute, Open University.
Dr Julia Tizard, Virgin Galactic.
 
CONTACT
 
Dr. Alyson Calder
Senior House Officer in Anaesthetics
Glasgow Royal Infirmary
Tel: +44 (0)141-357-1941
Mob: +44 (0)781-3320413
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
UK Space Biomedicine Group
http://www.uksbg.com
 
 
7 OCTOBER: LAUNCH OF METOP, EUROPE’S FIRST POLAR ORBITING WEATHER SATELLITE
MetOp-A, Europe’s first polar-orbiting satellite dedicated to operational meteorology, has been rescheduled for launch by a Soyuz 2-1a rocket from the Baïkonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on 7 October.
 
Designed and developed by ESA in partnership with EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites), MetOp will be used to improve weather forecasts and climate monitoring.

The first in a series of three satellites, MetOp represents Europe’s contribution to a new cooperative venture with the United States. The satellite carries 12 different instruments designed for meteorological observation and climate monitoring, whilst also supporting search and rescue and the monitoring of charged particles in the low Earth orbit environment.

EADS Space is the satellite prime contractor and responsible for three of the twelve instruments on board the spacecraft. These include ASCAT, an active radar which measures wind speed and direction over the open sea. It also provides data for ice and snow coverage as well as surface moisture.
 
The Microwave Humidity Sounder (MHS) was designed and built by EADS Space in Portsmouth. MHS scans the Earth’s atmosphere to measure emitted radiation at various wavelengths in order to determine the water vapour content (clouds, precipitation, humidity) at various altitudes.
 
CONTACTS
 
Wayne Elliot
Met. Office press office
Tel: +44 (0)1392-884-629
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
Jeremy Close
EADS SPACE (UK)
Tel.: +44 (0)1438 773872
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FURTHER INFORMATION
 
ESA web site:
http://www.esa.int/metop  
 
BNSC web site:
http://www.bnsc.gov.uk/content.aspx?nid=5655  

 
4-11 OCTOBER: WORLD SPACE WEEK
Backed by the United Nations, the week features space-related events organised by individuals, groups, educational organisations and space agencies. World Space Week 2006 will be held from 4 to 11 October, with the theme ‘Space for Saving Lives’. World Space Week celebrates space, what it means to us and how we benefit from it.

Past events have included rocket building and displays, art exhibitions and space film nights. Events in the UK are co-ordinated by the Space Education Council. They include:

* A variety of activities and events at the Explore At-Bristol science centre, from 2 to 20 October. Professional and amateur astronomers will be on hand to engage and inspire visitors of all ages, while in the Live Science zone there will be plenty of fun hands-on activities, including moon sample and meteorite handling sessions. There will also be a new Autumn night sky show in the Planetarium.
Contact: Dr. Edel Fletcher, Tel: +44 (0)117-915-7158, E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web site: http://www.at-bristol.org.uk

* Armagh Planetarium has teamed up with Queen’s University Belfast for World Space Week. This will include the launch on 4 October of the Northern Ireland Space Office at Armagh Planetarium. The main goal of this initiative will be to bring frontline astronomical and space-related resources to pupils and teachers through the newly revised KS3 curriculum in Northern Ireland. Over three days, local schools will also be invited to Queen’s University to participate in workshops relating to the 'Space for saving lives' theme. There will also be live sessions (weather permitting) using the Faulkes Telescope in Hawaii.
Contact: Robert Hill, Business Manager, Armagh Planetarium, Armagh, N. Ireland Tel: +44 (0)28-3752-4725  Mob: +44 (0)7929-278501 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Web site: http://www.armaghplanet.com  
 
WORLD SPACE WEEK UK CONTACT
Chris Welch
Space Education Council
6 Borough Road, Kingston-upon-Thames,
Surrey KT2 6BD
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
Space Education Council:
http://www.secuk.org/
 
World Space Week:
http://www.spaceweek.org/  
 

13 OCTOBER: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING - THE FUTURE OF COMPUTATIONAL AND THEORETICAL ASTROPHYSICS IN THE UK
A RAS Specialist Discussion Meeting to discuss the future of computational and theoretical astrophysics in the UK will be held in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 on 13 October, 10.30 – 15.30.
 
In light of the rapidly evolving budgetary landscape facing UK astronomy and astrophysics, recent infrastructure prioritisations for the next decade, and the potential impact upon perceived "blue sky" theoretical and computational astrophysics, it is both critical and timely for these communities to meet and evaluate the role they can and should play in fuelling scientific exploration in the 21st century.
 
This meeting will engage the theory and computational astrophysics communities in a series of forward-thinking exercises, ranging from the identification of the key science drivers for the coming decade, a stock-take of our current infrastructure and personnel (and their match to these science drivers), the enabling of multi-partner and multi-facility collaborations aimed at exploiting our current investments, to the implications of the consolidation of PPARC and CCLRC into the new Large Facilities Council. The overriding goal of this meeting is to ensure the UK astrophysics community is positioned to respond rapidly, intelligently, and collaboratively, to 21st century funding and science opportunities.
 
PROGRAMME AND FURTHER INFORMATION
http://www.star.uclan.ac.uk/%7Ebkg/RAS.html

CONTACT

Prof. Brad Gibson
University of Central Lancashire
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
 
13 OCTOBER: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING – SOLAR-TERRESTRIAL MAGNETIC FIELDS AND RECONNECTION
A RAS Specialist Discussion Meeting to discuss Solar-Terrestrial Magnetic Fields and Reconnection will be held at the Society of Antiquaries Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 on 13 October, 10.30 – 15.50.
 
Great advances have made over the last decade in solar and magnetospheric observations. Simultaneously, theoretical modelling and our understanding of magnetic reconnection and magnetic field structures have also been radically transformed. The aim of this meeting is to highlight the wealth of superb theoretical and observational advances that have been made over the past decade revolutionising our understanding of solar-terrestrial magnetic fields and reconnection. In particular, this discussion meeting will provide a platform for promoting recent advances in the analytical and numerical modelling of magnetic reconnection, in both the solar atmospheric and magnetospheric environments, as well as highlighting advances made in the understanding of magnetic field topology and its effect on reconnection processes.
 
PROGRAMME AND FURTHER INFORMATION
http://www-solar.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/~ras_reco/index.html  
 
CONTACT
Dr. Clare Parnell
University of St. Andrews
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 

14 OCTOBER: RAS ORDINARY MEETING
The RAS Ordinary Meeting will be held at the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1 on 14 October, 16:00 – 18:00.
Talks will include:
*  Dr Phil Livermore (Leeds) - Magnetic stability analysis for the geodynamo;
*  Charles Barclay - The Barclay Equatorial; education and outreach with an 1860 Cooke 10 inch refractor;
*  Dr Simon Jeffery (Armagh) - Pulsations in subluminous B stars: a question of opacity;
*  Prof. David Southwood (ESA) - Saturn's magnetic rotation: an update and an explanation.
 
 
20-21 OCTOBER: ORIONID METEOR SHOWER
This meteor shower takes place over the period October 15 to 29, with maximum activity on 20 or 21 October. The maximum hourly rate of visible meteors typically reaches 20 for Northern Hemisphere observers and 40 for Southern Hemisphere observers. The radiant, from which the meteors appear to originate, rises around 10:30 p.m. local time. The best time to look will be early morning, when Orion is highest above the southern horizon. This year, there will no Moon to interfere, so viewing opportunities around the shower’s peak should be good.
 
The shower, which occurs around this time each year, is caused by Earth gliding through a cloud of dust left behind by Halley's Comet. Particles of dust, most no larger than grains of sand, burn up in Earth's upper atmosphere, becoming ‘shooting stars’.
 
Astronomers call it the Orionid shower because the meteors appear to stream away from a point (called “the radiant”) in the constellation Orion. The radiant is near Orion’s left shoulder. Orionid meteors strike Earth’s atmosphere at high speed - 66 km/s or 148,000 mph. Only the November Leonids are faster.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
Gary W. Kronk web site:
http://comets.amsmeteors.org/meteors/showers/orionidobs.html


24 OCTOBER: MESSENGER SPACECRAFT FLIES PAST VENUS
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft is currently en route to Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. Launched on 3 August 2004, MESSENGER will arrive in orbit around Mercury in March 2011. During its roundabout journey to Mercury, the spacecraft will receive gravity assists from several planets. Following a gravity boost from Earth in August 2005, it will fly past Venus twice, in October 2006 and June 2007.
 
The Venus flyby on 24 October will take place at an altitude of 3,040 km. None of the instruments will be powered on near the time of closest approach, because Venus will be on the opposite site of the Sun from the Earth and the spacecraft will be out of direct communication for approximately three weeks.
 
MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging) is the first spacecraft designed to orbit Mercury. Only one other spacecraft has ever observed Mercury at close quarters – Mariner 10 in 1974 and 1975. Half of the planet has never been imaged by a spacecraft.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
MESSENGER web site:
http://messenger.jhuapl.edu  
 
 
25 OCTOBER: LAUNCH OF TWIN STEREO SPACECRAFT TO STUDY THE SUN
The launch of NASA’s STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) mission has been postponed to no earlier than 25 October.

During their two-year mission, the STEREO spacecraft will explore the origin, evolution and interplanetary consequences of huge eruptions of solar material, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These events are a major source of the magnetic disruptions on Earth and a key component of space weather, which can greatly affect satellite operations, communications, power systems and the lives of astronauts in space.
 
For the first three months after launch, the two observatories will fly in highly elliptical orbits that extend from very close to Earth to just beyond the Moon’s orbit. Then one of the spacecraft will swing close enough to the Moon to be redirected to a position “behind” the Earth. Approximately one month later, the second observatory will follow the same procedure in order to move “ahead” of Earth.
 
Each will drift away from the Earth at a rate of 22 degrees per year. This positioning will enable their onboard instruments to study the Sun from two widely separated vantage points, allowing the first 3-D “stereo” studies of the Sun and mass ejection events, as well as a clear view of the space between the Sun and Earth and any Earth-directed CMEs.
 
STEREO’s instruments were built by numerous organisations worldwide. They include the Sun-Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation (SECCHI) instrument, which has substantial UK involvement.
 
SECCHI comprises four remote sensing instruments - two white-light coronagraphs (COR1 and COR2), an Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUVI) and a wide angle imaging system for viewing the inner heliosphere (HI1 and HI2).
 
The Heliospheric Imager (HI1 and HI2) has been developed by a UK-led team, which involves the University of Birmingham and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, in collaboration with Centre Spatial de Liege, Belgium, and the Naval Research Laboratory, USA. The Principal Investigator is Professor Richard Harrison.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
RAL STEREO web site:
http://www.sstd.rl.ac.uk/stereo/mission.htm

NASA web site:
http://www.nasa.gov/stereo  
 
Johns Hopkins University web site:
http://stereo.jhuapl.edu/

STEREO Science writer's guide (very helpful for definitions) http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/139023main_STEREO_science_guide.pdf  

CONTACTS
 
Professor Richard Harrison
Principal Investigator for Heliospheric Imager
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Didcot
OXON  OX11 0QX
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446884
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
Dr. Chris Eyles
Project Manager for Heliospheric Imager
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT
Tel: +44 (0)121-414-6461
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
Dr. Chris Davis
Project Scientist for Heliospheric Imager
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (see above)
Tel: +44 (0)1235-446710
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
 
 
26 OCTOBER: ‘BRITAIN'S SPACE PROGRAMME’ BY DR. DAVID WILLIAMS
Dr. David Williams, the recently appointed Director of the British National Space Centre (BNSC), will be speaking at the Royal Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place
London W1, on 26 October, starting at 18:00.
 
David Williams took up the post of Director General of the BNSC on 1 May 2006. He is the first Director General to be recruited by open competition since the BNSC was created in 1985. Accepting the appointment, David Williams said: “I believe that this is a time of opportunity for the UK space community. International space investments made over many years are now driving innovation and bearing fruit in changing people’s lives.”
 
Dr Williams will discuss the space programme of BNSC. Last year BNSC’s partners spent £198 million on space programmes - about 65% of which was the UK’s contribution to European Space Agency projects such as Cassini-Huygens, Envisat and Galileo. BNSC is owned and managed by its partners - eleven government departments and research councils that together represent the interests of UK science, commerce, education and industry.
 
CONTACT
 
David Richer
Space Group
The Royal Aeronautical Society
4 Hamilton Place
London W1J 7BQ
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION
 
RAeS Space Group web site:
http://www.raes.org.uk/space/  
 
 
31 OCTOBER: LAUNCH OF TERRASAR-X
Germany’s TerraSAR-X remote sensing satellite will be launched from Baikonur cosmodrome by a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr rocket on 31 October.
 
The satellite will circle the Earth at an altitude of approximately 514 km and will continuously scan the surface of our planet with a radar beam, regardless of weather or illumination, producing images with a spatial resolution of 3 metres.
 
TerraSAR-X will quickly and reliably deliver data for a wide range of applications, opening up completely new opportunities for commercial, public and scientific users. It is the first national remote sensing satellite built in a Public-Private Partnership. Although most of the funding was provided by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), substantial investment was also provided by EADS SPACE of Friedrichshafen, which developed and constructed the satellite. Infoterra, a subsidiary of EADS SPACE, will be responsible for the marketing of data and products. TerraSAR-X is due to operate for five years.
 
A second spacecraft, Tandem-X, is planned for launch in 2009. Operating in tandem, they will produce a spatial elevation model of the whole Earth with unprecedented resolution.
 
CONTACTS
 
Mathias Pikelj
EADS SPACE (Germany)
Tel: +49 (0)7545-89123
 
Mareike Doepke
Infoterra GmbH
Tel: +49 (0)7545 83924
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
FURTHER INFORMATION

DLR web site:
http://www.dlr.de/rd/fachprog/eo/terrasar-x/;internal&action=_setlanguage.action?LANGUAGE=en
 
Infoterra web site:
http://www.terrasar.de/  
 
EADS Space press release:
http://www.terrasar.de/upload/files/20060918_TSXatIABG_e.pdf  

NOTE FOR EDITORS

This release has been written in order to assist the media in planning and researching future stories related to space science and astronomy, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive. Dates and times may be subject to change.