RAS PN06/10: April Space and Astronomy Digest
This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during April. It includes the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in Leicester, the arrival of Venus Express and the award of the 'space oscars'.
4-7 APRIL: RAS NATIONAL ASTRONOMY MEETING, LEICESTER UNIVERSITY
The 2006 RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM) will be held at the University of Leicester. The meeting will begin at 9 a. m. on Tuesday 4 April and continue until 3.30 p. m. on Friday 7 April. Around 400 astronomers from the UK and overseas are expected to attend during the week. It will include 14 plenary talks and 24 parallel sessions featuring recent research on a wide range of astronomical topics.
Topics under discussion will include Solar System exploration, the structure of our Galaxy, gamma ray bursts, dark matter, gravitational waves, extrasolar planets and planet formation. The NAM 2006 programme also features the RAS Darwin Lecture on the subject of “The Dark Side of the Universe,” presented by Joseph Silk, Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford University.
This will be followed by the annual presentation of the RAS medals, and a talk by Dr. Timothy Brown on the new Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope. Another highlight of the week will be a public lecture on the topic of “Human Exploration of the Solar System,” presented by Professor Charles Cockell of the Open University.
Press releases related to the meeting will be posted on an embargoed web site. The password for this site is available from the RAS Communications Officers.
NAM web site: http://www.nam2006.le.ac.uk/index.shtml
4-5 APRIL: BRITGRAV 6
The Nottingham Quantum Gravity group are hosting "Britgrav 6", the 6th British Gravity Meeting, on 4-5 April. Continuing the tradition of the previous meetings hosted by Southampton, Queen Mary, Lancaster and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the purpose of the meeting is to bring together the relativity community in the British Isles and to provide a forum for junior researchers (students and postdocs). The topic of the meeting is gravitation: classical and quantum, theoretical and experimental. There will be no invited talks. The meeting will consist of short (approximately 15 minutes) talks contributed by the participants.
Britgrav 6 web site: http://www.maths.nottingham.ac.uk/QG/britgrav/
6-8 APRIL: BROHP CONFERENCE 2006, EUROPE, EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT
The British Rocketry Oral History Programme (BROHP) meeting for 2006, entitled “Europe, Education and Development,” will be held at Charterhouse School near Godalming, Surrey, from 6 to 8 April.
There will be three days of parallel sessions covering a broad range of topics related to the past, present and future of the UK’s involvement in space research and exploration. These include: UK space policy; space tourism; and the Aurora programme of Mars exploration. Organisations supporting the sessions include the British National Space Centre, the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies, the Space Education Council, UKSEDS, the British Interplanetary Society, the Royal Aeronautical Society and the UK Rocket Association.
During the meeting, the Sir Arthur Clarke Awards - “the space equivalent of the Oscars” - will be presented.
17 Elsmere Avenue, Aigburth
Liverpool L17 4LB
Tel: +44 (0)151-281-1134
10-13 APRIL: MIST OVER THE MOUNTAINS/UKSP 2006
The 2006 spring MIST meeting will be held jointly with the UK Solar Physics meeting and will be hosted by the Solar System Physics Group at University of Wales, Aberystwyth. The meeting will run from 10 April to 13 April. There will be a special session entitled “Highlights from the SOHO Coronal Diagnostic Spectrometer”. The following joint MIST-UKSP sessions will also be held: Science Planning for International Heliospheric Year/International Polar Year The future of UK Solar System Physics Coupling Processes from the Sun to Planetary Atmospheres UK Solar System Science: The Next 20 Years Future Science Questions and Directions in Solar System Physics
Institute of Mathematical and Physical Sciences
University of Wales Aberystwyth
Ceredigion SY23 3BZ
Tel: +44 (0)1970-622802
Meeting web site: http://www.aber.ac.uk/mist-uksp/
10-12 APRIL: COSMOLOGY, GALAXY FORMATION AND ASTROPARTICLE PHYSICS ON THE PATHWAY TO THE SKA
The conference "Cosmology, Galaxy Formation and Astroparticle Physics on the Pathway to the SKA" will be held 10-12 April in the Department of Physics, University of Oxford. The aim is to bring together experts in cosmology, galaxy formation and astro-particle physics with the designers of future observational facilities, with special emphasis on telescopes on the pathway to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Each day will begin with reviews of current knowledge and end with visions for the solved and unsolved questions by about 2020. Day 1 will focus on astro-particle physics, Day 2 on large-scale structure and other aspects of cosmology, and Day 3 on galaxy formation.
Beecroft Institute for Particle Astrophysics
Oxford OX1 3RQ
Tel: +44 (0)1865-273303
Conference web site:
11 APRIL: ARRIVAL OF VENUS EXPRESS
The European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft is scheduled to enter orbit around the second planet from the Sun on 11 April.
ESA’s first mission to Venus was launched by a Russian Soyuz-Fregat launcher on 9 November, 2005. After a voyage of 26 million miles (42 million km), it will be inserted into a polar, elliptical orbit around the cloud-shrouded planet, at a distance ranging from 250 km to 66,000 km. The nominal mission will last for 2 Venus sidereal days (about 500 Earth days) with a possible extension of a further 500 days.
Seven instruments will study the planet’s surface, atmosphere and near-space environment. Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding the dense, pressure-cooker-like atmosphere, the volcano-driven cloud chemistry and complex meteorological behaviour (including high-level winds that sweep around the planet in only 4 days).
The spacecraft was developed in a very short time and at a low cost for such a complex mission. This ‘Express’ achievement was made possible by reusing the design of the Mars Express spacecraft and basing many of its instruments on spares that were previously developed for Mars Express and the Rosetta comet mission.
Venus is Earth’s nearest planetary neighbour. In terms of size and mass, it is Earth’s twin and yet it has evolved in a radically different manner, with clouds of sulphur and sulphuric acid, a surface temperature hotter than a kitchen oven and a dense, choking, carbon dioxide atmosphere.
UK scientists from Oxford University, Imperial College London, CCLRC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Sheffield University and UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory are involved in the mission. UK industry is also involved with EADS Astrium being the prime contractor for the spacecraft and SciSys Ltd providing mission control software.
Professor Fred W. Taylor
Halley Professor of Physics
Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics
Oxford OX1 3PU
Tel.: +44 (0)1865-272903
Dr. Andrew Coates
Co-investigator in the Aspera team
Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking
Surrey RH5 6NT
Tel: +44 (0)1483-204145
Prof. Manuel Grande
Co-investigator in the Aspera team
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Oxon OX11 0QX
Tel.: +44 (0)1235-446501
ESA Venus Express web sites: http://sci.esa.int/venusexpress http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Venus_Express/index.html
PPARC pre-launch press release: http://www.pparc.ac.uk/Nw/venus_launch.asp Bill Arnett’s Nine Planets web site: http://www.nineplanets.org/venus.html
11 APRIL: "SPACE - BEYOND THE EVENT HORIZON"
Dr. Colin Hicks, who retires at the end of April after more than six years as Director General of the British National Space Centre, will give his view of space - what has been and what might be - at the Royal Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place, London W1. Dr. Hicks will attempt to draw out the reality behind and beyond the space events which mould our thinking about space policy in the national, European and international arenas. This RAeS Space Group lecture starts at 18:00.
The Royal Aeronautical Society
RAeS Space Group web site: http://www.raes.org.uk/space/
20 APRIL: LAUNCH OF CALIPSO AND CLOUDSAT
After a lengthy delay, NASA’s CALIPSO and CloudSat spacecraft are rescheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on 20 April.
CALIPSO and CloudSat are highly complementary and together will provide never-before-seen, 3-D perspectives of how clouds and aerosols form, evolve, and affect weather and climate. CALIPSO and CloudSat will fly in formation with three other satellites in the A-train constellation to enhance understanding of our climate system.
As a part of the NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder programme, CALIPSO is a collaborative effort with the French space agency (Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales), Ball Aerospace, Hampton University, Va. and France’s Institut Pierre Simon Laplace. Ball Aerospace is responsible for CALIPSO’s scientific instrument and communications suite, including the lidar and wide field camera.
CloudSat is an experimental satellite that will use an advanced radar instrument to measure the vertical structure of clouds and properties of clouds, providing the first global measurements of cloud thickness, height, water and ice content, and a wide range of precipitation data linked to cloud development.
Many organisations are involved in this Earth System Science Pathfinder Mission, including NASA, the University of Colorado, the US Air Force and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, UK. CloudSat is expected to improve weather forecasting and advance our understanding of key climate processes during its two-year design lifetime. It will fly in orbital formation as part of the A-train constellation of NASA remote sensing satellites including Aqua, CALIPSO, PARASOL and Aura.
CALIPSO web site: http://www-calipso.larc.nasa.gov/
CloudSat web site: http://cloudsat.atmos.colostate.edu/
18 - 21 APRIL: LIFE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE - 2ND CONFERENCE OF THE ASTROBIOLOGY SOCIETY OF BRITAIN
The second conference of the Astrobiology Society of Britain will take place at the University of Kent, Canterbury, on 18-21 April. It will cover all aspects of research related to astrobiology, including: astrobiology technology; Mars exploration; extremophiles; meteorites; prebiotic climates; human life in space; planetary protection/contamination; development of life forms in other environments; the origin of life; and habitable zones.
Dr. Mark J. Burchell
Reader in Space Sciences
School of Physical Sciences
University of Kent Canterbury
Kent CT2 7NH
Tel: +44 (0)1227 823248
Conference web site:
21 APRIL – 1 July: MARS IN THEIR EYES
An exhibition of Mars-related cartoons, entitled “Mars In Their Eyes“, will be held at the Cartoon Museum, 35 Little Russell Street, London WC1A 2HH from 21 April onwards. The exhibition, organised by Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University, in conjunction with The Cartoon Museum and sponsored by PPARC, will tell the story of Mars exploration and scientific discovery, past, present and future, as seen by cartoonists. It will feature original artwork from cartoonists around the world, bringing the science of Mars to a new and wider audience. The Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30 to 5.30.
Professor Colin Pillinger
The Open University, Walton Hall
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA
Tel: +44 (0)1908-652119
Cartoon Museum web site:
24-28 April: ISOLATED NEUTRON STARS - FROM THE INTERIOR TO THE SURFACE
A conference to discuss the latest results related to isolated neutron stars, including magnetars, anomalous X-ray pulsars (AXPs), and soft gamma repeaters (SGRs), will be held in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1, from 24 to 28 April. The meeting is sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society, PPARC, Mullard Space Science Laboratory-UCL and the University of Padova.
Dr. Sylvia Zane
Holmbury St. Mary, Dorking
Surrey RH5 6NT
Conference web site:
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.