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Space and astronomy digest: May 2014

Last Updated on Friday, 02 May 2014 22:14
Published on Friday, 02 May 2014 22:10

The latest digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events, from the RAS. This month includes the launch of the latest crewed mission to the International Space Station, the possibility of a brand new meteor shower and specialist meetings on studying earthquakes from space and on a new technique for understanding the early universe.


9 May: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Radio intensity mapping as a new cosmological tool: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

Around 370,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled enough for electrons and protons to combine to form atoms of hydrogen. This process fixed in place the pressure waves that were created when the universe first began to develop structure. The waves, known as baryon acoustic oscillations (BAOs), influenced the patterns in the distribution of distant galaxies seen by astronomers today.

In a specialist conference on 9 May at the Geological Society, astronomers and cosmologists will gather to discuss a new technique for measuring BAOs, mapping the distribution of neutral hydrogen (atoms) at large distances and thus gaining a better understanding of the earliest epoch of the cosmos. Delegates will discuss the theory behind the mapping technique, new instruments that will be deployed and how the Square Kilometre Array under construction in the southern hemisphere could revolutionise the science.

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

RAS meeting programme



Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 x214
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
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9 May: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Seismology from space: geodetic observations and early warning of earthquakes: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

The availability of Global Positioning System / Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GPS / GNSS) data has allowed geophysicists to study the strong ground motions and ‘permanent’ deformation of the Earth’s crust that takes place in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake at short time intervals. These are complemented by synthetic aperture radar (InSAR) data from satellites that observe the Earth at much higher spatial resolution but over longer time intervals.

On 9 May, Earth scientists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society to discuss the scientific possibilities of these techniques. Topics will include understanding the earthquake rupture process, early warning of earthquakes and the mitigation of related hazards like tsunamis.

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

RAS meetings programme


Robert Massey
(details above)


9 May: Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

The RAS will hold its Annual General Meeting (AGM) at 1600 BST on 9 May, in the Lecture Theatre of the Geological Society in Burlington House. The AGM is only open to Fellows and the results of the election to the Society’s governing Council will be announced when it ends.


13 May: RAS lunchtime lecture: Cosmic Fire on Earth: The amazing energy of star death

At 1300 BST on Tuesday 13 May, Dr Francisco Diego of University College London will give the latest RAS public lecture.

In his talk Dr Diego will describe the fundamental forces and processes that led to the assembly of the nuclei of light atoms in the early universe and then inside generations of stars. The explosion of the most massive stars as supernovae manufactures the heaviest atoms, including uranium and the other materials needed for many peaceful applications but also for nuclear weapons. He will go on to consider how humanity can survive and prosper with its stellar legacy.


Robert Massey
(details above)


24 May: Possible meteor shower from Comet 209P/LINEAR

On 24 May astronomers will be looking for evidence of a new meteor shower connected with the Comet 209P/LINEAR. Meteors, popularly known as ‘shooting stars’, are the result of small pieces of natural debris entering the Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. The particles are rapidly decelerated, are destroyed by and in the process superheat the air around them whilst they are still tens of kilometres above the Earth, leading to the characteristic trails seen from the ground.

Discovered in 2004 using a 1-m automated telescope of the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) project, from which it takes its name, 209P/LINEAR completes an orbit around the Sun every 5.09 years. This year the Earth may intersect trails of dust left by the comet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, leading to a new and possibly strong meteor shower. According to the International Meteor Organisation (IMO) the latest predictions suggest that this could happen between 0800 BST (0700 GMT) and 1000 BST (0900 GMT) on the morning of May 24, probably during daylight in the UK (so not visible to naked eye skywatchers here but suitable for radio observers) but better placed for astronomers in North America.

During the peak of activity, there may be more than 100 meteors per hour, appearing to radiate from a point near the borders of the northern constellations Lynx, Ursa Major and Camelopardalis.

International Meteor Organisation calendar


ISS smallThe International Space Station seen from the departing Space Shuttle Atlantis. Credit: NASA / crew of STS-132. Click for a full resolution image28 May: Launch of Soyuz spacecraft to International Space Station

28 May is the scheduled launch date for the latest crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The crew will consist of commander and Russian cosmonaut Maxim Suryaev, US astronaut Gregory Wiseman and ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst. They will travel to the ISS in the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TMA-13M, launched atop a Soyuz FG rocket from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.








On arrival at the ISS, the Soyuz crew will join the other inhabitants to make up Expedition 40 and are expected to return to Earth in November.

NASA: Expedition 40

Roscosmos home page (in Russian)

Night sky in May

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.


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 3800 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

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