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Space and astronomy digest: November 2014

Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 17:16
Published on Tuesday, 04 November 2014 16:43

The November digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events. Events this month include the landing of the Philae craft on Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a public lecture on large robotic telescopes and the launch of the Hayabusa 2 sample return spacecraft to a near-Earth asteroid.


11 November: RAS lunchtime lecture - The Liverpool Telescope: A Giant Robotic Eye on the Universe: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

The latest RAS public lecture will take place on 11 November in the Society’s lecture theatre at 13:00 GMT and again at 18:00 GMT. Professor Mike Bode of Liverpool John Moores University will describe the development and accomplishments of the Liverpool Telescope (LT), one of the largest robotic telescopes in the world. The LT specialises in 'Time Domain Astrophysics', the branch of astronomy where observing rapid changes in systems is important. It encompasses everything from the observation of titanic stellar explosions to the discovery of new worlds around distant stars.

In his lecture, Prof. Bode will explain why a robotic telescope like the LT has many advantages over conventional instruments for exploring the time domain, the trials and tribulations of bringing the dream of a robotic telescope to reality and the scientific results from the telescope since it began operations a decade ago. He will set out ambitions for a new generation of robotic instruments and reveal how the LT has helped thousands of school students take part in the excitement of scientific discovery.

RAS public lectures


12 November: Philae set to land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

On 12 November, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft will begin the most ambitious part of its mission, releasing the Philae lander to attempt the first soft landing on the surface of a comet.

Philae landing site smallViews of the Philae landing site 'Agilkia' on Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA. Click for a larger image

Philae, roughly the size of a washing machine, will separate from Rosetta at 08:35 GMT, at a distance of about 22.5 km from the centre of the comet and it should land about seven hours later on the 'Agilkia' landing site announced in September. With a 28-minute delay for the signal to travel to Earth, mission control should receive confirmation of the landing at about 16:00 GMT. Philae will communicate with the main Rosetta spacecraft during the descent and after the landing, sending back images to Earth over the following hours.

UK research groups and companies have extensive involvement in the construction of Philae and its instruments and the scientific analysis of their data. The Open University and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory built the PTOLEMY instrument for measuring the composition of gas on the comet’s surface and Surrey Satellite Technologies Limited supplied the momentum wheel for the lander itself.


Pal A. Hvistendahl, Head of Media Relations or Brigitte Kolmsee, Media Relations Officer
ESA Headquarters
Tel: +33 (0)15369 7299


14 November:  Energetic particles in the heliosphere and their influence on space weather and space climate, Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

Energetic particles are found throughout the region of space directly influenced by the Sun, the heliosphere. They take a number of forms, including galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) that originate from distant objects and solar energetic particles (SEPs) accelerated during solar flares and thrown into space by Coronal Mass Ejections. Both types of particle present a 'space weather' danger for spacecraft and humans in space, so there is much interest in understanding the physical processes that determine their behaviour.

In a special discussion meeting at the Royal Astronomical Society, researchers studying different aspects of energetic particles will come together to share the latest advances in the field. Speakers will consider topics from the impact of GCRs on climate to the mechanisms for generating SEPs.

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

Meeting details


14 November: The future of time-domain astronomy with the Liverpool Telescope and Liverpool Telescope 2, Geological Society, Burlington House, London

On 14 November researchers in transient and time domain astronomy will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a discussion on astronomy and astrophysics with the Liverpool Telescope and Liverpool Telescope 2 (see the note above for a public lecture on this topic earlier in the week).

The meeting will showcase the many varied programmes that are active on the Liverpool Telescope, from gamma ray bursts to exoplanets. Delegates will be encouraged to create new collaborations and ideas, and foster engagement with the astronomical community regarding plans for the future.

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

Meeting details
Conference organisers’ meeting page

23 November: Launch of Soyuz mission to International Space Station

The next launch of a Soyuz spacecraft to the ISS is scheduled for 23 November (UK time). Soyuz TMA-15M is set to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying a crew of three to the Station: Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti and US astronaut Terry W. Virts. The crew will join three other occupants of the ISS to make up Expedition 42 and are expected to remain on board until May 2015.

NASA: Space Station Expeditions

30 November: Launch of Hayabusa 2, Tanegashima Space Center, Japan

On 30 November a space probe should being its six-year mission to travel to an asteroid and return samples from it to Earth. Hayabusa 2, a spacecraft built by the Japanese space agency JAXA, is expected to take off from the Tanegashima Space Center on the island of Tanegashima in southern Japan.

Hayabusa 2 will travel to the asteroid 1999 JU3, an object that orbits the Sun close to the orbit of the Earth and has a diameter of around 1 km. En route the spacecraft will make a flyby of the Earth, arriving at the asteroid in June 2018 for an 18-month long survey. Hayabusa 2 will deploy the German / French Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (Mascot) instrument that will land on 1999 JU3 and has the capability to 'hop' to different sites. Another experiment, the Small Carry-on Impactor, will deliver an explosive charge to the asteroid to allow Hayabusa 2 to sample subsurface material.

The spacecraft is scheduled to leave the asteroid in December 2018, returning its sample of material to Earth two years later.


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.


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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