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Space and astronomy digest: September 2015

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 September 2015 13:27
Published on Tuesday, 01 September 2015 09:24

The September digest of upcoming astronomy, space and geophysics events. This month has a total lunar eclipse, an occultation of the star Aldebaran, and the launches of the latest crew to the International Space Station and India's first dedicated astronomy satellite.


2 September: Launch of Soyuz TMA-18M to the International Space Station (ISS): Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan


On 2 September the Soyuz mission TMA-18M is expected to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying three passengers to the International Space Station (ISS). The spacecraft crew will be Russian Sergey Volkov, the cosmonaut who will command the mission; Andreas Mogensen, flight engineer and the first Danish astronaut; and Kazakh cosmonaut Aidyn Aimbetov, who will also serve as a flight engineer.

The Soyuz will reach the ISS on 4 September, and for a week the Station will temporarily hold nine crew members. Mogensen and Aimbetov will then return to Earth with current ISS resident Commander Gennady Padalka on 11 September.


5 September: Occultation of Aldebaran


On the morning of 5 September, observers in Europe (including the United Kingdom), central Asia, western Russia and eastern North America will be able to see the Moon pass in front of the bright star Aldebaran. On that date the Moon will be at last quarter phase, so half of the visible face will be illuminated and half in darkness. In the UK observers with a small telescope will see the Moon move in front of Aldebaran, covering it at around 0530 BST (the time will vary by a few minutes, depending on location). The Moon will uncover Aldebaran at around 0710 BST, when the star will appear to emerge from the dark lunar limb. Although this will then be in daylight, the emergence may also be visible in a small telescope.


14-18 September: Fall meeting of the Astronomische Gesellschaft, Kiel, Germany


The Astronomische Gesellschaft (the German Astronomical Society) will hold its fall meeting in Kiel, Germany, with the theme: “From the first quasars to life-bearing planets: From accretion physics to astrobiology.


Dr Klaus Jäger (AG Press Officer)
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
Heidelberg, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0) 6221 528 379
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


28 September: Total lunar eclipse


Lunar eclipse April 4 2015 smallThe total lunar eclipse of 4 April 2015. Credit: Alfredo Garcia Jr. CC BY-SA 4.0. Click for a larger image

A total eclipse of the Moon will take place on 28 September. Lunar eclipses happen when the Sun, Earth and Moon are exactly in line and the Moon moves into the Earth’s shadow. Rather than disappearing completely, the Moon usually takes on a red colour as some sunlight travels through the Earth’s atmosphere and illuminates the lunar surface. The precise shade depends very on terrestrial atmospheric conditions, such as the amount of dust and cloud.

This time the whole eclipse will be visible from western Europe, including the United Kingdom (where it takes place in the second half of the night), western Africa, South America, and the eastern half of North America. The eclipse begins when the Moon moves into the lighter penumbral shadow of the Earth at 0110 BST. The Moon enters the darker umbra at 0207 BST, and is completely immersed at 0310 BST. Totality ends when the Moon begins to leave the umbra at 0424 BST. The umbral phase comes to an end at 0527 BST and the eclipse is over when the Moon leaves the penumbra at 0624 BST.


28 September: Launch of Astrosat, Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India


On 28 September the launch window opens for Astrosat, India’s first dedicated astronomy satellite. Instruments on board cover X-ray, ultraviolet and visible wavelengths, to be used to carry out sky surveys and study changes in a diverse range of objects. The satellite will be open for observing proposals a year after entering orbit and is expected is to have a five year lifetime.

Development of Astrosat is led by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with international partners including the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester.


Night sky in September


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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