RAS PN 09/13: Space and astronomy digest: April 2009
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
Date: 31st March 2009
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 09/13
Dr Robert Massey
Press and Policy Officer
Royal Astronomical Society
London W1J 0BQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307 / 4582
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
RAS website: http://www.ras.org.uk
RAS PN 09/13: SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: APRIL 2009
This release contains a summary of some astronomical, space and geophysical events that will be taking place during April. It has been written 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.
1ST – 4TH APRIL: UK SPACE CONFERENCE, GODALMING, SURREY
The annual UK Space Conference (UKSP) takes place from 1st – 4th April at Charterhouse School near Goldalming in Surrey. The meeting brings together members of the UK space community including students, young professionals, academics, institutions, organisations and commercial ventures for events including lectures, panel discussions, a careers fair and kids day. A highlight is the Sir Arthur Clarke gala awards ceremony which honours individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of space exploration.
CONTACT (PRESS ENQUIRIES)
8TH APRIL: PRE-LAUNCH BRIEFING ON HERSCHEL AND PLANCK MISSIONS
See the full entry for 29th April for details.
17TH APRIL: RAS SPECIALIST DISCUSSION MEETING: THE GALAXY LUMINOSITY FUNCTION, LIVERPOOL JOHN MOORES UNIVERSITY
On 17th April 2009, astronomers will gather at Liverpool John Moores University for a special meeting to discuss how galaxies are distributed by luminosity (or intrinsic brightness). Measuring this 'luminosity function' allows scientists to constrain the galaxies' properties including the amount of 'normal' (rather than 'dark') matter they contain.
20TH – 23RD APRIL: EUROPEAN WEEK OF ASTRONOMY AND SPACE SCIENCE (EWASS), UNIVERSITY OF HERTFORDSHIRE, HATFIELD, UK
From 20th to 23rd April 2009, more than 1000 astronomers and space scientists will gather at the University of Hertfordshire for the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS), incorporating the 2009 Royal Astronomical Society National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2009) and the European Astronomical Society Joint Meeting (JENAM 2009). The conference is principally sponsored by the University of Hertfordshire, the Royal Astronomical Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Reflecting its status as one of the largest space and astronomy meetings in Europe, EWASS will be opened by Lord Drayson, UK Minister of State for Science and will be closed by UK-born astronaut Michael Foale.
During the week scientists will present new research in many aspects of astronomy and space science, including the formation of planets around other stars, the coming generation of large telescopes, forthcoming missions in the Solar System, cosmology and gravitational waves and lenses.
EWASS will also see the presentation of RAS awards and prizes (see http://www.ras.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1545&Itemid=2 for details).
Media registration is free of charge - any bona fide media delegates can pre-register online using the form at http://www.jenam2009.eu/default.asp?langid=0&contentid=1400 (advance registration is not essential but encouraged).
Robert Massey (details above)
29TH APRIL: LAUNCH OF HERSCHEL AND PLANCK (PRE-LAUNCH BRIEFING ON 8TH APRIL)
On 29th April, the window opens for the launch of the Herschel Space Observatory and Planck satellite. The two missions are set to be launched together atop an Ariane 5 rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) spaceport in French Guiana. UK scientists and engineers have significant involvement in both spacecraft.
Planck is Europe’s first mission to study the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB), the fossil remnant of radiation release in the Big Bang that marked the beginning of the Universe. By making the most accurate maps of the CMB yet produced, the satellite will help scientists understand key characteristics of the Universe, from the amount of and nature of the mysterious ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ that together make up 96% of the cosmos, to whether it passed through an ‘inflationary’ phase early in its life and whether ‘cosmic strings’ exist. Planck will enter an orbit around a point on the far side of the Earth from the Sun (the Lagrange point L2) and will begin scientific operations about three months after launch.
The Herschel Space Observatory is the largest space telescope ever launched, with a mirror 3.5 m across. It will operate at far-infrared and sub-millimetre wavelengths and will give scientists an unprecedented view of the cold Universe. Herschel will be used to survey the formation and evolution of galaxies in the early Universe, study the gas and dust in our Galaxy, observe star formation, and study the atmospheres of the cooler worlds in the outer Solar System. Herschel will enter a larger orbit than Planck around the L2 point and begin operations two months after launch. The observatory is named after the astronomer William Herschel, who discovered infrared radiation in 1800 and went on to become the first president of the Royal Astronomical Society.
STFC PRESS BRIEFING
Organised by STFC, a pre-launch press briefing on Herschel and Planck will take place in the Lecture Hall, Central Hall, Westminster Storey’s Gate, London, from 0930 to 1230 on the 8th April.
ESA Science and Technology Portal
Tel: +44 (0)1793 442 012
Mob: +44 (0)7770 276 721
ESA Media Relations Office
Tel: +33 1 5369 7155
ALL YEAR: INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 (IYA 2009)
In April there are around 150 IYA2009 events taking place across the United Kingdom. A comprehensive list can be found at http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk. Highlights this month include ‘Around the world in 80 Telescopes’ (see http://www.astronomy2009.org/news/pressreleases/detail/iya0908/) and the ‘From the Earth to the Universe’ exhibition in Edinburgh (see http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk/index.php/from-earth-projectsmenu-47 and http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/).
IYA2009 is endorsed by UNESCO and is now supported by 135 countries under the leadership of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Throughout the year, thousands of professional and amateur astronomers will be working with the public as part of a global effort to promote astronomy and its contribution to science and culture. A series of innovative projects will encourage public engagement, from observing sessions at observatories to online blogs, photographic exhibitions and the campaign to combat light pollution.
In the UK, IYA2009 is led by volunteers in amateur astronomical societies, universities, industry, museums and science centres and supported by the Royal Astronomical Society (http://www.ras.org.uk), the Institute of Physics (http://www.iop.org) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (http://www.stfc.ac.uk).
UK Co-ordinator, IYA2009
c/o Glasgow Science Centre
50 Pacific Quay
Glasgow G51 1EA
Tel: +44 (0)141 420 5010 x. 299
Mob: +44 (0)771 772 0479
APRIL’S NIGHT SKY
Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA).
Sky Notes (April and May)
NOTES FOR EDITORS
THE ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
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 3000 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.