RAS PN 09/46: Space and astronomy digest: July 2009
ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY PRESS INFORMATION NOTE
SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: JULY 2009
Date: 2nd July 2009
For Immediate Release
Ref.: PN 09/46
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: SPACE AND ASTRONOMY DIGEST: JULY 2009 (PN 09/46)
This release contains a summary of some astronomical, space and geophysical events that will be taking place during July. 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.
11TH JULY: LAUNCH OF SPACE SHUTTLE ENDEAVOUR
In a mission to continue the construction of the International Space Station (ISS), the space shuttle Endeavour is set to take off during a launch window which opens at 1939 EDT on the 11th July (0039 BST on the 12th July). In a 16-day mission, the shuttle will carry two Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) components to the ISS, which the crew will attach during five spacewalks. Endeavour will leave astronaut Timothy L. Kopra on board the Station and return JAXA astronaut Koichi Wakata to Earth.
Tel: +1 202 358 1100
20TH JULY: 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE APOLLO 11 LANDING
On the 16th July 1969 the Saturn V rocket carrying the Apollo 11 spacecraft launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin ‘Buzz’ E. Aldrin and Michael Collins on board.
After a three day voyage, the spaceship entered lunar orbit. A day later, on the 20th July, the lunar module Eagle separated from the Columbia command module with Armstrong and Aldrin inside and descended to the Moon, landing at 2017 GMT. At 0256 GMT on the 21st July Armstrong stepped on to the lunar surface, becoming the first human being to walk on another world.
The two astronauts spent a little over two and a half hours outside the landing craft, planting a US flag, setting up scientific experiments and collecting about 22kg of lunar rock samples. 21 hours after their arrival, the top half of the landing craft took off from the lunar surface and the astronauts began their return journey to the Earth, eventually landing in the Pacific Ocean on the 24th July.
Five successful Apollo landings followed, with the last mission (Apollo 17) leaving the Moon on the 14th December 1972.
NASA page on the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11
Official RAS policy on Human Space Exploration here
Report of the RAS commissioned review of the scientific case for Human Space Exploration HERE
The Case for Space: on UK participation in Human Space Exploration
Astronomy and Geophysics article making the case for a return to the Moon
UK CONTACTS FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS
Dr Ian Crawford
Birkbeck College London
Professor Martin Barstow
University of Leicester
Professor Mike Cruise
University of Birmingham
22ND JULY: TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE: INDIA, NEPAL, BANGLADESH, BHUTAN, MYANMAR, CHINA, JAPAN AND THE PACIFIC OCEAN
The 22nd July sees the longest duration total solar eclipse of the 21st century. Total solar eclipses take place when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned and the shadow of the Moon touches the surface of the Earth. At mid-eclipse, observers within the lunar shadow will briefly see totality, where the silhouette of the Moon completely covers the Sun, revealing the beautiful outer solar atmosphere or corona.
At its broadest the lunar shadow is only 258 km (161 miles) wide but it moves across the world as the Earth rotates. On the 22nd July this path begins in India, where observers will see the eclipse at sunrise, and then crosses Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, China and Japan before ending in the Pacific Ocean where the eclipse will be visible at sunset. The maximum duration of totality (6 minutes 39 seconds) will be visible from a location in the Pacific Ocean about 250 km to the east of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima.
Away from the path of the total eclipse the Sun is only partly obscured by the Moon. This partial eclipse is visible from much of Asia and the western Pacific but will not be seen in Europe.
[Although eclipses of the Sun are spectacular events, they should NOT be viewed with the unaided eye except during totality. Without the use of specialist filters, the partial phases of the eclipse can only be safely studied by using a pinhole or telescope to PROJECT the Sun’s image onto card and observers should NEVER look at the Sun with or without optical aid.]
Eclipses online (includes animations and maps of the eclipse track)
CONTACTS (RAS FELLOWS TRAVELLING TO CHINA OR THE PACIFIC TO VIEW THE ECLIPSE)
Professor Paul Murdin
Royal Astronomical Society
Dr Francisco Diego
University College London
Dr Lucie Green
Mullard Space Science Laboratory
23RD JULY: PRESS PREVIEW OF COSMOS AND CULTURE EXHIBITION, SCIENCE MUSEUM, LONDON
‘Cosmos and Culture’, a major exhibition at the Science Museum in London celebrating the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2000), will open to the public on the 23rd July.
The exhibition, which opens just before the 400th anniversary of Thomas Harriot’s first drawing of the Moon through a telescope, covers astronomy from the 11th to the 21st centuries. It looks at the ways humans have studied the wider Universe and how this has shaped the world. Artefacts on display include Thomas Harriot’s 1610 Moon map, a section of the radio telescope Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell used to discover pulsars and an Astronomy Monopoly set.
The press preview will take place from 9 am to 1030 am on the 23rd July. Representatives of the media who wish to attend should contact Laura Singleton (details below).
Tel: +44 (0)20 7942 4364
Cosmos and Culture exhibition
26TH JULY: TELESCOPE 400: CELEBRATING THE ‘ENGLISH GALILEO’, SYON PARK, LONDON
On the 26th July hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers and members of the public will gather at Syon House in west London, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first time a telescope was used for astronomy by the English astronomer Thomas Harriot. On that day in 1609, Harriot drew a simple sketch of the Moon using his primitive ‘Dutch trunke’ telescope from the grounds of what is now Syon Park, several months before Galileo made his first celestial drawings at the end of the same year.
Supported by the Royal Astronomical Society as part of the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), the Telescope 400 celebration will include a display of Harriot’s maps and drawings, a chance to view features on the Sun, a mobile planetarium, the opportunity to design and launch rockets and a workshop on sketching astronomical objects. Throughout the day a rolling programme of talks will cover topics ranging from the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing to living in space.
In the afternoon a memorial plaque will be unveiled, marking the site where Harriot made his first drawing and in the evening a special buffet reception will accompany a lecture on Harriot’s life and work by University of Oxford historian of astronomy Dr Allan Chapman.
Telescope 400 home page
Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
(Until 15th July, then from 26th July onwards)
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
Chair, Telescope 400 organising committee
Mob: +44 (0)777 316 0247
ALL YEAR: INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF ASTRONOMY 2009 (IYA 2009)
In July another tranche of IYA2009 events will take place across the United Kingdom. A comprehensive list can be found at http://www.astronomy2009.co.uk.
IYA2009 is endorsed by UNESCO and is now supported by 135 countries under the leadership of the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
All through 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).
Robert Massey (details above)
Steve Owens (from 13th July onwards)
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
JULY’S NIGHT SKY
Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA).
Sky Notes (June and July)
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.