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PN05/03: FEBRUARY SPACE DIGEST

Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 April 2010 14:44
Published on Wednesday, 02 March 2005 00:00

This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during February. It has been written in order 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.

2 FEBRUARY: "THE FATE OF THE UNIVERSE"

The 2005 Grubb Parsons Lecture (sponsored by Sun Microsystems) will be delivered by Prof. George Efstathiou FRS at 4.30 pm on Wednesday 2 February. The lecture, entitled "The Fate of the Universe", will take place in the Scarborough Lecture Theatre on the Science Site at Durham University. (Directions are available from http://www.dur.ac.uk/map/).

The lecture will cover recent advances in our understanding of the geometry of the Universe and their implications for the eventual fate of the Universe. The observational foundations of this work come from new, high-quality maps of the Cosmic Microwave Background, large-scale redshift surveys of the local Universe and studies of exploding stars (supernovae) at high redshifts.

Prof. Efstathiou will discuss the theoretical implications of these new discoveries on models of the growth of structure in the Universe and the properties and nature of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Prof. Efstathiou is a world expert in theoretical and observational cosmology. His research career includes the development of the Cold Dark Matter model of the growth of structure in the Universe and his recent work deals with the measurements of the fundamental structure and evolution of the Universe from large scale galaxy surveys and the Cosmic Microwave Background. He was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society in 1994 and currently holds the chair of Astrophysics and the Directorship of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University.

CONTACT:

Professor Ian SmailInstitute for Computational Cosmology, Department of PhysicsUniversity of Durham, South Road Durham DH1 3LETel: +44 (0)191-334-3605Mobile: +44 (0)775-383-2658 E-mail: ian.smail<-at->durham.ac.uk Web site: http://star-www.dur.ac.uk/~irs/
4 - 5 FEBRUARY: 2005 EUROPEAN ASTROFEST

The annual European Astrofest will be held at Kensington Town Hall on 4 and 5 February.

PROGRAMME: FRIDAY 4 FEBRUARY, SESSION 1 (MORNING)
10.00 - Putting art into your astrophotography (Dr. Neil English, Astronomy Now)
10.35 - New light on the discovery of Neptune (Dr. Nick Kollerstrom, University College, London)
11.40 - Space birds - observing Earth satellites (Alan Pickup, Royal Observatory, Edinburgh)
12.15 - Supernovae - hunting exploding stars (Dr. Stephen Smartt, Queen's University of Belfast)

FRIDAY 4 FEBRUARY, SESSION 2 (AFTERNOON)
14.30 - Latest results from the Very Large Telescope (Dr. Richard West, European Southern Observatory)
15.05 - Near-Earth objects - will we go the way of the dinosaurs? (Dr. Ted Bowell, Lowell Observatory, Arizona)
16.15 - Understanding Mars - a year of Mars Express (Dr. John Murray, Open University)
16.50 - The black hole at the centre of our Galaxy (Prof. Fulvio Melia, University of Arizona)

SATURDAY 5 FEBRUARY, SESSION 3 (MORNING)
10.00 - Choosing your first telescope (Robin Scagell, Society for Popular Astronomy)
10.35 - Life and death in young planetary systems (Dr. Jane Greaves, University of St Andrews)
11.40 - When galaxy eats galaxy (Alan McConnachie, Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge)
12.15 - Saturn's rings from Cassini (Prof. Carl Murray, Queen Mary College, London)

SATURDAY 5 FEBRUARY, SESSION 4 (AFTERNOON)
14.30 - Europe explores the planets (Prof. David Southwood, Director of Science, European Space Agency)
15.05 - Transneptunian objects - the Solar System's final frontier (Dr. Ted Bowell, Lowell Observatory, Arizona)
16.15 - Supermassive black holes - the edge of infinity (Prof. Fulvio Melia, University of Arizona)
16.50 - Christiaan Huygens, the man behind the space mission (Dr. Allan Chapman, Oxford University)


10 - 11 FEBRUARY: RAS DISCUSSION MEETING - THE IMPACT OF SATELLITE TECHNIQUES ON THE OBSERVATION AND MODELLING OF CONTINENTAL DEFORMATION
A Joint RAS/BGA two-day discussion meeting will be held at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1. Details:

DAY 1: 10 February, 10:30-17:30 in the Linnean Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House.

DAY 2: 11 February, 10:30-15:30 in the Geological Society Lecture Theatre, Burlington House

Satellite techniques developed over the past decade now allow us to determine the deformation of the Earth's crust over different timescales and areas. The deformation can be determined over periods ranging from days to millions of years, and over areas ranging from tens to thousands of kilometres.

Radar measurements from satellites (InSAR) of the earthquake cycle can provide spectacular images of the surface displacements occurring in earthquakes. They also have the potential to allow global determination of the crustal strain accumulation eventually released in earthquakes.

InSAR measurements of movements following large earthquakes enable us to probe the mechanical properties of the Earth's crust and uppermost mantle in a way not previously possible. Geomorphological studies using high-resolution digital topography, that would have previously required detailed field work, provide constraints on long-term crustal deformation. Combined with InSAR studies of the earthquake cycle, these topographic studies allow the long-term growth of geological structures to be understood in terms of the cumulative effects of many earthquakes.

At the same time, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology has allowed velocity fields to be established for many actively deforming regions. GPS measurements have also revealed aseismic slip events that could provide precursors to large earthquakes, and understanding which poses challenges to current mechanical models of faults.

The meeting aims to explore recent advances due to such measurements and their impact on our understanding of continental deformation.

One of the speakers at the meeting will be Professor Kerry Sieh from Caltech, who has been working in Sumatra for a number of years. By looking at corals on offshore islands/atolls he and his students have learnt about vertical motion due to the plate subduction zone beneath Sumatra - the source of the recent large earthquake and the subsequent, catastrophic tsunami.

CONTACT:

Prof. Barry Parsons Department of Earth Sciences, University of OxfordParks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PRTel: +44-(0)1865-272017Fax: +44 (0)1865-272072E-mail: barry.parsons<-at->earth.ox.ac.uk
FURTHER INFORMATION:

Centre For The Observation And Modelling Of Earthquakes And Tectonics:
http://comet.nerc.ac.uk/news_rasmeeting.html
http://comet.nerc.ac.uk/news_ras_schedule.html

11 FEBRUARY: RAS DISCUSSION MEETING - COMPUTATIONAL ASTROPHYSICAL FLUIDS AND MAGNETOHYDRODYNAMICS

10:30-15:30 in the Society of Antiquaries Lecture Theatre, Burlington House.

This meeting will present the latest advances in computational astrophysical fluid mechanics and magnetohydrodynamics. The meeting will contain descriptions of both a range of numerical techniques and the important astrophysical results of state-of-the-art computations performed on massively parallel architectures. Talks will cover the use of such techniques in studies of the solar corona, the evolution of star forming regions and magnetic field generation in planets.

CONTACT:

Dr. Steve TobiasDept. of Applied Mathematics, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT Tel: +44 (0)113-34-35172E-mail: smt<-at->maths.leeds.ac.uk
FURTHER INFORMATION:

RAS meeting Web site, University of Leeds:
http://www.maths.leeds.ac.uk/~smt/ras_meeting.html

11 FEBRUARY: ARIANE 5 HEAVY-LIFT LAUNCH

Lift-off of the heavy-lift Ariane 5 ECA rocket is scheduled for 11 February. It will be the second launch of this new vehicle. On board will be the 3.6 tonne XTAR-EUR telecommunications satellite, an experimental/test payload consisting of the Sloshsat mini satellite, and the Maqsat B2 telemetry/video imaging package (which will remain mated to Ariane 5 throughout the flight). Its previous, maiden flight had to be aborted in December 2002. The Ariane 5 ECA is expected to become Europe's main launcher in the years to come.


12-20 FEBRUARY: EARTH AND SPACE WEEK

Earth and Space Week will take place in Brussels from 12-20 February. This major European Commission and European Space Agency (ESA) initiative is aimed at showing how Earth Observation and Space improve the quality of life on our planet. Spread over nine days, Earth and Space Week will include a range of cultural, recreational and educational activities and a major public exposition. Earth and Space Week policy-related events include the final meeting of the Group on Earth Observations, the Third Earth Observation Summit and a major ministerial-level International Conference on Co-operation in Space.
15 FEBRUARY: CASSINI FLYBY OF TITAN

The Cassini spacecraft will make its first flyby of Saturn's giant moon Titan since the Huygens probe landed on the smog-shrouded satellite's icy surface on 14 January. The flyby will take place at a distance of 1,577 km (980 ml) - further away than the October 2004 encounter, but closer than the second flyby in December 2004. Cassini has previously made observations of the orange haze, atmosphere and surface features during two encounters in October and December 2004.

CONTACTS:

Professor Carl MurrayCo-Investigator, Imaging Science SubsystemQueen Mary, University of LondonTel: +44 (0)207-882-5456E-mail: c.d.murray<-at->qmul.ac.uk Professor Michele DoughertyPrincipal Investigator, Magnetometer instrumentImperial College, LondonTel: +44 (0)207-594-7757E-mail: m.dougherty<-at->ic.ac.uk Dr. Andrew CoatesCassini Electron SpectrometerMullard Space Science Laboratory - UCLTel: +44 (0)1483-204145Mobile: +44 (0)7788-448318E-mail: ajc<-at->mssl.ucl.ac.uk Professor John ZarneckiPrincipal Investigator, Huygens Science Surface PackageOpen UniversityMilton KeynesTel: +44 (0)1908-659599Mobile: +44 (0)7769-943883E-mail: j.c.zarnecki<-at->open.ac.uk
FURTHER INFORMATION:
NASA Cassini Web site: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm
ESA Cassini-Huygens Web site: http://saturn.esa.int/

17 FEBRUARY: CASSINI FLYBY OF ENCELADUS

The Cassini spacecraft's first flyby of Saturn's mysterious moon, Enceladus, will take place on 17 February at a distance of 1,176 km (731 ml). Enceladus is one of the shiniest, most reflective objects in the Solar System.

The moon was discovered 250 years ago by Sir William Herschel. It measures 500 km (310 ml) across - large enough to cover the whole of southern England - and it is covered with water ice that reflects sunlight like freshly fallen snow.

Despite its small size, the lack of impact craters in some areas indicates that parts of Enceladus may have been resurfaced fairly recently - perhaps by some type of ice volcanism. Enceladus may also be the source of the material in Saturn's tenuous E ring.

FURTHER INFORMATION:


NASA Cassini Web site: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm

 

28 FEBRUARY: SMART-1 SCIENCE MISSION BEGINS
ESA's SMART-1 spacecraft will continue its medium resolution survey of the Moon until 9 February. With the ion engine switched off, the onboard camera will be able to take pictures of the surface from an elliptical orbit of between 1,000 and 5,000 km (625 - 3,125 ml) altitude.

The ion engine will then resume thrusting, so that the spacecraft can spiral down closer to the lunar surface. SMART-1 will arrive in its lunar mapping orbit of 300 - 3,000 km (187 - 1,875 ml) on 28 February. Over the next five months, it will carry out the first comprehensive survey of key chemical elements on the lunar surface and investigate how the Moon was formed.

The UK has provided one of the instruments on SMART-1. The tiny Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer (D-CIXS), built at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, will study the composition of the Moon's surface by making the first global X-ray survey.

SMART-1 is primarily a technology demonstration mission. After launch on 27 September 2003, the spacecraft used a revolutionary ion engine to slowly spiral away from Earth. Following progressively larger orbits, the spacecraft was finally captured by lunar gravity on 13 November 2004.

CONTACTS:


Professor Manuel GrandeD-CIXS

Principal Investigator

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Tel: +44 (0)1235-446501.

E-mail: M.Grande<-at->rl.ac.uk

 

Dr. Sarah Dunkin

D-CIXS Instrument Scientist

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Tel: +44 (0)1235-446 861

E-mail: S.K.Dunkin<-at->rl.ac.uk

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:


Date: 28th January 2005

Issued by Peter Bond, RAS Communications Officer.