RAS PN05/38: September Astronomy & Space Digest
This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during September, including the 37th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences, a debate concerning the Scientific Case for Human Spaceflight, and the arrival of a Japanese spacecraft at near Earth asteroid Itokawa.
3 September: Robotic Exploration of the Solar System and Beyond: A Status Report from APL.
On Saturday 3 September, from 1.30 – 2.00 pm, Dr. Ralph L. McNutt Jr. will be speaking at the British Interplanetary Society, South Lambeth Road, London, about current and future robotic missions to explore the Solar System, Including NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, the New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, and a NASA "Vision Mission" study of an interstellar precursor mission using radioisotope electric propulsion is now concluding. This probe would be dedicated passing the heliopause and reaching the interstellar medium before mid-century following a 2014 launch. Ralph McNutt, Jr. is Project Scientist for MESSENGER, a Co-Investigator on New Horizons, and the Principal Investigator for the Innovative Interstellar Explorer study.
British Interplanetary Society
27/29 South Lambeth Road
London SW8 1SZ
Tel: +44 (0)207-735-3160
4 - 9 September: 37th Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences (American Astronomical Society), Cambridge
The 37th Meeting of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society is being held in Cambridge, 4 - 9 September. Over 500 planetary scientists from the USA, Europe and worldwide are expected to attend this meeting, which will be the largest on planetary science ever held in the UK.
The sessions will include the latest results from current and recently completed missions, including Cassini-Huygens, Deep Impact, Smart-1 and the international Mars exploration programmes.
The AAS Historical Astronomy Division will also be meeting in Cambridge,
holding sessions in parallel on 5 - 7 September.
Sponsors of the meeting include the Royal Astronomical Society, the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, Science Magazine, ESA and Cambridge University Press.
Dr. Jacqueline Mitton
Total Astronomy Ltd
Tel. (prior to the meeting): +44 (0)1223-564914
Mob. (during the meeting): +44 (0)7770-386133
6 September: “Human Space Exploration - is there a scientific case?” ras debate at the DPS meeting, Cambridge
For the past six months, a panel of three independent scientists has been evaluating the scientific case for human space flight on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society. As part of this process, the RAS has organised a public debate that will take place in Robinson College Auditorium, Cambridge University, 8:30-9:30 pm on 6 September.
The discussion will be opened by Dr. Ian Crawford (University College London) and Dr. Andrew Coates (Mullard Space Science Laboratory-UCL), with subsequent contributions from Dr. Steven Squyres (Cornell University and principal investigator for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers) and Dr. Torrence Johnson (NASA-JPL), before a more open and general discussion. The meeting will be chaired by Professor Frank Close (Oxford University). Other members of the RAS Commission on Human Spaceflight are Professor Ken Pounds (University of Leicester) and Dr. John Dudeney (British Antarctic Survey).
The discussion will assist the Commission in weighing up the arguments for human and robotic exploration in the context of the imminent decisions the British Government will have to take regarding UK involvement in the ESA Aurora programme. The RAS review focuses on the scientific arguments for HSE (particularly those concerning the sciences the RAS exists to serve), while being mindful of the concerns of other disciplines and the wider public interest.
Professor Frank Close
Exeter College, Oxford
Tel.: +44 (0)1865-279600 or +44 (0)1235-523302
Dr. John R Dudeney
Deputy Director, British Antarctic Survey
Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET
Tel.: +44 (0)1223-221523
Prof. Ken Pounds
Univ. of Leicester
Tel.: +44 (0)116-252-3509
RAS web site:
Aurora and the UK:
9 -11 September: Herstmonceux Science Centre Astronomy Festival
The Herstmonceux Science Centre in Sussex, located on the former site of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, will be holding an astronomy festival 9 - 11 September. The festival will include a daily programme of lectures, tours and viewing sessions using the telescopes, a solar telescope, trade stalls & over 90 hands-on science exhibits.
Confirmed lecturers include (times may vary slightly):
Ian King, 11 am Saturday and 2 pm Sunday, Astrophotography and imaging
Anthony Wilson, 11.45 am Saturday, The Golden age of Astronomy at Herstmonceux
Stuart Clark, 12.30pm Saturday, 12.45 pm Sunday, Solar sailing / Planets beyond the Kuiper belt
Robert Wiltshire, 12.45 pm Saturday, Introducing telescopes to beginners
Robert Massey, 2 pm Saturday, Comets and comet making demo
Robin Scagell, 5 pm Saturday and 11am Sunday, Amateur telescopes Choice / Use
Mat Irvine 2.45 pm Saturday and 11:45 am Sunday, Space tourism / space flight
The Observatory Science Centre
Herstmonceux, Hailsham, East Sussex, BN27 1RN
Tel: +44 (0)1323-832731 Fax: +44 (0)1323-832741
17 - 18 September: UK Spaceplanes Symposium
A 2-day “UK Spaceplanes Symposium”, organised by the British Interplanetary Society,
will be held at the RAF Museum, Cosford, on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September. Lectures will cover past and present UK proposals for winged space launch vehicles.
British Interplanetary Society
27/29 South Lambeth Road
London SW8 1SZ
Tel: +44 (0)207-735-3160
British Interplanetary Society web site:
Royal Aeronautical Society’s Space Group web site:
Mid-September: Arrival of Hayabusa Spacecraft at Asteroid Itokawa
Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the near Earth asteroid Itokawa in mid-September. Since its launch on 9 May 2003, Hayabusa has been using an ion engine to propel itself steadily towards the asteroid.
If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft will stay alongside Itokawa for about 5 months, mapping the surface and making scientific observation. It should also become the first spacecraft to collect samples from an asteroid’s surface and to deploy a tiny hopping robot, which can move around on the asteroid’s surface. After that, it will leave the asteroid and return to the Earth in the summer of 2007, when a re-entry capsule containing the minute samples will be released and parachute to the ground.
It is hoped that samples from an asteroid can give scientists clues about the raw materials that made up planets and asteroids in their formative years, and about the state of the inside of a solar nebula around the time of the birth of the planets.
27 September: Launch of UK’S TOPSAT and Disaster Monitoring Constellation Satellite
The UK’s Topsat satellite is due for launch by a Cosmos rocket from Plesetsk in northern Russia on 27 September. Topsat is a technology demonstration satellite that has been built to demonstrate the ability to obtain high quality images with a low cost micro-satellite. The box-shaped spacecraft carries an innovative, compact optical system that can provide 2.5m resolution panchromatic and 5m multi-spectral imagery over a wide swath.
Funded jointly by the British National Space Centre and the UK MoD, Topsat is part of the MOSAIC small satellite programme that was introduced in 2000 in order to help foster the UK’s world-leading capability in small satellites. It is one of three missions that use innovative new ways of demonstrating small satellite technology while opening up new and attractive markets for their use. Funded jointly by the British National Space Centre and the UK MoD, Topsat is managed by a team of four UK organisations: QinetiQ, Surrey Satellite Technology, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Infoterra.
The 140 kg China Disaster Monitoring Constellation (DMC) satellite built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford, Surrey, will be launched together with Topsat from Plesetsk on 27 September. It will provide imaging at 32 m resolution in 3 optical bands (near infra-red, red, green) across a 600 km imaging swath and at 4 m resolution in panchromatic mode.
The existing satellites (from Algeria, Nigeria, Turkey and the UK) in the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation have already been used to provide rapid response imaging data to humanitarian aid and relief organizations on some 18 occasions during the last year - including providing the first maps of the disaster-stricken areas following the Asian tsunami.
Nigel Morris, Space Engineering and Technology Division,
Space Science and Technology Department
CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
Oxfordshire OX11 0QX
Tel: +44 (0)1235-445470
Customer Contact Team
Cody Technology Park
Ively Road Farnborough
Hampshire GU14 0LX
Tel: +44 (0)8700-100942
TOPSAT FURTHER INFORMATION:
Surrey Satellite Technology Limited
Surrey Space Centre
University of Surrey, Guildford
Surrey GU2 7XH
Tel: +44 (0)1483-689278
DMC FURTHER INFORMATION
Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd web site:
DMC International Imaging web site:
29 September: Launch of CALIPSO and CloudSat
On 29 September, a Delta 2 rocket is scheduled to blast off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, carrying two innovative Earth observation spacecraft - the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) and CloudSat.
CALIPSO and CloudSat are highly complementary and together will provide never-before-seen, 3-D perspectives of how clouds and aerosols form, evolve, and affect weather and climate. CALIPSO and CloudSat will fly in formation with three other satellites in the A-train constellation to enhance understanding of our climate system.
As a part of the NASA Earth System Science Pathfinder programme, CALIPSO is a collaborative effort with the French space agency Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, Ball Aerospace, Hampton University, Va. and France’s Institut Pierre Simon Laplace. Ball Aerospace is responsible for CALIPSO’s scientific instrument and communications suite, including the lidar and wide field camera.
CloudSat is an experimental satellite that will use an advanced radar instrument to measure the vertical structure of clouds and properties of clouds, providing the first global measurements of cloud thickness, height, water and ice content, and a wide range of precipitation data linked to cloud development. Many organisations are involved in this Earth System Science Pathfinder Mission, including NASA, the University of Colorado, the US Air Force and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, Reading, United Kingdom.
CloudSat is expected to improve weather forecasting and advance our understanding of key climate processes during its two-year design lifetime. It will fly in orbital formation as part of a constellation of NASA remote sensing satellites including Aqua, CALIPSO, PARASOL, and Aura.
CALIPSO web site:
CloudSat web site:
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
This release contains a summary of some significant astronomical and space events that will be taking place during September. 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.