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Space and astronomy digest: September 2010

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 September 2010 13:24
Published on Friday, 27 August 2010 14:40

September sees the first RAS lunchtime lecture of the autumn season, conferences on meteors and short-lived astronomical events, the best view of Jupiter for some years and another (likely) launch of a private spacecraft.

This release summarise these and other astronomy and space science events taking place during the month, particularly those with UK involvement. It is not intended to be fully comprehensive and dates and times may be subject to change.

14 September: RAS lunchtime lecture: Comets: Ghostly wanderers in space

At 1300 BST on Tuesday 14 September, astronomy writer Ian Ridpath will give the latest public lecture at the Royal Astronomical Society. Mr Ridpath will discuss how our ideas about the appearance and nature of comets has changed, from the historical perception of comets as omens of death and destruction to the modern view of them as dirty snowballs that are remnants of the early history of the Solar system. His lecture will talk through the ongoing efforts to understand the origin of comets and how they shaped life on Earth.

RAS Public Lectures

Dr Robert Massey (details above)

16-19 September: International Meteor Conference 2010, Armagh, N. Ireland

Amateur and professional astronomers alike will gather at Armagh Observatory for the 29th annual conference of the International Meteor Organisation (IMO) from 16-19 September. Delegates will discuss the latest research on meteors, including visual and radio observations, modelling of meteor streams, and meteors and meteorites on the Moon and other planets.

IMC 2010 home page


Dr Apostolos Christou, Armagh Observatory

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A true-colour image of Jupiter, composed from 4 images made with the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft as it flew by the giant planet in December 2000. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


21 September: Jupiter at opposition

On 21 September, Jupiter will be opposite the Sun in the terrestrial sky, a position known as opposition. This is the most favourable time to view the giant planet, as it remains visible throughout the night. From Europe Jupiter will be high in the south at local midnight, in front of the stars of the constellation of Pisces. This opposition is especially favourable as Jupiter is also near its closest point to the Sun in its orbit (perihelion) and the distance between Jupiter and the Earth is near the minimum possible, making the planet appear unusually bright.

BAA Jupiter section

Dr Robert Massey (details above)

23-24 September: The transient universe: from exoplanets to hypernovae: Dublin, Ireland

On 23 and 24 September, scientists will gather at the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) for a specialist discussion meeting on transient phenomena in the universe. The meeting, jointly supported by the RIA, RAS and Astronomical Group of Ireland, will bring together delegates to discuss short-lived astronomical events, from immensely powerful gamma ray bursts and hypernovae mostly seen in the distant universe to more local phenomena associated with the Sun.

Conference home page


Gilly Clarke, Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Tel: +1 353 1 609 0672

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Late September: next launch of Falcon 9 rocket

Late September should see the next launch of the Falcon 9 commercial space vehicle, when it is set to carry a prototype Dragon spacecraft into Earth orbit. Earlier this year the rocket, built by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) placed its first payload in orbit. The Falcon 9 rocket and its successors, designed with reusable launch stages, are eventually intended to carry the Dragon with astronauts and / or cargo on board, to the International Space Station.

SpaceX home page

September's night sky

Information on stars, planets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA).

BAA home page

BAA Sky Notes (August and September)

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 3500 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.