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Space and astronomy digest: October 2013

Last Updated on Friday, 20 September 2013 12:12
Published on Tuesday, 01 October 2013 00:00

The October digest of upcoming space and astronomy news events, from the Royal Astronomical Society. Events this month include a conference on the EChO mission, the first Indian mission to Mars and a penumbral eclipse of the Moon.


8 October: RAS lunchtime lecture: E. T. Are you out there? Geological Society, London


Dr David Mannion of CATS College, Canterbury, will present the first in the new season of RAS public lectures at 1 p.m. on 8 October. He will discuss the likelihood of there being life elsewhere in the universe, our prospects for finding and communicating with it and whether extraterrestrials have ever visited the Earth.

RAS Public Lectures


Dr Robert Massey
Royal Astronomical Society
Tel: +44 (0)20 7734 3307
Mob: +44 (0)794 124 8035
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11 October: RAS specialist discussion meeting: Field-aligned particle acceleration in space plasmas, Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London


On 11 October, scientists will gather at the RAS for a specialist meeting on the processes that accelerate particles in plasmas (the state of matter where electrons are removed from neutral atoms to create a cloud of charged particles and atomic nuclei).

At the meeting, the researchers will explore these processes in different environments, attempting to link them with larger-scale events such as solar flares and astrophysical jets. The event will bring together specialists in magnetospheric, solar, laboratory plasma physics and astrophysics to compare and contrast plasma acceleration in a variety of environments.

Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend this meeting should present their credentials at the registration desk for free admission.

RAS Specialist Discussion Meetings


Robert Massey (details above)





11 October: RAS specialist discussion meeting: The Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory (EChO): Geological Society, Burlington House, London


EChO, the Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory, is a proposed space mission dedicated to studying the atmospheres of planets in orbit around nearby stars (exoplanets). This candidate European Space Agency (ESA) observatory would provide the first opportunity to investigate the chemical composition and climatology of a representative sample of exoplanets, over an extended range of masses and temperatures from hot to habitable.

Scientists will gather at the Geological Society on 11 October to discuss the scientific and technical cases for the mission and the critical phases that will lead to a decision on its selection in the winter of 2014.

Bona fide members of the media who wish to attend this meeting should present their credentials at the registration desk for free admission.

RAS Specialist Discussion Meetings

EChO National UK Science Workshop



Robert Massey (details above)





18-19 October: Penumbral eclipse of the Moon

A penumbral eclipse of the Moon will take place during the late evening of 18 October and early morning of 19 October. Lunar eclipses take place when the Moon is full and exactly in line with the Earth and Sun. During the eclipse the Moon will move into the lighter part of the Earth’s shadow, the penumbra, will become appreciably dimmer and likely change colour somewhat.

For observers in the UK the Moon enters the penumbra shadow at 2248 BST (2148 GMT) on 18 October, though it will take some time for the eclipse to become obvious. In practice the best time to see the effects may be from about 20 minutes before to 20 minutes after greatest eclipse, which occurs at 0050 BST on 19 October (2350 GMT on 18 October). The Moon leaves the Earth’s shadow at 0252 BST (0152 GMT on 19 October), bringing the eclipse to an end.

At the time of the eclipse the Moon will be in front of the stars of the constellation of Pisces and from the UK will be high in the southern sky. With clear skies, the whole event will be well placed for observers in Britain.

More details including illustrations are available from Eclipses Online at


21 October: Launch window opens for Mangalyaan mission to Mars, Andhra Pradesh, India

MangalyaanAn artist's impression of the Mangalyaan spacecraft in orbit around the red planet. On 21 October the launch window opens for the Mangalyaan mission, India’s first attempt to send a spacecraft to Mars. The probe will blast off atop a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle rocket from the Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Mangalyaan is expected to enter orbit around Mars in September 2014. After it arrives at the red planet, it will study the planetary surface and atmosphere with instruments including a camera, spectrometer and methane sensor.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)


Director, ISRO P & PR Unit
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21 October: Starship Century symposium, Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

On 21 October the Royal Astronomical Society will host the Starship Century symposium, an event that will bring together scientists and writers to discuss the prospects for interstellar travel including the development of a starship in the next 100 years. Moderated by science fiction authors James and Gregory Benford, speakers will include Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees, Ian Crawford and James Benford, who will consider topics from interstellar propulsion systems to potential destination planets around nearby stars.

Starship Century


Dr Ian Crawford
Birkbeck College London / UCL / Royal Astronomical Society
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Night sky in October

Information on stars, planets, comets, meteor showers and other celestial phenomena is available from the British Astronomical Association (BAA), the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA) and the Jodrell Bank night sky guide.



The Night Sky: Jodrell Bank





Notes for editors

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.

Follow the RAS on Twitter via @royalastrosoc