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Space and astronomy digest: May 2015

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 15:30
Published on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 15:24

A digest of some of the astronomy, space and geophysics events taking place during May, particularly those with UK involvement. This month sees the election of a new RAS President and the flight of three astronauts to the International Space Station.


8 May: Asteroseismology: high-precision stellar metrics for the exoplanet era: Geological Society, Burlington House, London

The Kepler and CoRoT space observatories, better known for searching for and studying exoplanets, have also started a revolution in the measurement of the dimensions and internal properties of stars. Astronomers are using these missions as tools of asteroseismology, the study of stellar vibration, to study stars with diverse internal structures and physics. These advances are fundamental for understanding how stars work, for the calibration of cosmological standard candles and, crucially, for the precise characterisation of the host stars of exoplanet systems.

On 8 May astronomers and space scientists will gather at the Geological Society to discuss the latest scientific results in this area, and to consider how to make the most of forthcoming missions like the NASA-led Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and ESA’s PLanetary Transits and Oscillations of stars (PLATO).

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

Asteroseismology: high-precision stellar metrics for the exoplanet era: meeting home page


Robert Massey

8 May: The geophysical response of the Earth to fluid migration: oil and magma: Royal Astronomical Society, Burlington House, London

On 8 May geophysicists will gather at the Royal Astronomical Society for a specialist discussion meeting on the response of the Earth to fluid migration. (A full programme will be posted shortly.)

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

RAS meeting page


Robert Massey

8 May: RAS AGM and results of election for President and Council

The Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society will take place in the afternoon of 8 May. At the AGM the results of the election for the next RAS President and RAS Council will be announced, along with the first tranche of winners of the RAS 200: Sky & Earth grants.

Note that the AGM is only open to Fellows of the RAS, but the election results and grant awards announcement will be posted on our website immediately following the meeting.


12 May: RAS public lectures: The planet Mercury, newly revealed: Geological Society and Royal Astronomical Society

755626main PIA17280-smallAn image of Mercury, acquired by the Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS) aboard NASA's MESSENGER mission on April 23, 2013. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington. Click for a full size imageProf David Rothery of the Open University will give the latest RAS public lecture on 12 May, at lunchtime in the Geological Society and in the evening at the Royal Astronomical Society. In his talk he will describe Mercury, the nearest planet to the Sun, studied for four years by the NASA-built MESSENGER probe expected to crash into the planet on 30 April.

Mercury is a rocky world with a disproportionately large iron core, and like the Earth has a magnetic field. With no significant atmosphere to protect its surface, it is heavily cratered and many regions experience huge changes in temperature – from more than +400 degrees Celsius during the day to -160 degrees Celsius at night. Like the Moon, there is intriguing evidence for ice on the cold floors of permanently shadowed craters at the mercurian poles.

Prof Rothery will describe the latest findings about this intriguing world and look forward to BepiColombo, an ESA mission due to reach Mercury in 2024.



Robert Massey




21 May: Major Alexei Leonov to talk at Science Museum

Russian cosmonaut Major Alexei Leonov, who made the first spacewalk in 1965, will give a lecture at the Science Museum in London on 21 May, hosted by the British Interplanetary Society and Starmus.

British Interplanetary Society: Alexei Leonov in London

26 May: Launch of Soyuz TMA-17M

A Soyuz spacecraft is scheduled to blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying a crew of three to the International Space Station. Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui and US astronaut Kjell N. Lindgren (who spent much of his childhood in England) will join three other occupants already on board the Station as part of the Expedition 44 mission.

NASA: Expedition 44

Night sky in May

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.


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 3800 members (Fellows), a third based overseas, include scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy and others.

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