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Last Updated on Thursday, 15 April 2010 20:21
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 July. 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.


25 teams of scientists selected from around the UK will be exhibiting their outstanding work at the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, LONDON SW1Y 5AG. This will include the RAS-sponsored exhibit Stars 'R' Us, which highlights UK research in astrochemistry. This is a new discipline that studies chemical reactions that take place in the tenuous gas and on icy grains of dust between the stars. Other exhibits include new observations of the Sun, UK Goes to the Planets, and the hunt for extrasolar planets. The exhibition is free and open to everyone.


In a lecture co-sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Royal Aeronautical Society's Space Group, Professor Colin Pillinger of the Open University will speak about Beagle 2, a British space probe that landed on Mars on Christmas Day 2003. Professor Pillinger, creator of Beagle 2, will give a fascinating insight into the mission, the future of Mars exploration and why, despite its failure to communicate with Earth, the clam-shaped lander had the world in suspense. The lecture will take place at the HQ of the Royal Aeronautical Society, 4 Hamilton Place, London W1J 7BQ, starting at 18:30.

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NASA's Aura spacecraft, the latest in the series of Earth Observing System satellites, has been rescheduled for launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on 10 July. Aura's four state-of-the-art instruments will study the dynamics of chemistry occurring in the atmosphere, providing data to help scientists better understand the Earth's ozone, air quality and climate change. The Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics at the University of Oxford has a major role in the design and construction of one of these instruments, the High Resolution Dynamics Limb Sounder (HIRDLS). HIRDLS is an infrared limb scanning radiometer designed to sound the upper troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere in order to measure the temperature and concentrations of ozone, water vapour, methane and other gases, aerosol amounts, locations of polar stratospheric clouds and cloud top heights. Primary funding for HIRDLS has been provided by NASA and the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

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Dr. John Barnett (HIRDLS UK Principal Investigator)University of OxfordTel: +44 (0)1865-272933E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Farnborough International Air Show will host its first International Space Pavilion, which will include interactive displays, a 3D cinema and presentations by the British National Space Centre, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the UK Industrial Space Committee.

A special one day conference devoted to space will be held on Wednesday 21 July. The day will start with a press conference, when the UK Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury, will be joined by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and the Director General of ESA, Jean-Jacques Dordain. Later in the day, there will be a discussion about the future of robotic planetary exploration by some of the leading figures in the space world, including Professor David Southwood, ESA Director of Science, Admiral Craig Steidle of NASA, and Professor Ian Halliday, Chief Executive of the UK Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council. All events are open to media who have SBAC accreditation.


Steven WarrenBNSC press officerTel: +44 (0)207-215-0806E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web site -

At 21.18 BST on 20 July 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. Four hours later, Neil Armstrong made his "giant leap for mankind" by becoming the first human to set foot on another world. Apollo 11, with its three-man crew of Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off from Cape Kennedy, Florida on 16 July. Four days later, after the spacecraft entered orbit around the Moon, Armstrong and Collins floated into the lunar module, Eagle, and headed for the Sea of Tranquillity. With less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining, Eagle touched down on the dusty plains. After a moonwalk lasting about two and a half hours, Armstrong and Aldrin returned to Eagle. The men spent 21 hours 36 minutes on the lunar surface, before lifting off to rendezvous with Collins in the Columbia command module. After Apollo 11 splashed down in the Pacific on 24 July, the men were placed in quarantine as a precaution against transmission of harmful micro-organisms.

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Double Star is the first mission launched by China to explore the Earth's magnetosphere - the magnetic bubble that surrounds our planet. It is also the first scientific collaboration between China and the European Space Agency. As its name suggests, Double Star involves two satellites - each designed, developed, launched, and operated by the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA). The first of the two spacecraft (Explorer-1) was launched on 29 December 2003 into a 570 x 78,970 km orbit, inclined at 28.5 degrees to the equator. The second spacecraft (Explorer-2) is scheduled for launch on 26 July 2004. It will be inserted into a 700 x 39,000 km polar orbit, inclined at 90 degrees to the equator.

Double Star will operate simultaneously with ESA's Cluster mission - a mini-flotilla of four identical spacecraft launched into polar, elliptical orbits around the Earth in the summer of 2000. This orbital configuration will enable scientists to obtain simultaneous data on the changing magnetic field and population of electrified particles in different regions of the magnetosphere. A key aspect of Europe's participation in the Double Star project is the inclusion of eight instruments, seven of which are identical to those currently flying on the four Cluster spacecraft. A further eight experiments are provided by Chinese institutes.

Three of the European instruments have been provided by the UK:

  • Fluxgate Magnetometer (FGM), Explorers 1 and 2;
  • Plasma Electron and Current Experiment (PEACE), Explorers 1 and 2;
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Field Fluctuations and Digital Wave Processor (STAFF/DWP), Explorer-1 only.
In addition, Double Star will draw on science operations expertise at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL/CCLRC). RAL has been running the Cluster Joint Science Operations Centre (JSOC) since the beginning of 2001 and has adapted this to provide a similar service for Double Star.


Dr. Hugo AlleynePI for the Digital Wave Processor [DWP]University of SheffieldTel: +44 (0)114-222-5630Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Chris CarrPI for the Fluxgate Magnetometer [FGM]Imperial College LondonTel: +44 (0)20-7594-7765Mobile: +44 (0)7714-713377E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Dr. Andrew FazakerleyPI for the Plasma Electron and Current Experiment [PEACE]Mullard Space Science Laboratory / University College LondonTel.: +44 (0)1483-204175Mobile: +44 (0)7712-760269E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Dr. Mike HapgoodLead Scientist, Satellite Operations GroupRutherford Appleton LaboratoryTel.: +44 (0)1235-446520Mobile: +44 (0)789-9908780.E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Date: 1st July 2004

Issued by Peter Bond, RAS Press Officer.