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Final Media Announcement

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 May 2010 15:27
Published on Friday, 25 February 2005 00:00


UK National Astronomy Meeting

31 March - 3 April 1998
at the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK


Hundreds of astronomers start gathering in St Andrews on Monday 30th March for the three-and-a-half day UK National Astronomy Meeting (NAM), which begins on Tuesday 31st March at 9.00 a.m. The National Astronomy Meeting is the largest and most important annual gathering of astronomers in the UK. Sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) and the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), it is held at a different location each year.


Press Room Service

Press room facilities will be available from 8.30 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. on Tuesday 31st March, Wednesday 1st April and Thursday 2nd April, and from 9.00 a.m. to 12 noon on Friday 3rd April.

RAS PRO Jacqueline Mitton and Space Science Advisor Peter Bond are press officers for the meeting and will provide a service to the media by phone, fax and internet throughout. Note that they will NOT be available on their usual phone numbers.

The Press Room will be located on the ground floor of the Physics and Astronomy Building at the University of St Andrews, in Room 223. Media representatives attending in person should first report to the Meeting Registration Desk for directions.


Contacting the Press Room

Please try these press room numbers first to contact Jacqueline Mitton or Peter Bond. Press room phone numbers (answered during press room opening hours): (0)1334 462168 and (0)1334 462169 Press room fax number: (0)1334 463130.

In addition, the following mobile phones will be in use and messages can be left via these numbers: Jacqueline Mitton: 0370-386133 Peter Bond: 0411-213486


University of St Andrews Press Office

The University Press Officer will also be available during the meeting:


Lesley Lind Phone: (0)1334-462530 Fax: (0)1334-462590 e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Information about the Meeting on the Internet

Further details about the meeting location and arrangements, and the scientific programme: 

Press notices issued by the Royal Astronomical Society are available (after any embargo time since this is an open access site) at: 

National Astronomy Meeting - Programme Highlights

[Press notices on many of the stories mentioned below are expected to be available on Friday 27th March, and by Monday 30th March at the latest.]


  • Remarkable new discovery by the MERLIN radio telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope. Embargoed. Pictures and story will be released by the University of Manchester and PPARC for publication on Monday 30th March


  • Focus on extrasolar planets (Tuesday) The first day of the meeting features sessions on one of the most exciting areas in astronomy at the present time - the discovery of planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.


    • Dr William Cochran of the University of Texas, co-discoverer of the planet orbiting the star 16 Cygni B, looks at what the discoveries so far are telling us about the way planets form and the number of stars we can expect to find with planets. And he questions how many of the discoveries are really planets, and how many could really be diminutive stars - so-called brown dwarfs.


    • Dr Alan Penny of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory reports on how the highly successful planet search programme conducted at the Lick Observatory in California is being extended to the Anglo-Australian Observatory in New South Wales in order to target unexplored stars in the southern skies. Professor Keith Horne of St Andrews University talks about the studies of extrasolar planets a team of European astronomers will be undertaking during 1998 at the observatory on La Palma in the Canary Islands.


    • The discovery of extrasolar planets has given new impetus to research on possible extraterrestrial life. Dr Ray Wolstencroft at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh tells how astronomers in Scotland are joining forces with chemists and biologists to form the Edinburgh Astrobiology Consortium.


  • Understanding our own solar system (Tuesday)


    • Professor Fred Taylor of the University of Oxford on what the Galileo spacecraft orbiting Jupiter is revealing about the giant planet.


    • Dr Alan Fitzsimmons of Queens University Belfast has been locating some of the faintest objects ever observed in our own solar system - ice dwarfs in the Kuiper belt beyond Neptune.


  • The Sun in a new light (Wednesday)


    • Professor Eric Priest of the University of St Andrews reviews how our perception of the Sun is being revolutionized by the results from space missions such as SOHO and starts to unravel the long-standing mystery with a new explanation of why the Sun's million-degree corona is so hot.


    • Dr Mark Lyons of the University of Birmingham shows how instruments on SOHO are throwing light on 'coronal mass ejections' from the Sun - blasts of hot gas that travel through space and can affect our own planet.


  • New observations of stars and planetary systems in the process of forming (Thursday)


    • Dr John Bally of the University of Colorado will present new results, including images, on stars forming in the Orion Nebula, and the discs around them where planetary systems are probably emerging.


  • Have we overestimated the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy? (Thursday)


    • Dr Michael Merrifield of the University of Southampton suggests our Galaxy is smaller than many astronomers had thought.


  • Future Space Missions


    • Dr Alan Heavens (University of Edinburgh) on the ESA 'Planck' mission, due for launch in about 2005. Planck is a major follow-up to the COBE (Cosmic Microwave Background Explorer) mission. Planck's design gives it the capability of measuring many of the characteristics of the Universe - its geometry, its contents and its ultimate fate - to a high degree of accuracy for the first time.


    • Dr Gerry Gilmore on the proposed European mission GAIA. GAIA is a leading candidate to be ESA's 'Cornerstone 5' mission, following Planck. It is to some extent an Hipparcos successor to Hipparcos, but far more sophisticated. It will provide precise information about the positions and brightness of over 1 billion stars!


  • .. and lots more, including the St Andrews 'Virtual Reality Planetarium', a 3-D simulation of stars in space complete with the capability to see what it feels like to travel at speeds almost as fast as light.


    Issued by:
    Dr Jacqueline Mitton, RAS Public Relations Officer
    Phone: Cambridge ((0)1223) 564914
    FAX: Cambridge ((0)1223) 572892
    E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.