We had another successful meeting with a fantastic talk by Dr John Davies, entitled: Missions to Near Earth Asteroids. This was followed by a very enjoyable talk detailing the Sky in April by ASE member, Ian Smith.

Dr John Davies is an accomplished Astronomer from here in Edinburgh working at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC), which was formerly known as the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. John’s talk was a real gem with an in-depth detailed technical description of two current ongoing missions: The Japanese Hyabusa-2, and the American OSIRIS-REx missions, which are both sample return missions to understand the properties and characteristics of some of our Near Earth Asteroids (NEO’s).

John introduced us to NEO’s, their different classes and how they are formed. They have surprisingly relative short average lifetimes, are being constantly replenished, are not randomly distributed and that they form families separated by such things called Kirkwood Gaps!

We then heard in great detail all about the two sample return missions:

  • Hayabusa–2:
    Launched in December 2014 and arrived at its target Asteroid 162173, Ryugu which is carbon rich having a diameter of +/-900m.
    We learned about the challenges involved, the deployment of all the ‘hopping’ landers and incredible mechanics and workings which lead to the successful sampling and the subsequent dramatic return of the sample to the Australian desert in 2020.
    We heard about the future prospects of this mission, which include flybys of further NEO’s and a possible finale of landing on a large building sized asteroid in around 10 years time.
    An American NASA mission which stands for: Origins, Spectral Interpretation and Security – Regolith Explorer.
    Launched in 2016 and arrived at its target NEO: Asteroid 101955 Bennu, carbon rich with diameter of +/-500m in 2018.
    We heard a detailed analysis of the mission and the sampling method is shown with excellent mission photos and video, preparing us to look out for the sample return which is planned to arrive home in September, 2023.

We saw visual proof of Asteroid Ejecta and the probable origin of the Geminid Meteor shower, which John co-discovered after data analysis!

The meeting was rounded off by Ian Smith’s Sky in April talk about interesting astronomical observation prospects for April. As well as discussing April’s sky maps together with planet and moon observation prospects, a comet pass and an explanation for the origin of the Zodiacal light, both of which may be possible to observe during April.
Ian also described ‘Galaxy Season’, the ‘Pink Moon’ and World-Wide Astrofest.

This fascinating and enlightening meeting with two terrific talks was viewed from all over the World by our YouTube audience as well as our society members via Zoom. Like all our recorded talks, this is one not to be missed!

Will Joy