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Royal Astronomical Society

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) began as the Astronomical Society of London in 1820 to support astronomical research (mainly carried on at the time by 'gentleman astronomers' rather than professionals). It became the Royal Astronomical Society in 1831 on receiving its Royal Charter from William IV. A Supplemental Charter in 1915 opened up the fellowship to women. It is the UK adhering organisation to the International Astronomical Union and a member of the Science Council.

Table of contents
1 Publications
2 Fellowship
3 Meetings
4 Medals
5 Other activities
6 External Links


One of the major activities of the RAS is publishing refereed journals. It currently publishes two world-leading primary research journals, MNRAS in astronomy and (in association with the Deutsche Geophysikalische Gesellschaft) GJI in geophysics, and A&G, which publishes review and other articles of wide interest in a 'glossy' format. The full list of journals published by the RAS, with abbreviations as used for the NASA ADS bibliographic codes is:


Members of the RAS are styled fellows, and may use the postnominals FRAS. Fellowship is open to anyone over the age of 18 who is considered acceptable to the society. As a result of the society's foundation in a time before there were many professional astronomers, no formal qualifications are required. However, around three quarters of fellows are professional astronomers or geophysicists.


The Society regularly organises monthly discussion meetings on topics in astronomy and geophysics, which are usually held in London on the second Friday of every month from September through to June. It also sponsors the UK National Astronomy Meeting, a lengthier meeting of professional astronomers held each spring, and occasionally meetings in other parts of the UK.

Jointly with the Geological Society of London, the Society sponsors the British Geophysical Association.


The Gold Medal is the RAS's highest award. Up to 1847 these were awarded irregularly. 1848 saw a record number 12 awards being made, prior to the awards being limited to one a year from 1849. This continued, apart from 1886 when two awards were made and a few years when no award was made until 1963. Since 1964 there have been two awards in most years. A variety of "named" medals and other awards are presented from time to time honouring work in various sub-fields of astronomy and geophysics.

Notable recipients of the Gold Medal include:

Other activities

The Society occupies premises at Burlington House, London, where a substantial library and meeting rooms are available to fellows and, by arrangement, other interested parties. The Society represents the interests of astronomy and geophysics to UK national and regional, and European government and related bodies, and maintains a press office, through which it keeps the media and the public at large informed of relevant developments in these sciences. It maintains links with parallel learned societies in the UK and abroad, and participates in their administration at an international level.

External Links