RASNZ Conference 2012. Abstracts for Papers
as at June 8.
Speakers and Titles notified to date, with links to abstracts
: "James Cook, Tahiti, the 1769 Transit
of Venus and the Quest for the Astronomical Unit"
: "The 1885 Total Solar Eclipse and the
Emergence of Solar Physics"
: "Ancient Astronomies - Ancient Worlds", the
Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecture.
: "Ancient Hawaiian astronomy: new evidence
from temples and observation devices in Kahikinui, Maui"
, Fellow's Lecturer: "The discovery of planets,
and its implications."
David Hancock, after dinner speaker: "Niche Tourism"
: "Starlight Reserves."
: "A new Chart of Extended Object in the Small
: "Outrageous Outreach."
Ron Fisher: "Education Section Report"
: "Comet Lovejoy and Sungrazing Comets"
: "Data Processing Challenges for the SKA"
: "The Zodiac."
: "How Astronomy has been represented in art
over the last 600 years."
: "What's in a name? - VII."
: "The restricted three body problem:
Modern theory and practice."
: "Sensitivity of microlensing event
MOA-2007-BLG-397 to Earth-mass planets."
: "Astronomical Computing"
: "A Review of Diffuse Radio Emission in
: "Recent successful asteroidal occultations in
our region in the past year (2011)"
: "Snaps of the German Transit of Venus expedition
to Auckland Island in 1874."
: "The Transit of Venus as a Muse "
: "Recent successful asteroidal occultations in
our region in the past year (2011)."
Bill Allen: The Construction and recent Operation of the Bootes 3 telescope."
Roger Butland, Roland Idaczyk, Mark Blackford, Ed Budding
"Recent Discoveries about eta Muscae."
Ian Gallagher and Edwin Budding
"Lunar Observations in the Ku Band, 2011."
Thilina Heenatigala, Mike White, Robert McTague
"Global Astronomy Month - An Annual Celebration of the Universe."
: "Occultations by Minor Planets at Darfield
Abstracts for Papers.
Wayne Orchiston: "James Cook, Tahiti, the 1769 Transit of Venus and the Quest for the
After the failure of the 1761 transit of Venus to provide a reliable value for the astronomical
unit the focus shifted to the 1769 transit. Britain mounted an ambitious program, and one of their
expeditions was destined for newly-discovered Tahiti in the Pacific. This expedition was led by
Lieutenant James Cook, ably assisted by fellow-astronomer, Charles Green. Using instruments
supplied by the Royal Society and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, they established three
different observing stations where successful observations were carried out of the 3 June transit.
Cook then opened his sealed orders from the Admiralty and discovered that the second phase of his
voyage was to search for the missing Great Southern Land, Terra Australis. After rediscovering and
circumnavigating New Zealand and charting the east coast of Australia, Cook returned to England.
Following Green's demise during the long trip home, it fell to Cook to reduce and publish the
results of their Tahitian observations. Oxford's Professor Hornsby then used Cook's data and those
derived from three other expeditions to arrive at a value of 8.78? for the solar parallax, a figure
that is remarkably close to the currently-accepted one of 8.794148?. However, discordant results
obtained by other nations led to a questioning of Hornsby's figure, and the focus then shifted to
the 1874 transit.
In this paper I will outline the planning associated with Cook's voyage; introduce those who
carried out the transit observations in Tahiti; describe the instruments they used; discuss the
records that Cook sent back to England during the voyage and his rather selective use of the
available data when compiling his paper for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society;
and query the current whereabouts of most of the astronomical instruments that were used in Tahiti.
Wayne Orchiston: "The 1885 Total Solar Eclipse and the Emergence of Solar Physics"
The second half of the nineteenth century saw a blossoming of interest in solar eclipses as
astronomers tried to establish whether the corona was a solar, lunar or terrestrial phenomenon, and
as they investigated the nature of the corona, the chromosphere and prominences. Critical in these
investigations were astronomy's newest allies: photography and spectroscopy. Photography was used
with great effectiveness throughout the half century, but spectroscopy was first applied during the
'Indian eclipse' of 1868. Thereafter, almost every total solar eclipse was subjected to scrutiny,
the intensity of which depended upon the duration of the eclipse and the location of its path of
totality. The first total solar eclipse visible from New Zealand since the introduction of
scientific astronomy occurred on 9 September 1885, and attracted the attention of professional
scientists and amateur astronomers. The centre of the path of totality extended from West Wanganui
Inlet on the far northern reaches of the west coast of the South Island to Castle Point on the
Wairarapa Coast, and a total eclipse was visible from population centres like Wellington, Picton,
Nelson and Collingwood.
In this paper I will document the individuals who recorded this eclipse; discuss their instruments
and their observations; see how this eclipse fits into the overall development of professional and
amateur astronomy in New Zealand; and determine whether New Zealand observations of the 1885
eclipse made any significant contribution to international solar physics.
Clive Ruggles, the Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecture: "Ancient Astronomies - Ancient Worlds"
We know a good deal about ancient astronomical knowledge and practices in places such as ancient
China and Babylonia from the evidence contained in their recorded history, but people all over the
world strived to make sense of what they saw in the sky long before the written record existed.
What can we ever know of this?
Many people have suggested that Stonehenge and many other prehistoric constructions around the
world provide proof of sophisticated sky knowledge that existed as far back in the Stone Age. If
that is so, how did our distant ancestors acquire it and how did they use it?
In the absence of written evidence, we must find indications in the evidence available to the
archaeologist: things such as man-made objects, human debris, and the layout of monuments and
buildings. There are also valuable clues in beliefs and practices that have survived among
indigenous peoples right through to modern times. Trying to make sense of this type of evidence is
the business of the fields of study that have become known as archaeoastronomy and ethnoastronomy.
As Clive will show, some of the world's most iconic ancient monuments provide tantalising glimpses
of long lost beliefs and practices relating to the sky, although they often have to be interpreted
with considerable caution. Taking in examples from many different parts of the world, including his
own ongoing field projects in Europe, Peru and Hawaii, Clive will use these insights to build up a
broad picture of the diverse ways in which ancient peoples perceived and understood the world - the
cosmos - within which they dwelt.
Clive Ruggles: "Ancient Hawaiian astronomy: new evidence from temples and observation devices in
In the Hawaiian Islands prior to European contact, sky knowledge and lore played a pivotal role
within a society that not only revered the practical skills used in navigation but also placed
great importance upon carefully timed seasonal practices and rituals. The design, orientation and
landscape situation of temple sites -- which are ubiquitous in Hawaii as in other part of Polynesia
-- give us some particularly useful insights into how astronomical observations were incorporated
into everyday religious customs as well as broader frameworks of belief.
Since 2002 I have been investigating a concentration over c. 40 temple sites in the Kahikinui and
Kaupo districts of east Maui (at the foot of the southern slopes of Haleakala) together with
archaeologist Pat Kirch (Berkeley) who has undertaken an extensive landscape reconnaissance in this
area. This is an area of key importance in the development of dryland agriculture in the Big Island
of Hawaii and eastern Maui during the last two centuries prior to the contact period.
The temples manifest systematic patterns of orientation relating to the sun and Pleiades (as well
as topographic foresights) that reveal the development of a seasonal cycle of rituals tied
particularly to two principal deities, Ku and Lono. In the last two fieldwork seasons (2008, 2011)
we have discovered a number of sites and structures that were apparently used particularly for
observations of the Pleiades, including priests' "observing stones" and foresight devices, and have
been able to compare the date of use with that determined archaeologically from coral fragments. We
have also discovered an intriguing "sighting wall" that may well date back to the voyaging period
and relate to southern constellations, symbolised in a framed alignment upon the Southern Cross.
Edwin Budding, Fellows Lecturer: "The discovery of planets, and its implications"
After an initial backgrounding, the presentation refers to the transits of Venus that historically
clarified inferences about the Solar System. Knowledge of such systems has become remarkably
developed in the wake of operations like that of the Kepler Mission. Ed will expose relevant new
work relating to the analysis of Kepler's planetary transit data.
A key driver for such activities relates to the perennial favourite "Are we alone?" question. Ed
presents some new ideas on that, relating in particular to what it is that we are seeking. This
links with the activities of a university-based astrobiology group with whom he has been working in
The talk will be wide-ranging, in an exploratory style, and with general outreach.
Steve Butler, director of RASNZ Dark Sky Group: "Starlight Reserves"
There is a growing awareness that in order to protect the beauty of, and access to the night sky,
special protection mechanisms are required. This talk will describe some of the options.
Ian Cooper: "A new Chart of Extended Object in the Small Magellanic Cloud."
Twelve years ago whilst working on observations of the deep southern sky as my part of being a
contributing author for, "The Night Sky Observer's Guide, Vol III, The Southern Sky," I found that
there was a dearth of easily useable charts covering the S.M.C. for this purpose. In order to
correct this I utilised photocopies of several charts from Megastar V4.0 to make my own chart base.
Then using a series of B&W charts made from downloads of images off the DSS web site and a
comprehensive list of extended objects in the SMC from Bica et al I proceeded to check each object
off by observing them through my 18 inch Dobsonian. In this process I corrected numerous mistakes on
the Megastar charts where objects were wrongly placed and or named.
My talk will highlight the numerous charts that have been on offer over the past four decades that I
have been observing and show how I have seemingly always had a penchant for producing suitable
observing aids where none existed before. Using the list from Bica et al I am also compiling a list
that will be available as either a PDF or Excel file for free along with the chart itself, also for
Ron Fisher, director of RASNZ Education Group: "Outrageous Outreach"
When tried and true methods of education and outreach no longer cut it, how do we keep up with the
unprecedented explosion of new media? How do we engage with young people such that they are
compelled to look deeper into the subject of astronomy for themselves? We will explore these
questions and give insight into how the RASNZ Education group plan to achieve success in these areas.
Alan Gilmore: "Comet Lovejoy and Sungrazing Comets"
Last Christmas's dawn sky was enlivened by the long tail of Comet Lovejoy, the latest in a long
history of 'sungrazing' comets. These are comets in approximately the same orbit and appear to be
fragments of a single comet. Some have been bright enough to rank among the great comets. In recent
years satellite-borne coronagraphs have seen hundreds of small comets in related orbits
disintegrating near the sun. This talk gives background on Comet Lovejoy's apparition and reviews
the sungrazing family's history.
Duncan Hall: "Data Processing Challenges for the SKA"
Processing the vast quantities of raw data expected to be produced by the proposed Square Kilometre
Array (SKA) radio telescope interferometer will require supercomputers capable of at least 10^17
floating point operations per second - i.e. 100 petaflops.
This is more than 10 times more powerful than the world's most powerful supercomputers in 2011 and
is equivalent to harnessing the processing power of millions of PCs working in a tightly coupled
Why are these requirements so large?
What can be done about meeting the SKA's data processing challenges?
Richard Hall: "The Zodiac"
Astronomy and star-lore form a cornerstone to the rise of civilisation. To our ancestors the night
sky was a picture book of information. By reading the stars they could find their way and fortell
mighty events such as the flooding of the Nile, the coming of the rains, and the migrations of
animals. Consequently ancient astronomy is interwoven with spiritualism and religious beliefs.
Here too in the night sky can be found the stories of the gods, the origin of our spiritual
beliefs and many of the traditions and myths we live by. The constellations of the Zodiac are
among the most important 'signs' in the sky. The story of the Zodiac is the story of how human
beings attempted to understand the complex universe around them and their place and significance
within it. It is the story of how our ancestors tried to gain some measure of control over their
won destiny both through science and mysticism.
Pam Kilmartin: "What's in a name? - VII"
Seventh talk about minor planet names (or are they all asteroids now?).
Anna Kingsley:"How Astronomy has been represented in art over the last 600 years"
Anna will be looking at the representation of astronomy in art over the last 600 or so years.
Warwick Kissling:"The restricted three body problem: Modern theory and practice"
The restricted circular three body problem (RC3BP) is one of the classical problems in celestial
mechanics. In the last few decades, mathematicians have made new discoveries concerning the
motion of particles in the RC3BP and these have turned out to be extremely useful for the design
of fuel-efficient spacecraft trajectories, as well as for understanding the motion of some
natural objects. In this talk I'll try to give some of the flavour of these new insights in a
non-mathematical way, and show some 'real-life' examples where they have been used.
Anna Niemiec: "Sensitivity of microlensing event MOA-2007-BLG-397 to Earth-mass planets."
Microlensing event MOA-2007-BLG-397 is an excellent event for testing the sensitivity of the
gravitational microlensing technique for detecting planets with masses similar to that of the
Earth. The magnification of the event was approximately 200, an optimal value for planet
detection. Higher magnifications yield reduced sensitivity to extra-solar planets (Ellen Barnard
et al, in preparation) and lower magnifications yield data of reduced photometric precision. In
addition, the event peaked over New Zealand. This enabled its FWHM to be fully monitored by the
1.8m MOA telescope at high photometric precision. The sensitivity of the event to low-mass
planets in the vicinity of the Einstein ring will be reported.
Orlon Petterson: "Astronomical Computing"
A review of a selection of software tools, for educational and scientific use.
Sara Shakouri & Melanie Johnston-Hollitt: "A Review of Diffuse Radio Emission in Galaxy
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the Universe. In the past few
years galaxy clusters have been observed in the whole electromagnetic spectrum. By the advent of
more sensitive radio telescopes, there have been a major enhancement in observation of low surface
brightness objects. Recent radio observations of galaxy clusters revealed the existence of giant
Mpc scale diffuse radio emission in the center and outskirts of the clusters. All the diffuse
radio sources have been detected so far are in dynamically disturbed galaxy clusters suggest there
is a strong correlation between the occurrence of these diffuse radio sources and the cluster
In this presentation we will explore the general properties of the diffuse radio emission in
John Talbot: "Recent successful asteroidal occultations in our region in the past year
A selection of interesting minor planet occultation results observed from Australia and New
Zealand during 2011 is presented.
William Tobin: "Snaps of the German Transit of Venus expedition to Auckland Island in 1874"
The overseas expeditions to New Zealand to observe the 1874 Transit of Venus all included
photographers to man (there were no women) the photoheliographs. The German expedition to Terror
Cove on Auckland included two photographers, Guido Wolfram and Hermann Krone. Krone later became
famous as a photographer and some of his photographs underpin the 'Dark Sky' exhibition at the
Adam Art Gallery in Wellington until July 8. I will discuss some of the snapshots taken by these
two photographers and make comparisons with other expeditions to New Zealand in 1874.
William Tobin: "The Transit of Venus as a Muse"
Right from the very first observed transit of Venus, in 1639, these rare events have inspired a
surprising quantity of poetry, prose, music, drama, painting and sculpture, as well as humour
and even philately. Yet transits of Mercury, which are only somewhat less rare, have inspired
Roger Butland, Roland Idaczyk, Mark Blackford, Ed Budding:
"Recent Discoveries about eta Muscae."
We present updated developments with the 'Southern Binaries Programme', paying particular
attention to the multiple star eta Mus. Recent developments include advances in accurate radial
velocity determinations, the use of DSLR techniques for accurate times of minimum light, and
image-stacking techniques for new astrometry. Our group announced the discovery of a new
(low mass) component to eta Mus in the last year.
Ian Gallagher and Edwin Budding: "Lunar Observations in the Ku Band, 2011."
The poster reviews a series of lunar interferograms taken at the Emerald Hill Observatory in
August-October 2011. A distinct lunar-cycle related effect can be discerned, but it is not in
accord with expectations of the Moon's temperature cycle. We refer to both what the expected
variation should be like, and possible causes of the difference in our results. We propose
discriminatory tests (involving solar observations) to clarify the issues.
Thilina Heenatigala, Mike White, Robert McTague:
"Global Astronomy Month - An Annual Celebration of the Universe"
One of the most successful global outreach efforts in history was International Year of Astronomy
2009. With the momentum created by this year long program, it was important to take the efforts
to coming years. Astronomers Without Borders organization captured the energy of the
International Year of Astronomy 2009 and refocused it as an ongoing annual celebration of the
Universe by organizing Global Astronomy Month; a worldwide celebration of astronomy in all its
forms in every April. In 2010, the program saw professionals and amateur astronomers, educators
and astronomy enthusiasts from around the globe participating together in the spirit of
International Year of Astronomy 2009 and provided a global stage for established programs and a
framework for partnerships. The 2011 version of the program saw much bigger participation with
several global partner organizations joining in creating more than 40 global level programs
throughout the month. Within a short period of two years, Global Astronomy Month has evolved to a
much needed global platform after International Year of Astronomy 2009.
Brian Loader: "Occultations by Minor Planets at Darfield in 2011"
A review of six occultations by minor planets observed from Darfield in 2011.