RASNZ Electronic Newsletter December 2017

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 204

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.


1. More on the Interstellar Asteroid
2. Upcoming Astronomy Camps, Star Parties
3. RASNZ Administrative Deadlines
4. Central Star Party January 18-23
5. Back Issues of Southern Stars Wanted
6. BAA Membership Search
7. Impact of Blue Light LEDs
8. The Solar System in January
9. Cricket Thermometer
10. Antares Imaged
11. Why is Earth Magnetized and Venus Not?
12. Bird Migration Affected by Bright Urban Light
13. LIGO Sees Smallest Black Hole Binary Yet
14. "Universe - Exploring the Astronomical World"
15. Mt John History Price Reduced
16. How to Join the RASNZ
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

1. More on the Interstellar Asteroid

For the first time ever astronomers have studied an asteroid that has entered the Solar System from interstellar space. Observations from many observatories around the world show that this unique object was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system. It appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal-content object. The new results appeared in the journal Nature on 20 November 2017.

Although originally classified as a comet, observations soon revealed no signs of cometary activity after it passed closest to the Sun in September 2017. The object was reclassified as an interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 and named `Oumuamua. Note that the character before the O is an okina. So the name should sound like H O u mu a mu a. The prefix 1I is a new designation for interstellar objects.

Combining the images from many large telescopes, the team of astronomers led by Karen Meech (Institute for Astronomy, Hawai`i, USA) found that `Oumuamua varies dramatically in brightness by a factor of ten as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours.

Karen Meech explains the significance: “This unusually large variation in brightness means that the object is highly elongated: about ten times as long as it is wide, with a complex, convoluted shape. We also found that it has a dark red colour, similar to objects in the outer Solar System, and confirmed that it is completely inert, without the faintest hint of dust around it.”

These properties suggest that `Oumuamua is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years. It is estimated to be at least 400 metres long.

Preliminary orbital calculations suggested that the object had come from the approximate direction of the bright star Vega, in the northern constellation of Lyra. However, even travelling at a breakneck speed of about 95 000 kilometres/hour, it took so long for the interstellar object to make the journey to our Solar System that Vega was not near that position when the asteroid was there about 300 000 years ago. `Oumuamua May well have been wandering through the Milky Way, unattached to any star system, for hundreds of millions of years before its chance encounter with the Solar System.

Astronomers estimate that an interstellar asteroid similar to `Oumuamua passes through the inner Solar System about once per year, but they are faint and hard to spot so have been missed until now. It is only recently that survey telescopes, such as Pan-STARRS, are powerful enough to have a chance to discover them.

-- Extracted from European Southern Observatory press release http://www.eso.org/public/unitedkingdom/news/eso1737/ which also contains links to graphics and videos.

For technical details see the paper by Meech et al at https://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1737/eso1737a.pdf

2. Upcoming Astronomy Camps, Star Parties

Central Star Party – Tuki Tuki Valley, Hawkes Bay. Thursday January 18th – Tuesday 23rd. See Item 4 below.

Star Date – Stonehenge Aotearoa, Wairarapa. Friday January 19 - Sunday 21. For details see http://www.astronomynz.org/
Star Date South Island – Stavely. Friday 16th – Monday 19th February 2018. See - http://www.treesandstars.com/Stardate

3. RASNZ Administrative Deadlines

February 3 is the deadline for the following:

  • RASNZ Fellow nominations - RASNZ Rule 19
  • RASNZ Honorary Members nominations - RASNZ Rule 11
  • RASNZ Murray Geddes Prize nominations - RASNZ By-Law G5
  • Nominations of RASNZ Officers for 2018-20 - RASNZ Rule 74
  • Earth & Sky Bright Star Award - RASNZ By-Laws K
  • Feb 15 RASNZ Section and Group reports due to the Secretary - RASNZ By-Law F14
  • Mar 15 SWAPA applications deadline (for high school students) - http://www.rasnz.org.nz

-- From Keeping in Touch #24. 18th November 2017

4. Central Star Party January 18-23

Central Star Party has been established to hold annual star parties in the central North Island for the benefit of the astronomical community of the North Island of New Zealand. The goal of the organisers is to provide a fun social astronomical gathering laced with talks and activities. More info can be found at www.censtar.party.

The second Central Star Party is Thursday 18th to Tuesday 23rd January 2018 and will be held at the Tuki Tuki Camp site in the Hawkes Bay. This is the site of many previous star parties. The site is complete now, and there is a brand new hall, with two additional meeting rooms for alternate meetings, a new kitchen and three new dormitories. Accommodation is tenting, staying in the dormitories or using one of the six powered caravan sites.

Last year's Central Star Party was a huge success with over 70 people attending and enjoying a great programme of presentations as well as a trip to the local observatory, sausage sizzles, entertainment as well as fish and chip dinners delivered to the camp. We also had sponsorship from a number of organisations including Astronz who donated a pair of binoculars (amongst other things) for a raffle. This year is shaping up to be even better, registrations are open now at www.censtar.party . Put the dates aside - this year should be a cracker!

-- Steve Lang and Gary Sparks

5. Back Issues of Southern Stars Wanted

Leonard Matula, a US collector of astronomical publications would appreciate the following editions to fill gaps in his collection:

  • Volume 55 (2016) number 1,
  • Volume 50 (2011) numbers 2, 3 and 4
  • Volumes 1 to 39, that is, all or any of the smaller A5 size.

If anyone can help, please send them to Bob Evans (address below) and he will pass them on. Bob's postal address: 15 Taiepa Road, Otatara, RD9, Invercargill 9879. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; .

6. BAA Membership Search

Anthony Kinder writes: I am currently researching the membership of the British Astronomical Association (BAA) since it was founded in 1890. Included in this is any and all information I am able to obtain about the person concerned. There are a number of New Zealanders who were members (e.g. Leslie J. Comrie, John Grigg). I would be interested in hearing from any RASNZ member who is or was in the past (or even considering joining in the future) a member of the BAA.

Send replies to Anthony at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;

7. Impact of Blue Light LEDs

The Royal Society of New Zealand has started developing expert advice to summarise the latest evidence on the impact of blue light wavelengths from LEDs. This could cover issues such as the impacts of: • LED screens and lighting on sleep patterns • LED street lighting on the nocturnal environment • blue wavelength light pollution on New Zealand's astronomy. For further information contact Dr Marc Rands This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.;. https://royalsociety.org.nz/what-we-do/our-expert-advice/our-expert-advice-under-development/impacts-of-blue-light/

-- Forwarded by Steve Butler

8. The Solar System in January

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight Times in November

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

             January  1  NZDT          January 31  NZDT
     SUN:  rise 5.48am, set 8.59pm    rise 5.47am, set 8.59pm
  Twilights    morning     evening        morning     evening
  Civil:    starts 5.17am, ends   9.31pm   starts 5.54am, ends  9.14pm
  Nautical: starts 4.34am, ends  10.14pm   starts 5.16am, ends  9.52pm
  Astro:    starts 3.43am, ends  11.04pm   starts 3.42am, ends 10.34pm

The Earth is at perihelion, its closest to the Sun for the year, on January 3. Earth will then be 147 million kilometres, 0.983 AU, from the Sun

January Phases of the Moon (times NZDT, as shown by GUIDE)

          Full moon:     January  2 at  3.24pm (02:24 UT)
  Last quarter   January  9 at 11.25am (Jan  8, 22:25 UT)
  New moon:      January 17 at  3.17pm (02:17 UT)
  First quarter: January 25 at 11.20am (Jan 24, 22:20 UT)
  Full moon     February  1 at  2.27am (Jan 31, 13:27 UT)

A total eclipse of the moon, fully visible from NZ, takes place on the night of January 31/February 1. The eclipse will be total between 1:52 a.m. and 3:08 a.m. on the morning of Feb 1. Further details can be found on the RASNZ web site.

The Planets in January 2018

The five inner planets are morning objects throughout January, with the exception of Venus which becomes an evening object after conjunction with the Sun on the 9th. Mercury and Venus will be difficult objects to view all month, with Saturn coming into view in the morning sky during January.

Mars and Jupiter will be the most interesting planets to watch. They form a close pair early in the month.

MARS and JUPITER start January as a pair in the morning sky. On the 1st they will be 3° apart with Mars to the upper left of Jupiter. They are closest on the mornings of January 7 and 8. On the 7th Mars will be some 17 arc-minutes above Jupiter, the following morning Mars will be level with and to the right of Jupiter, the two now 22 arc-minutes apart. Mars will, of course, be much fainter than Jupiter, by over 3 magnitudes. Look for the pair of planets an hour before sunrise at an elevation of 30° almost due east.

During the rest of January Mars will steadily pull away from the slower moving Jupiter, by the end of the month they will be about 12° apart. Both will be in Libra all month, although on the 31st Mars will be poised to move into Scorpius with Antares 9° to its right.

On the 12th the crescent moon will be 6° below the planets as seen about 5 am.

MERCURY is in the morning sky. On January 1 it rises almost 90 minutes before the Sun. Forty-five minutes before sunrise the planet, magnitude -0.4, will be a mere 6° up, with the Sun 8° below the horizon. During the month the elongation of Mercury from the Sun reduces, so it will get even lower in the morning twilight.

SATURN, also in the morning sky, will emerge from the Sun during January. On the 1st it will rise about 40 minutes before the Sun, an interval increasing to almost 3 hours by the end of the month.

Similar to Mars and Jupiter, Mercury will move past Saturn during January. On the 13th Mercury will be just under a degree above Saturn, the following morning it will nearly 2° to the lower right of Saturn. Also the moon, as a thin crescent, will then be 5.5° to the left of Saturn. All will be difficult to see, some 7 to 8° up 45 minutes before sunrise, Mercury a little brighter than Saturn

VENUS rises only 10 minutes before the Sun on January 1. By the 9th it is at superior conjunction. At conjunction Venus will be half a degree south of the Sun but 109 million km beyond it. Two hours after Venus is at conjunction, Pluto is also at conjunction. Following their conjunctions Venus will become an evening object while Pluto becomes a morning object.

By the end of January, Venus will be setting only 25 minutes after the Sun, so it will remain a difficult object all month.

Outer Planets

URANUS is an evening object in Pisces during January. It is best placed in the evening sky as soon as it is dark. Uranus will set at 12.45 am by the end of the month.

NEPTUNE is an early evening object in January. It sets at midnight on the 1st and 10 pm, before the end of astronomical twilight, on the 31st. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9.

PLUTO, is at conjunction with the Sun on January 9.

Brightest Minor Planets

(1) CERES is a morning object, at first in Leo then in Cancer from the 19th. During January it brightens from magnitude 7.5 to 6.9.

(2) PALLAS is an evening object with magnitude dimming slightly from 8.7 to 9.0 during January. It starts in Fornax, crosses a corner of Cetus between January 13 and 22, to end the month in Eridanus.

(4) VESTA starts January in Libra, crosses a narrow part of Scorpius between the 18th and 29th and then moves into Ophiuchus. Its magnitude changes little, from 7.9 to 7.8.

(7) IRIS is an evening object in Aries, dimming from magnitude 8.6 to 9.3 during the month. By the end of January it sets just after midnight.

(8) FLORA is in Gemini all month, starting January at magnitude 8.2. It is at opposition on the 2nd when it will be 155 million km from the Earth, 1.034 AU. After opposition it becomes an evening object but dims to magnitude 9.2 by the end of January.

(20) MASSALIA is in Taurus during January. It fades from magnitude 8.9 to 9.6 during the month.

-- Brian Loader

9. Cricket Thermometer

Last November saw the anniversary of the birth, in Norwich, Connecticut on 10 Nov 1837, of the American physicist and inventor Amos Emerson Dolbear. A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University, he is not particularly associated with astronomy, other than the fact that in 1897 he published an article ‘The Cricket as a Thermometer’ that noted the correlation between the ambient temperature and the rate at which crickets chirp. The formula expressed in that article became known as Dolbear's Law and was in fact mentioned in the May 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope in the monthly Astronomical Anecdotes (fascinating pieces of astronomical trivia which were compiled and written by Roy Kenneth Marshall and featured in the magazine between 1941 and 1946).

Apparently, if an observer inside an observatory dome wanted to know the ambient temperature (and in the fortunate event that a cricket happened to be inside the dome at the same time) the astronomer in question would be able to count the number of times the cricket 'chirped' over a period of 15 seconds and then add that value to 40 to give the temperature in Fahrenheit! This method is certainly more elaborate, and perhaps a lot more fun, than simply using a thermometer, although I am unable to vouch for its accuracy…

-- via Brian Jones forwarded by Phil Yock.

10. Antares Imaged

Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer astronomers have constructed the most detailed image ever of a star — the red supergiant star Antares. They have also made the first map of the velocities of material in the atmosphere of a star other than the Sun, revealing unexpected turbulence in Antares’s huge extended atmosphere. The results were published in the journal Nature in August.

To the unaided eye the famous, bright star Antares shines with a strong red tint in the heart of the constellation of Scorpius (The Scorpion). It is a huge and comparatively cool red supergiant star in the late stages of its life, on the way to becoming a supernova.

A team of astronomers, led by Keiichi Ohnaka, of the Universidad Católica del Norte in Chile, has now used ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile to map Antares’s surface and to measure the motions of the surface material. This is the best image of the surface and atmosphere of any star other than the Sun.

The VLTI is a unique facility that can combine the light from up to four telescopes, either the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes, or the smaller Auxiliary Telescopes, to create a virtual telescope equivalent to a single mirror up to 200 metres across. This allows it to resolve fine details far beyond what can be seen with a single telescope alone.

“How stars like Antares lose mass so quickly in the final phase of their evolution has been a problem for over half a century,” said Keiichi Ohnaka, who is also the lead author of the paper. “The VLTI is the only facility that can directly measure the gas motions in the extended atmosphere of Antares — a crucial step towards clarifying this problem. The next challenge is to identify what’s driving the turbulent motions.”

Using the new results the team has created the first two-dimensional velocity map of the atmosphere of a star other than the Sun. They did this using the VLTI with three of the Auxiliary Telescopes and an instrument called AMBER to make separate images of the surface of Antares over a small range of infrared wavelengths. The team then used these data to calculate the difference between the speed of the atmospheric gas at different positions on the star and the average speed over the entire star. This resulted in a map of the relative speed of the atmospheric gas across the entire disc of Antares — the first ever created for a star other than the Sun.

The astronomers found turbulent, low-density gas much further from the star than predicted, and concluded that the movement could not result from convection, that is, from large-scale movement of matter which transfers energy from the core to the outer atmosphere of many stars. They reason that a new, currently unknown, process May be needed to explain these movements in the extended atmospheres of red supergiants like Antares.

“In the future, this observing technique can be applied to different types of stars to study their surfaces and atmospheres in unprecedented detail. This has been limited to just the Sun up to now,” concludes Ohnaka. “Our work brings stellar astrophysics to a new dimension and opens an entirely new window to observe stars.”

---------- Antares is considered by astronomers to be a typical red supergiant. These huge dying stars are formed with between nine and 40 times the mass of the Sun. When a star becomes a red supergiant, its atmosphere extends outward so it becomes large and luminous, but low-density. Antares now has a mass about 12 times that of the Sun and a diameter about 700 times larger than the Sun’s. It is thought that it started life with a mass more like 15 times that of the Sun, and has shed three solar-masses of material during its life.

For images and links see https://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1726/

-- European Southern Observatory press release 1726, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Why is Earth Magnetized and Venus Not?

A new analysis reveals that the gigantic impact that led to the Moon's formation might have also switched on Earth's magnetic field.

Based on their bulk density, Venus and Earth have cores that take up about half of their radius and roughly 15% of their volumes. Researchers don't know if Venus has a solid inner core, as Earth does.

Planetary scientists don't really know what to make of Venus. Although it's a near twin of Earth in size, mass, and overall rocky composition, the two are worlds apart (so to speak) in many ways. One obvious difference is our sister planet's dense, cloud-choked atmosphere. This enormous blanket of carbon dioxide has triggered a runaway greenhouse effect, trapping solar energy so well that the planet's surface temperature has rocketed to roughly 460°C.

Dig deeper, and the differences become even starker. Based on its density alone, Venus must have an iron-rich core that's at least partly molten — so why does it lack the kind of global magnetic field that Earth has? To generate a field, the liquid core needs to be in motion, and for a long time theorists suspected that the planet's glacially slow 243-day spin was inhibiting the necessary internal churning.

But that's not the cause, researchers say. "The generation of a global magnetic field requires core convection, which in turn requires extraction of heat from the core into the overlying mantle," explains Francis Nimmo (University of California, Los Angeles). Venus lacks any of the plate tectonism that's a hallmark of Earth — there's no rising and sinking of plates to carry heat from the deep interior in conveyor-belt fashion. So for the past two decades Nimmo and others have concluded that the mantle of Venus must be overly hot, and heat can't escape from the core fast enough to drive convection.

Now a new idea has emerged that attacks the problem from a wholly new angle. As Seth Jacobson (now at Northwestern University) and four colleagues detail in September's Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Earth and Venus might both have ended up without magnetic fields, save for one critical difference: The nearly assembled Earth endured a catastrophic collision with a Mars-size impactor — the one that led to the Moon's creation — and Venus did not.

Jacobson and his team simulated the gradual build-up of rocky planets like Venus and Earth from countless smaller planetesimals early in solar system history. As bigger and bigger chunks came together, whatever iron they delivered sank into the completely molten planets to form cores. At first the cores consisted almost completely of iron and nickel. But more core-forming metals arrived by way of impacts, and this dense matter sank through each planet's molten mantle — picking up lighter elements (oxygen, silicon, and sulphur) along the way.

Over time these hot, molten cores developed several stable layers (maybe as many as 10) of differing compositions. "In effect," the team explains, "they create an onion-like shell structure within the core, where convective mixing eventually homogenizes the fluids within each shell but prevents homogenization between shells." Heat would still bleed out into the mantle but only slowly, via conduction from one layer to the next. Such a stratified core would lack the wholesale circulation necessary for a dynamo, so there'd be no magnetic field. This might have been the fate of Venus.

On Earth, meanwhile, the Moon-forming impact affected our planet literally to its core, creating turbulent mixing that disrupted any compositional layering and creating the same mix of elements throughout. With this kind of homogeneity, the core started convecting as a whole and drove heat readily into the mantle. From there, plate tectonism took over and delivered that heat to the surface. The churning core became the dynamo that created our planet's strong, global magnetic field.

What's not yet clear is how stable these compositional layers would really be. The next step, Jacobson says, is to grind through more rigorous numerical modelling of the fluid dynamics involved.

The researchers note that Venus certainly endured its share of big impacts as it grew in size and mass. But apparently none of them hit planet hard enough — or late enough — to disrupt the compositional layering that had already settled out in its core. By contrast, the team concludes, "Earth was struck violently at the end of its growth, simultaneously creating its Moon and homogenizing its core." If they're right, then the divergence of Earth and Venus becomes a classic story of planetary "haves" and "have nots."

-- Article by Kelly Beatty with images and diagrams at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/why-is-earth-magnetized-and-venus-not-magnetized/

12. Bird Migration Affected by Bright Urban Light

Tribute in Light in New York City projects two beams of light into the sky as an annual memorial to the victims of 9/11. The tribute also occurs during peak bird migration in North America. Recognizing a unique opportunity, a team of scientists and volunteers gathered each year at the memorial on September 11 since 2005 to study the effects of high intensity lights on bird migration.

In 2008, the team began using radar and acoustic sensors to monitor bird activity in and around the site. On the study night in 2010, a particularly high density of birds seemed to be trapped within the perimeter of the illumination. The team convinced the memorial managers to turn the lights off for 20 minutes and the birds quickly dispersed.

In the years since, memorial operators have continued to shut the lights off when high counts of birds were observed. This created an opportunity to study the difference between having the lights on and off at the site, so the scientists compiled data they had collected between 2008 and 2016 to analyse the contrast. The study consists of data from 7 non-consecutive years, excluding data from 2 years when it was raining.

According to the recently published study, “High-intensity urban light installation dramatically alters nocturnal bird migration,” the lights at the tribute were shut down for about 20 minutes at a time, for a total of 22 times on the nights of the study between 2010 and 2017. The contrast between the high-intensity light and no light allowed the researchers “to directly contrast birds’ behaviours during adjacent dark and illuminated periods.”

The findings from the study confirm what IDA has long thought to be the case for such high-intensity outdoor light installations. It has been previously documented that birds are attracted to bright lights. High-intensity artificial lights along migration routes attract and disorient birds, disrupting their progress.

This is exactly what the researchers found at the Tribute in Light. They measured more than 20 times the density of birds near the memorial than in surrounding areas. The birds spent long periods circling inside of the cone of illumination and they vocalized frequently. This meant that they were using precious energy, but not making any progress on their migration routes. Some died of exhaustion, while others collided with nearby buildings.

The Tribute in Light is a unique installation that beams light up to four miles above the ground, yet some of the study findings can be applied to all artificial light at night (ALAN). For instance, one of the key observations of the study is that “short-term removal of ALAN eliminated its disruptive effects almost instantaneously.”

An article on the Discover Magazine blog noted, “Beyond the unique natural experiment, the researchers also say the Tribute in Light offers a lesson in addressing the larger problem of light pollution. If conservationists and memorial organizers can work together at such an emotionally charged site, then other cities should be able to find solutions.” IDA hopes that the study will be useful to communities lobbying for the prevention of light pollution.

While there is much more to learn about the effects of artificial light at night, the International Dark-Sky Association appreciates that this study proves that limiting the duration of lights has a demonstrable benefit. Turning the lights off does what we think it does, which is protecting the night sky for birds and other nocturnal creatures.

-- Article by Meg Schader of the International Dark-Sky Association at http://www.darksky.org/bird-migration-dramatically-altered-by-high-intensity-urban-light-installation/

13. LIGO Sees Smallest Black Hole Binary Yet

LIGO has detected another black hole merger, raising the tally to five. On November 15th astronomers announced the detection of their sixth gravitational-wave discovery, which is the fifth from the merger of two black holes. The event, GW170608, came from the union of the smallest black holes scientists have yet “seen” using this technique. The waves hit LIGO at 02:01:16 Universal Time on June 8th, during the project’s second observing run (November 30th to August 25th).

Based on the signal’s characteristics, the two teams infer that the initial black holes were roughly 7 and 12 solar masses and created an 18-solar-mass black hole, radiating away a Sun’s worth of energy in gravitational waves. The merger happened more than a billion light-years away. With only two detectors, the team can only say that the signal came from somewhere in a huge, 520-square-degree swatch of sky in the Northern Hemisphere.

The spin of the final black hole is 69% of the maximum value it could be — once again matching the predicted 70% rate for black holes that have been created by the merger process. There’s also no sign that the two initial objects were wildly tilted in their orbit as they spiralled into each other.

The most interesting thing about this latest detection, however, is the black holes’ small sizes. They’re similar to those from LIGO’s second discovery, GW151226, which combined objects of about 8 and 14 solar masses to create a black hole of 21 Suns (the rest was radiated away). These initial masses are also similar to black holes discovered in binary systems with stars, which astronomers can find due to the X-ray glow of the gas the black holes are tearing from their stellar companions. This is exciting because of a tantalizing possibility: If the black holes discovered with LIGO and Virgo start falling into two distinct mass groups, then it’s possible that they’re made different ways. With enough black holes — and the teams say that they’ll need to find on the order of 100 — astronomers could start figuring out where each group comes from.

It's expected that increases in detector sensitivity in late 2018 will make detection of black hole binaries a routine occurrence.

Reference: The LIGO Scientific Collaboration and Virgo Collaboration. “GW170608: Observation of a 19-solar-mass Binary Black Hole Coalescence.” Posted to arXiv.org on November 15, 2017.

-- From the article by Camille M. Carlisle at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/ligo-sees-smallest-black-hole-binary-yet-1611201723/

14. "Universe - Exploring the Astronomical World"

David Malin points out a new book "Universe - Exploring the Astronomical World". It contains 300 images covering ~15,000 years of studying the sky, chosen by artists with captions written by scientists.

ISBN 0714874612; publisher Phaidon Press. For details see http://tinyurl.com/y8wo4qvabut it's cheaper from Book Depository.

15. Mt John History Price Reduced

The Mt John history 'Mt John – The First 50 Years', a celebration of half a century of optical astronomy at the University of Canterbury by John Hearnshaw and Alan Gilmore, published in March 2015 is now selling for $20. It was $60. For details see http://www.cup.canterbury.ac.nz/catalogue/mt_john.shtml

16. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2017 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants May be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.


"The science of Astronomy is so rapidly progressive, that to keep the public advised of its advances new works are required almost every year." -- From the preface to 'Popular Astronomy and the Orbs of Heaven' by O. M. Mitchell, January 1860.

"Somehow the word 'quantum' manages to sound simultaneously mysterious and scientific, and so people attach it to things that they want to sound simultaneously mysterious and scientific, like diets and the power of positive thinking, or even theology." - Michelle Francl-Donnay.

---------- Season's greetings to all our readers and best wishes for 2018. -- Ed

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
P.O. Box 57 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
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