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.

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.

Contents

1. Siding Spring Observatory Damaged by Bush Fire
2. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11
3. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations
4. The Solar System in February
5. RASNZ Conference 2013
6. SMC Chart Available
7. Asteroid Apophis Takes a Pass in 2036
8. Near-miss by 2012 DA14 on February 16
9. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)
10. Kepler Problems
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. A Month for Sundays? (cont.)

1. Siding Spring Observatory Damaged by Bush Fire

 

On Sunday evening, January 13, a fierce bush fire roared through the Warrumbungle National Park to the West of Coonabarabran (the Wambelong Fire). The brave men and women of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, local Police and other volunteers did an amazing job to ensure that no lives were lost and that the damage to properties was kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately there was damage to the Siding Spring Observatory and the Mopra Telescope. 40 properties and over 110 out-buildings have been confirmed lost as well as a large number of livestock and farm machinery.

All staff and visiting astronomers were evacuated from the Siding Spring Observatory before the fire came through. The 4-metre AAT and the UK Schmidt appear to have escaped major damage, however the Australian National University (ANU) Lodge was destroyed.

ANU and Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) websites continue to provide updates on fire damage to the Siding Spring Observatory: http://www.aao.gov.au and http://www.anu.edu.au

Updates are available on the NSW Rural Fire Service webpage, under Wambelong WNP, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au. AAO staff member Amanda Bauer (@astropixie) is also giving updates on Twitter and on her blog (amandabauer.blogspot.com.au).

Damage confirmed at Siding Spring Observatory: - 3 buildings have been destroyed (The Lodge, a cottage and a storage building) - 3 buildings have been badly damaged (The Visitors Centre and two sheds) - 4 telescopes appear to have some smoke damage to their buildings

A new update on fire damage at the Mopra Telescope is available on the ATNF website: http://www.atnf.csiro.au

Aerial footage of the Mopra Telescope and a brief first site visit from an SSO staff member on Monday indicated that there was significant fire damage to the onsite control building. This building contained an accommodation area, a control room and an equipment room containing the VLBI data correlator and the MOPS spectrometre equipment. From the aerial photo it was clear that the accommodation area was burnt to the ground and yet the concrete roof above the control and equipment rooms appeared relatively intact.

Late yesterday afternoon two CASS staff with an RFS Inspector were able to visit the site and give a brief visual report on the inside of the equipment room. There is smoke damage but the equipment is currently intact with no obvious heat or fire damage. This is very good news. Before the equipment can be tested to see if it is still operational, the structural safety of the building must be assessed and the equipment must be made physically safe.

Warrumbungle Shire Council has set up a Warrumbungle Shire Mayor´s Bushfire Appeal and will be taking donations from members of the public who wish to assist residents who have suffered, and in many cases lost everything as a result of the fire. Further information is available at: http://www.warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au/News/Articles/Warrumbungle-Shire-Mayor-s-Bushfire-Appeal

To get a feeling for the speed and intensity of the fire, the following is a post from Rob McNaught just hours after escaping the fire:

"Just a note to let folks know that I and all the other staff at Siding Spring Observatory are safe and well, following the major bushfire that went through it this afternoon. I was unaware of the threat and only became aware when I heard helicopters flying over my house on the Timor Road some 10km from the observatory. Very quickly after, the smoke plume became obvious and was massive within minutes. Much of our view is obscured by trees! Tanya and I evacuated with our dogs within minutes and are currently staying in Coonabarabran.

We are aware of damage to the Observatory. Apparently the Visitor's Center has been damaged (some reports say lost) and other buildings (specifically the Lodge as Dave said) have also been damaged. I have no news about telescopes, but note that I can log-in to computers in the Uppsala office and the 2.3m building. The AAT should be unaffected as it is a very secure and well defended building. It is in fact the evacuation area on the mountain.

Two houses on the Timor Road are known to be lost. I understand the fire went through our property so we can only hope. A high proportion of the Observatory staff have houses along this road and I met many of them in the evacuation centre this afternoon or heard reports that they were safe. Once again, many hold fears that their houses are lost. We heard a lot of hair raising stories from the last few to drive down the Timor Road as it became engulfed in flames."

As if this wasn't tragedy enough for Australian astronomers, they are recalling with sadness that it was 10 years ago that a fire destroyed Mount Stromlo Observatory, located just outside Canberra.

--- -- From messages by Kate Brooks, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and from a post by Kelly Beatty on Sky & Telescope's webpage at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Wildfire-Overruns-Siding-Spring-Observatory-186700031.html.

Rob McNaught's message was passed along by Robert Brand. A recent note from Rob, whose house was destroyed, is on Sky & Telescope's website at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/The-Saga-of-the-Astronomers-Hat-187467971.html

2. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley, 1.25 hours from Christchurch, between February 8th and 11th. This celebration of astronomy includes talks by experts on various aspects of astronomy, a formal dinner, fabulous viewing through an array of telescopes (weather permitting), and an opportunity to catch up with fellow astronomers in a relaxing, natural setting in the Canterbury foothills.

The site has excellent sleeping and bathroom facilities, a great auditorium, space for tents, power for caravans, and a good view of the sky in all directions. You can bring your own observing gear or enjoy looking through the large array of gear that we attendees generally establish in a long line down the main viewing area. This is your chance to get away from things for a few days, with your family if you wish, and enjoy astronomy with like minded enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or you publish papers in astronomical journals, this is for you. Registrations are building rapidly. For more information and on-line registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

3. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2013. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Executive Secretary at the address below by 28 February. R O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. The Solar System in February

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter: Feb 4 at 2.56 am NZDT (Feb 3, 13:56 UT)

New moon: Feb 10 at 8.20 pm NZDT (07:20 UT)
First quarter: Feb 18 at 9.31 am NZDT (Feb 17, 20:31 UT)
Full moon: Feb 26 at 9.26 am NZDT (Feb 25, 20:26 UT).

The planets in february

Only Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during February. By the end of the month Jupiter will set about midnight so will be low late evening. Saturn will still be best seen as a morning object, but will rise a little 11 pm at the end of the month.

Mercury and Mars will be very low in the sky immediately after sunset, while Venus will be low in the morning sky at sunrise.

Comet Panstarrs may be reasonably bright by the end of February, visible both in the morning and evening, rising before the Sun and setting after it.

The evening sky.

Jupiter will be the dominant object of the evening sky, although not very high. The planet remains in Taurus between Aldebaran and the Pleiades, about 6° lower than the star.

The moon, just past first quarter, will close in on Jupiter on the 18th. By late evening the two will be about half a degree apart as seen from New Zealand. After they set, an occultation of Jupiter will take place as seen from southwest and south Australia. The northern limb of the moon will graze Jupiter along a line from Carnarvon and swinging across southern Australia close to Port Augustus and then a little to the south of Canberra.

Mars and MERCURY form a pair during much of February, with Neptune joining them in the first part of the month.

Neptune and Mars are in conjunction early in February being just over half a degree apart on the 4th and 5th. Mercury passes Neptune on the 7th and Mars on the 9th. A week later Mercury is at its greatest elongation 18° of the Sun and is stationary on the 23rd. It then moves back towards the Sun and passes Mars for a second time on the 26th.

Unfortunately, all this activity will be lost to view. At best Mercury will set only 40 minutes after the Sun, along with Mars on the 10th. By the end of the month Mercury sets more or less at the same time as the Sun, while Mars sets just over 25 minutes later. So all three planets are likely to be too low to see in the twilight bright sky.

The morning sky: venus and saturn

Saturn rises shortly after midnight (NZDT) at the beginning of February and a little before 11 pm at the end of the month. The planet will then transit and be highest some 90 minutes before sunrise. Unlike Jupiter, Saturn is some way south of the celestial equator so will be much higher in NZ skies.

The planet is in Libra, a few from the wide double alpha Lib. Binoculars should easily show the double nature of the star. Saturn is stationary on the 19th, so its position will not change much throughout February.

On the morning of February 4, an hour before sunrise, the moon at last quarter will be about 5° from Saturn and just beyond alpha Lib. Earlier that morning the moon will occult the brighter star of alpha Lib as seen from the South Island and the southern part of the North Island.

A grazing occultation will take place along a line running close to Hawera, Whanganui and Feilding, and a little north of Palmerston North. The graze will occur just with the northern lit cusp, making it difficult to observe. The fainter star of the pair will graze the moon along a parallel path passing just south of Kekerengu on the east coast of the South Island.

Venus remains in the morning sky in February. It rises just over an hour before the Sun on the 1st and about 40 minutes earlier on the 28th. Thus it will be very low in the dawn sky, although visible for those who have a low horizon to the east.

On the morning of February 9, a very thin crescent moon will be 6.5° to the upper left of Venus. The moon will rise about 90 minutes before the Sun with Venus coming up about 30 minutes after the Moon. The two will be a little to the south of east.


Uranus will set more than two hours after the Sun at the beginning of February, reducing to just over an hour later by the end of the month. At magnitude 5.9 it should be a binocular object in Pisces early in the month, but is likely to be too low in the sunset lit sky by the end of February.

Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on February 21 so will not be visible during the month.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Taurus during February, not far from Jupiter. Ceres´ magnitude varies from 7.9 to 8.3, Vesta´s 7.6 to 8.0.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

BRIGHT COMET: Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4) is expected to brighten during February. It is likely to be visible in binoculars early in the month and may brighten to become a naked eye object by the end.

The comet is well south of the equator in February, and will be circumpolar for the south of the South Island. At Christchurch it is below the horizon for less than an hour near midnight. For the first 9 days of February it will be moving to the east more or less along the border between the constellation Telescopium and Sagittarius. It will be better placed for viewing in the pre-dawn sky to the south east than in the evening sky, especially in the North Island.

By late February the comet will have moved further north, but still be visible both in the evening and the morning skies (but not near mid night), with the evening now more favoured. It will be rather low to the southwest an hour after sunset. Towards the end of February the comet will pass within a few degrees of Fomalhaut.

-- Brian Loader

An ephemeris for Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4) is in Item 9. - Ed.

5. RASNZ Conference 2013

Registrations for the 2013 RASNZ conference and TTSO7 are now coming in steadily. Don't miss out! The venue for the conference is the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, the dates Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May, with the TTSO7 Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium following on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 May. The conference host in the Southland Astronomical Society. They have made a name for themselves in the past for organising an excellent conference and the 2013 conference looks like being at least as good as previous ones.

The Ascot Park Hotel offers on site accommodation, both hotel and motel. There is other accommodation available nearby. When booking accommodation at the Ascot make sure you mention that you are booking for the conference. The hotel is holding accommodation for us and special rates will apply. With the Bluff Oyster festival coinciding with the conference it is sensible to reserve your accommodation early before it is booked out.

RASNZ members will have received registration forms and conference brochures with their copy of the December 2012 Southern Stars. Registration can also be carried out on line, go to the RASNZ web site, <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> and follow the link to the registration form on the conference page. A printable, pdf, version of the registration form is also available on line. Click on the link to "registration" on the RASNZ Wiki.

On the web site conference page you will also find a link to information about presenting papers and to the on-line paper submission form. All active observers and anyone involved in astronomical activities are invited to present papers on their observations and work. The invitation extends to all sections and astronomical societies. Section directors should endeavour to ensure that at least one paper detailing some aspect of the work of their section is presented. Societies should take the opportunity to publicise their activities in the astronomical field.

Brochures about the conference and other activities have also been distributed and are available as a pdf file at the RASNZ web site. Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz>.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC. 15 January 2013

6. SMC Chart Available

Ian Cooper has completed an extended object chart of the Small Magellanic Cloud. The chart is a large Jpeg file. Also available is an excel spreadsheet listing all of the individual objects and their most common names and coordinates. It is for free use to all those interested. The chart can be seen at http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/stargazing/small-magellanic-cloud

The chart was originally started about 12 years ago and is now up to Version 5. Ian plans to continue updates but not more often than once a month. Check the date stamp.

-- from a detailed note by Ian to the nzastronomers Yahoo group.

7. Asteroid Apophis Takes a Pass in 2036

After tracking asteroid 99942 Apophis with NASA's giant Goldstone radar dish, astronomers are now certain that the threatening asteroid has essentially no chance of striking Earth in 2036.

Right now Apophis is in the midst of a rather distant yet much-awaited pass in Earth's vicinity, coming within 14½ million km on January 9. It was tracked for about 2½ weeks before that by NASA's 230-foot (70-m) Goldstone radio/radar dish in California. Those observations have given astronomers the confidence to issue an "all clear" for the foreseeable future.

"Goldstone single-pixel observations of Apophis have ruled out the potential 2036 Earth impact," says Jon Giorgini, a dynamicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Based on revised orbit calculations, he says Apophis will then come no closer than about 22 million km - and more likely miss us by something closer to 56 million km. Moreover, the radar data have improved the asteroid's positional uncertainty so much that dynamicists can now accurately predict its trajectory decades into the future.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004 orbital computations suggested that it had a 3% chance of striking our planet in 2029. About a year later, it was named Apophis, for the Egyptian god of evil and destruction. Fortunately, by then pre-discovery observations had led to a revised orbit, which ruled out an impact in 2029.

But we weren't out of danger yet. A collision remained possible in 2036, and the chance of that hinged on the near-miss flyby in 2029, when Apophis will zip by just 32,000 km away. Were that to occur at a particular spot in space, what dynamicists call a keyhole, an impact would become very likely on the return visit in 2036. The problem is that the orbital specs of Apophis weren't known accurately enough to predict exactly where it would fly past in 2029.

Adding to the uncertainty is the extent to which a subtle force, known as the Yarkovsky effect, might be altering the asteroid's orbit. This effect is caused by the uneven way that a spinning body absorbs sunlight and then reradiates it back to space. Ground-based observers determined that Apophis rotates in 30½ hours, but it likely has more than one period involving multiple spin axes.

Conceivably, gentle but persistent nudging from the Yarkovsky effect might have pushed Apophis straight through the 2029 keyhole. However, the Goldstone observations have shrunk the orbital uncertainties so much that, regardless of what the still-unknown physical parameters of Apophis might be, radiation pressure can't be enough to move the measurement uncertainty region enough to encounter the Earth in 2036.

Were this asteroid to hit us, very bad things would happen. Apophis is an estimated 270 metres across, and it would strike with the kinetic-energy equivalent of roughly 500 million tons of TNT.

Just-released infrared observations from the European Space Agency's Herschel spacecraft suggest that the diameter of Apophis might be some 20% larger. The 20% increase in diameter, from 270 to 325 m, translates into a 75% increase in our estimates of the asteroid´s volume or mass. However, this modelling assumes that Apophis is spherical where the actual shape is thought to be elongated.

We haven't heard the last word on this little interplanetary demon. Goldstone radar observations of Apophis will continue through January 17th, and additional tracking is planned next month with the giant Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. All that pinging should yield super-accurate positional data and, perhaps, reveal the asteroid's shape and spin state.

But the worry about Apophis has only been postponed, not eliminated. Its orbit is not all that different from Earth's, and some day in the distant future the two bodies will either have a catastrophic collision - or an encounter so close that Earth's gravity will yank Apophis onto a new and significantly different interplanetary path.

-- From a Sky & Telescope posting by Kelly Beatty on 9 January. See the original at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Asteroid-Apophis-Takes-a-Pass-in-2036-186245171.html

8. Near-miss by 2012 DA14 on February 16

The asteroid 2012 DA14 makes the closest approach ever predicted far in advance on the morning of February 16 NZDT. 2012 DA14 is 40-50 metres across and passes 28,500 km from us. It is closest after sunrise in NZ but will be a telescopic object before dawn.

Ephemeris for 2012 DA14 on Feb. 16 NZDT, seen from Wellington. R.A. (2000) Dec. R.A. (2000) Dec. NZDT h m s o ' Mag. NZDT h m s o ' Mag.

  1. 05 14 05 -85 36 12.4 0500 08 27 40 -82 52 11.6
  2. 05 32 16 -85 34 12.3 0505 08 38 39 -82 24 11.5
  3. 05 50 43 -85 29 12.2 0510 08 48 48 -81 54 11.5
  4. 06 09 12 -85 23 12.2 0515 08 58 11 -81 22 11.4
  5. 06 27 28 -85 15 12.1 0520 09 06 51 -80 47 11.3
  6. 06 45 19 -85 05 12.1 0525 09 14 53 -80 10 11.2
  7. 07 02 33 -84 53 12.0 0530 09 22 19 -79 30 11.1
  8. 07 19 02 -84 38 11.9 0535 09 29 12 -78 48 11.1
  9. 07 34 38 -84 21 11.9 0540 09 35 36 -78 03 11.0
  10. 07 49 19 -84 02 11.8 0545 09 41 33 -77 15 10.9
  11. 08 03 02 -83 41 11.8 0550 09 47 05 -76 23 10.8
  12. 08 15 49 -83 18 11.7 0555 09 52 15 -75 29 10.7
  13. 08 27 40 -82 52 11.6 0600 09 57 05 -74 31 10.6

At 0400 NZST the asteroid is 109,500 km away, moving at 4' per minute. At 0600 NZST the asteroid is 64,500 km away, moving at 13' per min. It passes 28,500 km from Earth's surface around 0825 NZST = February 15 19:25 UT.

Because the object is close, it will be increasingly far from the above ephemeris the further you are from Wellington. To get a prediction for your location go to http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html. There enter the object's designation 2012 DA14 . The UT date format is 2013 02 15 1500 for 2013 Feb. 15 15:00 UT = Feb. 16 0400 NZDT. You can enter your latitude and longitude, or make a shortcut using a nearby Observatory Code: Auckland 467; Rotorua E89; Gisborne E94; Wellington 485; Mt John 474. Make a chart of the telescope view for a particular time. Find that place in the sky ahead of time and watch for the asteroid to cross.

9. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)

The ephemeris below is from the Minor Planet Center and is based on elements from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2013-A29. The comet's positions are given for 5 a.m. NZDT.

    R.A.(2000) Dec.                  R.A.(2000) Dec.
Jan. h  m  s   °  '   m1         Feb. h  m  s   °  '   m1
21  18 22 14 -43 27   7.8         9  20 15 44 -45 27   5.6
22  18 26 36 -43 40   7.7        10  20 23 54 -45 19   5.5
23  18 31 06 -43 52   7.7        11  20 32 18 -45 08   5.3
24  18 35 44 -44 03   7.5        12  20 40 56 -44 54   5.2
25  18 40 32 -44 15   7.4        13  20 49 47 -44 37   5.0
26  18 45 30 -44 26   7.3        14  20 58 51 -44 15   4.9
27  18 50 37 -44 37   7.2        15  21 08 07 -43 50   4.7
28  18 55 55 -44 47   7.1        16  21 17 33 -43 21   4.5
29  19 01 24 -44 56   7.0        17  21 27 09 -42 46   4.3
30  19 07 04 -45 05   6.9        18  21 36 52 -42 07   4.2
31  19 12 56 -45 13   6.8        19  21 46 42 -41 23   4.0
Feb.                             20  21 56 35 -40 32   3.8
 1  19 19 01 -45 20   6.7        21  22 06 31 -39 36   3.6
 2  19 25 18 -45 26   6.5        22  22 16 26 -38 33   3.4
 3  19 31 48 -45 31   6.4        23  22 26 19 -37 24   3.2
 4  19 38 32 -45 35   6.3        24  22 36 07 -36 08   3.0
 5  19 45 30 -45 37   6.2        25  22 45 48 -34 44   2.8
 6  19 52 42 -45 38   6.0        26  22 55 19 -33 14   2.6
 7  20 00 08 -45 36   5.9        27  23 04 38 -31 36   2.4
 8  20 07 49 -45 33   5.8        28  23 13 41 -29 50   2.2

After Feb. 23 the comet rises after 5 a.m. The comet's total magnitude m1 is the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. The m1 needs to be brighter than 3 for a comet to be obvious to the naked eye.

10. Kepler Problems

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has been discovering planets by imaging thousands of stars in a Milky Way region. Some of the stars have planets that by chance pass in front of the star, seen from our direction. This causes a tiny dip in the star's brightness at regular intervals as the planet, or planets, cross.

This method of detecting planets requires very accurate photometry, so the spacecraft's pointing has to be finely controlled. Pointing is done by reaction wheels on the craft. Kepler is equipped with four reaction wheels which are used to accurately point the telescope. One failed in July 2012. On January 17 the team announced that they detected issues with a second one. Kepler needs three reaction wheels to be used properly, if this one fails the mission is most likely over.

The team detected an increase of friction on reaction wheel #4 on January 11 2013 just after the completion of Quarter 15 flight operation. This friction persisted after the spacecraft roll, which could lead to the complete failure of the wheel.

To solve this issue, the team reported to have placed the Kepler spacecraft in a "wheel rest" safe mode. Science operation has been interrupted and the spacecraft is now in a position which does not require the use of the reaction wheels. They hope that by resting the wheel for 10 days, the internal lubricant will be redistributed and the wheel will work again in an optimal manner.

Last week the French space agency, CNES, announced that COROT, another planet hunter spacecraft was also malfunctioning, and most likely will end the mission officially soon.

-- Mostly from a blog by Franck Marchis pointed out by Karen Pollard. See the original note with images at http://cosmicdiary.org/fmarchis/2013/01/17/kepler-is-damaged-and-now-resting-mountain-view-we-have-a-problem/

11. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. A Month for Sundays? (cont.)

In the November Newsletter we published the anonymous assertion that "In 2012, December has 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays. This apparently happens once every 823 years!" Not so, writes Alan Tunnicliffe. There were similar months in 1956 and 1984. It happens every 28 years in fact so the next time will be 2040.


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

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.

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.

Contents

1. Patrick Moore (1923-2012)
2. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21
3. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11
4. The Solar System in January
5. RASNZ Conference 2013
6. Long-lost Comet Identified
7. Tau Ceti's Planets
8. Vega's Age and Spin Revised
9. Radioactivity Important for Life?
10. How to Join the RASNZ
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Quotes

1. Patrick Moore (1923-2012)

Sir Patrick Moore astronomy populariser, author, TV presenter and Honorary Member of the RASNZ, died on December 9. Many will recall his lecture tour of New Zealand in 1983 and subsequent visit ten years later. Others will remember cutting their astronomical teeth on Patrick's numerous books.

The following are obituaries from two British publications. --------------- From The Times:

Patrick Moore did more than almost anyone else to popularise astronomy in Britain. A television journey in his company across the lunar wastes of through Saturn's rings was a journey of discovery, and his ebullience guaranteed that his performances avoided getting bogged down in technical detail, although he never talked down to his audiences.

His television presence -- and he was a man par excellence of the television age -- was one of donnish dishevelment, with outsize suit, unruly hair, tie gone awry, eyebrows agitated above squinting eyeballs; his words constantly and endearingly, threatening to race ahead of his thoughts. His wild enthusiasm for his subject could be matched on television only by Peter Snow and David Attenborough.

'The Sky at Night', which he fronted without a break from its beginning in 1957, retained a faithful "around midnight" audience. Its presenter was as much the attraction as the latest astronomical discovery; and when, during one of the early live shows, a bluebottle flew into his mouth, he did not hesitate: "I'm proud to say that I swallowed it. Horrifying experience. Buzzed all the way down."

He was old enough to have met Orville Wright and H G Wells, and late in life he wondered whether he had lived long enough also to have met young people who would one day walk on Mars.

He was born Patrick Caldwell-Moore at Pinner, Middlesex. An only child, he was plagued by illness which confined him to bed. At the age of 7 his mother gave him 'The Story of the Solar System', and his future was decided. By the time he was 11 he was a member of the British Astronomical Association and had been presented with his first good telescope.

He was about to go to university when World War II began. In 1940, lying about his age and his health (he had worn a monocle since adolescence), he joined the Royal Air Force. He served with Bomber Command through most of the war, being invalided out in 1945with the rank of flight-lieutenant. He then taught history for five years at Holmewood House Preparatory School near Tunbridge Wells, before illness overcame him.

He was already a member of the Interplanetary Society, and had written papers about the Moon, and in 1948 he translated a French book on Mars. He now took to writing in earnest, and his first effort, 'Guide to the Moon' (1953), straightforward and informative, was a great success.

There followed more guides to the planets and stars, 'The A-Z of Astronomy', 'The planet Venus', 'The Starry Sky' and the ambitious guide 'The Amateur Astronomer'. His most commercially successful work was his 'Atlas of the Universe' (1970, revised 1995), which was widely translated. He published more than 60 books, all typed two-fingers style on a 1908 Woodstock.

In 1957 Moore was suggested to the BBC for a TV programme on flying saucers. His enthusiastic intensity and clarity of exposition made an outstanding impression. On April 26, 1957, at 10.30 pm 'The Sky at Night' was launched.

He was to present it virtually every month from the launch date, a notable exception being July 2004, when he was suffering from a near- fatal bout of food poisoning. He appeared in the 'Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving television presenter.

He was a well-regarded figure on the international scene and helped to found the International Union of Amateur Astronomers in 1967. He was feted by astronomers in New Zealand, Canada, Russia, Italy and elsewhere, and from 1982to 1984 he was president of the British Astronomical Association.

Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, astronomer, television presenter and author, was born on March 4,1923. He died on December 9, 2012, aged 89.

-- From 'The Times'. Transcribed two-fingers style from 'The Press' of 15 December 2012.

-------------------- From The Economist

In these days of ever more specific expertise, astronomy is one of the few sciences in which the enthusiastic amateur can still hope to make a contribution. Among the most enthusiastic of these self-taught folk was Sir Patrick Moore, the presenter of a BBC astronomy programme called "The Sky at Night", who died on December 9th.

Once a month for 55 years, as regular as the new Moon, Sir Patrick´s monocled face would appear on the nation´s TV screens. He and his guests would tell viewers about a spectacular constellation they might be able to see with their garden telescopes, or discuss results from an interplanetary space probe. It was, for the programme´s fans, exactly the sort of highbrow television that the BBC was created to provide, and which its commercial rivals would never have commissioned. (In fact, "The Sky at Night" was so popular that Mr Moore reportedly turned down offers from other TV stations, remaining loyally with the BBC.)

Despite his determinedly eccentric habits - he was rarely without his trademark monocle, and was a keen xylophone-player - Sir Patrick insisted that it was the beauty of the universe that drew his viewers, rather than any personal magnetism he might have possessed. Nevertheless, to many he was a national treasure on a par with Sir David Attenborough, the indefatigable presenter of the BBC´s big-budget nature documentaries.

Nor was he a dilettante or a lightweight: the study of the Moon was his passion, and he made several contributions to lunar science. Over his half-century on the air, he secured interviews with many notable figures, including Werner von Braun, the ex-Nazi designer of NASA´s Saturn V Moon rockets; Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars, rotating neutron stars; and Neil Armstrong, a media-shy astronaut. His reputation crossed the Iron Curtain: he was invited to Russia to meet Armstrong´s counterpart, Yuri Gagarin, and became the first Westerner to see results from the Soviet Luna 3 probe, which mapped the Moon´s far side in 1959.

Some of his attitudes struck audiences as odd and even offensive. Sir Patrick disliked Germans and did not care who knew it (his fiancée had been killed in a German bombing raid in the second world war, and he never married). In the 1970s he became president of the short-lived, virulently anti-immigration United Country Party; later he supported the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party. He said he had abandoned watching "Star Trek" when a woman occupied the captain´s chair.

These days science is confident and cool. Comedians such as Dara O´Briain and Robin Ince entertain with science-friendly routines. Telegenic stars including Alice Roberts, an anthropologist, and Brian Cox, an astronomer (and ex-member of D:Ream, a 1990s Britpop band), host lavish, popular-science programmes on television. The front-runner to fill Sir Patrick´s shoes is probably Chris Lintott, an Oxford University astronomer, populariser of science and regular guest on the programme. Another candidate might be Brian May, who, in addition to playing the guitar for Queen, a rock band, holds a PhD in astrophysics and is a "Sky at Night" stalwart. Whoever it proves to be, those shoes are big.

2. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21

When: Thursday January 17 to Monday Jan 21, 2013 Where: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

For anyone with an interest in astronomy, StarDate provides opportunities to look through a range of telescopes, listen to a wide range of astronomy related talks and meet a variety of astronomers. See http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/society-meetings/society-meetings.html for details

3. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11

Stardate South Island will be on the new moon weekend 2013 February 8- 11 at Staveley, near the hills inland from Christchurch. Online registration is at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/ along with all the details you need.

Like its North Island counterpart it is great place to meet other amateur astronomers, to learn and, weather permitting, to look through a wide variety of telescopes.

4. The Solar System in January

The Earth is at perihelion on January 2, when the distance between Earth and Sun will be 0.983 AU, just over 147 million km. The Sun´s apparent diameter will be at its greatest, 32.5 arc-minutes.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Last quarter: Jan 5 at 4.58 pm NZDT (3:58 UT)

New moon: Jan 12 at 8.44 am NZDT (Jan 11, 19:44 UT)
First quarter: Jan 19 at 12.45 pm NZDT (Jan 18, 23:45 UT)
Full moon: Jan 27 at 5.38 pm NZDT ((4:38 UT).

The planets in january

Jupiter will be the prominent planet of the evening sky, as will be Saturn in the early dawn sky. Venus will appear low to the east shortly before sunrise. Mars, in the evening, will be very low and become lost in twilight during the month. Mercury starts the month in the morning sky but becomes an evening object after superior conjunction. It is likely to be too close to the Sun to see throughout January.

Mars and jupiter in the evening sky.

Mars sets about 90 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of the year. On the 1st it will be only some 6° above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset. At magnitude 1.2 it will not be an easy object in the still bright sky low to the west. It will get steadily lower during the month so lost to view. By the end of January the planet will be setting about 50 minutes later than the Sun.

Jupiter will be a much easier object. It transits late evening at the beginning of January. At this time the star Aldebaran will be just over 5° to the upper right of the planet. The asteroid Vesta at magnitude 6.9 will be a similar distance also to the right of Jupiter and about half the distance low and slightly to the right of Aldebaran.

Jupiter will be moving in a retrograde sense to the west through January but gradually slowing until in the early hours of the 31st it is stationary. By the 31st the planet will transit and be highest just before 9 pm. Jupiter is currently well north of the equator so low in southern skies. The transit altitude is 28° at Wellington.

On January 22 the moon will occult Jupiter, but before it rises in New Zealand. The event is visible at night in central South America. By the time Jupiter rises in NZ in the afternoon, the moon will be 1° beyond the planet, the distance increasing to 3° by the time the sky is dark.

The morning sky: mercury, venus and saturn

Mercury is a morning object for the first part of January. It rises 45 minutes before the Sun on January 1 when it will be 11° to the lower right of Venus, but it will be only 2° up half an hour before sunrise. Observation will thus be very difficult. On subsequent mornings Mercury gets steadily closer to the Sun until it is at superior conjunction on the 18th.

After conjunction Mercury becomes an evening object setting after the Sun. By the end of January it sets only 30 minutes after sunset, so again will be too close to the Sun to observe.

Venus will be a little higher than Mercury in the morning sky and, of course, much easier to see. The planet rises about 80 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and more like 70 minutes earlier by the 31st. Thus it should be fairly easy to see before sunrise, rather low in a direction a little to the south of east.

The thin crescent moon will be some 10° to the upper left of Venus on the morning the 10th. The following morning, as an even finer crescent, it will be only 5° directly below Venus. The strong morning twilight may make the moon difficult to see.

Saturn, in contrast to Mercury and Venus, will be an easy-to-see object before dawn. It rises about 2.30 am NZDT on the 1st and almost 2 hours earlier by the 31st. Saturn will be in Libra moving to the east. An hour before sunrise the planet will be to the left of the double star alpha Lib, the two being less than 5° apart by the end of January.

The crescent moon will be about 5° to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of January 7, and a similar distance to the lower right of alpha Lib the following morning.


Uranus and NEPTUNE remain in the evening sky during January. Uranus is in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius. By the end of the month Neptune will be lost in the evening twilight.

Uranus will dim slightly from magnitude 5.8 to 5.9. It will set about 1 am on the 1st and 11 pm on the 31st, so will remain quite well placed for viewing during the month.

Neptune also dims slightly from magnitude 7.9 to 8.0. It will set close to midnight on January 1 and about 2 hours earlier at the end of the month, no more than an hour after the Sun. On the 31st Mars will be about 3.5° to the left of Neptune and slightly lower.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta fade somewhat during January, Ceres from magnitude 7.1 to 7.8, Vesta, slightly brighter from 6.9 to 7.5. Both are in Taurus with Jupiter.

Vesta will be a little over 2° from Aldebaran on January 10 and about 3° from the star on the 31st, when it will be 4° from Jupiter. Ceres will more like 15° from Jupiter and Aldebaran but 2 to 3° from beta Tau, El Nath mag 1.7.

Both Vesta and Ceres are moving in a retrograde sense in January, although Vesta is stationary on the 27th. Ceres has to wait until early February to regain its easterly movement.

(9) Metis is at opposition on January 1 at magnitude 8.5. By the end of the month its brightness will have dropped back to 9.3. The asteroid starts January in Gemini passing within 5´ of the magnitude 5.4 star 28 Gem on the 7th. Metis moves westwards into Auriga on January 12. With a declination +29°, Metis will be low in NZ skies.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

5. RASNZ Conference 2013

I would like to remind readers that the 2013 RASNZ conference will be held at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. It is being hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The dates of the conference are Friday 24 May to Sunday 26 May. Members of the RASNZ will have recently received a registration form and a brochure containing details of the conference and local accommodation with their copy of Southern Stars. Brochures and registration forms have also been sent to affiliated societies. Ask your society secretary if you require one.

The registration form and brochure are also available on the RASNZ web site: follow the links on <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>. The wiki registration form provides the opportunity to register on line.

The conference will be followed by TTSO7 (the 7th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations). It will run over two days, Monday and Tuesday, 27 and 28 May. Occultation symposia are held annually, alternating between NZ and Australia where they are held in conjunction with NACAA meetings. Registration for TTSO7 is included on the conference registration forms. More details of TTSO7 are likely to appear soon on the Occultation Section web site, <http://www.occultations.org.nz>

Guest speakers for the conference are still being arranged. Final details are likely to become available in the New Year. One speaker the LOC has already been promised is a mission controller from the European Space Agency, ESA. Also Margaret Austin has agreed to be the after-dinner speaker. We can expect an extremely interesting talk with her involvement in the establishment of the Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin.

The Fellows' speaker for 2013 will be Bob Evans. Bob is the secretary/treasurer of the host society, the Southland Astronomical Society, as well as the editor of Southern Stars and the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the conference. Not to mention involvement in a number of other local activities in Invercargill and Southland. And still he has time to give a talk! The title of his lecture is: "Reflective and Refractory: Some Observations of New Zealand Amateur Astronomy".

The first offers of papers for the conference have been received, there's still plenty of space for more. The SCC particularly invites papers detailing the astronomical work of individuals, the sections and of astronomical societies. Now is the time to start planning the paper you will present, if you haven´t already done so. Submission forms to present a paper are also available on the RASNZ web site.

The 2013 RASNZ conference will coincide with the Bluff Oyster Festival. As a result there is likely to be a heavy demand for accommodation in Invercargill, so early booking of accommodation is encouraged. See the brochure for details of some options reasonably close to the venue and at the venue itself.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the conference. The Southland Society has the reputation of organising an excellent meeting. The 2013 conference looks set to be just as good as previous ones at Invercargill. Meanwhile the conference organisers would like to extend our best wishes to all for Christmas and New Year.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC.

6. Long-lost Comet Identified

In 1932 Clyde Tombaugh of Lowell Observatory -- the discoverer of Pluto -- found a comet on photos he had taken on three nights in January 1931. It was 12th magnitude and diffuse with a strong condensation. Its tail was at least 2 minutes of arc long and pointed west. The comet was, of course, well and truly lost when noticed a year later.

On November 27 and 28 of this year M. Schwartz, P. R. Holvorcem using a CCD on a 41-cm f/3.75 astrograph at Tenagra II Observatory near Nogales, Arizona, discovered an 18th magnitude asteroid in Gemini near Castor and Pollux. It was designated 2012 WX_32. Further inspection of their images and those of other observers revealed that the asteroid was slightly fuzzy and had a short tail. Continued follow-up showed that it was a periodic comet that orbited the sun in 9 years. So it was re-designated P/2012 WX_32 and named Tenagra.

Syuichi Nakano, Sumoto, Japan, then found that P/2012 WX_32 was the same as an apparently asteroidal object discovered by the LINEAR asteroid survey on 2003 November 21 and 23 and given the minor-planet designation 2003 WZ_141.

Linking these two appearances of the comet provided an accurate orbit that Nakano could run back in time. His calculations showed that the P/2012 WX_32 = 2003 WZ_141 was the same as Tombaugh's comet of 1931. The comet is now renamed Tombaugh-Tenagra.

In 1931 Tombaugh had photographed the comet when it was at its closet to the sun, 2.45 AU. It was then only 15 degrees from where P/2012 WX_32 was found. The comet's orbital period back then was 9.05 years. The gravity of the planets has increased that to 9.10 years now. The 0.05-0.10 year difference from a neat number of years caused the comet to be increasingly badly placed for re-discovery at subsequent returns till recently.

Schwartz and Holvorcem, using equipment much more sensitive than Tombaugh's camera, found the comet three months before its closest approach to the sun. Its next return will be even better placed. It will still be a faint comet though, unless it has some sort of flare as it may have done in 1931.

-- by Ed from IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams No. 3329 (2012 December 4) and No. 3342 (2012 December 13) and from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2012-X13 (2012 December 4).

7. Tau Ceti's Planets

An international team of astronomers has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may host five planets -- with one in the star's habitable zone.

At a distance of twelve light-years Tau Ceti is the closest single star that has the same spectral classification as our Sun. Its five planets are estimated to have masses between two and six times the mass of the Earth -- making it the lowest-mass planetary system yet detected. One of the planets lies in the habitable zone of the star and has a mass around five times that of Earth, making it the smallest planet found to be orbiting in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star.

In the gravitational dance of a planet around a star, the planet does most of the moving. But the star too is tugged slightly to and fro as the planet orbits, and these subtle movements of the star show up as subtle shifts in the colour of the star's light we see from Earth.

This "radial velocity" measurement is a tricky one; stars' light changes also for a range of other reasons, and requires picking out the specifically planetary component from all this "noise".

The international team of astronomers, from the UK, Chile, the USA, and Australia, combined more than six-thousand observations from three different instruments and intensively modelled the data. The trick to honing the technique was to put in "fake planets" - to add signals into the messy data that planets should add - and find ways to reduce the noise until the fake planets became more and more visible in the data. In the process of doing that they found signals from real planets as well.

Over 800 planets have been discovered orbiting other worlds, but planets in orbit around the nearest Sun-like stars are particularly valuable. Steve Vogt from University of California Santa Cruz said: "This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets. They are everywhere, even right next door! We are now beginning to understand that Nature seems to overwhelmingly prefer systems that have a multiple planets with orbits of less than one hundred days. This is quite unlike our own solar system where there is nothing with an orbit inside that of Mercury. So our solar system is, in some sense, a bit of a freak and not the most typical kind of system that Nature cooks up."

For more see http://star-www.herts.ac.uk/~hraj/tauceti http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20770103

-- From a University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard, and a BBC News and Environment posting pointed out by Pam Kilmartin.

8. Vega's Age and Spin Revised

Vega, the bright white star low in the north on our winter nights, may be more than 200 million years older than previously thought. That's according to new findings from the University of Michigan.

The researchers estimated Vega's age by precisely measuring its spin speed with a tool called the Michigan Infrared Combiner (MIRC), developed by John Monnier. MIRC collects the light gathered by six telescopes to make it appear to be coming through one that's 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is installed at the Georgia State Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy Array located on Mt. Wilson, California.

The tool boosts resolution so astronomers can zoom in, relatively speaking, to observe the shape and surface characteristics of stars that would otherwise look like mere points even through the most powerful telescopes. By tracking stars' surface characteristics we can calculate how fast they rotate and deduce their inner workings.

At 25 light-years away, Vega is close on cosmic scales. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year.

About six years ago astronomers discovered that Vega is rotating so fast that it is nearly flinging itself apart. They haven't been able to agree on many of the related details, however. One of the debates centres on Vega's exact rotation rate, which is essential to gauge both its mass and age. Other controversies deal with Vega's tilt as viewed from Earth and the amount of turbulence in the system from roiling gases at the star¹s surface.

With MIRC's unprecedented resolution, Monnier and his colleagues have taken steps to rectify competing estimates of Vega's rotation rate and other properties. The new findings indicate that the star rotates once every 17 hours, rather than once every 12. The Sun's equator, for comparison, rotates much slower -- once every 27 days, or 648 hours. In addition to finding that Vega is older than previously thought, the Michigan group confirmed its mass to be just over two times the Sun's.

"Vega continues to challenge and surprise us," Monnier said. "We found out not too long ago that it has a disk of dusty debris, or a leftover solar system, around it. Then we found out it was a rapid rotator. It's a reference point for other stars, but it certainly isn't boring or normal."

The work will help astronomers build more accurate computer models of stars, so they can simulate those too far away to observe and gain a better understanding of their life cycles.

For the full paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters see http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/761/1/L3

-- From a University of Michigan in Ann Arbor press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

[The press release doesn't say what former estimates of Vega's age were, sorry. - Ed.]

9. Radioactivity Important for Life?

Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own Sun -- but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth.

That's because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth -- up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form.

The preliminary finding comes from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way.

They studied eight "solar twins" of our Sun -- stars that very closely match the Sun in size, age, and overall composition -- in order to measure the amounts of radioactive elements they contain. Those stars came from a dataset recorded by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

They searched the solar twins for elements such as thorium and uranium, which are essential to Earth's plate tectonics because they warm our planet's interior. Plate tectonics helps maintain water on the surface of the Earth, so the existence of plate tectonics is sometimes taken as an indicator of a planet's hospitality to life.

Of the eight solar twins they've studied so far, seven appear to contain much more thorium than our Sun -- which suggests that any planets orbiting those stars probably contain more thorium, too. That, in turn, means that the interior of the planets are probably warmer than ours.

For example, one star in the survey contains 2.5 times more thorium than our Sun, said Ohio State doctoral student Cayman Unterborn. According to his measurements, terrestrial planets that formed around that star probably generate 25 percent more internal heat than Earth does, allowing for plate tectonics to persist longer through a planet's history, giving more time for life to arise.

"If it turns out that these planets are warmer than we previously thought, then we can effectively increase the size of the habitable zone around these stars by pushing the habitable zone farther from the host star, and consider more of those planets hospitable to microbial life," said Unterborn, who presented the results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco in early December.

"At this point, all we can say for sure is that there is some natural variation in the amount of radioactive elements inside stars like ours," he added. "With only nine samples including the Sun, we can't say much about the full extent of that variation throughout the galaxy. But from what we know about planet formation, we do know that the planets around those stars probably exhibit the same variation, which has implications for the possibility of life."

His advisor, Wendy Panero, associate professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State, explained that radioactive elements such as thorium, uranium, and potassium are present within Earth's mantle. These elements heat the planet from the inside, in a way that is completely separate from the heat emanating from Earth's core.

"The core is hot because it started out hot," Panero said. "But the core isn't our only heat source. A comparable contributor is the slow radioactive decay of elements that were here when the Earth formed. Without radioactivity, there wouldn't be enough heat to drive the plate tectonics that maintains surface oceans on Earth."

The relationship between plate tectonics and surface water is complex and not completely understood. Panero called it "one of the great mysteries in the geosciences." But researchers are beginning to suspect that the same forces of heat convection in the mantle that move Earth¹s crust somehow regulate the amount of water in the oceans, too.

"It seems that if a planet is to retain an ocean over geologic timescales, it needs some kind of crust recycling system, and for us that's mantle convection," Unterborn said.

In particular, microbial life on Earth benefits from subsurface heat. Scores of microbes known as archaea do not rely on the Sun for energy, but instead live directly off of heat arising from deep inside the Earth.

On Earth, most of the heat from radioactive decay comes from uranium. Planets rich in thorium, which is more energetic than uranium and has a longer half-life, would "run" hotter and remain hot longer, he said, which gives them more time to develop life.

As to why our solar system has less thorium, Unterborn said it's likely the luck of the draw. "It all starts with supernovae. The elements created in a supernova determine the materials that are available for new stars and planets to form. The solar twins we studied are scattered around the galaxy, so they all formed from different supernovae. It just so happens that they had more thorium available when they formed than we did."

Jennifer Johnson, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State and co-author of the study, cautioned that the results are preliminary. "All signs are pointing to yes -- that there is a difference in the abundance of radioactive elements in these stars, but we need to see how robust the result is," she said.

Next, Unterborn wants to do a detailed statistical analysis of noise in the HARPS data to improve the accuracy of his computer models. Then he will seek telescope time to look for more solar twins.

Text & Images: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/hotplanet.htm

-- An Ohio State University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

12. Quotes

"One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say." -- Will Durant.

"I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." -- Wilson Mizner.

---------- Festive greetings to all our readers and best wishes for 2013.

There will be a January Newsletter -- if the Editor survives the end of the world and Christmas -- so keep those contributions pouring in.


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Carter Observatory Planetarium
Gordon Hudson

A history of the Zeiss Planetarium now set up in the Heritage Park, Whangarei, which started its life Wellington.
Volume 51, number 4. December 2012. P3

35 Degrees South Planetarium
Jane Painter

In September 2012 the Northland Astronomical Society's new Planetarium was officially opened housing the Zeiss ZKP1 projector previously used at the Carter Observatory.
Volume 51, number 4. December 2012. P5

What's in a name? - VI
Pam Kilmartin

This is the sixth talk given to a RASNZ conference on the subject of minor planet names. It was presented in 2005 at the Nelson conference.
Volume 51, number 4. December 2012. P8

A new dark syk reserve for the Central South Island of New Zealand
John Hearnshaw

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky reserve is just the third International Dark Sky Reserve in the world, and it is the world's largest.
Volume 51, number 4. December 2012. P10

The discovery of planets and its implications
Ed Budding

This is "Part 1: The Factual Basis" of the Fellows Lcture given at the RASNZ 2012 Annual Conference in Carterton.
Volume 51, number 4. December 2012. P12

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.

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.

Contents

1. The Solar Eclipse
2. Laser Regulation Discussion
3. The Solar System in December
4. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21
5. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11
6. Ken Freeman Wins Oz PM's Prize for Science
7. Lunar Sourcebook Now Free PDF
8. RASNZ Conference 2013
9. Conferences in 2014 and 2015
10. How Vesta Stays Bright
11. Fermi Counts All the Stars
12. WISE Discovers Hot DOGs
13. SKA Expressions of Interest
14. 21st Century Atlas of the Moon
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
18. A Month for Sundays?

1. The Solar Eclipse

The November 14 solar eclipse was seen from most parts of New Zealand, though some places had cloud. It was widely reported in the news media.

Results from the total eclipse track were mixed. A bunch of Kiwis in Cairns were lucky to get a gap in the cloud at the right moment, we hear. Others in the region were not so fortunate.

Peter and Janet Russell of South Canterbury reported seeing the eclipse from a cruise ship west of Noumea. The highlight was going from daylight to almost total darkness in a very short time and the stars appearing.

John Drummond of Gisborne was also on a cruise ship between Fiji and NZ. His initial report: "The eclipse was AWESOME!!!!! Had clear skies for the whole event (apart from 1 minute of cloud after totality)." John posted pictures to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group.

2. Laser Regulation Discussion

The following was received from Ministry of Health's Environmental and Border Health Team.

On 1 November Associate Minister of Health Jo Goodhew announced the release of a public consultation document outlining proposed options for new government controls on high power hand-held laser pointers.

There are different types of laser pointers, which are used for a range of activities - including as presentation aids or by astronomers to point to the night sky or use in observatories etc

This email is from the Ministry of Health and is intended to alert you to the discussion paper. The consultation is being undertaken to see what people think about how risks from high power hand-held laser pointers should be managed. Hand-held laser pointers have been sold for many years and many are low risk. However, as technology has advanced more powerful laser pointers which have much greater potential to harm the user and others have become readily available. There has also been an increase in the number of incidents where people have deliberately pointed a high power laser pointer at aircraft, cars and other vehicles.

The proposed options seek to balance the protection of people's health and safety with the Government's commitment to better and less regulation. Feedback from the consultation will help inform final proposals that will be considered by the Government.

If you want to make a submission on the proposals, the consultation paper and information about how to make a submission is available on the Ministry of Health's website http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/options-manage-health-and-safety-risks- high-power-laser-pointers-consultation-paper Responses are due by 14 December 2012.

Feel free to circulate this email to any of your colleagues who may be interested.

3. The Solar System in December

The southern summer solstice is on December 21/22 with the Sun furthest south close to midnight in NZ.

The planets in december

Mars gets lower in the evening sky during December. Jupiter is at opposition on the 1st, so is easily visible in the evening sky by the end of the month.

Saturn, Venus and Mercury are all morning objects, low before dawn in early December. Saturn will get higher during the month, the other two remain low.

Mars and jupiter in the evening sky.

Mars will get lower in the evening sky, setting nearly two and a half hours after the Sun on December 1 and some 90 minutes later on the 31st. An hour after sunset it will have an altitude about 13° on the 1st but only 4° on the 31st. The magnitude of the planet will be 1.2.

Jupiter will become an easy evening sky object during December. It is at opposition on the 1st, so then rising close to the time of sunset. By the end of the month it will rise two and a half hours before the Sun sets, so will be readily visible as the evening sky darkens.

An occultation of Jupiter by the moon occurs on the 26th before they rise in NZ. The event is visible in parts of South America, the South Atlantic Ocean and parts of southern Africa. By the time they are visible in the night sky in NZ, the moon will be about 5° from Jupiter.

The morning sky: mercury, venus and saturn

Mercury is a morning object throughout December, rising just under an hour before the Sun mid month and about 50 minutes earlier at the beginning and end of the month. Half an hour before sunrise the planet will have an altitude of 5° at Auckland and a little less further south, so making it a difficult object to find in the morning twilight. The planet will be some 6° to 10° to the lower right of Venus.

Mercury´s magnitude will vary from -0.2 at the beginning of December to -0.6 at the end of the month.

Venus is also a low object in the morning sky during December. It rises about 80 minutes before the Sun and will be about 8° up in a direction to the south of east half an hour before sunrise. On the morning of the 12th the moon, as a thin crescent, will be 2.5° to the right of Venus with Mercury some 4° to the moon´s lower right.

Saturn is the third planet in the morning sky. At the beginning of December it will be some 4° to the upper left of Venus and rise about 90 minutes before the Sun, making it a rather difficult object. It moves to the east through the stars more slowly than the two inner planets. As a result it will rise nearly 3.5 hours before the Sun on the 31st, and be nearly 40° to the upper left of Venus. By then the planet will be readily visible to the east in the pre-dawn sky an hour before sunrise, with an altitude of some 25°.

With a magnitude 0.6 it will be the brightest object at a moderate altitude to the east. Spica, only a little less bright, will be some 16° to its upper left.


Uranus and NEPTUNE remain in the evening sky during December. Uranus is in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius

Uranus will have a magnitude 5.7. It is stationary mid month. As a result its position will change by less than one-third the diameter of the full moon during December.

It will be about 7.5° above the 4.0 magnitude star omega Psc as seen in the evening sky. There is only one star comparable in magnitude to the planet near Uranus, a 5.8 star 2° to the right of the planet.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9 is between the stars iota Aqr (4.3) and theta Aqr (4.2), 2.5° to the right of iota. Its position changes by less than 40 arc- minutes during the month. By the end of December it will set close to midnight At 10 pm it will be about 18° up and due west.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both at opposition in December, Vesta on the 9th with a magnitude 6.5 and Ceres 9 days later with a magnitude 6.7. Both remain in the vicinity of Jupiter.

Ceres moves back into Taurus at the beginning of the month and ends December some 3° from beta Tau. Vesta remains in Taurus all month. By the end of December it will be less than 3° to the lower right of Aldebaran and about twice that distance from Jupiter

(2) Pallas is an evening object in Cetus with magnitude ranging from 9.4 to 9.6. It ends the month just under 6° from beta Cet, magnitude 2.0.

(9) Metis brightens considerably during December from magnitude 9.3 to 8.5. It is a morning object in Gemini and ends the month a few degrees from Pollux.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

4. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21

When: Thursday January 17 to Monday Jan 21, 2013 Where: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

Stardate is an annual event held during the month of January with as much hands on observing as the weather allows.

For anyone with an interest in astronomy, StarDate provides opportunities to look through a range of telescopes, listen to a wide range of astronomy related talks and meet a variety of astronomers. See http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/society-meetings/society-meetings.html for details

5. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11

Stardate South Island will be on the new moon weekend 2013 February 8-11. Online registration will open soon. Check http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

6. Ken Freeman Wins Oz PM's Prize for Science

Kate Brooks, President, Astronomical Society of Australia, circulated the following:

Please join me in congratulating Prof. Ken Freeman from Australia National University, winner of the 2012 Prime Minister's Prize for Science. The Prime Minister's Prizes for science are Australia's pre-eminent annual awards for excellence in science and science teaching. The major award, the Prime Minister's Prize for Science, recognises outstanding achievements by Australians in science and technology that promotes human welfare. Ken received his award from the Prime Minister yesterday evening at an awards ceremony held in the Great Hall at Parliament House. The prize comprises a solid gold medallion and a cash prize of $300,000.

Ken has been shaping and changing our view of the Universe over the past 50 years. He is famous for his incredible contribution to our understanding of Galaxies and dark matter and his impressive publication record. Throughout his career Ken has been committed to training the next generation of astronomers and supporting the Australian astronomy community. Ken has served on many national astronomy committees and was the Secretary for the Astronomical Society of Australia between 1971-1972. In 2001, Ken was awarded the Society's Robert Ellery Lectureship in recognition of his outstanding contributions in astronomy. Ken has supervised more than 50 astronomy students and continues to be a mentor, inspiration and friend to us all.

More information about the 2012 winners, including a great video starring Ken, is available at: http://www.scienceinpublic.com.au/prime-ministers-prize/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pMnbWSp7Sw4

Congratulations Ken for this well-deserved accolade.

7. Lunar Sourcebook Now Free PDF

Maurice Collins points out that the Lunar and Planetary Institute have now made the Lunar Sourcebook a free pdf to download at http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/books/lunar_sourcebook/

The complete volume is here http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/books/lunar_sourcebook/pdf/LunarSourceBook.pdf

This book is the best lunar reference book ever written and contains all the Apollo results.

Maurice notes that it is very technical but they have tried to write it so that you get the gist of what is going on.

8. RASNZ Conference 2013

Planning for the 2013 conference is now well under way. It will be held in Invercargill, hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The Southland Society is planning to arrange visits to local facilities: details will appear on the RASNZ web site. The conference dates are Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May, the venue is the Ascot Park Hotel. The venue has plenty of on-site accommodation, both hotel and motel. In addition there are other motels close by. For more details of the venue, nearby accommodation and local attractions - including the Bluff Oyster Festival - visit the RASNZ web site at http://www.rasnz.org.nz.

The conference will be followed by TTSO7 (the 7th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations). It will run over two days, the Monday and Tuesday following the conference. These occultation symposia are held annually, alternating between NZ and Australia and have always been well attended. More details are likely to appear soon on the Occultation Section web site, http://www.occultations.org.nz

The Fellows' speaker for 2013 will be Bob Evans. Bob is the secretary/treasurer of the host society, the Southland Astronomical Society, as well as the editor of Southern Stars and the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the conference. The title of his lecture is: "Reflective and Refractory: Some Observations of New Zealand Amateur Astronomy".

Other guest speakers are in the process of being arranged. Margaret Austin has agreed to be the after-dinner speaker. This promises to be an extremely interesting talk with her involvement in the establishment of the Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin.

Registration forms for the conference will be on line very soon. RASNZ members will receive a printed copy included with the December issue of Southern Stars. With the coincidence of the RASNZ conference and the Bluff Oyster Festival, early booking of accommodation is encouraged as there will be a demand for accommodation by attendees of the Oyster Festival.

Meanwhile consider presenting a paper on your astronomical work. We would like to see more such papers, including ones illustrating the work of sections, presented by members of the society.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

9. Conferences in 2014 and 2015

RASNZ Conference 2014 Plans are now well under way for the 2014 conference which will be held in early June at Whakatane and hosted by the local Whakatane Astronomical Society, celebrating their 50th anniversary. It is expected that the conference will be followed by VSSS3 - the third Variable Star South Symposium.

Expressions of interest to host the 2015 Conference --------------------------------------------------- A reminder that the call is out for offers to host the 2015 conference. Any society or university department interested in hosting the conference should contact the SCC by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible.

Interested societies will be sent a guide to the facilities needed at the conference venue and an outline of the responsibilities of the Local Organising Committee which they will need to form.

The SCC hopes to be able to make a recommendation for the host of the 2015 conference to the RASNZ Council by the end of November 2012 so a formal invitation can be issued.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

10. How Vesta Stays Bright

Like a movie star constantly retouching her makeup, the protoplanet Vesta is continually stirring its outermost layer and presenting a young face.

New data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a common form of weathering that affects many airless bodies like Vesta in the inner solar system, including the Moon, surprisingly doesn't age the protoplanet's outermost layer. The data also indicate that carbon-rich asteroids have been splattering dark material on Vesta's surface over a long span of the body's history. The findings are described in two papers published Nov. 1 in the journal Nature.

Over time, soils on the Moon and on asteroids have undergone extensive weathering. Scientists see this in the accumulation of tiny metallic particles containing iron, which dulls the bright, fluffy outer layers of these bodies. Yet Dawn's visible and infrared mapping spectrometer (VIR) and framing camera detected no accumulation of these tiny particles on Vesta, and the protoplanet (sometimes called a giant asteroid) remains bright and pristine.

Still, the bright rays of the youngest features on Vesta are seen to degrade rapidly and disappear into background soil. Scientists know that frequent, small impacts from asteroids and comets continually mix the fluffy outer layer of broken debris. Vesta also has unusually steep topography relative to other large bodies in the inner solar system, which leads to landslides that further mix the surface material.

Early pictures of Vesta showed a variety of dramatic light and dark splotches on Vesta's surface. These light and dark materials were unexpected and now show that Vesta has a brightness range that is among the largest observed on rocky bodies in our solar system.

It was initially theorized that the dark material on Vesta might come from the shock of high-speed impacts melting and darkening the underlying rocks or from recent volcanic activity. Analysis of data images however, shows that the distribution of dark material is widespread and occurs in both small spots and diffuse deposits, without correlation to any particular underlying geology. The likely source of the dark material is carbon-rich asteroids, which are also believed to have deposited hydrated minerals on Vesta.

To get the amount of darkening Dawn observed on Vesta, approximately 300 dark asteroids with diameters between 1 and 10 km likely hit Vesta during the last 3.5 billion years. This would have been enough to wrap Vesta in a blanket of mixed material 1 to 2 metres thick.

Studies of meteorites linked to Vesta suggest that it formed from interstellar gas and dust during the solar system's first 2 to 5 million years.

Dawn has a high-quality camera, along with a back-up; a visible and near- infrared mapping spectrometer to identify minerals on the surface; and a gamma ray and neutron spectrometer to reveal the abundance of elements such as iron and hydrogen, possibly from water, in the soil. Dawn also probed Vesta's gravity using extremely precise navigation.

The study of Vesta, however, is only half of Dawn's mission. The spacecraft departed from Vesta in September and is now on its way to the dwarf planet Ceres. There it will conduct a detailed study of Ceres's structure and composition. Vesta and Ceres are the most massive objects in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres, the largest object in the main belt, could harbour substantial water or ice beneath its rock crust -- and possibly life. The spacecraft will rendezvous with Ceres and begin orbiting in 2015, conducting studies and observations for at least five months.

Text & Images: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/protoplanet-vesta-forever-young- 240211.aspx

Nature papers: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7422/full/nature11561.html http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7422/full/nature11534.html

More information about Dawn: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

-- from a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Fermi Counts All the Stars

Astronomers using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have made the most accurate measurement of starlight in the universe and used it to establish the total amount of light from all the stars that have ever shone, accomplishing a primary mission goal.

The optical and ultraviolet light from stars continues to travel throughout the universe even after the stars cease to shine, and this creates a fossil radiation field we can explore using gamma rays from distant sources.

Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. Since Fermi's launch in 2008, its Large Area Telescope (LAT) observes the entire sky in high-energy gamma rays every three hours, creating the most detailed map of the universe ever known at these energies.

The total sum of starlight in the cosmos is known to astronomers as the extragalactic background light (EBL). To gamma rays, the EBL functions as a kind of cosmic fog. The team investigated the EBL by studying gamma rays from 150 blazars, or galaxies powered by black holes, that were strongly detected at energies greater than 3 billion electron volts (GeV), or more than a billion times the energy of visible light.

Though Fermi detected more than a thousand blazars, gamma rays of 3 GeV energy are few and far between. This is why it took four years of data to make the analysis.

As matter falls toward a galaxy's supermassive black hole, some of it is accelerated outward at almost the speed of light in jets pointed in opposite directions. When one of the jets happens to be aimed in the direction of Earth, the galaxy appears especially bright and is classified as a blazar.

Gamma rays produced in blazar jets travel across billions of light-years to Earth. During their journey, the gamma ray photons pass through an increasing fog of visible and ultraviolet light emitted by stars that formed throughout the history of the universe.

Occasionally, a gamma ray photon collides with a starlight photon and transforms into a pair of particles -- an electron and its antimatter counterpart, a positron. Once this occurs, the gamma ray is lost. In effect, the process dampens the gamma ray signal in much the same way as fog dims a distant lighthouse.

From studies of nearby blazars, scientists have determined how many gamma rays should be emitted at different energies. More distant blazars show fewer gamma rays at higher energies -- especially above 25 GeV -- due to absorption by the cosmic fog. The farthest blazars are missing most of their higher-energy gamma rays.

The researchers then determined the average gamma-ray attenuation across three distance ranges between 9.6 billion years ago and today.

From this measurement, the scientists were able to estimate the fog's thickness. To account for the observations, the average stellar density in the cosmos is about 1.4 stars per 100 billion cubic light-years, which means the average distance between stars in the universe is about 4,150 light-years.

A paper describing the findings was published on Science Express. See http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2012/10/31/science.1227160.abstract .

-- From a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. WISE Discovers Hot DOGs

A full-sky survey by NASA's wide-field infrared WISE telescope has found a new species in the cosmic zoo: hot, dust-obscured galaxies, dubbed hot DOGs. WISE turned up about 1,000 hot DOGs, each of which pump out as much light as 100 trillion sun-like stars. They may represent a missing link in galaxy evolution. The findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

The objects are rare, accounting for about one in 100,000 light sources, and difficult to find since most of their energy is masked by dust. Astronomers believe hot DOGs, which are twice as warm as similar galaxies, may be a transitional state between disk-shaped galaxies, like the Milky Way, and elliptical galaxies.

Most of the hot DOGs found by WISE are about 10 billion light years away, meaning they formed when the universe was a fraction of its present age. Scientists suspect conditions in the early universe were more conducive for seeding and growing these hot galaxies, but they are not ruling out that the phenomenon could occur today.

Because the galaxies do not have enough stars to account for all their heat, scientists suspect they may contain unusually active super-massive black holes, which are regions of space so dense with matter that not even light can escape the grip of gravity.

At times, black holes feed on surrounding material, providing telltale signs of their existence. All galaxies are believed to host a black hole, though some, such as Sagittarius A, located at the centre of the Milky Way, are relatively dormant, at least at the present time. Sagittarius A contains 4 million times the mass of the sun. Black holes in giant elliptical galaxies are substantially larger, approaching 10 billion times the sun's mass. Among the 563 million infrared objects detected by WISE during its two-year mission are millions of super-massive black holes.

-- From a Reuters editing of a released by NASA. The original is at http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/29/us-space-galaxies- idUSBRE87S1AM20120829

13. SKA Expressions of Interest

The Economic Development Group of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) invites New Zealand research organisations and businesses to express interest in participating in the pre-construction phase of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope project.

The government has established a contestable fund of EUR1 million (NZ$1.6 million) over three years to support organisations participating in the pre- construction phase.

For more information, and to submit your interest please view the website.

http://www.msi.govt.nz/get-funded/research-organisations/types-of- funding/square-kilometre-array-expressions-of-interest/

-- From Royal Society of NZ Alert No. 743, 15 November 2012

14. 21st Century Atlas of the Moon

Maurice Collins writes: Dr Charles A. Wood and I have just completed work on a very special project we have been working on, of a new Lunar Atlas, titled "21st Century Atlas of the Moon"!

The atlas consists of 28 main charts are set with the IAU conventions of North at the top, and is spiral bound for ease of folding at the telescope. The charts are arranged in a "lawn mowing" fashion aligned with the advance of the lunar terminator during the month for ease of use. We hope it will be the ideal lunar atlas to use at the telescope or as a desk reference when looking at images of the Moon. It also covers the limb regions that are brought into view by the lunar libration (apparent rocking) and covers the complete near side of the Moon, but with a section on the farside for completeness. It also has some of the low sun angle images we made with LTVT Digital Elevation Models for lunar basins and mare ridges and high sun albedo images of the full Moon. Spacecraft landing site locations are also depicted. The atlas plates use the high resolution uniform sun angle NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mosaics and has a facing page of detailed selected regions from each chart made from LRO Wide Angle Camera mosaics we constructed, and other NASA spacecraft and telescopic images.

The text of the atlas is by lunar scientist Dr Charles A. Wood who also writes the "Exploring the Moon" column in Sky and Telescope magazine and Lunar Photo of the Day, and contains an introduction to lunar geology and lots of information about the regions depicted on the charts.

It will be available in early December, and we have just announced it in Sunday's (November 18) LPOD: http://lpod.wikispaces.com/November+18%2C+2012 Details and sample pages are viewable here: http://lpod.wikispaces.com/21st+Century+Atlas+of+the+Moon

We hope it will be of interest to everyone who likes to explore the Moon, and is out just in time for Christmas! The price is US$29.95 and the postage to NZ is quite reasonable. It can be ordered online. We hope you will like it and find it useful!

15. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

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. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

18. A Month for Sundays?

In 2012, December has 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays. This apparently happens once every 823 years! [It is anonymously asserted.]


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

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.

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.

Contents

1. Planet Found Orbiting Alpha Centauri B
2. Solar Eclipse on November 14
3. Solar Viewers Available
4. AAS Burbidge Dinner - October 27
5. The Planets in November
6. RASNZ Conference 2013
7. Better Road Lighting, Not More
8. Conferences in 2014 and 2015
9. Bright Comet This Time Next Year?
10. HST Extreme Deep Field
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. Quotes

1. Planet Found Orbiting Alpha Centauri B

European astronomers have discovered a planet with about the mass of the Earth orbiting Alpha Centauri B, the fainter member of the well-known pair. The planet is the lightest exoplanet so far discovered around a star like the Sun.

The planet was detected by the tiny wobbles it causes the star to make as the planet and star circle their centre of mass. The effect is minute -- it causes the star to move back and forth by no more than 51 centimetres per second (1.8 km/hour), about the speed of a baby crawling. This is the highest precision ever achieved using this method. The wobbles were detected by the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-meter telescope at European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile. The observations extended over more than four years and revealed a tiny, but real, signal from a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B every 3.2 days.

The Alpha Centauri pair make the third brightest star in the sky. They are the nearest stars to our solar system, only 4.3 light-years away. (A light year is 'only' 10 trillion km, 10^13 km.)

Alpha Centauri B is similar to the Sun but slightly smaller, slightly cooler and less bright. The newly discovered planet has a mass of a little more than that of the Earth. It orbits about six million km from the star, one-tenth of Mercury's distance from our sun. Alpha Centauri A, the other bright component of the double star, orbits hundreds of times further away (11-35 A.U.), but would still be a brilliant object in the planet's sky.

This research was presented in a paper "An Earth mass planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B" in the on-line journal Nature on 17 October 2012. For text, images, and video: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1241/

-- From a European Southern Observatory press release of October 16 forwarded by Karen Pollard.

2. Solar Eclipse on November 14

There is an eclipse of the sun on November 14. From northern New Zealand 90% of the sun's diameter will be covered; in the deep south about 58%. The eclipse begins after 9 a.m. NZDT and ends before noon. Start, maximum and finish times for NZ places can be found at the end of this note. More at listed at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ .

The central part of the shadow, where the total eclipse is seen, is mainly over the south Pacific. The path of totality starts over extreme northern Australia about 200 km east of Darwin. The path crosses the Gulf of Carpentaria and then the base of the Cape York Peninsula with Cairns and Port Douglas seeing a total eclipse.

At Cairns the eclipse will occur in the early morning, totality lasting for 2 minutes. The Sun will be 14° above the horizon, so low to the east.

From Cairns the total path moves, at first, to the east-southeast across the Pacific, passing a little to the north of New Zealand. After reaching the latitude of the South Island of New Zealand, far out in the Pacific the path starts to swing back to the north, with the eclipse ending at sunset some way to the west of Coquimbo in Chile.

A partial eclipse will be visible from all parts of Australia (anywhere it is not total), although the Sun rises after the start of the partial eclipse for the western half of the country. A partial eclipse is also visible from New Zealand, many of the south Pacific islands and, at sun set in most of Chile and the southern parts of Argentina.

Total Eclipse of 2012 Nov 14 - Times (NZDT) of start, max eclipse and end for some NZ places:

                 Begins     Maximum     End
Site                       a.m. NZDT              Max
                 h  m  s    h  m  s    h  m  s    Mag
North Cape       9 12 45   10 21 35   11 38 08   0.911 
Whangarei        9 15 52   10 25 12   11 41 58   0.894 
Auckland         9 18 18   10 27 36   11 44 04   0.871 
Hamilton         9 20 15   10 29 33   11 45 47   0.854 
Gisborne         9 23 52   10 34 34   11 51 56   0.863 
New Plymouth     9 21 55   10 29 57   11 44 35   0.809 
Napier           9 24 36   10 34 16   11 50 24   0.831 
Wanganui         9 24 12   10 32 29   11 47 07   0.799 
Wellington       9 26 47   10 34 13   11 47 39   0.764 
Greymouth        9 27 16   10 31 46   11 41 52   0.698 
Christchurch     9 30 13   10 34 59   11 45 07   0.689 
Timaru           9 31 25   10 34 44   11 43 09   0.655 
Queenstown       9 31 45   10 33 00   11 39 07   0.616 
Dunedin          9 34 21   10 36 10   11 42 42   0.615 
Invercargill     9 34 46   10 34 52   11 39 28   0.584

-- Mostly copied from http://www.rasnz.org.nz/

Safe methods must be used to view the Sun. Viewing the Sun directly can result in instant blindness. The safest way is to project the image of the Sun onto a suitable screen. Alternatively a specially designed solar filter may be placed in front of the telescope. It is NOT safe to use a filter at the eyepiece as the focused heat from the Sun could shatter it. If unsure of safe methods consult your local astronomical society about suitable ways of observing the sun. See next item.

3. Solar Viewers Available

Solar viewers suitable for observing the eclipse of the Sun now available. The RASNZ has sourced a supply of viewers that will be ideal for viewing the eclipse of the Sun that will be visible from New Zealand, weather permitting, on 14 November.

These viewers have been safety tested by one of the world's leading authorities on solar viewing devices and provide full eye protection when observing the Sun directly. Note that the viewer should not be used in conjunction with any optical device such as telescope, binoculars, camera etc.

Each order is supplied with an information sheet covering times and information about this historic event.

Order your Solar Viewers by going to: http://royalast.myob.net/

-- Simon Lowther, Treasurer, RASNZ. -----------

Solar viewers are also sold by the Auckland Astronomical Society and Wellington's Carter Observatory. For Auckland phone 09 473 5877 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.astronomy.org.nz. For the Carter Observatory phone 04 910 3140 or see www.carterobservatory.org. Both offer bulk discounts to astronomical societies and educational groups.

4. AAS Burbidge Dinner - October 27

The Auckland Astronomical Society invites all to the 2012 Burbidge Dinner.

Our guest speaker this year is Professor Richard Easther with the topic of Cosmology: Predicting the Future. See last month's Newsletter for details.

The evening will include presentation of the Beaumont prize for writing in the Journal and the Harry William Astrophotography Competition.

The Burbidge Dinner is always a fun night and a major event in the Society's calendar. All are welcome to join us for an enjoyable evening. Date: Saturday 27th October. Venue: Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 13 Reeves Rd, Pakuranga. Start Time: 6:30pm Tickets: $55.00 per person, includes a buffet dinner

Tickets are available from Andrew Buckingham. Please book on 09 473 5877 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

5. The Planets in November

Mercury disappears from the evening sky quite early in November. Mars, a little higher than Mercury, sets late evening. Jupiter rises about 11 pm at the beginning of November; close to the time of sunset at the end of the month, so replacing Mars as it sets.

Venus is rather low in the dawn sky. It is in close conjunction with Saturn near to the end of November.

The evening sky: mercury, mars and jupiter

Mercury sets a good two hours after the Sun at the beginning of November. On the 1st it will be at magnitude 0.0. 45 minutes after sunset it will be about 14° above the horizon almost half way round from the west towards the southwest.

While visible in the evening sky, Mercury will be in Scorpius a little way below Antares. On November 1 it will be 1° to the left of the 2.3 magnitude star delta Sco. During the next few nights it will loop round the star. Mercury is stationary on November 7 when about 1.5° above delta and 6° below Antares.

After being stationary, Mercury will drop back again to be just over one- third of a degree to the right of delta on the 11th. By then Mercury will have faded to magnitude 1.7 and is likely to be a difficult binocular object. 45 minutes after sunset, it will be less than 5° about the horizon with the Sun 8° below the horizon and almost directly below Mercury. As a result there will be bright twilight in the direction of the planet making it difficult to see.

In the following week, Mercury will move steadily closer to the Sun until it is at inferior conjunction on the 17th. After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object, but will be rising only 45 minutes before the Sun by the 30th, so making it virtually unobservable.

Mars will still set after 11 pm NZDT in November, the time getting only about 18 minutes earlier during the month. Even so, with the Sun setting steadily later, Mars will get lower in NZ skies by the time it can be seen. At magnitude 1.2 the planet is somewhat brighter than all the nearby stars except Antares. The best time to look for Mars will be about an hour after sunset when the sky to the west will be almost dark. Mars will be at a modest altitude a few degrees to the south of west.

Mars starts November in Ophiuchus some 9° degrees to the upper right of Antares, It ends the month to the right of the inverted tea-pot in Sagittarius having crossed the border from Ophiuchus into Sagittarius on November 12 at about the time it sets in NZ.

On the 16th the crescent moon, less than 10% lit, will be 5° below and a little to the right of Mars.

Jupiter rises a little before Mars sets at the beginning of November, but a full two hours earlier by the end of the month. So it is visible both in the late evening sky and in the morning pre-dawn sky. Jupiter is currently well north of the equator so will be low in southern skies.

The planet remains in Taurus a few degrees from Aldebaran. As seen in the evening Jupiter will be below the star. Jupiter will be moving in a retrograde, westerly, sense with its distance from Aldebaran decreasing a little during the month.

The near full moon will be a few degrees to the left of Jupiter on the 1st and a few degrees the other side of Jupiter the following night. There will be a repeat on the 28th and 29th of the month with the moon in quite similar positions.

The two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta remain in the same part of the sky as Jupiter. Like Jupiter, they are also moving to the west, so their positions relative to Jupiter change little throughout the month, Vesta about 10° to the right of the planet and Ceres some 20° to its lower right. Vesta is the brighter of the two: it brightens from magnitude 7.3 to 6.6 during November making it an easy binocular object. Ceres is just over half a magnitude fainter, so also readily visible in binoculars. Their change in position relative to nearby stars will be readily visible from night to night.

Ceres in Gemini, starts November close to the third magnitude star eta Gem. The two are closest on the 4th and 5th when their separation will be about one-tenth of the diameter of the full moon. Vesta is in Taurus about half way between ElNath, beta Tau, and Betelgeuse early in the month. It apparent movement during November takes it a little way towards Aldebaran

Morning sky, venus and saturn

Venus moves through Virgo during November, crossing into Libra on the morning of the 29th. It rises about 70 to 75 minutes before the Sun, so will be rather low to the east as seen a few minutes before sunrise

On its way across Virgo, Venus passes Spica, the two are closest on the 18th, with Venus 4° below Spica. With magnitudes -4 and +1 respectively, Venus will be 100 times as bright as the star.

Saturn, in Virgo, emerges from its late October conjunction with the Sun during November. On the 1st it rises close to the same time as the Sun, by the end of the month some 80 minutes earlier when it will be just over 30° from the Sun. Even so it will remain a difficult object low in the morning twilight.

Saturn will start November to the right of Venus, both moving to the east through the stars. Venus, moving more quickly than Saturn, passes close to the ringed planet in late November. The two are just over half a degree apart (the diameter of the full moon) on the 27th, although they are within 5° of one another for a few mornings either side of that date. The following morning the two planets will be almost level but slightly further apart with Venus now to the right of Saturn. Despite a magnitude 0.6, Saturn is likely to be difficult to see by eye, but should be readily visible close to Venus using binoculars.


Uranus and NEPTUNE remain well placed for evening viewing during November. Uranus is in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius

Uranus will have a magnitude 5.7. It is about 7.5° to the upper right of the 4.0 magnitude star omega Psc as seen in the evening sky. There is only one star comparable in magnitude to the planet near Uranus, a 5.8 star 1.5° to the right of the planet.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9 is between the stars iota Aqr (4.3) and theta Aqr (4.2). The planet is about 2° from iota and 4.5° from theta. The planet is stationary on November 11.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both in the vicinity of Jupiter and Aldebaran so are visible in the late evening and morning skies. More notes are given with Jupiter

(2) Pallas is in Cetus and fades further in November from magnitude 9.0 to 9.4. Although mostly in Cetus it is very close to the constellation´s border with Aquarius. It moves along the border for a week in mid month and looks to just slide into Aquarius for a few nights.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

6. RASNZ Conference 2013

Planning for the 2013 conference is now well under way. So make a note of the dates in your diary Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May. The Ascot Park Hotel conference venue has plenty of on-site accommodation, both hotel and motel. In addition there are other motels close by. For more details of the venue, nearby accommodation and local attractions - including the Bluff Oyster Festival - visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>.

The conference will be followed by TTSO7 (the 7th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations). These symposia are held annually, alternating between NZ and Australia and have always been well attended.

The Fellows speaker for 2013 will be Bob Evans, who is the secretary/treasurer of the host society, the Southland Astronomical Society as well as the editor of Southern Stars and the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the conference. His title: "Reflective and Refractory: Some Observations of New Zealand Amateur Astronomy".

Other guest speakers are in the process of being arranged. Margaret Austin has agreed to be the after-dinner speaker. This promises to be an extremely interesting talk with her involvement in the establishment of the Aoraki Mount Cook International Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin.

Registration forms for the conference will be on line in the next few weeks. Meanwhile consider presenting a paper on your astronomical work. We would like to see more such papers, including ones illustrating the work of sections, presented by members of the society.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

7. Better Road Lighting, Not More

An article in Wellington's Dom Post on 5 October claimed that more light at night could reduce after-dark road deaths and injuries by 35 per cent. Eric Blown pointed it out and Steve Butler of the RASNZ's Dark Skies Group was invited to comment.

Steve's initial take was that it was very much a work only looking at the topic from the point of view of lighting engineers. There seemed to be little acknowledgement of any risk of introducing more light into the night. Steve noted that, from other comments he had seen, it wasn't universally well received as a way of reducing injuries or worse on our roads.

Steve's response in a letter to the Dom Post was:

"In your article of the 5th October reporting on a paper presented to the Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing and Education Conference the claim is made that more light at night could reduce after-dark road deaths and injuries by 35 per cent.

More accurately the claim should be that better visibility at night may reduce the toll. It is unlikely that more lighting in itself will be the answer. Quality lighting should be the aim.

If more lighting is applied in the manner that present lighting is applied, then more light pollution, glare and light spill will occur along with wasted energy. If lighting is designed and installed correctly it is possible to improve visibility without increasing the amount of light applied.

The report also claims that a move to "white" light will improve visibility. There is a sound basis to claim this, however there are implications to be aware of. "White" light contains a higher proportion of "Blue" light which interacts more with the atmosphere to cause sky glow, is more likely to impact on night ecosystems and is implicated with human health issues such as cancers, depression, obesity and even diabetes.

If white light improves vision, then less lighting may be needed once glare and light spill are minimised.

Care must be taken to manage all the implications of introducing light into the night."

--------- The original report "Lighting the Way to Road Safety - A Policy Blindspot?" can be downloaded from: http://www.bridgerbeavis.com/pdfs

8. Conferences in 2014 and 2015

 

RASNZ Conference 2014 Plans are now well under way for the 2014 conference which will be held in early June at Whakatane and hosted by the local Whakatane Astronomical Society, celebrating their 50th anniversary. It is expected that this conference will be followed by VSSS3 - the third Variable Star South Symposium.

Expressions of interest to host the 2015 Conference A reminder that the call is out for offers to host the 2015 conference. Any society or university department interested in hosting the conference should contact the SCC by email to <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> as soon as possible.

Interested societies will be sent a guide to the facilities needed at the conference venue and an outline of the responsibilities of the Local Organising Committee which they will need to form.

The SCC hopes to be able to make a recommendation for the host of the 2015 conference to the RASNZ Council by the end of November 2012 so a formal invitation can be issued. So offers to host the conference should be received by the SCC by mid November.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

9. Bright Comet This Time Next Year?

Recently-found Comet ISON C/2012 S1 has the potential to become a bright object in late November 2013. The discovery was made by Vitali Nevski (in Belarus) and Artyom Novichonok (in Russia) on September 21. They were using a 40 cm reflector; part of the worldwide International Scientific Optical Network (ISON). At the time the comet was 19th magnitude - roughly 100,000 times fainter than the limit of unaided vision.

It is usually weeks before the orbit of a distant newly-discovered comet is accurately known. In this case an accurate orbit was derived in a few days thanks to two sets of pre-discovery images being identified. The comet had been recorded as an asteroidal object on Near-Earth Object search telescopes in Arizona and Hawaii, one night each, last December and January. With position measurements spanning 10 months an accurate orbit was quickly computed and published on Sept. 24 in Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2012-S63.

The orbit calculations show that the comet will pass just 1.9 million km from the sun's centre (q = 0.01245 AU) on 2013 Nov. 28.87 UT. That's about 1.1 million km from the sun's surface. Not as close as Comet Lovejoy last Christmas (190,000 km) but still very close. If the comet's nucleus survives this close approach then the comet is likely to grow a long bright tail. (1 AU = 150 million km.)

Southern hemisphere sky watchers will get their best views of the comet in the dawn sky when it is on its way to perihelion. If the comet follows the 'standard' brightness formula -- and many don't -- then it should be visible in binoculars in early November 2013. Around November 15 it should be visible to the naked-eye. After about the 20th the comet will be getting too low in the dawn twilight to be seen, unless it becomes particularly bright, though the tail may extend up the sky. After perihelion, November 29 NZ date, the comet moves quickly into the northern hemisphere dawn sky. It's possible that Comet ISON could become a 'daylight comet'. Around 2013 November 30 - December 2 it is roughly between the Earth and the Sun. Comet McNaught C/2006 P1 was so seen around 2007 January 14-15. However, Comet ISON might not be sufficiently on the Sun-Earth line for enough sunshine to scatter in our direction through the comet's dust. It all depends on the phase angle: the angle between Earth and Sun, as seen from the comet. A comet passing across the sun's disk has a phase angle of 180 degrees. Halley's Comet did this in 1910. It was seen in daylight before and after its transit. Comet McNaught became visible in daylight when its phase angle was around 146 degrees. Comet ISON gets to phase angle 128 degrees. Around that time the comet will be just 5-10 degrees from the sun, so great care will be needed in searching for it.

The 'original' orbit of Comet ISON, before it was affected by the planets, had a maximum distance from the sun of 21,000 AU (1/a(orig) = +0.000096 AU**- 1). From there it took around 500,000 years to travel to the sun. This makes it questionable as to whether the comet is 'new'. Is this its first trip into the inner solar system from the Oort Cloud of comets? If it is then the comet will be fizzing off very volatile stuff like carbon monoxide and methane, making it misleadingly bright. This happened with Comet Kohoutek C/1973 E1. The comet was bright when far from the sun, leading to predictions of a brilliant comet. These proved wrong as the comet neared the sun.

The possibility that Comet ISON did visit the sun a million years ago is raised by the resemblance of its orbit to the Great Comet of 1680. It seems plausible that both comets are fragments of some earlier visitor, just as Comet Lovejoy was one of many fragments of a comet that broke up to spawn the great comets of 1843, 1882, 1965 and many others including hundreds of SOHO comets. If Comet ISON is not a 'new' comet then its current brightness indicates an active nucleus, promising a bright comet a year from now.

-- Mostly by Ed with some bits copied from Kelly Beatty's 'Observing Blog' of September 27. See http://www.skyandtelescope.com/community/skyblog/observingblog/A-Dream-Comet-Heading-Our-Way-171521041.html


Ephemeris for Comet ISON C/2012 S1, 2013 October-December, from the Minor Planet Center's Ephemeris Service.

Date R.A. (J2000) Decl. Delta r El. Ph. m1

  1. h m s o ' "
  2. 01 09 34 30.2 +17 38 09 2.152 1.653 47.7 26.6 9.8
  3. 11 09 57 48.4 +15 16 17 1.854 1.458 51.4 32.4 9.0
  4. 21 10 27 06.3 +11 59 20 1.553 1.250 53.5 39.8 7.9
  5. 31 11 07 11.2 +07 02 25 1.259 1.023 52.4 50.3 6.6
  6. 05 11 34 04.2 +03 31 18 1.123 0.900 49.9 57.4 5.8
  7. 10 12 08 03.6 -01 00 54 1.003 0.768 45.3 66.5 4.9
  8. 15 12 51 54.9 -06 45 20 0.908 0.623 38.0 78.0 3.7
  9. 20 13 48 36.8 -13 28 34 0.858 0.459 27.7 92.1 2.3
  10. 25 15 00 20.9 -20 00 26 0.880 0.260 14.6 106.9 -0.1
  11. 30 16 22 02.5 -16 36 50 0.917 0.108 5.0 127.2 -3.9
  12. 05 16 14 14.5 -06 30 32 0.743 0.356 17.5 123.6 0.9
  13. 10 16 11 20.4 +03 04 39 0.625 0.536 29.3 115.8 2.3
  14. 15 16 11 18.5 +14 26 09 0.533 0.690 42.3 106.5 3.0
  15. 20 16 13 50.2 +28 34 12 0.467 0.829 57.1 94.7 3.5

Delta and r are the distances in AU from the Earth and the Sun respectively. El is elongation, the angle of the comet from the Sun. Comets are generally difficult to see at elongations less than 30 degrees. m1 is the total brightness, the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. m1 has to be brighter than 3 for a comet to be easily seen by eye. The assumed formula is m1 = 6.0 + 5 log (Delta) + 10 log r .

10. HST Extreme Deep Field

Hubble Space Telescope astronomers have assembled a new, improved portrait of mankind's deepest-ever view of the universe. Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a patch of sky at the centre of the original Hubble Ultra Deep Field. The XDF is 2.3' (arcminutes) by 2', small fraction of the angular diameter of the full Moon.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field is an image of a small area of space in the constellation Fornax, created using Hubble Space Telescope data from 2003 and 2004. By collecting faint light over many hours of observation, it revealed thousands of galaxies, both nearby and very distant, making it the deepest image of the universe ever taken at that time.

The new full-colour XDF image reaches much fainter galaxies, and includes very deep exposures in red light from Hubble's new infrared camera, enabling new studies of the earliest galaxies in the universe. The XDF contains about 5,500 galaxies even within its smaller field of view. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.

Magnificent spiral galaxies similar in shape to our Milky Way and the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy appear in this image, as do the large, fuzzy red galaxies where the formation of new stars has ceased. These red galaxies are the remnants of dramatic collisions between galaxies and are in their declining years. Peppered across the field are tiny, faint, more distant galaxies that were like the seedlings from which today's striking galaxies grew. The history of galaxies -- from soon after the first galaxies were born to the great galaxies of today, like our Milky Way -- is laid out in this one remarkable image.

Hubble pointed at a tiny patch of southern sky in repeat visits (made over the past decade) for a total of 50 days, with a total exposure time of 2 million seconds. More than 2,000 images of the same field were taken with Hubble's two premier cameras -- the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3, which extends Hubble's vision into near-infrared light -- and combined to make the XDF.

The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and the XDF reveals galaxies that span back 13.2 billion years in time. Most of the galaxies in the XDF are seen when they were young, small, and growing, often violently as they collided and merged together. The early universe was a time of dramatic birth for galaxies containing brilliant blue stars extraordinarily brighter than our Sun. The light from those past events is just arriving at Earth now, and so the XDF is a 'time tunnel into the distant past.' The youngest galaxy found in the XDF existed just 450 million years after the universe's birth in the big bang.

Before Hubble was launched in 1990, astronomers could barely see normal galaxies to 7 billion light-years away, about halfway across the universe. Observations with telescopes on the ground were not able to establish how galaxies formed and evolved in the early universe.

Hubble gave astronomers their first view of the actual forms and shapes of galaxies when they were young. This provided compelling, direct visual evidence that the universe is truly changing as it ages. Like watching individual frames of a motion picture, the Hubble deep surveys reveal the emergence of structure in the infant universe and the subsequent dynamic stages of galaxy evolution.

The infrared vision of NASA's planned James Webb Space Telescope (Webb telescope) will be aimed at the XDF. The Webb telescope will find even fainter galaxies that existed when the universe was just a few hundred million years old. Because of the expansion of the universe, light from the distant past is stretched into longer, infrared wavelengths. The Webb telescope's infrared vision is ideally suited to push the XDF even deeper, into a time when the first stars and galaxies formed and filled the early 'dark ages' of the universe with light.

For images and more information about the XDF: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble http://hubblesite.org/news/2012/37 ------ Don't take the colours too literally. The technical notes say that the colours result from assigning different hues to each monochromatic (grayscale) image from the eight different filters used by the two instruments grouped as follows: ACS/WFC F435W(B)+F606W(V) [that is blue and yellow] = blue ACS/WFC F775W(I)+F814W(I)+F850LP(z)[ red and near IR] = green WFC3/IR F105W(Y)+F125W(J)+F160W(H) [infra-red] = red ------ -- from a Space telescope Science Institute press release of 25 September forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. 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. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

14.Quotes

--------- "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" -- Charles Darwin.

"Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." -- Will Durant.

"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored." -- Aldous Huxley.

"Science knows it doesn't know everything; otherwise, it'd stop. But just because science doesn't know everything doesn't mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you." -- Dara O'Briain.

------------------ Observatory for sale: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/home/World-Class-Observatory- For-Sale-173116981.html

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6000 P.O. Box 57 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Lake Tekapo 7945 New Zealand


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

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.

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.

Contents

1. Neil Armstrong
2. AAS Astrophotography Competition 2012 - closes Oct. 1
3. AAS Burbidge Dinner - October 27
4. The Planets in October
5. RASNZ Conferences 2013 and 2015
6. Whakatane Ast Soc Community Award
7. Tourism Awards for Earth & Sky
8. John Hearnshaw Visits North Korea
9. Funding Cuts in the U.S., The Netherlands and the U.K.
10. Canadian House Exchange Sought
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. Here and There

1. Neil Armstrong

Neil Alden Armstrong, moon-walker, died on August 25th, aged 82.

Astronaughts do not like to be called heroes. They point out that it takes hundreds of thousands of backroom engineers, mathematicians and technicians to make space flight possible. They are right, too: at the height of its pomp, in 1966, NASA was spending 4.4% of the American government´s budget, providing jobs for 400,000 people. It was those workers Neil Armstrong was thinking of when, as commander of Apollo 11, the mission that landed men on the moon on July 20th 1969, he emerged from the lunar module to talk of small steps for man and giant leaps for mankind.

The achievement of his crew, relayed live on television, held the world spellbound. On their return to Earth the astronauts were mobbed, with presidents, prime ministers and kings jostling to be seen with them. As the first man to walk on another world, Mr Armstrong received the lion´s share of the adulation. He knew he did not deserve it. He had never been chosen to be first, he would explain in his gently slow-spoken, Midwestern way; he had simply been chosen to command that particular flight. Besides, the popular image of the hard-charging astronaut braving mortal danger, as other men might brave a trip to the dentist, was exaggerated. "For heaven´s sake, I loathe danger," he told one interviewer before his fateful flight. Done properly, he said, space flight ought to be no more perilous than mixing a milkshake.

Indeed, the notion of the "right stuff" possessed by the astronaut corps was never the full story. The symbol of the test-pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave desert, where Mr Armstrong spent years testing military jets, flying the X-15 at 4,000mph to the very edge of the atmosphere, is a slide rule over a stylised aircraft. In an address to America´s National Press Club in 2000, he described himself as "a white- socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace, and propelled by compressible flow."

He had an engineer´s reserve, mixed with a natural shyness. Even among the other astronauts, not renowned for their excitability, he was known as the "Ice Commander". Mike Collins, one of his crew-mates on the moon mission, mused that "Neil never transmits anything but the surface layer, and that only sparingly." He once lost control of an unwieldy contraption nicknamed the Flying Bedstead that was designed to help astronauts train for the lunar landing. Ejecting only seconds before his craft hit the ground and exploded, he dusted himself off and coolly went back to his office for the rest of the day. There was work to be done.

That unflappability served him well during the lunar landing. The original landing area turned out to be full of large boulders, and so he had to take control from his spacecraft´s primitive computer and skim across the lunar surface on manual control, looking for somewhere suitable. By the time he found his spot, only 25 seconds of fuel remained in the tanks. But he had often landed the module in practice, he reflected, with 15 seconds´ fuel left.

His calm served him well back on Earth, too. The moon seemed to elevate him and his colleagues to the status of oracles, and people pressed them for their thoughts on everything from the future of the human species to the chances for world peace. Mr Armstrong smiled his bemused smile. He did not care to be known for "one piece of fireworks", but for the ledger of his daily work.

Unlike some of his fellow astronauts (two of whom became senators), he chose a comparatively quiet retirement, teaching aeronautical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. He returned to NASA twice to serve on boards of enquiry, the first into the near-disaster of Apollo 13, the second into the disintegration of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. He spent his final years on his farm in rural Ohio, not so far from the place where he had first made model aeroplanes and devoured every copy of Flight Trails magazine; but now he was flying gliders in his spare time, the closest that humans could come to being birds.

Over half a century, the man who never admitted surprise was surprised to observe the fading of America´s space programme. The Apollo project was one of the mightiest achievements of the potent combination of big government and big science, but such enterprises came to seem alien as well as unaffordable. Mr Armstrong, who after his flight imagined bases all over the moon, sadly supposed that the public had lost interest when there was no more cold-war competition.

Yet the flights had one huge unintended consequence: they transformed attitudes towards Earth itself. He too had been astonished to see his own planet, "quite beautiful", remote and very blue, covered with a white lace of clouds. His reserve, after all, was not limitless. One photograph showed him in the module after he and Buzz Aldrin had completed their moon-walk, kicking and jumping their way across the vast, sandy, silver surface towards the strangely close horizon. He is dressed in his spacesuit, sports a three-day beard, and is clearly exhausted. On his face is a grin of purest exhilaration.

-- The Economist, September 1, p.78.

2. AAS Astrophotography Competition 2012 - closes Oct. 1

The Auckland Astronomical Society's 2012 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now underway. The competition is open to all New Zealand residents, Astronomical Society members, clubs and groups. Remember, the prestigious Harry Williams Trophy is up for grabs.

There are 4 categories in this competition: Deep Space, Solar System, Artistic/Miscellaneous, Scientific. (Note: you will need to fully explain why your entry has scientific merit to be considered for this section).

Entry forms and competition details can be found on the Auckland Astronomical Society Website. http://www.astronomy.org.nz Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Pakuranga, Auckland on October 28th, 2012.

Competition closing date - Monday 1st October 2012.

Please send your entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2012 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition Postal Delivery Address: 2/24 Rapallo Place, Farm Cove, Pakuranga, Auckland 2012.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Header: 2012 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- Jennie McCormick

3. AAS Burbidge Dinner - October 27

The Auckland Astronomical Society invites all to the 2012 Burbidge Dinner.

Our guest speaker this year is Professor Richard Easther with the topic of:

Cosmology: Predicting the Future Cosmology has changed dramatically in the last two decades, evolving into a mature and data-driven science. Looking into the future, projects now underway around the world promise a slew of new discoveries in the coming decades. These projects include giant telescopes, space-based particle detectors and gravitational wave observatories -- each of which has the potential to transform astrophysics and cosmology. As a science, cosmology predicts the future of the universe: this evening I will try to predict the future of cosmology, and describe the questions we hope to answer in the future.

Richard Easther is a cosmologist whose work focuses on the evolution of the universe immediately after (and possibly just before) the big bang. Richard grew up in Hamilton. When he was ten he successfully persuaded his parents to buy him a small telescope, and then talked them into letting him build a mount for it on the back lawn. He went to Canterbury to become an astronomer, but left with a PhD in Physics in 1994. He held post-doctoral appointments at Waseda (Japan), Brown and Columbia Universities. Richard taught at Yale for eight years, before returning to New Zealand in late 2011. Richard is currently a professor and Head of Department of Physics at the University of Auckland.

The evening will include presentation of the Beaumont prize for writing in the Journal and the Harry William Astrophotography Competition.

The Burbidge Dinner is always a fun night and a major event in the Society's calendar. All are welcome to join us for an enjoyable evening. Date: Saturday 27th October. Venue: Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 13 Reeves Rd, Pakuranga. Start Time: 6:30pm Tickets: $55.00 per person, includes a buffet dinner

Tickets are available from Andrew Buckingham. Please book on 09 473 5877 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. The Planets in October

Saturn disappears from the evening sky early in October, leaving Mars visible higher in the mid evening sky. Mercury passes Saturn early in the month to be visible soon after sunset, especially later in October.

Jupiter is to the north in the predawn sky, rising around midnight, while Venus rises a little more than an hour before the Sun so is in the dawn sky to the east.

The evening sky - mercury, mars and saturn

The time at which Mars sets will get only 10 minutes earlier during the October. Even so, the advancing time of sunset will mean the planet gets considerably lower in the sky by the time it is dark enough to view.

The easterly path of Mars through the stars takes it from Libra into the narrow part of Scorpius near delta Sco on October 6 and then on into Ophiuchus on the 18th when the 11% lit moon will be less than 5° below the planet. On the 11th, Mars, magnitude 1.1, will be just over a degree to the right of delta Sco mag 2.3. The binocular double, beta Sco will be 2° the other side of Mars. The two stars forming beta, magnitudes 2.6 and 4.5, are 13.7" apart, so 8x or 10x binoculars should split the pair.

A further interesting conjunction occurs 10 days later, October 21. Mars will then be 3.6° to the lower right of its "rival", Antares. At magnitude 1.06 Antares will be marginally brighter than Mars. The two are, of course, similar in colour.

Mercury is also an evening object, at first very low after sunset. On October 4 it is in conjunction with Saturn. Mercury, at magnitude -0.3 will be a magnitude brighter than Saturn and 3.4° to its left. The pair of planets will be 6° above the horizon 50 minutes after sunset, as seen from Wellington.

Over the following days Mercury will get a little higher in the evening sky and so set later. During the second half of October this will be more than 2 hours after the Sun.

On the 16th Mercury will be 2.5° left of alpha Lib (mag 2.73), a wide double easily split in binoculars. Mercury ends October in Scorpius close to delta Scorpii, magnitude 2.29. The star will be just under 1.5° to the right of Mercury. Antares will be just under 8° above the pair. Mars will be some way above Antares, 16° above and to the right of Mercury. 50 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be about 11° up, midway between west and southwest.

The 5% lit moon will be 3° to the right of Mercury on the evening of October 17. The two will be closer during the afternoon, 1.5° apart, with the moon between Mercury and alpha Lib.

Saturn is in conjunction with the Sun on October 25. It may be briefly visible very low in the evening twilight the first few evenings of the month before being completely lost to view in the bright sky.

Morning sky, jupiter and venus

Jupiter will rise about 1 am (NZDT) at the beginning of October and 2 hours earlier late in the month. So it is easily visible during the second half of the night, near due north an hour before sunset. With a declination more than 20° north of the celestial equator, Jupiter will be low in New Zealand skies, little higher than the mid winter Sun.

The planet is stationary on October 5 so its position will change little in 
the month.  It will be in Taurus, with Aldebaran 7° to its upper left.  The 
two asteroids Vesta and Ceres will be a few degrees to the right of Jupiter.

On the morning of October 6 the 74% lit moon will be 2° left of Jupiter. An occultation of the planet occurs a few hours later. It is visible before sunrise from the southwest corner of Australia and in daylight from southwest Victoria and Tasmania.

Venus rises later than Jupiter, 90 minutes before the Sun at the beginning of October, 70 minutes earlier by the end. So it will be readily visible in the sky before sunrise but quite low to the west.

The planet will be very close to Regulus on the mornings of October 3 and 4. On the 3rd it will be to the left of the star, on the 4th to its right and slightly closer, 30 arc-minutes away (the diameter of the full moon). At its closest Venus and Regulus are only a quarter of this distance apart, but they are not visible from NZ at the time.

The 10% lit crescent moon will be 5° to the upper right of Venus on the morning of October 13.

*********** URANUS was at opposition on September 29 so becomes an evening object in October. It transits and is highest close to 1 am NZDT at the beginning of October and 11 pm at the end. Uranus at magnitude 5.7, is in Pisces about 20° from beta Ceti towards gamma Pegasi.

Neptune rises about 3 hours before Uranus and transits mid evening. The planet with a magnitude 7.8 to 7.9 is in Aquarius near Capricornus. It is just over 7° from delta Cap.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both in the vicinity of Jupiter and Aldebaran so are visible in the morning sky.

Ceres brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.0 during October. It starts the month on the northern edge of Orion but moves into Gemini on the 12th.

Vesta is in Taurus close to Orion during October, about 10° to the upper right of Jupiter. It brightens from magnitude 7.8 to 7.3.

(2) Pallas is in Cetus about 10° from beta Cet. It starts October at magnitude 8.4, slightly brighter than Ceres, but fades to 8.9 during the month..

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

--- Brian Loader

5. RASNZ Conferences 2013 and 2015

The 2013 conference will be held in Invercargill, hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The venue is the Ascot Park Hotel. Many members will remember previous conferences hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society at the same venue and know to expect an excellent meeting.

The dates for the 2013 conference are Friday 24 May to Sunday 26 May. The conference will be followed by another Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium on Monday and Tuesday 27 and 28.

The Ascot Park Hotel has plenty of on-site accommodation, both hotel and motel. In addition there are other motels close by. For more details of the venue, nearby accommodation and local attractions - including the Bluff Oyster Festival - visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>.

Registration forms for the conference will be available on line later this year. Meanwhile it is not too early to start planning to present a paper at the conference. We would particularly like to have papers reporting on your observational work. We hope to include representatives from all the RASNZ sections so giving a view of the work being carried out by sections. Equally affiliated societies should be looking at making a presentation reporting on their observational programmes as well as other activities and developments. Conference provides a chance to widely publicise your society.

---------- Looking ahead - Expressions of interest to host the 2015 Conference

The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee (SCC) invites interested societies, affiliated to the RASNZ, to offer to host the 2015 RASNZ conference. Conferences are usually held in May. For further information, interested societies should contact the SCC by email to <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> as soon as possible.

Interested societies will be sent a guide to the facilities needed at the conference venue and an outline of the responsibilities of the Local Organising Committee which they will need to form.

The SCC hopes to be able to make a recommendation for the host of the 2015 conference to the RASNZ Council by the end of November 2012 so a formal invitation can be issued.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC.

6. Whakatane Ast Soc Community Award

The Whakatane Astronomical Society received the 2012 Regional Commendation for Educational and Child/Youth development in the TrustPower Community Awards. The citation reads: Presented in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the Whakatane District. 'Seven space enthusiasts make up the team behind this organisation that offers one of Whakatane's premier night time attractions. With three telescopes in two observatories, this group offers two weekly public viewing nights, often more! And by doing this, they are encouraging the knowledge of all aspects of astronomy among schools, the community and tourists. Over recent years, the society has ticked off many significant milestones including the completion of a storeroom and observatory, which was close to $50,000 worth of work. The society is also proud of its modern audio visual room, used for presentations to large groups or for when the weather doesn't want to cooperate for night sky viewing. One milestone that the Society is working towards is hosting the 2014 AGM of the country's Royal Astronomical Society. It was last held here 45 years ago, and this AGM will coincide with the group's big 50th anniversary. The Whakatane Astronomical Society is on a mission to enhance their facilities and grounds so they can put on an event to remember, hosting both national and international astronomers. Good luck with this project!' ----------- And they got a $100 credit to their TrustPower account. The Whakatane Ast Soc's website is http://www.skyofplenty.com/

7. Tourism Awards to Earth & Sky

Lake Tekapo's Earth & Sky company received the Hospitality and Tourism Large Enterprise Award at the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards in Timaru on August 24.

This was followed with the Runner-up trophy for New Zealand's Travel Industry Best Tour Operator - Domestic at the NZ Travel Industry Awards 2012 in Auckland on September 9.

Earth and Sky run popular night-time tours on Mt John and at a site south- east of Lake Tekapo village. They also have a daytime café on Mt John with an Observatory tour option. See http://earthandskynz.com/earthandsky/ for details.

8. John Hearnshaw Visits North Korea

A week in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea may not sound like everyone´s idea of a fun holiday destination. I just spent the first week of September in that country and absolutely enjoyed every minute of my time. The Koreans treated me like a celebrity rock star or visiting president, with a large black limousine and chauffeur assigned to me for a week, during which time doors to important people and places were opened to me and every effort was made to please and impress. As the first astronomer ever to visit North Korea from another country (except for some Chinese astronomers who went to Pyongyang over 10 years ago), and also one of the few foreign scientists of any type to go there, the Koreans certainly appreciated my visit.

In addition I took with me a small library of 109 astronomical books as a gift for the Korean astronomers and students who have little access to modern published scientific literature and no internet access. More on that mission in a while.

My visit to North Korea was organized by the Korea-NZ Friendship Society, which has close links with the NZ-DPRK Society in New Zealand. In particular, Mr Hwang Sung Chol, the Friendship Society´s secretary-general in Pyongyang, was extremely helpful in putting together a very full programme of events and visits, which included three lectures, each of two hours´ duration, at the Kim Il Sung University, meetings with astronomers from the Pyongyang Astronomical Observatory and with officials from the Academy of Sciences and 19 cultural visits to see sites, performances and monuments in and around the capital city. In DPRK the Society is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and has five full-time staff members. Two of these, Mr Hwang and Miss Li Mi Hyung, both of whom had fluent English, accompanied me at all times, and even lived with me in the same hotel. Such close surveillance might seem quite oppressive; but that is normal for all visitors in North Korea, and in the event they proved to be charming people and welcome company.

I entered DPRK by train, setting out from Beijing on the 1 September, a 27- hour journey interrupted by about five hours at the frontier while passports and bags were inspected. I am pleased I chose the train option to get there; it gave idyllic glimpses of beautiful green countryside under intensive horticultural production in the 230 km from the frontier to Pyongyang (which took an unbelievable 7 hours), and was a refreshing change from the smog- laden air of China.

Before departing I had collected the library of books from friends and colleagues attending the International Astronomical Union´s General Assembly in Beijing. Each book was labelled with the donor´s name and then packed into five large boxes. I decided to air freight these to Pyongyang, a wise decision given the crowded conditions on the train. So I took the 100 kg library to Beijing Airport on the morning before the train departed, and assigned them to Air Koryo (the North Korean airline) who kindly flew them for free.

Pyongyang is a spacious and well laid out city on the Taedong River with many attractive trees and parks and some stunning modern architecture, with some amazing public facilities such as numerous sports stadia, theatres, hotels and museums. On the first day I visited Kim Il Sung University on a large campus in the north of the city. They have some very modern facilities, especially notable being the numerous computer laboratories and a very well equipped modern lecture theatre where I gave my presentations. All the lectures had a running translation into Korean. However all North Korean students these days learn English, and after my talks they said the translations were unnecessary; they could follow everything in English.

A number of highlights of my cultural visits are worth mentioning. On my first day following the afternoon lecture, I was taken to the Korea-NZ Friendship School, where I was greeted by staff and shown round before the secondary students put on an hour-long performance in the school hall of music, dance and songs for my benefit. A performance of Pokarekare Ana by the school choir was a notable highlight.

Another school visit was to Kumsong College, where highly selected gifted pupils are given intensive education specializing in science and the performing arts. Once again a superb hour-long performance in the school hall for my sole benefit was put on.

But perhaps the biggest cultural event was a visit to the Arirang Mass Gymnastics and Artistic performance at the impressive May Day Stadium, a nearly two-hour show with 100,000 performers in wonderful costumes doing synchronized dancing and gymnastics to music before 100,000 spectators. I have never seen anything like this before - it was exhilarating and amazing.

I left DPRK last weekend after a truly amazing week, this time entrusting my life to a 40-year old Ilyushin jet of Air Koryo for my return to Beijing.

So what about the `Axis of Evil´, the food shortages, the starving malnourished population, the political indoctrination, the labour camps for political prisoners and the Kim-Il-Sung personality cult? Yes, I was told there are food shortages, a result of both droughts and floods in recent years, not a result of any failure of the political system. But I saw no sign of the food shortage nor of malnourished people, nor of infertile or unproductive land. Perhaps my visit was so closely orchestrated that these things were kept far from my gaze - who knows? And yes, DPRK has the world´s fourth largest army with over a million soldiers enlisted, one of the world´s larger submarine fleets and they claim to have nuclear weapons that are ready to be launched to the south at a moment´s notice.

My analysis is they are in a hole and want to get out and open up their country to the world. But they are surrounded by hostile powers and don´t know how easily to get out of the hole. I heard numerous stories about how the Japanese imperialists invaded Korea in 1910 and ransacked and raped the country for 35 years (which I am sure is true) until the Great Leader Kim Il Sung defeated them in 1945 (actually it was the Soviet and US armies that really did the job, which is conveniently not mentioned!). The great leader was followed by Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, a curiously reticent person who rarely was seen in public, but whose benevolence led the people forward in their anti-imperialist struggles. I soon tired of hearing about the great and dear leaders´ exploits. Less often mentioned was Kim Jong Un, the new respected leader and grandson of the first Kim. There are hints he wants to instigate a gradual reform and open up North Korea - surely the world´s most isolated country - though slowly rather than through a cataclysmic upheaval. Hopefully this evolutionary process will now get under way, and perhaps more scientific exchanges like mine will help promote this process.

Overall, the Korean people were very friendly and happy to discuss everything. They too want change and to have international contacts, especially so for the scientists I spoke to. I believe that if they can adopt a more open posture to the world, then the extreme predominance of their military first policy and the fanatical Kim personality cult will mellow, and North Korea and the world will be a better place as a result.

-- John Hearnshaw. This article, with photos, first appeared in the University of Canterbury's Physics & Astronomy Department Newsletter of September 14. See http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/newsletter/2012/index.shtml

9. Funding Cuts in the U.S., The Netherlands and the U.K.

The United States National Science Foundation (NSF) Astronomy Portfolio Review Committee (PRC) has published its report on August 14 this year. In essence, their recommendations include - among others - that the NSF's Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) be fully divested from the NSF Astronomy Division's portfolio of research facilities in the next five years, with no further funding from the Astronomy Division.

"Divestment from these highly successful, long-running facilities will be difficult for all of us in the astronomical community. We must, however, consider the science tradeoff between divesting existing facilities and the risk of devastating cuts to individual research grants, mid-scale projects, and new initiatives."

Links:

NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/ast_portfolio_review.jsp Full report (170 pages): http://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/portfolioreview/reports/ast_portfolio_review_repor t.pdf

Initial public statement from Associated Universities Inc. (AUI) and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO): http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2012/portfolio/

Decadal Survey of 2010 (New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics): http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12951 Full report: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12951

----- The University of Utrecht in The Netherlands closed down its well-known and successful astronomy department at the end of last year. Christoph U. Keller (Leiden Observatory) published a paper last month on arXiv.org (http://arxiv.org/pdf/1208.4095v1). The abstract reads: "I describe the last years of the 370-year long life of the Sterrekundig Instituut Utrecht, which was the second-oldest university observatory in the world and was closed in early 2012 after the Faculty of Science and the Board of Utrecht University decided, without providing qualitative or quantitative arguments, to remove astrophysics from its research and education portfolio."

----- September's Sky & Telescope summarized cuts being made by the United Kingdom's Science and Technology Facilities Council to astronomical programmes. The 3.8-metre UK Infrared Telescope on Muana Kea is to close in September 2013 and the 15-metre James Clerk Maxwell (submillimetre) Telescope in 2014. The UK will continue to participate in the ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array, and in the European Extremely Large Telescope.

----- -- Thanks to Roland Idaczyk for the U.S. and Utrecht notes.

10. Canadian House Exchange Sought

House exchange wanted for all or part of March, 2013. I have pier-mounted 12" Meade SC go-to telescope on 6 acre property with orchard, Hornby Island, BC, Canada. 2-bedroom house, electric and wood heat, washer/dryer, wifi, sound system, tv and dvd, exercise machine, composting toilet. Other amenities: beaches walking distance, skiing on Mount Washington nearby. Seek modest accommodation with telescope in New Zealand (rental also considered). (250) 335-0005. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Dan Bruiger

11. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. 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. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

14. Here and There

From The Observatory, 2012 August:

THANKS FOR NOTHING

We also thank --- for evaporating the mirror. -- PASP, v.121,383, 2009.

IT CERTAINLY IS We report the discovery... of a peculiar Type IIn supernova... in NGC 1260. With a peak visual magnitude of about -22, it is the most luminous supernova ever recorded. -- Ap.J., v.666, 1116, 2007.

AN INFLAMMATORY IDEA Displays of the Northern Lights occur when solar particles enter the Earth's atmosphere and on impact emit burning gases that produce different coloured lights (oxygen produces green and yellow; nitrogen blue). -- Daily Telegraph, Travel Supplement, 2012 February 11, p.2.

ALLOWS THE HOT AIR TO ESCAPE ...our current telescopes lack the resolving power to see the accretion disc down to the vent horizon... -- Astronomy Now, 2012 February, p.9.

GET SET TO DUCK! The [James Webb Telescope], which will orbit 1.5 kilometres above Earth, is set to launch in 2018. -- Victoria Times-Colonist, 2012 March 7, p. B7.


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Active Region 11520
Robert W Evans and Harry Roberts

One paradox of solar activity is that spots cover only a tiny fraction of the Sun's visible area: AR11520, was just 0.14% of the disc - yet it rightly attracted attention as the biggest southern group for Solar Cycle 24, so far, and second biggest overall. If you have 'eclipse glasses' you could have seen it without a telescope.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P3

Transit of Venus - Cambridge, UK
John Harper

The author reminisces over viewing the 2004 transit from Cambridge, UK, and the missed view of the 2012 transit from Wellington.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P6

Transit of Venus - Palmerson North
Maurice Collins

The author describes his experiences observing the transit from his home.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P7

Transit of Venus in the footsteps of Captain Cook
Ian Morison

The author observed the Transit of Venus from "Astronomer's Point" in Fjordland where Captain Cook obtained a precise position in Latitude and Longitude.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P8

Transit of Venus - Alexandra
Alan Thomas

The author visited three schools in Central Otago for the students to view the transit.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P10

Transit of Venus - Hawkes Bay
Jim McAloon

The author chased the transit into Hawkes Bay to escape from the Wellington rain.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P11

Transit of Venus - Invercargill
R W Evans

An unsuccessful bid to time the transit's contacts is described.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P12

Emeritus Professor John Bullamore Mackie OBE, ED, DSc (Hon), MSc, BE, AOSM, FNZIS, FGS, FRASNZ, MIPENZ
1910 - 2012

Glen Rowe The Society's oldest member, Fellow and former President John Mackie passed away on 7 July 2012 peacefully at his home surrounded by family. This obituary is written by his former student and also former President of the Society.
Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P13

Book Review - Using SI Units in Astronomy
William Tobin

Volume 51, number 3. September 2012. P15

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.

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.

Contents

1. Sir Bernard Lovell
2. Curiosity Lands on Mars
3. The Planets in September
4. Herbert Astronomy Weekend
5. AAS Astrophotography Competition 2012
6. RASNZ Conference 2013
7. Canadian House Exchange Sought
8. Carl Sagan Summer Workshop 2012 - Report
9. LEDs and Night-time Skyglow
10. More Detail on SKANZ
11. "Pioneer Anomaly" Solved
12. Here and There

1. Sir Bernard Lovell

Sir Bernard Lovell, OBE, FRS, died August 6, 2012, at the age of 98.

Lovell, emeritus professor of radio-astronomy, was the founder and first director of the University of Manchester´s Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, England.

Sir Bernard Lovell developed the science of radio-astronomy in the UK and was director of Jodrell Bank, the site of the country's largest radio telescope, for 30 years. When he was developing his idea for a radio telescope in the 1950s, he faced much hostility over the cost of the project. This criticism turned to wonder and acclaim when, in October 1957, the telescope showed that it could accurately track the first Soviet sputnik spacecraft. It soon became one of the most famous scientific instruments in the world, recording radio emissions from outer space and setting the pattern for other radio astronomy observatories. In 1987 it was renamed the Lovell Telescope in honour of its creator.

Sir Bernard was born in 1913 in a village near Bristol, where his father ran a small radio repair shop and petrol station, besides being a Methodist lay-preacher. He read physics at Bristol University, won a research scholarship, became an assistant lecturer at the University of Manchester and studied cosmic rays under Professor P.M.S. Blackett. During World War II, he was seconded to the Telecommunications Research Establishment.

At the end of the war he resumed his post in Manchester, carrying on his work in a field in Cheshire, where he formed the nucleus of what was to become the Jodrell Bank station. At first, he used old Army radar equipment to detect cosmic-ray bursts and to investigate meteors. But he soon found that he needed a bigger radio collecting mirror, and built one himself with a diameter of 66 m (218 ft). It was, however, a fixed device, and looked into space in only a narrow range of directions.

The next requirement was another radio telescope, at least as large, and this time accurately steerable, so that it could be pointed to any part of the sky. The difficulty was finding people who believed in the idea and were prepared to finance it. However, the money - some £700,000 - was eventually raised and by 1958 the telescope was in action.

The tracking of the sputniks and moon-probes was only a part - and from a scientific point of view, not the most important part - of the telescope's work. The Lovell Telescope received the first detailed picture of the moon in 1966.

Much of Jodrell Bank's work involved the study of the remotest parts of the universe, millions of light years away. It extended our understanding of stellar objects, such as quasars, and provided a valuable insight into the origins of the universe itself.

Later in life, Sir Bernard became very concerned about the effect that short-term national and military projects might have on the interests of pure science. He strongly opposed schemes like the US plan to put a belt of radio-reflecting needles into space.

In 1958 he gave the BBC Reith Lectures, titled the 'The Individual and the Universe', in which he examined the history of and then-current inquiry into the solar system and the origin of the universe. Knighted in 1961, he was President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1969 to 1971 and, in 1975, he served as President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Sir Bernard wrote many books and was honoured by universities and institutions all over the world. He married in 1937, and had two sons and three daughters.

-- from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19164237

See also Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Lovell .

-- Thanks to Roland Roland Idaczyk for passing along the above links.

2. Curiosity Lands on Mars

Curiosity, NASA's latest contribution to the Martian landscape, landed on Aug. 6 at 05:32 UT (5:32 pm NZST) near the foot of a mountain five km tall inside Gale Crater, 150 km in diameter. Curiosity's descent was imaged by another Mars orbiter. Images from the vehicle itself soon followed.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/pia15978b.html shows an image of the Curiosity rover still connected to its 16 metre parachute as it descended towards its landing site. The image was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance orbiter (MRO).

At the time the MRO was 340 kilometres away from the parachuting rover. Curiosity and its rocket-propelled backpack, contained within the conical- shaped back shell, had yet to be deployed. Curiosity was about three kilometres above the Martian surface. The HiRISE team had been working on this sequence since March and had to upload commands to the spacecraft about 72 hours prior to the image being taken. Images of the late stages of the descent, along with text and video, can be seen at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-233

The MRO's image of Curiosity and its parachute, back shell, heat shield and descent stage can be found at http://go.nasa.gov/OXjKz6 . The Curiosity rover is in the centre of the image. To the right, approximately 1,500 metres away, lies the heat shield, which protected the rover from the 2,100 C temperatures encountered during its fiery descent. On the lower left, about 615 meters away, are the parachute and back shell. To the upper-left, approximately 650 metres away from the rover, is a discoloration of the Mars surface consistent with what would have resulted when the rocket-powered Sky Crane impacted the surface.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking rocks' elemental composition from a distance, are the first of their kind on Mars. Curiosity will use a drill and scoop, which is located at the end of its robotic arm, to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into the rover¹s analytical laboratory instruments.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater¹s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulphate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-235 shows images from Curiosity's just-activated navigation cameras, or Navcams, include the rover's first self-portrait, looking down at its deck from above. Another Navcam image set, in lower-resolution thumbnails, is the first 360-degree view of Curiosity's new home in Gale Crater. Also downlinked were two, higher-resolution Navcams providing the most detailed depiction to date of the surface adjacent to the rover.

Some images show that thrust from the rockets dug half-metre trenches in the Martian surface, revealing bedrock on the bottom. Its depth below the surface is valuable data for planning exploration.

Another image set, courtesy of the Context Camera, or CTX, aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has pinpointed the final resting spots of the six 25-kg entry ballast masses. The tungsten masses impacted the Martian surface at a high speed of about 12 km from Curiosity's landing location.

Curiosity's latest images are available at http://1.usa.gov/MfiyD0

-- from several NASA press releases forwarded by Karen Pollard.

3. The Planets in September

By the end of September, Saturn will set less than two hour after the Sun and so will already be a low object to the west as the sky darkens following sunset. Mars on the other hand will hang on in the early evening sky setting more than two hours after Saturn.

Jupiter and Venus will be obvious in the morning sky, with Jupiter rising just after midnight (NZST) at the end of the month.

Mercury is at superior conjunction on September 14 and will remain too close to the Sun to see virtually all month. It may be possible to glimpse the planet very low to the west in the evening twilight on the 30th.

NZ daylight time starts this year on the morning of September 30, the latest the change can occur under the present rules. After clocks are moved forward one hour NZDT will be 13 hours ahead of UTC (GMT).

Mars and saturn plus spica in the evening sky

At the beginning of September, Mars will be about 10° above Saturn as seen in the early evening sky. During the month Mars will move steadily away from Saturn towards Scorpius and Antares, the "rival" of Mars. Due to its easterly movement, the planet will set only about 10 minutes earlier at the end of September compared to the beginning. As a result the planet will maintain its altitude at the same time of evening throughout the month so that from night to night the stars will appear to be moving down past Mars.

On the 1st Mars will be in Virgo but by the 5th it will have moved into Libra. For the rest of September, Mars will be crossing Libra. By the end of the month Mars will be just short of Scorpius and some 7.5° below delta Sco (mag 2.3) and twice a far below Antares. In its way across Libra, Mars will pass close to the wide double star, alpha Lib. The two are closest on the 15th with Mars 1° to the left of the stars. The two stars of Libra, with magnitudes 2.7 and 5.2, are just under 4 arc-minute apart and are easily separable in binoculars.

The 22% lit moon will be 5.5° above Mars on the evening of September 20 for New Zealand. Earlier in the day, the moon will occult the red planet. The occultation is visible the hours of darkness from some of the eastern parts of South America.

Saturn, unlike Mars, will set steadily earlier during September; a few minutes before 10 pm on the 1st, advancing to about 8.15 pm by the end of the month, although on the 30th the start of NZDT will make this an hour later.

On the last evening of September, 45 minutes after sunset, Saturn will be to the west, low, with an altitude of some 10°. During September it will have moved a little away from Spica which has been its companion this year. On the 30th the two will be some 7° apart with Spica only 7° up 45 minutes after sunset.

Mercury, magnitude -0.4, and beginning to emerge from the Sun by the 30th, will be 2.5° below Spica. But the sky glow from the set sun almost directly below the star and planets, is likely to make it difficult see them.

Planets in the morning sky

Venus and JUPITER continue to move further apart in the morning sky during September.

Venus remains a brilliant object to the northwest in the morning sky throughout, rising about 4.30 am at Wellington and a few minutes earlier for Auckland, 40 minutes later at Invercargill. The planet will get a little lower in the morning sky as its elongation from the Sun decreases.

The planet starts the month in Gemini on a line between Pollux and Procyon in Canis Minor. Venus moves into Cancer on the 4th and on into Leo on the 23rd. Its path through the star will take it towards Regulus with the two 4° apart by the 30th.

The 13% lit crescent moon will be about 3° from Venus on the morning of the 13th of September.

Jupiter rises steadily earlier in the morning as September advances. By the end of the month it rises around midnight, just before at Auckland but getting later further south. It will be almost 1 am at Invercargill before rising due to the planet being well north of the celestial equator. On the last morning of the month it will rise before the start of NZDT.

The planet will remain in Taurus throughout September, moving slowly to the east and so taking it further from Aldebaran which will be a few degrees away above and to the left of the planet. The Pleiades will be about 16° to the left of Jupiter.

On the morning of the 8th the 58% lit moon will be midway between the Pleiades and Jupiter, 8.5° from the planet. The following morning the moon, now 48% lit, will be 3° to the right of Jupiter. Earlier that night the moon will occult Jupiter (before it rises in NZ). The occultation will be visible in a dark sky from the South Pacific Ocean to the west of South America. Over the southern part of South America the occultation will be a day time event.

*********** URANUS´ retrograde motion will take it back into Pisces on the 17th of September from the corner of Cetus it has been in for the last month or two. The planet is at opposition on the 29th so by then will rise close to the time of sunset and set near the time of sunrise. At magnitude 5.7, Uranus will be an easy binocular object.

Neptune being past opposition in September will be rising before the Sun sets, so will be an easy evening binocular object. The planet, magnitude 7.8, will be in Aquarius moving slowly to the west towards Capricornus. It ends the month just over 7° from the 2.9 magnitude star delta Cap.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning sky objects in the vicinity of Jupiter and Aldebaran so are visible in the morning sky.

At the beginning of September, Ceres will be at magnitude 8.8 and close to the 3.0 magnitude star zeta Tau. The asteroid passes the star on the mornings of the 5th and 6th when the two will be less than a degree apart. Ceres crosses into the most northerly part of Orion on the morning of the 16th.

Vesta is in Taurus all September a few degrees to the upper right of Jupiter. It will brighten a little during the month from magnitude 8.1 to 7.8, a magnitude brighter than Ceres.

(2) Pallas is at opposition in Cetus on September 24 when it will be at magnitude 8.3 having started the month at 8.8. At opposition the asteroid will be 9.6° from Uranus.

(11) Parthenope is at opposition on September 3 with a magnitude 9.0. It will be in Aquarius 10.7° from Neptune. By the end of September the asteroid will have faded to magnitude 9.7.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

--- Brian Loader

4. Herbert Astronomy Weekend

Herbert Astronomy Weekend Star Party, September 14-17th. Don't miss it! For all information see http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend is held a Camp Iona, just west of Herbert, about 20 km south of Oamaru.

5. AAS Astrophotography Competition 2012

The Auckland Astronomical Society's 2012 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now underway. The competition is open to all New Zealand residents, Astronomical Society members, clubs and groups. Remember, the prestigious Harry Willams Trophy is up for grabs.

There are 4 categories in this competition: Deep Space, Solar System, Artistic/Mis, Scientific. (Note: you will need to fully explain why your entry has scientific merit to be considered for this section).

Entry forms and competition details can be found on the Auckland Astronomical Society Website. http://www.astronomy.org.nz Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner at Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Pakuranga, Auckland on October 28th, 2012.

Competition closing date - Monday 1st October 2012.

Please send your entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2012 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition Postal Delivery Address: 2/24 Rapallo Place, Farm Cove, Pakuranga, Auckland 2012.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Header: 2012 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- Jennie McCormick

6. RASNZ Conference 2013

The 2013 conference will be held in Invercagill, hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The venue is the Ascot Park Hotel. Many members will remember previous conferences hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society at the same venue and know to expect an excellent conference. So make a note of the dates of the conference, Friday 24 May 24 to Sunday 26 May.

The conference will be followed by another Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium on Monday and Tuesday 27 and 28.

The Ascot Park Hotel has plenty of on-site accommodation, both hotel and motel. In addition there are other motels close by.

We hope to be able to feature papers from members about their own observational and other activities in astronomy. Now is the time to start preparing your paper for the conference.

Brian Loader RASNZ SCC chairman

7. Canadian House Exchange Sought

House exchange wanted for all or part of March, 2013. I have pier-mounted 12" Meade SC go-to telescope on 6 acre property with orchard, Hornby Island, BC, Canada. 2-bedroom house, electric and wood heat, washer/dryer, wifi, sound system, tv and dvd, exercise machine, composting toilet. Other amenities: beaches walking distance, skiing on Mount Washington nearby. Seek modest accommodation with telescope in New Zealand (rental also considered). (250) 335-0005. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Dan Bruiger

8. Carl Sagan Summer Workshop 2012 - Report

Ed Budding writes:

I enjoyed a very interesting Carl Sagan Summer Workshop at the California Institute of Technology ('Caltech', Pasadena) during the week July 22-29, 2012.

The total number of Kepler Mission planets, identified by their transit light curves, (the main theme of the meeting) is getting on for 2500 at the time of writing, and a massive new release of new identifications is expected in the near future.

Many of these planets are the 'lonely hot Jupiters', single massive planets in relatively close orbits that made up the historically first class of detections, but an increasing proportion are now the Neptunes and Super-Earths. These latter are smaller, often further out, and often in multiple planet systems that begin to resemble the familiar solar system configuration. Even a few 'rocky' Earth-like objects are beginning to show up from the latest data analyses.

There were 173 attendants at the workshop and from 26 countries. Many were young postgraduate students working on PhD projects, others were in the postdoc bracket and still others, like this author, were yet further on (in time, at least) in their studies of the Universe.

Among the many highlights of the Workshop were further identifications of the high water content of the atmospheres of the many planets, obliquely inclined host stars, new methods to obtain planet masses using time of minimum and astro-seismological data, the growing contributions from many ground-based facilities (including the popular planethunters.org), the 'Doppler beaming' effect noticed in certain light curves, eclipses of starspots and what that can lead to in parameter evaluation, and numerous theoretical, data-analysis and interpretative studies. There were 3 big 'hands-on' sessions, in which the participants learned how the Kepler Mission team recover the photometry from the satellite and process the raw data into regular light curves that are placed in a freely accessible archive and then fitted by appropriate models. Also on the agenda were a pleasant and interesting tour of the Mt Wilson Observatory and an enjoyable conference dinner.

I expect to be able to offer a fuller account of this subject in a Southern Stars (RASNZ) article in the near future, but enthusiast can meanwhile look at http://nexsci.caltech.edu/workshop/2012 for further details.

This very impressive meeting was organized by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute (NExScI), who accepted applications for financial assistance covering registration and accommodation costs. I would also like to say thanks to the RASNZ's Kingdon Tomlinson Fund for its partial support of my airfares. Let me also mention the Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Programme, which should be of interest to young enthusiasts in this rapidly advancing new field of astronomy. Further pointers on that can be found at the above website. -----

Ed Budding, Carter Observatory, SCPS Victoria University of Wellington and Dept of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury New Zealand

9. LEDs and Night-time Skyglow

Red is the new black, at least for night-time skyglow, according to scientists of the Freie Universität Berlin and the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Germany. And the colour of night-time skyglow may be about to undergo a radical change worldwide. The team predicts that with increasing use of LED street lamps, the colour of the night sky will become bluer. To track this change, the researchers developed a prototype measurement device, and used it to show that the sky currently contains far more red light on cloudy nights compared to clear nights.

Christopher Kyba, physicist at the Freie Universität and lead author of the study, explains that innovations in lighting technology will result in changes in the colour of streetlights. The current worldwide trend of replacing gas discharge lamps with solid state lighting, such as LEDs, will affect the radiance and spectrum of urban skyglow. In order to understand the potential impacts of this change on ecology, it will be essential to monitor the sky over the long term.

The scientists used the new instrument to study how clouds affect sky brightness in urban areas. For almost all of evolutionary history, clouds made the night sky darker, just like they do in daytime. In areas with artificial light the effect of clouds is now reversed, and the size of the effect depends on colour. The researchers found that in Berlin the blue portion of skyglow is seven times more radiant on cloudy nights than on clear, and 18 times more for the red part.

In the visual range used by most animals, the authors say that cloudy skies are now thousands of times more radiant near cities than they were throughout most of history. They expect that the addition of this extra light affects predator-prey relationships where the predator hunts using vision, for example between owls and mice.

The sky is blue in daytime because the cloud-free atmosphere is very good at scattering short wavelength light. The scientists therefore express concern that unless special care is taken in design and implementation, a switch to whiter LED lights could make the sky much brighter on clear nights. They suggest that cities that have decided to change to solid state lighting should purchase lamps that emit no upward light, and use 'warm white' lights with as little blue light as possible.

The research was funded by two interdisciplinary projects, MILIEU and 'Verlust der Nacht'(Loss of the Night). The 'Verlust der Nacht' project, funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), is specifically devoted to quantifying light pollution and investigating its impact on humans and the environment.

Their report, entitled 'Red is the New Black', is published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. See http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365- 2966.2012.21559.x/abstract http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~kyba/publications/ 2012_Kyba_red_is_the_new_black.pdf Interdisciplinary light pollution research project: http://www.verlustdernacht.de

-- from a Royal Astronomical Society (UK) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. More Detail on SKANZ

The following letter by Philip Diamond, Chief, Astronomy & Space Science, CSIRO, was circulated to the Australian Astronomical Society on May 15.

Dear colleagues

I´m pleased to report that the international SKA Organisation has announced that the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array radio telescope will be deployed in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in South Africa.

The SKA Organisation has agreed that Phase 1 of the SKA project should be split between both regions. Such a deployment means researchers will get the best possible results by capitalising on the respective infrastructure and strengths of both sites.

In Phase 1, Australia will build 60 SKA dishes equipped with Australia´s innovative phased array feed technology, which will work in conjunction with ASKAP, as well as an array of 4000 low frequency dipole antennas. South Africa will receive 190 SKA dishes, which will work with MeerKAT to deliver deep images of individual fields. The two instruments will be complementary, with Australia hosting the survey instrument, South Africa the follow-up array.

Phase 2 of the SKA, which is more than a decade away, will see the entire low frequency array in Australia, with the dish array and, if successfully developed, a mid-frequency dense aperture array in Southern Africa. The implementation of all parts of SKA Phase 2 will be dependent upon the successful delivery of Phase 1.

I believe this to be an excellent result for Australia and New Zealand, as well as for CSIRO and am proud of the fantastic work that has been undertaken by the very many people involved across the ASKAP and SKA projects.

There are far too many people to mention in this email, but I´d like to highlight the efforts that have been made over many years by Brian Boyle and Michelle Storey. Without their efforts I can safely say that Australia would have no ASKAP or SKA - Their efforts have been instrumental in keeping us at the forefront of radio astronomy.

The efforts too, of everyone who has had a hand in our ASKAP construction, or worked with various SKA Working Groups, Committees and Design Groups, or who have provided technical input to the international SKA Organisation should also be applauded.

In the short term, CSIRO and our partners will aim to participate in work- packages supporting SKA pre-construction and construction activities. We will also seek to continue our scientific and technical leadership role in SKA related activities. In the longer term, CSIRO will work with the Australian and New Zealand Governments, as well as the SKA Organisation to see how exactly CSIRO can best contribute to the future success of the SKA telescope.

The decision as announced is one that we can be proud of and I look forward to the future and being further involved in what will truly be a world changing project.

Regards Philip Diamond | Chief, Astronomy & Space Science | CSIRO

11. "Pioneer Anomaly" Solved

The unexpected slowing of NASA's Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft -- the so-called "Pioneer Anomaly" -- turns out to be due to the slight, but detectable effect of heat pushing back on the spacecraft, according to a recent paper. The heat emanates from electrical current flowing through instruments and the thermoelectric power supply. The results were published on June 12 in the journal Physical Review Letters [http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.241101].

"The effect is something like when you're driving a car and the photons from your headlights are pushing you backward," said Slava Turyshev, the paper's lead author at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "It is very subtle."

Launched in 1972 and 1973 respectively, Pioneer 10 and 11 are on an outward trajectory from our Sun. In the early 1980s, navigators saw a deceleration on the two spacecraft, in the direction back toward the Sun, as the spacecraft were approaching Saturn. They dismissed it as the effect of dribbles of leftover propellant still in the fuel lines after controllers had cut off the propellant. But by 1998, as the spacecraft kept travelling on their journey and were over 8 billion miles (13 billion km) away from the Sun, a group of scientists led by John Anderson of JPL realized there was an actual deceleration of about 7.6 metres per day squared (0.9 nanometres per second squared). They raised the possibility that this could be some new type of physics that contradicted Einstein's general theory of relativity.

In 2004, Turyshev decided to start gathering records stored all over the country and analyze the data to see if he could definitively figure out the source of the deceleration. In part, he and colleagues were contemplating a deep space physics mission to investigate the anomaly, and he wanted to be sure there was one before asking NASA for a spacecraft.

He and colleagues went searching for Doppler data, the pattern of data communicated back to Earth from the spacecraft, and telemetry data, the housekeeping data sent back from the spacecraft. At the time these two Pioneers were launched, data were still being stored on punch cards. But Turyshev and colleagues were able to copy digitized files from the computer of JPL navigators who have helped steer the Pioneer spacecraft since the 1970s. They also found over a dozen of boxes of magnetic tapes stored under a staircase at JPL and received files from the National Space Science Data Center at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and worked with NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., to save some of their boxes of magnetic optical tapes. He collected more than 43 gigabytes of data, which may not seem like a lot now, but is quite a lot of data for the 1970s. He also managed to save a vintage tape machine that was about to be discarded, so he could play the magnetic tapes.

The effort was a labour of love for Turyshev and others. The Planetary Society sent out appeals to its members to help fund the data recovery effort. NASA later also provided funding. In the process, a programmer in Canada, Viktor Toth, heard about the effort and contacted Turyshev. He helped Turyshev create a program that could read the telemetry tapes and clean up the old data.

They saw that what was happening to Pioneer wasn't happening to other spacecraft, mostly because of the way the spacecraft were built. For example, the Voyager spacecraft are less sensitive to the effect seen on Pioneer, because its thrusters align it along three axes, whereas the Pioneer spacecraft rely on spinning to stay stable.

With all the data newly available, Turyshev and colleagues were able to calculate the heat put out by the electrical subsystems and the decay of plutonium in the Pioneer power sources, which matched the anomalous acceleration seen on both Pioneers.

"The story is finding its conclusion because it turns out that standard physics prevail," Turyshev said. "While of course it would've been exciting to discover a new kind of physics, we did solve a mystery."

Pioneer 10's last signal was received on Earth in January 2003. Pioneer 11's last signal was received in November 1995.

-- A Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Here and There

From The Observatory, 2012 June:

TO RUSSIA WITH LOVE ... with Russia making extended territorial claims to the pole, with Canada increasing its military presents in its Arctic Archipelago... -- Letters to Spaceflight, 2011 November, p.442.

BUT YOU'LL NEED A LUNAR ROVER TO STUDY IT You can now have the latest full size map of the nearside of the Moon. - - Astronomy Now, 2001 December.

POINT IT UP! The Gemini South laser first light on January 22, 2011, has left its mark on everyone who has been involved... -- Gemini Focus, 2011 June, p.28.

EARLY LEARNING CENTRES? Planetary nurseries can be seen using very powerful telescopes... -- JBAA, v.121, 6, 2011.

And a local one:

LETHAL INJECTIONS? That burst throws a cloud of charged gas which is what we call a coronial mass injection... -- Fairfax News, 17 July 2012.


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

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.

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.

Contents

1. Professor John Mackie 1910-2012
2. Astrocamp at Foxton Beach, August 17-19
3. Higgs Boson Found
4. The Solar System in August
5. Mars Science Laboratory Arrives August 6
6. Lowell Amateur Research Initiative
7. Filters for Visual Observing
8. Third International Starlight Conference Report
9. NEO-Finder Privately Funded?
10. Dim Glob Discovered
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

1. Professor John Mackie 1910-2012

The society's oldest member, Fellow and former President passed away on 7 July 2012 peacefully at his home surrounded by family. John joined the Society in 1963 and served on Council during the period 1965-73 including a term as President. In 1969 he was elected as a Fellow in recognition of his "fundamental contributions to practical surveying astronomy". An article describing Johns 100th birthday appeared in the September 2010 issue of Southern Stars. We extend our condolences to John's family at this time of loss.

-- Glen Rowe

2. Astrocamp at Foxton Beach, August 17-19

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society, in conjunction with the Phoenix Astronomical Society, is holding the Winter Astro-Camp in the Horowhenua/Manawatu from 17th to 19th August. It is at the Foxton Bible Camp, Foxton Beach.

The overall theme of the weekend will be the winter Milky Way and the Clouds of Magellan. The camp is situated in a very dark site so these wondrous areas of the night sky will be easily visible and riding high in the sky.

The weekend will include: hydrogen-alpha solar viewing and photography; a hands-on astrophotography workshop in a quiet, comfortable lounge; night-time observing and live video astronomy, through a variety of telescopes (feel free to bring your own telescopes - the more the merrier!); a telescope trail; a display of 3D images - the Universe as you´ve never seen it before! There will also be a programme of interesting talks on a variety of topics throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. There is also a pool table and table tennis as well as a playground with numerous outdoor activities.

Astro-Camp Fee: People over 18 years $20.00. Under 18 free. On Site Accommodation: Cabins: $15 per night per person over 5 years old; $3 per night for preschoolers. Day visitors: $3 per day (in addition to the $20.00 Astro-Camp fee). You must bring your own pillow slips and bedding. A large fully equipped kitchen is available. The camp is hired on a `do-it- yourself´ basis. Groceries can be bought locally.

Book online at: www.horoastronomy.org.nz. For queries contact the HASI Secretary, Tina Hills, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- From information sent by Simon Hills

3. Higgs Boson Found

Historical events recede in importance with every passing decade. Crises, political and financial, can be seen for the blips on the path of progress that they usually are. Even the horrors of war acquire a patina of unreality. The laws of physics, though, are eternal and universal. Elucidating them is one of the triumphs of mankind. And this month has seen just such a triumphant elucidation.

On July 4th physicists working in Geneva at CERN, the world´s biggest particle-physics laboratory, announced that they had found the Higgs boson. Broadly, particle physics is to the universe what DNA is to life: the hidden principle underlying so much else. Like the uncovering of DNA´s structure by Francis Crick and James Watson in 1953, the discovery of the Higgs makes sense of what would otherwise be incomprehensible. Its significance is massive. Literally. Without the Higgs there would be no mass. And without mass, there would be no stars, no planets and no atoms. And certainly no human beings. Indeed, there would be no history. Massless particles are doomed by Einstein´s theory of relativity to travel at the speed of light. That means, for them, that the past, the present and the future are the same thing.

Such power to affect the whole universe has led some to dub the Higgs "the God particle". That, it is not. It does not explain creation itself. But it is nevertheless the most fundamental discovery in physics for decades.

Unlike the structure of DNA, which came as a surprise, the Higgs is a long-expected guest. It was predicted in 1964 by Peter Higgs, a British physicist who was trying to fix a niggle in quantum theory, and independently, in various guises, by five other researchers. And if the Higgs - or something similar - did not exist, then a lot of what physicists think they know about the universe would be wrong. Physics has two working models of reality. One is Einstein´s general relativity, which deals with space, time and gravity. This is an elegant assembly of interlocking equations that poured out of a single mind a century ago. The other, known as the Standard Model, deals with everything else more messily.

The Standard Model, a product of many minds, incorporates the three fundamental forces that are not gravity (electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces), and also a menagerie of apparently indivisible particles: quarks, of which protons and neutrons, and thus atomic nuclei, are made; electrons that orbit those nuclei; and more rarefied beasts such as muons and neutrinos. Without the Higgs, the maths which holds this edifice together would disintegrate.

Finding the Higgs, though, made looking for needles in haystacks seem simple. The discovery eventually came about using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a machine at CERN that sends bunches of protons round a ring 27km in circumference, in opposite directions, at close to the speed of light, so that they collide head on. The faster the protons are moving, the more energy they have. When they collide, this energy is converted into other particles (Einstein´s E=mc2), which then decay into yet more particles. What these decay particles are depends on what was created in the original collision, but unfortunately there is no unique pattern that shouts "Higgs!" The search, therefore, has been for small deviations from what would be seen if there were no Higgs. That is one reason it took so long.

Another was that no one knew how much the Higgs would weigh, and therefore how fast the protons needed to be travelling to make it. Finding the Higgs was thus a question of looking at lots of different energy levels, and ruling each out in turn until the seekers found what they were looking for.

For physicists, the Higgs is merely the LHC´s aperitif. They hope the machine will now produce other particles - ones that the Standard Model does not predict, and which might account for some strange stuff called "dark matter". Astronomers know dark matter abounds in the universe, but cannot yet explain it. Both theory and observation suggest that "normal" matter (the atom-making particles described by the Standard Model) is only about 4% of the total stuff of creation. Almost three-quarters of the universe is something completely obscure, dubbed "dark energy". The rest, 22% or so, is matter of some sort, but a sort that can be detected only from its gravity. It forms a giant lattice that permeates space and controls the position of galaxies made of visible matter. It also stops those galaxies spinning themselves apart. Physicists hope that it is the product of one of the post-Standard Model theories they have dreamed up while waiting for the Higgs. Now, they will be able to find out.

For non-physicists, the importance of finding the Higgs belongs to the realm of understanding rather than utility. It adds to the sum of human knowledge - but it may never change lives as DNA or relativity have. Within 40 years, Einstein´s theories paved the way for the Manhattan Project and the scourge of nuclear weapons. The deciphering of DNA has led directly to many of the benefits of modern medicine and agriculture. The last really useful subatomic particle to be discovered, though, was the neutron in 1932. Particles found subsequently are too hard to make, and too short-lived to be useful.

This helps explain why, even at this moment of triumph, particle physics is a fragile endeavour. Gone are the days when physicists, having given politicians the atom bomb, strode confidently around the corridors of power. Today they are supplicants in a world where money is tight. The LHC, sustained by a consortium that was originally European but is now global, cost about $10 billion to build.

That is still a relatively small amount, though, to pay for knowing how things really work, and no form of science reaches deeper into reality than particle physics. As J.B.S. Haldane, a polymathic British scientist, once put it, the universe may be not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. Yet given the chance, particle physicists will give it a run for its money.

See http://www.economist.com/node/21558254. -- From The Economist 7 July 2012.

4. The Solar System in August

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for August 2012 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_12.htm. Notes for September 2012 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in august

Mars and Saturn remain visible in the early evening with Mars passing between Saturn and Spica mid month. At their closest the two planets will be less than 3° apart.

Venus and Jupiter remain easy objects in the morning sky. Jupiter will steadily rise earlier and get higher in the early dawn sky. Venus will rise at about the same time all month, but closer to the time of sunrise as that gets earlier.

Mercury also rises before the Sun but only an hour earlier at its greatest, making the planet virtually unobservable.

Mars and saturn plus spica in the evening sky

As seen about 8 pm at the beginning of August, Mars will be some 8° below Spica, with Saturn 4.5° to the lower right of the star. During August Mars, moving to the east through the stars, will pass between Saturn and Spica. It ends the month above the pair. Mars will set only 20 minutes earlier at the end of August than at the beginning. By contrast, Saturn sets more than 100 minutes earlier. So it will seem that it is Saturn, with Spica, that moves down past Mars.

When the three are closest in mid August they will be setting at about 11pm. So best viewing will be fairly early in the evening. On the 14th the three will be almost in line with Spica about 1.75° to the left of Mars, and Saturn about 2.75° to the right of Mars. Saturn will be slightly brighter than Mars and Spica. The following evening the two planets will be slightly closer, but by then Mars will be above the line joining Spica and Saturn.

Saturn and Spica themselves will be closest on the 3rd and 4th, just under 4.5° apart. The distance of Saturn from Spica will slowly increase during the rest of August but will not exceed 4.5° until the 16th and remain less than 5° by the 31st.

The 25% lit moon will join the three on the evening of August 22. Early that evening it will be 2°, 4 diameters, to the left of Mars and some 5° above Saturn and Spica.

Planets in the morning sky

Venus and JUPITER move further apart in the morning sky during August.

Venus starts August in Taurus but its easterly movement through the stars takes it into Orion on the 5th where it crosses the most northerly lobe of the constellation, 12° below Betelgeuse. By the 13th Venus will have moved into Gemini where it will be 3.5° below the second magnitude star Alhena, gamma Gem, on the morning of the 18th. On the last morning of the month Venus will be between Procyon in Canis Minor and Pollux in Gemini. While Procyon should be quite easy to see an hour before sunrise, some 14° to the upper right of Venus, Pollux will be very low and to Venus' left.

At the beginning of August, Venus will rise about 3 hours before the Sun, dropping to some two-and-a-half hours earlier by the end of the month. The difference is almost entirely due to the Sun beginning to rise earlier, the actual time at which Venus rises changing little during the month.

The moon passes close to Venus in August. On the morning of the 14th in New Zealand, the 15% lit crescent moon will be just over 1°, twice the moon's diameter, to the lower left of Venus. An occultation of the planet by the moon occurs as seen from parts of the northern hemisphere. It will take place before sunrise for Japan, northeast China and much of Siberia. The occultation will be a day time event for the most easterly parts of Siberia and almost the whole of North America.

Jupiter, unlike Venus, rises steadily earlier in the morning as August advances. In the North Island of NZ it rises about 3.30 am early in the month and 2 am by the end. It will rise a little later further south. By 6 am it will be at a reasonable altitude, about half way between north and northeast early in the month and closer to north by the end.

The planet will be in Taurus a few degree lower than Aldebaran and about 15° to the right of the Pleiades, moving a little further from the cluster during the month. On the morning of the 12th, the 31% lit moon will be a degree to the left of Jupiter. As for Venus, there will be an occultation of Jupiter by the moon. It will be visible from Indonesia and some of the northeast coast region of Australia during the hours of darkness. In daylight the path of the occultation swings in an arc over the mid Pacific with Hawaii at its northern edge.

Mercury is also a morning object during August. At the most it will rise about an hour before the Sun mid month. On the morning of the 16th it will be less than 4° up half an hour before sunrise. The moon, a very thin crescent 4% lit will be a similar distance above and slightly left of Mercury. The planet will be at magnitude 0.1. Even so, with the Sun only 6° below the horizon, Mercury is likely to be difficult to see.


Uranus will be moving slowly to the west in a corner of Cetus jutting into Pisces. With a magnitude between 5.8 and 5.7 it will readily be visible in binoculars. By the end of August it will rise shortly after 8pm. At midnight on the 31st it will be to the northeast, 40° above the horizon in the north New Zealand, 30° in the south.

Neptune is at opposition on August 24, so by then will rise close to the time of sunset and set near sunrise. The planet, magnitude 7.8, will be in Aquarius moving slowly to the west about 12° from the two brightest stars of the constellation.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning sky objects in Taurus in the vicinity of Jupiter and Aldebaran.

At the beginning of August, Ceres will be at magnitude 9.1 and 4.6° to the right of Jupiter, forming a near equilateral triangle with the planet and Aldebaran. The star will be at the top of the triangle. Ceres and Jupiter are both moving to the east through the stars and will remain about level all month. Their separation will increase to over 9° by the end of August. By then Ceres will have brightened slightly to magnitude 8.9

Vesta will be 4.5° to the upper right of Jupiter, with the two at their closest on the morning of August 12. The same morning the moon is 1° from Jupiter. Vesta will overtake Jupiter during the month but remain a little higher. Early in August the asteroid will pass very close to Aldebaran with the two 11 arc-minutes apart on the morning of the 6th. Vesta, at magnitude 8.3 will be to the lower left of Aldebaran. It should be visible using binoculars while the sky is still dark.

(2) Pallas brightens from magnitude 9.5 to 8.8 during August. It starts the month in Pisces, but moves into Cetus on the 8th. It will be within a few degrees of Uranus.

(11) Parthenope brightens to magnitude 9.5 mid August and to 9.0 by the end of the month. The asteroid will be in Aquarius.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

5. Mars Science Laboratory Arrives August 6

On August 6, a capsule is going to come screaming out of the Martian sky, then -- all going well -- break its fall by popping a parachute and engaging rocket thrusters. After that, the 'sky crane' inside the capsule will activate to lower the subcompact-car-sized Curiosity rover on tethers, suspending it beneath the rest of the craft until the whole assembly descends onto a carefully chosen patch of ground at the northwestern end of the 150- km-diameter Gale crater. NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) will have landed.

The goal of MSL is to assess whether Mars was ever a habitable environment. Every potential landing site had to have some evidence that water was involved in the formation of the landscape and in the rock deposited there. A site also must have the potential to preserve biomarkers, the telltale indicators that organic material was once present.

Gale crater was selected as it has a mysterious mound 4500 metres high, informally called Mount Sharp. It also has clays and sulphates in it, indications of water. How did that mound get there? Did volcanic ash and dust blow in and contribute to the buildup of the mound? How and why did the area around it erode away? When water was there, where did it come from? To look for answers, the rover will drive at least partway up the mound, examining layers as it goes.

For more see http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

-- from NASA press releases forwarded by Karen Pollard.

6. Lowell Amateur Research Initiative

Lowell Observatory is proud to announce the Lowell Amateur Research Initiative (LARI). This program seeks to pair the ever-growing and technically sophisticated amateur astronomy community in exciting research projects with Lowell astronomers.

A passionate researcher, Percival Lowell always sought to communicate new ideas and the joy of astronomy research to the public. In that same spirit, LARI brings together professional and amateur astronomers in a way that affords interested amateurs an opportunity to participate in cutting-edge research and potentially make significant contributions to science. Amateurs can help Lowell astronomers in their work and help create dedicated research teams. LARI will expand Lowell Observatory's education and public outreach missions, and promote greater awareness of astronomy and related sciences.

Currently, Lowell astronomers are conducting several projects that would benefit from the participation of amateur astronomers. These projects span a broad range of technical skills and knowledge from taking very deep images of galaxies to monitoring small stars for transient events to data mining.

Visit http://www.lowell.edu/LARI_welcome.php to find out more and to create your LARI account. After getting a sense of your skills and interests, we will do our best to match you with the appropriate researcher and project.

-- A Lowell Observatory press release forwarded by Graham Blow.

7. Filters for Visual Observing

A question to nzastronomers "Does anyone use filters for visual observing of nebulae with a big dob?" got several helpful answers. The answers in no particular order:

Depends on what you are looking at. I must say I was impressed with Eta Carinae viewed thru an O-III filter. Best bet, see if someone nearby can lend you a filter. I often switch in an OIII or CLS when trying to discern details in visual. It obviously goes darker but quite often dust lanes and dark areas stand out more.

In my view, the best all-round filter is a broad-band (deep sky) nebula filter. Then comes a UHC filter which has higher contrast but will cut down on overall intensity of the object. Finally the OIII filter is really only good on objects emitting that frequency band, mostly planetary nebulae, but will enhance some other emission nebulae giving you a very dark background with reduction of much starlight.

I started with 1.25" Lumicon filters, then went to the Orion 2" filters (which don't have the narrow passbands found in Lumicon and other more costly ones). But, if you want to see actual performance, have a look at the following webpage. http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/filters/curves.htm You will see that some filters (e.g. Astronomik H alpha) are not centred on the wavelength required to be passed or there is variation within the same product from filter to filter. He (Cristian Buil) doesn't test all the popular filters and maybe you can find other spectral comparisons. I prefer to use this kind of comparison instead of the qualitative ones that seem to abound on the web.

I once borrowed a UHC filter about 20 years ago, and used it to look at the Tarantula Neb. I wasn't all that impressed with the result until I stepped back from the telescope and discovered that while was observing, a large chunk of cumulus had inserted itself in the way. Without the filter I wouldn't have seen anything at all. When I used it again on the Tarantula in excellent conditions I was greatly impressed. It felt like the nebula had leaped down the tube and shaken me until my teeth rattled. The difference between filter and no filter was incredible. The skylight filter was a bit of an improvement on no filter; but the UHC - Wow! It can appear at first that the stars are dulled a bit, but that isn't surprising since the filter is designed to increase the contrast of emission nebulae. I also have a Swan band filter for comets, but again it isn't great for comet-hunting, but is great for distinguishing between predominantly gassy, and dusty comets.

-- Answers from Brent Russell, Larry Field, Kerry Koppert and Rod Austin

8. Third International Starlight Conference Report

The Third International Starlight Conference took place at the Godley Hotel, Lake Tekapo, on June 10-13. It was hosted by Canterbury University, by RASNZ and by UNESCO's Starlight Initiative. It brought together 64 participants from a very diverse range of backgrounds to discuss issues of light pollution, starlight reserves, astro-tourism and stargazing, Maori astronomy and the aesthetics of a dark sky. The participants included astronomers, tourism operators, conservationists, lighting engineers, experts in Maori astronomy, lawyers, educators and those simply enthralled by the beauty of the night sky. With such a multi-disciplinary meeting, no-one was an expert in everything and we all learnt a lot about the multi-faceted and fast growing Dark Sky Reserve movement around the world.

Coinciding with the conference was the announcement from Bob Parks, Executive Director of the International Dark-Sky Association (headquarters in Tucson, Arizona), that the Aoraki Mackenzie region had been successful in gaining the status of the world's third and largest International Dark Sky Reserve, following the application by the Aoraki Mackenzie Working Party (chair Margaret Austin), a committee established by the Mackenzie Tourism and Development Trust under the aegis of the Mackenzie District Council. The 181- page application document was prepared by the Working Party last summer after several years of careful planning and preparation.

It was good to be able to announce our success at the opening reception of the Starlight Conference and be declared a reserve with gold tier status, the first gold tier reserve in the world. A significant boost for Mackenzie and Aoraki/Mt Cook tourism and stargazing can be expected as a result.

The conference was opened by Sir Tumu te Heuheu, paramount chief of Ngati Tuwharetoa in Turangi, who was former chair of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. We enjoyed a buffet dinner for 90 people and a kapa haka group from Twizel School on the Sunday evening. Then followed 37 very interesting talks over the next three days; Monday evening was a stunningly clear dark night on Mt John when all the participants enjoyed stargazing activities. We also had screenings of two recent documentaries on dark sky and environmental protection, one (Sky Whisperers) produced in Christchurch, the other (the City Dark) from New York. The latter was open to the public, so we had a good crowd from the local community.

On the Tuesday evening the participants had a sumptuous banquet at the Godley Hotel with one of the most erudite and witty speeches you could ever hear from David Round, the well-known environmental lawyer in Canterbury University's School of Law. We concluded the Starlight Conference with a Public Forum, where six internationally known overseas experts answered questions from the public.

After the Conference, 15 of the participants went to the Hermitage at Mt Cook and participated in a closed workshop to discuss World Heritage issues in relation to astronomy over the next two days. We made significant progress towards the concept of inscribing significant sites of astronomical significance onto the World Heritage list.

I am grateful to the many people who supported and sponsored the Starlight Conference, not least the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Canterbury University, and also many other prominent individuals and organizations throughout New Zealand (a full list of sponsors is on the conference website at www.starlight2012.org). Many thanks too to Graeme Plank who served as audio-visual technician at the conference; to Rosalie Reilly who attended to a wide range of secretarial tasks before the meeting, and Beth Leal-Eager from Learning Resources who co-ordinated the technical side of the web pages.

-- John Hearnshaw

9. NEO-Finder Privately Funded?

Asteroid strikes are the ultimate in low-probability, high-impact events. In 1908 a space rock a few tens of metres across disintegrated over Siberia. The explosion flattened more than 2,000 square kilometres (800 square miles) of forest. The power of the blast was between ten and 15 megatonnes, about that of the most powerful nuclear weapons built during the cold war. That the meteorite in question blew up over Siberia instead of, say, Paris or Beijing was pure luck.

Happily, politicians are aware of the risk. In 1992 America´s Congress suggested that NASA, that country´s space agency, begin surveying asteroids whose orbits might make them a threat. At the moment, NASA is aware of 1,320 "potentially hazardous asteroids", defined as those whose orbits bring them near Earth and which are more than 150 metres across, but it reckons this is only around a quarter of the total. A space telescope called NEOCam (Near Earth Object Camera), designed to look for such rocks, is on the drawing board.

But NASA may soon have help - or competition - from elsewhere. On June 28th the B612 Foundation, an American charity named after the asteroid home of a character in "The Little Prince", a French children´s book, announced that it wanted to launch an asteroid-spotting space telescope of its own. Dubbed Sentinel, this telescope is to be paid for by private donations, built by a team of engineers including veterans of other space- telescopes flown by NASA and, if all goes according to plan, launched by SpaceX, a private rocketry firm, in 2018.

The B612 Foundation is not a newcomer to the space business. It was started in 2002. And one of its founders, Rusty Schweickart, was an Apollo astronaut. As with other private space enterprises, many of its donors made their money in the computing industry. Its original purpose was to invent ways of deflecting asteroids that might be on a collision course with Earth, working on the assumption that the problem of spotting them in the first place could be handled by NASA and other, ground-based astronomers.

But budget cuts have hit NASA´s science missions hard. NEOCam is not certain to fly, and the foundation worries that, although NASA has already catalogued most of the biggest, civilisation-ending asteroids, thousands of smaller rocks, of similar dimensions to the one that exploded over Siberia, remain undetected. If one were to hit the wrong part of the planet it would cause a catastrophe. Hence the shift in focus from deflection to discovery.

Sentinel´s mission will be broadly similar to NEOCam´s. Both telescopes will have 50cm mirrors. Both will scan the sky in the infra-red spectrum, where dark but comparatively warm asteroids should show up brightly against the cold of deep space. Both will inhabit orbits between Earth and the sun, in order to get the best possible vantage point. The foundation´s ambition is to produce an asteroid map that records 90% of near-Earth objects that are more than 140 metres across, and half of those bigger than 50 metres. Armed with data on their orbits and velocities, astronomers should be able to calculate which pose a threat over the coming century or so.

Although that should take care of most of the truly fearsome rocks (and provide a bonanza for scientists who study asteroids), Sentinel´s catalogue will not be comprehensive. Even relatively small impacts can do a lot of damage. Barringer Crater in Arizona is 1.2km in diameter. It was carved by something similar in size to Siberia´s devastator - but denser, hence the crater.

Worrying about this sort of thing may seem esoteric. For a long time, asteroid impacts were treated as a bit of a joke. The giggling subsided somewhat in 1994, when astronomers had a front-row seat as the fragments of a comet called Shoemaker-Levy 9 smashed into Jupiter. The energy released by this collision was hundreds of times greater than the combined explosive power of every nuclear weapon on Earth. The Earth-sized dent in the Jovian atmosphere persisted for months.

And that is not the only worrying close encounter of late. On June 17th 2002, for instance, astronomers spotted an 80-metre rock that missed Earth by an astronomical hair´s breadth, passing well inside the orbit of the Moon. The trouble was, they only noticed it three days after its point of closest approach. Sentinel, if it flies, should make that sort of thing less likely. And it won´t cost taxpayers a penny.

-- The Economist 7 July 2012 p.69

10. Dim Glob Discovered

A team of American, Canadian and Chilean astronomers have stumbled onto a remarkably faint cluster of stars orbiting the Milky Way that puts out as much light as only 120 sun-like stars. The tiny cluster, called Muñoz 1, was discovered near a dwarf galaxy in a survey of satellites around the Milky Way using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and confirmed using the Keck II telescope, both of which are on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

"What's neat about this is it's the dimmest globular cluster ever found," said Ricardo Muñoz, an astronomer at the University of Chile and the discoverer of the cluster. A globular cluster is a spherical group of stars bound to each other by gravity so that they orbit around a galaxy as a unit.

Muñoz noticed the tiny cluster near the Ursa Minor dwarf galaxy. Most globular clusters have in the range of 100,000 stars. Muñoz 1 has something like 500 stars. That puts Muñoz 1 head-to-head with the Segue 3 globular cluster -- also orbiting the Milky Way -- as the dimmest troupe of old stars ever found.

Muñoz 1's discovery was the result of a survey done with the CFHT MegaCam imager in 2009 and 2010. It was then confirmed by spectroscopic study using a spectrograph on the Keck II telescope. Spectra showed that Muñoz 1 and the Ursa Minor dwarf galaxy had quite different velocities so were not related. Analysis of the brightness and colours of the stars in Muñoz 1 and the Ursa Minor galaxy also suggests that the tiny cluster is about 100,000 light years nearer to us than the dwarf galaxy.

As for how Muñoz 1 came to be so dim, a likely scenario is that it has gradually lost stars over the eons. It's also possible it was stripped of stars by passing through the Milky Way. But the direction of the cluster's movement is not yet known, so it's not known whether it has passed through the Milky Way.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the discovery is the possibility that there are many more such globular clusters in the Galactic halo. After all, the CFHT survey covered only 40 square degrees of sky out of 40,000 square degrees in the entire sky.

"To truly understand its nature, we will need to measure its mass," added Muñoz. To do that, astronomers would need to measure the velocities of individual stars in the cluster and see how they move with relation to each other. That, in turn, reveals the overall mass of the cluster. A lot of mass would suggest there is a lot of dark matter holding the cluster together. That might qualify the cluster as the smallest, darkest galaxy ever discovered. Right now the Segue 1 dwarf galaxy holds that record.

A copy of the preprint of the paper is available at http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/Munoz1/munoz12.pdf

-- From a Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. 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. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6000 P.O. Box 57 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Lake Tekapo 7945 New Zealand


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand

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.

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.

Contents

1. The Conference
2. The Solar System in July
3. Venus Transit
4. Aoraki-Mackenzie becomes IDA Dark Sky Reserve
5. SKA Split Decision
6. The Universe: See It Now!
7. Heavy Elements in Ancient Star
8. Venus as an Exoplanet
9. How to Join the RASNZ
10. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Here and There

1. The Conference

A very successful Conference was held in Carterton last weekend. Around seventy attended, coming from places as far apart as Auckland and Invercargill. Clive Ruggles, our Beatrice Hill Tinsley (BHT) lecturer, was from the University of Leicester where he is Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy. Featured lecturer Professor Wayne Orchiston came from Queensland, and Dr William Tobin from France.

The Conference was hosted by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. Much work was done by Kay Leather and Richard Hall. Edwin Rodley and others looked after the audio-visuals and details. RASNZ's Conference Committee members, notably Orlon Petterson, got the speakers sorted and their PowerPoints into the computer.

Unfortunately the Conference weekend coincided with the coldest week so far this winter -- white frosts in Auckland! -- so warm wrapping was required. Superb catering by Wild Oats Cafe at the coffee-breaks and lunches, and at the Conference dinner, kept everyone fuelled. (Wild Oats also did great breakfasts as well, as those of us staying at that end of town found.)

The Education Section had a workshop on the Friday. This was mostly arranged by Ron Fisher. There were talks in person illustrated with classical PowerPoint as well as new-fangled deliveries from Nelson, Oxford (Canterbury), Portugal and the USA by Skype. One Section member followed the proceedings via the internet. Communicating astronomy, and science generally, at all levels was discussed. The message from those actively involved to was to use all the modern communication devices but keep the message simple.

The Conference proper began on Friday evening with the Fellows Lecture by Ed Budding. Ed summarised current exoplanet searches and ventured some novel ideas on the possibility of life elsewhere.

At the Saturday night's Conference dinner Stuart Parker was presented with the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize for his supernova discoveries.

The Saturday and Sunday sessions were a feast of papers covering a wide range of astronomy from technical to cultural.

On the cultural side Richard Hall made assertions about the relationship of astronomy to civilization. Anna Kingsley showed how the sky has been represented in art over the past 600 years. William Tobin showed how transits of Venus had inspired art, literature and music, some dodgy. The take-home message: Sex sells! Pam Kilmartin reviewed asteroid names relating to popular culture and much else.

Clive Ruggles told of his investigations into temple sites on the Hawaiian island of Maui. This gave an insight into the scientific rigour required in interpreting ancient piles of stones. On Sunday afternoon Clive gave a BHT public lecture "Ancient Astronomies - Ancient Worlds".

Though June 6th's transit of Venus was clouded for much of New Zealand, its history was well covered at the meeting. Wayne Orchiston described Lieutenant Cook's expedition to Tahiti in 1769. The British expeditions got good results -- close to today's Earth-Sun distance -- but these disagreed with others. The disappearance of all their original records is curious. William Tobin showed a trove of photos taken by the 1874 German transit of Venus expedition to the Auckland Islands.

Further astronomy involving the sun was presented by Wayne in a history of solar physics investigated in 19th Century eclipses. This reminded us that helium was first found on the sun. Sun-grazing comets, of which last Christmas's Comet Lovejoy was the latest naked-eye example, were described by Alan Gilmore.

The recent awarding of an International Dark Sky Association gold grading to the Aoraki-Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve was noted by Steve Butler in his summary of dark sky places.

Technical astronomy was well represented. Anna Niemiec showed how high- magnification (but not too high) micro-lensing events can be used to detect planets around lensing stars. Sara Shakouri looked at diffuse radio emission from galaxy clusters, finding that the actual galaxies are a small part of a cluster's mass.

John Talbot, via Skype, summarized recent successful asteroidal occultations with a warning about timings from integrating cameras. Brian Loader's poster paper showed results from Darfield. Ian Cooper described his efforts to produce user-friendly charts of non-stellar objects in the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Orlon Petterson gave us a quick idea of the wealth of databases and software now available on-line. Orlon suggested that the next conference have a workshop on computers in astronomy. Duncan Hall hoped that developments in computer speed would be fast enough to enable processing of the SKA's output. Warwick Kissling showed how modern development of the classical 'three-body problem' has enabled spacecraft to get to distant places.

Haritina Mogasanu looked at unconventional ways of communicating science to the general public. She noted that 50% of NZers are on Facebook, presenting an opportunity for the RASNZ to be visible. Ron Fisher summarised ideas presented at Friday's Education workshop.

The 2013 Conference will be in Invercargill, May 24-26.

-- Alan Gilmore

2. The Solar System in July

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for July 2012 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jul_12.htm. Notes for August 2012 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in july

Mars and Saturn will be visible in the first part of the evening, but get rather low in the later part of the evening. During the month the separation of the two planets will decrease as Mars moves towards Saturn and Spica.

Mercury will be an easy object to the northwest an hour after sunset for the first two weeks of July. It will then get lower and fainter to become lost in the setting Sun´s glare within a few days.

In the morning Venus and Jupiter will be level and quite close in the dawn sky at the beginning of the month. During the month Jupiter gets higher.

Planets in the evening sky

Mercury will be quite easy to see in the early evening during the first half of July. Best viewing is likely to be 45 minutes to an hour after sunset. As the month progresses Mercury will get fainter, its magnitude changing from 0.6 on the 1st to 1.9 on the 15th. An hour after sunset the planet will have an altitude about 10° and be to the northwest.

Procyon will be some 20° to the left of Mercury and a little brighter than the planet. Sirius will be another 25° away and noticeably higher.

After mid July Mercury will continue to fade and get lower in the evening sky as it heads back towards the Sun. It is at inferior conjunction on July 29 but no transit. The planet will pass 5° to the south of the Sun.

Mars and SATURN are both in Virgo throughout July. They will be readily visible in the first part of the evening, getting lower later. Mars sets between a little before midnight at first, half an hour earlier by the end of the month. Saturn sets a couple of hours after Mars on the 1st but only 40 minutes later on the 31st.

During July the distance between the two planets will steadily decrease, falling from 25° to 8° as Mars moves to the east through Virgo.

Saturn remains paired with Spica throughout July, with the two less than 5° apart. Saturn will be lower and slightly brighter than the star.

The distance between Mars and the Earth increases from 212 to 243 million km in July, its brightness will correspondingly drop from magnitude 0.9 to 1.1. So by the end of July Mars will be similar in brightness to Spica, but the two will of course be rather different in colour.

The moon passes the planets on July 24 and 25. On the 24th it will be 27% lit and 8° to the lower left of Mars. The following night the moon will form more of a group with the planets and Spica. The 38% lit moon will be 7° above Mars and the same distance to the left of Saturn. Spica will be a little closer to the moon, 5.5° to its upper right.

Planets in the morning sky

Venus and JUPITER are in Taurus: early in July both are to the left of Aldebaran. At first they will rise almost simultaneously, some 2 hours and 40 minutes before the Sun. The two planets will be about 5° apart with Venus to the right of Jupiter for the first week or so as they both move slowly to the east through the stars. After a few days Venus will be begin to move more rapidly than Jupiter so will move below and to the right of the gas giant as the month progresses. By the end of July the two will be 14° apart.

Jupiter starts July about midway between the Pleiades, to its left, and Aldebaran to its right. Venus starts the month in the Hyades. Jupiter, moving more slowly than Venus, will end July with Aldebaran a little above it and to its right. By then Jupiter will be rising nearly 4 hours before the Sun and so be higher in the dawn sky.


Uranus is stationary on July 13 so its position barely changes during the month. It will be at magnitude 5.8 located in a corner of Cetus close to Pisces. By the end of July it will rise a little before 11pm so remaining essentially a morning object.

Neptune is in Aquarius during July moving very slowly to the west. Its magnitude will be between 7.9 and 7.8. By the end of July it will rise about 7.30 pm, so will be well positioned a little to the north of east by late evening.

Both Uranus and Neptune will also be visible as morning objects.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning sky objects in Taurus in the vicinity of Jupiter, Venus and Aldebaran.

At the beginning of July, Ceres at magnitude 9.2 will be less than 4° above Jupiter and 5° to the upper left of Venus. Vesta will be a little over 6° above and a little left of Ceres, and little brighter at magnitude 8.5.

Ceres will be 3.3° to the upper right of Jupiter at their closest on July 12, and on the edge of the Hyades. A week later it will lie between Jupiter and Aldebaran, 1.5° from the star and 3.5° from the planet. By the end of July, Ceres will be at magnitude 9.1 and 4.6° to the right of Jupiter.

Vesta is moving to the east slightly faster than Ceres. It ends July in the Hyades some 5° above Jupiter and 2° to the upper left of Aldebaran. Ceres will be barely 6° to Vesta´s the lower right.

By the end of July the two asteroids along with Jupiter and Aldebaran will be between 10 and 15° to the upper left of Venus.

No other asteroids are within reach of binoculars during July.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

3. Venus Transit

No formal reports have been seen but then it isn't much of a scientific event these days. [But see Item 8.]

For NZ the weather was predictably ropey. The north of the country had patchy cloud so some of the transit was seen. The east side of the North Island around Gisborne and Tolaga Bay got good views for most of the day.

The lower half of the North Island and the top of the South Island were mostly under cloud. Christchurch was largely shut down by snow and stayed overcast. The cold front that gave the snow cleared most of the southern half of the South Island during the transit or earlier. At Lake Tekapo the cloud stalled a frustrating ten degrees above the sun in the late morning, finally dispersing around 1:30.

All observers were impressed at how black Venus looked compared to the sunspots. That sunspots are really quite bright, in absolute terms, was obvious. Seeing the disk of a planet by naked eye was a novelty too. -- Ed.

4. Aoraki-Mackenzie becomes IDA Dark Sky Reserve

The following is from Scott Kardel of the International Dark Sky Association, Tucson. ------

Over 4,300 square kilometres of New Zealand´s South Island have just been proclaimed as an International Dark Sky Reserve, making it the first such reserve in the Southern Hemisphere and only the third in the world.

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), comprised of the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, is also the largest dark sky reserve in the world.

International Dark-Sky Association´s Executive Director Bob Parks remarks, "The new reserve is coming in at a `Gold´ level status. That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth."

This week´s announcement coincides with the Third International Starlight Conference, a United Nations-led effort that emphasizes that a star-filled night sky is part of the common heritage of mankind and that protections are necessary to ensure that present and future generations will be able to see the stars. The new IDSR is playing host to the conference and sets a wonderful example for attendees.

Organizers of the new reserve recognize that the night sky has played a critical role in the area´s history as its first residents, the Maori, used the night sky not only to navigate to the island but also integrated astronomy and star lore into their culture and daily lives. The reserve seeks to honour that history by keeping the night sky as a protected and integral part of the area´s natural and cultural landscape. It is a perfect place to protect and honour those traditions as the IDSR´s Mackenzie Basin has the clearest, darkest and the most spectacular night sky in New Zealand.

Outdoor lighting controls were first put into place in the area during the early 1980s. They have helped to minimize light pollution not only for the nearby Mt. John Observatory, but to conserve energy, protect wildlife and to make the area a popular stargazing destination for tourists. For the past several years increased efforts have been focused on strengthening these protections in the formation of the International Dark Sky Reserve.

About the IDSPlaces Programme

IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation programme in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, three reserves, four communities and ten parks also have received International Dark Sky designations.

To learn more about the IDSPlaces programme, please visit: http://www.darksky.org/IDSPlaces

----------------- This award is pleasing recognition of a lot of work by many people over many years.

The original lighting ordinances were drafted by the Mackenzie County Council in 1981 following submissions from John Hearnshaw. Modifications to the lighting ordinance boundary, and lobbying for improvements in Lake Tekapo's street lighting, was the work of William Tobin in the 1990s.

The move to have the region internationally recognised as a Starlight Reserve was kicked off by Graeme and Carolyn Murray when they attended the first Starlight Conference in La Palma in 2007. Margaret Austin has worked with her many UNESCO and government contacts, trying to get a framework established for recognising and preserving dark sky regions.

The local initiative has involved many interests in the Aoraki-Mackenzie region. Representatives from the Mackenzie District Council, the Department of Conservation, tourism, farming and science have all had inputs, ably assisted by Steve Butler's expertise and contacts in lighting engineering.

Canterbury University's Allison Loveridge supervised trios of students over two summers. The first group showed that any UNESCO framework suitable for a local Starlight Reserve was a distant prospect. The second group prepared the submission to the IDA with much help from all the people mentioned above. The IDA panel commented that the Aoraki-Mackenzie submission was the best they had ever seen.

The official announcement was made at the Third International Starlight Conference in Lake Tekapo on June 10th. The Conference was attended by around seventy people with good international representation and wide expertise. More on this later, we hope.

-- Alan Gilmore.

5. SKA Split Decision

The reputation of physics as the queen of sciences is reflected in the amount of money that governments are willing to spend on it. The Large Hadron Collider, Europe´s latest particle smasher, cost around $9 billion and took a decade to build. But, just occasionally, other fields get to play with some big, taxpayer-funded kit of their own, too.

On May 25th it was the astronomers´ turn in the limelight. For several years two groups of countries, one consisting of Australia and New Zealand, and the other of several sub-Saharan nations led by South Africa, have been polishing their rival bids to host the Square Kilometre Array, a gargantuan, EUR1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) radio telescope first proposed in 1991 and designed to be the most sensitive ever constructed. After months of deliberation, the SKA´s funding nations announced their decision: that the telescope would be split, and both groups would host a bit of it.

In astronomy, as in particle physics, bigger kit is better kit. A larger telescope can gather fainter signals and produce sharper images. Radio astronomers already have a few supersized instruments to have fun with, notably the 305-metre-wide Arecibo telescope, carved into a Puerto Rican hillside in 1963, and the 100-metre Robert C. Byrd instrument in West Virginia, which, unlike the Arecibo dish, can be steered to point at different parts of the sky.

Yet the physics of radio astronomy means that such mighty machines are, nevertheless, fairly crude. The resolving power of a telescope is determined by the ratio of its size to the wavelength of the radiation it is collecting. A typical optical telescope has a diameter a few million times the wavelength of visible light. Applying that sort of ratio to the SKA, which is designed to work with wavelengths measured in metres, would require a dish thousands of kilometres across.

Building such a dish is obviously impossible. But what is possible is to build many smaller dishes spaced a long way from one another, and to link them with clever computer algorithms so that they behave as if they were a single giant telescope. This is called interferometry, and is not a new idea. Many of the world´s radio telescopes are linked in this way, providing far better resolution than any of them could alone. And several countries have already built collections of small, cheap dishes and networked them into more powerful "virtual" instruments.

What makes the SKA special is its sheer scale. The design calls for around 3,000 individual receivers arranged rather like a spiral galaxy, with most of the telescopes concentrated in an inner core, and the rest arranged into a set of arms up to 3,000km (about 2000 miles) long. Fibre-optic cables will link each of these dishes to a central processing area, where supercomputers will stitch their data together. When it is fully up and running (by 2024, assuming no big delays), the SKA will be more than 50 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope, and able to survey the sky thousands of times faster.

That power will be used to investigate some of the biggest outstanding questions in astronomy. The SKA will join the hunt for gravitational waves-ripples in the structure of space predicted by Albert Einstein´s general theory of relativity. It will probe the mysterious magnetic field that exists between the stars. It will allow astronomers to peer back into the universe´s Dark Ages, a period roughly 400,000 to 800m years after the Big Bang, during which things cooled enough to allow the first large-scale objects, such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies, to form. And its resolving power will help with the search for extrasolar planets.

But all that is a long way off, and the telescope will have to be built
first. That the funding nations felt able to split the telescope in half
reflects how closely matched the two bids were. Both consortia had
constructed precursor telescopes that could be integrated into the SKA
itself, and each bid had its advantages. The African bid, whose core will
be in Northern Cape province, did well in the technical stakes, chiefly
because the geography of the area allows a more efficient layout for the
telescope, and also because electricity was thought likely to be cheaper
there. The SKA will use about 110 megawatts when up and running, so power
bills will be a significant expense. The Australasian bid, centred on the
virtually unpopulated Shire of Murchison, in Western Australia, scored
better for radio quietness (important to prevent interference), and on
non-scientific factors such as political stability and the quality of the
working environment.

Nevertheless, many people - including Naledi Pandor, South Africa´s science minister, who said as much in an official statement - reckon that the decision had more to do with politics than science. As with all such big projects, questions of national prestige intruded upon the technical judgments. And that was particularly so in Africa, where the SKA is seen as a good-news story for a continent still struggling to overcome its image as a violent and chronically unstable place.

Building on two separate sites is possible because the SKA is really three telescopes in one, with different sets of receivers designed for low-, medium- and high-frequency work. The new plan calls for the low-frequency antennae to be given to the Aussies and the Kiwis, with the other types being built in Africa. Doing it that way will cost more, if only because the bidders will each need to construct their own fibre-optic network to link their antennae together. But although the funding nations may grumble, the prospect of a bit of extra money seems unlikely to go down too badly with the legions of radio astronomers who are, at last, going to see their dream machine built, nor with South Africa´s scientific establishment, which will have a chance to show that it is up to the task of running a big project of this sort. South Africa has an impressive history of astronomy. The first permanent observatory in the southern hemisphere was built, in 1820, near Cape Town. If this project is equally successful, the country will have a strong future in the subject, too.

-- The Economist, 2012 June 2, p.82-83.

6. The Universe: See It Now!

The universe is a marvellously complex place, filled with galaxies and larger-scale structures that have evolved over its 13.7-billion-year history. Those began as small perturbations of matter that grew over time, like ripples in a pond, as the universe expanded. By observing the large- scale cosmic wrinkles now, we can learn about the initial conditions of the universe. But is now really the best time to look, or would we get better information billions of years into the future -- or the past?

New calculations by Harvard theorist Avi Loeb show that the ideal time to study the cosmos was more than 13 billion years ago, just about 500 million years after the Big Bang. The farther into the future you go from that time, the more information you lose about the early universe.

Two competing processes define the best time to observe the cosmos. In the young universe the cosmic horizon is closer to you, so you see less. As the universe ages, you can see more of it because there's been time for light from more distant regions to travel to you. However, in the older and more evolved universe, matter has collapsed to make gravitationally bound objects. This 'muddies the waters' of the cosmic pond, because you lose memory of initial conditions on small scales. The two effects counter each other -- the first grows better as the second grows worse.

Loeb asked the question: When were viewing conditions optimal? He found that the best time to study cosmic perturbations was only 500 million years after the Big Bang.

This is also the era when the first stars and galaxies began to form. The timing is not coincidental. Since information about the early universe is lost when the first galaxies are made, the best time to view cosmic perturbations is right when stars began to form.

But it's not too late. Modern observers can still access this nascent era from a distance by using surveys designed to detect 21-cm radio emission from hydrogen gas at those early times. These radio waves take more than 13 billion years to reach us, so we can still see how the universe looked early on.

'21-centimeter surveys are our best hope,' said Loeb. 'By observing hydrogen at large distances, we can map how matter was distributed at the early times of interest.'

The accelerating universe makes the picture bleak for future cosmologists. Because the expansion of the cosmos is accelerating, galaxies are being pushed beyond our horizon. Light that leaves those distant galaxies will never reach Earth in the far future.

In addition, the scale of gravitationally unbound structures is growing larger and larger. Eventually they, too, will stretch beyond our horizon. Some time between 10 and 100 times the universe's current age, cosmologists will no longer be able to observe them.

This research was published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (JCAP) and is available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.2622

-- from a Harvard-Smithsonian press release of 22 May, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

7. Heavy Elements in Ancient Star

The Big Bang produced lots of hydrogen and helium and a smidgen of lithium. All heavier elements found on the periodic table have been produced by stars over the last 13.7 billion years. Astronomers analyze starlight to determine the chemical makeup of stars, the origin of the elements, the ages of stars, and the evolution of galaxies and the universe. Now for the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of arsenic and selenium, neighbouring elements near the middle of the periodic table, in an ancient star in the faint stellar halo that surrounds the Milky Way. Arsenic and selenium are elements at the transition from light to heavy element production, and have not been found in old stars until now.

Stars like our Sun can make elements up to oxygen on the periodic table. Other more massive stars can synthesize heavier elements, those with more protons in their nuclei, up to iron by nuclear fusion -- by the process in which atomic nuclei fuse and release lots of energy. Most of the elements heavier than iron are made by a process called neutron-capture nucleosynthesis.

Although neutrons have no charge, they can decay into protons after they're in the nucleus, producing elements with larger atomic numbers. One of the ways that this method can work is by exposure to a burst of neutrons during the violent supernova death of a star. This is called the rapid process (r-process). It can produce elements at the middle and bottom of the periodic table -- from zinc to uranium -- in the blink of an eye.

Ian Roederer of the Carnegie Observatories, with co-author James Lawler, looked at an ultraviolet spectrum of star HD 160617 from the Hubble Space Telescope public archives. HD 160617 is in the galactic halo and is 12 billion years old. In its spectrum they found lines caused by arsenic and selenium. These elements were made in an even older star, which has long since disappeared. Its remnants were among the material that formed HD 160617.

The team also examined data for this star from the public archives of several ground-based telescopes and were able to detect 45 elements. In addition to arsenic and selenium, they found rarely seen cadmium, tellurium, and platinum, all of which were produced by the r-process. This is the first time these elements have been detected together outside the Solar System.

Astronomers cannot replicate the r-process in any laboratory since the conditions are so extreme. The key to modelling the r-process relies on astronomical observations. Understanding the r-process helps us know why we find certain elements like barium on Earth, or understand why uranium is so rare.

See the original paper in http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.3901

-- From a Carnegie Institution press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Venus as an Exoplanet

Historically transits of Venus have mattered more than merely as an astronomical curiosity. In the 17th century they were used to make the first accurate-ish estimates of the size of the solar system. By the 18th and 19th centuries they were scientific festivals, with nations dispatching astronomers to every corner of the planet to record it. Modern kit has allowed astronomers to nail down cosmic distances with far greater precision. Even in the age of radar and space probes the transit has its uses. This time astronomers hope it would help them refine techniques for exploring other solar systems.

Exoplanets, which orbit stars other than the sun, have been a hot topic in astronomy since the first few were discovered in the 1990s. Hundreds have since been spotted, and NASA, America's space agency, has a telescope dedicated specifically to searching for them. Presently, astronomers can infer only very basic properties about such planets, such as their orbital periods, rough estimates of their sizes and a broad-brush picture of their composition (i.e., whether they are gaseous giants or smaller, rocky planets like Earth or Venus).

One popular exoplanet-hunting method relies on the fact that, just like Venus, such worlds will sometimes pass in front of their parent stars. Modern telescopes are sufficiently sensitive to note the miniscule drop in those stars' brightness as seen from Earth. Observing a transit close up, in front of a star as well-understood as the sun, offers oodles of useful data to help make sense of observations farther afield.

Eventually, though, astronomers want to do better still. In principle, a sufficiently sensitive telescope could examine the tiny fraction of the star's light that passes through the thin shell of the planetary atmosphere. Analysing that light with spectroscopy should reveal what gases make up the atmosphere - and, just possibly, the existence of alien life.

Although telescopes are not yet sensitive enough to analyse the atmospheres of remote exoplanets, they are perfectly adequate to the task of analysing Venus's. And thanks to probes that have actually visited the planet, astronomers have a pretty good idea of what the Cytherean atmosphere consists of (carbon dioxide, mostly, and lots of it, which accounts for the planet's hellish surface conditions). Both NASA and the European Space Agency were thus planning to test their telescope measurements against this known target. Such a dry run would let them calibrate their instruments and confirm that the spectroscopy method produces no surprises.

The timing is fortuitous. Though they follow a predictable pattern, transits of Venus are rare. Pairs of transits occur roughly eight years apart, with either 105 or 125 years separating them from the next pair. The last one took place in 2004; the next is due in 2117. The previous pair, in 1874 and 1882, happened before modern astronomy really took off. Contemporary stargazers were never going to miss this chance.

-- from The Economist's Babbage blog. See http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/06/transit-venus

9. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

10. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

11. 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. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

12. Here and There

EVIDENCE FOR INTELLEGENT LIFE IN THE ASTEROID BELT? Vest has a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer... -- Astronomy & Geophysics, 2011, August, p.4.9.

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6000 P.O. Box 57 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Lake Tekapo 7945 New Zealand


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand