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Southern Stars: Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp 1 - 32.
Teaching Astronomy at the University of Cambridge:

a Comparative Study of Astronomy Courses at Cambridge and Canterbury John Hearnshaw. In the northern summer of 2011, I had the privilege of spending two wonderful months at the University of Cambridge; in August and September.
Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp

The Search for Surveyor VII
Maurice Collins.

A review of Surveyor VII's accomplishments is given followed by an account of the author's research to find an image of the Moon's surface that shows the craft; pinpointing its position.
Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp

High Energy Cosmic Ray Detection by Radar
Jack Baggaley.

A method of mapping the atmospheric trajectories of ultra high energy primary cosmic rays is outlined. The characteristics of radar reflections from the plasma generated by a cosmic ray is examined. It is shown that a radar system employing appropriate radiowave modulation and geometrical arrangement of antennas should be capable of measuring the trajectories of such incident extremely energetic particles.
Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp

Lunt Solar Telescopes - a Review
Stephen Chadwick and Simon Hills.

The Lunt solar telescopes; LS35THa and LS60THa, are reviewed by members of the Foxton Beach Astronomical Society which has purchased one each of these instruments. Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp 18-20 Recent Sunspot Activity R W Evans. Following Solar Minimum, generally accepted to have occurred in 2008 December, the Sun's spots have gradually increased in number.
Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. P

BackyardEOS: a Software Solution for Imaging with a Canon EOS DSLR
John Field.

A low price software package for controlling imaging with the Canon EOS DSLR camera is reviewed. This will be of use for both astrophotography and photometry.
Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Page

Book Review:"Hindsight and Popular Astronomy" by Alan B. Whiting. reviewed by William Tobin.

Volume 50, number 4. December 2011. Pp

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. Total Eclipse of the Moon - December 10/11
2. The Solar System in December
3. A History of Southland Astronomy
4. Transit of Venus - Educators' Resources
5. Free Access to Royal Society Journals and Scientific American
6. SKANZ 2012 Conference
7. NACAA 2012
8. Third International Starlight Conference
9. RASNZ Conference 2012
10. Karoo Array Telescope Working
11. Why Uranus and Its Moons Are Upside Down
12. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 2)
13. Chemical Element Named After Copernicus
14. "Treasures of the Southern Sky"
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
18. Quote

1. Total Eclipse of the Moon - December 10/11

The mid time of this eclipse will be just before 3:32 am NZDT on the morning of December 11. The timing means the eclipse will be visible almost in its entirety from New Zealand and fully from Australia.

The predicted times for the various stages are:

UT Dec 10 NZDT Dec 11
First contact with penumbra 11:33:23 12:33:23 am
First contact with umbra 12:45:34 1:45:34 am
Total eclipse starts 14:06:26 3:06:26 am
Mid eclipse 14:31:50 3:31:50 am
Total eclipse ends 14:57:16 3:57:16 am
Last contact with umbra 16:18:09 5:18:09 am
Last contact with penumbra 17:30:13 Moon set in NZ

The moon is at its furthest north for the month at the time of the eclipse so it will be at its lowest for New Zealand. Its altitude at mid eclipse will range from 21° at Auckland to 15° at Invercargill. The moon will set throughout NZ close to 6am, before it entirely leaves the penumbra. By this time there will be no noticeable effect of the eclipse. Sunrise is about 5.45 am, so there will be considerable twilight by the time the moon leaves the umbra.

The entire eclipse will be visible from Australia and from east Asia with the moon higher in the sky than in NZ.

-- Brian Loader

2. The Solar System in December

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for December 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Dec_11.htm. Notes for January 2012 will be on line in a few days.

Total eclipse of the moon, December 10/11. See Item 1 for details.

The southern summer solstice is on December 22 with the Sun furthest south at about 6.31 pm. The earliest sunrise for the year will be on the morning of the eclipse of the moon.

The planets in december

Venus and Jupiter are obvious objects in the evening sky, Venus fairly low to the south of west after sunset, Jupiter a little higher to the north.

Mars and Saturn remain morning objects, Saturn rises increasingly earlier before the Sun so becoming more readily visible an hour before sunrise. Mercury is too close to the Sun most of the month, but may be briefly visible as a very low object in the dawn sky at the end of December.

Evening sky - venus and jupiter

Venus will set a little over 2 hours after the Sun throughout December, so will be easily seen about 15° up half an hour after sunset. It will be moving through Sagittarius up to December 20 and will pass several of the brighter stars of the constellation, including the handle of the teapot, during the first 10 days.

After the 20th, the planet will be in Capricornus where the 8% lit crescent moon joins it on the 27th.

Jupiter will be readily visible to the north as the sky darkens following sunset during December. It transits about 10.40 pm NZDT on the 1st, advancing to 8.40 pm on the 31st, so shortly before sunset.

The planet starts the month in Aries moving in a retrograde sense to the west. It crosses into Pisces on the 5th, but stays close to the border of the two constellations for the rest of the month. It is stationary on the 26th after which it will start moving to the east.

On the evening of December 6 the 85% lit moon will be just under 7° to the lower left of Jupiter, the two getting slightly closer before they set early the following morning. The following evening the moon now 91% lit will be 10° to the lower right of Jupiter.

Morning sky

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on December 4 and will become a morning object rising before the Sun. It will be the end of December before the planet rises early enough for a possible sighting in the dawn sky. Even then it will be a difficult object. On the morning of the 31st it will rise about 80 minutes before the Sun. An hour before sunrise it will be only 3° above the horizon roughly half way between east and southeast. Mercury will be at magnitude -0.4.

Mars remains in the morning sky during December. It will rise about 2am early in the month and just over an hour earlier by the end. Mars will be moving to the east through Leo, taking it away from Regulus. The two will be about 10° apart at the beginning of the month and 20° apart at the end. An hour before sunrise, Regulus will be to the left of Mars.

The moon, just before last quarter, will be about 8.5° above Mars on the morning of December 18.

Saturn moves further up into the morning sky during December. By the end of the month it will rise about three and a half hours before the Sun, making it easily visible to any early risers an hour before sunrise. The planet remains in Virgo and will be about 5° below Spica. Saturn will be slightly brighter than the star.

The crescent moon will be some 8° to the right of Saturn on the morning of the 21st. The previous morning it will be 10° away the other side of Saturn and to the upper left of Spica.


Uranus will set a little before 3am in New Zealand at the beginning of December and about an hour after midnight by the end of the month. So it will remain quite well placed for viewing in the evening after the sky is dark. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.8.

Neptune sets about 1.30am at the beginning of December and a little before midnight at the end of the month. Early in December, about an hour after sunset Neptune will be to the west 25° above the horizon. At the same time at the end of December it will be only some 6° up, so becoming difficult to observe. The planet at magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius near its border with Capricornus.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres, like Neptune, is in Aquarius and so also in the evening sky. It sets about 3am early in December, a little after 1 am at the end. Ceres fades a little during the month from 8.8 to 9.1.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus at the beginning of December but joins Ceres in Aquarius on December 9. The two are 20° apart by the end of the month. Hence Vesta is also an evening object setting shortly after midnight by the 31st. Vesta´s magnitude drops from 7.9 to 8.2 during December.

(15) Eunomia is in Perseus during December. Having been at opposition on November 29 it will start to lose brightness in December, its magnitude changing from 8.0 to 8.6 during the month. The asteroid is quite low in New Zealand skies, as it will be in Perseus. Early in December it will be close to the 4th magnitude star xi Per, with Eunomia some 9´ to the right of the star on the 3rd.

Eunomia will be about 12° below the Pleiades at 11 pm on the 1st. At the same time on the 31st Eunomia will be about 7° below the cluster, with the asteroid on the border of Taurus.

(433) Eros, the first Near Earth Asteroid to be discovered, will brighten to magnitude 9.5 at the end of December. The asteroid will then be a morning object in Leo rising about 1 am. Watch this space in the New Year.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

Comets:

Levy, P/2006 T1 will be only some 5° above the horizon about an hour after sunset in late December with an expected magnitude about 8. It should become more visible from the southern hemisphere in the New Year.

- Brian Loader

3. A History of Southland Astronomy

Lloyd Esler has compiled a history of astronomy in Southland in support of the Southland Astronomical Society's 50th Jubilee. Lloyd provides the background: "... the Southland Astronomical Society turned 50 in September this year. I decided a few years ago that a Jubilee publication would be useful. The booklet includes details about the formation of the society and its major projects, Southland's response to events of astronomical significance and its connection with rocketry, UFOs and meteorites."

The 48-page book 'The Story of Astronomy in Southland' covers far more than the past 50 years though. It begins with Maori star lore then traces interest in science generally from the early pioneers of Southland to the present day. It is lavishly illustrated and spiced with reports from the newspapers of the time. The book is both highly informative and a delightful read.

Copies are available for $15 postfree from Lloyd Esler, 15 Mahuri Road, Otatara RD9, Invercargill 9879. Phone/fax 03 213 0404. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. Transit of Venus - Educators' Resources

Steven van Roode in Transit of Venus Project Newsletter #6 points out several resources helpful for educators and others interested in the transit.

'Transit of Venus: 1631 to the Present' by Nick Lomb. Published this month the book is larded with large pictures and covers the entire history of the transit of Venus, from the first prediction by Johannes Kepler to the 2004 transit. Nick also gives advice for observing the next transit in 2012 and discusses the importance of this transit to modern astronomy. Nick is the former curator of astronomy at Sydney Observatory. For more information see http://www.sydneyobservatory.com.au/2011/transit-of-venus-the-book/ For a review see http://transitofvenus.nl/wp/2011/11/03/nick-lombs-new-book/

Transit of Venus workbook. Numerous resources for use by science teachers can be found on the education resources page of www.transitofvenus.nl One of these resources, the Transit of Venus: Classroom activities, is now available in print. In forty problems, students get acquainted with the mechanics and periodicity of the transit, measuring distances using parallax and finding exoplanets analysing light curves of other stars. The workbook is also available as free download. The workbooks are printed in black-and-white and have a full-colour cover. To order go to: https://www.lulu.com/commerce/index.php?fBuyContent=11758287

-- Abridged from the newsletter forwarded by Haritina Mogasanu.

5. Free Access to Royal Society Journals and Scientific American

William Tobin writes: London's Royal Society has had periods, announced in this Newsletter, during which access to its on-line journal archive has been free. The Society has now announced permanent free access to all articles more than 70 years old - which includes a lot pertaining to the history of astronomy in the "Philosophical Transactions", such as publications by the Herschels. Visit: http://royalsocietypublishing.org/site/authors/free-archive.xhtml

Some Royal Society journals have even less restrictive access. "Notes & Record of the Royal Society," which publishes mostly history of science, is open-access after only one year.

William also notes that all issues of Scientific American from 1845 to 1909 (which includes a lot of astronomy) are available free on-line until the end of November. Visit:

http://www.nature.com/scientificamerican/archive/index_1909.html

6. SKANZ 2012 Conference

The primary aim of this SKANZ 2012 conference is to foster interaction and collaboration between Australian and New Zealand scientists and engineers, thereby helping to realise the exciting potential of the SKA. It builds on the successful SKANZ 2010 meeting and will again be hosted by the AUT University. The meeting will include sessions on SKA science, SKA precursors, wide-field science, computing for ASKAP and the SKA and transient and high-resolution science.

Where: AUT University. When: 14-16 February 2012 For details and registration see www.aut.ac.nz/skanz2012

-- Dick Manchester, CSIRO (Chair, Science Organising Committee) Sergei Gulyaev, AUT (Chair, Local Organising Committee)

7. NACAA 2012

The 25th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) meets in Brisbane over Easter, April 6-9. The meeting at the University of Queensland campus is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland and supported by other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland.

The sixth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations and the inaugural Variable Stars South Symposium will be held as part of the NACAA programme. Those interested in attending please fill in the form at http://www.nacaa.org.au/2012/interested.

---------- For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

8. Third International Starlight Conference

John Hearnshaw writes: Plans for the Starlight Conference at Tekapo, 11-13 June 2012, are progressing well, and from 1 December the website will be able to accept on-line registrations and on-line requests to give an oral or poster paper. Visit www.starlight2012.org for full details.

We are planning a highly multidisciplinary conference on the scientific and cultural benefits of observing dark starlit skies. The meeting will be of interest to RASNZ members and to many other interest groups in education, tourism, environmental protection and to those interested in the cultural and ethnic aspects of astronomy. As participation will be limited, early registration is encouraged.

We have some great international invited speakers coming, and invitations will soon go out to more invited speakers. Here is a summary of the conference topics and international invited speakers:

Topics to be covered: o Role and purpose of a Starlight Reserve o Public education and outreach at a Starlight Reserve o Starlight Reserves and astro-tourism o The Starlight Declaration (2007) and the right to see the stars o Light pollution and light pollution controls through lighting ordinances o The dark sky park movement, including science-based park management and related visitor experiences o Integrating starlight protection with protection for the landscape, ecology and biosphere o Radio astronomy and radio frequency interference (RFI); radio-quiet zones and RFI mitigation; the selection of sites in NZ for radio-astronomy o Starlight Reserves as a protection for astronomical research o Cultural aspects of stars and starlight in civilization and society o The role of the World Heritage Committee and other bodies (International Dark Sky Association, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, government departments, etc) in regulating and operating Starlight Reserves.

International Invited Speakers: o Prof Clive Ruggles - University of Leicester, UK. Member of the ICOMOS- IAU Working Group "Starlight Reserves and World Heritage" o Cipriano Marin - The Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC), coordinator of the Starlight Initiative for UNESCO; Secretary general of the UNESCO centre in the Canary Islands o Prof Alec Boksenberg - FRS, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge, UK. Formerly head of UK National Commission for UNESCO and former director Royal Greenwich Observatory o Reg Wilson, Lighting Analysis & Design, Independent Lighting Consultants Asia-Pacific region representative for the International Darksky Association (IDA) o Steve Owens - Head of IDA Dark Sky Places Development Committee, Dark Skies Consultant, former UK co-ordinator IYA2009

The Starlight Conference is jointly hosted by the University of Canterbury and by RASNZ, and is being sponsored by the University of Canterbury, by RASNZ, by the Royal Society of NZ, by Endeavour Capital Ltd and by the NZ National Commission to UNESCO.

9. RASNZ Conference 2012

Although it is still over 6 months till Conference, planning is well advanced. Both Standing Conference Committee and the Local Organising Committee from The Phoenix Astronomical Society have been working hard to get things in place.

With the next mailing of Southern Stars, there will also be the registration form (this will also be on the RASNZ Webpage), and information about the venue etc. Plus links to accommodation options, and useful transport information.

The Standing Conference Committee is now formally calling for papers and poster-papers. Although the initial deadline for papers is not until 1 April 2012 we encourage you to complete the form as soon as you can, even if it is just an intention to present a paper/poster paper, as this assists Orlon Petterson and Warwick Kissling with the programme schedule. Orlon and Warwick can follow up with you at a later date. To make application to present a paper, please go the RASNZ Webpage (www.rasnz.org.nz). On the index on the left side click on RASNZ Wiki. Then on the sitemap in Wiki click on 'conference' and that will take you to the paper submission form. Complete the form, and submit it.

Further updates will be published in the Newsletter, but it is not too soon to be thinking about the 2012 Conference and your attendance/ participation. If anyone has any queries at this time, please contact us on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

10. Karoo Array Telescope Working

The idea for the world´s most powerful radio telescope, capable of seeing back nearly to the origins of the universe, has been around for some time. Known as the Square Kilometre Array, or SKA - as that was originally planned to be the total collecting area of its thousands of dish-shaped antennae - it was conceived of by an international group of astronomers in the early 1990s. No construction has yet begun. Indeed, no site has yet been chosen. However, in the vast quietness of the Karoo, a semi-desert in South Africa, a small prototype is already operating and its first images are, by all accounts, remarkable.

The Karoo Array Telescope (KAT-7) consists of seven steerable dishes, each 12 metres across. As such, it is already the most powerful array-based telescope in Africa. It is, though, merely a test bed for MeerKAT, a device that will consist of 64 somewhat larger dishes and will be the most powerful instrument in the southern hemisphere as well as one of the three most sensitive in the world.

The SKA will dwarf these minnows. It will be 50-100 times more powerful than any predecessor, and will be able to peer back through time almost to the Big Bang itself, exploring the formation of the first stars and galaxies, the role of magnetism in the early cosmos, what exactly dark matter and dark energy are, the nature of gravity, whether intelligent life has ever existed anywhere other than on Earth, and the validity of such fundamental scientific concepts as Einstein´s theory of relativity. The world´s astronomers are, understandably, fizzing with excitement.

There is, though, the small matter of money. The SKA will cost a lot: EUR1.5 billion-2 billion ($2 billion - 2.75 billion), according to the nine- country consortium behind the project; nearer $6 billion, according to America´s National Science Foundation. On November 23rd those nine countries - Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa - and possibly China as well, are due to commit themselves to paying EUR90m for the initial engineering- planning phase. But it will be when the megabuck work on the actual telescope begins in 2016, that the crunch comes.

This is where MeerKAT - named after a species of mongoose found in arid areas of south-western Africa such as the Karoo - could play a crucial role. The construction of its dishes is about to be put out to tender, and it is expected to be fully operational by 2016. If MeerKAT succeeds, it might help persuade sceptical governments to cough up for the SKA. It will also enhance South Africa´s chances of hosting this much larger project.

Originally, America had been expected to participate. But it has now cried off, at least until 2020. The disappointment of this withdrawal, however, is mitigated by the keen interest being shown by China. The country with the world´s second-biggest economy has never invested in a big global science project before.

China was one of the places originally considered as host for the telescope. But it and Argentina have since been dropped, leaving just South Africa and Australia in the race. They are said to be neck and neck. Both offer remote, sparsely populated areas with low levels of man-made radio interference, along with world-class teams of astronomers. Australia has more experience with radio astronomy, but South Africa has the advantage of lower costs and ease of access. As a developing country in which over a third of the population still live on less than $2 a day, it might also be considered to have the greater moral claim. And it has KAT- 7, and will shortly have MeerKAT.

The victor will be announced in February by the board of the not-for- profit company that is to be formed by the participating countries when they formally sign up to start paying for the project. Regardless of who wins, some critics say South Africa´s contribution would be better spent feeding and housing the country´s poor. But if South Africa did succeed, that would mean part of everybody else´s contribution would be spent there as well - a prize worth fighting for. Moreover, the government believes projects like this help inspire people and encourage young South Africans to consider scientific careers. Naledi Pandor, the science and technology minister, is particularly supportive. She sees the SKA as a way to broaden the country´s scientific base and diversify its current white, male- dominated complexion.

The bid also involves eight of South Africa´s neighbours - Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia - and could be the launch pad for a wider scientific renaissance in Africa. Australia will not give up easily, and the outcome may be that the telescope is shared, with some of the antennae in one country and the rest in the other. But even that half loaf would be a useful boost for South African science, and a sign that the traditional powers of the subject are willing to share the goodies.

-- From The Economist 5 November 2011, p. 90. The original article and photo is at http://www.economist.com/node/21536541.

11. Why Uranus and Its Moons Are Upside Down

Uranus's highly tilted axis makes it something of an oddball in our Solar System. The accepted wisdom is that Uranus was knocked on its side by a single large impact. New research rewrites our theories of how Uranus became so tilted. It also solves mysteries about the position and orbits of its moons. From simulations of planetary formation and collisions, it appears that early in its life Uranus experienced a succession of small punches instead of a single knock-out blow. This research has important ramifications on our theories of giant planet formation. The research by an international team led by Alessandro Morbidelli of the Observatoire de la Cote d'Azur in Nice was presented on 6 October at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting in Nantes.

Uranus is unusual in that its spin axis is inclined by 98 degrees to its orbital plane. This is far more pronounced than other planets, such as Jupiter (3°), Earth (23°), or Saturn and Neptune (29°). Uranus is, in effect, spinning on its side.

The generally accepted theory is that in the past a body a few times more massive than the Earth collided with Uranus, knocking the planet on its side. There is, however, one significant flaw in this notion. The moons of Uranus should have been left orbiting in their original angles, but they too lie at almost exactly 98°.

Simulations showed that if Uranus had been hit when still surrounded by a protoplanetary disk -- the material from which the moons would form -- then the disk would have reformed into a fat doughnut shape around the new, highly-tilted equatorial plane. Collisions within the disk would have flattened the doughnut, which would then go onto form the moons in the positions we see today.

However, the simulation threw up an unexpected result. In the above scenario, the moons displayed retrograde motion -- that is to say, they orbited in the opposite direction to that which we observe. Morbidelli¹s group tweaked their parameters in order to explain this. The surprising discovery was that if Uranus was not tilted in one go, as is commonly thought, but rather was bumped in at least two smaller collisions, then there is a much higher probability of seeing the moons orbit in the direction we observe.

This research is at odds with current theories of how planets form. The standard planet formation theory assumes that Uranus, Neptune and the cores of Jupiter and Saturn formed by accreting only small objects in the protoplanetary disk. They should not have suffered giant collisions. The fact that Uranus was hit at least twice suggests that significant impacts were typical in the formation of giant planets. So, the standard theory has to be revised.

For more see http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content& task=view&id=359&Itemid=41

-- From a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 2)

After three successful flybys of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft entered orbit about the innermost planet on March 18. This is the second part of a compilation of MESSENGER results from two sources. One is a press release summarizing seven papers in a special section of the September 30 issue of Science. The other is a summary of 30 papers and posters presented on October 5 as part of a special session of the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nantes, Frances.

The Evolution of Mercury's Geological and Surface Composition

After its first Mercury solar day in orbit, MESSENGER has nearly completed two of its primary global imaging campaigns: a monochrome map at 250 meters per pixel and an eight-colour, 1 km per pixel colour map. Apart from small gaps, which will be filled in during the next solar day, these maps cover the entire planet under uniform lighting conditions ideal for assessing the form of Mercury's surface features as well as the colour and compositional variations across the planet.

Flybys of Mercury by the MESSENGER and Mariner 10 spacecraft showed broad expanses of plains across the planet. These are volcanic in origin. Where geologic mapping and detailed compositional information are both available, many of the large-scale volcanic units on Mercury are seen to be basaltic. Basalts are common volcanic rocks on Earth and the Moon.

Variations in Surface Reflectance Spectra

Over the course of the first solar day in orbit, the Visible and Infrared Spectrograph (VIRS) channel of the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS) obtained over one million spectra of the surface from near one pole to the other and spanning all longitudes. VIRS observed all the major geologic units and structures, from large basins to small fresh-looking craters, and from average pains to hollows and possible pyroclastic materials. Whereas the Mercury Dual Imaging System highlights the morphology and broad colour characteristics of these materials, VIRS reveals greater details of the reflective properties of surface materials.

One surprise is the apparent lack of iron in the silicate minerals of the rocks on the surface of Mercury. In rock-forming silicates, the primary materials of most planetary crusts, iron shows up as a characteristic absorption at infrared wavelengths. Such features have been completely absent in spectra from Mercury.

Iron in rocks also affects the ultra-violet region of the spectrum, but those effects are less well studied and understood. However it is here that variations are seen among, for example, fresh-looking craters, plains, hollows, pyroclastic deposits, and low-reflectance units.

Mercury's Global Magnetic Field

Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have intrinsic magnetic fields, but MESSENGER found that Mercury´s weak field is different. So too are particle acceleration processes in Mercury's magnetosphere. MESSENGER's observations of energetic electrons indicated that their distribution is not consistent with what are known as Van Allen radiation belts. These belts are bands of charged particles that interact with the magnetic field and surround the planets.

Mercury´s magnetic equator is also well to the north of the planet´s geographic equator. The best-fitting internal dipole magnetic field is located about 480 km northward of the planet's centre, nearly 20% of its radius. Relative to the planet's size, this offset is much more than in any other planet, and accounting for it will pose a challenge to theoretical explanations of the field.

The offset means that the magnetic field in the southern hemisphere should be a lot weaker than it is in the north. At the north geographic pole, the magnetic field should be about 3.5 times stronger than it is at the south geographic pole. Thus energetic particles, solar wind, and high-energy electrons will preferentially impact the surface in the south. This will lead to the south being the sources of atoms, ions, and molecules for Mercury's exosphere. It should also become more discoloured by charged particle bombardment.

MESSENGER's Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer detected helium ions throughout the entire volume of Mercury´s magnetosphere. The conclusion is that helium must be generated through surface interactions with the solar wind. Helium is delivered by the solar wind, implanted on the surface of Mercury, and then fans out in all directions.

Mercury´s weak magnetosphere provides very little protection from the solar wind. Extreme space weather must be a continuing activity at the surface.

The Dynamics of Mercury's Exosphere

Mercury is surrounded by a tenuous exosphere of gas generated and maintained by the interaction of the space environment with the planet¹s surface. Measuring the composition and structure of the exosphere provides insight into how the space environment modifies the outermost layers of the planet's surface materials.

MESSENGER's observations during the flybys and orbit show that the current understanding of the nature of Mercury¹s exosphere is incomplete. They show that distinctly different source and loss processes control the amounts of sodium, magnesium, and calcium atoms in the exosphere.

New magnetic field models have been derived from MESSENGER's Magnetometer data. These indicate that the planet's intrinsic field can couple with the interplanetary field to direct solar wind ions to the night side. There the ions sputter material from non-illuminated surfaces. But that source is too weak to explain the observed concentrations. Calcium also exhibits an unexplained enhanced concentration at the equator near dawn, a pattern that appears to be a persistent feature in the exosphere. Such dawn enhancements are not observed for magnesium, which is chemically similar to calcium.

Text & Image: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task =view&id=356&Itemid=41

-- the press releases were forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Chemical Element Named After Copernicus

The General Assembly of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP), taking place at the Institute of Physics in London, approved on November 4 the names of three new elements. Elements 110, 111 and 112 have been named darmstadtium (Ds), roentgenium (Rg) and copernicium (Cn) respectively.

The General Assembly approved these suggestions from the Joint Working Party on the Discovery of Elements, which is a joint body of IUPAP and the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). See the Institute of Physics website at http://www.iop.org

-- From an Institute of Physics press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

14. "Treasures of the Southern Sky"

Rob Gendler points out his book, recently published by Springer, and co- authored with David Malin and Lars Lindberg Christensen. Springer's website blurb says "Treasures of the Southern Sky" celebrates the unique beauty and richness of the southern sky in words and with world-class imagery. In part, a photographic anthology of deep sky wonders south of the celestial equator, this book also celebrates the human story of southern astronomy with an engaging and detailed history of key contributors to southern sky exploration. Ample and informative text provides the reader with intriguing facts and useful information about the featured objects.

This volume, arranged by southern hemisphere season, brings to the printed page many of the most provocative and beautiful astronomical images of our time, many in print for the very first time. The collection of imagery covers a full range of deep sky astronomical objects, from the familiar and iconic to the more obscure but no less intriguing. Masterful, state of the art, professional and amateur astrophotography highlights the authors' carefully selected deep sky "treasures"."

See http://www.robgendlerastropics.com/Cover-TSS.html

-- passed along by John Drummond.

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. 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. Quote

"What some people mistake for the high cost of living is the cost of high living." -- Doug Larson.

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. Nobel Prize to Dark Energy Discoverers
2. Albert Jones made Honorary Member of the AAVSO
3. The Solar System in November
4. SKANZ 2012 Conference
5. anzSKA Newsletter Available
6. NACAA 2012
7. Third International Starlight Conference
8. RASNZ Conferences 2012-14
9. Meteorite Hits Comettes
10. First Images from ALMA
11. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 1)
12. Planet Hunters Search Kepler Data
13. Free-Floating Brown Dwarfs Found
14. Correction - Neptune's Mass
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. More Rugby Geniuses

1. Nobel Prize to Dark Energy Discoverers

This year's Nobel prize for physics was awarded for what was, in a sense literally, the biggest discovery ever made in physics-that the universe is not only expanding (which had been known since the 1920s), but that the rate of expansion is increasing. Something, in other words, is actively pushing it apart.

This was worked out by two groups who, in the 1990s, were studying exploding stars called supernovae. One was the Supernova Cosmology Project, at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Saul Perlmutter. The other was the High-z Supernova Search Team, an international project led by Brian Schmidt and involving Adam Riess, both of Harvard University. It is these three gentlemen who have shared the prize.

Supernovae come in various types. One particular sort, though, known as
type Ia supernovae, always explode with about the same energy and are
therefore equally bright. That means they can be used to estimate quite
precisely how far away they (and thus the galaxy they inhabit) are. In
addition, the speed at which an object such as a star or galaxy is moving
away from Earth, because of the expansion of the universe, can be worked
out from its red-shift. This is a fall in the frequency of its light
towards the red end of the spectrum. It is caused by the Doppler effect
(something similar happens when a police car or fire engine with its siren
blaring drives past you, and the pitch of the sound suddenly drops).

What both groups found was that the light from distant supernovae was fainter than predicted. In other words, the supernovae were further away than their red-shifts indicated they should be, based on the existing model of the universe. Something, then, was pushing space itself apart.

What that something is, remains conjecture. It has been labelled "dark energy", but that is really physicists' short-hand for "we haven't got a clue". It may, though, relate to a mathematical term called the cosmological constant that appears in Einstein's general theory of relativity, and which Einstein thought, before the discovery of the expansion of the universe, was necessary to stop the universe collapsing.

-- From The Economist, 8 October 2011, p. 87.

2. Albert Jones made Honorary Member of the AAVSO

Congratulations to Albert Jones on being made an Honorary Member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. The award was announced at the AAVSO's 100th Annual Meeting held October 5-8 in Cambridge and Woburn, Massachusetts.

Albert's is just the 40th Honorary Membership to be bestowed by the AAVSO. Other famous Honorary Members include Frank Bateson, Ernest W. Brown, Annie Jump Cannon, George E. Hale, Ejnar Hertzsprung, E. Dorrit Hoffleit, Henrietta S. Leavitt, Margaret W. Mayall, Paul W. Merrill, Charles P. Olivier, Leslie C. Peltier, Edward C. Pickering, Henry Norris Russell, Charles Scovil, Harlow Shapley, and H. H. Turner. The full list can be seen at http://www.aavso.org/honorary-membership

-- Thanks to Pam Kilmartin for passing on the AAVSO's announcement.

3. The Solar System in November

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for November 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Nov_11.htm. Notes for December 2011 will be on line in a few days.

THE PLANETS IN NOVEMBER Mercury and Venus remain a close pair of planets in the early evening sky during the first half of the month, until Mercury drops back from Venus.

Jupiter is easily seen throughout the evening, especially later in November. Mars remains a morning object to the northeast in the early dawn sky. Saturn begins to emerge from the glow of the rising Sun by the end of the month.

A partial eclipse of the Sun on November 25 is mainly visible from the Antarctic, but its end at sunset can be seen from the South Island. The moon starts to move onto the solar disk a few minutes after 8pm NZDT. The Sun´s altitude will be 10° from Invercargill, 5° from Christchurch and Greymouth. The greatest eclipse occurs just after 8.40pm, with the Sun only 4° up at Invercagill and just about setting at Christhurch and Greymouth. 30% of the Sun will be eclipsed in the south, slightly less further north.

EARLY EVENING SKY - VENUS and MERCURY Mercury and Venus stay together in the evening sky for the first half of November. They will set about an hour and three quarters after the Sun on the 1st, about 2 hours later by mid month. The two planets will pass either side of the star delta Scorpii, magnitude 2.3, on November 4. On the 10th they will be passing Antares, with Mercury 2° to the right of the star and Venus a further 2° to the right of Mercury.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation, 24° east of the Sun, on November 14 after which its slowing movement to the east makes it drop back behind Venus. The separation of the two planets will increase only slowly at first, but the distance between them will increase more rapidly by the 20th. Mercury is stationary on November 24th, this will see Mercury start to move back towards the Sun, becoming lost in the evening twilight over the next few evenings.

On the 26th the moon, as a very thin crescent, will be 3° below Mercury. The moon will be very low, with Mercury 10° to the lower left of Venus. 40 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be only 6° above the horizon.

The following night the moon, now almost 6% lit and so much easier to see, will be just under 4° to the right of Venus.

Jupiter becomes easily visible throughout the evening during November. At first it will rise only 30 minutes after sunset. This will increase to about 3 hours earlier by the 30th.

The planet spends the month in Aries near the border of the constellation with Cetus. On the night of the 9th the almost full moon will be just under 6° to the left of Jupiter in the late evening. The two are slightly closer after midnight when the sky´s rotation brings the moon almost directly below Jupiter by 3 am. By then they will be low to the west, with Jupiter setting well before sunrise.

Morning sky

Mars will start to rise noticeably earlier and be up more than three and a half hours before the Sun by the 30th. Even so it will be about 2.30 am NZDT before it appears. So the planet will continue to be best seen 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise.

Mars will be moving east trough Leo in November. During the month it passes Regulus, which at magnitude 1.4 is the brightest star in the constellation. Mars will be a little brighter at 1.0. At their closest on the 11th and 12th, Mars will be less than 1.5° below the star.

The moon, at last quarter, will join Mars and Regulus on the 19th. The moon will be just under 6° from Regulus and just over 9° from Mars. The following morning the moon, now 38% lit, will be 9° to the upper right of Mars.

Saturn will slowly emerge into the dawn sky after being at conjunction with the Sun in mid October. It is not likely to be visible until late in November, and even then will be very low to the east in the brightening dawn sky.

Saturn is at conjunction with Spica in mid November when the planet will be just over 3° below the star. Since Saturn will then rise only an hour before the Sun, they are likely to be too low and the sky too bright to see them. The two remain close for the rest of the month with Saturn rising below Spica.


Uranus sets well after midnight in November so will be suitably placed for viewing in the evening after the sky is dark. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.8.

Neptune also sets after midnight in November, about 75 minutes before Uranus. Thus Neptune will also be well placed in the evening sky for viewing, although it will be low by midnight at the end of the month. Neptune, magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius near its border with Capricornus.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres, like Neptune, is in Aquarius and will so also in the evening sky. It is stationary on November 12 when it will start moving again to the east. Ceres fades a little during the month from 8.4 to 8.8.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus during November and also n evening object. Mid month it passes two fairly bright stars: on November 15 it will be 36.5´ from zeta Cap, magnitude 3.7 and 45´ from the 4.5 magnitude star 36 Cap. Two nights later Vesta will be only 13.5´ from 36 Cap. Vesta´s magnitude drops from 7.6 to 7.9 during November.

(15) Eunomia is in Perseus during November and will brighten from magnitude 8.4 to 7.9 when at opposition on November 29. It will thus be, with Vesta, the brightest minor planet. When at opposition Eunomia will be just over a degree from xi Per, mag 4.0. It will then rise close to 10pm NZDT, so will not be readily visible until close to midnight. Eunomia will then be to the lower right of xi Per.

(29) Amphitrite is at opposition on November 5 with a magnitude 8.7. It will be in Aries some 6°; from Hamal, alpha Ari, mag 2.0. During the rest of November Amphitrite will move towards Hamal, being 2° from the star on November 30. By then Amphitrite will have faded by half a magnitude.

(1036) Ganymed was at opposition on October 29 at magnitude 8.3. During November it will be moving to the south so getting higher in NZ skies. It will fade rapidly reaching 9.5 by November 13

On November 1 when it will have just crossed into Cetus, Ganymed will be 1.6° above Jupiter. The following night it will 1.3° to the left of xi1 Cet and 1.2° to the upper left of the star on the 3rd. Ganymed´s magnitude will then be 8.8. It will continue to move to the south through Cetus as it fades from view.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

COMETS: C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is expected to remain brighter than magnitude 8 during November but will set shortly after the Sun early in the month and is not likely to be observable. By mid November the comet will set before the Sun and be a day time object.

-- Brian Loader

4. SKANZ 2012 Conference

Professor Sergei Gulyaev of the Auckland University of Technology advises that registrations are now open for the SKANZ 2012 conference.

The primary aim of this SKANZ 2012 conference is to foster interaction and collaboration between Australian and New Zealand scientists and engineers, thereby helping to realise the exciting potential of the SKA. It builds on the successful SKANZ 2010 meeting and will again be hosted by the AUT University. The meeting will include sessions on SKA science, SKA precursors, wide-field science, computing for ASKAP and the SKA and transient and high-resolution science.

The conference program includes slots for contributed papers as well as a poster session. A visit to the Warkworth telescope, followed by wine tasting at a local vineyard, is also included. The conference dinner will be held at Auckland´s famous Sky Tower restaurant.

Where: AUT University When: 14-16 February 2012 Registration: Now open

Please visit www.aut.ac.nz/skanz2012 for details of the conference program and to register.

Dick Manchester, CSIRO (Chair, Science Organising Committee) Sergei Gulyaev, AUT (Chair, Local Organising Committee)

5. anzSKA Newsletter Available

Dr Brian Boyle, Director of the Australia-NZ Square Kilometre Array Project, circulated the following note on 29 September:

The latest issue of the anzSKA Newsletter is now available online at the anzSKA website http://www.ska.gov.au/media/newsletter/Pages/default.aspx

On 14 September, the Australia - New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee submitted its 150-page response to the SKA Project's Request for Information on the Candidate Sites.

Forty seven organisations and Departments across Australia and New Zealand contributed to this response. The response covered areas from science and technology, cost and implementation, and political, legal, financial and working environments. Our primary industry partner, Aurecon, did an outstanding job in preparing much of the report.

This response forms the primary input to an international site evaluation process by an independent expert panel. Following a Q&A session with the site proponents in early December, the panel will make their motivated recommendation on the preferred site to the SKA Government Board in early January.

Australia and New Zealand provide an outstanding site for the international project. The developments reported in this Newsletter also demonstrate that Australia and New Zealand remain at the forefront of international developments in radio astronomy; including phased array feeds, eVLBI and industry participation.

Please feel free to forward this email to any colleague who may be interested in SKA-related activities in Australia and New Zealand. You can also follow me on Twitter @BrianBoyleSKA. Dr Brian Boyle SKA Project Director; Australia - New Zealand

6. NACAA 2012

The 25th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) meets in Brisbane over Easter, April 6-9. The meeting at the University of Queensland campus is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland and supported by other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland.

The sixth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations and the inaugural Variable Stars South Symposium will be held as part of the NACAA programme. Those interested in attending please fill in the form at http://www.nacaa.org.au/2012/interested.

---------- For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

7. Third International Starlight Conference

The Third International Starlight Conference, subtitled "in defence of the quality of the night sky and the right to observe the stars" will be held on 11, 12 and 13 June 2012 at Lake Tekapo.

The conference will be the third in a series, following meetings in La Palma in April 2007 and on Fuerteventura in March 2009. It will address themes concerning the defence of the quality of the night sky, the right to observe the stars, the heritage of starlight, the issues of light pollution, the protection of observatory sites, the benefits of public outreach in astronomy and the cultural aspects of visual astronomy.

For more information see www.starlight2012.org

8. RASNZ Conferences 2012-14

This is being held on 15-17 June 2012, and will be hosted by The Phoenix Astronomical Society (TPAS). Please note there has, on the recommendation of TPAS, and after careful consideration by the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee (SCC), been a change of venue. The Conference will now be held in the brand new Carterton Events Centre. The Centre is very keen to host us, and have put forward an attractive package.

The guest Speaker is Dr Wayne Orchiston. Wayne's present position is as an Associate Professor at James Cook Observatory in Townsville, Queensland. But of course many of us remember Wayne from when he was Executive Director of Carter Observatory. Wayne is very learned in matters relation to James Cook, and his voyages and the astronomical work carried out during those voyages. Wayne's presentation will certainly cover this, with reference to the Transit of Venus. We look forward to welcoming Wayne back to NZ and being among old friends again - and meeting new ones.

The Fellows Speaker will be Dr Ed Budding, who was also at Carter Observatory at the same times as Wayne Orchiston. Ed will be talking about the discovery of planets and the implications of that.

On the Friday the RASNZ Education Group propose to hold and Education Workshop - details on this are being worked on by Group Director Ron Fisher and his team. It will be aimed at those involved in astronomy education and outreach work - which involves a good many of us if we think about it. Updates on this will appear in future newsletters.

Stonehenge Aotearoa is a short drive from Carterton, and it is intended a visit to that will be incorporated into the weekends events.

We will shortly be making a call for papers. The form to be used is under revision and we will advise when it is ready to use and how to access it. But in the meantime please have a think about what you might like to present a paper (or poster paper) about. There is lots of good work being done in New Zealand both at a professional and amateur level, and Conference is the forum to tell us about what your have been doing, and the results and outcomes. We hope to formally invite papers in the next Newsletter

Conference comes just over a week following the Transit of Venus. Many of you will be attempting scientific observations of the transit. SCC is open to suggestions as to how we can incorporate transit observing experiences/results into the programme. Please contact us

With the change in venue, we have moved to a smaller population centre. But Carterton does have a variety of accommodations. TPAS is working with the local information people in Carterton. A list of accommodations will be made available - these range from hotels, motels, camping ground, b&b's, homestays, farmstays, holiday cottages etc. It is proposed a system will be in place where the Carterton information people will assist you finding suitable accommodations. Those who were at the Conference in Tekapo will recall the large variety of accommodations there, and we see the situation here as being not dissimilar. Also Carterton is just 16km from Masterton, and less than 10 km from Greytown - and both these centres (especially Masterton) also have a wide variety of accommodations.

Many of you will arrive by car. There is a daily Air NZ Link service into Masterton from Auckland. Others using public transport might like to fly into Wellington, and then get the scenic Tranzmetro suburban train to Carterton - the trains run up to 6 times a day, and we will have a link into the timetable in due course. Carterton Railway Station is a short walk from the Convention Centre. Another option is to car pool, as many did when coming to the Tekapo Conference - there will no doubt be good rental car options available from Wellington.

For those of you conscious about costs - well as you know we do try and keep these as low as we can - and our Conference is very sharply priced compared to other Conferences in NZ of a similar nature. You will be please to know that we have been able to strike a registration fee that is actually less than for the 2011 Conference. Full details will be on the registration form when it is made available later in November.

Please look for further updates in coming newsletters. The Wairarapa is a beautiful region in the southern North Island. Apart from Stonehenge Aotearoa, points of interest include the Mount Bruce Wildlife Reserve, the George Hood Aviation Museum, and of course the numerous boutique wineries of Martinborough, Gladstone, and around Masterton. This is an area to not only attend Conference, but also to spend a few extra days relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere of the Wairarapa.

Look out for further updates in coming Newsletters.

2013 CONFERENCE: We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Conference will

be held on 24-27 May 2013, in Invercargill - and hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The venue will be the Ascot complex - which is where we have held previous conferences in Invercargill. This is a great venue, with both on-site accommodation and various other accommodation options available nearby. Conference also coincides with the annual Bluff Oyster Festival, so this potentially will be a weekend of astronomy and gastronomy. We will be recommending early accommodation bookings, although at the Ascot we intend reserving a block of accommodation in advance.

2014 CONFERENCE: We are pleased to announce the 2014 Conference will be

held in Whakatane, and hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society. The Conference will be part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Whakatane Astronomical Society. It is well over 40 years since a RASNZ AGM (before the times of conferences) was held in Whakatane, so a return there is long overdue. The dates have yet to be finalised, and the Whakatane people are considering a couple of venues. A full announcement on this will be made once the venue and dates are finalised.

As always, if there are any queries please check up the Conference link on: www.rasnz.org.nz , or contact the Standing Conference Committee - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

9. Meteorite Hits Comettes

When your name is Comette, you may get used to jokes about rockets and space and planets. But French schoolboy Hugo Comette, 11, had the last laugh when of all the places on Earth, a piece of rock from outer space landed on his home.

An egg-sized meteorite believed to be 4.57 billion years old smashed through the roof of the Comette family home on the outskirts of Paris some time over the northern summer. The rock, blackened by its journey through Earth's atmosphere, remained buried in the roof insulation, until Hugo's mother Martine noticed the roof was leaking and called out for someone to fix it. The roofer took one look at the broken tile and told the Comettes that whatever had smashed their roof tile must have come from the sky. 'It would have had to be Superman to break a tile in this way,' he said. It was only then that the meteorite, weighing 88 grams, was discovered.

Curious to know exactly what it was, Mrs Comette called scientist Alain Carion, who declared it an 'exceptional' discovery. 'It's extremely rare. We have had only 50 or so meteorite falls in France over four centuries,' Dr Carion said. 'We have never found anything like it within an 80- kilometre radius of Paris before.' He said the Comettes' meteorite was a piece of chondrite that had come from the belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

Some meteorites sell for high prices but the Comettes will not be selling theirs. 'A piece of the history of space has fallen on us,' Mrs Comette told Le Parisien newspaper. 'It's like a fairytale, and less likely than winning the lottery, we're told.'

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/meteorite-rocks- house-of-comette-20111011-1lj1l.html#ixzz1aXIP2c1G

-- Original report by Kim Willsher in The Guardian, passed along by John Drummond.

10. First Images from ALMA

Detailed views of star-formation in the Antennae Galaxies are the first astronomical test images released to the public from the growing Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). They confirm that this new telescope has surpassed all others of its kind while far from completed, and with only a fraction of its ultimate imaging capability

By 2013, ALMA will have more than tripled its current number of telescopes to 66. With the telescopes combined into a single system by one of the world's fastest, special-purpose supercomputers, and aimed at many more objects all across the sky, ALMA will reveal a Universe never before seen.

For text, images, and video see http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2011/almafirstpics/index.shtml

-- From a press release by the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 1)

After three successful flybys of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft entered orbit about the innermost planet on March 18. The orbital phase of the mission is enabling the first global perspective on the planet's geology, surface composition, topography, gravity and magnetic fields, exosphere, magnetosphere, and solar-wind interaction. The following notes are derived from two sources. One is a press release summarizing seven papers in a special section of the September 30 issue of Science. The other is a summary of 30 papers and posters presented on October 5 as part of a special session of the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nantes, Frances.

Only six months in Mercury orbit the MESSENGER spacecraft has shown scientists that Mercury doesn't conform to theory. Its surface material composition differs in important ways from both those of the other terrestrial planets and expectations prior to the MESSENGER mission, calling into question current theories for Mercury's formation. Its magnetic field is unlike any other in the Solar System, and there are huge expanses of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of the planet and cover more than 6% of Mercury´s surface.

Mercury's surface material is similar to that of its terrestrial cousins (Venus, Earth, Moon and Mars) but less oxidized. Possibly this is due to their being less water where Mercury formed. Mercury's surface also contains more sulphur and potassium than previously predicted. Both elements vaporize at relatively low temperatures, thus ruling out several popular scenarios in which Mercury experienced extreme high-temperature events early in its history.

MESSENGER has also discovered a huge expanse of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of Mercury. These continuous smooth plains cover more than 6% of the total surface of Mercury. The deposits appear typical of flood lavas. These are poured out from long, linear vents and cover the surrounding areas, flooding them to great depths and burying their source vents.

Other vents, measuring up to 25 km long appear to be the source of some tremendous volumes of very hot lava that have rushed out over the surface of Mercury and eroded the substrate, carving valleys and creating teardrop-shaped ridges in the underlying terrain.

New landforms MESSENGER revealed an unexpected class of landform on Mercury and suggests that a previously unrecognized geological process is responsible for its formation. Images collected during the Mariner 10 and MESSENGER flybys of Mercury showed that the floors and central mountain peaks of some impact craters are very bright and have a blue colour relative to other areas of Mercury. These deposits were considered to be unusual because no craters with similar characteristics are found on the Moon. But without higher- resolution images, the bright crater deposits remained a curiosity.

Now MESSENGER's orbital mission has provided close-up, targeted views of many of these craters. The bright areas are composed of small, shallow, irregularly shaped depressions that are often found in clusters. These have been dubbed term 'hollows' to distinguish them from other types of pits that are found on Mercury.

Hollows have been found over a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, suggesting that they are fairly common across Mercury. Many of the depressions have bright interiors and halos. Those detected so far have a fresh appearance and have not accumulated small impact craters, indicating that they are relatively young, actively forming today. The old conventional wisdom was that 'Mercury is just like the Moon.' But MESSENGER is showing us that Mercury is radically different from the Moon in just about every way we can measure.

More next month. For text & images see: http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/index.php?option=com_content&task =view&id=356&Itemid=41 http://www.europlanet-eu.org/outreach/images/stories/ep/news/epsc2011/ mono_color.jpg

-- The press releases were forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Planet Hunters Search Kepler Data

Since the online citizen science project Planet Hunters launched last December, 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering Earth-like planets orbiting around them. Users analyze real scientific data collected by NASA's Kepler mission, which has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system -- called exoplanets -- since its launch in March 2009.

Now astronomers at Yale University have announced the discovery of the first two potential exoplanets discovered by Planet Hunters users in a new study to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging from 10 to 50 days -- much shorter than the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun -- and have radii that range in size from two-and-a-half to eight times Earth's radius. Despite those differences, one of the two candidates could be a rocky, Earth-like planets (as opposed to a giant gas planet like Jupiter), although they aren't in the so-called "habitable zone" where liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist.

The Kepler team has already announced the discovery of 1,200 exoplanet candidates and will follow up on the highest potential ones with further analysis, but they had discarded the two found by Planet Hunters users for various technical reasons that led them to believe they weren't promising candidates.

Users found the two candidates in the first month of Planet Hunters operations using data the Kepler mission made publicly available. The Planet Hunters team sent the top 10 candidates found by the citizen scientists to the Kepler team, who analyzed the data and determined that two of the 10 met their criteria for being classified as planet candidates. The two candidates were flagged as potential planets by several dozen different Planet Hunters users, as the same data are analyzed by more than one user.

You can get involved yourself: http://www.planethunters.org For full text and image: http://opac.yale.edu/

-- From a Yale University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Free-Floating Brown Dwarfs Found

An international team of astronomers has discovered over two-dozen new free-floating brown dwarfs that reside in two young star clusters. One brown dwarf is a lightweight youngster only about six times heavier than Jupiter. What's more, one cluster contains a surprising surplus of brown dwarfs having half as many of them as normal stars. These findings come from deep surveys and extensive follow-up observations using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, two of the world's largest optical-infrared telescopes.

Sometimes described as failed stars, brown dwarfs straddle the boundary between stars and planets. When young, they glow brightly from the heat of formation. Eventually they cool and end up with atmospheres that exhibit planet-like characteristics.

Astronomers used the Subaru Telescope to take extremely deep images of the NGC 1333 and Rho Ophiuchi star clusters at both optical and infrared wavelengths. Once they identified candidate brown dwarfs from their very red colours, the research team verified their nature with spectra taken at Subaru and the VLT. The team's findings are reported in two upcoming papers in the Astrophysical Journal.

The six-Jupiter-mass brown dwarf found in the NGC 1333 cluster is one of the puniest free-floating objects known. Several other newly identified brown dwarfs in both the NGC 1333 and Rho Ophiuchi clusters have masses that are less than 20 times the mass of Jupiter -- placing them at the low end of the mass range for known brown dwarfs.

Brown dwarfs seem to be more common in NGC 1333 than in other young star clusters. That difference may be hinting at how different environmental conditions affect their formation,

For more see: http://www.subarutelescope.org/Pressrelease/2011/10/11/index.html

-- From a Subaru Telescope Facility press release forwarded by Karen Pollard

14. Correction - Neptune's Mass

Last month's Newsletter said that Neptune was 17 times the sun's mass; Item 1, paragraph 2. Not quite. Neptune is 17 times Earth's mass. The unhelpful note was added by a dozy Ed. It was not in the original European Southern Observatory's press release. -- Ed.

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. 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. More Rugby Geniuses

Kevin Senio (Auckland), on Night Rugby vs Day Games "It's basically the same, just darker."

David Nucifora (Auckland) talking about Troy Flavell "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you... Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'David, I don't know and I don't care.' "

David Holwell (Hurricanes) when asked about the upcoming season: "I want to reach for 150 or 200 points this season, whichever comes first."

Ma 'a Nonu "Colin has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator."

Phil Waugh "We actually got the winning try three minutes from the end but then they scored."

Jerry Collins "I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body."

Tony Brown "That kick was absolutely unique, except for the one before it which was identical."

Tana Umaga "I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father."

Doc Mayhew "Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby, but none of them serious."

Anton Oliver "If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again."

Ewan McKenzie "I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat."

Murray Mexted (1) "Andy Ellis the 21 year old, who turned 22 a few weeks ago" (2) "He scored that try after only 22 seconds - totally against the run of play." (3) "I would not say he (Rico Gear) is the best left winger in the Super14, but there are none better." (4) "Well, either side could win it, or it could be a draw." (5) "Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer."

The best Murray Deaker: "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?" Tana Umaga: "On what?"

-- Thanks to Sylvia Allan for passing these along.

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. Fifty New Exoplanets Announced
2. The Solar System in October
3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition - Closes 23rd
4. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend
5. NACAA 2012 Update
6. Third International Starlight Conference
7. Light Pollution in Christchurch and Wellington
8. Comet Elinin C/2010 X1 Breaks Up
9. James Webb Space Telescope Appeal
10. Gold in Them There Merging Neutron Stars
11. A Diamond Planet?
12. Earth and Moon Imaged from Juno
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Rugby Geniuses

1. Fifty New Exoplanets Announced

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets. Sixteen of them are 'super Earths' or planets a few times Earth's mass. One of them is 3.6 times Earth's mass and on the edge of the habitable zone of its star, the distance where the planet's temperature could allow liquid water. The group have also found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn. And the majority of exoplanets of Neptune mass or less appear to be in systems with multiple planets. These conclusions are from an analysis of HARPS observations of 376 Sun-like stars.

In the eight years since it started surveying stars like the Sun using the radial velocity technique HARPS has been used to discover more than 150 new planets. About two thirds of all the known exoplanets with masses less than that of Neptune -- 17 times the Earth's mass -- were discovered by HARPS. These results are the fruit of several hundred nights of HARPS observations.

With upgrades to both hardware and software systems in progress, HARPS is being pushed to the next level of stability and sensitivity to search for rocky planets that could support life. Ten nearby stars similar to the Sun were selected for a new survey. These stars had already been observed by HARPS and are known to be suitable for extremely precise radial velocity measurements. After two years of work, the team of astronomers has discovered five new planets with masses less than five times that of Earth. These planets will be among the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet's atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen.

The increasing precision of the new HARPS survey now allows the detection of planets under two Earth masses. HARPS is now so sensitive that it can detect radial velocity amplitudes of significantly less than 4 kph (1m/s) -- less than walking speed.

These results make astronomers confident that they are close to discovering other small rocky habitable planets around stars similar to our Sun. New instruments are planned to further this search. These include a copy of HARPS to be installed on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, to survey stars in the northern sky, as well as a new and more powerful planet-finder, called ESPRESSO, to be installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope in 2016. Looking further into the future also the CODEX instrument on the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will push this technique to a higher level.

For more in text, image, and video see: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1134/

-- from a European Southern Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

2. The Solar System in October

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for October 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Oct_11.htm. Notes for November 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in october

Mercury and Venus become a close pair of planets visible in the early evening sky during the second half of the month.

Jupiter rises at sunset by the end of October so will be easily visible late evening as well as in the dawn sky early in the month. Mars remains a morning object to the northeast in the early dawn sky.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on October 14 (NZDT) so is not observable throughout the month.

Early evening sky - venus and mercury

Venus´s elongation from the Sun increases during October: it will set about an hour after the Sun on October 1 and one-and-three-quarter hours after it by the end of the month.

As it moves a little higher into the evening sky during the month Venus will pass a couple of bright stars. The first and brighter is Spica on the 4th and 5th. The two are closest, just under 3° apart, on the 4th, with Spica to the upper left of Venus. The following evening the two will be level but a shade further apart. Half an hour after sunset they will be about 5° above the horizon.

Later in the month, Venus will pass the wide double alpha Lib. At their closest on the 21st the two will be less than 15 arc-minutes apart, shortly before they set in NZ. Venus will be to the left of the star. But by the 21st Venus will have a companion planet.

Following its conjunction at the end of September, Mercury will emerge from the glare of the Sun into the evening sky by mid October. As it emerges from the Sun, Mercury will pass Saturn on the 6th and 7th but they will be too low in the twilight to see. By mid October when it is likely to become visible, Mercury will be some 4° below Venus, but will gradually catch up with it during the second part of the month.

Mercury passes alpha Lib on the 23rd, when the planet will be just over 1.5° to the upper left of the star. At magnitude -0.4, Mercury will be much the brighter. Venus will be less than 3° to the upper right of Mercury, so the 3 will easily be in a binocular field. By the end of the month the two planets will be just about level, Mercury 2° to the left of Venus.

On the 28th the two planets will be joined by the crescent moon only 3% lit. The moon will be just above the two planets, again the three easily in a binocular field. Earlier in the afternoon the moon will occult Mercury as seen from NZ, an event which may be visible in a moderate sized telescope. But care would be needed in any attempt at viewing, as they will be only 18° from the Sun.

Jupiter is at opposition on October 29, so will be readily observable in the late evening as well as the morning sky, although very low at sunrise by the month´s end. The planet will be in Aries, some 10° or so from the 2nd magnitude alpha and beta Ari, the brightest stars of the constellation. One the other side of Jupiter, the 2.5 magnitude star alpha Ceti will be a little further away.

On the night of October 13/14 the 88% lit moon will be just under 6° from Jupiter. At midnight the two will be to the northeast with the moon to the left of and a little lower than the planet. By the morning of the 14th, before sunrise, the pair will be to the northwest, the rotation of the sky bringing the moon almost directly below Jupiter.

Morning sky

Mars rises in the morning a little over 2 hours before the Sun. So it remains best observed 45 minutes or more before sunrise when it will rather low to the northeast. Mars brightens slightly during October from magnitude 1.3 to 1.1.

The planet starts the month in Cancer on the edge of the Praesepe (Beehive) star cluster, M44. Over the following two mornings it will cross the cluster. Mars will be near the centre of Praesepe on the morning of the 2nd. The best views will be obtained through binoculars when the degree wide cluster will be seen peppered with 6th to 8th magnitude stars.

Mars will move on into Leo on the 20th heading in the direction of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation. On the morning of the 22nd, the 33% lit moon will be just over 5° above Mars.


Uranus rises before sunset in October so will be suitably placed for viewing in the evening after the sky is dark. It will be in Pisces about 20° from the brightest star in Cetus, alpha Cet magnitude 2.0. It will also be 36° from Jupiter.

Neptune is in Aquarius during October at magnitude 7.8. It rises some hours before sunset so is well placed for viewing during the evening. It is about as far ahead of Uranus as Uranus is from Jupiter.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres, like Neptune, is in Aquarius and will also be well placed for viewing during the evening. It dims a little during the month from magnitude 7.8 to 8.3.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus starting the month half a degree from the 4th magnitude star psi Cap. The two are closest as seen from NZ on the nights of October 5 and 6 when they are about 5 arc-minutes apart. During October, Vesta fades from magnitude 6.9 to 7.5.

(15) Eunomia will brighten from magnitude 8.9 to 8.4 during October. It will then be in Perseus and move little during the month. With a declination of +37° to +38° it will remain low in New Zealand skies. Eunomia is stationary on October 16, after which will move in a retrograde sense to the west in Perseus.

(29) Amphitrite brightens to magnitude 8.9 at the end of October. It will be in Aries, some 7° from Hamal and 11° from Jupiter on the 31st.

(1036) Ganymed brightens to magnitude 9.0 at the beginning of October and to magnitude 8.3 when at opposition on the 29th, the same day as Jupiter. At the beginning of the month Ganymed will be in Andromeda, only rising in the North Island. During October the asteroid moves almost due south, crossing Triangulum from October 12 to 19 and then moving into Aries. It will be just under 1° to the left of Hamal, alpha Ari mag 2.0, on the 21st and close to Jupiter when at opposition. The planet and asteroid are closest on the 31st, with the asteroid just over 1° to the left of the planet in the evening sky.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

Comets:

C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is expected to be at about magnitude 8 during October. It will be slowly moving to the west in Hercules during October. The comet will be set just before midnight NZDT, at the beginning of October, and by 9.30 pm at the end of the month. So particularly by late October it will be very low in southern skies.

Further details and charts for the two comets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2011.

-- Brian Loader

3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition - Closes 23rd

Jennie McCormick reminds astrophotographers that the Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition closing date is fast approaching - Friday 23rd September 2011.

There are 4 categories in this year's competition: Deep Space, Solar System, Artistic/Miscellaneous, Scientific.

You can download your entry form and competition details from the Auckland Astronomical Society Website. http://www.astronomy.org.nz Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland late October, 2011 (date yet to be advised) Competition closing date - Friday 23rd September 2011.

Please send your entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2011 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: 2011 HW Astrophotography Competition

4. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend

John Drummond plans to hold another Gissy Gathering in October from Thursday 20th (Hawkes Bay Anniversary is on Friday) until Monday 24th (Labour Day) - people are welcome to leave Tuesday morning though.

This is like a micro-Stardate where there is imaging and observing at night and discussions about imaging/astronomy during the day using a data projector. The site offers a dark sky with a shop and pub down the road. There are number of telescopes to use for imaging - or to piggyback cameras on.

There is two acres for tenting and some sofas/floor space in the house for sleeping. The weekend costs $5 per person, per night to cover power and water. BYO food and drink.

If you want a fun, relaxing long-weekend observing with fellow astronomers then come along!!!

If you are keen on coming please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . His home number is (06) 8627 557 and mobile is 0275 609 287.

There is a webpage about the weekend at - http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/gissy_gathering-2011.htm

5. NACAA 2012 Update

Steve Russell writes: NACAA has had some technical problems with its web site. They have unfortunately coincided with our mail-out of Bulletin 1, which asked you to register your interest in attending NACAA 2012 via our broken web site. Oops. Apologies for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.

The problems have been circumvented (for now), so if you would like to let us know that you are coming, please fill in the form at http://www.nacaa.org.au/2012/interested.

Please encourage all of your friends or colleagues who might be thinking of attending NACAA XXV to fill in the form too. This will help us expand our mailing list so that everyone will receive updates as they happen.

In case you are wondering, the Call For Presentations should be coming out in the next week or so. At this stage, the Programme Committee is particularly interested in receiving proposals for workshops, round-tables, or other major meetings. If you have something like this in mind, let us know soon to assist our planning. ---------- For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

6. Third International Starlight Conference

The Third International Starlight Conference, subtitled "in defence of the quality of the night sky and the right to observe the stars" will be held on 11, 12 and 13 June 2012 at Lake Tekapo.

The conference will be the third in a series, following meetings in La Palma in April 2007 and on Fuerteventura in March 2009. It will address themes concerning o the defence of the quality of the night sky, o the right to observe the stars, the heritage of starlight, o the issues of light pollution, the protection of observatory sites, o the benefits of public outreach in astronomy and o the cultural aspects of visual astronomy. We will also discuss the concept, implementation and benefits of Starlight Reserves as a means of protecting the night sky, and the progress towards such reserves made in the document entitled "Heritage sites of astronomy and archaeoastronomy in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: a Thematic Study", which was produced under the aegis of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), with Clive Rugles and Michel Cotte as editors. The Thematic Study was presented to the World Heritage Convention in Brasilia in July 2010

In addition, several radio astronomers have pointed out that the issues of radio-frequency interference have much in common with issues of light pollution. We will therefore expand the topics under discussion to RFI and the development of radio-astronomy in New Zealand, especially the selection of radio-quiet sites. This is topical as New Zealand may participate with Australia in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio- astronomy project.

For more information see www.starlight2012.org

7. Light Pollution in Christchurch and Wellington

Christchurch's White Lights of Hope have not met with universal acclamation. This copy-cat idea -- see New York -- was instigated by Janine Morell-Gunn, of Whitebait-TV. The following paragraphs are a compilation of opinions posted to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group.

Semi-permanent xenon lights will range around Christchurch's sky every night till 23 February. So any attempt to do astrophotography near Christchurch is now out of the question. Surprisingly there is no push to have them turned off at midnight, or have them on once a week, etc.

This type of thing has set a precedent for much more light pollution in NZ. How many other centres will think something like this is a good idea and have lights on all the time? (Well, Wellington for a start. See below.)

There are complaints about green lasers being pointed at aircraft, yet these lights are allowed to go over all the sky. One would expect that the glare seen from the air would be as dangerous as a laser. Christchurch was quick to adopt Earth Hour as a symbol to save power. All these lights do is waste power and cause massive light pollution. The government has TV adverts asking people to save energy. Meanwhile the Christchurch council allowing it to be wasted on projects like this.

Westpac is said to be paying for the energy wasted by the lights. But who really pays? You and I do indirectly through higher bank fees, etc. Nothing like this is free. You pay for it one way or another.

And Wellington is into this as well. The Carter Observatory has had a clear sky ruined by a searchlight at the waterfront pointing its light over the observatory. And worse has followed if the promise in this press release from Victoria University has been fulfilled:

"This Saturday the night sky over Wellington will come alive with lights being beamed across the city. Victoria University has teamed up with key supporters to present 'Lights over Victoria', a project designed to shine lights over Wellington during the months of September and October.

High-powered beams will be projected from a building at each of Victoria's Kelburn, Te Aro and Pipitea campuses and will converge over the CBD.

We are proud of our capital city location and this light show will contribute to the amazing atmosphere that will grip the city during the exciting sporting and cultural events planned for that time, says Andrew Simpson, Chief Operating Officer.

Fuji Xerox, Dimension Data, EMC, Mainzeal, Downer and NEC Business Solutions have come on board to sponsor what they regard as a unique chance to work with a key client Victoria University to shine a light on the city of Wellington.

The lights will be on each evening from 10 September until 23 October."

---------------- For more comment, and a chance to air your views on this wastage and pollution, see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Light-Pollution-in-New-Zealand/213022928755587

-- thanks to the several nzastronomers contributors whose original comments have been somewhat edited and re-ordered above.

8. Comet Elenin C/2010 X1 Breaks Up

For some reason internet cranks latched onto Comet Elenin C/2010 X1 and made dire predictions of its effect on Earth when it passed by in October. Among other claims were that was a brown dwarf star and that it would block out the sun for three days. For a selection of fearful questions, and answers by people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-255

Ironically the comet has broken up so is unlikely to even be visible in October. On August 31 Dan Green of the IAU's Central Bureau reported in CBET 2801 that observations by Michael Mattiazzo of Castlemaine, Victoria, showed the comet to be disintegrating. This followed a notable fading of the comet from August 17 to 22 and the comet becoming dispersed in CCD images. An image taken by Mattiazzo on August 27.37 UT showed the nuclear condensation spread out into an elongated, diffuse smudge, reminiscent of comet C/1999 S4. Robert McNaught confirmed this appearance on images taken with the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring, noting that there is absolutely no condensation visible, making astrometry very difficult.

Many comets have been seen to disintegrate in this way. The 'dirty snowball' that is the solid part of the comet simply breaks into pieces that evaporate away. From its faintness it was apparent that Comet Elinin had a small nucleus in the first place, estimated at 3-5 km across.

L. Elenin of Lyubertsy, Russia, has since discovered periodic comet P/2011 No1. It was initially filed as an asteroid before a slight fuzz around it was noticed. P/2011 No1 circles the sun in 13 years. It was discovered remotely with 0.45-m f/2.8 astrograph at the ISON-NM Observatory, Mayhill, USA.

-- Thanks to Karen Pollard for passing along the NASA JPL link. ----------------- A depressing sample of internet conspiracy delusion can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0Ydmin8Lp8&feature=share As well as the late Comet Elenin something called Nobiru is headed our way intent on our doom. As if the Mayan calendar and the global economy weren't enough to worry about...

9. James Webb Space Telescope Appeal

The following letter was circulated to US scientists and is probably not intended for action by Australasian readers. However it gives an idea of how imperilled is the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope. ----------------- Dear Colleague:

I am writing you as Department Chair or unit Director of one of the nation's Astronomy or Physics and Astronomy Departments with the request to distribute the attached information on your campus or institution. If you are no long chairing your unit, would you please forward it to the appropriate person, or distribute it independently?

As you probably know, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been under considerable pressure recently, with the US House of Representatives canceling its Fy12 funding. More than 75% of JWST's launch mass has been procured or constructed to date, and there are no technological show-stoppers to finish the project. As NASA's next Flagship mission, JWST is a unique science mission and is a worthy successor to NASA's Great Observatories like Hubble and Spitzer, with very significant scientific promise ranging from exoplanets to the epoch of the first stars. At the time of the JWST launch in 2018, Spitzer will be gone, and HST and Chandra will be approaching the very end of their lives. JWST will be the primary tool in space to sustain a flow of discoveries and support to the astronomical community, and inspire students and science in the nation for decades to come.

Mike Turner's recent Editorial in Science shows how broad the support is for JWST outside astronomy. Quoting him: "Following in the footsteps of the Hubble, the Webb Telescope will awe us with its discoveries about our place in the universe. Although the United States has key international partners (Canada and the European Space Agency are contributing close to a billion dollars in total to the Webb Telescope), and the capabilities of other nations in space are on the rise, at present only the United States can carry out an undertaking this ambitious. The Webb Telescope is more than an instrument of scientific discovery -- it is a powerful symbol of U.S. leadership in science and space. Terminating it now would save a few billion dollars, but would be both wasteful and short-sighted. By restoring funding for the Webb in this difficult budgetary time, Congress can let the world know that the United States still has the vision and audacity to do things that inspire both the nation and the world."

The JWST project management issues that surfaced this last year have been reviewed by a number of independent teams, resulting in bottom-up cost estimates to finish the project. A viable plan has been put forward by NASA HQ to move JWST to the launchpad, while finding ways to carry out other priorities set in previous Decadal surveys. The Executive Branch is currently considering this plan, and Congress will take it up in early Fall.

I personally believe that not finishing JWST would be an unmitigated disaster for astronomy and astrophysics in the US and worldwide, that will reverberate in our field for decades to come. I would be honored for you to join me in weighing in on JWST's behalf.

More information about JWST can be found on the following web-site: http://www.aura-astronomy.org/news/news.asp?newsID=264

In case you wish to speak up more specifically on behalf of JWST's future, I will send a separate Email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views expressed here are my personal ones and not meant to suggest or imply any opinion or position of the University. My sincere thanks for distributing this amongst your colleagues, and your campus or institution.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Rogier A. Windhorst, Regents' and Foundation Professor, JWST Interdisciplinary Scientist, School of Earth & Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

-- forwarded by Karen Pollard

10. Gold in Them There Merging Neutron Stars

Heavy elements such as gold and lead may come from the merging of neutron stars. That is a conclusion from detailed numerical simulations by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) and affiliated to the Excellence Cluster Universe and of the Free University of Brussels (ULB).

Most heavy chemical elements are formed in nuclear fusion reactions in stars. In the centre of our Sun, hydrogen is 'burned' to create helium, thereby releasing energy. Heavier elements are then produced from helium if the star is more massive than our Sun. This process, however, only works up to iron; further fusion reactions do not yield any net energy gain. Therefore heavier elements cannot be produced in this fashion. Instead, they can be assembled when neutrons are captured onto 'seed' nuclei, which then decay radioactively.

This involves two main processes: the slow neutron capture (s-process), which takes place at low neutron densities inside stars during their late evolution stages, and the rapid neutron capture (r-process), which needs very high neutron densities. Physicists know that the r-process is responsible for producing a large fraction of the elements much heavier than iron, those with nuclear mass numbers (A) greater than 80, including platinum, gold, thorium, and plutonium. However, the question of which astrophysical objects can accommodate the r-process remains to be answered. The most popular idea has been that they originate from supernova explosions that end the lives of massive stars. But newer models do not support this idea.

Violent mergers of neutron stars in binary systems offer an alternative scenario. The two neutron stars, each itself the result of a supernova explosion, collide after millions of years of spiralling towards each other. For the first time, scientists at the MPA and the ULB have now simulated all stages of the processes occurring in such mergers by detailed computer models.

This includes both the evolution of the neutron star matter during the relativistic cosmic crashes and the formation of chemical elements in the tiny fraction of the whole matter that gets ejected during such events. That involves the nuclear reactions of more than 5,000 atomic nuclei; chemical elements and their isotopes.

In a fraction of a second after the merger of the two neutron stars, tidal and pressure forces eject extremely hot matter equivalent to several Jupiter masses. Once this so-called plasma has cooled to less than 10 billion degrees a multitude of nuclear reactions take place. These include radioactive decays that produce heavy elements. The heavy elements are 'recycled' several times in various reaction chains involving the fission of super-heavy nuclei. So the final abundance distribution is largely insensitive to the initial conditions provided by the merger model.

This agrees well with previous speculations that the reaction properties of the atomic nuclei involved should be the decisive determining factor. It is the most natural explanation for the essentially identical abundances of the heaviest r-process elements observed in many old stars and in our solar system.

The simulations showed that the abundance distribution of the heaviest elements, A > 140, agrees very well with the abundances observed in our solar system. Combining this with the estimated number of neutron star collisions in the Milky Way in the past indicates that such events could in fact be the main sources of the heaviest chemical elements in the Universe. The team plans now to conduct new studies to further improve the theoretical predictions by refined computer simulations that can follow the physical processes in even more detail.

In the meantime observational astronomers should watch for the transient celestial sources associated with neutron star mergers. The ejecta heated by radioactive decay will shine with almost the brightness of a supernova explosion -- albeit only for a few days. Such a discovery would mean the first observational hint of freshly produced r-process elements at the source of their origin. The hunt is on!

For text and mages see: http://www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/mpa/institute/news_archives/news1109_janka/news1109_janka-en.html

-- from a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. A Diamond Planet?

A planet made of solid diamond may have been found. The discovery was made by an international research team with scientists from Australia, Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA.

The planet orbits a pulsar, a fast-spinning neutron star. A neutron star is the crushed core of a star that was many times heavier than the sun. The core of the star exhausted its thermonuclear energy and collapsed, causing the outer layers of the star to explode off as a supernova. Neutron stars have densities similar to an atomic nucleus: around one billion tonnes per cubic centimetre.

The diamond planet's pulsar, catalogued as PSR J1719-1438, spins very rapidly, more than 10,000 times per minute. It has a mass of about 1.4 times that of our Sun but is only 20 km in radius. The neutron star has a very strong magnetic field. As the field rotates with the spinning star it causes a beam of radio noise to be swept over us. Radio astronomers hear this pulsing signal from the 'star'; hence the name 'pulsar'.

Because of its fast spin J1719-1438 is termed as millisecond pulsar. About 70% of millisecond pulsars have companions of some kind. It is thought that they get spun up by material spiralling onto them from a companion star. The result is a fast-spinning millisecond pulsar with a shrunken companion, most often a white dwarf.

The team was able to detect and confirm the 'diamond planet' with the 64-m radio telescope in Parkes, Australia, the Lovell radio telescope in the UK and one of the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. The pulsar and its planet lie 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. The system is about a seventh of the way towards the galactic centre from the Earth and is in the Milky Way's plane of stars.

The pulses of J1719-1438 are modulated as it orbits around the centre of mass between it and the planet. The modulations show that the planet orbits the pulsar in just two hours and ten minutes. The distance between the two objects is 600,000 km, a little bit less than the radius of our Sun.

The closeness of the planet gives clues to its size. If its diameter was any larger than 60,000 km (less than half the diameter of Jupiter) it would be ripped apart by tidal forces from the gravity of the pulsar. To resist tidal disruption the density of the planet is at least that of platinum, 21 times that of water. That provides a clue to its origin.

The pulsar and its companion are so close together that the companion could only be a very stripped-down white dwarf. It has lost its outer layers and over 99.9% of its original mass. The remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen. Stars of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium just won't fit. The density means that this material is certain to be crystalline. That is, a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.

The ultimate fate of close binary star system is determined by the mass and orbital period of the donor star at the time of mass transfer. The rarity of millisecond pulsars with planet-mass companions means that producing such exotic planets is the exception rather than the rule, and requires special circumstances.

For full text and Images see: http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-pulsar-august2011-en.html

-- from a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and the Max Planck Society in Munich, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Earth and Moon Imaged from Juno

For a picture of the Earth and Moon from 10 million km see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-271 The image was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft August 26.

The solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5 to begin its five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno covered the distance from Earth to the Moon, about 400,000 km, in less than a day. It will take the spacecraft another five years and 2,800 million km of looping orbits to complete the journey to Jupiter.

The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times and use its eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

More information about Juno see http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu .

-- from a NASA JPL Press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. 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

14. 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

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. 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. Rugby Geniuses

Jono Gibbs, Chiefs: "Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Rodney So'ialo, Hurricanes, on University: "I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."

Colin Cooper, Hurricanes head coach: "You guys line up alphabetically by height." And, "You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle."

Chris Masoe (Hurricanes) on whether he had visited the Pyramids during his visit to Egypt: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."

Colin Cooper on Paul Tito: "He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is."

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

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Southern Stars: Volume 50, number 3. September 2011. Pp 1 - 20.
Under Capricorn - under Cancer

William Tobin. Looking up and admiring the heavens is part of what astronomy is about. But what to do when the sky is unavailable for some reason? Construct a plasterboard dome rising into the roof space above your ceiling?and paint on the stars!
Volume 50, number 3. September 2011. Pp

Tailed Radio Galaxies as Environmental Probes
Siamak Dehghan and Melanie Johnston-Hollitt.

We provide a brief overview of tailed radio galaxies and discuss how their morphology relates to the environment in which they reside. We report on the initial results of our simulations on the galaxy PKS J0334-3900 which show that a combination of cluster weather and orbital motion are required to generate the observed radio tails. Finally we show 12 newly detected HT galaxies in the Chandra Deep Field-South, including galaxy S447 - the most distant HT ever found.
Volume 50, number 3. September 2011. Pp

Jupiter Galilean Moons Mutual Extinction Events
John Talbot and Scott Degenhardt.

Occultations of stars by planets such as Pluto have been used to detect and determine the structure of the planet's atmosphere. During the period of Jupiter moon mutual occultations and eclipses (JMEs) in 2008-09 some observers recorded apparent small changes in light flux before and after the main predicted events.
Volume 50, number 3. September 2011. Pp

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. Stu Parker Finds Hypernova
2. The Solar System in September
3. Herbert Astronomy Weekend
4. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition
5. Mt John Community Nights
6. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend
7. NACAA 2012
8. Third International Starlight Conference
9. RASNZ Conference 2012
10. Tom Gehrels
11. Juno Spacecraft Off to Jupiter
12. Kepler Studies Planetary Nebula
13. Active Black Hole Pair Discovered
14. Pluto's Fourth Moon
15. Earth's First Trojan Asteroid Discovered
16. 16-inch Dobsonian for Sale
17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
18. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
19. How to Join the RASNZ
20. Quotes

1. Stu Parker Finds Hypernova

On the 25th July Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury discovered his 18th supernova. It quickly turned out to be the most exciting and interesting object he has discovered to date.

Discovered at a faint 18.3r magnitude in NGC6925, in Microscopium, the object was rapidly brightening. Stu's Australian collaborators in the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS) provided confirmation. Greg Bock was away at Leyburn and was able to quickly get the confirmation image, while Colin Drescher away at Queensland Astrofest was able to supply highly accurate positional and magnitude data. Peter Marples logged the possible discovery on the IAU Central Bureau's (CBAT) Transient Objects Confirmation Page (TOCP) and sent the advice to CBAT. BOSS members also made contact with a Nidia Morrell of the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. She obtained spectra using one of the 6.5m Magellan telescopes and found that object was a type IIb event -- a hypernova -- because lines were broad. The spectrum was similar to that of supernova 1993J a few days prior to maximum light.

Things happened quickly. Stu got an email from Dan Milisavljevic of the South African Large Telescope (SALT), a contact he made at the resent supernova conference, saying "Stu, looks like you may have found something exciting." When the 11m SALT telescope in South Africa and the 6.5m Magellan scopes in Chile are buzzing you know you have achieved something special.

The object was given the preliminary designation PSN J20342262 -3158236, based on its 2000 co-ordinates, and images were posted at http://www.rochesterastronomy.org/snimages/ . After spectroscopic confirmation that the object was a supernova, it was given the designation 2011ei and officially announced in Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) 2777.

Raffaella Margutti and colleagues of Harvard University reported that the spectral properties of 2011ei show a good match to the energetic type- IIb 'hypernova' 2003bg approximately 7 days before maximum light. The Swift satellite observed the field of 2011ei on August 3 but did not detect any x-rays.

Laura Chomiuk and Alicia Soderberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics detected SN 2011ei with the EVLA radio telescope array. On August 5.2 UT it showed a signal strength of 143 +/- 30 microJansky at 5.0 GHz.

Peter Marples wrote the following tribute to Stu's success: "So again, a huge congratulations to Stu Parker and his wife Lynne who supports him in his dedication. They both run a dairy farm in New Zealand and somehow Stu manages 600 plus images per clear night, then blinks them and still manages to get the cows milked. I can't tell you how many hours this involves but it's lots!

Goes to show that YOU an amateur astronomer can contribute to the science of this great hobby with pretty much standard off the shelf gear, you just got to add time and effort."

-- thanks to Peter Marples for background on the discovery and Stuart Parker for updates on the preliminary science results.

2. The Solar System in September

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for September 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Sep_11.htm. Notes for October 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The southern spring equinox is on September 23 with the Sun on the equator at 9.05 pm. NZDT starts about 29 hours later, on the morning of Sunday 25 September.

The planets in september

In the early evening Saturn gets very low and is passed by Venus at the end of September as it emerges from the Sun.

Jupiter rises later in the evening but is still best seen before dawn. Mars remains a morning object as well. Mercury is too close to the Sun to view.

Early evening sky - venus and saturn

Venus is an early evening object throughout September but on the 1st it sets only 15 minutes after the Sun. Thus it is not likely to be seen then. By the end of the month the planet will set about one hour later than the Sun. 20 minutes after sunset Venus should be visible about 6° above the horizon to the west.

Towards the end of September Venus will move past Saturn. The two are closest on September 28 and 29. While Saturn is not likely to be visible to the eye Venus should be, low to the west, shortly after sunset. Binoculars are then likely to show Saturn.

Also on the 28th the moon, a very thin crescent only 1% lit, will be 5° to the left of Venus. Again, having found Venus, it may be possible to see the moon using binoculars. It will be a very challenging observation, as New Moon occurs barely 20 hours earlier.

Saturn sets at about 9pm at the beginning of September so will be visible in the evening sky, low to the west, once the sky darkens. It gets steadily lower during the month, to set soon after 8pm (NZDT) by September 30, not quite an hour after the Sun. As a result, Saturn will become lost to view in the evening twilight during the month.

Late evening and morning sky

Jupiter will rise close to 11pm for most of New Zealand at the beginning of September, but after 11.30pm in the far south. The time at which Jupiter rises will advance by two hours during the month, but the start of NZDT pushes this back one hour to about 10pm NZDT.

Although by the 30th Jupiter will be easily visible to the northeast by midnight, it will still be better placed for viewing in the morning a while before sunrise when the planet will be to the northwest.

On the night of September 16/17 the 85% lit moon will be 5° from Jupiter. At midnight the two will be to the northeast with the moon to the left of the planet. By the morning of the 17th, before sunrise, the pair will be to the northwest, the rotation of the sky bringing the moon almost directly below Jupiter. The star Hamal will be on the opposite side of the moon and just slightly further away. At magnitude 2.0, Hamal is the brightest star in Aries.

Morning sky

Mars continues to rise in the morning a little over 2 hours before the Sun. The planet will be moving to the east, at first in Gemini and then in Cancer from the 16th. Mars remains as magnitude 1.4 so it will be necessary to look for it at least 45 minutes before sunrise, otherwise the brightening dawn sky will swamp out the planet. 45 minutes before sunrise the planet will be to the northeast with an altitude ranging from 10° in the south of NZ to 16° in the north.

The brightest star in Gemini, Pollux or beta Gem, will be 6° below and a little to the left of Mars on the morning of the 9th of September. Procyon, at magnitude 0.5 the brightest star in Canis Minor, will be 17° away on the other side of Mars. The planet and two stars will form an almost straight line.

The crescent moon will be closest to Mars on the morning of the 24th when it will be 7.5° to the right of the planet. The previous morning it will be a similar distance to the upper left of Mars.

On the last morning of September, Mars will be on the edge of M44, "Praesepe" or the "Beehive" star cluster. It will cross the cluster between the 1st and 3rd of October.

Mercury is not observable for southern hemisphere viewers during September. It rises in the morning sky before the Sun for almost the whole of the month, but at its best at the beginning of September only 45 minutes earlier. As a result it will be too low in the twilight to see.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation, 18° west of the Sun on September 3. After that, the planet will move back towards the Sun until on September 29 Mercury is at superior conjunction. If it could be seen, Mercury would then appear to be just over 1° from the Sun. In reality it will be 59 million km beyond the Sun, and 209 million km (1.40 AU) from the Earth.


Uranus rises about 8pm early September and about 7pm (NZDT) by the end of the month, so will be suitably placed for viewing later in the evening. It will be in Pisces slowly moving in a retrograde sense. Uranus is at opposition on the 26th with a magnitude 5.7.

Neptune is in Aquarius during September at magnitude 7.8. It rises before sunset so is well placed for viewing during the evening.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is at opposition in Cetus on September 16 at magnitude 7.6. A few nights later, on the 23rd in NZ, the asteroid will move into Aquarius. Ceres will be well placed for viewing by mid evening.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus and beginning to fade following its August opposition. During September its magnitude increases from 6.3 to 7.0, so remains brighter than Ceres. It is also well placed for evening viewing.

(15) Eunomia will brighten to magnitude 9.0 at the end of September. It will then be in Perseus. With a declination of +37° it will be low in New Zealand skies.

(192) Nausikaa is at opposition in Aquarius on September 2 at magnitude 8.3. It will be in Aquarius about 10° from Neptune. By the end of the month it Nausikaa will have faded to magnitude 9.0.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

Comets:

C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is expected to be at about magnitude 8 during September. It moves from Sagitta to Hercules on September 12. The comet will be a morning object, rising about midnight.

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková rises less than 2 hours before the Sun in NZ, so will be very low in the dawn sky. The comet starts the month in Hydra, and crosses into Leo on the 10th. At about magnitude 8, it will be 3° to the upper right of Regulus on the morning of the 25th, with the crescent moon some 7° to the upper left of star and comet.

Further details and charts for the two comets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2011.

-- Brian Loader.

3. Herbert Astronomy Weekend

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend will again be held at Camp Iona from Friday September 2nd to Monday September 5th.

Camp Iona is signposted 2km to the west of Herbert, 20 km south of Oamaru on Highway 1. Camp Iona has bunkrooms, a well equipped kitchen, a hall with an open fireplace, and good bathrooms with showers. You will need to bring your own food, plates, cutlery and sleeping bags. We will supply tea/coffee/Milo, milk and biscuits for morning teas and supper. You will also need to bring warm clothes to Camp Iona, and a telescope if applicable.

The fees are: Adults - $12 for one night; $24 for two nights. $30 for three nights. Secondary school teenagers $10 per night. Children aged 5-12 $6 per night. Pay your fees on-site at Camp Iona.

Those intending to come to the Herbert Astronomy Weekend are definitely encouraged to register online at http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/ where more details about the Weekend can be viewed on the webpage.

There will be a few speakers. A data projector, screen and computer will be available.

If you wish to present a talk, or have any queries about the Herbert Astronomy Weekend, please contact Ross Dickie emai: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Euan Mason email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition

This is the first announcement to all NZ astronomers, astrophotographers, photographers etc, that the Auckland Astronomical Society's 2011 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now underway. This 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 year's competition Deep Space Solar System Artistic/Mis Scientific You can download your entry form and competition details from the Auckland Astronomical Society Website. http://www.astronomy.org.nz Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland late October, 2011 (date yet to be advised). Competition closing date - Friday 23rd September 2011. Please send your entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2011 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition 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: 2011 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- from a note by Jennie McCormick to the NZastronomers Yahoo group.

5. Mt John Community Nights

Mt John Observatory will be open to the public on the evenings of August 26 and 27, Friday and Saturday, from 6:30 to 9 pm. University of Canterbury telescopes, two 60-cm and the 1-metre, will be available for looking through. Earth and Sky Ltd (E&S) will have their 16-inch Meade and other telescopes open, also the Astrocafé. Parking is at the bottom of the hill. E&S buses will shuttle visitors from there to the top. Charges are $20 per adult; $5 for high school; primary and under 5's free. For weather enquiries phone 03 680 6960 or 03 680 6000. The Community Nights are a fund-raiser for Lake Tekapo School.

6. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend

John Drummond plans to hold another Gissy Gathering in October from Thursday 20th (Hawkes Bay Anniversary is on Friday) until Monday 24th (Labour Day) - people are welcome to leave Tuesday morning though.

This is like a micro-Stardate where there is imaging and observing at night and discussions about imaging/astronomy during the day using a data projector. The site offers a dark sky with a shop and pub down the road. There are number of telescopes to use for imaging - or to piggyback cameras on.

There is two acres for tenting and some sofas/floor space in the house for sleeping. The weekend costs $5 per person, per night to cover power and water. BYO food and drink.

If you want a fun, relaxing long-weekend observing with fellow astronomers then come along!!!

If you are keen on coming please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . His home number is (06) 8627 557 and mobile is 0275 609 287.

There is a webpage about the weekend at - http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/gissy_gathering-2011.htm

7. NACAA 2012

The 25th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) meets in Brisbane over Easter, April 6-9. The meeting at the University of Queensland campus is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland and supported by other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland.

The sixth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations and the inaugural Variable Stars South Symposium will be held as part of the NACAA programme. Registrations for NACAA XXV will commence in late 2011.

For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

8. Third International Starlight Conference

The Third International Starlight Conference, subtitled "in defence of the quality of the night sky and the right to observe the stars" will be held on 11, 12 and 13 June 2012 at Lake Tekapo.

The conference will be the third in a series, following meetings in La Palma in April 2007 and on Fuerteventura in March 2009. It will address themes concerning o the defence of the quality of the night sky, o the right to observe the stars, the heritage of starlight, o the issues of light pollution, the protection of observatory sites, o the benefits of public outreach in astronomy and o the cultural aspects of visual astronomy. We will also discuss the concept, implementation and benefits of Starlight Reserves as a means of protecting the night sky, and the progress towards such reserves made in the document entitled "Heritage sites of astronomy and archaeoastronomy in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: a Thematic Study", which was produced under the aegis of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), with Clive Ruggles and Michel Cotte as editors. The Thematic Study was presented to the World Heritage Convention in Brasilia in July 2010

In addition, several radio astronomers have pointed out that the issues of radio-frequency interference have much in common with issues of light pollution. We will therefore expand the topics under discussion to RFI and the development of radio-astronomy in New Zealand, especially the selection of radio-quiet sites. This is topical as New Zealand may participate with Australia in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio- astronomy project.

For more information see www.starlight2012.org

9. RASNZ Conference 2012

The 2012 RASNZ conference, hosted by the Phoenix Astronomical Society will be held at Masterton on 15-17 June at the Copthorne Hotel & Resort, Solway Park, Masterton, shortly after the transit of Venus. Further details will appear on the RASNZ website when available.

10. Tom Gehrels

Dutch asteroid and comet discoverer and researcher Tom Gehrels died in Tuscon Arizona on 11 July 2011 aged 86. A graduate of Leiden University (1951), he earned a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1956 and joined the University of Arizona in 1961. His name is closely linked with the Pioneer 10 and 11 space-probes and the Spacewatch Program started in 1980.

Quote from a Radio Netherlands article (link below): [Journalist] Mr Schilling also recounted a conversation he had with Dr Gehrels about his work at on the Spacewatch Project. The journalist asked: "Suppose an asteroid that would hit Earth is discovered. What would you do?" Dr Gehrels replied, "Go out there and have a look, of course!"

Obituaries can be found at ... University of Arizona: http://uanews.org/node/40649 Sky & Telescope: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/125432648.html Radio Netherlands report: http://www.rnw.nl/africa/bulletin/dutch-american-astronomer-tom-gehrels- dies There is also a Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Gehrels

-- Thanks to Roland Idaczyk for this note.

11. Juno Spacecraft Off to Jupiter

NASA's solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on August 5 to begin a five-year journey to Jupiter.

Juno's detailed study of the largest planet in our solar system will help reveal Jupiter's origin and evolution. As the archetype of giant gas planets, Jupiter can help scientists understand the origin of our solar system and learn more about planetary systems around other stars.

Juno will cover the distance from Earth to the Moon, about 400,000 km in less than one day. It will take another five years 2,800 million km to complete the journey to Jupiter. The spacecraft will orbit the planet's poles 33 times and use its collection of eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere, and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

With four large moons and many smaller moons, Jupiter forms its own miniature solar system. Its composition resembles a star's, and if it had been about 80 times more massive, the planet could have become a star instead.

'Jupiter is the Rosetta Stone of our solar system,' said Scott Bolton, Juno¹s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'It is by far the oldest planet, contains more material than all the other planets, asteroids and comets combined and carries deep inside it the story of not only the solar system but of us. Juno is going there as our emissary -- to interpret what Jupiter has to say.'

Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature.

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

12. Kepler Studies Planetary Nebula

In a partnership between amateur and professional astronomers, the recent discovery of a dying star's last gasps could help resolve a decades-old debate among astronomers. That is, are stellar companions key to the formation and structure of planetary nebulae?

The discovery, by Austrian amateur astronomer Matthias Kronberger, is featured at an International Astronomical Union symposium on planetary nebulae held in Spain's Canary Islands on July. The research team's work features a striking image of the new nebula obtained with the Gemini Observatory.

Not coincidently, the location of the new nebula (named Kronberger 61, or Kn 61, after its discoverer) is within a relatively small patch of sky being intensely monitored by NASA's Kepler planet finding mission (http://kepler.nasa.gov/). Kepler's goal is to determine the frequency of Earth-sized planets around Sun-like stars. In the process, the effects of other close stellar and/or planetary companions are detectable.

NASA's Kepler mission monitors a 105 square degree portion of the sky near the northern constellation of Cygnus the Swan. Kepler's field-of-view is comparable to the area of your hand held at arm's length. The spacecraft continuously stares at more than 150,000 stars in the same patch of sky observing the changes in brightness. The presence of a companion can cause these brightness fluctuations through eclipses or tidal disruptions. However, most commonly in such binaries, the total amount of light received changes due to reflections from, and heating of, the companion by the star -- analogous to the Moon's phases.

'It is a gamble that possible companions, or even planets, can be found due to these usually small light variations, says George Jacoby of the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization and the Carnegie Observatories (Pasadena). 'However, with enough objects it becomes statistically very likely that we will uncover several where the geometries are favourable -- we are playing an odds game and it isn't yet known if Kn 61 will prove to have a companion.' Jacoby also serves as the Principal Investigator for a program to obtain follow-up observations of Kn 61's central star with Kepler.

To increase their odds, professional and amateur astronomers are working
as partners to comb through the entire Kepler field looking for planetary
nebula candidates. To date six have been found including this one by
Kronberger, a member of the amateur group called the 'Deep Sky Hunters.'
The group, dedicated to finding new objects in our galaxy and beyond, has
found two planetary nebulae in the Kepler field so far (including Kn 61)
and a possible third, which, according to Jacoby, 'are extremely rare and
each, a valuable gem.  Without this close collaboration with amateurs,
this discovery would probably not have been made before the end of the
Kepler mission. Professionals, using precious telescope time, aren't as
flexible as amateurs who did this using existing data and in their spare
time.

'Planetary nebulae present a profound mystery,' says Orsola De Marco of Macquarie University in Sydney. 'Some recent theories suggest that planetary nebulae form only in close binary or even planetary systems -- on the other hand, the conventional textbook explanation is that most stars, even solo stars like our Sun, will meet this fate. That might just be too simple.'

However, Jacoby points out that observations from the ground have yet to find a high percentage of binaries associated with planetary nebulae. 'This is quite likely due to our inability to detect these binaries from the ground and if so then Kepler is likely to push the debate strongly in one direction or the other.'

Planetary nebulae are common throughout our neighbourhood of the galaxy with over 3,000 known and identified. Likely the 'end of life' event for stars like our Sun, they form after nuclear fusion can no longer sustain the pressure of gravity in a geriatric star and it becomes unstable, pulsates and throws off a significant shell of gas from its outer layers. This expanding shell is what we see as a planetary nebula when its gas is ionized and glows due to the radiation still emitted by the central star. A key question with planetary nebulae is how companions (stars or even planets) around the central, primary star might impact the complex structures seen in many planetary nebulae. However, to date, a low percentage (about 20%) of these central stars have been found with companions. If this low fraction is due to the fact that the companions are relatively small or distant then current ground-based observations are simply not able to detect the companions -- in which case the space-based Kepler telescope will likely be able to fill this observational gap.

For background on the conference see http://www.iac.es/congreso/iaus283/

13. Active Black Hole Pair Discovered

A study using NASA's Swift satellite and the Chandra X-ray Observatory has found a second supersized black hole at the heart of an unusual galaxy already known to be sporting one.

The galaxy, which is known as Markarian 739 or NGC 3758, is 425 million light-years away in the constellation Leo. Only about 11,000 light-years separate the two cores, each of which contains a black hole gorging on infalling gas.

Most galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have at their centre a massive black hole millions of times the sun's mass. Some of them radiate billions of times as much energy as the sun. Astronomers refer to galaxy centres that radiate this way as active galactic nuclei (AGN). Yet as common as monster black holes are, only about one percent of them are currently powerful AGN. Binary AGN are rarer still: Markarian 739 is only the second identified within half a billion light-years of us.

Many scientists think that disruptive events like galaxy collisions trigger AGN to switch on by sending large amounts of gas toward the black hole. As the gas spirals inward, it becomes extremely hot and radiates huge amounts of energy.

Since 2004, the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) aboard Swift has been mapping high-energy X-ray sources all around the sky. The survey is sensitive to AGN up to 650 million light-years away and has uncovered dozens of previously unrecognized systems. Follow-up studies reveal that about a quarter of the Swift BAT AGN were either interacting or in close pairs, with perhaps 60 percent of them poised to merge in another billion years.

Swift's BAT instrument is scanning one-tenth of the sky at any given moment, providing a wide-angle view. Conversely, the X-ray telescope aboard the Chandra X-ray Observatory acts like a zoom lens and resolves details a hundred times smaller.

For decades, astronomers have known that the eastern nucleus of Markarian 739 contains a black hole that is actively accreting matter and generating prodigious energy. The Chandra study shows that its western neighbour is too. This makes the galaxy one of the nearest and clearest cases of a binary AGN.

The distance separating the two black holes is about a third of the distance separating the solar system from the centre of our own galaxy. The dual AGN of Markarian 739 is the second-closest known, both in terms of distance from one another and distance from Earth. However, another galaxy known as NGC 6240 holds both records.

The activity of Markarian 739 West was revealed only by high-resolution observations at high X-ray energies. It showed no evidence of being an AGN in visible, ultraviolet and radio observations.

The study was published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

For text, images, and video see: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/swift/bursts/monster-black-holes.html

-- from a press release from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, Greenbelt, Maryland, forwarded by Karen Pollard

14. Pluto's Fourth Moon

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope discovered a fourth moon orbiting the icy dwarf planet Pluto. The tiny new satellite, temporarily designated P4, was uncovered in a Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.

The new moon is the smallest discovered around Pluto. It has an estimated diameter of 13 to 34 km. By comparison Charon, Pluto's largest moon, 1,043 km across, and the other moons, Nix and Hydra, are in the range of 32 to 113 km in diameter.

The finding is a result of ongoing work to support NASA's New Horizons mission, scheduled to fly through the Pluto system in 2015. The mission is designed to provide new insights about worlds at the edge of our solar system. Hubble's mapping of Pluto's surface and discovery of its satellites have been invaluable to planning for New Horizons's close encounter.

The new moon is located between the orbits of Nix and Hydra, which Hubble discovered in 2005. Charon was discovered in 1978 by the U.S. Naval Observatory and first resolved using Hubble in 1990 as a separate body from Pluto. The dwarf planet¹s entire moon system is believed to have formed by a collision between Pluto and another planet- sized body early in the history of the solar system. The smashup flung material that coalesced into the family of satellites observed around Pluto.

Scientists believe material blasted off Pluto's moons by micrometeoroid impacts may form rings around the dwarf planet, but the Hubble photographs have not detected any so far.

P4 was first seen in a photo taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 on June 28. It was confirmed in subsequent Hubble pictures taken on July 3 and July 18. The moon was not seen in earlier Hubble images because the exposure times were shorter. There is a chance it appeared as a very faint smudge in 2006 images, but was overlooked because it was obscured.

-- from a NASA Press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

15. Earth's First Trojan Asteroid Discovered

A Canadian team of astronomers have confirmed the existence of the first known Trojan Asteroid associated with Earth. The discovery is highlighted in the July 28, 2011, issue of Nature magazine. Trojan asteroids are objects in the same orbit as a main planet. The simplest keep around 60 degrees ahead or behind the planet, as measured from the sun. There are more complicated 'horseshoe Trojan' orbits that range back and forth along the main planet's orbit.

The Earth Trojan, called 2010 TK7, was first tentatively identified by the team from discovery observations made in October 2010. The actual discovery was made by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) satellite. Follow-up observations were made with Mt John's 1-metre telescope, the 4-m reflector at Cerro Tololo and the 2-m Siding Spring- Faulkes Telescope South. The Canadian team confirmed the Trojan nature of the asteroid using new observations they obtained using the Canada-France- Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in April 2011.

Previously, Trojans were known to exist associated with Jupiter, Neptune, and Mars. 2010 TK7 proves that they can also be found associated to Earth. How long can they keep their Trojan nature on Earth's orbit is still unclear, but 2010 TK7 is stable for at least ten thousand years. More Earth Trojans are likely to be found in the coming years, allowing for a better understanding of their dynamics and the characteristics of their population.

Images of 2010 TK7 observed at CFHT, with the corresponding astrometric data and links to images and animations, as well as a link to the Nature paper, can be found at: http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/en/news/EarTro/

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

16. 16-inch Dobsonian for Sale

Andrew Batten advises that he has a Meade Lightbridge 16-inch Dobsonian- mount telescope for sale. Among many extras it has an Argonavis go-to computer and a Televue eyepiece set. Contact details are: Mobile +64 21 329127; Phone + 64 9 4793945; Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

17. 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

18. 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

19. 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. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

20. Quotes

"It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." -- Alec Bourne.

"There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have." -- Don Herold.

"If it is true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say that the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little." -- George Carlin.

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. Bob Evans made RASNZ Fellow
2. The Solar System in August
3. Elimination of the Leap Second?
4. A Smart Green (Dark) Wellington in 2040?
5. DOC Short Movie Competition
6. Accommodation for November's Total Solar Eclipse
7. ICRAR Summer Studentships 2011/2012
8. NACAA 2012
9. RASNZ Conference 2012
10. anzSKA Newsletter and Test
11. Red Sky at Night
12. Webzine l'Astrofilo
13. The Crux Daily Online Newspaper
14. 'Respect the Science' Campaign
15. Big Asteroids Affect Earth's Orbit
16. Vesta Close Up
17. Jupiter Robbed Mars?
18. James Webb Space Telescope Cancelled?
19. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
20. How to Join the RASNZ
21. Quotes

1. Bob Evans made RASNZ Fellow

At the 2011 annual General Meeting held in Napier, Robert Westley Evans was elected a Fellow of the RASNZ. Among his many contributions to astronomy Bob has been director of the Aurora and Solar Section for the past 20 years and editor of Southern Stars for the past 10 years.

After gaining a physics degree at Canterbury University Bob taught science at Ashburton College from 1969 till 1974. At the college he found a little-used observatory housing a With-Browning telescope. Bob began renovation of the telescope and later drew up plans for a new observatory when the college moved to a new site. The observatory was completed after he left. After a stint teaching physics at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, Bob moved to Southland in 1976 where he taught science at Southland Boys High until his retirement.

Bob has been a member of the Canterbury Astronomical Society for many years, serving in executive positions. After moving to Southland he also became an active member of the Southland Astronomical Society serving in most executive positions including three terms as president. He was director of the Southland Observatory from 1984 to 2006. Bob was also the Curator of the Observatory, a position under the Southland Museum and Art Gallery, who own the observatory building. He is a life member of the Southland Astronomical Society.

Bob joined the RASNZ in March 1967 and has served two terms on Council. He was RASNZ president from 2000 to 2002. In 2001 Bob became editor of Southern Stars, a post he still holds. He changed the journal to a larger A4 format with colour illustrations.

In 1988 Bob, with Daryl Jones, became co-director of the Aurora Section. This became the Aurora and Solar Section with Bob as sole director in 1994, continuing to the present. During this time Bob has actively encouraged new observers to make and report observations. He produces a monthly newsletter detailing Solar and Aurora observations made by members of the section, and articles of interest on solar and auroral research. Each year Bob also publishes a Circular detailing all Solar and Aurora observations during the year with an analysis of the solar activity and the current cycle.

Bob is also an active member of the variable star section, now treasurer of the revitalized Variable Stars South under Dr Tom Richards.

-------------- Based on a tribute in the Southland Astronomical Society's 'Astronomy South', kindly forwarded by Steve Butler. The Editor apologizes to Bob that a note about his Fellowship confirmation was not included in the June Newsletter's report on the Conference.

2. The Solar System in August

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for August 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_11.htm. Notes for September 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in august

Mercury disappears from the evening sky quite early in August. Saturn sets soon after 9pm at the end of the month so leaving the later evening sky empty of major planets, with Jupiter not rising until after midnight until the second half of August.

Mars begins to rise a little earlier in the morning sky, but still barely keeping ahead of the earlier sunrise. Jupiter, of course, remains a prominent morning object, but Venus is at conjunction mid month so not visible.

Evening sky

Mercury will be readily visible very early evening at the beginning of August. It will be rather low and in a direction about half way between west and northwest. The planet should be visible once the sky is reasonably dark, say about 40 minutes after sunset.

On the 1st, when it sets about 2 hours after the Sun, Mercury will be at the top of a triangle formed by the planet, crescent moon and Regulus. The moon and star will be just under 4° from Mercury with the moon and Spica more or less level to the lower left and lower right of the planet respectively. At magnitude 1.3, Mercury will be similar in brightness to Regulus, magnitude 1.4

Mercury is stationary on August 2 and within a couple of days will start moving down towards the Sun. It will swing to the left of Regulus and fade within a few days to become noticeably less bright than Regulus.

After a week or so, Mercury and Spica will become lost to view in the bright twilight sky. Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Sun and Earth on August 17 when it will be 60 million km from the Sun and just under 92 million km from the Earth. From the Earth Mercury would appear to be about 4° south of the Sun at conjunction. Venus is at superior conjunction only 13 hours earlier. It would appear to be about 1° to the north of the Sun.

After conjunction, Mercury will become a morning object, rising shortly before the Sun. It is not likely to be visible during the rest of August as it will be too low in the morning twilight. Mercury is again stationary on August 26.

Saturn remains in the evening sky during August, setting near 11pm at the beginning of the month and 2 hours earlier at the end. On the 1st at 7 pm the planet will be to the northwest at a mid altitude. Spica will be 12.5° above Saturn. The same time at the end of August will find Saturn quite a bit lower in the sky and now only a few degrees round to the north from west. The planet's movement during August will result in it then being 10° below Spica.

The moon passes Saturn twice in August. On the 4th the 25% lit moon will be to the upper left of, and just under 7°, from Saturn. On the 31st the moon, a very thin crescent, will 10.5° to the lower left of Saturn. The two will be slightly closer the following evening with the moon now above Saturn and close to Spica.

Jupiter will rise soon after 11pm at the end of August, so remains a morning object.

Venus will set about 15 minutes after the Sun on the 31st, so will be too close to it to be visible. It is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the 16th, but for a few days, mostly before conjunction, will rise just after the sun and set just before the Sun. This is an effect of Venus being a little north of the ecliptic.

Morning sky

Mars will rise a little earlier during August, but this will continue to be some two and a half hours before the Sun, as the latter also rises earlier. In fact in the south of NZ, Mars will slip back a few minutes relative to the Sun.

As a result Mars will not get any higher in the morning sky, having an altitude about 12° to the northeast 45 minutes before sunrise. Its magnitude also remains at 1.4 so it will be lost to view a few minutes later, although binoculars will still show the planet for a few more minutes.

Mars starts August in Taurus, but crosses into Gemini on the 4th. During the rest of August it will move to the east through Gemini passing just over 1° from 3rd magnitude stars in the constellation on the mornings of the 9th, 12th and 19th. Being fainter than Mars, the stars will obviously disappear in the brightening dawn sky before Mars, although binoculars will show them while Mars is visible.

On the morning of August 26 the crescent moon, 14% lit, will be 4° to the right of Mars.

Jupiter will rise shortly after 1am on August 1 and about 2 hours earlier by August 31, so remaining essentially a morning object.

The planet will be in Aries, moving slowly to the east until it is stationary on August 31. Jupiter will be visible until at least 6.30 am before the morning sky becomes too bright up to the end of August and more than half an hour later early in the month. Near dawn the planet will be a little to the west of north.

During August Jupiter will be just over 10° from the two brightest stars of Aries, Hamal alpha Ari, magnitude 2.00, and Sharatan beta Ari magnitude 2.64. To the other side of Jupiter, Menkar, the brightest star in Cetus will be about a degree further away from the planet.

On the morning of August 21, the 61% lit waning moon will be just under 7° to the lower right of Jupiter.


Uranus rises about 10pm early August and about 8pm by the end of the month, so will be suitably placed for viewing by late evening. It will be in Pisces slowly moving in a retrograde sense, its position changing by less than a degree during the month. Uranus brightens very slightly to magnitude 5.7 as it approaches opposition.

Neptune is in Aquarius during August. It is at opposition on August 23 with a magnitude 7.8. Its position, in Aquarius, will also change by less than a degree during the month.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Cetus just over 7° from the 2.0 star Diphida, beta Cet. The asteroid will brighten from 8.4 to 7.9 during August. By the end of the month it will rise about 7pm, so be visible most of the evening.

(4) Vesta is at opposition in Capricornus on August 5 with a magnitude 5.6, giving an opportunity for visual observation from a really dark site for those with keen eyesight. It doesn´t maintain its maximum brightness for long, by the end of August Vesta will have faded to 6.3.

(192) Nausikaa brightens to 9th magnitude by mid August and will be 8.4 by the end of the month. The asteroid will be in Aquarius about 10° from Neptune.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

Comets:

C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is expected to brighten to magnitude 9 at the end of July and to 8.1 by the end of August. Early August it will rise about 8 pm, and close to the time of sunset by mid August. It will set about 2 am at the end of the month.

The comet starts August in Pegasus, move into Delphinus on the 10th and on into Sagitta on the 20th.

45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusáková swings past the Earth across the south pole in August. It is expected to brighten rapidly to magnitude 9 on August 12 and to 8 3 days later after which it fades a little more slowly to 8.7 by late August. For NZ it is circumpolar until the August 17. The following nights it will rise increasingly later after midnight and not until about 5am by the 24th.

From the 10th to the 20th of August, the comet will pass through several southern constellations from Grus to Pyxis.

Further details and charts for the two comets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2011.

-- Brian Loader

3. Elimination of the Leap Second?

William Tobin writes:

The UN-affiliated Radiocommunication Sector of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU-R) will in January 2012 consider a proposal to eliminate leap seconds, so decoupling civil timekeeping from the rotation of the earth. (Although Coordinated Universal Time was put together by the International Astronomical Union in General Assemblies in 1970 and 1973, it was the Consultative Committee on International Radio -- a forerunner of the ITU-R -- that was responsible for the final definition, since in the 1970s time signals were principally transmitted by radio. Hence the ITU-R gets to decide the question of the leap second now and not astronomers or time-keepers.)

To find out more, visit http://futureofutc.org/ and especially the links referenced by this site.


Howard Barnes forwarded the following note from Daniel Gambis of the Earth Orientation Centre of International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), Paris Observatory, concerning the future of leap seconds.

After years of discussions, a proposal to fundamentally redefine UTC will come to a conclusive vote in January 2012 at the ITU-R in Geneva. This proposal would halt the intercalary adjustments known as leap seconds that maintain UTC as a form of Universal Time.

The Earth Orientation Centre of the IERS has organized an online survey with the objective of finding out the strength of opinion for maintaining or changing the present system. The questionnaire is at http://hpiers.obspm.fr/eop-pc/index.php?index=questionnaire Your response is appreciated before 30 August 2011

4. A Smart Green (Dark) Wellington in 2040?

Steve Butler writes:

Here are two opportunities for those in the Wellington Region to raise awareness of the impacts of poor outdoor lighting on our night sky over Wellington.

Toward 2040: A Smart Green Wellington http://www.wellington.govt.nz/projects/new/wellington2040.html is Wellington City Council´s vision for the future development of Wellington. The Council is now seeking feedback on this draft spatial plan and central city framework. Submissions close August 19th, 2011.

A leading statement in Toward 2040: Our response to climate change and resource scarcity will become ever more urgent. Cities -- not countries -- will lead the way in adapting to climate change, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and developing new ways of living and working that are less energy intensive. We will need to develop more urgent responses to protect our biodiversity, and gain a better understanding of the relationship between our urban and natural environments.

Steve is happy to help if needed. He can be emailed at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

5. DOC Short Movie Competition

Steve Butler also draws attention of teachers and younger readers to:

The Department Of Conservation are running a short movie competition which would be a great avenue for getting our message about the impacts of light pollution in front of many people. http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/for-teachers/education-projects- and-programmes/the-big-picture/

The Big Picture film competition is being run as part of The Outlook for Someday -- the sustainability film challenge for young people being run by TVNZ 7 http://www.theoutlookforsomeday.net/

An opportunity for young movie makers up to 24 years old. The movies are to be up to 5 minutes long.

A film showing the effects of light pollution and how to reduce these effects would fit very well with the following theme: The Big Ideas

People are part of the natural diversity of our planet. What we do does make a difference.

Everything is connected Ko au ko te taiao, ko te taiao ko au I am the environment, the environment is me

The planet is made up of a number of interconnected systems. Everything in an ecosystem has a role to play. Changing anything in an ecosystem impacts on everything else. It is often difficult to predict what the consequences of any change might be. Remember: our night time is part of our environment

I am happy to help if I can with resources and ideas.

Steve Butler RASNZ Dark Skies Group. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. Accommodation for November's Total Solar Eclipse

John Burt of the Gisborne Astronomical Society advises:

An informal group of 12 NZ Astronomers are meeting in Port Douglas for the 14 November 2012 Total Solar Eclipse. We currently have accommodation booked in Port Douglas (almost right on the centre line) for the night of 11,12, 13, and 14 November 2012, but have space for 4 more people should anyone else wish to join us. The total cost for the 4 nights is $260 per person. We plan to do our own thing during the day, but meet up and share expertise and swap stories and the evenings and probably observe the eclipse as a group. If you are interested please contact John Burt (phone 0274 210 704) or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ASAP.

7. ICRAR Summer Studentships 2011/2012

For 2011 the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is offering eight studentships, four of which will be co-funded with iVEC for projects with computational elements. This is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to experience astronomy related research based at either Curtin University or The University of Western Australia.

Successful applicants will join ICRAR for a 10 week period beginning on November 28th, 2011 and ending in mid February, 2012.

Projects cover a broad range of topics taken from astronomy, astrophysics, databases, engineering, ICT and parallel computing.

Each studentship includes a scholarship of up to $6,000 over 10 weeks, and interstate/New Zealand applicants will receive a return flight to Perth from their home city and accommodation subsidised up to 50%.

3rd, 4th year and honours level students in physics, astronomy or a relevant engineering/computer science discipline are eligible to apply. The closing date for all applications is September 1st. The selection committee will meet in early September and candidates will be informed of the outcome by late September.

For application details, project summaries and more information, please visit www.icrar.org/studentships

-- Kirsten Gottschalk, ICRAR Outreach and Education Officer.

8. NACAA 2012

The 25th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) meets in Brisbane over Easter, April 6-9. The meeting at the University of Queensland campus is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland and supported by other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland.

The sixth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations and the inaugural Variable Stars South Symposium will be held as part of the NACAA programme. Registrations for NACAA XXV will commence in late 2011.

For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

9. RASNZ Conference 2012

The 2012 RASNZ conference, hosted by the Phoenix Astronomical Society will be held at Masterton on 15-17 June at the Copthorne Hotel & Resort, Solway Park, Masterton, shortly after the transit of Venus. Further details will appear on the RASNZ website when available.

10. anzSKA Newsletter and Test

In a note to members of the Astronomical Society of Australia, Dr Brian Boyle, SKA Project Director for Australia and New Zealand, wrote:

The latest issue of the anzSKA Newsletter is now available online at the anzSKA website http://www.ska.gov.au/media/newsletter/Pages/default.aspx

In the lead up to the International SKA Forum in Banff, it is appropriate that this newsletter should have a strong international focus.

We report on important developments with our colleagues in Germany (renewable energy), Italy (industry), China, Japan and Korea (VLBI), UK (Pulses at Parkes) and the US (EDGES) experiment. It is this international cooperation that is central to the success of the SKA project. There has been significant developments nationally with the opening of the Pawsey 1A supercomputer at Murdoch, the Discover SKA program, the Silanna chip and the recent ASKAP Antenna Naming Ceremony at the MRO.

Internationally, the project continues to make good progress towards the Pre-construction phase. Australia and New Zealand were both signatories to a Letter of Intent signed by nine countries in April, committing to developing a Governance model and a resourced project plan for the SKA Pre-construction phase beginning in 2012.

In May, the Australian Commonwealth Government committed AU$40 million to the next phase of the international SKA project (contingent on site choice) and the site bid, and the New Zealand Government committed a further NZ$3 million.

Since then, Australia and NZ officials and scientists have played an important role in advancing the plans for the Pre-construction phase, and it has been very encouraging to note the spirit of international cooperation under which discussions have progressed so rapidly.

We can look forward to the Banff Forum with much optimism.

Please feel free to forward this email to any colleague who may be interested in SKA-related activities in Australia and New Zealand. You can also follow me on Twitter @BrianBoyleSKA.


Lionel Hussey points out an article in Science Daily on July 7 at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110707092432

The discovery potential of the future international SKA radio telescope has been glimpsed following the commissioning of a working optical fibre link between CSIRO's Australian SKA Pathfinder telescope in Western Australia, and other radio telescopes across Australia and New Zealand.

11. Red Sky at Night

At the RASNZ Astrophotography workshop David Malin discussed red glows in the atmosphere. They are seen on long exposures from the ground, and from orbiting spacecraft when the night atmosphere is viewed edge on. Fraser Gunn has recorded the same glows crossing the sky in waves in long- exposure videos taken from Mt John.

At Mt John there is an all-sky imager recording the sky in several spectral bands. It is run by Canterbury University graduate Steve Smith, now at Boston University. Steve kindly provided the following note on the physics of the glows. ---------

There are two main airglow emissions and they originate from the upper mesosphere in the 80-100 km height region.

The brightest is due to the hydroxyl radical OH. The peak of the emission originates from about 87 km and the emission layer itself is about 8-10 km thick (FWHM). The emission is due to ro-vibrational transitions in the excited OH radical. The excited OH radical is produced by the reaction of atomic hydrogen with Ozone H + O3 ---> OH* + O2 OH* ---> OH + Meinel band photon after ~few milliseconds The OH Meinel bands, as they are called, extend from the visible region of the spectrum at ~600 nanometres (nm) and go into the far infra-red. As a result, the OH nightglow is the brightest emission species in the night- sky, at least during non-auroral periods.

The Boston University imager uses a broadband filter which records everything red-ward of 695 nm. Most of the nightglow in that region is due to the OH Meinel bands (and a small amount due to O2). The OH will show up as a red glow in colour photos.

The other bright emission is due to neutral atomic oxygen in the singlet S state O(1S)which radiates at 557.7 nm in the green, so sometimes you'll hear it called green-line emission. Its emission profile peaks at 97 km and it is usually about 10-12 km thick. The O(1S) precursor atom originates from a chain of reactions called the Barth mechanism. O + O + M ---> O2* + M a three body collision, M being O2, N2, etc O2* + O(3P) ---> O2 + O(1S) excitation transfer from an excited O2 molecule to a ground-state O atom

O(1S) ---> O + 557.7 nm photon after ~0.7s

The green-line emission is also seen as the green glow in aurora.

There are some other fainter layers including Na (sodium) at 90-92 km and molecular oxygen at 95 km - I record these also.

------- Steve adds that the waves seen are gravity waves. They are very common so are normally seen in the long-exposure images. [These gravity waves are atmospheric bounces. They are caused by the air getting a vertical kick as winds cross mountain ranges, for example. They are not to be confused with the long-sought gravity waves that arise from Big Bangs and from black holes merging. - Ed.]

12. Webzine l'Astrofilo

Denis Sullivan recommends l'Astrofilo which bills itself as the 'The free international astronomy webzine'. It is run by several professional astronomers based in Italy and is good way to keep up with astronomical topical issues. L'Astrofilo can be downloaded from www.astropublishing.com

Denis first heard of l'Astrofilo when the MOA collaboration was asked to write an article about its discovery of free-floating planets, mentioned in last month Newsletter. That article is featured in the webpage where there are new and diverse articles every day.

13. The Crux Daily Online Newspaper

Mike White has started an online daily newspaper, The Crux Daily. It is produced 'automagically' from news sources that he follows on Twitter. The news is a mixture of astronomy and science content from around the world, but also with a good dose of southern hemisphere stuff as well. If you are interested, have a look at http://paper.li/AstronomyMike/1309065212 and if you think it might be useful to you, then click on the "Subscribe" button and you'll be informed when the next issue is out, usually around 5:30pm daily.

-- from a note by Mike White to the NZastronomers Yahoo group.

14. 'Respect the Science' Campaign

Science & Technology Australia (formerly FASTS) have launched a 'Respect the Science' Campaign, calling on all Australians to take some time to understand how scientific evidence is generated so they can place the appropriate weight on the information they receive and use it to inform decisions they make.

The campaign website is: www.respectthescience.org.au. Click on "What makes science so credible?" to watch the 'Respect the Science' presentation [the video is a bit quirky and requires a lot of clicking of the forward arrow]. You can also see a one-click 7 min version at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBrUPwSfUzI

Science and Technology Australia will continue to build the campaign.

A link has been placed on the Astronomical Society of Australia home page and you might consider asking your institution to do the same.

-- from John O'Byrne, Secretary, Astronomical Society of Australia Inc.

15. Big Asteroids Affect Earth's Orbit

Calculations of the long-term orbits of the big asteroids Ceres and Vesta show that they have strong gravitational effects on each other and on their much bigger neighbours, notably Earth. A team of French mathematical astronomers led by Jacques Laskar have published this result in a recent issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Ceres is 6,000 times less massive than the Earth and almost 80 times less massive than our Moon. Vesta is almost four times less massive than Ceres. Together they orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, around 2.5 times Earth's distance from the sun.

Although small, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact together and with the other planets of the solar system. Because of these interactions, they are continuously pulled or pushed slightly out of their initial orbit. Calculations show that, after some time, these effects do not average out. Consequently their orbits are chaotic, meaning that we cannot predict their positions far into the future. The two bodies also have a significant probability of impacting each other, estimated at 0.2% per billion years.

Last but not least, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact with the Earth. This makes Earth's orbital eccentricity unpredictable after only 60 million years. As the eccentricity affects climatic variations these also cannot be traced back more than 60 million years. This is bad news for paleoclimate studies.

For more see: http://www.aanda.org/10.1051/0004-6361/201117504

-- from a press release from the office of Astronomy & Astrophysics, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

16. Vesta Close Up

For a picture of Vesta from 41,000 km see http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/dawn-image-070911.html The picture was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft before it went into orbit around Vesta last weekend. At the time Vesta 'captured' Dawn the spacecraft and asteroid were 16,000 km apart and 188 million km from Earth.

Launched in September 2007, Dawn will depart for its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres, in July 2012.

-- from a Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

17. Jupiter Robbed Mars?

Planetary scientists have long wondered why Mars is only about half the size and one-tenth the mass of Earth. As next-door neighbours in the inner solar system, probably formed about the same time, why isn¹t Mars more like Earth and Venus in size and mass? A paper published in the journal Nature provides the first cohesive explanation and, by doing so, reveals an unexpected twist in the early lives of Jupiter and Saturn as well.

Dr. Kevin Walsh, a research scientist at Southwest Research Institute, led an international team performing simulations of the early solar system. They showed how an infant Jupiter may have migrated to within 1.5 astronomical units (AU) of the Sun, stripping a lot of material from the region and essentially starving Mars of formation materials. (1 AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth.)

Jupiter's inward migration stopped after Saturn formed. Then Jupiter eventually migrated outwards towards its current location. This would have truncated the distribution of solids in the inner solar system at about 1 AU, explaining the small mass of Mars.

The problem was whether the inward and outward migration of Jupiter through the 2 to 4 AU region could be compatible with the existence of the asteroid belt today, in this same region. To check this the team did a huge number of simulations. The simulations not only showed that the migration of Jupiter was consistent with the existence of the asteroid belt, but also explained properties of the belt never understood before.

The asteroid belt is populated with two very different types of rubble: very dry bodies as well as water-rich orbs similar to comets. Walsh's team showed that the passage of Jupiter depleted and then re- populated the asteroid belt region with inner-belt bodies originating between 1 and 3 AU as well as outer-belt bodies originating between and beyond the giant planets, producing the significant compositional differences existing today across the belt.

The collaborators call their simulation the 'Grand Tack Scenario' from the abrupt change in the motion of Jupiter at 1.5 AU, like that of a sailboat tacking around a buoy. The migration of the gas giant planets is also supported by observations of many extra-solar planets found in widely varying ranges from their parent stars, implying migrations of planets elsewhere in universe.

-- from a press release by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

18. James Webb Space Telescope Cancelled?

There is much budgetary politicking in the U.S. Congress around the James Webb Space Telescope. Roland Idaczyk pointed out a sample of reports and responses.

House Committee Votes the Wrong Way - JWST to be Cancelled, July 14 http://planetary.org/blog/article/00003099/

An article in the New York Times, dated July 6, with the initial announcement: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/07/science/07webb.html?_r=1

And a petition to President Obama to restore the project. International petitioners go to: http://planetary.org/special/action/index_international.html

19. 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

20. 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. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

21. Quotes

"I just find that I don't value my opinion that highly so I don't know why other people would." -- Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe on why he is not on Twitter or Facebook.

"It is profitable, if one is wise, to seem foolish." -- Aeschylus.

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. MOA Finds Interstellar Planets
2. The RASNZ Conference
3. The Solar System in July
4. Hosts Sought for 2013 and 2014 Conferences
5. Women in the Sciences Conference
6. Last Solar Maximum?
7. Dawn Images Vesta
8. Cause of Amino Acid Variation in Asteroids Found
9. Apollo 50 years On
10. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. How to Join the RASNZ
13. Quote

1. MOA Finds Interstellar Planets

"Free-floating" planets roaming interstellar space have been discovered by New Zealand and Japanese scientists, through a project co-established by Auckland University physicist Associate Professor Phil Yock. The Jupiter- mass objects are likely to be planets wandering around the Galaxy's core instead of orbiting host stars. Indications are that they might be nearly twice as numerous as the most common stars.

To find the wanderers, scientists turned their telescopes towards the Galactic Bulge surrounding the centre of the Milky Way. Using a technique called gravitational microlensing, they detected 10 Jupiter-mass planets wandering far from light-giving stars. Then they estimated the total number of such rogue planets, based on detection efficiency, microlensing- event probability and the relative rate of lensing caused by stars or planets. They concluded that there could be as many as 400 billion of these wandering planets, far outnumbering main-sequence stars such as our Sun. Their work is published in Nature on May 18.

The existence of free-floating planets has been predicted by planetary formation theory, but nobody knew how many there were. And because current theories of planet formation hold that lower-mass planets are more readily flung from developing planetary systems than are higher-mass planets, there could be a huge number of lighter planets on the loose.

Scientists from the Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (MOA) and Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE) collaborations used gravitational microlensing to detect the planets. Microlensing involves measuring changes in the brightness of distant, background stars as a passing planet's gravity bends and magnifies the starlight. As a result, the star brightens and fades in a pattern distinct from random twinkling, and the duration of brightening indicates the mass of the magnifying object.

Gregory Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California at Santa Cruz, says the authors have done a good job of ruling out other possible explanations for the light-distorting objects. But he adds that it's difficult to speculate about the number of unbound, lower-mass planets on the basis of the wandering Jupiters, because that assumes that they were formed by a similar mechanism to planets in our neighbourhood. "I think we might be seeing a different formation mechanism here, something more similar to that of a tiny star than a giant planet," he says. "But that's just a hypothesis."

The next steps in the search include confirming the absence of host stars and looking through new data for the footprints of smaller, Saturn- or Neptune-mass planets.

In the future, drifting Earth-mass planets could be detected using NASA's planned Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), a space-based telescope capable of resolving the more rapid bright blips associated with lower-mass objects.

Phil Yock noted that "The work capitalises on New Zealand´s southern location. The centre of the galaxy is in the southern sky, and the dense stellar fields there provide frequent examples of the gravitational lensing effect. Since 1994 a number of observations of stars and planets have been made using the effect that could not have been made using conventional astronomical techniques, including detailed measurements of the shapes of distant stars and the discovery of a number of planets orbiting stars beyond their snowlines, where water freezes."

"The discovery of free-floating planets was made primarily by the MOA group but important supporting data were supplied by Polish scientists. The planets were discovered as gravitational lenses of weaker power than normal stellar lenses."

Dr Yock co-founded MOA with Professor Yasushi Muraki of Japan but says that it wouldn´t have been possible without Professor John Hearnshaw from Canterbury University lending a telescope at Mt John Observatory for the first 10 years. New Zealand´s largest telescope was later installed at the observatory for use by MOA, funded mainly by a grant to Professor Muraki. Many of the New Zealanders involved are Phil Yock's former students including Dr Ian Bond who now leads the New Zealand contribution from Massey University.

For more see http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110518/full/news.2011.303.html http://www.physics.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/news/template/news_item.jsp?cid=390480

-- from press releases by 'Nature' and Auckland University.

2. The RASNZ Conference

The RASNZ wound up five days of stimulating meetings in Napier on Monday May 30th. The meeting was honoured by guest appearances of astro- photographer David Malin and Australian Astronomical Observatory director Fred Watson.

A workshop on occultations filled the Thursday and Friday before the conference proper. It attracted 30 participants, several from Australia with two more giving presentations via Skype or pre-recorded. Timing when the moon hides (occults) a star used to be important for longitude calculations. Later it provided a check on the moon's position and, still later, on its shape. With high-speed recording now available to backyard observers interest has moved to detecting and measuring close double stars. Timing how long an asteroid occults a star gives a measure of the asteroid's size to an accuracy of a few km. A new gadget to imprint GPS time onto video frames was unveiled at the workshop. Improvements to observation analysis software, already extensive and sophisticated, were also demonstrated.

Napier city councillor and Art Deco Ambassador John Cocking, aka 'Bertie', officially opened the Conference. Napier's now famous Art Deco buildings were the result of a directive from the rebuilding authorities -- a lawyer and an engineer -- after the 1931 earthquake. They banned stone (see Christchurch) and timber after the fire that followed the shake. Only reinforced concrete was allowed. A total of 167 buildings were built in two years. Napier's 2011 Art Deco festival sold $350,000 worth of tickets and ran for five days.

Graham Blow gave the Fellows Lecture "Reflections of an Astronomer". In it he recounted his astronomical progress from a 15-year-old with a 2.5- inch telescope, though joining the Auckland Astronomical Society and its scientific observing team, to the present. Memories of previously unpublished activities at Auckland Observatory enlivened the history. Later Graham formed the National Committee for Student Astronomy which attracted many youngsters, some of whom are RASNZ members today. In 1977 Graham started the Occultation Section. Its development and current strength was shown in the two-day workshop that preceded the Conference.

The Conference continued over the weekend. Presentations ranged from a tour of West Australian meteor craters to studies of the causes of curved relativistic jets in distant galaxies. Delightful reviews were provided by David Malin and Fred Watson. David's was a history of the Southern Cross from references in Dante through its incorporation in many flags -- with varying accuracy! -- to the current astrophysics of its stars and the surrounding space. Fred considered the chances of finding life elsewhere in the universe. After the Conference closed on Sunday afternoon Fred gave a lively public lecture, 'Timewarp', in which he included a history of gravity from Aristotle to Einstein.

An astro-photography workshop ('Aspro-photography' on the direction signs) was run by David Malin on Monday. This was mostly of interest to people attempting colour imaging of stars, either with CCDs or digital cameras but, as is usually the case, there was much useful information for those of us doing boring monochrome as well.

Thanks to the Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society members, most prominently Gary Sparkes and Graham Palmer, for smooth organisation at the superb War Memorial Conference Centre venue.

3. The Solar System in July

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for July 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jul_11.htm. Notes for August 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in july

Mercury moves a little further up into the evening sky during July to become an easy visual target soon after sunset. Saturn also remains an evening object, setting about 11pm by the end of July.

Mars and Jupiter remain as morning objects but Venus is too close to the Sun for observation.

A partial eclipse of the Sun on July 1 is visible from only a small area of ocean well south of South Africa, the area of visibility almost touching part of the coast of Antarctica at its southern edge. Even from within this area only a very small part of the Sun will be covered by the Moon, less than 10% at maximum. The central axis of the eclipse misses the Earth by over 3000 km.

This slight eclipse marks the start of a new Saros, or series of eclipses which will continue until the year 3237. This Saros is numbered number 156. Saros number 1 started in 2872 BC.

There will be 69 eclipses in the Saros starting on July 1. The first 8 will be partial, the next 52 annular and then the final 9 partial again. This particular Saros will have no total eclipses.

During July, Neptune has an anniversary, the planet will have completed its first complete orbit of the Sun since its discovery on 23 September 1846 by J G Galle and H L d'Arrest at the Berlin Observatory. As seen from the Sun, Neptune will be at the same position as at discovery on July 12. The period of Neptune is 164.8 years.

Evening sky

Mercury, is in the early evening sky during July. It will become readily visible especially later in the month. On the 1st it will set nearly 100 minutes after the Sun. 40 minutes after sunset the planet will be visible low to the northwest. Although low, at magnitude -0.4 it should be easily visible. On the 3rd a very thin crescent moon will be 5° above and slightly to the left of Mercury.

As July progresses, Mercury will gradually set a little later until by July 20 it sets about 2 hours and 40 minutes after the sun when it will be at its greatest angular distance from the Sun, as seen from the Earth. It will then be some 15° above the horizon 40 minutes after sunset, making it more readily visible, although a magnitude fainter. The planet will remain well placed for evening viewing for the rest of July.

Towards the end of July, Mercury will be within 3 or 4° of the 1.4 magnitude star Regulus, alpha Leo. The planet will be to the left of the star, starting below it, but climbing past it on the 25th and 26th.

Saturn remains in the evening sky during July, setting near 1am at the beginning of the month and about 11pm at the end. On July 1, Saturn will be highest and due north an hour or so after sunset, by the end of the month it will be highest before the sky darkens. Hence early evening viewing is going to give the best views.

During July, Saturn is in Virgo and will move slowly away from Porrima, the star it was close to during June. By the end of July, Saturn will be 2° above the star, with Spica 12.5° away almost directly above the planet. The small constellation, Corvus, with 4 second magnitude stars forming a distinctive kite shape group, will be about 18° to the upper left of Saturn.

The moon is closest to Saturn on the nights of July 7 and 8. On the 7th the 39% lit moon will be 11.5° to the left of Saturn, the following night the moon, now at first quarter, will be slightly closer, 9° above the planet.

Morning sky

Mars will get to rise just a few minutes earlier as July progresses, as will the Sun. As a result, Mars will not be noticeably higher in the morning sky. It will also remain at magnitude 1.4, so look for the planet at least 45 minutes before sunrise. The planet will then be about 12° up to the northeast.

Mars is in Taurus the Bull during July. In the first part of the month it will be within 5 or 6° of the star Aldebaran. At magnitude 1.0, Aldebaran will be a little brighter than Mars. It is a "red" star having a lower surface temperature than the Sun. To the eye it looks slightly orange, a similar colour to Mars itself. On July 1 Mars will be to the left of Aldebaran just below the line joining the star to the Pleiades cluster. Over the following mornings, Mars will get lower than the star, until by the 10th it will be almost directly below Aldebaran.

During the rest of July, Mars will move across Taurus and away from Aldebaran. On the 26th it will be between El Nath, beta Tau, magnitude 1.7 and the second star of the constellation, and zeta Tau at magnitude 3.0 the 4th brightest star in Taurus. The planet will be just over 5° from El Nath and half that distance from zeta.

On July 28, the crescent moon will be 1.5° from Mars. Before the moon rises in New Zealand it will occult Mars. The occultation is visible from some southern parts of the Pacific Ocean including Rarotonga and Tahiti.

Jupiter will rise shortly after 1am by the end of July, so it will be at a moderate altitude and readily visible in the early morning twilight. By the end of July Jupiter will be at its highest, due north, at about 6.30am. The planet is some way north of the equator at present, so when highest will be at a moderate altitude, ranging from 40° in the north to 30° in the south of NZ.

Jupiter is currently in Aries, during July it will be just over 10° from the two brightest stars of the constellation, Hamal, alpha Ari magnitude 2.0, and Sharatan, beta Ari magnitude 2.6. To the other side of Jupiter, Menkar, at magnitude 2.5 the brightest star in Cetus will be about 2 degrees further away from the planet.

On the morning of July 24, the 44% lit waning moon will be 6° to the lower left of Jupiter, between the planet and the two bright stars in Aries.

Venus is nominally a morning object rising less than an hour before the Sun at the beginning of July. So it will be a very low object to the northeast in the morning sky just before sunrise. During the rest of the month it gets even lower and become lost to view. By the end of July the planet will rise less than 10 minutes before the Sun.

*********** URANUS is essentially a morning object during July, although it will rise soon after 10 pm by the end of the month. The planet is in Pisces with its distance from Jupiter increasing to almost 35° by the 31st. Uranus remains at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune is in Aquarius during July. It will rise soon after 7pm by the end of Jul, so will be observable in the later evening sky. By the end of July it will be at magnitude 7.8

On July 12 Neptune will complete its first orbit of the Sun since its discovery in September 1846.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Cetus and will before 10pm by the end of July. The asteroid will brighten from magnitude 8.9 to 8.4 during the month. It will be within a few degrees of beta Cet, magnitude 2.0 and the brightest star in Cetus. The two will be about 10° apart on the 1at and 7° apart on the 31st.

(4) Vesta also brightens by half a magnitude during July, from 6.3 to 5.7. By the end of the month it will rise close to the time of sunset and so be observable during the evening. The asteroid is in Capricornus,

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011

-- Brian Loader

4. Hosts Sought for 2013 and 2014 Conferences

The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee (SCC) is now calling for applications to host either the 2013 or 2014 RASNZ Conferences.

RASNZ conferences are normally over a weekend. The Conference generally opens on a Friday evening and continues over the weekend to late Sunday afternoon. The RASNZ rules require the conference and AGM to be held during May unless the RASNZ Council approves an earlier or later date.

Under special circumstances Council may approve that a conference be held outside of May (e.g. second half of April or first half of June) if there are special reasons for doing so. However, because of the requirements of the Charities Commission, the AGM MUST be held prior to the end of June.

Proposals to host either the 2013 or 2014 conference should be in writing (electronic format in Ms Word, or PDF format is acceptable) and addressed to the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee. Proposals for hosting either conference should be submitted not later than 20 July 2011 and can either be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or posted to:...

Pauline Loader RASNZ SCC 14 Craigieburn Street Darfield 7520

When submitting an application, please include a likely location (town/city) and venue. Please make sure you clearly state the name of your Society (or group) and who is the contact person for communications. If you have a special reason for wishing to host the RASNZ conference in a particular year (e.g. special events in your area or for your society) please include a note of this in your submission.

In general, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) looks after the arranging of the venue, catering, registrations, opening and after dinner speakers etc., as well as preparing the budget in conjunction with the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee. The Standing Conference Committee (SCC) is responsible for the programme, speakers etc., and ensuring the overall smooth operation of the Conference. The SCC will provide full support to the LOC and gives guidance in planning and budgeting if needed.

A full set of guidelines and conference requirements can be obtained from the RASNZ SCC by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Any queries or questions may be sent to me (Pauline) by email to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- Pauline Loader on behalf of the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

5. Women in the Sciences Conference

The sixth triennial Association for Women in the Sciences (AWIS) conference is taking place on 28-29 July at SkyCity Auckland, and if you´re a women working in the science field then you need to be there!

The Developing Women - Advancing Science conference is designed to provide a forum for women working in research, business and education or studying science to learn from other women working in the New Zealand science industry. The conference programme will include keynotes and panel discussions with women who are leaders in their fields, workshops for career and personal development, as well as sessions to discuss some of the key scientific issues facing us in the 21st Century and opportunities to network with other women working in the New Zealand science industry.

More information, including the full programme, registration and abstract submission, can be found on the website at www.awis.org.nz/conference2011.

-- from Belinda Bray, University of Auckland

6. Last Solar Maximum?

A missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles say that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years, according to scientists at the U.S. National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all. The results were announced at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

"This is highly unusual and unexpected," Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO´s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results. "But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

Spot numbers and other solar activity rise and fall about every 11 years, which is half of the Sun´s 22-year magnetic interval since the Sun´s magnetic poles reverse with each cycle. An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots during 1645-1715.

Hill is the lead author on one of three papers on these results being presented this week. Using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) of six observing stations around the world, the team translates surface pulsations caused by sound reverberating through the Sun into models of the internal structure. One of their discoveries is an east-west zonal wind flow inside the Sun, called the torsional oscillation, which starts at mid-latitudes and migrates towards the equator. The latitude of this wind stream matches the new spot formation in each cycle, and successfully predicted the late onset of the current Cycle 24.

"We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now," Hill explained, "but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all."

In the second paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston see a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots, and predict that by Cycle 25 magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Spots are formed when intense magnetic flux tubes erupt from the interior and keep cooled gas from circulating back to the interior. For typical sunspots this magnetism has a strength of 2,500 to 3,500 gauss (Earth´s magnetic field is less than 1 gauss at the surface); the field must reach at least 1,500 gauss to form a dark spot.

Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24.

Using more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24. They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

Moving outward, Richard Altrock, manager of the Air Force´s coronal research program at NSO´s Sunspot, New Mexico, facilities has observed a slowing of the "rush to the poles," the rapid poleward march of magnetic activity observed in the Sun´s faint corona. Altrock used four decades of observations with NSO´s 40-cm (16-inch) coronagraphic telescope at Sunspot.

"A key thing to understand is that those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun," Altrock explained. "Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun."

Altrock used a photometer to map iron heated to 2 million degrees C. Stripped of half of its electrons, it is easily concentrated by magnetism rising from the Sun. In a well-known pattern, new solar activity emerges first at about 70 degrees latitude at the start of a cycle, then towards the equator as the cycle ages. At the same time, the new magnetic fields push remnants of the older cycle as far as 85 degrees poleward.

"In cycles 21 through 23, solar maximum occurred when this rush appeared at an average latitude of 76 degrees," Altrock said. "Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we´ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. If the rush to the poles fails to complete, this creates a tremendous dilemma for the theorists, as it would mean that Cycle 23´s magnetic field will not completely disappear from the polar regions (the rush to the poles accomplishes this feat). No one knows what the Sun will do in that case."

All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while. "If we are right," Hill concluded, "this could be the last solar maximum we´ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth´s climate."

Copied from http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/14/the-major-aas-solar-announcement- suns-fading-spots-signal-big-drop-in-solar-activity/

See also http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/14/nasa-jpl-on-new-insights-on-how- solar-minimums-affect-earth/ and the March Newsletter, Item 12.

Thanks to Kerry Rodgers for pointing out these commentaries.

7. Dawn Images Vesta

Scientists working with NASA's Dawn spacecraft have made a video showing the giant asteroid Vesta as the spacecraft approaches. The loop of 20 images obtained on June 1 shows a dark feature near Vesta¹s equator moving from left to right across the field of view as Vesta rotates. Images also show Vesta's jagged, irregular shape, hinting at the enormous crater known to exist at Vesta's south pole. Dawn was about 480,000 km from Vesta.

Before orbiting Vesta on July 16, Dawn will gently slow down to about 120 km/h. NASA is expecting to release more images on a weekly basis, with more frequent images available once the spacecraft begins collecting science at Vesta. See them on http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn20110613.html

-- from a NASA JPL press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Cause of Amino Acid Variation in Asteroids Found

Some asteroids may have been like 'molecular factories' cranking out Life's ingredients and shipping them to Earth via meteorite impacts, according to scientists who've made discoveries of molecules essential for life in material from certain kinds of asteroids and comets. Now it appears that at least one may have been less like a rigid assembly line and more like a flexible diner that doesn't mind making changes to the menu.

In January, 2000, a large meteoroid exploded in the atmosphere over northern British Columbia, Canada, and rained fragments across the frozen surface of Tagish Lake. Because many people witnessed the fireball, pieces were collected within days and kept preserved in their frozen state. This ensured that there was very little contamination from terrestrial life. Researchers considered the first Tagish Lake samples -- the ones collected within days of the fall -- as the closest we have to an asteroid sample return mission in terms of cleanliness.

The Tagish Lake meteorites are rich in carbon and, like other meteorites of this type, contained an assortment of organic matter including amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. What was new is that different pieces had greatly differing amounts of amino acids. Some pieces have 10 to 100 times the amount of specific amino acids than other pieces, a variability not seen from a single parent asteroid before. Only one other meteorite fall, called Almahata Sitta, matches Tagish Lake in terms of diversity, but it came from an asteroid that appears to be a mash-up of many different asteroids.

By identifying the different minerals present in each fragment, the researchers were able to see how much each had been altered by water. They found that various fragments had been exposed to different amounts of water, and suggest that water alteration may account for the diversity in amino acid production. This gives new insights into the role that water plays in the modification of pre-biotic molecules on asteroids.

It is the first clear evidence that water percolating through the asteroid parent body caused some molecules to be formed and others destroyed. The Tagish Lake meteorite gives a unique window into what was happening to organic molecules on asteroids four-and-a-half billion years ago, and the pre-biotic chemistry involved.

If the variability in Tagish Lake turns out to be common, it shows researchers have to be careful in deciding whether meteorites delivered enough bio-molecules to help jump-start life. Biochemical reactions are concentration dependent. Below a certain limit nothing happens. One meteorite might have levels below the limit, but the diversity in Tagish Lake shows that collecting just one fragment might not be enough to get the whole story.

Although the meteorites were the most pristine ever recovered, there is still some chance of contamination though contact with the air and surface. However, in one fragment, the amino acid abundances were high enough to show they were made in space by analyzing their isotopes.

Isotopes are versions of an element with different masses; for example, carbon 13 is a heavier, and less common, variety of carbon. Since the chemistry of life prefers lighter isotopes, amino acids enriched in the heavier carbon 13 were likely created in space. The amino acids in a fragment of Tagish Lake were enriched in carbon 13, indicating they were probably created by non-biological processes in the parent asteroid.

The Tagish Lake research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Alberta Ingenuity Fund, and NASA. The team consulted researchers at the Goddard Astrobiology Analytical Lab for their expertise with the difficult analysis. The Goddard Lab plans to refine its techniques with additional such work so it can apply them to the OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. OSIRIS- REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security - - Regolith Explorer) will be launched toward asteroid 1999 RQ36 in 2016 and return a sample to Earth in 2023.

For more see http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/features/2011/tagish-lake.html

-- from a NASA Goddard press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

9. Apollo 50 years On

Fifty years ago, on May 25th 1961, President John Kennedy summoned a joint session of Congress and asked America to commit itself to the goal, before the decade was out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth. If it succeeded, he said, it would not be one man going to the moon-"it will be an entire nation". A little over eight years later, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on to the lunar surface, the snowy images beamed down to Houston stamped an indelible memory on a generation of earthlings.

Some say that Kennedy conceived of the race to the moon principally to recover from the fiasco of the Bay of Pigs. John Logsdon, the doyen of American space studies, takes a more generous view in his new book ("John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon", Palgrave Macmillan). Kennedy was not especially interested in space, and said as much in private. But after the Soviet Union sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit he believed it to be vital for America to take on and beat the Soviets at something very hard. The moon fitted this need like a glove. Planting a man on its surface required no big technological innovations, says Mr Logsdon, "just very expensive mastery over nature using the scientific and technological knowledge available in 1961".

As to whether it is was worthwhile, there is no accountant´s answer even 50 years on. The Apollo project cost about $150 billion in 2010 dollars, five times as much as the Manhattan Project and 18 times the cost of digging the Panama Canal. It is not easy today to remember how imperative it seemed back then for the free world to show that it could outperform its totalitarian rival. But the moon landing was more than a win in the cold war. It also changed the way people of all nations thought about themselves and the planet they share. It showed that it really was possible for man to step out of this world into another. Apollo 8´s photographs of a little Earth, shining vulnerably in a great black emptiness, made people aware of the planet´s fragility and helped to spur the green movement.

And yet the jubilee of the Kennedy speech comes at a difficult time for American space policy. The launch this week of the space shuttle Endeavour received special attention because it was commanded by Mark Kelly, the astronaut husband of the wounded Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, who has recovered well enough from January´s shooting to see him off. More significant, it is Endeavour´s last flight. When Atlantis makes its own final voyage in mid-July, the whole 30-year programme of shuttle flights will come to an end.

The shuttles never captured the public imagination in the manner of the moon programme. How could they? These were workhorses, hurled aloft by rockets but landing like aeroplanes so they could be used time and time again. They were confined to low-earth orbit, where they did the unglamorous job of launching satellites or ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station. Public opinion was shocked by the tragedies, such as the losses of Challenger (1986) and Columbia (2003), but unmoved by the workaday successes. And there was, in fact, less success than advertised. They were too cantankerous to fly as often or as inexpensively as planned, so the hope of doing things more cheaply in space evaporated. Nothing came of the dream that men would build factories in space to grow exotic crystals or spin fabulous metals that could not be made on the gravity-polluted Earth.

What the shuttles did provide, however, was a way for America to carry people into low-earth orbit. Once the fleet is grounded, America will for a while have no means of its own to deliver men and women to any part of space. After the usual energetic lobbying by aerospace companies and other vested interests, Congress has ordered the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to build a mighty new rocket, bigger than Apollo´s Saturn V, capable of lifting a manned vehicle into deep space. But Mr Obama has cancelled plans to revisit the moon, no other destination has been specified, and this "rocket to nowhere" will not be ready until 2016 at the very earliest. In the meantime, American spacefarers bound even for low-earth orbit will have to hitch a ride on a Russian craft or one of the as yet unproven vehicles under development by the private sector.

To many Americans, neglecting human space flight this way looks like a sorry end to the glorious chapter Kennedy opened half a century ago. He set out to make America´s achievements in space an emblem of national greatness, and the project succeeded. Yet it did not escape the notice of critics even at the time that this entailed an irony. The Apollo programme, which was summoned into being in order to demonstrate the superiority of the free-market system, succeeded by mobilising vast public resources within a centralised bureaucracy under government direction. In other words, it mimicked aspects of the very command economy it was designed to repudiate.

That may be why subsequent efforts to transfer the same fixity of purpose to broader spheres of peacetime endeavour have fallen short. If we can send a man to the moon, people ask, why can´t we [fill in the blank]? Lyndon Johnson tried to build a "great society", but America is better at aeronautical engineering than social engineering. Mr Obama, pointing to competition from China, invokes a new "Sputnik moment" to justify bigger public investment in technology and infrastructure. It should not be a surprise that his appeals have gone unheeded. Putting a man on the moon was a brilliant achievement. But in some ways it was peculiarly un- American-almost, you might say, an aberration born out of the unique circumstances of the cold war. It is a reason to look back with pride, but not a pointer to the future.

-- "The Economist", Lexington, 25 May 2011, p. 46.

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. 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. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

13. Quote

"Pluto Dumped by the Uber-Nerds of Prague" -- A newspaper headline seen by Fred Watson in August 2006 after the IAU General Assembly in Prague voted to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status.

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

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Annual Report of Council for 2011.
President's Remarks, Treasurer's Report, Membership Report, Council Activities, RASNZ Publications, RASNZ Section Reports, Professional Astronomers' Group.

RASNZ Council Volume 50, number 1. March 2011. Pp 10-30 Southern Stars: Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. Pp 1 - 20. NASA Johnson Space Centre, and Lunar and Planetary Science Conference Visit. Maurice Collins. I was privileged to be able to attend the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC 42) in Houston, Texas, USA in March 2011, to co-present a poster on lunar basins with Dr Charles A. "Chuck" Wood of Lunar Photo of the Day and "The Modern Moon" book fame. The following is my account of that trip.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. Pp

2011 Murray Geddes Prize - Maurice Collins.
R W Evans.

Maurice Collins of Palmerston North was awarded the 2011 Murray Geddes Prize at the 2011 Conference for his outstanding contributions to NZ astronomy and lunar science in particular. His discovery of "Shannen Ridge" and use of innovative digital processing techniques for analysing lunar topography and composition have contributed to astronomers understanding of the Moon and gained international recognition of his work.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. P

A Visit to the German SOFIA Institute
William Tobin.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, is finally airborne! A joint German-US project, SOFIA is a more powerful successor to NASA's Kuiper Airborne Observatory, which frequently flew southern-hemisphere missions out of Christchurch. This article presents the new flying observatory and reports on a visit to its German headquarters in Stuttgart.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. Pp

Reflections of an Astronomer
Graham Blow.

I'm grateful to the organising committee for giving me this opportunity to say a few words about several things that are dear to my heart. And I hope that you will bear with me as I allow myself a few reminiscences, and in the process give you a bit of historical background of which many of you will be unaware.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. Pp

Robert Evans - FRASNZ
Brian Loader.

At the Annual General Meeting of the RASNZ held on 28 May 2011 during the annual conference at Napier, Robert Evans was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Bob is a long time member of the RASNZ, and has been director of the Aurora and Solar Section for over two decades. He has edited the society journal Southern Stars for 10 years. The citation accompanying his appointment as Fellow is below.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. P

A Visit to Four Impact Structures in Western Australia
Jacquie Milner.

The ancient and heavily eroded landscape of Western Australia offers an opportunity to see some of the major features of meteorite impact sites. In September 2004 a small group toured around four impact structures in central Western Australia: The Yarrabubba Impact Structure, the Shoemaker Impact Structure; the well-known Dalgaranga Crater, and the Yallallie Impact Structure. Together, these structures provide an overview of impact structure geology, both above and below ground.
Volume 50, number 2. June 2011. Pp

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. Stu Parker Invited to Supernova Conference
2. RASNZ Conference 2011
3. The Solar System in June
4. Annual General Meeting Agenda
5. TTOS5 to Unveil New Video Time Inserter
6. Bernard Mills
7. Gravity Probe B Confirms Einstein
8. Voyager Set to Enter Interstellar Space
9. Newly Discovered Tiny Companion to Earth
10. Amateurs Video Blinking Asteroid
11. HST Images Colourful Galaxies
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Quotes

1. Stu Parker Invited to Supernova Conference

Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury, celebrated his 13th supernova discovery on April 29. It was the 18th success of the Australasian Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS) team that started in 2009.

The productivity of BOSS has led to Stu being invited to attend the Supernovae and their Host Galaxies conference in Sydney in June. Stu kindly provided the following details. ----------

"Supernovae and Their Host Galaxies" is the 4th in the annual Southern Cross Astrophysics Conference Series. It runs from June 20 to 24 at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney.

The conference was announced six months ago. Our amateur supernova search group (BOSS) was asked if we wish to attend. As this is a professional event we had to wait to see if there was enough room for us. After a long wait we were allowed one seat at the conference, so I will be attending.

It is a large gathering of some of the best minds in the field of supernova and transients. The latest theories and findings will be discussed. It features speakers such as Carles Badenes, Poonam Chandra, Roger Chevalier, Luc Dessart, and Alex Filippenko (of the TV show "The Universe").

Some of the topics that will be covered are: the many different paths to a supernova explosion; the progenitors of supernovae; supernova remnants; the relationships between the properties of supernovae and their host galaxies; supernovae as tracers of star formation; unusual supernovae; unexplained transients; current and future transient surveys.

I am very much looking forward to going. We have been asked to present a poster showcasing our group and what we have done to date. It is a bit unusual for an amateur group to be able to attend a professional gathering so it will be a great experience. This is a 3½ day, 8 hours per day conference so there will be a lot of information. I hope to learn a lot and make some great contacts with people that have done spectra for some of my supernova discoveries.

--------- For more on Stu's methods and results see http://parkdale-supernova-factory.webs.com/

2. RASNZ Conference 2011

Goodness, people do like leaving things till the last minute.... By Easter our registrations were down on expectations. But there has been a late surge, and numbers are close to normal. It's not too late to register - the War Memorial Convention centre in Napier is plenty big enough.

Due to the earthquake, some of our Christchurch regulars and the students are unable to join us this year. We completely understand the position they are in (luckily those of us on the SCC suffered only minor damages), and we look forward to them being able to return to Conference in force in 2012.

The programme is full - you can access all the information, registration forms on the Society Webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz - and if there is any information you want that is not there, please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and one of us will get back to you quickly. Please get any questions to us before Tuesday, 24 May, however, as after that date we too will be en route to Napier. If you are in doubt about coming along my advice is - just do it. It will be a weekend of great value.

Numbers are also good for the 5th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (26-27 May), and the Photographic Workshop with David Malin (30 May), but spaces are still available.

Just in case you are wondering who the Standing Conference Committee (SCC) is etc, we are: Dennis Goodman (Chair), Pauline Loader, Brian Loader, Orlon Petterson, and Tim Homes. Also, Warwick Kissling is programme assistant to the SCC.

We are appointees of the RASNZ Council, and report to and are answerable to Council. We welcome all constructive feedback. Conference attendees will receive a feedback questionnaire in their Conference folder when they arrive at the venue, and SCC members will want to collect the completed questionnaires at the conclusion of Conference. Your feedback will help us improve conferences in the future.

Ok - see you in napier.

Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

3. The Solar System in June

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for June 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jun_11.htm. Notes for July 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The southern midwinter solstice, with the sun furthest north and lowest at midday is at 5.17am on June 22, NZST.

The planets in june

After their close clustering in the morning sky during May, the four planets will disperse in June. Mercury will disappear into the morning twilight very early in the month and Venus will get to be very low in the dawn sky. Mars will also maintain its rather low altitude, but higher than Venus while Jupiter will get steadily higher.

Saturn continues to be a well placed object of the evening sky.

A total eclipse of the moon occurs on the morning of June 16 (NZST). The moon enters the penumbra just after 5.24 am, NZST. It starts moving into the total shadow of the umbra almost an hour later. By then the moon will be getting low in NZ. The eclipse becomes total just after 7.22am but will be close to setting in NZ, especially in the north. Mid eclipse is at 8.13 am, by which time the moon will be set in all of NZ north of Timaru. It sets 10 minutes later in Dunedin and 20 minutes later in Invercargill. The end of the total eclipse will not be visible in any part of NZ.

Australia will have a better view but even there, in the east, the moon will set before the end of the total eclipse. Only in the west of Australia are all stages of the eclipse visible.

A partial eclipse of the Sun on June 1 is only visible from Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere.

Morning sky

Mercury is 7° below and a little to the right of Venus on the morning of June 1. A very thin sliver crescent moon, only 1% lit, will be 4.5° below and slightly left of Mercury. 30 minutes before sunrise Mercury will be some 6° above the horizon. At magnitude -0.9 it should be possible to detect the planet, especially using binoculars, sweeping down and to the right of Venus. The moon, with an altitude only 2° will be harder to locate.

Mercury´s elongation from the sun will decrease steadily over the next few days until it is at superior conjunction on June 13. It will then be on the opposite side of the Sun, 198 million km from Earth. At this conjunction Mercury passes just over one solar diameter north of the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object, setting after the Sun. The planet is too close to the Sun for observation for most of the remainder of the month. By the end of June, it will set 80 minutes after the Sun: 40 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be about 6° above the horizon, well round from west towards northwest. At magnitude -0.5 it is likely to be a binocular object. July will offer better opportunities of seeing Mercury in the evening sky.

Venus will be following Mercury back towards the sun during June. On the 1st its altitude is about 13°, 20 minutes before the sun rises. This altitude will have reduced to a mere 5° on June 30. On the latter morning, the moon, a very thin crescent only 2.5% lit, will be 5° to the left of, and a little higher than Venus.

Venus is on the far side of the Sun to the Earth, moving towards superior conjunction in August. As a result, we see it nearly fully lit, 93% early in June and 97% by the end. Being nearly fully lit compensates for its relatively large distance, 250 million km at the end of June, and consequent small apparent size, 10 arc-seconds. These factors combine to maintain the brightness of the planet.

Mars continues in June as a lowish object in the dawn sky. The time at which it rises ranges from about 5.20 am in the north of NZ to a few minutes after 6 am in the south and only advances by a few minutes during the month. Once the planet is at a reasonable altitude it will be readily visible at magnitude 1.3 to 1.4 until about 40 minutes before sunrise.

At the beginning of June, Mars will be about 12° up 45 minutes before sunrise, some 4° to the upper left of Venus. By the end of June and again 45 minutes before sunrise, Mars will be about 1° higher to the northeast. It will then be in Taurus just about half way between the Pleiades and Aldebaran, magnitude 1.0 so slightly brighter than Mars. Aldebaran being a red star will have a similar colour to Mars. On the morning of the 29th the 7% lit crescent moon will be 2.5° below Mars.

Jupiter, by contrast with Mars, rises steadily earlier during June, at or soon after 4 am in much of NZ on the 1st, about 80 minutes earlier at the end of the month. Thus it will be getting reasonably high in the morning sky in the early twilight.

Jupiter starts the month in Pisces, but by June 8 it will be in Aries. The planet does not pass very close to any bright stars during the month. On the morning of June 26, the 29% lit waning moon will be 7.5° to the left of Jupiter


Saturn, unlike the other planets, will be in the evening sky, the only planet visible there throughout the month, apart from a possible glimpse of Mercury in the dusk at the end of June. Saturn is stationary mid June, and shows little movement throughout the month. In June, Saturn will be some 14° from Spica which, at magnitude 1.1, is the brightest star in Virgo. Early evening, especially at the beginning of June, Spica will be to the right of Saturn. By mid to late evening, the rotation of the sky will see the star nearly above Saturn.

Another star gamma Virginis, Porrima, will be much closer to Saturn during June. At its least, the distance between the two will be only half the diameter of the full moon, just over 15 arc-minutes. Saturn will be above Porrima. At magnitude 3.4 Porrima is not as bright as Spica, but is still visible to the unaided eye from reasonably dark sites.

The tilt of Saturn´s rings towards the Earth is at a minimum for the year in the first part of June, 7.3°. By the end of the month they will be beginning to open again.

The 65% moon will be 8° from Saturn on the evening of June 10. The moon will be to the left of Saturn.


Uranus is another a morning object, rising about 2am at the beginning of June and near midnight at the end. The planet is in Pisces with its distance from Jupiter increasing from 25° to 30° during the month. Uranus´ magnitude is 5.8 by the end of June.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius during June. It is some 34° ahead of Uranus along the ecliptic and rises nearly 3 hours earlier. It is stationary on June 3.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object in Aquarius about 14° from Uranus early in June. Being further south Ceres rises about 1 hour earlier. Ceres moves into Cetus on June 8 and ends the month 10° from 2.0 magnitude beta Ceti. The asteroid brightens from magnitude 9.1 to 8.8 in June.

(4) Vesta rises mid evening during June so achieves a reasonable altitude by late evening, especially later in the month. The asteroid is in Capricornus and brightens from magnitude 6.8 to 6.3. Its brightening means that for the next 4 months Vesta is going to be an easy binocular target.

Vesta starts June only 20´ from 4.3 magnitude iota Cap. At the end of June it will be less than 2° from epsilon Cap, mag 4.5. But the asteroid is stationary on June 24, so by June 30 will be turning away from Epsilon.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011.

-- Brian Loader

4. Annual General Meeting Agenda

The 2011 Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held at 4.30pm on Saturday 28 May 2011 at the Napier War Memorial Conference Centre on Marine Parade, Napier. ----------------

Royal astronomical society of new zealand 88th annual general meeting

Agenda:

  1. Apologies.
  2. Respect for Deceased Members.
  3. Greetings to Absent Members.
  4. Minutes of the 87th AGM held in Dunedin
  5. Matters arising from the Minutes.
  6. Annual report of council for 2010
  7. Annual accounts for 2010
  8. Election of Auditor.
  9. Election of Honorary Solicitor.
  10. General Business as allowed for in the rules.

Minutes of the 87th AGM (2010) are available on the RASNZ web site at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/minutes/1005AGM.pdf

The Annual Report of Council and the Annual Accounts for the year 2010 have been printed in the March 2011 issue of Southern Stars.

Rory O´Keeffe Executive Secretary 19 April 2011

------------------ The AGM and Affiliated Society Minutes for 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ website. Go to <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/minutes/minutes.htm> . You will find links to the minutes for 2008, 2009 and 2010. There are also links to the corresponding Annual Reports, that is the reports for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.

5. TTOS5 to Unveil New Video Time Inserter

Attendees at the Fifth Trans-Tasman Occultation Symposium will be able to learn about a new video time inserter, which will have its debut at the Symposium.

This device was developed in Australia and has been long awaited for by Occultation Observers world wide since the and of production of the original Kiwi OSD. It provides a means of placing an accurate time reading on to a video of any event which requires precise timing information and will useful for other applications in addition to the observation and timing of lunar and minor planet occultations.

Dave Gault (NSW) has announced, on behalf of the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) and VideoTimers of California, that the device will be manufactured and offered for sale as a finished article - ready to time events. The device is now known as IOTA-VTI and as you can see from the IOTA bit of it's name, it is now a firmly a part of the organisation and it's on-going availability is assured.

A brief description and a kit of documentation about IOTA-VTI can be found at... http://users.tpg.com.au/users/daveg/IOTA-VTI/IOTA-VTI_ImminentLaunchV2.pdf as well as hyperlinks to YouTube videos.

Dave Gault says that at the moment, he is the point of contact for VideoTimers and is happy to answer enquiries sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

IOTA-VTI will debut, in the flesh at the Fifth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO5), Napier, New Zealand - 26th and 27th May 2011. This symposium is being held in conjunction with the RASNZ Annual Conference being held in Napier 27-29th May. For further information please visit the RASNZ website conference pages at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/.

Adapted from an announcement from Dave Gault in the RASNZOccultations Yahoo group bulletin 6th May.

-- Pauline Loader

6. Bernard Mills

In a message to members of the Astronomical Society of Australia, Dr Dick Hunstead wrote:

It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing of Emeritus Professor Bernard Mills on Monday [April 25th], after a short illness. Bernie was one of the pioneers of radio astronomy in Australia. After working on the development of radar systems with CSIRO Radiophysics during the war, he moved to the radio astronomy group in 1948 where he devised the innovative cross-type telescope design that bears his name. The Mills Cross carried out the first survey of the southern radio sky, cataloguing some 2200 radio sources and establishing Australia's credentials as a leader in the new science of radio astronomy.

In 1960 Bernie moved to the University of Sydney and began the design and construction of the one-mile aperture Molonglo Cross near Canberra, funded in large part by the US National Science Foundation. Its major task was to carry out a much deeper radio survey of the southern sky, completed in 1978 with the publication of the Molonglo Reference Catalogue. At that time Bernie was planning a further development of the telescope to turn the east-west arm into the Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope. This change was realised and the telescope continued to produce world-class images for more than 20 years.

Bernie retired in 1985, but his legacy of challenging the conventional wisdom and technology of the day has been carried on by his former students and staff, culminating in the Square Kilometre Array Molonglo Prototype, a pathfinder for the future SKA. This instrument incorporates the mechanical structure and design of Mills' original telescope, reflecting his extraordinary intellect and capacity for innovation. His pioneering contributions were recognised in 2006 with the award of the Grote Reber Medal for Radio Astronomy at the International Astronomical Union meeting in Prague.

7. Gravity Probe B Confirms Einstein

Stanford and NASA researchers have confirmed two predictions of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, concluding one of the space agency's longest-running projects. The findings appear online in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Known as Gravity Probe B (GP-B), the experiment used four ultra-precise gyroscopes housed in a satellite to measure two aspects of Einstein's theory about gravity. The first is the geodetic effect, or the warping of space and time around a gravitational body. The second is frame- dragging, which is the amount a spinning object pulls space and time with it as it rotates.

After 52 years of conceiving, building, testing and waiting, the science satellite has determined both effects with unprecedented precision by pointing at a single star, IM Pegasi, while in a polar orbit around Earth. If gravity did not affect space and time, Gravity Probe B's gyroscopes would point in the same direction forever while in orbit. But in confirmation of Einstein's general theory of relativity, the gyroscopes experienced measurable, minute changes in the direction of their spin as they were pulled by Earth's gravity.

Much of the technology needed to test Einstein's theory had not yet been invented in 1959 when Leonard Schiff, head of Stanford's physics department, and George E. Pugh of the Defence Department independently proposed to observe the precession of a gyroscope in an Earth-orbiting satellite with respect to a distant star. Toward that end, Schiff teamed up with Stanford colleagues William Fairbank and Robert Cannon and subsequently, in 1962, recruited Everitt.

NASA came on board in 1963 with the initial funding to develop a relativity gyroscope experiment. Forty-one years later, the satellite was launched into orbit about 400 miles above Earth. The project was soon beset by problems and disappointment when an unexpected wobble in the gyroscopes changed their orientation and interfered with the data. It took years for a team of scientists to sift through the muddy data and salvage the information they needed.

Despite the setback, Gravity Probe B's decades of development led to groundbreaking technologies to control environmental disturbances on spacecraft, such as aerodynamic drag, magnetic fields and thermal variations. The mission's star tracker and gyroscopes were the most precise ever designed and produced.

Innovations enabled by GP-B have been used in the Global Positioning System, such as carrier-phase differential GPS, with its precision positioning that can allow an airplane to land unaided. Additional GP-B technologies were applied to NASA's Cosmic Background Explorer mission, which determined the universe's background radiation. That measurement is the underpinning of the Big Bang theory and led to the Nobel Prize for NASA's John Mather.

Over the course of its mission, GP-B advanced the frontiers of knowledge and provided a practical training ground for 100 doctoral students and 15 master's degree candidates at universities across the United States. Over 350 undergraduates and more than four dozen high school students also worked on the project, alongside leading scientists and aerospace engineers from industry and government.

For more see Gravity Probe B, Stanford: http://einstein.stanford.edu/index.html Gravity Probe B, NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/gpb/ Francis Everitt: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/physics/people/faculty/everitt_cw_francis.html

-- from a Stanford University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Voyager Set to Enter Interstellar Space

More than 30 years after they left Earth, NASA's twin Voyager probes are now at the edge of the solar system and still working. With each passing day they are beaming back a message that, to scientists, is both unsettling and thrilling. The message is, "Expect the unexpected."

The adventure began in the late 1970s when the probes took advantage of a rare alignment of outer planets for an unprecedented Grand Tour. Voyager 1 visited Jupiter and Saturn, while Voyager 2 flew past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. (Voyager 2 is still the only probe to visit Uranus and Neptune.)

Among the top discoveries from those encounters were the discovery of volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io; evidence for an ocean beneath the icy surface of Europa; hints of methane rain on Saturn's moon Titan; the crazily-tipped magnetic poles of Uranus and Neptune; icy geysers on Neptune's moon Triton; planetary winds that blow faster and faster with increasing distance from the Sun.

"Each of these discoveries changed the way we thought of other worlds," says Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Voyager Project Scientist since 1972. In 1980, Voyager 1 used the gravity of Saturn to fling itself slingshot-style out of the plane of the solar system. In 1989, Voyager 2 got a similar assist from Neptune. Both probes set sail into the void.

Sailing into the void sounds like a quiet time, but the discoveries have continued. Stone sets the stage by directing our attention to the kitchen sink. "Turn on the faucet," he instructs. "Where the water hits the sink, that's the Sun, and the thin sheet of water flowing radially away from that point is the solar wind. Note how the Sun 'blows a bubble' around itself."

There really is such a bubble. Researchers call it the "heliosphere" and it is gargantuan. Made of solar plasma and magnetic fields, the heliosphere is about three times wider than the orbit of Pluto. The Voyagers are trying to get out, but they're not there yet. To locate them, Stone peers back into the sink: "As the water [or solar wind] expands, it gets thinner and thinner, and it can't push as hard. Abruptly, a sluggish, turbulent ring forms. That outer ring is the heliosheath -- and that is where the Voyagers are now."

The heliosheath is a very strange place, filled with a magnetic froth no spacecraft has ever encountered before, echoing with low-frequency radio bursts heard only in the outer reaches of the solar system, so far from home that the Sun is a mere pinprick of light.

"In many ways, the heliosheath is not like our models predicted," says Stone. In June 2010, Voyager 1 beamed back a startling number: zero. That¹s the outward velocity of the solar wind where the probe is now. No one thinks the solar wind has completely stopped; it may have just turned a corner. But which way? Voyager 1 is trying to figure that out through a series of "weather vane" manoeuvres, in which the spacecraft turns itself in a different direction to track the local breeze.

No one knows exactly how many more miles the Voyagers must travel before they "pop free" into interstellar space. Most researchers believe, however, that the end is near. "The heliosheath is 3 to 4 billion miles [5 to 6.5 billion km] in thickness," estimates Stone. "That means we¹ll be out within five years or so."

There is plenty of power for the rest of the journey. Both Voyagers are energized by the radioactive decay of a Plutonium 238 heat source. This should keep critical subsystems running through at least 2020.

-- abridged from a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

9. Newly Discovered Tiny Companion to Earth

Astronomers have found that a recently discovered asteroid has been following the Earth in its motion around the Sun for at least the past 250,000 years. It may be intimately related to the origin of our planet.

The asteroid first caught the eye of the scientists, Apostolos "Tolis" Christou and David Asher of Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, two months after it was found by the WISE infrared survey satellite. "Its average distance from the Sun is identical to that of the Earth", says Dr. Christou, "but what really impressed me at the time was how Earth-like its orbit was". Most near-Earth asteroids -- NEAs for short -- have very eccentric, or egg-shaped, orbits that take the asteroid right through the inner solar system. But the new object, designated 2010 SO16, is different. Its orbit is almost circular so that it cannot come close to any other planet in the solar system except the Earth.

The researchers set out to investigate how stable this orbit is and how long the asteroid has occupied it. To do that, they first had to take into account the current uncertainty in the asteroid's orbit. Reducing the uncertainty usually requires tracking for months or years. The two scientists overcame that problem by creating virtual "clones" of the asteroid for every possible orbit that it could conceivably occupy. They then simulated the evolution of these clones under the gravity of the Sun and the planets for two million years into the past and in the future.

They found that all the clones remained in a so-called "horseshoe" state with respect to the Earth. In this configuration, an object mimics very closely the orbital motion of our planet around the Sun, but as seen from Earth it appears to slowly trace out a horseshoe shape in space. Asteroid 2010 SO16 takes 175 years to make the trip from one end of the horseshoe to the other. So while on the one hand its orbit is remarkably similar to Earth's, in fact "this asteroid is terraphobic", explains Tolis. "It keeps well away from the Earth. So well, in fact, that it has likely been in this orbit for several hundred thousand years, never coming closer to our planet than 50 times the distance to the Moon". This is where it is now, near the end of the horseshoe trailing the Earth.

Currently, three other horseshoe companions of the Earth are known to exist but, unlike 2010 SO16, these linger for a few thousand years at most before moving on to different orbits. Also, with an estimated diameter of 200-400 meters, 2010 SO16 is by far the largest of Earth¹s horseshoe asteroids.

Ultimately, Christou and Asher would like to know where it came from. It could be an ordinary asteroid coming from the Main Belt between Mars and Jupiter. In that case, the random gravitational pull of the different planets would be responsible for its present orbit; an unlikely proposition. It could also be a piece of the Moon that escaped the gravity of the Earth-Moon system and went into an independent orbit around the Sun. However, the very stability of its orbit means that there is currently no way to transport it from the Moon to where it is now. Finally, 2010 SO16 could represent leakage from a population of objects near the so-called triangular equilibrium points 60 degrees ahead of and behind the Earth in its orbit. Such a population has been postulated in the past but never observed as such objects are always near the Sun in the sky. If they do exist, they may represent relic material from the formation of Earth, Moon and the other inner planets 4.5 billion years ago.

The physical properties of the object can be studied from the ground, especially its colour. Colour can tell a lot about an object's origin. If it proves to be unique in some way, it may be worth sending a probe to study it up close, and perhaps bring back a sample for laboratory scrutiny.

For more see http://star.arm.ac.uk/highlights/2011/574.html and http://arxiv.org/abs/1104.0036 .

-- From a Royal Astronomical Society (http://www.ras.org.uk ) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. Amateurs Video Blinking Asteroid

Video imaging of newly discovered asteroid 2011 GP59 shows the object appearing to blink on and off about once every four minutes.

Amateur astronomers, including Nick James of Chelmsford, Essex, England, have captured video of the interesting object. James generated his video of GP59 on the night of Monday, April 11. The video, captured with an 11- inch (28 cm) Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, is a compilation of 137 individual frames, each requiring 30 seconds of exposure. At the time, the asteroid was approximately 3,356,000 km distant. Since then, the space rock has become something of a darling of the amateur astronomy community, with many videos available. Here is one recent posting: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7wsAZNr56E

"Usually, when we see an asteroid strobe on and off like that, it means that the body is elongated and we are viewing it broadside along its long axis first, and then on its narrow end as it rotates" said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. "GP59 is approximately 50 meters long, and we think its period of rotation is about seven-and-a-half minutes. This makes the object's brightness change every four minutes or so."

2011 GP59 was discovered the night of April 8/9 by astronomers with the

Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca in Andalusia, Spain. It made its closest approach to Earth on April 15 at a distance of 533,000 km, just beyond the Moon's orbit.

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard" discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them, and plots their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

-- from a NASA JPL press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. HST Images Colourful Galaxies

In celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope¹s deployment into space, astronomers pointed Hubble at an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The picture is found at http://hubblesite.org/news/2011/11

The picture shows a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disc that is tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. The swathe of blue jewels across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.

The smaller, nearly edge-on companion shows distinct signs of intense star formation at its nucleus, perhaps triggered by the encounter with the companion galaxy.

A series of uncommon spiral patterns in the large galaxy are a telltale sign of interaction. The large, outer arm appears partially as a ring, a feature that is seen when interacting galaxies actually pass through one another. This suggests that the smaller companion actually dived deeply, but off-centre, through UGC 1810. The inner set of spiral arms is highly warped out of the plane, with one of the arms going behind the bulge and coming back out the other side. How these two spiral patterns connect is still not precisely known.

A possible mini-spiral may be visible in the spiral arms of UGC 1810 to the upper right. It is noticeable how the outermost spiral arm changes character as it passes this third galaxy, from smooth with lots of old stars (reddish in colour) on one side, to clumpy and extremely blue on the other. The fairly regular spacing of the blue star-forming knots fits with what is seen in the spiral arms of other galaxies and can be predicted from the known instabilities in the gas contained within the arm.

The larger galaxy in the UGC 1810-UGC 1813 pair has a mass that is about five times that of the smaller galaxy. In unequal pairs such as this, the relatively rapid passage of a companion galaxy produces the lopsided or asymmetric structure in the main spiral. Also in such encounters, the starburst activity typically begins earlier in the minor galaxy than in the major galaxy. These effects could be due to the fact that the smaller galaxies have consumed less of the gas present in their nucleus, from which new stars are born.

Arp 273 lies in the constellation Andromeda and is roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth. The image shows a tenuous tidal bridge of material between the two galaxies that are separated by tens of thousands of light-years from each other.

The interaction was imaged on 17 December 2010, with Hubble¹s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

This Hubble image is a composite of data taken with three separate filters on WFC3 that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.

-- from a European Space Agency press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

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. 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. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

15. Quotes

 

"Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings." -- Heinrich Heine.

"What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do." -- John Ruskin.

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