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. Situation Vacant - Executive Secretary
2. Stuart Parker's 10th Supernova
3. Albert Jones's 90th Year
4. Whakatane's 50th Anniversary
5. The Solar System in September
6. Waharau and Herbert Dark-Sky Weekends in September
7. International Observe the Moon Night
8. AAS Astrophotography Competition
9. Mackenzie Starlight Heritage Reserve Progress
10. Conference Survey Results
11. Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY Emulator
12. Government Seeks Advice on Energy/Lighting Efficiency
13. Rare Red Aurora Seen From Mt John
14. Ultra-bright Supernovae Confirmed
15. We Probably Live in an Inflating Brane-World
16. Large Binocular Telescope Tests Adaptive Optics
17. RASNZ in Wikipedia
18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
19. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
20. How to Join the RASNZ
21. Here & There

1. Situation Vacant - Executive Secretary

Recently an e-mail was sent out asking members to consider putting their name forward to become the Society's new Executive Secretary.

To date that call has gone unanswered. Perhaps you were a little bit interested but thought "someone else is sure to volunteer". Well, guess what? "Someone else" hasn't so I would encourage you to come forward and offer your services.

This is a key position in the Society and it is important that it is filled as soon as possible. This will enable the Society to continue to function fully and support and expand the services that are available to members and the astronomical community in New Zealand.

As the e-mail said, support will be available from myself, the Treasurer and previous Executive Secretary. A laptop computer is provided for the Secretary to use for Society business.

Most of Council's business is carried out via e-mail on a regular on-going basis throughout the year. Face to face meetings held once a year in conjunction with the RASNZ Conference. If you think you could undertake the secretarial duties during the year, but would find it difficult to attend the meetings at Conference time I would still like to hear from you as we may be able to make alternative arrangements for those meetings.

Job Description The Executive Secretary is responsible for carrying out all administrative tasks except those relating to the financial affairs of the Society. The Executive Secretary is largely responsible for the smooth running of the Society.

General requirements - Ensuring that minutes are kept of all RASNZ General, Special and Council meetings, including the recording of Council matters dealt with by email. - Dealing with official correspondence and recording the details. This includes email correspondence when appropriate. - Ensuring that annual returns are filed with the Charities Commission. - Making sure that resolutions of Council are carried out by the designated persons in a timely manner. - Bring to the attention of the President and Council any matters that need to be dealt with.

If you are interested in this position, or have any questions regarding this role, I would be pleased to hear from you as soon as possible by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanking you,

Glen Rowe President

2. Stuart Parker's 10th Supernova

As well as calving and doing all the other chores that dairy farmers have to do, Stuart Parker has had the time and energy to discover his 10th supernova. He found supernova 2010gw in the southern galaxy IC 4992 on August 10.61 UT. Stu, based in Oxford, Canterbury, uses a 35-cm Celestron C14 reflector and SBIG ST10 camera for his searches. The supernova was confirmed by Australian members of the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search team and reported in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) 2410.

The new object is at R.A.20h23m25s.31, Dec -71d34'04".9 (equinox 2000.0) and was red magnitude 16.6 at discovery. Images of it can be seen at http://parkdale-supernova-factory.webs.com/latestdiscoverynews.htm

3. Albert Jones's 90th Year

New Zealand's most famous amateur astronomer Dr Albert Jones celebrated his 90th birthday on August 9. Albert's wife Carolyn arranged a special morning tea for him at The Honest Lawyer, a local hotel. Fifty friends attended, some reciting "astro" type poems in his honour.

Albert is still recovering from a broken hip after he slipped on a dewy path some weeks back. He is making a good recovery and champing at the bit wanting to get back to his beloved variable stars.

In the meantime, Albert says " ...while there are no fresh observations to enter on computer, there are heaps of old estimates that have yet to be entered and sent to AAVSO as well as observations made without comparison star magnitudes - I can now get the mags through ASAS3. So that keeps me off the streets."

Would that we could all look forward being that active and technologically savvy at 90!

4. Whakatane's 50th Anniversary

The Whakatane Astronomical Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary this month. Norman Izett reports that "...our 50th celebrations grew somewhat, with calls from the local media, thirsting for information. In the end I gave a live interview to one of the radio reporters, and another extended one in the radio station studio with the host announcer at 11-30 a.m. on the day." There was also a newspaper article.

At the celebration Norman gave an illustrated talk on the evolution of Whakatane's observatory, followed by a video of the removal of the former meeting room, a WW2 Army Hut! Then it was time to do the symbolic cut of the beautiful cake that WAS Secretary Diana Watson had made and had professionally iced. This was followed by a toast with Riccadonna Sparkling by the remaining 12 or so after all the public had left. This was considered a very appropriate gesture to fit the achievement of this very important milestone. Photos of the celebration will appear in the next Affiliated Societies Newsletter.

Sadly neither the local mayor nor the Society's patron was able to attend.

--------- Another significant birthday celebration in Whakatane on the August 8th was that of Audrey Duthie and her twin sister Alison Hunt who lives in Auckland; both of them reaching the magic 100 years. Audrey is the widow of Jim Duthie who was president of, and a leading light in the Whakatane Astronomical Society for many years. Jim was also RASNZ president in the 1970s.

-- from notes supplied by Norman Izett and the Ed's memory.

5. The Solar System in September

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for September 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_10.htm. Notes for October 2010 will be available in a few days.

The equinox is on September 23 with the Sun on the celestial equator at about 3pm NZST. NZ Daylight Saving then starts on the 26th with 2am NZST becoming 3am NZDT .

The planets in september

Venus and Mars remain close to one another during September and are visible during the first part of the evening. Saturn, below them, gets lost in the evening twilight after the first few days. Jupiter, accompanied by Uranus, is prominent later in the evening, reaching opposition on the 21st. Mercury is not observable.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the night of September 3, after which it becomes a morning object. At best the planet will rise only 40 minutes before the sun, making observation virtually impossible.

Mercury is stationary on September 12 and at its greatest elongation 18° west of the sun on the 18th.

Venus and MARS will form a pair of planets throughout September. Both will be crossing Virgo on nearly parallel paths, just diverging slightly. On the 25th Venus will move into Libra, followed by Mars 2 days later.

Venus will set a little before 10 pm in the north of NZ, three-quarters of an hour or more later at Invercargill (read 11 pm after the start of Daylight Saving on September 26). Being lower, Mars will set 20 to 30 minutes before Venus.

At the beginning of the month Venus will be a degree from Spica with Mars just over 3.5 degrees below the star. On the 11th the three will be joined by the crescent moon which will be just over 4 degrees from each of them.

Saturn will drop behind Venus and Mars during September, becoming lower to the west following sunset. It will set about 2 hours after the sun at the beginning of the month. Each subsequent night it will get lower to become lost in the evening twilight by about mid month. The planet will be at conjunction with the Sun on October 1.

On September 10, the thin crescent moon will be about 10 degrees above Saturn. This may provide a last chance to spot the planet before conjunction. But 45 minutes after sunset Saturn will be only some 6 degrees above the horizon.

Jupiter and URANUS will be close throughout September. Both are at opposition on the night of 21/22 September having been in conjunction two days earlier for the second time this year. At their closet, the two will be 48´ apart, just over one and a half moon diameters. They are within a degree of one another from September 13 to 25.

At magnitude 5.7, Uranus will be an easy binocular object, slightly fainter than Callisto the least bright of Jupiter´s Galilean satellites. Uranus will be to the lower left of Jupiter in the evening sky. Apart from the satellites, it will be the closest bright object near Jupiter.

This is the second conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus this year. Both will be moving in a retrograde sense. Jupiter being closer to the Earth will appear to be moving more rapidly even while moving backwards. The third and final conjunction of the present series will take place on 4 January 2011.

On September 23, the day of the equinox, the two planets will be joined by the full moon, just over 7 degrees from Jupiter. Uranus will be between the two, so slightly closer to the moon.

Neptune, magnitude 7.8, is in Capricornus, and will be a degree from the 5th magnitude star mu Cap on the 1st. By the end of the month the distance between the two will have dropped to 21´. In the mid evening, Neptune will be below the star as seen from NZ.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Ophiuchus until September 25 when it moves into Sagittarius. It will dim slightly during the month from magnitude 8.7 to 9.1. At the end of September it will be about 4 degrees below the pair gamm1 and 2 Sgr.

(4) Vesta remains close to magnitude 8.0 during September. By the end of the month it will set around 8 pm (9 pm NZDT). It will then be about 7 degrees from Spica but very low to the west by the time the sky darkens following sunset.

(6) Hebe is at opposition on September 19 with a magnitude 7.7, so a little brighter than Vesta. It will be in Cetus about 4 degrees from the 2nd magnitude star beta Cet. It will be best observed in the latter part of the evening.

(8) Flora is at opposition on September 10 with a magnitude 8.2. It will be in Aquarius, a couple of degrees from the pair omega 1 and 2 Cet. It will also be about 14 degrees from Hebe.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET 10P/Tempel is in Cetus some 16 degrees to the lower right of Hebe mid evening. Its magnitude is expected to be around 9 in the first part of the month, fading to 10 by the end.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

6. Waharau and Herbert Dark-Sky Weekends in September

Two dark-sky weekends happen soon: the Waharau gathering south of Auckland and the Herbert weekend south of Oamaru.

----------- The Waharau dark sky weekend is the 10th to 12th of September, just after new moon. All are welcome. If you would like more information go to http://www.astronomy.org.nz/pages/waharau/waharau.aspx or contact Andrew Buckingham at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone 09 473 5877.

----------- This year's Herbert event in on September 10-13 at Camp Iona about 20 km south of Oamaru. Everyone welcome. Cost is $11 for 1 night; $22 for 2; and $25 for three nights. Bring your observing equipment, sleeping bag (there are bunkrooms aplenty), cutlery and food. Contact Phil Barker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 03 383 3683; or Ross Dickie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or Euan Mason at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last year's event was great with over 60 attending. Tell Phil Barker or Euan Mason if you want to give a talk. Peter Aldous of Geraldine will be talking about hunting supernovae with his C14 from home.

7. International Observe the Moon Night

Just letting you know that Sept 18, 2010 is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is partnering with NASA missions and centres, along with other institutions, to bring the excitement of observing and learning about Earth's closest neighbour in space to the worldwide public.

I encourage you to get your local astronomy clubs and societies involved and plan some great public lunar events. Please visit http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/projects/intl-observe-moon-night.html for more details and resources, as well as registering your events for the world to see.

-- Mike White, Levin Stargazers Coordinator, AWB NZ National Coordinator. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph: +64 21 100 7170 / (021)100-7170

8. AAS Astrophotography Competition

The Auckland Astronomical Society 2010 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition is open to all New Zealand Astronomical Societies, clubs and groups. Competition entries are due by Friday 19th September 2010. Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland on Saturday October 9th, 2010.

Send entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2010 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: 2010 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- Jennie McCormick

9. Mackenzie Starlight Heritage Reserve Progress

New Zealand is right on track to create one of the world´s first world heritage starlight reserve above the South Island´s Mackenzie country after a key meeting in Brasilia in early August. Former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin said the UNESCO world heritage committee approved support for monuments and sites, landscapes and cultural landscapes associated with astronomy to be recognised as part of human heritage.

The NZ delegation, including two Department of Conservation staff, helped persuade the committee to approve a thematic study which argued stars and planets were part of natural heritage and the sky was a cultural resource common to natural heritage. However, Austin said from Brasilia today there was still a long road before protecting the world´s starry nights with dark sky reserves.

She said New Zealand´s contribution from the Royal Society of NZ, the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ and UNESCO NZ was acknowledged at the Brasilia meeting. "The thematic study was regarded as a cornerstone project of UNESCO´s International Year of Astronomy 2009. As a member of the New Zealand observer team I was able to make a brief intervention in support of the study."

"The World Heritage Committee has adopted a decision covering the astronomy and world heritage thematic study to disseminate the study among the member states. Consequently the first step on the long road to nomination is achieved. Now New Zealand must prepare a detailed document, providing the evidence of outstanding universal value, its integrity and authenticity for the site, obtain the approval of all the parties concerned and adoption by the New Zealand Government in order to eventually present the case for the Lake Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook initiative as a `window to the universe´."

The New Zealand project proposes that the landscape and the skies above Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mt Cook in the Mackenzie district become a starlight reserve. Few places remain in the world where people can enjoy the stars pollution free. Fifty percent of the world's people no longer see the stars, those places that do, had a responsibility to preserve them as the world was fast losing opportunities to observe the night sky, Austin said.

-- a media release from Word of Mouth Media NZ.

10. Conference Survey Results

Those who attended this year's RASNZ Conference held in Dunedin at the end of May may recall that a feedback form was included in the Conference pack. The RASNZ Conference Committee would like to thank those who responded by returning the completed forms. Your comments were particularly appreciated and we will try to take into account your suggestions for improvements when planning future conferences.

The survey forms included five topics; the most frequent comments and suggestions are summarised below under the same topic headings.

1 Type of Venue

--------------- Some respondents liked having the venue and accommodation on the same site as this enabled more social interaction. However all were agreed that the conference should have good facilities (i.e. meeting room, AV equipment etc) and that there should be a range of accommodation nearby to suit various budgets.

2 Overall Format of Conference

------------------------------ There was a wide range of comments on this question. The most frequent comments suggested were a) That some speakers should be given more time and b) That speakers MUST keep to their allotted time. When a speaker's allotted time is up, the chairperson should be very firm in stopping the speaker from running over time.

3 Extra Associated Events

------------------------- Most of those responding indicated they liked extra activities and workshops to run in conjunction with the Conference. Workshops on observing techniques, CCD use, Occultations, Variable Star Observing, and Astrophotography were frequently listed as desirable. Many commented that they enjoyed the Taieri Gorge Train trip (in spite of the weather causing a delayed return) and some indicated they do like to visit places of local interest as well.

4 Post Conference CD's

---------------------- Of the 38 who indicated they had attended previous conferences 31 said they liked receiving the CD. One person indicated he/she had not viewed a conference CD, and 6 did not comment. A few respondents said they would also like to receive a hard copy of the conference photo.

5 General Comments

------------------ * A large number commented that they thought the recent Conference in Dunedin was excellent.

* There were a number of requests to move the Conference to a different time of year hoping for better weather.

* We were also asked to encourage people to present more posters about their own (astronomy) activities.

* There were a number of requests that technical presentations include a brief introduction for those who may be unfamiliar with the topic.

* The cost of attending a conference is a major factor, particularly for those on fixed incomes.

Your comments have given the Conference Committee a great deal to take into account for future conferences. If you would like to add anything more there is now a Conference Bulletin Board on the RASNZ website where everyone is invited to add further comments, requests etc. for consideration by the Conference Committee. Please visit http://www.rasnz.org.nz/smf/ and select the "Conference" link. We would particularly like to hear from non-attendees what we could do to encourage you to attend future conferences.

-- Pauline Loader, Treasurer, Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

11. Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY Emulator

Maurice Collins reported to nzastronomers:

I stumbled upon this site on the weekend http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/index.html where you can download a full working emulator of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) DSKY (Dis Key - Display and Keyboard) for the Apollo command module and lunar module. For those unfamiliar with the DSKY, this is what the real AGC DSKY looks like from Apollo 11 clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UshIJbbDFH0 the emulator can do this lamp test also, Verb 35 Enter(V35E) and the "Goto POO" (V37E00E) at the end which puts the computer back in idle.

The AGC emulator runs fine on Win XP and Vista (with no modification I found). Also there are versions for linux and Mac too. The site also has a wealth of documents for the engineering of the Apollo Command and Lunar Module hardware (with blueprints) as well as docs on the AGC itself. There is also a page http://www.ibiblio.org/apollo/Pultorak.html where some people have built real working replicas of it! There is a pdf on Scribd too on the details of the Block1 AGC the first guy built.

There is a clip on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWcITjqZtpU on how the AGC was made or rather woven. Yes, the Apollo computer was woven like a quilt! I have a DVD on films from MIT Science Reporter series that shows it in more detail but in BW.

So if you like the Moon, computers and Apollo hopefully you will find this fascinating too!

Maurice later noted that he found it can simulate the Lunar module simulator with the 8-ball attitude indicator and all! There is also a LM flight simulator that you can fly from http://eaglelander3d.com/ that is very easy to fly and good graphics.

12. Government Seeks Advice on Energy/Lighting Efficiency

Steve Butler, RASNZ DarkSkies Group, sees an important opportunity for folks to make a contribution to New Zealand's energy/lighting efficiency future in the following release from the Ministry of Economic Development.

------- The Minister of Energy and Resources has released the Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy and Draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy for public consultation. Minister Brownlee´s media release is below.

The two drafts are presented together in one document. They are available through the Ministry of Economic Development´s website in both html and PDF formats at www.med.govt.nz/energystrategy .

We encourage everyone interested in New Zealand´s energy future to provide feedback on the drafts. Details of how to submit are on the website and in the document. Submissions must be received by 5pm, Thursday 2 September 2010.

We encourage you to forward this message to your networks. I apologise for any cross-postings.

-- Lisa McDonald, Ministry of Economic Development, DD 04 474 2975

13. Rare Red Aurora Seen From Mt John

Scientists from Boston University´s (BU) Center for Space Physics (CSP) have reported sub-visual evidence of the onset of a new cycle of solar- terrestrial activity. The key fact is that recent auroral displays at high latitudes -- the ones visible to the naked eye -- were accompanied by far less luminous glows in the atmosphere at lower latitudes.

What has fascinated space scientists in recent years is the delayed onset of such effects. Typically, the Sun has an activity cycle of about 11 years, with flares and ejections of electrically charged particles (called the solar wind). These cause changes in the Earth´s magnetic field that produce luminous emissions in the atmosphere. Such effects are subdued during solar minimum years (e.g. in 1996-1997) and very prominent in solar maximum years (e.g. 2001-2002). The onset of a new wave of such activity had been expected to be well underway by 2009, but the Sun remained surprisingly quiet. Now, in 2010 there are finally signs of the cycle re- appearing.

The observations were made by the BU team using an all-sky CCD camera located at the Mt. John Observatory, Lake Tekapo. NZ-born Steve Smith, now a Senior Research Scientist in the BU Center for Space Physics, explained "The emissions we study come from regions ranging from 200-400 km above the surface. These gases are caused to glow by energy input from above, energy that flows downward along the Earth´s magnetic field lines."

The curtains of glowing gasses visible to the eye have long been called the aurora borealis and the aurora australis when they are near polar regions. The faint glows BU's camera sees come from regions more distant from the poles than the classic aurora. They are too faint to be seen by eye.

The feature captured on the Mt John camera was not a classical curtain aurora, but a glow far more diffuse in space. Such glows are caused by a steady influx of electrons that hit oxygen atoms and make them to glow with a characteristic red light. Separated from this diffuse glow was an even fainter arc that extended from east to west just south of New Zealand, again captured in the red glow of oxygen atoms. This emission is due to collisions between hot electrons and oxygen atoms in the Earth´s ionosphere. Such features are called Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arcs and form an active topic of current research in space physics. "This image of a SAR arc from New Zealand is perhaps the first-ever case of imaging an unambiguous SAR arc in the southern hemisphere," said Michael Mendillo, Professor of Astronomy at BU.

SAR arcs show where energy from the Van Allen Radiation Belts of electrically charged particles trapped in the Earth´s magnetosphere deposits heat into the ionosphere. The narrow dimension of a SAR arc shows that the energy input is confined to a small extent (100 km) in latitude, but in bands that can extend completely around the globe in longitude.

"We fully expect that a similar SAR arc occurred in the northern hemisphere, but it was cloudy at our observatory in Boston that night, and so one was not seen," Smith explained. "We hope in the years ahead to have many cases of SAR arcs in our data from both hemispheres, and then examine the full global distribution of such effects," he added. "Looking to see if the energy input is simultaneously the same or different in each hemisphere is a forefront topic in the study of solar-induced storms in our upper atmosphere."

-- from a Boston University press release.

14. Ultra-bright Supernovae Confirmed

A 'luminous optical transient' -- a bright star-like point -- discovered in a distant galaxy in March has evolved into a type Ic supernova. The object was independently discovered by three search teams around March 13 when it was at red magnitude 18.6. Its position was R.A. = 11h25m46s.71, Decl. = -8d49'41".4 (equinox 2000.0). Early spectra all showed a blue continuum with broad O II features and a host-galaxy (SDSS J112546.72- 084942.0) at redshift of z = 0.23. (A redshift of 0.23 implies a distance of around three billion light years away. But calculating cosmological distances, light travel times and luminosity distances from the red shift are complicated. For more on this see http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CosmoCalc.html .)

The brightness and red shift indicates that the transient had an absolute magnitude around -21. Type Ia supernovae, the brightest commonly seen, reach absolute magnitude -19. This object was six times brighter again.

Further detailed spectroscopic monitoring by several observatories shows that -- 25 days after discovery -- the transient (here designated supernova 2010gx) evolved unambiguously into a type-Ic event with the characteristic broad Fe II, Si II, Mg II, and Ca II features. The spectra at +25 days are most similar to those of SN 1994I six days before its peak and SN 2003jd at its peak. This indicates a link between the "ultra- bright" optical transients and type-Ic supernovae. Further details are reported by Pastorello et al. (2010, Astrophysial Journal, submitted).

-- from IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram CBET 2413, 2010 August 16.

15. We Probably Live in an Inflating Brane-World

The following is the abstract of a seminar given to Canterbury University's Department of Physics and Astronomy by Ishwaree Neupane, Royal Society University Fellow.

The universe endows with a number of cosmological mysteries but the one that most vex physicists is the discovery made over a decade ago from observations of distant supernovae that the expansion of the universe is currently accelerating. This cosmological conundrum has so far defied an elegant and forthright explanation.

There is a large gamut of gravitational theories that can explain a period of accelerated expansion of the universe with certain modification of the standard Einstein gravity in four dimensions. The issue of cosmic acceleration (attributed to dark energy) is, however, not about the difficulty of finding a particular cosmological model which could mimic as the Lambda-CDM model, described by Einstein gravity with a positive cosmological constant and minimally coupled to both the luminous (baryonic) and non-luminous (cold dark) matter. The challenge is to come up with a fully consistent theory of four-dimensional cosmology that explains the origin of the cosmological constant and/or the source of cosmic acceleration, while providing insights into some other major problems in physics, including the mass hierarchy problem in particle physics and the origin of the three large physical dimensions.

Brane-world models, where observers are restricted to a brane in a higher- dimensional spacetime, offer a novel perspective on cosmology. In this talk, I would argue that the problem of cosmological constant is well explained within the framework of a four-dimensional de Sitter universe embedded in a five-dimensional de Sitter spacetime.

[As I understand it, a brane is a sort-of surface in a higher dimensional space. Think of a two-dimensional insect moving over a three-dimensional surface. -- Ed.]

16. Large Binocular Telescope Tests Adaptive Optics

The next generation of adaptive optics has arrived at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona, providing astronomers with a new level of image sharpness never before seen.

Until relatively recently, ground-based telescopes had to live with wavefront distortion caused by the Earth´s atmosphere that significantly blurred the images of distant objects. This is why stars appear to twinkle to the human eye. While there have been advancements in adaptive optics technology to correct atmospheric blurring, the LBT´s innovative system takes this concept to a whole new level.

The LBT´s adaptive optics system, called the First Light Adaptive Optics system (FLAO), immediately outperformed all other comparable systems, delivering an image quality greater than three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope using just one of the LBT´s two 8.4 meter mirrors. When the adaptive optics are in place for both mirrors and their light is combined appropriately, it is expected that the LBT will achieve image sharpness ten times that of the Hubble.

The unit of measure for perfection of image quality is known as the Strehl Ratio. A Strehl Ratio ratio of 100% is equivalent to an absolutely perfect image. Without adaptive optics, the ratio for ground-based telescopes is less than 1 percent. The adaptive optics systems on other major telescopes today improve image quality up to about 30 percent to 50 percent in the near-infrared wavelengths where the testing was conducted.

In the initial testing phase, the LBT´s adaptive optics system has been able to achieve unprecedented Strehl Ratios of 60 to 80 percent, a nearly two-thirds improvement in image sharpness over other existing systems.

This is achieved by the secondary mirror, which was designed from the start to be a main component of the LBT rather than an additional element as on other telescopes. The concave secondary is 0.91 meters in diameter and only 1.6 millimeters thick. The mirror is so thin and pliable that it can easily be manipulated by actuators pushing on 672 tiny magnets glued to the back of the mirror, a configuration which offers far greater flexibility and accuracy than previous systems on other telescopes. An innovative "pyramid" sensor detects atmospheric distortions and manipulates the mirror in real time to cancel out the blurring, allowing the telescope to literally see as clearly as if there were no atmosphere. The mirror is capable of making adjustments every one thousandth of a second, with accuracy to better than ten nanometres. A nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre.

The $120 million LBT on Mount Graham has two giant 8.4 metre mirrors. With the new adaptive optics the telescope will achieve the resolution of a 22.8-metre telescope. The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy and Germany.

Images from the adaptive optics system are available at www.lbto.org.

-- from a LBT press release forwarded by Andrew Rakich. Andrew gave a talk about the LBT's adaptive optics at the 2009 RASNZ Conference in Wellington.

18. 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., P.O. Box 3181, Wellington.

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., P.O. Box 3181, Wellington.

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. Here & There

TAKE THAT, CLIMATE-CHANGE SCEPTICS! Trend continues with second hottest July on record Worldwide, the average temperature in July was 61.5 degC - National Climatic Data Center. -- from Royal Society of NZ's "Science in the news" Monday 16 August 2010

AND THE U.S. STILL INCHES TOWARD THE METRIC SYSTEM Then [1970s] U.S. Surveyor-General, on the possibility of the USA going metric; "We can't go metric, we would have to resurvey the whole country." -- forwarded by Howard Barnes who insists it is true.

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. Progress in Light Control
2. The Solar System in August
3. Martin Rees Gives BBC Reith Lectures
4. AAS Astrophotography Competition
5. NZ in Space?
6. Roy Kerr in "Cracking the Einstein Code"
7. Australian All-Sky Astrophysics Funded
8. Rosetta passes Lutetia
9. Bug Nebula Contains "Hottest Star"
10. Italian Crisis
11. RASNZ in Wikipedia
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Why...?

1. Progress in Light Control

Some recent chatter on NZAstronomers regarding lack of progress on light pollution highlights the long term nature of any improvements in the real world. The problem has developed over 130 years so it follows that it will take time to reverse the problem. But that said there are changes occuring.

Congratulations must go to the Christchurch City Council for the development of variable level street lighting near AMI Park. This is an important development in New Zealand and shows that strategic thinking can be applied to lighting situations. http://mhl.vox.com/library/post/new-lighting-control-system-for-ami-stadium-christchurch---ready-for-the-rugby-world-cup.html" class="blue" target="stadium">Stadium lighting

Our largest city council has listed some strong DarkSkies guidelines on their website. Have a look at: http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/documents/lightingguide/darksky.asp" class="blue" target="auckland">http://www.aucklandcity.govt.nz/council/documents/lightingguide/darksky.asp Central government have also given a lead on the RightLight website at: http://www.rightlight.govt.nz/smart-tips" class="blue" target="RightLight">http://www.rightlight.govt.nz/smart-tips under "Outdoor Lighting Tips"

A very significant document released recently is from the UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution: Artificial light in the Environment, available at: http://www.rcep.org.uk/reports/index.htm" class="blue" target="lighting">http://www.rcep.org.uk/reports/index.htm

It will take time to change attitudes amongst designers and decision makers, and even longer to change the hardware along our streets, but the right messages are getting out there.

-- Steve Butler, RASNZ DarkSkies Group

2. The Solar System in August

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for August 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_10.htm" class="blue">http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_10.htm . Notes for September 2010 will be available in a few days.

The planets in august

Mercury remains well placed for evening viewing for the first half of the month. Venus, Mars and Saturn form a cluster of three planets in Virgo, their relative positions changing from night to night. Jupiter will move into the later evening sky, by the end of the month becoming prominent in the east after the three planets have set mid evening.

The evening sky

Mercury will remain an easy early evening target for the first three weeks of August, during which time it will set more than 2 hours after the sun. It will get a little less bright, its magnitude dropping from 0.2 to 1.2. Mercury will remain to the lower left of Venus, the two separated by about 20 degrees.

The comet 2P/Encke will pass Mercury on the 19th and 20th of August. On the former date the comet should be about 1.5 degrees to the lower left of Mercury and on the latter just over 1 degree to it upper left. The comet is expected to have a magnitude about 7.

During the last ten days of the month, Mercury will get steadily lower in the evening sky, set earlier, fade and so become lost in twilight. It does not reach conjunction with the sun until early September.

Venus crosses from Leo to Virgo on August 1, joining Mars and Saturn in the constellation. It will then be just over 7 degrees to the lower left of the other two planets. By August 8, Venus will be passing Saturn, the two being less than 3 degrees apart on both the 8th and 9th. The following evening Venus, Saturn and the minor planet Vesta will form an almost straight line, with Vesta on the opposite side of Saturn and almost the same distance from Saturn as is Venus.

By August 19, Venus will have moved up to Mars, the two then being about 2 degrees apart. A few evening earlier, on August 13, the crescent moon will join the grouping of three planets. Venus will be in a triangle formed by the moon, Mars and Saturn, with the moon just under 4 degrees to the left of Venus, Mars less than 3 degrees to its upper right and Saturn some 5 degrees below Venus.

On the 31st, Venus will be just over a degree from Spica, with Mars 4 degrees below them. Venus will then be setting about 10 pm, rather later in the south of New Zealand than in the north.

Mars sets a little before 10 pm in most of New Zealand throughout August, a little after 10 pm in the south. It remains at magnitude 1.5 all month.

On the 1st of August it will be close to Saturn, the two less than 2 degrees apart. The conjunction, when they are closest, is on July 31. Mars will move away from Saturn for the rest of the month, being overtaken by Venus on the 19th and 20th when they will be less than 2 degrees apart. On August 31 it will be 4 degrees below Venus and Spica.

Saturn will also remain in Virgo throughout August. After Venus passes it on the 8th and 9th, Saturn will be the first of the three planets to set, having been the last until late July. At the end of August it will set soon after 8 pm, so the planet will only be readily visible early evening.

Jupiter will rise near 10 pm at the beginning of August and near 8 pm by the month´s end. Thus by the time the last of the three planets in Virgo disappear from view in the west, Jupiter will be readily visible to the northeast. Jupiter will remain visible through the rest of the night, moving round to be between northwest and west by the time of early morning twilight. The 93% lit waning moon will make a fairly distant pass of Jupiter on August 28, the two being some 7.5 degrees apart.

The retrograde motion of the planet will take Jupiter back towards Uranus during the month, with the two less than 2 degrees apart by August 31.

Outer planets

Uranus, like Jupiter is in Pisces and also visible from late evening. Jupiter will close in on it during the month.

Neptune is ahead of Uranus and observable most of the night. The planet is at opposition on August 20. Neptune will be close to the border of Aquarius and Capricornus, crossing from the former to the latter mid month.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres remains in Ophiuchus throughout August, being stationary on the 9th. At the beginning of August it is at magnitude 8.2, losing half a magnitude during the month.

(4) Vesta remains at magnitude 8.0 during August. As already noted it is in Virgo quite close to Venus, Mars and Saturn. Vesta will set shortly after Saturn.

(6) Hebe, best seen in the morning, continues to brighten during August, from magnitude 8.8 on the 1st to 8.0 on the 31st. Thus by the latter date it will equal Vesta in brightness. The asteroid is in Cetus throughout the month, 7 degrees from Jupiter on August 1, a distance doubling during the rest of the month as Hebe moves south.

(8) Flora is a morning object in Aquarius throughout August. It brightens from magnitude 9.2 to 8.4 during the month. It is a morning object in Aquarius about 13 degrees from Jupiter.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET C/2009 R1 (McNaught) emerges from the Sun to set about 7 pm. Its magnitude is expected to fade rapidly from 8.5 to 11.1 during August. The comet is in Hydra, on the 9th it will be about 3 degrees from alpha Hya.

COMET 10P/Tempel remains in Cetus with an expected magnitude ranging from 8.2 to 8.8 during August. Its distance from Jupiter increases from 14 degrees to 27 degrees during the month.

COMET P/Encke 2P emerges from the Sun into the evening sky, passing Mercury on the 19th and 20th to be just under 9 degrees from Venus and Mars on the 31st. By then its magnitude is expected to about 9.5.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

3. Martin Rees Gives BBC Reith Lectures

William Tobin writes: England's Astronomer Royal, Professor Lord Martin Rees, has given this year's BBC Reith Lectures under the title "Scientific Horizons". The four individual lectures are entitled "The Scientific Citizen", "Surviving the Century", "What We'll Never Know" and "The Runaway World". They can be listened to on-line or downloaded as podcasts or transcripts from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9" class="blue" target="Reith">http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00729d9

The lectures are being broadcast on Radio New Zealand's National programme on Sunday afternoons and Tuesday evenings.

4. AAS Astrophotography Competition

The Auckland Astronomical Society 2010 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition is open to all New Zealand Astronomical Societies, clubs and groups. Competition entries are due by Friday 19th September 2010. Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland on Saturday October 9th, 2010.

Send entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2010 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition Postal Delivery Address: 2/24 Rapallo Place, Farm Cove, Pakuranga, Auckland 2012 Email: href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." class="blue">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Subject Header: 2010 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- Jennie McCormick

5. NZ in Space?

Joel Schiff advises he is forming a consortium of 40 people/organisations from New Zealand who are planning on obtaining a small satellite that will be put in low-earth orbit for a month or more. The University of Sydney and the University of California at Irvine are already participants for the first launch. For details see http://www.interorbital.com/TubeSat_1.htm" class="blue" target="Space">http://www.interorbital.com/TubeSat_1.htm

Joel writes: Entry fee is US$200 per person/group to cover the US$8000 cost of launch and satellite. Those who join us will decide/construct the electronics package of 250 grams that will make up the remaining part of the satellite. Launch will be in early 2011. I will get the precise details about the money/security to you before expecting payment. We already have some backers and only 40 slots will be allocated for this first venture.

Joel's email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. Roy Kerr in "Cracking the Einstein Code"

"Cracking the Einstein Code: Relativity and the Birth of Black Hole Physics" by Fulvio Melia, 2009 University of Chicago Press, £17.50/$25.00 hard back 150pp. Reviewed by M. Coleman Miller, an astronomer at the University of Maryland.

Black holes always make for an interesting read. This is true for both professional researchers and for members of the public, whose fascination with these curious objects has filled so many shelves in bookshops' science sections. Yet before the appearance of Fulvio Melia's Cracking the Einstein Code, little had been written about the man who did so much to explain them: the New Zealand mathematician Roy Kerr, who gave us the full solution for astrophysical black holes in 1963 but has largely shunned the limelight ever since.

Melia's book is a lively journey through the golden age of black-hole mathematics, concentrating on Kerr as one of the era's lesser-known heroes. It was Kerr who solved Einstein's field equations of general relativity for rotating objects, and hence successfully described how space warps around such bodies. This was a key advance, as the existing Schwarzschild and Reissner-Nordstrom solutions -- discovered almost 50 years earlier -- had only described bodies that were spherically symmetric, and hence had zero angular momentum. Such assumptions cannot be true for any object in the universe, so before Kerr's breakthrough many physicists were sceptical about general relativity's applicability to "real" astrophysical objects. It was Kerr's important generalization that paved the way for scientists to accept the possibility of black holes, once observational evidence for their existence began to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book gets off to a bit of a rocky start, when for some reason Melia asserts that Zeno's arrow paradox which amounts to "how can an arrow move when snapshots show it standing still?" requires special-relativistic principles to resolve. Although some philosophers continue to push this as a mystery, to me Aristotle's answer is perfectly reasonable: during a very short time an arrow moves a very short distance, but it is not stationary, and if you add up the short distances over short times you get motion. Melia's arguments to the contrary make an odd diversion, but fortunately this does not affect the rest of the book.

After this initial hiccup, Melia takes us on a quick and well-written tour of general relativity, including a good discussion of the often-overlooked contributions of Emmy Noether. This is a well-paced section, and my only suggestion would have been to include a little bit about Wallace Campbell's eclipse expedition to Australia in 1922. Melia properly discusses Arthur Eddington's better-known 1919 expedition, which made Einstein a star, but it was Campbell's later observations that truly clinched the case for the light-deflection predictions. Overall, however, this is an excellent overview chapter, spanning the time between Einstein's first attempts at a theory of gravity and the expected detection of gravitational waves within a few years from now.

The heart of the book begins in the fifth chapter, "An unbreakable code", in which Melia gives the reader a feel for the state of general relativity in the early 1960s. At that time, it was widely viewed as an extremely complicated theory; and with only a handful of experimental confirmations, it did not attract many people to work on its intricacies. Its intrinsic mathematical beauty, however, proved sufficient to persuade a select few to seek solutions to Einstein's nonlinear field equations. One of those was Kerr, then newly arrived at the University of Texas at Austin.

It was at this point in the text that I became most interested in what Melia had to say -- particularly because Kerr (now retired and living in his native New Zealand, where he spent most of his career) has lent his support to this book in the form of an afterword. I work professionally on astrophysical applications of general relativity, and am therefore familiar with Kerr's solution, but I knew virtually nothing about the man himself.

Melia's portrait reveals a gifted but modest man who is deeply interested in the solutions to problems but (to his occasional detriment) not particularly concerned about getting credit for the solutions or even publishing them. Melia also offers a number of warm anecdotes about Kerr's early career; for example, in 1951 Kerr scored a disappointing 298/600 in the mathematics portion of a scholarship exam for the University of New Zealand (now the University of Canterbury). It turns out, however, that this happened because he received a nearly perfect score on the first of the two required mathematics papers, but a zero on the second because he mistakenly turned up in the afternoon for a morning exam!

The pursuit of the Kerr solution itself is described with verve, and should be accessible and informative to specialists and non-specialists alike. I was unaware, for example, that Kerr was initially dissuaded from attempting to formulate a solution because others told him that they were hot on the trail. The ranks of "others" included Ted Newman of the University of Pittsburgh, who later modified Kerr's solutions to account for electrically charged bodies. At one point in the pursuit, Newman thought he had proved that solutions of the desired type did not exist. When Kerr discovered a mistake in Newman's proof, he worked full-bore to find them, using numerous elegant techniques that were not described in his eventual one-and-a-half page paper.

The fact that general relativity was something of a backwater at the time meant that few physicists and astronomers realized the magnitude of Kerr's accomplishment. One who did was the great Indian astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who shared the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physics and who wrote that the revelation of the Kerr solution was "the most shattering experience" of his entire scientific life. Gradually, other astronomers came to appreciate the full extent of Kerr's legacy: simply put, the Kerr solution describes all astrophysical black holes, the only properties of which are mass and angular momentum. These are thus the simplest macroscopic objects in the universe, and the only creatures in the astrophysical zoo that can be described with mathematical exactness.

During their brief history, black holes have gone from being a dream in the 1960s to being broadly accepted by most in the 1980s. More recently, researchers have come to understand that supermassive black holes exist in most galaxies, and may play a crucial role galactic development and in the evolution of vast galaxy clusters. Melia, himself an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona, describes this progression well. He also adds a human touch by discussing Kerr's life post-discovery, and offers a tantalizing sketch of the vistas that still await us in the study of black holes.

At 150 pages, Cracking the Einstein Code is a quick and invigorating read. It presents a lively and personal account of a subject that is a perennial favourite, and of a man who deserves more recognition. I recommend it for both scientists and anyone interested in the frustration and triumph that mark the course of scientific progress.

-- from Physics World http://physicsworld.com/ July 1, 2010. Thanks to David Wiltshire for alerting us to this review.

Fulvio Melia was guest speaker at the RASNZ Conference in Wellington last year.

7. Australian All-Sky Astrophysics Funded

On July 16, the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced the Centre of Excellence outcomes for funding starting in 2011. The Centres of Excellence form the largest and most prestigious grant scheme funded by the ARC. Typical funding level is around $20M over seven years, plus substantial funding by the collaborating universities. Thirteen Centres were approved for funding and the ASA is very pleased to note that CAASTRO - the ARC Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics - will commence funding in 2011 with a budget of $20.6M.

CAASTRO has Prof. Bryan Gaensler as Director and is administered through the University of Sydney, however it is a broad collaboration of Australian and international institutions including the University of Western Australia, The University of Melbourne, Swinburne University of Technology, the Australian National University, Curtin University of Technology, CSIRO, Australian Astronomical Observatory, Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, California Institute of Technology, University of Oxford, Durham University, University of Arizona, University of Toronto, and the Laboratoire de Physique Nucleaire et de Hautes Energies.

From the project summary CAASTRO's activities will substantially expand Australia's research capabilities and will make a major contribution to the National Research and Innovation Priorities. CAASTRO will boost Australia's outstanding track record as a world leader in astronomy, and will solve fundamental processing problems that can potentially be applied to communications, medical imaging and remote sensing. All CAASTRO activities will have a strong focus on training the next generation of scientists, providing a legacy extending well beyond the Centre's lifetime. The students we mentor will lead the scientific discoveries made on future wide-field facilities, culminating in the ultimate all-sky telescope, the Square Kilometre Array.

A summary of the proposal outcomes can be found at http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/ce/selection_report11.htm" class="blue" target="CAASTRO">http://www.arc.gov.au/ncgp/ce/selection_report11.htm .

-- from a press release by John O´Byrne, Secretary, Astronomical Society of Australia Inc.

8. Rosetta passes Lutetia

On 10 July the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft returned the first close-up images of the asteroid Lutetia showing it is most probably a primitive survivor from the violent birth of the Solar System.

The flyby was a spectacular success with Rosetta performing faultlessly. Closest approach was 3162 km. As Rosetta drew close, a giant bowl-shaped depression stretching across much of the asteroid rotated into view. The images confirm that Lutetia is an elongated body, with its longest side around 130km.

The pictures come from Rosetta´s OSIRIS instrument, which combines a wide angle and a narrow angle camera. At closest approach, details down to a scale of 60 m can be seen over the entire surface of Lutetia. Rosetta raced past the asteroid at 15 km/s completing the flyby in just a minute. But the cameras and other instruments had been working for hours and in some cases days beforehand and continued afterwards.

Lutetia has been a mystery for many years. Ground-based telescopes have shown that it presents confusing characteristics. In some respects it resembles a `C-type´ asteroid, a primitive body left over from the formation of the Solar System. In others, it looks like an `M-type´. These have been associated with iron meteorites, are usually reddish and thought to be fragments of the cores of much larger objects. The new images and the data from Rosetta´s other instruments will help to decide.

Rosetta operated a full suite of sensors at the encounter, including remote sensing and in-situ measurements. Some of the payload of its Philae lander was also switched on. Together they looked for evidence of a highly tenuous atmosphere, magnetic effects, and studied the surface composition as well as the asteroid´s density.

The flyby marks the attainment of one of Rosetta´s main scientific objectives. The spacecraft will now continue to a 2014 rendezvous with its primary target, comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It will then accompany the comet for months, from near the orbit of Jupiter down to its closest approach to the Sun. In November 2014, Rosetta will release Philae to land on the comet nucleus.

For a sample of Rosetta's images of Lutetia see http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM44DZOFBG_index_0.html" class="blue" target="Rosetta">http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEM44DZOFBG_index_0.html Other information and pictures can be found on http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1007/10lutetia/" class="blue" target="lutetia">http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n1007/10lutetia/

9. Bug Nebula Contains "Hottest Star"

A paper published in the Astrophysical Journal late last year announced the discovery of an unusually hot star at the heart of the Bug Nebula in Scorpius, with a surface temperature estimated at 200 000°K (see arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0909/0909.5143v2.pdf for the full text). The story was quickly picked up by the science media, typically under headings such as "Newly discovered star one of hottest in Galaxy". Here is once such story, adapted from the original at eww.physorg.com/news178987042.html.

Astronomers at The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics have discovered one of the hottest stars in the Galaxy. With a surface temperature of around 200 000 degrees, it is 35 times hotter than the Sun. Despite numerous attempts by astronomers across the world, the mysterious dying star at the heart of the Bug Nebula - one of the brightest and most beautiful of the planetary nebulae - has never been seen before.

"This star was so hard to find because it is hidden behind a cloud of dust and ice in the middle of the nebula", explained Professor Albert Zijlstra of the University of Manchester. "Planetary nebulae like the Bug form when a dying star ejects much of its gas back into space and are among the most beautiful objects in the night sky. The Bug Nebula is about 3500 light years away in the constellation Scorpius, and is one of the most spectacular planetary nebulae."

Using the HST, a team of astronomers led by Professor Zijlstra have shed new light on the nebula with a set of spectacular images. These were taken to show off the new improved HST after it began work again in September 2009, and have now been published in the Astrophysical Journal. The Manchester astronomers were amazed to find that the images unexpectedly revealed the missing central star.

Cezary Szyszka, lead author on the paper and a research student at the University of Manchester currently working at the ESO, said: "We are extremely lucky that we had the opportunity to catch this star near its hottest point. From now on it will gradually cool as it dies. This is truly an exceptional object." Professor Zijlstra added: "It's extremely important to understand planetary nebulae such as the Bug Nebula, as they are crucial to understanding our own existence on Earth". That is because the elements necessary for life, especially carbon, are created inside stars, and ejected into space as part of these planetary nebulae. Planets such as the Earth form from small dust particles, which also form within planetary nebulae. The cloud of dust and ice in the Bug Nebula contains the seeds of a future generation of planets."

Finding the star was made possible by the Space Shuttle's final servicing mission of the HST, earlier in 2009. During the mission, astronauts installed the new Wide Field Camera 3 which was used to take these images.

"How a star ejects a nebula like this is still a mystery", added Dr Tim O'Brien of the University of Manchester. "It seems most stars, including the Sun, will eject as much as 80 per cent of their mass when they finally run out of nuclear fuel at the end of their lives. Material that then goes on to help form the next generation of stars and planets. These observations have shown that the star at the heart of the Bug Nebula is only about 2/3 as heavy as the Sun, but was several times heavier before it threw off its outer layers to form the nebula which had previously hidden it from our view. Images like these are remarkable not only for their beauty but also for what they tell us about our own origins."

For an image of the Bug Nebula with zoomed in section showing the newly discovered central star see: http://cmarchesin.blogspot.com/2009/12/newly-discovered-star-one-of-hottest-in.html" class="blue" target="bug">Bug Nebula

-- copied from the Canterbury Astronomical Society's July Newsletter

10. Italian Crisis

Recently a group of concerned Italian astronomers made an emotional appeal for support in a paper published at arXiv: "The decline and fall in the future of Italian Astronomy?"

Background: As the majority of Italian astronomers had to learn from press reports (!), an Italian government decision decrees to close the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and incorporate the remains into the National Research Council. INAF had been identified as one of several instituti ons that were deemed "useless". The authors of the paper are concerned about the future of current researchers and the general future of Astronomy in Italy, but also about the apparent contradiction to the government's declared intention of reversing the Italian "brain drain".

See arXiv:1007.1455v1 [astro-ph.IM] 8 Jul 2010

-- forwarded by Roland Idaczyk.

11. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand" class="blue" target="rasnzwiki">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

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., P.O. Box 2214, Christchurch 8140.

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., P.O. Box 2214, Christchurch 8140.

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" class="blue" target="form">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 href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." class="blue">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, href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." class="blue">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

15 Why...? ---------- Why do people order double cheeseburgers, large fries, and a diet coke. Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters. Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage. Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin? Why is 'abbreviated' such a long word? Why is it that doctors call what they do 'practice'? Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavouring, and dishwashing liquid made with real lemons? Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker? Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour? Why isn't there mouse-flavoured cat food? Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes? Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections? You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?!

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?
Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?
If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

-- forwarded by Norman Izett

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. Phil Yock Honoured
2. The Solar System in July
3. Lunar Eclipse June 26-27, and Others
4. ANZ SKA Test
5. Quiet Skies Key to SKA Bid Success?
6. 50 Years of SETI
7. Herschel Finds a Hole in Space
8. Cosmic Essays
9. RASNZ in Wikipedia
10. How to Join the RASNZ
11. Quotes

1. Phil Yock Honoured

Professor Philip Yock was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours for services to astronomy.

Phil's advancement of NZ astronomy began with supernova 1987A. Japanese cosmic-ray researchers were keen to set up detectors in the southern hemisphere to look for high-energy particles from the supernova. They approached Phil about a collaborative effort. This resulted in JANZOS, an array of solid state detectors and Cherenkov 'light buckets' on Black Birch Range in Marlborough. Bill Allen also assisted with data collection from this programme for several years.

The Nagoya cosmic-ray researchers' interest then moved on to the Dark Matter hypothesis. This is the idea that the galaxy's 'missing mass' is due to sub-atomic stuff that doesn't interact with ordinary matter and doesn't stop light. In the jargon these are WIMPS; Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. The alternative theory is that the missing mass is caused by compact dark massive blobs of ordinary matter: mini black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, red dwarfs. These are often known as MACHOs: Massive Compact Halo Objects.

Since there were few known ways of detecting WIMPS, it was decided to use the then recent proposal of gravitational microlensing to search for MACHOs. The best places to look for gravitational microlensing is in dense regions of stars where the chance of a line-up between a star and a MACHO is greatest. The centre of the Milky Way in Sagittarius and the Large Cloud of Magellan were the obvious choices. This required a southern hemisphere telescope.

Phil approached Canterbury University about the possibility of collaborative programme using one of Mt John's 60-cm reflectors. The final result of this was the MOA project, Microlensing Observations for Astrophysics. Initial tests were done by Tom Love using a small CCD on Mt John's B&C telescope in 1995. Bigger CCD arrays were built by Nagoya staff and students in the years following and the B&C optics were modified to f/6.25 by Garry Nankivell and Norman Rumsey. Auckland University technicians installed a computer-controlled drive on the telescope. MOA grew to include Auckland, Massey, Victoria and Canterbury Universities on the NZ side, and Nagoya University in Japan.

In 2001 the Japanese Department of Education and Science gave the Nagoya group a grant to design, build and run a 1.8-metre reflecting telescope. The telescope optics were designed by Andrew Rakich, then at Industrial Research Limited (IRL) in Lower Hutt, now at the Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona. The telescope and dome were made by the Nishimura Company of Kyoto and the mirror by Russia's Lomo company. IRL made the 50-cm diameter correcting lenses that focus the light onto Nagoya's 80 megapixel CCD array. Through all this Phil Yock was the Principal Investigator (PI) for the NZ side of MOA. The Japanese PI, Professor Yasushi Muraki, was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2008.

More recently Phil has been involved with setting up the Spanish-funded 60-cm Boötes-3 gamma-ray burst telescope at Bill and Rosemary Allen's vineyard near Blenheim. The Yock-Allen Telescope, as it is officially known, was opened on 27 February 2009. (See the March 2009 Newsletter, Item 5, for details.)

Phil is a Fellow of RASNZ and has recently been elected to the RASNZ Council. He is also someone who derives much enjoyment from amateur astronomy and has owned backyard telescopes.

-- Alan Gilmore with notes by Grant Christie.

2. The Solar System in July

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for July 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jul_10.htm. Notes for August 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in july

Mercury will become well placed for evening viewing by the end of the month. Above and to its right, Venus will be catching up with Mars and Saturn which are themselves in conjunction at the end of the month.

Jupiter will remain best observed in the morning sky, although by the end of July it will rise in the vicinity of 10 pm and be 20 degrees above the horizon by midnight.

The total eclipse of the sun on July 11 (July 12 in NZ) has a path arcing over the south Pacific, touching only a couple of islands until it ends at sunset in southern Patagonia. The only part visible from NZ is at East Cape where the sun will rise during the last few minutes with a very slight partial eclipse.

The evening sky

Mercury, having been at superior conjunction at the end of June, will move into the evening sky. It will move away from the Sun quite rapidly during the first part of the month, so that by mid July it will be about 6 degrees above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset. At magnitude -0.5 it should be visible very low in a direction between west and northwest.

The remainder of July will see Mercury move further from the Sun, although its brightness will diminish a little. By the end of the month the planet will set some 2 hours and 20 minutes after the Sun having an altitude of 15 degrees 45 minutes after sunset. It will then be at its best for viewing in the evening sky this year.

On July 28, Mercury will lie close to Regulus, with the two little more than half a degree apart. Mercury, above the star, will be the brighter by more than a magnitude.

Venus will also be in Leo during July, a very obvious object to the northwest. It will be some way ahead of Mercury, passing Regulus on July 10. In this case the star will be one degree to the upper left of the planet, which is brighter by a good 5 magnitudes.

While Venus is being chased across the sky by Mercury, Venus in its turn will be closing in on Mars and Saturn. By the end of the month Venus will be 8 degrees behind the other two planets, themselves forming a close pair. By then Venus will be setting after 9 pm.

On the evening of July 14, the crescent moon some 16% lit, will be 7 degrees above and slightly to the left of the planet. The previous evening the moon, an even thinner crescent, will be a little further from Venus and on the opposite side of Regulus.

Mars will continue to be visible in the evening sky, with its time of set becoming about half an hour earlier during July, near to 10 pm by the 31st. Mars also starts the month in Leo, well ahead of Venus, but joins Saturn in Virgo on July 20.

At the end of July, Mars will have caught up with and be in conjunction with Saturn. When closest, on the 31st, Mars will be one and three- quarters degrees to the upper left of Saturn, with Venus 8 degrees behind them. Mars will be slightly fainter than Saturn by 0.4 magnitudes.

The 26% lit moon will be 5.5 degrees to the upper left of Mars on July 16. The two are closest early evening.

The minor planet Vesta and Mars will continue to move on nearly parallel paths, with Vesta slowly falling behind Mars. They are 5.5 degrees apart at the beginning of the month. By July 31 the distance will have increased to 7 degrees, with Venus then closer to Vesta than is Mars.

Saturn will remain in Virgo throughout July. By the end of the month it will set about 10 pm, similar to Mars as might be expected with the two in conjunction. For both planets early evening will give the best viewing.

Also, as for Mars, the moon will be closest to Saturn on the 16th, with the two some 7.5 degrees apart. In the case of Saturn, the moon will get closer during the evening. The 3 bodies will form a near equilateral triangle before they set.

The morning sky

Jupiter will rise about midnight at the beginning of July so remain a morning object. However by end of the month it will rise near 10 pm, close to the time Mars and Saturn set. So by then Jupiter will be readily visible in the late evening sky. Even so the best time for viewing will remain in the morning throughout July. The planet stays in Pisces throughout the month.

Following its close encounter with Uranus early in June, Jupiter will be drawing ahead of the outer plant during July, especially after Uranus is stationary on the 6th. Jupiter is itself stationary on July 24, after which it will commence moving in a retrograde sense and so start to move back towards Uranus.

Although the moon does not get very close to Jupiter at present, it does pass the planet twice during the month. On the morning of July 4 it will be about 7 degrees below Jupiter and Uranus, and on the morning of the 31st the moon and Jupiter will be about 8.5 degrees apart.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Pisces and visible in the morning sky. As noted above it will be quite close to Jupiter during July, although their separation will increase until late in the month by which time both will be moving in a retrograde sense.

Neptune, also in the morning sky, will be about 30 degrees to the left of, and a little higher than, Jupiter. Although Neptune is in Aquarius throughout July, its retrograde motion will take it up to the order of the constellation Capricornus on the 31st.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres fades by more than half a magnitude during July, from 7.5 to 8.1. It remains Ophiuchus throughout the month, and is 15 degrees from Antares early in July, a distance dropping to 11 degrees by the end of July.

(4) Vesta's magnitude remains steady close to 8 during July. As already noted it is within a few degrees of Mars and later Venus. The asteroid follows Mars into Virgo on July 21.

(6) Hebe, best seen in the morning, brightens considerably during July, from magnitude 9.5 on the 1st to 8.8 on the 31st. It starts July in Aquarius, 6 degrees above Jupiter, and moves into Pisces and ends the month on the border of Cetus. By then it will be a little less than 7 degrees above Jupiter.

The comet 10P/Tempel will be 3 degrees above Hebe on the 1st. Its expected magnitude is 8.3

(8) Flora is a morning object in Aquarius throughout July. It starts the month at magnitude 10, but brightens to 9.3 by the 31st. It will then be 10 degrees from Jupiter

(15) Eunomia is in the evening sky in Sagittarius. Its magnitude fades from 9.0 to 9.6 during the month.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET C/2009 R1 (McNaught) although expected to be bright is too close to the sun for observation.

COMET 10P/Tempel is expected to have a magnitude about 8.3 to 8.1 during July. The comet moves from Aquarius into Cetus on July 4. It will be best seen in the morning. The comet will be 7 degrees above Jupiter at its closest July 10, but 14 degrees from the planet by the end of the month.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- brian loader

3. Lunar Eclipse June 26-27, and Others

On Saturday June 26 New Zealand, the South Pacific and the eastern two- thirds of Australia see all of a partial lunar eclipse.

The moon begins to enter the penumbra, the fuzzy edge of Earth's shadow, around 8:56 pm but little change will be seen in the moon's appearance for an hour. Gradually it will become obvious that the lower edge of the moon is darker than the upper. The darkening will be plain around 10:17 when the moon begins to enter the umbra, the dark central shadow.

The fuzzy bight out of the moon's lower edge will grow till 11:39 when it will cover more than half the moon's width. After that it diminishes until the moon leaves the umbra at 1:00 a.m. The shading across the moon will persist for a while as the moon moves out of the penumbra. It leaves the penumbra completely at 2:21 a.m.

In summary: penumbral eclipse begins 8:56 p.m.

Umbral eclipse begins 10:17
Maximum eclipse (0.452) 11:39
Umbral eclipse ends 1:00 a.m.
Penumbral eclipse ends 2:21

See the eclipse page on http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ for diagrams.


On December 21 New Zealand, the South pacific and eastern Australia see the second half of a total lunar eclipse. Most of the North Island will see the moon rise almost fully eclipsed. Only a small part of the upper edge will out of the umbra. By moon-rise in the South Island the moon will be completely eclipsed in the umbra. This is bound to attract a lot of attention.

Maximum eclipse is at 9:17 NZDT (8:17 UT). The moon begins to leave the umbra at 9:54 and is fully clear by 11:02. It leaves the penumbra at 0:06 a.m.


Our luck with lunar eclipses continues into 2011. On the morning of June 16 the moon will set fully eclipsed, as seen from NZ. That eclipse begins the penumbral phase at 5:23 a.m. At 6:23 it touches the umbra and is fully immersed by 7:22 when it is setting in northeast NZ. Southerners will see the setting moon at mid eclipse. The moon is likely to be quite dark in colour as it is close to the centre of the umbra.

-- Alan Gilmore with help from the Astronomical Almanacs for 2010 and 2011.

4. ANZ SKA Test

Six radio telescopes across Australia and New Zealand have joined forces to act as one giant telescope, linking up over a distance of 5500 km for the first time. The link-up was a collaboration between CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Science division, the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) in New Zealand. The linked telescope will make images ten times more detailed than those of the Hubble Space Telescope and has already been used to peer into the heart of a galaxy called Centaurus A.

Showing Australia and New Zealand can link telescopes this way strengthens the two countries´ joint bid to host the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) telescope. "The SKA is a truly mega-sized science project with its global reach, scale and ambition, akin to the Large Hadron Collider in Europe," said CSIRO SKA Director Dr Brian Boyle. "This successful linking of antennas shows Australia and New Zealand´s commitment to next- generation astronomical research and how seriously we are taking the SKA bid."

The giant $2.5 billion SKA will have several thousand antennas, up to 5500 km apart, working together as one telescope. Fifty times more sensitive than today´s radio telescopes, the SKA will scan the cosmos for black holes, star formation and magnetic fields in space. Australia and New Zealand are one of two regions short-listed to host the SKA. The other is Southern Africa. A decision is expected in 2012.

The newcomers to the Australasian telescope team are the New Zealand dish, near Warkworth in the hills north of Auckland, and a new CSIRO dish in Western Australia´s red dirt country, inland from Geraldton. The new CSIRO dish is the first antenna of the Australian SKA Pathfinder radio telescope.

The Warkworth dish is operated by AUT and is the first functioning research-quality radio telescope in New Zealand. Data from New Zealand radio telescope were transferred from Warkworth directly to Australia using recently established one gigabit per second connectivity via the Kiwi Advanced Research and Education Network (KAREN).

"The linking of the Warkworth antenna is a milestone for New Zealand science," said the Director of the Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research at AUT, Professor Sergei Gulyaev. "It shows that Australia and New Zealand can achieve the SKA´s ambitious science goals." The other telescopes used in the link-up were three CSIRO facilities in New South Wales and a University of Tasmania dish near Hobart, Tasmania. One of the linked telescope's first projects has been to study the heart of a galaxy called Centaurus A.

Lurking there is a black hole that shoots out jets of radio-emitting particles at close to the speed of light. Observing for the galaxy for 10 hours, the telescopes took enough data to fill a stack of DVDs in their cases as high as a nine-storey building. The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University of Technology provided the equipment for recording the data and also analysed the data to make an image.

The resolution of the new image is 100,000 times higher than that of a ground-breaking radio image made by CSIRO last year, which is itself the most detailed image ever made of the whole galaxy.

"Centaurus A is 14 million light-years away," said Curtin University´s Professor Steven Tingay, a radio astronomy expert. "We're zooming in on the black hole at the heart of this galaxy, to learn about how these systems work."Making the new image has been like photographing a pin head from 20 km away."

For details see http://www.csiro.au/news/Aussies-and-Kiwis-forge-a-cosmic-connection.html

-- a CSIRO press release forwarded by Sergei Gulyaev.

5. Quiet Skies Key to SKA Bid Success?

The joint New Zealand-Australia bid to host the multi-billion dollar Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project was the centre of attention at the annual international SKA forum in Amsterdam on Tuesday (June 15).

"SKA is a visionary project," Research, Science and Technology Minister Wayne Mapp said today. "It is globally funded, involving 20 countries. It will be the most powerful radio telescope in the world, with a collecting area of a square kilometre. "SKA will generate an enormous range of opportunities in technology, industry and education. We are determined to make the most of these opportunities. My Australian counterpart Senator Kim Carr and I briefed forum members on progress with our bid and at our site," he said. "The Anzac bid has clear advantages over South Africa, the other short-listed bid. We have the ideal site. Our skies are quieter and clearer. There is much less radio interference because there are fewer people, and quiet is essential to pick up faint signals from billions of light years away. New Zealand and Australia together can achieve the best possible SKA project. It is an unparalleled opportunity to do outstanding science - to actually solve some of the mysteries of the universe," the Minister said. A decision on the bid is expected late next year or in early 2012.

-- a media statement from Hon Dr Wayne Mapp, Minister of Research, Science and Technology; 17 June 2010.

6. 50 Years of SETI

Half a century ago a radio astronomer called Frank Drake thought of a way to calculate the likelihood of establishing contact with aliens. He suggested the following figures should be multiplied: how many stars are formed in the galaxy in a year; what fraction of these have planets and thus form solar systems; the average number of planets per solar system that have the potential to support life; on what percentage of those where it is possible do such biospheres actually form; what percentage of such biospheres give rise to intelligent species; what percentage of intelligent life is able to transmit signals into space; and for how long could such intelligence keeps sending signals.

This calculation became celebrated as the Drake equation -- perhaps the best attempt so far to tame a wild guess. Most of the terms remain hard to tie down, although there is a consensus that about ten stars are formed per year in the galaxy. Also, recent searches for extrasolar planets have concluded that planets are not rare.

At the AAAS, Dr Drake reflected on his search for alien signals. One reason this is hard is that radio telescopes must chop the spectrum into fine portions to study it, like tuning into a signal on a car radio. Another is the trade off between a telescope´s field of view and its magnification. Small telescopes see a lot of sky but can detect only strong signals. Large ones, which can detect weak signals, have a narrow focus. Astronomers therefore have difficulty looking both carefully and comprehensively.

Dr Drake said there may be another difficulty. Researchers tend to look for signals similar to those now made by humanity. The Earth, though, is getting quieter because the rise of spread-spectrum communication makes stray emissions less likely than in the past.

Spread-spectrum works by smearing a message across a wide range of frequencies. That has the advantages of combating noise and allowing many signals to be sent at once. But it also makes those signals hard for eavesdroppers to hear (which is why spread-spectrum is beloved by military men). If technologically sophisticated aliens came to the same conclusions, and thus used spread-spectrum technology, humans would have a hard time hearing them. Dr Drake suggests, therefore, that there might be only a narrow window of time in the development of civilisations, analogous to the past 50 years on Earth, during which noisy electromagnetic signals are generated in large amounts.

It is, however, also possible that someone is actively trying to send signals to the Earth. If that were the case, the best way to do this, reckons Paul Horowitz, a physicist at Harvard, is with a laser.

Although radio power has changed little over the decades, the power of lasers has grown exponentially. Today´s most powerful versions can shine ten thousand times brighter than the sun, though only for a billionth of a second. If aliens have made similar progress, and point a laser towards the Earth´s solar system, such brief flashes would be detectable at a distance of many light-years. Dr Horowitz has already set up one suitable detector and this, because no huge magnification is involved, is capable of looking at broad swathes of sky.

There is also potential for improvement on the radio side. For many years, the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico, which is 300 metres across, has led the search for alien life. (Sadly, its founder, William Gordon, died on February 16th.) Now the Chinese are building a 500-metre telescope, known as FAST, in Guizhou province, and an international collaboration called the Square Kilometre Array is trying, as its name suggests, to build an array of radio telescopes totaling one square km in area in either South Africa or Australia. Both may be helpful. As indeed may a large new telescope in northern California built by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft.

Many of the terms in the Drake equation are likely to remain elusive, so it is still impossible to predict how likely such efforts are to succeed. But even after 50 fruitless years-if the eagerness in the eyes of Dr Drake and his colleagues is any guide-it still is fun looking.

-- from the economist 27 february 2010

7. Herschel Finds a Hole in Space

ESA's Herschel infrared space telescope has made an unexpected discovery: a hole in space. The hole has provided astronomers with a surprising glimpse into the end of the star-forming process.

Stars are born in dense clouds of dust and gas that can now be studied in unprecedented detail with Herschel. Although jets and winds of gas have been seen coming from young stars in the past, it has always been a mystery exactly how a star uses these to blow away its surroundings and emerge from its birth cloud. Now, for the first time, Herschel may be seeing an unexpected step in this process.

A cloud of bright reflective gas known to astronomers as NGC 1999 sits next to a black patch of sky. For most of the 20th century, such black patches have been known to be dense clouds of dust and gas that block light from passing through.

When Herschel looked in its direction to study nearby young stars, the cloud continued to look black. But wait! That should not be the case. Herschel's infrared eyes are designed to see into such clouds. Either the cloud was immensely dense or something was wrong.

Investigating further using ground-based telescopes, astronomers found the same story however they looked: this patch looks black not because it is a dense pocket of gas but because it is truly empty. Something has blown a hole right through the cloud. "No-one has ever seen a hole like this," says Tom Megeath, of the University of Toledo, USA. "It's as surprising as knowing you have worms tunneling under your lawn, but finding one morning that they have created a huge, yawning pit."

The astronomers think that the hole must have been opened when the narrow jets of gas from some of the young stars in the region punctured the sheet of dust and gas that forms NGC 1999. The powerful radiation from a nearby mature star may also have helped to clear the hole. Whatever the precise chain of events, it could be an important glimpse into the way newborn stars disperse their birth clouds.

For more see: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMFEAKPO8G_index_0.html

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

8. Cosmic Essays

Cosmic Essays -- A collection of popular essays on astronomy, written to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009, by John Hearnshaw, University of Canterbury

Comic Essays is a collection of 53 popular essays in astronomy, written to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, and originally published electronically as the Cosmic Diary as a cornerstone project of IYA2009.

The 53 essays cover a wide variety of topics. The project was conceived to portray the lives of professional astronomers during 2009. The articles in Cosmic Essays include articles on: Mt John University Observatory, New Zealand The search for extrasolar planets The history of astronomy Astronomy in developing countries (such as Mongolia, Cuba, Paraguay, Uzbekistan, Mauritius and Laos) Observatories in remote corners of the world (including those in Spain, Uruguay, Thailand and the Czech Republic) Astronomical libraries Astronomical spectrographs Astronomy and society (including astro-publishing and the relationship between astronomy and the economy) Famous astronomers of the twentieth century Astronomical conferences The Starlight Reserve Initiative and many more!

The book is richly illustrated with over 150 full colour illustrations. pp 105 + vi. Cosmic Essays is published by the author, who is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Published May 2010.

See www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/~jhe25/CosmicEssays/COSMIC_ESSAYS.htm

To order a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include your name and mailing address. Or go to ORDER FORM http://www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/~jhe25/CosmicEssays/COSMIC_ESSAYS_order.htm Price $NZ 25.00. Packaging and postage $5 in New Zealand; $10 international.

9. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

10. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

11. Quotes

I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: - 'No good in a bed, but fine against a wall.' - Eleanor Roosevelt The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending; and to have the two as close together as possible. - George Burns Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people only once a year. - Victor Borge Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. - Mark Twain I have never hated a man enough to give his diamonds back. - Zsa Zsa Gabor Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat. - Alex Levine Money can't buy you happiness ... But it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery. - Spike Milligan I don't feel old. I don't feel anything until noon. Then it is time for my nap. - Bob Hope I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it. - W. C. Fields We could certainly slow the aging process down if it had to work its way through Congress. - Will Rogers Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you. - Winston Churchill Maybe it is true that life begins at fifty .. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out.. - Phyllis Diller By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he is too old to go anywhere. - Billy Crystal And the cardiologist's diet: If it tastes good spit it out.

-- selected from a collection forwarded by Norman Izett.

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 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp 1 - 20.
Murray Geddes.

Norman Dickie. Every year at the Annual Conference of the RASNZ, a prestigious award is made to a person or persons who the Council thinks has made a worthwhile contribution to the science of NZ astronomy. It is called the Murray Geddes Prize as a tribute to the memory of the late Murray Geddes who was the first Director of the Carter Observatory. The purpose of this paper is to give you some details of Murray Geddes' life and some of his accomplishments. This paper is based on the author's address at the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ's Annual Conference at the Otago Museum in Dunedin on 30th May 2010.
Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp

Quebec Visit 2009.
Deborah Hambly.

A visit to the author's Canadian home province during last year's northern summer enabled her to visit a number of astronomical venues. She describes activities she experienced and events to which she contributed.
Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp

Measures of Selected NZO Double Stars.
Simon Lowther.

This paper reports measures of the angular separations (rho) and position angles (theta) of 55 of the 88 NZO double stars observed at Papakura(NZ) and Pukekohe(NZ) during 2009 and 2010. The CCD method of double star observing and some of its limitations are discussed.
Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp

2010 Murray Geddes Prize - Steve Butler
The 2010 Murray Geddes prize was awarded to Steve Butler at the 2010 RASNZ conference in Dunedin. Steve is convener of the of the RASNZ's Dark Sky Group.

Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp

Book Reviews
"The Long Route to the Invention of the Telescope." by Rolf Willach reviewed by William Tobin.

Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Pp

"Cosmic Essays." by John Hearnshaw reviewed by R W Evans.

Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Page

Two Images.
Lagoon Nebula with dwarf planet Ceres - George Ionas

The Moon's "Shannen Ridge" - Maurice Collins
Volume 49, number 2. June 2010. Page

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. RASNZ Conference Programme
2. The Solar System in June
3. Jupiter Loses Black Belt
4. Galileo Had Glaucoma!
5. P/2010 H2, Another Main Belt Comet
6. Hubble Snaps M66
7. European Extremely Large Telescope Site Chosen
8. Einstein's Theory Fights Off Challengers
9. LOFAR Tested on Pulsars
10. Solar Dynamics Observatory Launched
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Observations by Steven Wright

Supplement - Book "Cosmic Essays"

1. RASNZ Conference Programme

Friday 28th May

Session 1: 7:30pm - 9:00pm Chairperson: Dr Grant Christie. Opening and Welcome by RASNZ and Dunedin Astronomical Society Presidents. Official opening by the Hon. Pete Hodgson. Fellow's Presentation by Bill Allen: 50 years as an amateur astronomer.

9:00pm - late: Refreshments and Socialising.

----------------- Saturday 29th May

Session 2: 9:00 am - 10:30am Chairperson: Dr Orlon Petterson. Alan Thomas: It´s all done with mirrors. Gregor Morgan: Yet another small step. Stan Walker: Bright Cepheids for visual observers. Dr Tom Richards: The lure of eclipsing binary stars.

10:30am - 11:00am Morning Tea (Sponsored by the Otago Institute).

Session 3: 11:00 am - 12:15 pm Chairperson: Glen Rowe. Dr Karen Pollard: Astronomy at the University of Canterbury. Professor Sergei Gulyaev: Updates on the Square Kilometre Array and AUT's radio telescope. Steve Gibson: KiwiSpec: An astronomical spectrograph for small to medium- sized telescopes.

12:15 pm Conference Photo. 12:30 pm - 1:30pm Lunch.

12:45pm - 1:30pm

Dr Tom Richards: Variable Star South roundtable discussion over lunch.

Session 4: 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm Chairperson: Peter Jaquiery. Dr Stuart Ryder: Supernovae revealed by Gemini. Dr Ryder's visit to New Zealand has been sponsored by St Kilda Community Sports Society. Professor Denis Sullivan: Why are white dwarf stars so interesting? Dr David Ramm and Professor John Hearnshaw: Incredible nu Octantis, a close binary with a possible planet.

3:00 pm - 3:30 pm Afternoon Tea

Session 5: 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm Chairperson: Jennie McCormick. Lynne Taylor: Astronomy in Otago, the long view. Professor John Hearnshaw: Can we find Earth-mass planets orbiting our nearest star, alpha Centauri?

4:30 pm - 5:30 pm RASNZ AGM

Saturday 29th May, evening 7:30 pm Conference Dinner - `100 Years of Astronomy´ Some Presentations and Awards will be announced during the evening. After Dinner Speaker: Peter Hayden

---------------- Sunday 30th May

Session 6: 9:00 am - 10:30 am Chairperson: Dr Karen Pollard. Ross Dickie: Noctilucent cloud sightings from Gore. Brian Loader: Mutual events of the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn in 2009. Emily Brunsden: An introduction to non-radial pulsations. Florian Maisonneuve: Studying asteroseismology through spectroscopy.

10:30 am - 11:00 am Morning Tea

Session 7: 11:00 am - 12:20 pm Chairperson: Dennis Goodman. Associate Professor Phil Yock: From gravitational microlensing to plasma wakefield acceleration. Dr Warwick Kissling: Zernike polynomials and their applications in optics and astronomy. Ian Cooper: Film... still a viable entry level medium for astro-imaging. Marilyn Head: IYA, lessons to be learned.

12:20 pm - 1:30 pm Lunch

Session 8: 1:30 pm - 3:00 pm Chairperson: Dr Warwick Kissling. Steve Butler: Shining Light on Light Pollution. Dr. Euan Mason: What´s up with the Sun? Norman Dickie: Murray Geddes. Presentation on 2011 RASNZ Conference from Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society. Conference Closure.

3:00 pm: Conference Close

Public talk 3:30pm Dr. Stuart Ryder: CSI Supernova (40 min)

------------- Poster Papers

Col Bembrick and Bill Allen: Modelling with Binary Maker 3. Dr. Tom Richards: The VSS/BAA Equatorial Eclipsing Binaries project. Stan Walker and Glen Schrader: Charts for bright low amplitude variables. Glen Schrader and Stan Walker: Visual observational accuracy.

2. The Solar System in June

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for June 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jun_10.htm. Notes for July 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in june

Mars and Saturn remain visible as evening objects during June, best placed for viewing early evening. Venus will be prominent but still rather low to the northwest in the early evening.

Jupiter will be an obvious morning object to the northeast, passing close to Uranus during the month. Mercury will be lower in the morning sky, but should be readily visible in early July.

The evening sky

Venus will continue to move a little higher into the evening sky during June, setting more than three hours after the Sun by the end of the month. It will be prominent in the early evening sky low to the northwest.

The planet starts in Gemini but moves into Cancer on June 13. It will cross the latter constellation during the rest of June, to enter Leo on the 30th.

On June 9, Venus will be less than 5° to the upper left of Pollux, at magnitude 1.2 the brightest star in Gemini. On the 15th the 10% lit crescent moon will be 3° to the upper left of Venus.

Mars will set close to 11pm on June 1, and half an hour earlier by the end of the month. So it will be best placed for observation early evening. It is in Leo all month, passing Regulus on June 7th, with Mars slightly brighter than the star and about 45' below it. They should make a fine pair for a number of nights either side of the 7th, with the movement of Mars relative to the star evident from night to night.

The minor planet Vesta will be to the lower right of Mars during June, with the two getting slightly closer during the month. They are on virtually parallel paths, with Mars gradually catching up on Vesta. At the end of June they will be at their closest, about 5.5° apart. Vesta will be magnitude 7.7, and easily visible in binoculars. A chart showing the relative positions of Mars and Vesta is on the RASNZ web site, go to the Moon and Planets page for June.

Saturn will still be visible in the evening sky during June, setting about midnight by the end of the month. So the best time for observing, when Saturn is highest, will be early evening. During June the planet is in Virgo, just over 25° to the left of Spica. It is slightly brighter than the star. By the end of the month, Mars will be 15° from Saturn on the opposite side to Spica.

The closest approach of the moon to Saturn is on the 19th, when the 51% lit moon will be just under 7° from the planet and to its upper left early evening.

Saturn's rings are still only open a slight amount, so will generally appear as a bar either side of the planet in a small telescope. Viewing at high power will show the rings.

The morning sky

Jupiter will rise soon before 2am on June 1 and by about midnight at the end of the month. The planet is in Pisces throughout the month.

During June Jupiter will pass Uranus, with the two less than half a degree apart on the morning of June 9. The conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus in 2010 will be similar to that of Jupiter and Neptune in 2009. Thus Jupiter will move past Uranus on three occasions, the second during its period of retrograde motion, the last time in early January 2011.

A chart showing the relative positions of Jupiter and Uranus is also on the RASNZ web site, Moon and Planets page for June.

Mercury will rise a good 2 hours before the Sun at the beginning of June so will be quite an easy object, rather low to the northeast, an hour before sunrise. During the first half of June, Mercury will brighten from a magnitude close to 0 to -1. It will be the brightest start like object to the northeast.

The planet will also be moving towards the Sun so that, as the month progresses, it will rise later and closer to the time of sunrise. It moves from Aries into Taurus on the morning of June 6. Its motion across the constellation will place it between Aldebaran and the Pleiades by mid June. Mercury will then have a magnitude -0.8 noticeably brighter than Aldebaran. By mid June the planet will rise about 75 minutes before the Sun, so will be low, in a direction a little to the east of northeast as the dawn sky brightens.

During the second half of June, the planet will become lost to view in the morning twilight. It reaches superior conjunction with the Sun before the end of the month.

The moon will be at its closest to Mercury on the morning of June 11, when the crescent moon, only 3.5% lit, will be some 6° to the lower left of Mercury. Both will be low in the dawn sky. The moon will be close to occulting many of the stars in the Pleiades, but most of the events will occur after sunrise.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Pisces and visible in the morning sky. As noted above, Jupiter passes Uranus during June, there minimum separation is less than half a degree on June 9. With a magnitude 5.9, it will be easy to locate Uranus in binoculars as the brightest object near Jupiter. Uranus is stationary early in July, so will show little change in position, especially during the second half of June.

Neptune, also in the morning sky, will be about 30 degrees to the left of, and a little higher than, Jupiter. Neptune is in Aquarius close to its border with Capricornus. The planet is stationary on June 1 when it starts to move in a retrograde sense. It will move only about 13' during the month, less than half the diameter of the full moon.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is at opposition on June 19 with a magnitude 7.4, so currently the brightest asteroid in the sky. It is in Sagittarius up to June 23 when its retrograde motion takes it into Ophiuchus. Being at opposition, it will be visible most of the night.

(2) Pallas is in Boötes during June, so low in NZ skies. It will fade from magnitude 9.0 to 9.5 during the month. It starts the month 5° from alpha Coronæ Borealis, by the end of June it will be directly between alpha CrB and Arcturus, 8° from the former and nearly 12° from the latter.

(4) Vesta and Mars, as noted above, will be moving just about parallel to one another during June, with their separation decreasing to 5.5° by June 30. The two are in Leo, Vesta's magnitude drops from 7.7 to 7.9 during the month.

(15) Eunomia is at opposition on June 27 when it will be at magnitude 9.0. It will be in Sagittarius, less than a degree from delta Sgr, magnitude 2.7, when at opposition.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is expected to brighten considerably but will be too low in the morning twilight to observe early June. By late June it will rise and set during daylight hours.

COMET 10P/Tempel is predicted to brighten from magnitude 9.1 to 8.3 during June. The comet will be in Aquarius visible in the morning sky. By the end of June it will rise a little before midnight and be about 10° from Jupiter.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- brian loader

3. Jupiter Loses Black Belt

Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt -- the broad dark stripe south of the planet's equator -- has disappeared. It was present when Jupiter was lost in the evening twilight at the end of last year. It was gone when Jupiter reappeared in the dawn sky in April.

The South Equatorial Belt has disappeared before, in 1973 and the early 1990s. It is thought that the band appears dark simply because pale, high- altitude clouds prevalent in other regions of the planet are missing there. The cause of this change is not known.

See http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18889-jupiter-loses-a-stripe.html for more information.

-- Thanks to Mike White for pointing out the New Scientist article to the nzastronomers group.

4. Galileo Had Glaucoma!

It has been 401 years since Galileo first had the idea of pointing his telescope to the heavens.

His interest in telescopes (an invention attributed to a Dutchman) began for their military application and their commercial value. The astronomical science only occurred to him later. He was not the first: an Englishman, Thomas Harriot, drew the contours of the moon in July 1609 but gets no credit as he did not publish his work.

Galileo first found evidence that proved the earth was not the centre of the solar system when he found the four larger moons of Jupiter, and that Venus has phases just like our moon. These were seemingly simple things but in 1609 they turned science and the Catholic Church upside down. He did this with a telescope that was of poorer quality and less magnification than a cheap pair of modern binoculars. [Not quite correct: Galileo's telescope of January 1610, the one that showed Jupiter's moons, magnified 20x. -Ed.]

Galileo's eyes were not ideal. His left eye was very short sighted and his right eye had less than perfect distance vision which meant that they could never see together. His eyes pointed in different directions which is shown in many different portraits. He was reported to have poor vision, thought to be due to looking at the sun, but his writings show that he was aware of the dangers of this and observed sunspots by projecting the sun's image onto a screen. This is a technique still commonly used by astronomers today. His weaker, divergent left eye may have helped him draw Jupiter and Venus as it was focused close to him while his right eye observed the heavens through a telescope.

Experts agree that Galileo had progressive glaucoma. A study being undertaken by Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Institute and Museum of The History of Science, in Florence, Italy will seek glaucoma DNA from Galileo's remains. They were reburied in 1737; his first grave was that of a pauper due to his being out of favour with the Catholic Church. He never married but did have three children so any descendents may have a family history of glaucoma.

Galileo is credited with applying scientific discovery of facts through evidence which is the same principle used in research into glaucoma and the eye drop treatments you may be using. No glaucoma treatment reaches the eye unless it has had rigorous studies proving that it works with similar confidence to the knowledge that the sun is the centre of the solar system.

-- slightly edited from an article in "Eyelights" The Newsletter of Glaucoma NZ, vol. 7, Issue 1, March 2010.

5. P/2010 H2, Another Main Belt Comet

Until 1996 no comet had been seen that originated in the Main Belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. In that year Periodic Comet 1996 N2 was discovered by Elst and Pizzaro on images taken with the European Southern Observatory's Schmidt camera. The comet's orbit was confined to the asteroid belt: average distance (a) 2.63 AU, 395 million km, from the sun in a moderately elliptical orbit (e = 0.17). It had earlier been discovered as an asteroid and designated 1979 OW7, so it was given the periodic comet number 133P. Since then at least five main belt comets have appeared. Comet P/2010 A2 was almost certainly not lit up by vaporizing ice, as most comets are, but was made of debris from the collision of two small asteroids. (See the March Newsletter Item 9 for details.)

The latest and brightest addition to this family of Main Belt Comets (MBCs) was discovered on April 16. It looked like an asteroid but was 13th magnitude in an area of sky well patrolled for undiscovered objects. Over the next few days it gradually grew in size to become a comet without a tail. The discoverer was Jan Vales, observing with the 0.60-m f/3.3 Cichocki reflector at Crni Vrh, Slovenia. Comet P/2010 H2 (Vales) orbits on the outer edge of the Main Belt at an average (a) 3.85 AU, 578 million km, from the sun in 7.55 years. Like the other MBCs, its orbit is moderately elliptical, e = 0.19.

Near-infrared (0.8- to 2.5-micron) spectra of the comet taken with the 3.0-m NASA Infrared Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea showed features consistent with abundant water-ice grains in the central coma. A narrow absorption band at 1.65 microns indicated the presence of crystalline ice. The preliminary results gave the temperature of the ice particles at about 100 +/- 20 K or -170 C.

-- from International Astronomical Union Circulars 9137 and 9139, both on April 25.

6. Hubble Snaps M66

The Hubble Space Telescope has snapped a spectacular view of M66, the largest galaxy in the Leo Triplet. It has an unusual shape with asymmetric spiral arms and an apparently displaced core. The peculiar anatomy is most likely caused by the gravitational pull of the other two members of the trio.

Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with M65 and NGC 3628, M66 makes the Leo Triplet of interacting spiral galaxies. They are part of the larger M66 group. At 100 000 light-years diameter M66 is the biggest of the three.

M66 boasts a remarkable record of supernova explosions: three since 1989, the latest in 2009. A supernova is a stellar explosion that may momentarily outshine its entire host galaxy. It then fades away over a period lasting several weeks or months. During its very short life the supernova radiates as much energy as the Sun would radiate over 10 billion years.

The picture and press release this is derived from are at http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/html/heic1006.html

-- from a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

7. European Extremely Large Telescope Site Chosen

In April the European Southern Observatory (ESO) Council selected Cerro Armazones as the baseline site for the planned 42-meter European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Cerro Armazones is a mountain 3060 meters high in the central part of Chile's Atacama Desert. It is 130 km south of the town of Antofagasta and about 20 km from Cerro Paranal, home of ESO's Very Large Telescope.

The next step is to build the optical/infrared E-ELT. It will have a primary mirror 42 meters in diameter and will be the world's biggest eye on the sky. The E-ELT will address many of the most pressing unsolved questions in astronomy and may eventually revolutionize our perception of the Universe. The final go-ahead for construction is expected at the end of 2010, with the start of operations planned for 2018.

The decision by the ESO Council, comprising representatives of ESO's fourteen Member States, was based on an extensive comparative meteorological investigation over several years. The majority of the data collected will be made public this year.

Various factors needed to be considered in the site selection process. Obviously the 'astronomical quality' of the atmosphere: the number of clear nights (Armazones has over 320 per year), the amount of water vapour, and the stability of the atmosphere (known as seeing) played a crucial role. But other parameters had to be taken into account as well, such as the costs of construction and operations, and the operational and scientific synergy with other major facilities (VLT/VLTI, VISTA, VST, ALMA, SKA, etc.)

The Chilean Government has agreed to donate to ESO a substantial tract of land contiguous to ESO's Paranal property and containing Armazones. This will ensure the continued protection of the site against adverse influences, in particular light pollution and mining activities.

-- from an ESO Press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Einstein's Theory Fights Off Challengers

Two new and independent studies have confirmed Einstein¹s General Theory of Relativity to an unprecedented precision over very large distances. Both of the studies used observations from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the earlier ESA ROSAT x-ray satellite.

One of the studies, led by Fabian Schmidt of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, tested how gravity works on scales larger than 100 million light-years. The second study compared how rapidly galaxy clusters have grown over time to the predictions from General Relativity. It was led by David Rapetti of the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC) at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

The first finding significantly weakens a competitor to General Relativity known as f(R) gravity. In recent years, physicists have turned their attention to competing theories to General Relativity as a possible explanation for the accelerated expansion of the universe. Currently, the most popular explanation for the acceleration is the so-called cosmological constant, which can be understood as energy that exists in empty space. This energy is referred to as 'dark energy' to emphasize that it cannot be directly detected.

In the f(R) theory, the cosmic acceleration comes not from an exotic form of energy but from a modification of the gravitational force. The modified force also affects the rate at which small enhancements of matter can grow over the eons to become massive clusters of galaxies, opening up the possibility of a sensitive test of the theory.

Schmidt and colleagues used mass estimates of 49 galaxy clusters in the local universe from Chandra observations, compared them with theoretical model predictions and studies of supernovae, the cosmic microwave background, and the large-scale distribution of galaxies. They found no evidence that gravity is different from General Relativity on scales larger than 130 million light-years. This limit corresponds to a hundred-fold improvement on the bounds of the modified gravitational force's range that can be set without using the cluster data.

The reason for this dramatic improvement in constraints is due to the greatly enhanced gravitational forces acting in clusters as opposed to the universal background expansion of the universe. The cluster-growth technique also promises to be a good probe of other modified gravity scenarios, such as models motivated by higher-dimensional theories and string theory.

The second independent study also bolsters General Relativity by directly testing it across cosmological distances and times. Up till now General Relativity had been verified only using experiments from laboratory to Solar System scales, leaving the door open to the possibility that General Relativity breaks down on much larger scales.

To probe this question, the group at Stanford University compared Chandra observations of how rapidly galaxy clusters have grown over time to the predictions of General Relativity. The result is nearly complete agreement between observation and theory.

"Einstein¹s theory succeeds again, this time in calculating how many massive clusters have formed under gravity¹s pull over the last five billion years," said Rapetti. "Excitingly and reassuringly, our results are the most robust consistency test of General Relativity yet carried out on cosmological scales."

Galaxy clusters are important objects in the quest to understand the Universe as a whole. Because the observations of the masses of galaxy clusters are directly sensitive to the properties of gravity, they provide crucial information. Other techniques such as observations of supernovae, or the distribution of galaxies, measure cosmic distances, which depend only on the expansion rate of the universe. In contrast, the cluster technique used by Rapetti and his colleagues measure in addition the growth rate of the cosmic structure, as driven by gravity.

"Cosmic acceleration represents a great challenge to our modern understanding of physics," said Rapetti¹s co-author Adam Mantz of NASA¹s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. "Measurements of acceleration have highlighted how little we know about gravity at cosmic scales, but we're now starting to push back our ignorance."

More information, including images and other multimedia see: http://chandra.harvard.edu and http://chandra.nasa.gov

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

9. LOFAR Tested on Pulsars

An international team of astronomers has set a new world record in wavelength coverage observing pulsars. They used the new European LOFAR telescope, in combination with two of the world's largest radio telescopes, the Effelsberg telescope in Germany and the Lovell telescope in the United Kingdom. This unique combination of telescopes allowed them to simultaneously observe the radio emissions from six different pulsars across wavelengths from 3.5 cm up to 7 metres -- a factor of 200 difference.

Pulsars are rapidly rotating neutron stars, which measure only about 20 km across and yet are more massive than the Sun. They produce beams of radio radiation from their magnetic poles that are observable over a wide range of wavelengths.

Astronomers have been studying pulsars for the past 40 years and are getting closer to understanding the mechanism that generates these intense beams. They think that the emissions seen at the different wavelengths emerge from different heights above the highly magnetized pulsar surface. Emission seen at a particular radio wavelength therefore provides a slice through the pulsar's surrounding 'magnetosphere'. The magnetic field lines that accelerate particles spread apart as one moves further from the pulsar's surface. Experimental support for this idea is the observation that the pulses of some pulsars become stretched at long wavelengths.

With any single telescope, a pulsar can only be observed in a relatively narrow range of wavelengths at any given time. By combining the traditional large Effelsberg and Lovell telescopes, observing at wavelengths of centimetres, with the next generation telescope LOFAR, observing at wavelengths of metres, the astronomers were able to observe a set of six pulsars, each simultaneously across a range of nearly 8 octaves. This provides many snapshots of what the pulsar's emission looks like at a range of heights above the star's magnetic poles. The analysis also probes of the interstellar gas that is between us and the pulsar.

Key to these observations was the new LOFAR telescope. It is a collection of thousands of radio antennas operated as an integrated facility from the ASTRON headquarters in Dwingeloo, the Netherlands. It is centred near Exloo, in the Netherlands and spread from there over hundreds of km into neighbouring countries France, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The data taken on all stations is brought together for data analysis via high- speed networks to a BlueGene/P supercomputer and powerful cluster computers at the University of Groningen.

When completed in the next year the LOFAR telescope will span more than 1,000 kilometres in Europe. It will be the most powerful radio telescope at radio wavelengths of 1-30 meters and is expected to produce a flood of exciting new scientific results.

Additional information and figures: http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-lofar-psr2010-en.html

-- from a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. Solar Dynamics Observatory Launched

NASA's recently launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, is returning early images that confirm an unprecedented new capability for scientists to better understand our Sun¹s dynamic processes. These solar activities affect everything on Earth.

Some of the images from the spacecraft show never-before-seen detail of material streaming outward and away from sunspots. Others show extreme close-ups of activity on the Sun's surface. The spacecraft also has made the first high-resolution measurements of solar flares in a broad range of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths.

SDO will determine how the Sun's magnetic field is generated, structured and converted into violent solar events such as turbulent solar wind, solar flares and coronal mass ejections. These immense clouds of material, when directed toward Earth, can cause large magnetic storms in our planet¹s magnetosphere and upper atmosphere.

Space weather has been recognized as a cause of technological problems since the invention of the telegraph in the 19th century. These events produce disturbances in electromagnetic fields on Earth that can induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines and causing widespread blackouts. These solar storms can interfere with communications between ground controllers, satellites and airplane pilots flying near Earth¹s poles. Radio noise from the storms also can disrupt cell phone service.

The observatory carries three state-of the-art instruments for conducting solar research.

The Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager maps solar magnetic fields and looks beneath the Sun's opaque surface. The experiment will decipher the physics of the Sun's activity, taking pictures in several very narrow bands of visible light. These will provide ultrasound images of the Sun and help study active regions.

The Atmospheric Imaging Assembly is a group of four telescopes designed to photograph the Sun¹s surface and atmosphere. The instrument covers 10 different wavelength bands selected to reveal key aspects of solar activity.

The Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment measures fluctuations in the Sun's radiant emissions. These emissions have a direct and powerful effect on Earth's upper atmosphere -- heating it, puffing it up, and breaking apart atoms and molecules. Researchers don't know how fast the Sun can vary at many of these wavelengths, so they expect to make discoveries about flare events.

SDO is the first mission of NASA's Living with a Star Program, or LWS. The goal of LWS is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to address those aspects of the connected Sun-Earth system that directly affect our lives and society.

For images and more about the SDO mission: http://www.nasa.gov/sdo

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

11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

12. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

13. 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..

14. Observations by Steven Wright

If you're not familiar with the work of Steven Wright, he is the famous erudite scientist who once said: "I woke up one morning, and all of my stuff had been stolen and replaced by exact duplicates." His mind sees things differently than most of us.

Here are some of his gems: I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize. Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back. Half the people you know are below average. 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name. 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot. A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain. All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. I almost had a psychic girlfriend... but she left me before we met. Okay, so what's the speed of dark? How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink? If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane. Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy. Hard work pays off in the future; laziness pays off now. I intend to live forever... so far, so good. If Barbie is so popular, why do you have to buy her friends? Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. What happens if you get scared half to death twice? My mechanic told me, "I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder." Why do psychics have to ask you for your name? If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried. A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it. The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up. The colder the x-ray table, the more of your body is required to be on it. Everyone has a photographic memory; some just don't have film. If your car could travel at the speed of light, would your headlights work?

-- thanks to Rosemary Cole for passing this along.

. Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand . Email Newsletter Supplement, 23 May 2010

Book -- Cosmic Essays ---------------------- Cosmic Essays -- A collection of popular essays on astronomy, written to mark the International Year of Astronomy 2009, by John Hearnshaw, University of Canterbury

Comic Essays is a collection of 53 popular essays in astronomy, written to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009, and originally published electronically as the Cosmic Diary as a cornerstone project of IYA2009.

The 53 essays cover a wide variety of topics. The project was conceived to portray the lives of professional astronomers during 2009. The articles in Cosmic Essays include articles on: Mt John University Observatory, New Zealand The search for extrasolar planets The history of astronomy Astronomy in developing countries (such as Mongolia, Cuba, Paraguay, Uzbekistan, Mauritius and Laos) Observatories in remote corners of the world (including those in Spain, Uruguay, Thailand and the Czech Republic) Astronomical libraries Astronomical spectrographs Astronomy and society (including astro-publishing and the relationship between astronomy and the economy) Famous astronomers of the twentieth century Astronomical conferences The Starlight Reserve Initiative and many more!

The book is richly illustrated with over 150 full colour illustrations. pp 105 + vi. Cosmic Essays is published by the author, who is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Published May 2010.

See www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/~jhe25/CosmicEssays/COSMIC_ESSAYS.htm

To order a copy, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and include your name and mailing address. Or go to ORDER FORM http://www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/~jhe25/CosmicEssays/COSMIC_ESSAYS_order.htm Price $NZ 25.00. Packaging and postage $5 in New Zealand; $10 international.

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. RASNZ Conference
2. Annual General Meeting
3. The Solar System in May
4. NACAA 2010
5. Elaine Sadler Honoured
6. Ben Gascoigne
7. Roy Willoughby and Russel Gordon
8. Galaxy Mergers Grow Central Black Holes
9. The Light and Dark face of a Star-Forming Nebula
10. Newly Discovered planet Could Hold Water
11. Two Telescopes for Sale
12. Fiordland Astronomy Cruise
13. RASNZ in Wikipedia
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. How to Join the RASNZ
17. Here and There

1. RASNZ Conference

The RASNZ Conference 2010 will be held in Dunedin from 28-30 May at the Otago Museum. The initial deadline for registrations is 30 April. Registrations made after that date will incur a late fee. The registration form is on the RASNZ webpage (www.rasnz.org.nz)

Dr Stuart Ryder of the Australian Gemini Office is our invited speaker with a feature paper on supernovae. Bill Allen will be giving this year's Fellows Lecture entitled "50 years as an amateur Astronomer".

The Conference committee sincerely invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers. This is the final call for oral presentations as there is space for only 1 or 2 more papers. Please send your submission as soon as possible as the programme will be finalised on 21st April. The paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ website. Please send your submissions to href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. A list of the papers is available on the webpage.

We will still welcome poster presentations until 21 May. The size for posters is restricted to a maximum of A0 sized paper (16 A4 sheets), or 841 x 1189mm.

There are still some discounted airfares to and from Dunedin, but please act quickly if you want to take advantage of these. There is plenty of accommodation, ranging from backpackers to top class hotels, within easy walking distance of the Conference venue. Again we recommend booking early to take advantage of any discounted offers available.

For those going on the Taieri Gorge Rail journey on the Friday, please ensure you arrive in Dunedin in time to be at the Railway station by 12 noon. Hopefully many of you will be able to stay in Dunedin for a bit longer than just the conference days, as there is much to see and explore in and around Dunedin, and on the stunning Otago Peninsula.

-- from notes by Dennis Goodman an Orlon Petterson of the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

2. Annual General Meeting

As usual the Annual General Meeting of the RASNZ will be held on the Saturday afternoon of conference following the end of the speaking session. The formal notice for the meeting is below.

If any member or society has any item of business they wish to raise under general business, please let the secretary know. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Notices of motion cannot be accepted at this date.

-- Brian Loader, Executive Secretary.

------------ Annual General Meeting

The 87th Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held on Saturday 29 May, 2010 at the Hutton Theatre in the Otago Museum, Dunedin, at approximately 4:30 pm. This meeting will start following the close of the Saturday afternoon session of the Conference.

Agenda:

Apologies.
Respect for Deceased Members.
Greetings to Absent Members.
Minutes of the 86th AGM held in Wellington.
Matters arising from the Minutes.
Annual report of council for 2009.
Annual accounts for 2009.
Elections for Council 2010 to 2012.
Election of Auditor.
Election of Honorary Solicitor.
Introduction to the RASNZ lecture trust.
General Business as allowed for in the rules.

Minutes of the 86th AGM (2009) are available on the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Minutes/0905AGM.pdf>

The Annual Report of Council and the Annual Accounts for the year 2009 have been printed in the March 2010 issue of Southern Stars.

Brian Loader, Executive Secretary, 15 April 2010

3. The Solar System in May

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for May 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/May_10.htm. Notes for June 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in may

Mars and Saturn remain visible as evening objects during May. Mars will set late evening, Saturn in the early morning hours. Venus will be prominent but low to the northwest for a while following sunset early evening.

Jupiter will be an obvious morning object to the northeast, closing in on Uranus during the month. Mercury will be lower in the morning sky, but should be readily visible in the second part of the month.

The evening sky

Venus will move a little higher into the evening sky during May, setting 2 hours after the Sun by the end of the month. It starts the month in Taurus, below Aldebaran. During May Venus will move across Taurus below Orion and into Gemini on May 20. By the end of May, Venus will be about 11 degrees from Pollux.

Mars sets shortly before midnight for most of NZ at the beginning of May and 45 minutes earlier by the month's end. Transit will be about an hour after sunset, making early evening the best time for observation. During May Mars will continue to fade a little, from magnitude 0.7 to 1.1, as the Earth moves further away from it.

By the end of May, Mars will be 3.5 degrees from Regulus, the star just a little fainter than the planet. Also Vesta, at magnitude 7.7 visible in binoculars, will be 7.5 degrees from Mars.

Mars starts May in Cancer and moves into Leo on May 13. On the 20th the 42% lit moon will be 4 degrees from Mars, closest about 8 pm, with the moon to the upper left of the planet.

Saturn remains the best placed planet for evening viewing during May. It transits close to 10 pm on May 1 and 2 hours earlier at the end of the month. The planet will be only just north of the celestial equator so is at a moderate altitude as seen from NZ and considerably higher than Mars.

Saturn will be in Virgo, about 25 degrees from Spica, alpha Vir. Saturn will be to the lower left of the star when the planet is highest. Saturn will be far closer to beta Vir, magnitude 3.6, the two being about 2 degrees apart during May.

The closest approach of the moon to Saturn during May will be on the 10th, when the 75% lit moon will be about 8 degrees from the planet in the early evening.

Saturn's rings are still only open a slight amount and in fact close slightly during the month as the Earth moves ahead of Saturn. They will appear as a bright bar either side of the planet in a small telescope. Quite high magnification is needed to see them as rings.

The morning sky

Jupiter rises soon after 3am on the 1st, a time advancing to a little before 2am by the 31st. An hour before sunrise Jupiter will be easily visible quite high in the sky to the northeast.

The planet starts May in Aquarius but moves into Pisces on May 3. In Pisces Jupiter will close in on Uranus with the two 1 degree apart on the last morning of the month. At magnitude 5.9 Uranus will be an easy binocular target. An hour or so before dawn Uranus will be to the lower right of Jupiter. There will be no stars of comparable magnitude between the two planets, so identifying Uranus should be easy.

Earlier in May the 18% lit, waning moon will be some 7.5 degrees from Jupiter shortly before sunrise on the morning of the 10th. The two are a little closer earlier in the morning.

Mercury was at inferior conjunction on April 29 so will become a morning object in May. Early in May it will rise only just before the Sun and not be visible. During the first part of May, it will rapidly move away from the Sun, rising two hours before it by the middle of the month. As a result, Mercury will be easily visible 45 minutes before sunrise, low, in a direction between east and northeast. It will remain observable for the rest of the month.

Mercury will brighten from magnitude 1.5 to 0.3 during the second half of May. It will be the brightest object low to the northeast. It will move from Cetus to Aries on May 23. Mercury's easterly movement through the stars will take it between Hamal in Aries and Menkar (Alpha Ceti) in Cetus. Hamal, magnitude 2.0 will be about 14 degrees to the left of Mercury, Menkar, magnitude 2.5, about 10 degrees to its right. The two stars and the planet will be almost in line on May 28.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Pisces and visible in the morning sky. As noted above, Jupiter gets to be within a degree of the more distant planet by the end of May, making it easy to locate in binoculars.

Neptune, also in the morning sky, will be about 30 degrees to the left of, and a little higher than, Jupiter. Neptune is in Aquarius close to its border with Capricornus.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a late evening and morning object in Sagittarius. It brightens from magnitude 8.2 at the beginning of May to 7.6 at the end. By then it will be slightly brighter than Vesta.

Ceres remains fairly close to the 2.8 magnitude star lambda Sgr (Kaus Borealis). The two are just over 3 degrees apart on May 1, increasing to 5.5 degrees on May 30.

By the end of May Ceres rises soon after 6 pm so will be observable by mid evening.

(2) Pallas is in Serpens at the beginning of May but moves into Corona Borealis on May 10. It will then be some 2 degrees from the brightest star alpha CrB magnitude 2.2. Pallas will only cross a corner of the constellation before it moves on into Boötes on May 27. These are northerly constellations, as a result Pallas will only be above the horizon for a few hours as seen from NZ and keep low, especially as seen from the south.

The asteroid will rise shortly after Ceres, but set in the morning well before sunrise. Its magnitude will drop from 8.7 to 9.0 during May.

(4) Vesta is in Leo and will fade from magnitude 7.4 to 7.7 during the month. It is an evening object, fairly close to Mars. By the end of May the two will be 7.5 degrees apart with Mars to the left of Vesta mid evening. Vesta will of course set at a similar time to Mars.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET C/2009 R1 (McNaught) is expected to be the brightest comet in the late May sky when it is expected to be at magnitude 8.4. However it will be very low in NZ skies. It then rises about 5 am at Wellington, and will be low, between to the north of northeast an hour or so before sunrise.

COMET 10P/Tempel is predicted to brighten from 10th to 9th magnitude during May. For most of the month it will be in Aquarius, although it crosses a corner of Capricornus in the second part of the month. Late in May the comet will be 4 degrees below Neptune and some 30 degrees to the left of Jupiter as seen an hour or so before sunrise.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

4. NACAA 2010

The National Australian Committee of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) biennial conference for 2010 was held over Easter weekend in Canberra hosted by the local astronomical society. The meeting was attended by over 100 delegates, including four from New Zealand, not to mention a number of ex-pats.

After an informal gathering on the Friday evening, the conference was opened on Saturday morning with a welcome to delegates by Albert Brakel, convener of the local organizing committee.

The first item in the speaking programme was the inaugural John Perdrix Address. In introducing the address, Stephen Russell, the general secretary of the NACAA Secretariat explained John Perdrix was responsible for getting NACAA off the ground, with the first conference being held in 1967 also at Canberra.

The John Perdrix address was given by Dr Tom Richards, an ex-Kiwi, and current director of Variable Stars South, the successor of the RASNZ variable star section. He started his address with some remarks about John Perdrix who had also started the Australian Journal of Astronomy in 1985. The journal was published until 1997. Tom suggested the journal should be revived to record what amateur astronomers were doing, with a need for refereed papers.

The topic of Tom Richards address was "Opportunities and Plans: the Directions of Southern Hemisphere Variable Star Research". He spoke of the importance of seeing things that changed in the sky and questioned why more people are not observing when equipment was so easy to obtain. He emphasized the continued need for visual observations of variable stars, particularly the brighter stars with long periods which are not suitable for CCD photometry. This is in addition to a need for variable star photometry, professionals cannot get the time for continuous observations. After morning tea the delegates broke into two streams. One group heard papers on observing stellar evolution through variable star observation; on robotic research for the amateur astronomer and on high resolution planetary imaging. The second group heard talks on nucleosynthesis in supergiant stars and on designing and building a geodesic-domed observatory.

Following lunch the invited speaker Dr Simon O'Toole, deputy Gemini scientist at the Anglo-Australian Observatory, spoke on "The Ubiquity of Exoplanets". In his presentation Dr O'Toole summarized the methods by which exoplanets have been discovered and of the opportunities which existed for amateur contribution to their discovery.

The meeting then again broke into two streams for the rest of the afternoon with a wide variety of papers. The afternoon finished with the AGM of NACAA. Interestingly in even numbered years all the conference delegates are deemed as members of NACAA.

The NACAA dinner was held on Saturday evening. At it the Berenice Page medal was awarded to Dave Gault for his work in the field of occultations and in particular for his observation of an occultation by Pluto which helped reveal the structure of Pluto's atmosphere.

The after dinner invited speaker was Dr Charles Lineweaver of the Australian National University Mount Stromlo Observatory. He asked the questions "Are we alone? Is who alone? Are they alone?" and gave an amusing and sceptical address on the topic of extra-terrestrial intelligence.

On Sunday morning before morning tea one section of the meeting heard Vince Ford give a history of Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring observatories, Steve Russell talk of his experiences at the two recent Chinese eclipses and Terry Cuttle speak on observing possibilities at North Queensland Solar eclipse in 2012.

While these were taking place, Tom Richards held a round-table variable stars planning session.

After morning tea on Sunday, invited speaker Dr Daniel Shaddock of the Australian National University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory spoke on "Listening to the Universe with Gravitational Waves". His talk gave an overview of gravitational wave astronomy and provided a guide on the technology of a gravitational wave detector.

A variety talks, again in two streams, filled Sunday afternoon. As is usual on the Sunday evening of NACAA meetings, a barbeque was arranged for attendees. This year's barbeque was at the Mt Stromlo Observatory site a few kilometres south of Canberra. A guided tour of the site enabled us to see some of the devastation caused by the bush fires and the restoration which has been carried out on some of the buildings. The gutted observatories still contain some of the ruined equipment. The NACAA meeting itself was closed at the end of the BBQ.

TTSO4 On Monday the fourth trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations, TTSO4, took place and was attended by 31 delegates. A wide range of papers was presented by attendees from both sides of the Tasman and at all levels of occultation observing.

In the morning these included a review by John Talbot of some recent successful asteroidal occultations, Brian Loader described the processing of observation of double star occultations, Chris Wyatt spoke on visual observing of occultations, Dave Herald introduced the use of the Japanese Kaguya satellite altimetric measures of the lunar surface to generate accurate lunar profiles, Dave Gault reviewed the work done on the restoration and archiving of grazing occultation data and Hristo Pavlov introduced his new Tangra light measuring software for light curve reduction.

After lunch David Herald described a tool added to his Occult program for comparing star positions from different catalogues, John Talbot described building a cheap 10-inch telescope for occultation observing; Jonathan Bradshaw described a low cost route into digital occultation timing and Hristo Pavlov and Dave Gault delved into analogue-to-digital video conversion. The afternoon ended with a round table discussion.

This was a very successful meeting organized by Hristo Pavlov: there was a call for a TTSO5 meeting at the 2011 RASNZ conference on Napier.

-- Brian Loader

5. Elaine Sadler Honoured

Professor Elaine Sadler has been made a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in recognition for her research in high energy astrophysics and galaxy evolution.

Elaine was guest speaker at an RASNZ Conference some years back. There she told us about the curious correlation between the mass of the black hole at the centre of a galaxy and the mass of the central bulge surrounding the black hole. The correlation is found in galaxies ranging from our own up to giant elliptical galaxies. The correlation is now explained by radiation and outflows from the central black hole ultimately stopping the formation of stars in the space around it. [At least that's the Editor's recollection of it.]

Elaine is ARC Professorial Fellow, School of Physics, University of Sydney, an ex-President of the Astronomical Society of Australia and current chair of the Australian National Committee for Astronomy.

-- from an Australian Academy of Sciences release forwarded by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

6. Ben Gascoigne

New Zealand-born astronomer Ben Gascoigne died on March 25, aged 95. He was born in Napier in 1915. In 1937 he completed an MSc at Auckland University College (now Auckland University) after which he worked on optical munitions with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in New Zealand. In 1941 he was awarded PhD from the University of Bristol.

Ben was a long time staff member at Mt Stromlo, having gone to Australia in 1941 to join a team working in optical munitions at the Commonwealth Solar Observatory. After the war he explored his research interests in stellar evolution, distance measurement and faint star photometry, but he is perhaps best known for his work in establishing the Anglo Australian Telescope. He was honoured with an Order of Australia in 1996 for his service to Australian astronomy.

-- from an Astronomical Society of Australia release and the Encyclopaedia of Australian Science.

Editor's note: Ben was the brother-in-law of Audrey Duthie of Whakatane. Audrey was the wife of Jim Duthie who was a leading light in the Whakatane Astronomical Society and the RASNZ in the 1960s to 1980s.

7. Roy Willoughby and Russel Gordon

We were recently informed of the deaths of two RASNZ members of long standing.

Roy Willoughby died in March. Roy lived at Levin but had connections with Wellington astronomy as early as 1936. For the March 2005 issue of Southern Stars commemorating Frank Bateson, Roy provided the photo of Frank and a group of young observers, including Roy, at the Thomas King Observatory viewing the solar eclipse of that year. They had been given the day off work by the abdication of King Edward VIII. The new King George VI's birthday was celebrated on the eclipse day, December 14. Roy noted that three Saroses -- 54 years 1 month and 2 days -- later saw a repeat performance on 16 January 1991 with the (annular) central line almost going through the Carter Observatory. But Roy's telescope "...spent the day in my shed in Levin, I prefer to keep it dry at all times." Roy was an RASNZ member from 1973 to 2008.

Russel Gordon joined the RASNZ in 1964 while at Wellington College where he was involved with the school's observatory. He completed a mathematics degree at Victoria University and worked at the Statistics Department's Wellington office till he took early retirement. Russel was active in RASNZ administration in the 1970s and was Editor of the Newsletter.

8. Galaxy Mergers Grow Central Black Holes

Giant black holes in the centers of galaxies grow mainly as a result of intergalactic collisions, according to results presented by a group of astronomers led by Dr. Ezequiel Treister from the University of Hawaii, published in the March 25th issue of the international journal Science.

As gas clouds in galaxies are sucked into the central black hole, they emit vast amounts of radiation, giving rise to objects called quasars. At first the growing black holes are hidden by large amounts of dust. After 10-100 million years the dust is blown out by the strong radiation pressure, leaving a naked quasar. It is visible in optical wavelengths and keeps shining for another 100 million years.

Because most of the emission from these early quasars is hidden by dust the astronomers looked at infrared wavelengths, for signs of very hot dust, and in X-rays, which are less affected by obscuration. For this they combined data obtained with the Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer space observatories. They identified a large number of obscured, dust enshrouded quasars at very large distances, up to 11 billion light-years away when the Universe was still in its infancy. This showed that the number of obscured quasars relative to the unobscured ones was significantly larger in the early Universe than it is now.

Researchers further analyzed images of these distant galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, using the new Wide Field Camera 3 installed 10 months ago during the last servicing mission. These images revealed obvious signatures of interactions and mergers, thus confirming the hypothesis of this group. Finally, using a simple theoretical prescription, the authors estimated that it takes about 100 million years for radiation from the growing black hole to wipe out the surrounding dust and gas and reveal the naked quasar.

Major galaxy mergers are important to trigger star formation episodes and modify galaxy morphologies. This work confirmed that mergers are also critical for the growth of the nuclear giant black hole.

For more see http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/info/press-releases/mergers_quasars/

-- from a University of Hawaii press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

9. The Light and Dark face of a Star-Forming Nebula

The European Southern Observatory has released an image of the little- known nebula Gum 19. In the infrared it appears dark on one half and bright on the other. On one side hot hydrogen gas is illuminated by a supergiant blue star called V391 Velorum. Star formation is taking place within the ribbon of luminous and dark material that brackets V391 Velorum¹s left in the picture. After many millennia, these fledgling stars, coupled with the explosive demise of V391 Velorum as a supernova, will likely alter Gum 19's present Janus-like appearance.

Gum 19 is located in the direction of the constellation Vela (the Sail) at a distance of approximately 22 000 light years. It was catalogued in 1955 by the Australian astrophysicist Colin S. Gum in the first significant survey of HII ("H-two") regions in the southern sky. HII refers to hydrogen gas that is ionized, or energized to the extent that the hydrogen atoms lose their electrons. Such regions emit light at well-defined wavelengths (or colours), giving these cosmic clouds their characteristic glow. And indeed, much like terrestrial clouds, the shapes and textures of these HII regions change as time passes, though over the course of eons rather than before our eyes.

The new image of Gum 19 was captured by an infrared detector called SOFI, mounted on ESO's New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, SOFI stands for Son of ISAAC, after the 'father' instrument, ISAAC, located at ESO's Very Large Telescope observatory at Paranal north of La Silla. Observing this nebula in the infrared allows astronomers to see through at least parts of the dust.

Gum 19's glow is powered by ultraviolet light from a nearby superhot star called V391 Velorum. V391 Velorum has a surface temperature around 30,000 degrees C. V391 Velorum¹s brightness fluctuates as it ejects shells of matter which contribute to Gum 19¹s composition and light emissions. A big star like V391 Velorum has a relatively short lifetimes of about ten million years before blowing up as supernovae.

Within the neighbourhood of V391 Vel new stars continue to grow. In several million years -- a blink of an eye in cosmic time -- these shrinking knots of matter will eventually reach the high density at their centres necessary to ignite nuclear fusion. The fresh outpouring of energy and stellar winds from these newborn stars will also modify the gaseous landscape of Gum 19.

Full text of this press release, images and a video: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1014/

-- from an ESO press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. Newly Discovered planet Could Hold Water

A planet discovered by the Corot satellite appears to be a gas giant that may have an interior that closely resembles those of Jupiter and Saturn

Very few planets are temperate enough to allow the presence of liquid water, but the newly discovered Corot-9b is one of them. It was found on 16 May 2008 and orbits its star every 95.274 days, a little longer than Mercury takes to go round the Sun.

More than 400 exoplanets have been discovered so far and 70 of them have been found by the 'transit' method. A transit is when a planet passes in front of its host star and blocks some of the star's light. This temporarily dims the star and enables the planet's mass, diameter, density and temperature to be deduced. The time between similar transits gives the orbital period of the planet. [Ed's note: The paragraph repeats the press release's claim. One can see how a transit gives the planet's size and orbital period. Without additional spectroscopic measures of radial velocity, it is hard to see how mass and hence density are derived.]

Corot-9b is the first transiting planet to have both a longish period and a near-circular orbit. Its orbit is slightly elliptical but at closest approach it is 54 million km from its star. Although that is only about the distance of Mercury from the sun, it is by far the largest orbit of any transiting planet found so far. Because it orbits a star cooler than our Sun, calculations estimate that Corot-9b¹s temperature could lie somewhere between -23 degrees C and 157 degrees C.

Corot-9b has a radius around 1.05 times that of Jupiter but only 84% of the mass. This leads to a density of 0.90 g/cc, or 68% that of Jupiter. This makes it the first exoplanet that is definitely similar to a planet in our Solar System, the discoverers claim.

The similarity is caused by the fact that Corot-9b is sufficiently far from its star to prevent tidal forces from heating its interior, changing its physical condition. Tidal force can also 'lock' the planet's spin so only one side faces the star. Based on calculations, neither of these is possible in this case. Thus Corot-9b's interior is likely to be similar to the gas giants in our Solar System.

There is also one other tantalizing possibility about this world. Although the planet itself is a gas giant and hence has no solid surface to stand on, what if it possessed a moon like Saturn's Titan? If the temperature were towards the lower end of the estimated range, then any moon would be an ice ball. If it were towards the upper end, it would be rather too hot for liquid water. But what if it were somewhere in the middle?

For more see http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/COROT/SEMJOMCKP6G_0.html "A transiting giant planet with a temperature between 250 K and 430 K" by H. J. Deeg, et al. was published in Nature (doi: 10.1038/nature08856)

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

11. Two Telescopes for Sale

Phil Barker, Christchurch, has two telescopes for sale.

1. Skywatcher 5-inch goto Maksutov including a solar filter, dew shield,

10 and 25mm eyepieces plus 2 x Barlow. Phil remarks that "the goto works well but is not in the same class as an lx200 or my C11 Nexstar. It generally gets objects in the field of the 25mm eyepiece every time. Phil can e-mail pictures. Asking price is $1000. Will ship anywhere in NZ.

2. 6-inch f/9 Newtonian 'scope "entirely of my own construction" with a

nice EQ3 equatorial mount and RA drive; helical 2 inch focuser with 1.25 inch adaptor. Works well with 2-inch eyepieces; sharp flat field, very little coma; 28mm secondary mirror; curved spider for no diffraction spikes; all-metal tube. Optics are full thickness Pyrex and very sharp: "I spent plenty of time figuring this mirror." Superb on Jupiter in good seeing at 312x. 30mm finder and comes with a 25mm eyepiece only. $500 for this scope; e-mail for pictures.

Phil's contacts are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; phone 03 383 3683.

12. Fiordland Astronomy Cruise

Affinity Cruises advise that they are arranging an Astronomers Cruise around Fiordland for 6 nights and 7 days, 7-13 July 2010

Guest astronomer and lecturer on the cruise is Professor Ian Morison, Gresham Professor of Astronomy, UK. Ian Morison lectures widely on astronomy, has co-authored books for amateur astronomers and writes regularly for the UK astronomy magazines Astronomy Now and Sky at Night. He also writes a monthly sky guide for the Observatory's web site and produces an audio version as part of the Jodrell Bank Podcast. He has contributed to many television programmes and is a regular astronomy commentator on local and national radio in the UK. Another activity he greatly enjoys is to take amateur astronomers on observing trips and he is doing one in Fiordland in July 2010. The departure date has been selected around a small moon to offer the clearest skies and the most settled weather patterns.

"Cruise across Lake Manapouri then coach over Wilmot Pass with its breath taking views of the fiords, and onto meet Affinity in Deep Cove, Doubtful Sound." The tour will include many historical sites, nature walks, and marine life studies along with modern wonders like the Manapouri power station. $3195.00 per person twin share + transfers $200.00 p.p

For more information contact Affinity Cruises, P O Box 54, Renwick, 7243, Marlborough; phone: 03 5727223; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; website www.affinitycruises.co.nz

13. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

14. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

15. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

16. 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..

17. Here and There

More typos and bloopers noted in The Observatory, 2010 February.

HARDLY A HURTLE For astronauts hurtling around the moon at 20 feet per second ... The Telegraph, 2009 July 20, p.19.

O NO IT ISN'T

All right CH4 is methanol. -- The Observatory, v.119, 231, 2009.

NOT VERY FRIENDLY ...telescope time at the Cerro Tololo Anti-American Observatory -- Astronomical Journal, v.136, 1310, 2008.

NOT BY US The astronomical name for the sun is Sol ... Sol is an average to small star, known as a white dwarf. -- Telegraph Weekend, 2009, August 1.

FROM OUR ANDROMEDA CORRESPONDENT Look at an image of the Milky Way galaxy, and you can't help but notice its exquisite spiral arms. -- Science, 2009 August 28, p. 1059.

BUT NOT JUST YET Many leading scientists agree that carbon emissions must be cut to keep a global rise in temperature to below 35.6F -- The Telegraph (overseas Daily Telegraph), 2009 September 9-45, p. 11.

VLA GRAVITATIONAL LENSING PERHAPS? Through the naked eye, the galaxy NGC 1313 can be seen only as a faint smudge beyond our southern horizon. -- Daily Telegraph, September Night Sky.

STAR OVER GASCONY Zeta Aurignac, a double star system... -- Dollheimers Grosses Buch des Wissens in zwei Banden (G. Dollheimer, Leipzig), 1938, vol, 2, p. 1633.

PEARLS BEFORE SWINE The Local Volume is a treasure trough. -- Preface to Galaxies in the Local Volume (Springer), 2008.

LONG AGO AND NOT SO FAR AWAY The most distant water found in the universe has been detected in a galaxy more than 11 light years away. -- Astronomy & geophysics, v.50, 1.6, 2009.

TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT NASA saw Kepler safely into solar orbit, trailing 950 km behind Earth. - - Astronomy & Geophysics, v. 50, 2.7, 2009.

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. Sir Ian Axford (1933 - 2010)
2. RASNZ Conference
3. Global Astronomy Month
4. The Solar System in April
5. Fred Watson Honoured
6. Neutrino Oscillation Experiment Started
7. Public Solar Stormwatch - Webpage
8. Phobos Flyby Images
9. Asteroid Collision Seen?
10. VISTA Infra-Red Survey Telescope Commissioned
11. New Director for CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Sciences Division
12. RASNZ in Wikipedia
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. "The Goldilocks Enigma"

1. Sir Ian Axford (1933 - 2010)

Sir Ian Axford passed away on March 13 after a period of failing health. He was a towering figure in science and a passionate supporter of New Zealand involvement in the Square Kilometre Array.

Sir Ian was director (1974-2004) of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy (MPAe), now renamed to Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (PMS). The institute was a pioneer in solar-terrestrial sciences as well as the interstellar medium, making significant contributions in the fields of plasma physics and space physics on subjects that include planetary science, comets, the heliosphere, the magnetosphere, solar physics, supernova remnants, and cosmic rays.

His position as director of MPAe and Chair of the COSPAR -- the International Committee on Space Research -- placed him at the forefront of near-Earth and Solar System research. He was closely involved with the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 planetary explorers, the Giotto space-probe to Comet Halley, the Ulysses solar-polar explorer, and many other international space projects.

Sir Ian started his career in 1960s, at the beginning of the space exploration era. He was a professor at two leading American universities: Cornell University, in New York, then at the San Diego campus of the University of California. At Cornell, he and Carl Sagan founded the Centre for Radiophysics and Space Research.

Named New Zealander of the Year in 1995, he was knighted in 1996. He received the Chapman Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the John Adam Fleming Medal of the American Geophysical Union. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and a fellow of the Academia Europaea.

The Ian Axford Fellowships in Public Policy, named after him, were established in 1995 as reciprocal to the U.S. State Department's Fulbright Scholar Program. He founded the Marsden Fund and was its Chair. He also founded and chaired the Asia-Oceania Geosciences Society, which established the annual Axford Award for the best achievement in the field of Geoscience. Sir Ian also chaired the NZ radio astronomy committee SKANZ.

A memorial service is planned for mid April for friends and colleagues to pay their tribute.

-- from a tribute by Sergei Gulyaev and biographical notes forwarded by Karen Pollard.

--------- Jack Baggaely and Grahame Fraser, in Canterbury University's Physics and Astronomy Dept Newsletter, shared this tale of Ian Axford's practical approach to administration: Ian had a spell as Vice Chancellor of Victoria University. On his arrival and first chairing of the Academic Board equivalent he was advised of a potentially expensive repair required in the roof and the need for external consultants to carry out an inspection. Ian obtained a torch, boiler suit and ladder and inspected the roof-site himself. He was able to advise on how to (easily) rectify the problem. Good to see how a Canterbury Engineering graduate approached such a situation with hands-on know-how.

2. RASNZ Conference

The RASNZ conference 2010 will be held in Dunedin from 28-30 May 2010, at the Otago Museum.

Dr Stuart Ryder of the Australian Gemini Office is our invited speaker with a feature papers on Supernovae. Bill Allen will be giving this year´s Fellows lecture entitled "50 years as an amateur Astronomer".

For further information on the conference and registration please visit the http://www.rasnz.org.nz" class="blue">RASNZ web site

The RASNZ standing conference committee sincerely invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles due by 31st March and Abstracts due 30 April. The paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ website www.rasnz.org.nz. Please send your submissions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We look forward to receiving your submission and seeing you at conference.

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find this of interest. -- Orlon Petterson, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

3. Global Astronomy Month

Marilyn Head writes: Mike White, NZ Coordinator for Astronomers Without Borders, has asked me to send this on to you and your members regarding the Global Astronomy Month being held in April this year. If you are interested in taking part in this event, please contact Mike directly - details below.

----------- Global Astronomy Month 2010: One People, One Sky

Let's Continue the Celebration of the Universe!

Professional and amateur astronomers, educators and all astronomy enthusiasts worldwide are invited to celebrate the Universe in April 2010, during Global Astronomy Month - an international project that builds on the achievements of The International Year of Astronomy 2009, by combining a wide array of activities with the possibility of sharing experiences in real-time!

The unprecedented success of 100 Hours of Astronomy (100HA) in April 2009 showed what could be accomplished by a highly motivated and energised international community of passionate people, creating even greater enthusiasm for a follow-up experience. As challenging as it may be to follow the historic success of 100HA, Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) has set the bar even higher, inviting astronomy enthusiasts worldwide to celebrate the Universe for an entire month!

In order for you to receive regular GAM2010 updates and information, please email the AWB National Coordinator. Your local contact is:-

Mike White AWB National Coordinator for NZ Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: www.astronomerswithoutborders.org <http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org> Phone: +64 21 100-7170 You are also encouraged to visit the GAM website (below) for ideas on what activities you or your astronomy group/organization could organize for your own region, now is the time to start planning for an awesome month! Are you up for it?!!!

More information: Website: http://www.gam-awb.org" class="blue" target="gam">www.gam-awb.org Blogs: http://gam-awb.org/gam-project-blog.html Twitter: http://twitter.com/GAM_2010 Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Global-Astronomy-Month-2010/226861742445

[This item was missed from last month's Newsletter but separately emailed to RASNZ members on March 6.]

4. The Solar System in April

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for April 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Apr_10.htm. Notes for May 2010 will be in place in a few days.

New Zealand reverts to NZST at 3 am on Sunday 4 April, when clocks go back an hour.

The planets in april

Mars and Saturn will be easy evening objects throughout April, Mars being highest early evening and Saturn late evening. Venus and Mercury are also in the evening sky, but low in the evening twilight. Jupiter will become better placed in the morning and readily seen in the early twilight.

Mercury is in the evening sky for virtually the whole of April, but will be very difficult to observe as, at the most, it sets only half an hour after the Sun. Even the proximity of Venus, 3 to 4 degrees above Mercury for the first 10 days of the month, is not likely to help find Mercury in the strong twilight.

Mercury is at greatest elongation from the Sun on April 9, and is stationary on April 18. Particularly after this, the planet heads rapidly back towards the Sun and is at inferior conjunction on April 29.

Venus is also an evening object, setting about 45 minutes after the Sun on April 1. By the end of the month this will increase to 75 minutes later, although at a slightly earlier clock time as the planet moves to the north. Venus will also be a low object, briefly visible in the evening twilight.

During April, Venus moves across Aries and into Taurus on April 20. Five days later it passes within 3 degrees of the Pleiades. They will be difficult to see low in the twilight.

Mars will be readily visible in the evening sky during April, with its transit time close to 8 pm NZST early in the month, advancing an hour by the end. By then Mars will set shortly before midnight. Mars is well north of the celestial equator so at its highest will be rather low in New Zealand skies, only a little higher than the midwinter sun. Although remaining quite bright, Mars' magnitude fades from 0.2 to 0.7 in April.

During April, Mars will move to the east through Cancer to pass about 1 degree below, north of, the Praesepe (Beehive) cluster, the two being closest on the 17th. Five evenings later the moon, just past first quarter, will be about 3.5 degrees above Mars, closest in the early evening.

Saturn remains well placed for evening viewing during April. It transits close to midnight, NZST, early April and by 10 pm at the end of the month. So it will become well placed for viewing as Mars sinks to the northeast. At transit Saturn will be some 20 degrees higher than is Mars with the two similar in brightness, but not colour.

Saturn will be in Virgo, about 25 degrees from Spica, to the lower left of the star when the planet is highest. The planet will be a little brighter than the star.

The 88% lit moon passes Saturn on the night of April 25/26. From NZ they will be closest after midnight, but still some 8 degrees apart

Saturn's rings are still only open a slight amount, so will generally appear as a bar either side of the planet in a small telescope. They need quite high magnification to be able to see them as rings.

Jupiter is the odd one out as the only morning planet visible near dawn. It rises about 2 hours before the sun on April 1 and 4 hours earlier by the 30th. By then it will be 30 degrees above the horizon at the start of nautical twilight when the sun is 12 degrees below the horizon.

The moon will be a thin crescent, 7.5% lit when it passes Jupiter on the morning of April 12. The two will be 6 degrees apart as seen from NZ, with the moon to the lower left of Jupiter.

On the morning of April 1, Jupiter will be just under 7.5' (a quarter of the full moon's diameter) from the 4.2 magnitude star phi Aquarii. The two will be only 13 degrees up when the sun is about 10 degrees below the horizon.

Outer planets

Uranus will be in the morning sky a few degrees below Jupiter. It will be very low in the dawn sky at the beginning of April, but by the end of the month Uranus will be less than 6 degrees below Jupiter, and readily visible in binoculars.

Neptune, also in the morning sky, will be about 20 degrees above Jupiter at the beginning of April and 25 degrees above by the end of the month. Neptune will be in Aquarius close to its border with Capricornus during April

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a late evening and morning object in Sagittarius. It brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during April. Ceres starts April some 6 degrees from the 2.8 magnitude star lambda Sgr (Kaus Borealis), closing in to just over 3 degrees by April 30.

Ceres rises before 9 pm at the end of April, so will be observable by late evening.

(2) Pallas is in Serpens throughout April, its magnitude remaining at 8.7 throughout the month. It is in the northern parts of Corona Borealis some 20 degrees to the right of Arcturus, so low in New Zealand skies. It rises a little before 11 pm (NZST) at the beginning of April and about 9 pm by the 30th.

(4) Vesta is in Leo and will fade from magnitude 6.9 to 7.4 during the month. It starts April just over a degree from the 3rd magnitude star epsilon Leo but moves a couple of degrees away from it towards Regulus during the month.

Vesta and Mars are at similar declinations, both are rather low in NZ skies. Mars is about 20 degrees to the left of Vesta on April 1, closing to 13 degrees by the 30th.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010.

COMET 81P/WILD 2 is expected to be almost at its brightest, magnitude 9.4 at the beginning of April. It will be in Virgo and then some half degree from the 4th magnitude star iota Vir. To the other side of the comet and only about 7' away from it there will be a 6.4 magnitude star.

The comet rises a little before 8 pm (NZDT) on April 1 and two hours earlier on the 30th, by which time it is expected to be at magnitude 9.9 and will have moved to be just under 3 degrees from iota.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

5. Fred Watson Honoured

Professor Fred Watson, Astronomer-in-Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), and one of Australia´s best-known science communicators, was honoured for his services to astronomy. On Australia Day, January 26, Fred was appointed a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia.

"It's a truly an out-of-this-world experience to find yourself in the Australia Day honours list," said Fred. "We live in an era when astronomy and space science are exploding with new discoveries, so it's quite easy to spread the excitement around. This honour reflects the generous support I´ve had over the years from friends and colleagues in Australia and worldwide."

Fred has been Astronomer-in-Charge at the AAO since 1995, having previously worked at the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh. Acknowledged in professional circles as one of the pioneers of fibre optics in astronomy, Fred is currently Project Manager for the international RAVE survey of a million stars. He holds adjunct professorships in the University of Southern Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and James Cook University.

It is for Fred's popular science that he is best known. His frequent appearances on ABC radio and TV, together with his books, public lectures and astronomy tourism expeditions, have resulted in several awards. They include the David Allen Prize for Communicating Astronomy to the Public, the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Science and the Queensland Premier´s Literary Award for Science Writing for his book Why is Uranus Upside Down? In 2004, asteroid 5691 was named 'Fredwatson' in his honour (though he is always at pains to point out that if it hits the Earth, it won't be his fault).

Fred's enthusiasm for linking science and the arts also led to a solo CD, An Alien Like You, featuring some of his quirky science songs. At the other end of the musical spectrum, Fred was librettist for Star Chant, the choral Fourth Symphony of Australian composer Ross Edwards. Following its release on an ABC CD, Star Chant won the APRA Award for Best Choral or Vocal Work of 2008.

Fred was born in Yorkshire, but is proud of his Australian citizenship. 'Australia still has wonderful opportunities not available elsewhere', he says. He was educated in Scotland at the universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh, and is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a member of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and a member of the International Astronomical Union. Fred serves on a number of astronomy-related committees, but he is also a keen advocate for publicly-funded education, and is a Board Member of the Public Education Foundation of NSW.

-- from an AAO press release forwarded by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

6. Neutrino Oscillation Experiment Started

The first test of an experiment to measure neutrino oscillations has been completed in Japan. Neutrinos are the elusive ghosts of particle physics. They interact only weakly with matter: neutrinos can traverse the entire Earth with little chance of an interaction.

They come in three types, called electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos. It used to be thought that these were unchanging. However, the first measurements of neutrinos coming from the thermonuclear reactions in the sun showed there were far fewer than predicted.

A second anomaly was found by Japan's Super-Kamiokande experiment. It detects neutrinos made by cosmic rays interactions in our atmosphere. Neutrinos are detected from the air above the deeply-buried detector, and from below -- neutrinos that have passed through the earth from the other side. Super-Kamiokande showed that the flux of different types of neutrino was different depending on whether the neutrinos were coming from above or below. This should not have been possible given our understanding of particle physics. Other experiments have conclusively demonstrated that these anomalies are caused by neutrino oscillations, whereby one type of neutrino turns into another type.

The T2K (Tokai-to-Kamioka) experiment was built to help us understand with unprecedented precision more about the strange properties of the puzzling neutrino. The work is led by Japan and involves 508 physicists from 62 institutes in 12 countries. It was built to help understand with unprecedented precision more about the strange properties of the puzzling neutrino.

The T2K facility in Tokai village, north of Tokyo, will now start to try to take measurements of the so-far unobserved neutrino oscillation. The oscillation would cause a small fraction of the muon neutrinos produced at Tokai to become electron neutrinos by the time they reach the Super- Kamiokande detector on the other side of Japan.

Observing the new type of oscillation would open up the prospect of comparing the oscillations of neutrinos and anti-neutrinos. Many theorists believe this may be related to one of the great mysteries in fundamental physics -- why is there more matter than anti-matter in the universe?

The first initial science results from this experiment are expected within a few months, but it will be several years before any definitive answers are found.

For more information see http://neutrino.kek.jp/t2k/

-- from a U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

7. Public Solar Stormwatch - Webpage

Last month's Newsletter, Item 11, told how Solar Stormwatch volunteers can spot solar storms on Stereo spacecraft images and track their progress across space towards the Earth. However, no website contact was given on the original press release.

Lionel Hussey has kindly provided the contact: http://www.solarstormwatch.com

8. Phobos Flyby Images

Images from Mars Express flybys of Phobos have been released by the European Space Agency (ESA). The March 7 images show Mars' rocky moon in exquisite detail, with a resolution of just 4.4 metres per pixel. They show the proposed landing sites for the forthcoming Phobos-Grunt mission.

ESA's Mars Express spacecraft orbits the Red Planet in a highly elliptical, polar orbit that brings it close to Phobos every five months. It is the only spacecraft currently in orbit around Mars whose orbit reaches far enough from the planet to provide a close-up view of Phobos.

Like our Moon, Phobos always shows the same side to the planet, so it is only by flying outside the orbit that it becomes possible to observe the far side. Mars Express did just this on 7, 10 and 13 March 2010. Mars Express also collected data with other instruments.

Phobos is an irregular body measuring some 27 × 22 × 19 km. Its origin is debated. It appears to share many surface characteristics with the class of 'carbonaceous C-type' asteroids, which suggests it might have been captured from this population. However, it is difficult to explain either the capture mechanism or the subsequent evolution of the orbit into the equatorial plane of Mars. An alternative hypothesis is that it formed around Mars, and is therefore a remnant from the planetary formation period.

In 2011 Russia will send a mission called Phobos-Grunt (meaning Phobos Soil) to land on the martian moon, collect a soil sample and return it to Earth for analysis.

For operational and landing safety reasons, the proposed landing sites were selected on the far side of Phobos within the area 5°S-5°N, 230- 235°E. This region was imaged by the HRSC high-resolution camera of Mars Express during the July-August 2008 flybys of Phobos. But new HRSC images showing the vicinity of the landing area under different conditions, such as better illumination from the Sun, remain highly valuable for mission planners.

It is expected that Earth-based ESA stations will take part in controlling Phobos-Grunt, receiving telemetry and making trajectory measurements, including implementation of very long-baseline interferometry (VLBI). This cooperation is realized on the basis of the agreement on collaboration of the Russian Federal Space Agency and ESA in the framework of the 'Phobos- Grunt' and 'ExoMars' projects.

Mars Express will continue to encounter Phobos until the end of March, when the moon will pass out of range. During the remaining flybys, HRSC and other instruments will continue to collect data.

Article and images are available at: http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEMK17CKP6G_index_0.html Updates as the flybys take place will be posted on the Mars Express blog at: http://webservices.esa.int/blog/blog/7

-- ESA press release forwarded by Karen pollard.

9. Asteroid Collision Seen?

A comet discovered in the asteroid belt in January appears not to be an icy object fizzing off gas but the result of a collision between two small asteroids. Comet P/2010 A2, was first discovered by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research, or LINEAR, program sky survey on Jan. 6. Pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) on January 25 and 29 show a complex X- pattern of filamentary structures near the comet's nucleus.

"This is quite different from the smooth dust envelopes of normal comets," said principal investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles. "The filaments are made of dust and gravel, presumably recently thrown out of the nucleus. Some are swept back by radiation pressure from sunlight to create straight dust streaks. Embedded in the filaments are co-moving blobs of dust that likely originated from tiny unseen parent bodies."

Hubble shows the main nucleus of P/2010 A2 lies outside its own halo of dust. This has never been seen before in a comet-like object. The nucleus is estimated to be 140 metres in diameter. The object was approximately 290 million km from the Sun and 150 million km from Earth at the time the HST pictures were taken.

Normal comets fall into the inner regions of the solar system from icy reservoirs in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud. As comets near the Sun and warm up, ice near the surface vaporizes and ejects material from the solid comet nucleus via jets. But P/2010 A2 may have a different origin. It orbits in the warm, inner regions of the asteroid belt where its nearest neighbours are dry rocky bodies lacking volatile materials.

This leaves open the possibility that the complex debris tail is the result of an impact between two bodies, rather than ice simply melting from a parent body. If this interpretation is correct, two small and previously unknown asteroids recently collided, creating a shower of debris that is being swept back into a tail from the collision site by the pressure of sunlight. The main nucleus of P/2010 A2 would be the surviving remnant of this so-called hypervelocity collision. The absence of any gas in the comet's spectrum also supports the impact origin. Asteroid collisions are energetic, with an average impact speed of more than 5 km per second, five times faster than a rifle bullet.

For more information and a link to the HST pictures see http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2010/feb/HQ_10-029_Hubble_asteroid.html

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

10. VISTA Infra-Red Survey Telescope Commissioned

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) recently commissioned VISTA ? the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy - at Paranal Observatory in northern Chile.

VISTA is a survey telescope working at near-infrared wavelengths. It is the world´s largest survey telescope. The telescope has a main mirror 4.1 metres in diameter; the effective focal length is 13 metre or f/3.25. The mirrors are coated with a thin layer of protected silver. Silver is the best metal for the purpose since it reflects over 98% of near-infrared light, more than the more commonly used aluminium. VISTA's three-tonne camera has 16 state-of-the-art infrared-sensitive detectors totalling 67 megapixels.

VISTA was conceived and developed by a consortium of 18 universities in the United Kingdom, led by Queen Mary, University of London. It became an in-kind contribution to ESO as part of the UK's accession agreement. Project management for the telescope design and construction was undertaken by the Science and Technology Facilities Council's UK Astronomy Technology Centre. The telescope was provisionally accepted by ESO on 10 December 2009 and is now operated by ESO.

For more information, including a stunning view of the Flame Nebula in infra-red, see http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/surveytelescopes/vista/index.html

-- from an ESO press release forwarded by Karen Pollard and further information on the ESO-VISTA webpage.

11. New Director for CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Sciences Division

Dr Philip Diamond, has been appointed Chief of CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Sciences Division. He was formerly Director of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester where he led strategic research and management. His role also included coordination of PrepSKA, the Preparatory Phase study for the international Square Kilometre Array project. Prior to his current appointment at Manchester University, Dr Diamond was the Director of the MERLIN and VLBI National Facility at the Jodrell Bank Observatory.

Dr Diamond is a graduate of Leeds University in physics and astrophysics and has a PhD in radio astronomy from Manchester University. He has worked at the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden, the Max-Planck Institute for Radioastronomy in Bonn, and spent 12 years in various positions within the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in the USA.

Dr Diamond will work closely with Dr Brian Boyle, CSIRO SKA director, to support Australia's international SKA bid. Dr Diamond will commence as Chief of CSIRO's Astronomy and Space Sciences Division on 1 June 2010.

Full media release: http://www.csiro.au/news/New-leader-of-CASS.html More information on the new CSIRO Astronomy and Spaces Science division: http://www.csiro.au/news/Astronomy-Space-Science-Division.html

-- from a CSIRO press release forwarded by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

12. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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. "The Goldilocks Enigma"

The Times Higher Education weekly has a column titled What Are You Reading. It comprises brief notes on any book that contributors think worth drawing attention to. The following is one of the more arresting reports:

Gary Day, principal lecturer in English, De Montfort University, is reading Paul Davies' "The Goldilocks Enigma" (Penguin 2006). "My science education was badly disrupted when out chemistry teacher blew himself up. Not surprising, since his subject was biology. They didn't replace him, so we didn't get physics either. Davies has saved me from being a complete ignoramus. This is an elegant and delightful guide to the big questions about the Universe, its origins, composition and ultimate end. It should be quite a show. Shame we won't be around to see it."

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.

Supersaturated Colour Images of the Moon.
Maurice Collins.

In this article, I would like to describe supersaturated (colour enhanced) images of the Moon, and what they can tell us about the Moon itself.
Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Pp

Podcasting Sky Aotearoa.
Nicholas James Rattenbury

A podcast is a downloadable piece of audio (or video, or increasingly any kind of data) which is made available by the creators via the Internet. The suggestion is made here of using this system to distribute southern astronomical information to a wide audience in New Zealand. A similar system known as "Jodcast" has been emanating from the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Observatory since 2006 and is briefly described.
Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Pp

Dark Sky Award - Dunedin.
Gregor Morgan

At a recent Community Open Forum, Dunedin City Councillors were delighted and not a little surprised to receive an Award for Excellence for the new lighting their engineers installed alongside a walking and cycling path from Dunedin to Ravensbourne.
Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Page

A Brief History of Radio Astronomy in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Marilyn Head

This paper traces the individual Radio Astronomy (RA) research programmes, including radar meteor astronomy, in New Zealand (NZ) as a contribution to a current discussion on the desirability of establishing a national radio astronomy facility.
Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Pp

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand Annual Report of Council for 2010.
President's Remarks, Treasurer's Report, Membership Report, RASNZ Publications, RASNZ Section Reports.

RASNZ Council Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Pp 21-40 Book and Exhibition Reviews. "The Night Sky Observer's Guide Volume 3 - The Southern Skies". reviewed by George Odey.
Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. Page

"Portraits of Astronomers" by Lucinda Douglas-Menzies at the Science Museum, London
"Explorers of the Universe" by Max Alexander reviewed by William Tobin.

Volume 49, number 1. March 2010. 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. Paul Rodmell
2. RASNZ Conference
3. The Solar System in March
4. Aurora Astronomy School 2010
5. Lord Rees Lectures -- Christchurch & Wellington
6. Special Publication Marks the Royal Society's 350th Anniversary
7. Joel Schiff Honoured
8. Digitizing of Southern Stars
9. NACAA XXIV
10. Robert Kirshner Lecture on DVD
11. Public Solar Stormwatch
12. Solar Dynamics Observatory Launched
13. Stuck Mars Rover Gets New Job
14. Pulsing Red Giant Star Imaged
15. Fermi Shows Supernova and Cosmic Ray Connection
16. RASNZ in Wikipedia
17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
18. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
19. How to Join the RASNZ
20. Headlines

1 Paul Rodmell

-------------- Well-known Invercargill astronomer Paul Rodmell died February 12 in his 71st year. Paul's interests and activities ranged widely. He had a particular passion for the history of astronomy, even including William Herschel's music. His series of articles on the constellations can be seen on the RASNZ's web page. And he was a regular at the Staveley and Herbert gatherings, with his trusty C8 telescope always in tow.

Paul was a Life Member of the Southland Astronomical Society, editor of its Newsletter and a very regular assistant at the observatory's public sessions. He was also involved in many other activities in Invercargill. He was an accomplished musician, playing both piano and organ, and singer. He was a member of a local choir and a great fan of opera. He also produced the newsletters of the local vintage car association and the cardiac club. Although he had had heart problems over the last few years, it was exposure to asbestos during a holiday job when he was a student that felled him in the end.

The RASNZ extends its deepest sympathy to Paul's wife Lindsey and their children and grandchildren.

-- Thanks to Bob Evans and Ross Dickie for memories of Paul.

2. RASNZ Conference

Dennis Goodman of the RASNZ's Standing Conference Committee writes:

Just a further reminder about the RASNZ Conference in Dunedin on 28-30 May. Registrations are starting to come in - good to see. We encourage you to register early for Conference - although it is still over 3 months away, it is amazing how quickly that time can fly by. It's also a good idea to book air fares early to get the best deals. Air NZ and Pacific Blue fly to Dunedin. Don't forget you will need to be in Dunedin, at the Railway Station by midday on the Friday if you are coming on the Taieri Gorge Rail journey.

We also make a further call for papers at this time. There is still room in the programme for papers and poster-papers. There is plenty of great work being done in astronomy in NZ these days, so let's hear about it - Conference is the appropriate gathering for this. Orlon Petterson from the Standing Conference Committee will also be making some approaches to members who have been carrying out good astronomical work.

Further information on Conference, the registration form etc can be found on the RASNZ Webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz. Look forward to seeing you in Dunedin.

Orlon Petterson adds: Dr Stuart Ryder of the Australian Gemini Office is our invited speaker with a feature papers on Supernovae. Bill Allan will be giving this year's Fellows lecture entitled "50 years as an amateur Astronomer".

The RASNZ standing conference committee sincerely invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles due by 31st March and Abstracts due 30 April. The paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ website www.rasnz.org.nz. Please send your submissions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3. The Solar System in March

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for March 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Mar_10.htm. Notes for April 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The southern autumn equinox will be at about 6.30 am on the morning of March 21, NZDT.

New Zealand has 2 full moons in March, on the 1st at 5.38 am and on the 30th at 3.25 pm.

The planets in march - the evening sky

Mercury starts March as a morning object, rising an hour before the Sun on March 1 with a magnitude -0.7. By March 14, the planet will be at superior conjunction, it will become lost to view in the morning twilight after the first day or two of the month.

The planet's apparition in the evening sky during the second half of the month will be very poor for viewing, with the planet setting no more than 30 minutes after the Sun at the end of March.

Venus will continue to be an elusive evening object throughout March. It sets some 30 minutes after the Sun at the start of the month, increasing to only 45 minutes later by March 31. Shortly after sunset, Venus will then be about 6 degrees above the horizon, nearly half way round from west to northwest. At the same time, Mercury at magnitude -1, will be about half the height of Venus and to the lower left of the brighter planet.

Mars will remain a prominent evening object throughout March. It transits shortly after 11 pm NZDT on the 1st and shortly after 9 pm on the 31st. The planet is well north of the equator, so its transits will be low, close to the lowest midday altitude of the Sun in mid Winter. The planet's magnitude drops from -0.6 to +0.1 during the month.

Mars will be in Cancer moving slowly, at first in a retrograde sense to the west until it reaches a stationary point on March 11. After that it will start moving forward to the east back towards Praesepe. By the end of March Mars will be just under 5 degrees from the cluster.

The 72% lit moon passes Mars on March 25. At their closest around midnight, the two will be 3.5 degrees apart.

Jupiter becomes a morning object in March following its conjunction with the Sun at the end of February. By the end of the month, the planet will rise nearly two hours before the Sun. It should then be visible some time before sunrise as a low bright object to the east before the sky becomes too bright.

The very thin crescent moon, only 1% lit, will be about 5 degrees to the left of Jupiter on the morning of March 15. This will be only some 27 hours before new moon, making it difficult to see in twilight conditions.

Saturn is well placed for viewing in the late evening during March. The planet reaches opposition on March 22. It is only just north of the celestial equator, so will be at a good altitude as seen from New Zealand and considerably higher than Mars. However, with NZDT still in force throughout March, Saturn will not transit until after midnight.

At present the monthly circuits of the moon do not take is very close to Saturn. For all that, the Moon does pass Saturn twice during the month, on the 2nd and again on the 29th. In both cases the Moon will be about 7 degrees from the planet at its closest.

Saturn's rings are still only open a slight amount, so will generally appear as a bar either side of the planet in a small telescope

Outer planets

Uranus is at conjunction with the Sun on March 17, so is not observable during the month.

Neptune in Capricornus, starts March about 2.5 degrees to the upper left of Mercury, with the two low in the sky to the east shortly before sunrise. While Mercury may be detectable with binoculars, Neptune will be very difficult.

Neptune crosses into Aquarius on March 24. By the end of the month it will rise some 3.5 hours before the Sun and be nearly 20 degrees to the upper left of Jupter, so should be visible in binoculars before the sky brightens.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object. It starts March in Ophiuchus but moves into Sagittarius on March 3. During the month it brightens from magnitude 8.9 to 8.6. It rises after 1 am at beginning of the month and shortly before midnight on the 31st.

(2) Pallas is in Serpens throughout March, its magnitude changing from 9.1 to 8.7 during the month. It rises at the same time as Ceres on the 1st and close to midnight on the 31st, but it will be much lower in southern skies.

(4) Vesta remains in Leo throughout March with its magniutde dropping from 6.3 to 6.9. By the end of March it will transit about an hour before midnight, so be well placed for evening viewing, an easy binocular object.

(532) Herculina is at opposition on March 13, at its brightest it will be at magnitude 8.8. The asteroid is in Coma Berenices for most of March but just slips into Ursa Major at the end of the month. This means of course that it is very low in NZ skies.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroid 2010

COMET 81P/WILD 2 is expected to be at its brightest, magnitude 9.3 in late March. The comet is in Virgo, its path will take it to within 20 arc- minutes of the 4th magnitude star iota Vir at the end of the month. It will be even closer, just under 10', from a 6.4 magnitude neighbour of iota,

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

4. Aurora Astronomy School 2010

Applications are open for Year 13 and Year 12 students to apply for a place on this week-long school. Taking place at the University of Canterbury and Mt John Observatory, the school runs from April 12th -16th inclusive. The course is free, and only 20 students are accepted. Applications close 5.00pm Friday 5th March. Late applications cannot be considered. Further details and an application form are available at www.outreach.canterbury.ac.nz.

-- Joan Gladwyn, Outreach Coordinator, College of Science, University of Canterbury.

5. Lord Rees Lectures -- Christchurch & Wellington

Martin Lord Rees is a successor of Sir Isaac Newton and Ernest Lord Rutherford as President of the Royal Society of London, the world´s oldest and most prestigious scientific institution. He is also UK´s Astronomer Royal and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He comes to New Zealand as the Rutherford Memorial Lecturer in the 350th year since the founding the Royal Society of London.

Christchurch Lecture THE NEXT 20 YEARS IN ASTRONOMY: Probing the Big Bang, Galaxies and Planets 7.30pm Monday 22 March Limes Room, Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch

Wellington Lecture THE WORLD IN 2050 7.00pm Tuesday 23 March 2010 Wellington Town Hall, Wakefield Street, Wellington

Tickets are available to the public from the Royal Society's website http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/Site/news/events/rutherford_lecture/ Enquiries to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 04 470 5781

6. Special Publication Marks the Royal Society's 350th Anniversary

Further to the Royal Society of London's 350th anniversary, William Tobin notes that a special 350th anniversary issue of the Philosophical Transactions A available on line for free. The 'non specialist' review of gravitational lensing may interest RASNZ members at http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/368/1914/967

More about the special 350th anniversary issue of the Philosophical Transactions A from the Royal Society's web page: "Personal perspectives in the physical sciences for the Royal Society's 350th anniversary", an open access, commemorative issue of Philosophical Transactions A is now available online at http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/seefurther

In this freely available landmark issue, compiled specifically to mark the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society, leading scientists offer a personal perspective on the current status of their own area of research. Highlighted articles cover the status and potential of nuclear fusion; the revolution in theoretical chemistry over the past half century; and the challenges associated with energy security, climate change and sustainable consumption in the built environment.

This online content also incorporates two video podcasts: one by Cyril Hilsum on flat panel electronic displays and one by Richard Ellis on how gravitational lensing is being used to probe dark matter and dark energy.

The 17 contributions in this special issue present an up-to-date snapshot of key areas of the physical sciences and, together, demonstrate the continued vitality that characterizes Philosophical Transactions A.

7. Joel Schiff Honoured

Joel Schiff, mentioned last month as the co-discoverer of asteroid (12926) Brianmason, has himself received an honour from the Meteoritical Society. The citation reads "The Service Award is for advancing the Society's goals to promote research and education in meteoritics and planetary science. Joel Schiff is recognized for founding the quarterly publication, METEORITE, in 1995. The magazine serves as a forum for communication between amateurs, collectors, dealers, educators and researchers interested in meteorites."

8. Digitizing of Southern Stars

RASNZ Publicity Officer Marilyn Head writes:

Southern Stars, the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ has been published continuously since 1934. There is a chance it may win a $10 000 digitisation grant from the National Library to make it available online. There is a lot of competition however, and it is unlikely it will win the most public votes on the website. But that is not the only criteria. Overseas votes will help to reinforce our submission that there is global interest in the scientific and historical data that Southern Star contains, so we hope you will take 5 seconds to register your vote for Southern Stars at: vote http://makeit.digitalnz.org/voting Please pass on to anyone/ any organisation which may be interested.

9. NACAA XXIV

The 24th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA XXIV) will be held over Easter 2010 (2nd-5th April) in Canberra. The convention theme is "Astronomy in the On-line Age". Presentations will span Friday to Monday and include observing, instrumentation, astroimaging, education, outreach, research, history, and other topics.

For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au/2010/programme

10. Robert Kirshner Lecture on DVD

A DVD of the the public lecture given by Prof Robert Kirshner in Wellington during November last year, "Einstein's Blunder Undone" is available from the RSNZ. Prof Kirshner was the 2009 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker.

The lecture can be downloaded at <http://2009.r2.co.nz/20091111a/rsnz-20091111.mp4> or a copy of the DVD with a video of the lecture can be obtained by sending an email to href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." class="blue">Faith Atkins at the Royal Society of New Zealand. The RSNZ is not making a charge for them.

11. Public Solar Stormwatch

The Royal Observatory, Greenwich (ROG), in partnership with the Science and Technology Facilities Council¹s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Zooniverse are launching Solar Stormwatch, a new web project where anyone can help spot and track solar storms and be involved in the latest solar research.

The Sun is much more dynamic than it appears in our sky. Intense magnetic fields churn and pummel the Sun¹s atmosphere and they store enormous amounts of energy that, when released, hurl billions of tons of material out into space in explosions called Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) -- or solar storms.

Solar Stormwatch volunteers can spot these storms and track their progress across space towards the Earth. Such storms can be harmful to astronauts in orbit and have the potential to knock out communication satellites, disrupt mobile phone networks and damage power lines. With the public¹s help, Solar Stormwatch will allow solar scientists to better understand these potentially dangerous storms and help to forecast their arrival time at Earth.

The project uses real data from NASA¹s STEREO spacecraft, a pair of satellites in orbit around the Sun which give scientists a constant eye on the ever-changing solar surface.

------------ Editor's note: The Royal Observatory, Greenwich, press release did not give a website contact, only the email addresses of the authors. I'm happy to forward these to anyone interested.

-- press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Solar Dynamics Observatory Launched

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, was launched on February 11. The most technologically advanced of NASA's heliophysics spacecraft, SDO will take images of the Sun every 0.75 seconds and daily send back about 1.5 terabytes of data to Earth -- the equivalent of streaming 380 full-length movies.

The Sun's dynamic processes affect everyone and everything on Earth. SDO will explore activity on the Sun that can disable satellites, cause power grid failures, and disrupt GPS communications. SDO also will provide a better understanding of the role the Sun plays in Earth's atmospheric chemistry and climate.

The spacecraft finally be placed in a circular geosynchronous orbit 36 000 km from Earth. The spacecraft will relay its readings to a ground station in New Mexico. The research is expected to reveal the sun's inner workings by constantly taking high resolution images of the sun, collecting readings from inside the sun and measuring its magnetic field activity. This data is expected to give researchers the insight they need to eventually predict solar storms and other activity on the sun.

-- from a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard and from the SDO website http://www.nasa.gov/sdo

13. Stuck Mars Rover Gets New Job

After six years of unprecedented exploration of the Red Planet, NASA¹s Mars Exploration Rover Spirit no longer will be a fully mobile robot. NASA has designated the once-roving scientific explorer a stationary science platform after it broke through a crust and bogged in soft sand ten months ago.

The robot¹s main job in the next few weeks will be to position itself to survive the severe Martian winter. If it does survive then it will do new science from its final location. The rover¹s mission could continue for several months to years.

After Spirit became embedded, the rover team crafted plans for trying to get the six-wheeled vehicle free using its five functioning wheels -- the sixth wheel quit working in 2006, limiting Spirit¹s mobility. The planning included experiments with a test rover in a sandbox at NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, plus analysis, modelling and reviews. In November, another wheel quit working, making a difficult situation even worse.

Recent drives have yielded the best results since Spirit became embedded. However, the coming winter mandates a change in strategy. It is mid-autumn at the solar-powered robot¹s home on Mars. Winter will begin in May. Solar energy is declining and expected to become insufficient to power further driving by mid-February. The rover team plans to use those remaining potential drives for improving the rover¹s tilt. Spirit currently tilts slightly toward the south. The winter Sun stays in the northern sky, so decreasing the southward tilt would boost the amount of sunshine on the rover¹s solar panels.

At its current angle, Spirit probably would not have enough power to keep communicating with Earth through the Martian winter. Even a few degrees of improvement in tilt might make enough difference to enable communication every few days.

Getting through the winter will all come down to temperature and how cold the rover electronics will get. Every bit of energy produced by Spirit¹s solar arrays will go into keeping the rover¹s critical electronics warm, either by having the electronics on or by turning on essential heaters.

Even stopped, Spirit continues scientific research. One stationary experiment Spirit has begun studies of tiny wobbles in the rotation of Mars. These could tell if the planet's core is liquid or solid. This requires months of radio-tracking the motion of a point on the surface of Mars to calculate long-term motion with an accuracy of a few inches.

Tools on Spirit¹s robotic arm can study variations in the composition of nearby soil, which has been affected by water. Stationary science also includes watching how wind moves soil particles and monitoring the Martian atmosphere.

Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004. They have been exploring for six years, far surpassing their original 90-day mission. Opportunity currently is driving toward a large crater called Endeavor and continues to make scientific discoveries. It has driven approximately 19 km and returned more than 133,000 images.

For more information about Spirit and Opportunity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

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

14. Pulsing Red Giant Star Imaged

Near the end of their evolution sun-like stars swell into red giants: a hot dense core inside a large sphere of very thin gas. The thin gas envelope is able to store and release energy. So red giants are usually variable, pulsating in size and brightness over hundreds of days. As it pulses, the star is puffing off its outer layers, which in a few hundred thousand years create a beautifully gleaming planetary nebula.

Using an infra-red telescope array, astronomers have been able to image surface features on Chi Cygni, a red giant about 550 light years away. Chi Cygni pulses once every 408 days. At its smallest diameter of 500 million km, it becomes mottled with brilliant spots as massive plumes of hot plasma roil its surface. (Those spots are like the granules on our Sun¹s surface, but much larger.) As it expands, Chi Cygni cools and dims, growing to a diameter of 770 million km -- large enough to engulf and cook our solar system¹s asteroid belt.

For the first time, astronomers have photographed these dramatic changes in detail. They reported their work in the December 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. The images show that the pulsations is not only radial, but come with inhomogeneities, like the giant hotspot that appeared at minimum radius.

Imaging variable stars is extremely difficult. Such stars hide within a compact and dense shell of dust and molecules. To see the star's surface within the shell one must observed at specific wavelengths of infrared light.

The stars are also very far away, and thus appear very small. Even though red giants are huge compared to the Sun, the distance makes them appear no larger than a small house on the moon as seen from Earth. Traditional telescopes lack sufficient resolution. This investigation used the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory¹s Infrared Optical Telescope Array (IOTA) in Arizona. It combines light from several telescopes to give a resolution equivalent to a telescope as large as the distance between them. The resolution is 15 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope.

Images and movies are available online at http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2009/pr200923_images.html

-- from a Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

15. Fermi Shows Supernova and Cosmic Ray Connection

New images from NASA¹s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope show where supernova remnants emit radiation a billion times more energetic than visible light. The images bring astronomers a step closer to understanding the source of some of the universe¹s most energetic particles -- cosmic rays. Cosmic rays consist mainly of protons that move through space at nearly the speed of light. In their journey across the galaxy, the particles are deflected by magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and masks their origins. Understanding the sources of cosmic rays is one of Fermi¹s key goals.

When cosmic rays collide with interstellar gas, they produce gamma rays. Fermi now allows us to compare emission from remnants of different ages and in different environments. Fermi¹s Large Area Telescope (LAT) mapped billion-electron-volt (GeV) gamma rays from three middle-aged supernova remnants -- known as W51C, W44, and IC 443 -- that were never before resolved at these energies. (The energy of visible light is between 2 and 3 electron volts.) Each remnant is the expanding debris of a massive star that blew up between 4,000 and 30,000 years ago.

In addition, Fermi¹s LAT also spied GeV gamma rays from Cassiopeia A (Cas A), a supernova remnant only 330 years old. Ground-based observatories, which detect gamma rays thousands of times more energetic than the LAT was designed to see, have previously detected Cas A.

Older remnants are extremely bright in GeV gamma rays, but relatively faint at higher energies. Younger remnants show a different behaviour, perhaps showing that the highest-energy cosmic rays have left older remnants, and Fermi sees emission from trapped particles at lower energies.

Young supernova remnants seem to possess both stronger magnetic fields and the highest-energy cosmic rays. Stronger fields can keep the highest-energy particles in the remnant¹s shock wave long enough to speed them to the energies observed.

The Fermi observations show GeV gamma rays coming from places where the remnants are known to be interacting with cold, dense gas clouds. This suggests that protons accelerated in the remnant are colliding with gas atoms, causing the gamma-ray emission. An alternative explanation is that fast-moving electrons emit gamma rays as they fly past the nuclei of gas atoms. Further observations by Fermi should help decide which mechanism is the cause.

Images and animations of supernovae: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010500/a010566/index.html How cosmic rays produce gamma rays (animation): http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010500/a010567/index.html

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

16. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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. Headlines

Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge Stiff Opposition Expected To Casketless Funeral Plan Stadium Air Conditioning Fails; Fans Protest Man Steals Clock, Faces Time Man, Minus Ear, Waives Hearing Hospitals Sued By Seven Foot Doctors Expert Says Something Went Wrong In Jet Crash Autos Killing 110 A Day; Let's Resolve To Do Better Soviet Virgin Lands Short Of Goal Again Stolen Painting Found By Tree Defendant's Speech Ends In Long Sentence William Kelly, 87, Was Fed Secretary Genetic Engineering Splits Scientists If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last a While Cold Wave Linked To Temperatures Local High School Dropouts Cut In Half Fifth Graders Get To Grill Lions Enfields Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide

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. Mary Sandri
2. The Solar System in February
3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28 to 30
4. Council and Executive Nominations, Please
5. RASNZ Web Site Manager Wanted
6. Stardate North Report
7. Stardate South Report
8. International Asto-photography Competition
9. Robert Kirshner Lecture on DVD
10. Brian Mason
11. VUW Scholarships in Radio Astronomy & Instrumentation
12. IYA Coin Collector Sought
13. John Davis
14. NACAA XXIV
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
17. How to Join the RASNZ
18. Headlines

1. Mary Sandri

South Island astronomers, particularly, were greatly saddened to learn of the death of Mary Sandri on December 27. She was a regular attendee of RASNZ Conferences and Stardate South Island but will be most remembered for organising the Stargazers Getaways. These were held at Herbert, south of Oamaru. They attracted participants from all over the South Island and a quite a few from more northerly places. With help from North Otago Astronomical members Mary arranged the venue, speakers and superbly catered tea breaks.

Everyone loved her direct and good-humoured manner. David Curtis summed it up: "Mary was a real character. I will miss her a great deal. I always valued her opinion and enjoyed how she could cut through the 'crap' and get straight to the point. A trait worth having especially when organising Stargazers Getaway."

Carol McAlavey wrote: "Mary was one of the most amazing people I know. Her generosity was unlimited, and above all, she was the most fun person I knew! Mary will always be synonymous with Stardates, especially Herbert, and the many conferences we attended! Her energy and organisational skills were legendary and there were definitely interesting times when she was about as she was always passionate about what she believed in. The conversations around the fire at Herbert or outside her tent at Staveley will be remembered for a long time to come. Goodbye dear friend."

Steve Butler spoke for all of us: "Mary has indeed contributed much to NZ astronomy. Her organisation and welcoming nature will be my lasting memory. That fireplace at Herbert won't be as warm any more without Mary perched alongside."

The RASNZ extends its deepest sympathy to Mary's husband Denis ("DJ") and Mary's extended family.

2. The Solar System in February

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for February 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Feb_10.htm. Notes for March 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The evening sky planets

Mars will be an evening object and well placed for viewing throughout February. Having been at opposition at the end of January, it will rise close to the time of sunset at the beginning of the month. With a summer opposition, the planet is well north of the equator. As a result the planet will be a low object in southern skies, with the best time for viewing during February in late evening. By the end of the month Mars will transit a little after 11pm for most of NZ.

Mars will be in Cancer, starting the month some 3° below the Praesepe (Beehive) star cluster. During February it will move slowly towards Gemini, ending the month about 8° to the right of Pollux. The star will be a little fainter than Mars, but have a similar slightly orange colour. Mars itself will fade from magnitude -1.3 to -0.6 in February.

On the 26th the nearly full Moon, 92% lit, will be about 5.5° to the upper right of the planet.

Saturn is the other planet visible in the late evening sky during February. It will rise close to 11pm NZDT on February 1, and shortly after 9 pm at the end of the month. Thus by then it will be easily viewed by late evening. Saturn is only just north of the celestial equator so, it will get higher in southern skies than Mars, and also rise more rapidly.

During February, Saturn will be moving slowly in a retrograde sense. The planet is in Virgo, some 20° from the first magnitude star Spica. The Moon will be about 7.5° from Saturn on the night of February 2/3, best seen before sunrise on the morning of the 3rd, when the Moon will be to the upper left of Saturn. At midnight the two will be slightly further apart with the Moon nearly directly above the planet.

Saturn's rings are still only open a slight amount, so will generally appear as a bar either side of the planet in a small telescope

Venus and JUPITER are also nominally evening objects during February, but both will be very low at sunset. Venus starts the month only 3 degrees from the Sun, setting some 20 minutes after it. By February 28 its distance from the Sun will only have increased to 6 degrees and then set half an hour after the Sun.

Jupiter sets an hour after the Sun on February 1 so is then a little higher than Venus at sunset. It reaches conjunction with the Sun on February 28. Thus Venus moves past Jupiter in the course of the month, the two are closest on February 17 when Venus will be half a degree above Jupiter. The two will be only 8 degrees from the Sun and about 4 degrees up at sunset. Due to their proximity to the Sun no attempt to see the pair should be made before the Sun sets.

THE MORNING SKY PLANETS MERCURY is a morning object throughout the month. At the beginning of February it will rise about 2 hours before the Sun, and be some 12° above the horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. The planet will be a little way round to the south from east in Sagittarius a few degrees below the handle of the "teapot". Mercury starts the month on magnitude -0.1, more than 2 magnitudes brighter than Nunki, the brightest star in the handle. For those prepared to be observing early enough, much of February will provide a good opportunity to view the planet.

On the morning of February 12, the thin crescent Moon, less than 5% lit, will be 4.5° to the upper left of Mercury. This should provide an excellent guide to locating the planet. Using a binocular put the Moon to the upper left of the field of view, Mercury should then be towards the lower right. Mercury will remain visible long after all stars have disappeared in the brightening sky.

By the end of February, Mercury will be rising some 70 minutes before the Sun, so will be lower in the morning twilight, only 3° above the horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. This will make it a difficult object even though it will be at magnitude -0.6.

Saturn is also visible as a morning object at a moderate altitude to the northeast. Even by the end of February it will not set until 2 hours after sunrise.

Outer planets

Uranus will be in Pisces just over 21 degrees from Jupiter, and will set some 100 minutes after the Sun. By the end of February, Venus will be less than 5 degrees to the left of Uranus and set just a few minutes later.

Neptune in Capricornus, is half way between Venus and Jupiter at the beginning of February, so will be low in the sky at sunset. Venus passes Neptune on February 8, when the two will be a degree apart. Neptune is at conjunction with the Sun on February 15.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object in Ophiuchus. It rises around 2.30 am at the beginning of February and just after 1 am at the end of the month. Its magnitude changes from 9.0 to 8.9 during the month.

(2) Pallas is in Serpens, its magnitude changing from 9.3 to 9.1 during February. It rise a few minutes before Ceres on February 1, and virtually at the same time on the 28th.

(4) Vesta remains in Leo and is at opposition on February 18 with a magnitude 6.1. It will then be less than half a degree from the close (1.6") double star gamma Leo, magnitude 2.2+3.6. The two are actually closer the previous night when they will be less than a quarter degree apart, with another 4.8 star a similar distance the other side of Vesta. They should make a good binocular grouping. Vesta is well north of the equator, so will not rise until about half an hour after sunset even at opposition.

(532) Herculina is coming up to opposition on March 13. During February it will brighten from magnitude 9.4 to 9.0. The asteroid is in Coma Berenices rising a little after midnight on February 1 and by about 11 pm on the 28th. A chart of its path in Coma Berenices is on the RASNZ web site accessible through the bright asteroid pages.

COMET 81P/WILD 2 is expected to brighten to magnitude 9.5 by the end of February. The comet is in Virgo fairly close to Spica. The two are less than 6 degrees apart mid month. More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28 to 30

Just a further reminder about next year's Conference.

The Standing Conference Committee is now calling for papers. Anyone wanting to present a paper, or poster paper can access the appropriate form from the RASNZ webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz - and submit the paper for consideration. We already have some papers, but at the moment there is plenty of space available in the programme. As with recent conferences it is proposed to go through till around 5pm Sunday with the programme.

Registration forms have been sent to RASNZ members. The on-line form is on the RASNZ webpage. We encourage early registration.

The local organising committee was keen to impart a local flavour, and for those who would like to go, there will be Conference trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway. You can book on the Conference registration form. The train leaves at 12.30pm, and returns at 4.30pm.

Dr Stuart Ryder is our guest. He is a southern guy -- completed his degree at Canterbury University -- and is now the Australian Gemini Scientist at the Australian Gemini Office, hosted by the Australian Astronomical Observatory. Stuart's feature paper will include discussion of supernovae he has observed.

Bill Allen will be delivering the Fellows Lecture on the Friday evening.

We also recommend taking advantage of competitive airfares by booking early. Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue fly to Dunedin.

The Conference is being held at the Otago Museum. There are plenty of accommodation options within easy walking distance.

-- abridged from Dennis Goodman's earlier note.

******************** Call for conference papers.

Submissions to present papers at the 2010 conference are now invited. The time allocation for papers is normally 20 minutes. Further details of requirements and closing dates, together with a submission form are on the RASNZ web site.

-- Brian Loader

4. Council and Executive Nominations, Please

1. Appointment of Vice-president

Members will remember that Duncan Hall was elected as incoming vice-president at the Tekapo AGM in 2008. Since that time Duncan has been appointed to a position with the SKA in Manchester, England, so has resigned from Council.

Recently Council voted to co-opt Glen Rowe to Council as vice-president. Older members may remember that Glen served as executive secretary for much of the 1980s.

-------------------------------------------- 2. Call for nominations to Council.

Closing date for receipt: 26 February 2010

2010, being an even numbered year, is an election year for the RASNZ

Council. Nominations are requested for all officers and council positions.

The positions for which nominations are required are: President Incoming vice-president Executive secretary Treasurer 5 Council members. In addition the fellows need to nominate and elect a fellows representative Affiliated Societies will elect two representatives at the affiliated societies' committee meeting held prior to the AGM.

The current president, Grant Christie, automatically becomes vice-president. The rules do not allow the president to serve a second consecutive term.

By the terms of rule 74, nominations need to be sent in writing to the Executive Secretary by Friday 26 February 2010. The nomination must specify the name of the candidate and the office sought. It must be signed by the proposer and seconder and be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee.

The address to which nominations should be sent is:

RASNZ Executive Secretary
14 Craigieburn Street
Darfield 7510
New Zealand

A postal ballot will be held in March 2010 for any position for which the number of candidates exceeds the number of appointees required.

-- Brian Loader, Executive Secretary, 14 November 2009

5. RASNZ Web Site Manager Wanted

The RASNZ web site <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> is widely used by the public, both in NZ and overseas, as a source of astronomy information. In 2008 there were over 178 000 visits to the site with the number of hits in excess of 1 million. Numbers for 2009 by the end of October were already in excess of the total for 2008.

The present web site manager has been maintaining the site since its inception over 10 years ago. It is now time for him to step aside and hand over control to a younger person. This handover is envisaged to take place during 2010.

Applicants are invited. The applicant will need to have some skills at preparing html files for a web site, and obtaining the material to go on the site.

Thus any would-be applicants for the job, completely unpaid of course, should be aware that there are two sides to it. These are researching and preparing the material for the monthly and other updates, and then preparing the actual html files for uploading onto the site.

These do require several hours of work each month. In addition there are less frequent updates required 3 or 4 times a year and a heavier number required in preparation for each New Year. The present manager expects to be preparing these latter over a time span of about two months towards the end of the previous year.

In addition the web site is an outlet for keeping members informed about the annual conference and other RASNZ functions. In the weeks leading up to conference updates are needed on a regular basis, sometimes a few times a week. The web site has also developed as a means of communication between RASNZ and the affiliated societies. Thanks to Jennie for providing the material needed for this.

The web site also results in the occasional query being received which needs to be answered, although many of these are sent to the publicity officer who handles them.

There would also seem to be a need for the development of the site, for instance to make it more interactive.

Please send any offers to take on the role, with an indication of experience to the RASNZ secretary, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

6. Stardate North Report

Ian Cooper kindly provided this report. It has been slightly abridged.

The 23rd annual Stardate was held over January 14-18, at Moore Rd Christian camp site by the Tukituki River near Havelock North. Unfortunately the long running westerly weather gave way to an easterly flow which was bad news for the east coasts of both islands.

After a fine Thursday the cloud thickened. By Friday a misty drizzle had set in, then real rain until early evening on Saturday. Fortunately Stardate has always had a programme of talks whatever the weather.

On the Friday evening Murray Forbes gave an update on the Grazing occultation of Sigma Scorpii from the Wairarapa on 31 July 2009. Additional observations from the South Island and Australia were added to give an even better result.

John Drummond followed with a look at our planets´ prospects of being hit, or not, by the Asteroid Apophis in 2036. Some of the older members in the audience didn´t look too concerned as they figured that they wouldn´t be here by then. The rest of us were just hoping that better observations would show the path to be missing us, if only just. Time will tell.

John Drummond finished the evening off with a slide show of all of the winners and place getters in the monthly competitions held throughout 2009 by the RASNZ Astronomical Photography Section. Many of those entrants were actually in the audience and could be rightly proud of their efforts projected onto the big screen.

On the Saturday afternoon the astrophotography theme was continued by both Cameron Jack ("Starting Out In DSLR Astrophotography") and Ian Cooper ("Is Film Really Dead?").

Then there was a change to space oriented topics. Edwin Rodley give a fine overview of the many space missions carried out, or continuing through 2009. Gary Sparks gave us an entertaining look at the International Space camp 2009, held in Huntsville, Alabama. Gary was the New Zealand teacher´s representative, and fellow attendee Rhiannon McNish was one of the two New Zealand student representatives. The video sections of the talk showed Gary being put through his paces in some of the testing equipment used by the 1960´s astronauts. It was dizzying enough just watching it!

After dinner on that evening we had the first of two talks by visiting American amateur astronomer Dee Friesen, former President of The Albuquerque Astronomical Society (TAAS). Dee highlighted some of the public outreach events and programmes run by TAAS throughout the International Year of Astronomy. Some of these events were so successful that TAAS will continue with them in the future. One of those events was called, "She Is An Astronomer". It utilised a number of professional female astronomers from New Mexico who had one-on-one sessions with young female students of high school and junior high age.

Cameron Jack gave a brief background to the many and varied images in the current New Zealand Almanac published by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. Many of the contributors were in the audience.

The exploits of two New Zealand Total Solar Eclipse (TSE) chasers were seen in contrast by talks on the TSE of 22 July 2009 by John Burt and then John Drummond, both from Gisborne. Cloud prevented successful viewing of totality, but as is usually the case, an excellent holiday and travel experience was had by all. Their hunger for a clear view of totality will no doubt lead them under the Moon´s shadow in the near future.

To finish the night off, George Moutzouris of Wellington enthralled the multitude of kids with a presentation of the night sky. This followed George´s afternoon attempt, out on the telescope field, to introduce the young ones to the scale of the solar system. A heavy burst of rain had forced them all inside.

John Drummond started the Sunday afternoon session off with an account of the establishment of an additional observatory called the "Tui Observatory," at his home in Patutahi, near Gisborne. This was followed by John Burt´s story of adapting a store-bought garden shed into an astronomical observatory, officially known as a `GSO´ or garden Shed Observatory.

Continuing the gardening theme, Vicky Irons of Wellington enlightened us on the process of `Gardening by the Moon,´ as well as the effects of light pollution on plants.

Dee Friesen concluded the afternoon session with a look at early astronomy by the Chacoan or Anasazi Indians of New Mexico from around 900 A.D. onwards. The well preserved astronomical observation sites that exist today and the small public outreach observatory that TAAS operates in tandem with the local tribe were a feature of this presentation.

After supper Richard Hall started his talk on "Space-Time: A Hitch Hikers Guide to Reality" at a comfortable pace before racing through all the weird and wonderful possibilities of modern cosmology.

John Drummond gave the last talk from his busy weekend agenda back- grounding Rob McNaught, the world's most prolific comet discoverer.

Kay Leather concluded the lectures by revealing the truth behind the Mayan prophesy of the world ending in 2012. At this stage plans for Stardate 2013 are on hold.

The few showers on Sunday morning finally relented and we were able to hold a shortened Telescope Trail on the bottom paddock in the late afternoon sun. This has always been an enjoyable feature of the Tukituki Stardates since 2001 when Steven O´Meara first initiated it. Recently the Telescope Trail was shifted to avoid the heat of the day, often with temperatures into the early 30s Celsius. This weekend was decidedly cooler and more comfortable all round.

Although it clouded over at dusk it did clear before midnight and a handful of telescopes observed a slowly clearing sky until around 2.30 a.m. on the Monday. Around fifteen people stayed for the fifth night and were rewarded with the best viewing of the weekend.

Although hampered by rain in the early parts Stardate 2010 was a very enjoyable gathering of like-minded astronomers from mainly around the North Island. There were several new attendees keen to come back next year. With the return of some notable absentees from this year's event, it will be an even better event next year.

7. Stardate South Report

Stardate South also suffered the easterly cloud and some rain. However, its talks were greatly enhanced by contributions from David Malin.

Talks began on Friday evening with Clive Rowe describing pulsars. Your scribe was late so missed most of Clive's talk except a stunning animation at the end that showed how pulsars work.

The Imperfect Universe David Malin showed how Galileo's discoveries revealed an imperfect universe. He also noted that 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, celebrated a few other significant anniversaries that shook conventional wisdom. Charles Darwin was born in 1809 and published his "Origin of Species" in 1859, showing that life was a continuum from bacteria to humans. Men walked on the moon in 1969 and took photos of the earth highlighting the thin skin on which all life depends.

Up to the invention of the telescope European lore held that the sun and moon were perfect unblemished orbs. (Chinese astronomers knew about sunspots.) The perfect moon reflected the earth. Galileo's telescope demolished both perfections. The moon is wrinkled; the sun has spots. In the same year that Galileo saw these imperfections, Kepler dethroned the earth from the centre of crystalline spheres on which the planets moved.

Galileo was the first modern scientist: he tested theories by observation then published his results promptly. He made his first telescope in May 1609. The lens was 12 mm across and it had a field of view of 3' (one tenth of a full moon's diameter!) He published his astronomical discoveries in Sidereus Nuncius in 1610. By 1612 the book was all over Europe.

The next big advance in astronomy was the invention of photography. After many improvements it enabled astronomers to make precise images of astronomical objects and phenomena. It also enabled the detection of objects far fainter than the eye could see.

Next came the transistor and, stemming from it, a range of CCD-like detectors. These have allowed detection of radiation totally invisible to the eye. Further advances in detectors have shown that the Cosmic Microwave Background has tiny ripples from density variations. Without these ripples -- the earliest imperfection -- stars and galaxies wouldn't have formed.

Local Society Reports Saturday morning began with reports from local astronomical societies.

The Canterbury Astronomical Society, Stardate SI hosts, reported a busy year. Public nights are held every Friday, wet or fine. Four telescopes are in use, ranging from a 5-inch refractor on a 'go to' mount to the 14.5 inch Newtonian in a refurbished dome that actually turns.

Timaru has a new group after a ten-year hiatus. Public telescope sessions have attracted a core of 27 financial members. The group meets at the Aoraki Polytech on the last Friday of the month.

The Dunedin Astronomical Society is celebrating its Centenary this year by hosting the RASNZ's Conference.

The Palmerston North Astronomical Society is suffering light-pollution problems at its observatory. It is considering moving its 12.5-inch telescope to a new site out of town. A "telescope amnesty", where public bring optic tubes for cleaning, advice, etc, was very popular.

The North Otago Astronomical Society mourned the loss of Mary Sandri. There was two minute's silence in memory of Mary.

What's Up With the Sun? Euan Mason described re-analysis of dodgy statistics relating solar activity and global warming. Changes to the way data sets were used, midway through a statistical analysis, had been revealed by a German critic (surname Laut). Sunspot magnetic fields appear to have been deceasing in recent years. This has lead to predictions that spots will vanish in 2013. Time will tell.

A History of Crux
David Malin outlined the history of the Southern Cross as a recognised
constellation. Dante, writing in 1308-21, refers to four stars deep in the
southern sky. He named them Justice, Temperance, Fortitude and Prudence.
However 200 years later Ferdinand Magellan, on his 1519-22 voyage never
mentions a southern cross in his journal, though Corsali does in 1515. The
pattern appears on a globe made in 1594 by Peter Plank.  It is called Crux
in Nicolas Lacaille's catalogue around 1750. The Australian and NZ flags
both show Crux with varying astrometric precision. Further discussion of
these, and other flags with stars, elicited much audience participation.

Supernova Searching Stuart Parker described his supernova search programme. He uses a C14 (14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain) with an SBIG ST-8ME CCD and f/5 focal reducer, all carried on a Paramount ME mount. The telescope is housed in a shed with a run-off roof. The search is controlled by CCD Auto Pilot software. Images are blinked using MaximDL. It's not cheap: Stu tallies the equipment cost at $21 380 so far. Dedication is essential: Stu has discovered seven SN to date, one discovery per 900 images. This is a high yield compared to most; one SN discovery per 4000-8000 observations is more the norm. Details are important. An IR blocking filter stops long- period variable stars becoming red herrings. The focal reducer improves image quality and allows for pointing errors. Automated search software helps but misses SNe in the brighter parts of galaxies. Stu works with a mutually-supportive Australasian group calling itself BOSS: the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search team.

Eighty attended the event. Our thanks to the organisers: Euan Mason, Tim Homes, Carol McAlavey, Lionel Hussey and Dennis Goodman. Additional assistance was provided by David Downing, Brian Loader, Martin Unwin and Steve Johnson.

More on Stardate South Next month, probably. Thanks to Dennis Goodman for helpful notes -- Ed.

8. International Asto-photography Competition

After the huge success of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2009 the Royal Observatory Greenwich, U.K. have today opened entries to this year's competition. More information: http://www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/exhibitions/astronomy-photographer-of-the-year

-- forwarded by Marilyn Head

9. Robert Kirshner Lecture on DVD

A DVD of the the public lecture given by Prof Robert Kirshner in Wellington during November last year, "Einstein's Blunder Undone" is available from the RSNZ. Prof Kirshner was the 2009 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker.

The lecture can be downloaded at <http://2009.r2.co.nz/20091111a/rsnz- 20091111.mp4> or a copy of the DVD with a video of the lecture can be obtained by sending an email to Faith Atkins at the Royal Society of New Zealand: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The RSNZ is not making a charge for them.

10. Brian Mason

Royal Society of New Zealand Honorary Fellow, Dr Brian Mason, died in Washington DC on 3 December 2009, aged 92.

A graduate in geology and chemistry from Canterbury University, he spent most of his working life in the USA working as a geochemist and mineralogist. His 1952 textbook, "Principles of Geochemistry" was a classic which went through four editions over the next 40 years. He worked on meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History and later the Smithsonian Institution, and was involved in scientific investigations for the lunar science program in the 1970s. Although his career was overseas, he returned to New Zealand many times, and created a number of trusts to support research work at Canterbury University and Canterbury Museum as well as the Brian Mason Science & Technical Trust.

Most fittingly, he is commemorated by the naming of asteroid (12926) Brianmason, discovered by Joel and Christine Schiff in 1999 at Takapuna. Two minerals were named after him: Brianite and Stenhuggarite (from the Swedish word stenhuggar, meaning stone mason).

The full obituary can be found on the Royal Society of NZ's website at: http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/Site/about/our_structure/fellows/bmasonobit uary.aspx

-- from Royal Society Alert, Issue 602, and from the above website.

11. VUW Scholarships in Radio Astronomy & Instrumentation

The radio astronomy group at Victoria University of Wellington is seeking suitable PhD & MSc students to commence research project in 2010. In particular we are offering several research projects on the broad themes of: o understanding the role environment plays on the generation and evolution of radio galaxies; o multiwavelength investigations of cluster dynamics (radio, X-ray & optical); o science and technical requirements for the next generation of radio telescopes, and o detection and characterisation of the transient radio sky at low frequencies.

We have strong collaborations with groups in Germany, France, the US and Australia and students working with us have the opportunity work with the international teams.

Applications for PhD projects are due by March 1st 2010 and potential students holding a first class honours degree or good MSc degree in Physics, Astrophysics or Computer Science or related fields are invited to apply. Students of any nationality are eligible to apply for PhD positions.

In addition we have funding for a one year MSc project on characterizing and understanding the low frequency radio sky to commence as soon as possible. Students with a background in Engineering (particularly electronic and electrical engineering), Computer Science, Physics or Astrophysics holding an honours degree (2A or above) would be suitable. Nationals of New Zealand, Australia and NZ permanent residents are encouraged to apply.

Please contact Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt for further details [This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.]

12. IYA Coin Collector Sought

The IYA2009 Secretariat is looking for someone to help compiling a comprehensive list of numismatic releases during 2009, similar to the analogous list regarding the philatelic releases: http://www.astronomy2009.org/organisation/structure/taskgroups/philately/calendar/.

If you are a astro-numismatic-enthusiast, please contact the IYA2009 Secretariat (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and help the project to keep a long lasting legacy.

-- from Marilyn Head

13. John Davis

Emeritus Professor John Davis passed away last weekend. John was well known to Australian astronomers, having come to the University of Sydney in the early 1960's to join Robert Hanbury Brown and colleagues in developing the Narrabri Stellar Intensity Interferometer. The work of that instrument made fundamental contributions in stellar astrophysics that remain significant today. The development of stellar interferometry continued under John's leadership of the Sydney University Stellar Interferometer (SUSI). John's legacy is being carried forward by a new generation of staff and students who are expanding SUSI's capabilities and scientific output.

John was widely recognised as a world leader in the technically difficult path of making modern optical stellar interferometry an observational technique of growing importance in modern astronomy. His contributions were recognised in 2005 with the ASA's Ellery Lectureship and in 2008 in a workshop, 'SUSI: Past, Present and Future', to mark his 75th birthday.

-- slightly abridged from Astronomical Society of Australia announcement.

14. NACAA XXIV

The 24th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA XXIV) will be held over Easter 2010 (2nd-5th April) in Canberra. The convention theme is "Astronomy in the On-line Age". Presentations will span Friday to Monday and include observing, instrumentation, astroimaging, education, outreach, research, history, and other topics.

For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au/2010/programme

15. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

16. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

17. 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..

18. Headlines

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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