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.


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
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Lake Tekapo 7945
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A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Southern Stars: Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. Pp 1 - 16.
International Space Camp 2009

Gary Sparks, Rhiannon McNish, Rosie Bolderston Each year NASA invites countries from around the world to select one teacher and two students to attend its annual International Space Camp. The camp is held in August at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. This year, teacher Gary Sparks of Napier and students Rhiannon McNish (a member of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society) and Rosie Bolderston (a member of the Canterbury Astronomical Society) were the lucky ones chosen by the Royal Society of New Zealand. They report here on some of their experiences.
Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. Pp

Four More Supernovae from Stuart Parker
Stuart Parker

SN2009iw discovered Sep 15.62 at mag. 14.6 in galaxy IC2160. SN2009jz discovered Oct 18.57 at mag. 17.0 in galaxy PGC17571. SN2009kl discovered Oct 23.67 at mag. 16.8 in galaxy IC2548. SN2009la discovered Nov 12.52 at mag. 15.7 in galaxy NGC1572.
Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. Page

Europe and the IYA
Ursula Macfarlane

To treat myself for my 50th birthday I impulsively decided to go on a trip to Europe. With rising fuel prices and some airlines going under from the recession I thought I'd better not put it off any longer. The two places I really wanted to visit were the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, and inside the arctic circle to experience the midnight Sun.
Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. Pp

The Next Aurora Season
R W Evans

It has been about 18 months now since the aurora australis has been seen from New Zealand and Australia. In many minds is the question "When will we start seeing them again?" Since auroral activity depends upon solar activity, our interest is really in the behaviour of the next Solar Cycle.
Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. Pp

Drift Alignment for the Southern Hemisphere
Alan McKenzie

Aligning the polar axis of the mount of an astronomical telescope so that it is accurately parallel to the polar axis of the Earth is desirable for all viewers, even for those who are content to go 'star hopping', but it is essential for serious science studies and astrophotography. The author presents the benefits of his experiences while perfecting the Drift Alignment method.
Volume 48, number 4. December 2009. 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 in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Real Amateur Astronomers
2. The Solar System in December and January
3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28-30
4. Council and Executive Nominations, Please
5. RASNZ Web Site Manager Wanted
6. Mackenzie Country on List of World Heritage Starlight Reserves
7. Advice on Fighting Light Pollution
8. Anthropologist Analyses Amateur Astronomy
9. Laser Pointer Fact Sheet
10. Spacecraft Impact Confirms Lunar Water
11. Large Diffuse Ring Found Around Saturn
12. Radio Astronomy Enhances Wi-Fi
13. Galactic Centre Image Released
14. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac
15. David Malin at Stardate South Island
16. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20
17. Call for Presentations for NACAA XXIV
18. RASNZ in Wikipedia
19. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
20. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
21. How to Join the RASNZ
22. Here and There
21. Next Newsletter - January

1. Real Amateur Astronomers

In early August Albert Jones of Nelson saw that R71, a luminous blue variable star in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), had quickly brightened to ninth magnitude. That made it the brightest star in the LMC. Albert alerted astronomers interested in such stars. Spectroscopic follow-up on August 26, showed that the spectrum of R71 resembles that of an extreme early-F-type hypergiant. This spectrum is significantly cooler than that previously seen at the star's maximum state in 1970-1977, when the system reached an A1 Ieq spectral type. The current outburst phase of R71 was first noted visually by Australian amateur Peter Williams in March last year but has accelerated recently. It was also picked up by T. Kato in April 2008 on the ASAS-3 photometric database (ASAS 050207-7120.2). Albert uses a 30 cm reflector and ~88 year-old eyeball. Details from IAU Circular 9082, 15 October 2009.

Jennie McCormick of Auckland stumbled across a 'new' asteroid on September 16. Jennie has long been an observer of variable stars and microlensing targets and more recently a tracker of comets, but this was her first asteroid discovery. It appeared as a 20th magnitude spot on CCD images taken with her 35 cm telescope. Provisionally designated 2009 SA1 the object orbits at an average distance of 2.3 AU or 350 million km from the sun in 3.5 years. The orbit is moderately elliptical (e = 0.19) and inclined 7 degrees to the plane of Earth's orbit. The object's "absolute magnitude" is 18.2 implying a diameter in the range 400-1400 metres, depending on its reflectivity.

In the July Newsletter we noted that Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury, had discovered two supernovae in the previous month. Stu has continued this productive run, reporting his sixth supernova on November 12, confirming images he obtained the night before. Supernova 2009la in NGC 1572 was at red magnitude 15.7 on unfiltered images taken with a 35-cm Celestron C14 f/6.3 Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector and ST8 CCD camera. It was a type-Ia supernova a few days before maximum light. South African amateur L.A.G. Monard of Pretoria also independently found 2009la. Details from IAU Central Bure au Electronic Telegrams 2013 and 2017.

2. The Solar System in December and January

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for December 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Dec_09.htm. Notes for January 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The southern summer solstice is on December 22 NZDT, with the Sun furthest south just before 6 am. The Earth is at perihelion 2010 January 3 when it will be 0.9833 AU from the Sun.

A very slight partial eclipse of the moon, with no more than 7.5% of its diameter in the Earth´s umbral shadow, occurs on December 31, January 1 in New Zealand. An annular eclipse of the Sun takes place on January 15. No part of either is visible from New Zealand.

The annular eclipse of the Sun starts in equatorial Africa and crosses the Indian Ocean to brush the extreme southeast of India and northwest Sri Lanka, with the centre line between the two. After crossing the Bay of Bengal, the annular path moves over Burma and on into China, to end on the Shantu Peninsula to the southeast of Beijing.

The planets in december and january - the evening sky

Jupiter remains easily visible in the evening sky throughout December, although by the end of the month that planet will set about 2.5 hours after the Sun, a little before midnight for all places in NZ except the far south, where it will set just after midnight. The planet will then be getting low by late evening. By the end of January, Jupiter will set only an hour after the Sun and be virtually lost in the evening twilight.

Jupiter, now moving in the normal easterly direction, will again overtake Neptune during the December. The two are closest on December 21 when the planets will be just over half a degree apart. This is their third conjunction for the year. On the same evening the crescent Moon, some 20% lit, will be 4.5 degrees below the planets.

In the New Year, Jupiter will move away steadily from Neptune. It will cross from Capricornus into Aquarius on January 6. On the 18th the crescent moon will be 5 degrees from Jupiter. Both will be low in the evening twilight.

Mercury will also be in the evening sky in December, visible for much of the month in the evening twilight. Its magnitude is close to -0.5 for the first 3 weeks of December after which it fades fairly rapidly.

In the middle of the month Mercury will set about 90 minutes after the Sun, times ranging from just after 10 pm in Auckland to just after 11 pm at Invercargill.

The planet is at its greatest elongation, 20 degrees east of the Sun on December 18. After this its easterly motion through the stars slows until it reaches a stationary point on December 26. By then it will set about 1 hour after the Sun and be at magnitude 0.4. During the last few days of December Mercury will rapidly close in on the Sun, so set sooner after sunset, and also rapidly fade losing two magnitudes of brightness by December 31.

On the evening of December 18, a very thin crescent Moon, only 3% lit, will be 2 degrees to the lower right of Mercury.

In the New Year, Mercury is at inferior conjunction on January 4, following which it becomes a morning object. It moves fairly rapidly up into the morning sky, with the planet being stationary on January 16 and at greatest elongation, 25 degrees west of the Sun, on the 27th. By the last week of January the planet will rise 2 hours before the Sun. 45 minutes before sunrise it will be some 12 degrees above the horizon. With a magnitude close to zero it should be visible in the dawn sky. Mercury will then be in Sagittarius close to the handle of the "teapot". At 2 magnitudes brighter than Nunki, the brightest star in the asterism, Mercury should be easily distinguishable.

The Morning Sky

Venus, Mars and Saturn remain as morning objects throughout December, although by the end of the month, Mars will rise shortly before midnight except in the far south of New Zealand. It reaches opposition at the end of January.

Venus will be only 10 degrees from the Sun at the beginning of December and rise less than half an hour before it. By the end of December the two will be only 2.5 degree apart, making observation impossible. It is at superior conjunction on January 12, 8 days after Mercury is at inferior conjunction.

This will put Venus in the evening sky. But by the end of January it will be only 5 degrees from the Sun and setting less than 20 minutes after the Sun.

Mars, in Leo, will brighten from magnitude -0.1 to -0.7 during December. It is stationary on the night of December 21/22 following which it starts moving in a retrograde sense. Its position will not change much during the month, with the planet about 10 degrees from Regulus.

The 76% lit moon will be 6 degrees to the upper left of Mars on the morning of December 7.

January will see Mars rising before midnight, after having been a morning object throughout 2009. It reaches opposition on January 30 (NZDT) having been closest to the Earth 2 days earlier. At opposition Mars will have a magnitude -1.3, and an angular diameter of 14". This will make it a little brighter than Sirius, some 50 degrees above Mars. It will be well north of the equator, so a low object for New Zealand.

At opposition, Mars will be quite close to the full moon, the two being just over 6 degrees apart on the evening of January 30.

Saturn will rise close to 3 am in the north of NZ at the beginning of December, and about half an hour later in the south. By the end of December it will rise two hours earlier and be readily visible an hour before sunrise to the northeast at a moderate altitude. Its will be at magnitude 0.9

Saturn will remain in Virgo about 20 degrees from Spica throughout December. It ends the month 1 degree from the 3.9 magnitude star eta Vir.

By mid to late January, Saturn will start to rise before midnight, but still remain essentially a morning object. It is stationary on January 15, so will show little change in position throughout the month.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Aquarius very close to its boundary with Pisces into which it moves on January 16. During December Uranus will set after midnight, so remain visible throughout the evening. By the end of January it will set about 10.30 pm.

Neptune, in Capricornus, will set before midnight by the end of December, so will be best placed for viewing as soon as the sky darkens. On December 21 Neptune will be just over half a degree from Jupiter making it reasonably easy to locate the fainter planet. By the end of January, Neptune will set only 40 minutes after the Sun.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object starting December in Libra only 18 degrees from the Sun. It moves into Scorpius on Christmas Day and on into Ophiuchus 12 days later. By the end of December it will rise two hours before the Sun and 4 hours earlier at the end of January.

(2) Pallas is a magnitude 9.4 object in Virgo in December and most of January. On the 24th it moves into Serpens and brightens slightly to magnitude 9.2 by January 31. On the morning of January 30, NZDT, Pallas will cross the star cluster M5.

(3) Juno, an evening object, starts December in Aquarius but moves into Cetus after two days. During December it fades from magnitude 8.9 to 9.3 and to 9.5 by the end of January.

(4) Vesta is a morning object in Leo a few degrees east of Regulus. During December it brightens from magnitude 7.8 to 7.2 and to 6.5 a month later. It is stationary on January 7 some 8.6 degrees east of Regulus.

(18) Melpomene, in Cetus, fades from magnitude 9.1 to 9.8 during December.

-- Brian Loader

3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28-30

Just a further reminder about next year's Conference. Plans are coming together nicely.

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 will be available shortly. The paper form will be sent to members in December, along with other promotional material, and the on-line form will be available on the RASNZ webpage within a few weeks. We encourage early registration, as this helps the local organising committee with their planning.

We have made a departure from the normal type of programme on the Friday. 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. A special conference price has been negotiated, and you can book on the Conference registration form. The train leaves at 12.30pm, and returns at 4.30pm.

Just a reminder that 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 Anglo-Australian Observatory. We will have a formal title shortly, but 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 - an excellent venue. And there is plenty of accommodation options within easy walking distance of the Museum. The Local Organising Committee may include information and recommendations with the material being distributed with the registration form.

Early in the new year we will also have further announcement re both the 2011 and 2012 Conferences.

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

******************** 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. Mackenzie Country on List of World Heritage Starlight Reserves

New Zealand has been nominated as one of five world heritage night sky reserve sites for the UNESCO World Heritage meeting in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The Tekapo-Aoraki/Mt Cook night sky bid presented by former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin was unanimously supported by the UNESCO meeting in Santa Cruz, the Canaries, on November 11. "I´m just overwhelmed our NZ bid was approved without exception here. We have got to the first hurdle and will be ready to push our case further to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in Rio next year. If we get through that, as we hope, we will then need government commitment to proceed to the final stage."

Mrs Austin, who is chairman of the Tekapo-Aoraki/Mt cook bid also noted the need to have the public on board so they can see the massive global benefits of being recognised as a world night sky heritage park. She will be briefing ministers, the Prime Minister and conservation heads on her return.

The other sites included in the Thematic Study for world heritage approval are in Austria, La Palma, Chile and Hawaii. Mrs Austin said she was determined to speed up the process for the NZ bid to be approved, possibly within two years.

She told the conference that Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook had exceptional unpolluted skies with very low light pollution because of Mackenzie District Council lighting ordinances which are now nearly 30 years old.

-- from a press release from Word of Mouth Media NZ

7. Advice on Fighting Light Pollution

A discussion in the nzastronomers Yahoo group about organising a petition protesting light pollution elicited this response from Steve Butler, RASNZ Dark Skies Group:

One of the big issues in trying to fight light pollution in NZ is the inertia present in most local councils in general regarding street lighting. Because there are around 86 different territorial and regional authorities in New Zealand there are a similar number of battles to be fought if you take on each one. But there are changes happening in New Zealand with rega rd to street lighting. The Electricity Commission, Lighting Council of New Zealand and the Illumination Engineering Society of NZ are working towards improving the efficiency of NZ Street Lighting.

Have a look at: http://www.localgovernmentmag.co.nz/Portals/3/Street_lighting_09.pdf to see what is happening in New Zealand local councils and street lighting.

Fighting Light Pollution is a many faced issue. It is about vision, economics e.g. life cycle costs, ecology, human health, safety, amenity values e.g. astronomy, heritage, energy consumption, CO2 emissions.

It is not surprising that there are so many issues. When you modify half of this planet's environment by artificially lighting the darkness there are bound to be impacts.

8. Anthropologist Analyses Amateur Astronomy

Brian Howe has produced a thesis on amateur astronomy as an Anthropology project.

The abstract (with references removed) reads: "In this examination of amateur astronomy in New Zealand, I suggest that astronomical science can be a medium through which adherents attempt to enact social transformation. Contemporary studies of leisure often emphasise the individualistic nature of l eisure activity, with social interaction framed as a means to support the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of participants. However, while amateur astronomers do engage in `serious leisure´, I suggest their extended roles as educators and liaisons for professional counterparts push their endeavour beyond mere participation and into wider territories of public engagement and scientific discourse.

Following analysis by [several authors] I argue that the New Zealand astronomical community´s proclivity for education operates as a forum for constructing recursive and normative action, in which ideologies congruent with scientific rationalism are disseminated through a form of moral regulation. Commencing with a discussion of the structure of New Zealand´s astronomical community, I examine how informants´ narratives and attitudes to contributive participation manifest in demonstrative actions that provide idealised templates for behaviour."

The complete pdf is at: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/1062/thesis.pdf?sequence=1

-- Thanks to Paul Moss for pointing this out and Stephen Hovell for adding more background, both on the nzastronomers Yahoo group.

9. Laser Pointer Fact Sheet

John O'Byrne, Secretary, Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), circulated the following. The factsheet might be of interest.

Late last year we released an ASA Factsheet on laser pointers. It can be seen at the Australian Astronomy site http://www.astronomy.org.au/ngn/engine.php?SID=1000011&AID=1003110 It concentrates on legislation in NSW because that is where legislation and regulation changes had recently been made.

We would like to update the information on this sheet, in particular incorporating any information on legislative changes (or proposed changes - Tasmania for example) in other states and territories. If you know anything about such changes, I would appreciate the information. It would be particul arly useful if you can point to specific web sites. Please just respond to this email.

Any other comments on the factsheet are also welcome.

(Any reader who wants to respond to John's email can get his email address from me. -Ed.)

10. Spacecraft Impact Confirms Lunar Water

Preliminary data from NASA¹s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the Moon.

The LCROSS spacecraft and a companion rocket stage made twin impacts in the Cabeus crater on October 9. The impacts created a plume of material from the bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years. The plume travelled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more laterally.

Scientists long have speculated about the source of significant quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question with the discovery of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected. If the water that was formed or deposited is billions of years old, these polar cold traps could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition, water and other compounds represent potential resources that could sustain future lunar exploration.

The team took the known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials and compared them to the impact spectra the LCROSS near infrared spectrometer collected. No other reasonable combination of other compounds that were tried matched the observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also was also ruled out.

Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl, one product from the break-up of water by sunlight. Just after impact, the LCROSS ultraviolet visible spectrometer detected hydroxyl signatures that are consistent with a water vapour cloud in sunlight.

Data from the other LCROSS instruments are being analyzed for additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at the impact site. The LCROSS science team and colleagues are poring over the data to understand the entire impact event, from flash to crater. The goal is to understand the distribution of all materials within the soil at the impact site.

For information about LCROSS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/lcross

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

11. Large Diffuse Ring Found Around Saturn

NASA¹s Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn. The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about 6 million km away from the planet and extends outward roughly a nother 12 million km. Seen from earth the outer extent is nearly a degree across -- two full moon diameters. One of Saturn¹s farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material. The ring has a vertical height about 20 times the diameter of the planet or 2.5 million km.

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin cloud of ice and dust particles. Spitzer¹s infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band¹s cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million km from Earth in orbit around the Sun.

The discovery may help explain why Saturn¹s moon Iapetus is bright on one side and dark on the other. The dark side is now named Cassini Regio in honour of Giovanni Cassini who first spotted Iapetus in 1671.

Saturn¹s giant ring could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The new ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe while Iapetus and the other rings and most of Saturn¹s moons are going the opposite way. Some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak. Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (-190 C). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation. Even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer.

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

12. Radio Astronomy Enhances Wi-Fi

Inside almost every Wi-Fi device in the world is a little bit of the Australian sky: patented technology that makes Wi-Fi fast and reliable. This invention was recognised last Wednesday with the Australian Prime Minister´s $300,000 Prize for Science being presented to radio astronomy engineer John O´Sullivan.

It´s one of the most significant discoveries in the history of Australian science and a classic example of how blue sky research can have unexpected outcomes. The story has been largely untold until this week due to a long and complex commercialisation process that led earlier this year to 14 technology companies agreeing to pay CSIRO for their use of the patent. The terms of each settlement are confidential but CSIRO has announced that $150 million of the royalties earned by the invention will fund future blue sky research through an endowment fund.

Nearly a billion people use John O´Sullivan´s invention every day. When you use a Wi-Fi network -- at home, in the office or at the airport -- you are using patented technology born of the work of John and his CSIRO colleagues. They created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust.

In 1977 John O´Sullivan co-wrote a paper about the use of a set of mathematical equations known as Fourier transforms to sharpen optical telescope images distorted by the atmosphere. The paper is short and, like O´Sullivan, somewhat humble. It builds on first principles of physics, but brings together a broad view joining radio and optics. And the paper is seminal. It explains the techniques known as adaptive optics and proves why they work.

Amongst John´s many research interests was the search for radio waves from exploding black holes -- predicted in 1974 by Stephen Hawking. John didn´t find them, but the techniques he and his collaborators developed to clean up intergalactic radio wave distortion eventually found expression as the technology in the wireless LAN.

Fourier transforms were the key to his work. They were essential for the new Australia Telescope at Narrabri. To simplify and speed up the transform task he worked with Austek Microsystems to create a computer chip to do the processing for him.

By 1990 CSIRO was looking for ways to commercialise its capability in radio physics. "We realised that our skills with antennas, signal processing, and radio design might allow us to cut the network cable that linked every office computer," John says. "From the beginning we set out to match the speed of the best wired networks of the time."

But reflections got in the way. In the confines of buildings and rooms, radio waves bounce off many surfaces, so that a transmission arrives at a receiver followed by a series of echoes. This leads to a fuzzy, ambiguous signal, akin to `ghosting´ on a television.

Using the same techniques he´d applied to astronomy, John and his team realised they could send the information over many different frequencies and recombine the signal at the receiver. Within a year, in 1992, CSIRO applied for an Australian patent and the long process of prototyping, trialling, and then commercialising and defending the technology and the patent, began.

The US patent came in 1996. The solution was so successful, that IEEE, the global standards body, wrote it into one of its standards for wireless networking, 802.11a. It is now part of two subsequent standards, 802.11g and n. But it took until April 2009 to agree on licensing terms with the makers of wireless computers.

Meanwhile the wireless LAN technology continues to change the world. It´s built into the next generation of mobile phones and is set to transform how we interact with our cars and homes.

Full story: http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/prime-ministers-prize/2009-science

-- abridged from a SKA press release forwarded by Marilyn Head.

13. Galactic Centre Image Released

A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy were unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event commemorated the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609.

The composite image shows the bustling hub of our galaxy that combines a near- infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multiwavelength picture. This composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

See it at http://hubblesite.org/news/2009/28

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

14. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac

Kay Leather writes: "More than just a calendar, each monthly grid includes the phases of the moon, the rise and set times of the Sun and Moon, plantary phenomena, meteor activity, solstices and equinoxes, public and school holidays, religious festivals, historical astronomical events, a Maori calendar and ancient star lore pertaining to each month.

The almanac contains 24 spectacular full colour images of celestial objects or events with explanations.

In addition there are 6 full colour charts and 4 feature pages. These include star and constellation charts for each season, a map of the Moon, and a chart showing the rise and set times of the Sun and planets. An information page explains how to use the Almanac and charts"

The price of the Almanac at $20 retail & p.p To order contact Kay Leather at Hellfa(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz or write to Almanac, P.O. Box 156, Carterton 5743.

15. David Malin at Stardate South Island

Stardate South Island will be held on 15-18 January 2010, at the usual venue - the Presbyterian Church camp at Staveley, inland mid-Canterbury. The dates coincide with the new moon for January 2010 so there will be ample dark skies for everyone to get in some great deep sky observing.

David Malin, world famous astronomer and astro-imaging pioneer will be a special guest at Stardate SI. David will provide a range of talks, provisionally including one about Galileo, one about the Southern Cross, and one about his personal journey from microscopes to telescopes.

The charges are $10 per person per night. There is bunk accommodation for around 72 persons. There are also a few free power sites for caravans and campervans. There is also plenty of room to erect tents. The total number of people we can have on-site is 96, so book soon. No refunds can be made after 5 January 2010.

The weekend is a self-catering event; bring your own food. Contributions to the pot-luck dinner on Saturday will be by alphabetical order of surname: see last month's Newsletter Item 8. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is plenty of chiller space. Tea and coffee will be supplied.

On-line registrations, and all other information, are available at the Stardate South Island website: http://www.forestry.ac.nz/euan/stardate/

-- from notes by Euan Mason and Dennis Goodman.

16. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20

The 14th workshop on gravitational microlensing will be held in Auckland, New Zealand on January 18, 19, & 20 in 2010.

Gravitational microlensing has emerged as an effective tool in modern astrophysics and is rapidly advancing. Microlensing is continuing to produce new results on extrasolar planets, stellar structure, and cosmology (to name just a few). The field is poised to enter a new era with advances in data sharing technologies, robotic telescopes, and new generation microlensing projects. This workshop will bring together researchers in microlensing as well as those involved in related theoretical and observational fields. The workshop will be a forum to review the latest observational results on microlensing and to address their theoretical implications. The aim of this workshop is to then assess future directions of microlensing for new approved and proposed microlensing projects.

For registration and other details see http://microlens2010.massey.ac.nz

17. Call for Presentations for NACAA XXIV

The 24th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA XXIV) will be held over Easter 2010 (2nd-5th April) in Canberra. This is a reminder that the closing date for submissions is Friday, 27th November, 2009.

Our theme for this convention is "Astronomy in the On-line Age". We plan to have a full weekend, Friday to Monday, of various types of presentations covering a great width of astronomical work including observing, instrumentation, astroimaging, education, outreach, research, history, and other topics.

The core of the convention is of course its presentations, and we are asking you to consider making a contribution, by yourself or in a group. We are primarily looking for posters, oral presentations, round-table meetings, and workshops, but are happy to hear suggestions of other activities. So please consider contributing, and if you wish, talk it over with the Programme Committee.

Please go to the NACAA website (http://www.nacaa.org.au/2010/programme) for more information on the types of presentations and our requirements for submissions.

-- Margaret Streamer, Programme Committee Chair, NACAA Inc.

18. 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.

19. 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.

20. 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.

21. 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..

22. Here and There

 

And an eclipse too

The Moon crosses the celestial equator at 16.44 BST on [September] 22nd, and this point thus marks the autumnal equinox. -- The Times, September 1 [2008?]

Just an arm and a leg

Only 0.003% of the 9000 university science graduates in Australia were of Aboriginal origin. -- Astronomy & Geophysics, vol. 49, 3.37, 2008.

Pin-point accuracy

The most important object in Andromeda is M33, the Pinwheel galaxy. -- The Daily Telegraph, October [2008?] Night Sky.

--from The Observatory, Vol. 129, p.180.

23. Next Newsletter - January

----------------------------- The next Newsletter will be published around January 20. Seasons greetings to all our readers.

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 2010 May 28 to 30
2. The Solar System in November
3. Orionid Meteors Busy Now
4. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac
5. Astro Weather Site for Oz and NZ
6. Astro Gathering at Gisborne November 13-15
7. David Malin at Stardate South Island
8. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20
9. NACAA Easter 2010
10. Host Wanted for 2012 Conference
11. No Doomsday in 2012 - But Lots of Profits for Hollywood
12. And We're Safe in 2036, Probably
13. SKA Research and Development Consortium Created
14. SKA Conference in Auckland 16-18 February 2010
15. Cosmic Rays at 50 Year High
16. Ninth magnitude Star Gives Clues to Early Universe
17. RASNZ in Wikipedia
18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
19. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
20. How to Join the RASNZ
21. You Know You're In The Southern Hemisphere When...

1. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28 to 30

The 2010 conference is being hosted by the Dunedin Astronomical Society who will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their foundation. The venue is the http://www.otagomuseum.govt.nz" class="blue">Otago Museum in central Dunedin. We will be using the http://www.otagomuseum.govt.nz/facilities_photo_gallery.html" class="blue">Hutton Theatre which offers excellent facilities for the meeting.

The invited speaker will be Dunedin-born Dr Stuart Ryder who is the Australian Gemini Scientist, managing the Australian Gemini Office hosted by the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Sydney.

The fellows speaker will be Bill Allen who has a long association with the Dunedin Astronomical Society. Bill's home site near Blenheim hosts the new 0.6m Yock-Allen Telescope at the BOOTES-3 Observatory.

During the day on Friday, before the opening of the conference, there is likely to be a local trip which conference attendees may wish to join.

Registration details for the conference are now being finalised. A registration form will be available on the RASNZ web site soon. Also a printed copy will be included in the December Southern Stars.

There is plenty of accommodation available within a very short walking distance of the conference venue.


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

See also Item 10, a request for expressions of interest in hosting the 2012 Conference.

2. The Solar System in November

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for November 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Nov_09.htm. Notes for December 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in november

Jupiter remains the only naked eye planet readily visible throughout the evening during November. By the end of the month it will still be setting after 1 a.m. NZDT. The planet will be moving to the east in Capricornus and closing in on Neptune for a third time this year.

The 36% lit Moon will be 6 degrees from Jupiter on the 23rd, the two getting closer during the evening. The following night the Moon will be only slightly further from Jupiter but on the opposite side, with the distance between the two increasing through the evening.

Mercury is at superior conjunction on November 5 after which it moves into the evening sky. By the end of November Mercury will set about 75 minutes after the Sun, so should be visible as twilight deepens about 40 minutes after sunset. It will then be about 5 degrees up and in a direction between west and southwest. Its magnitude will be -0.6, far brighter than any nearby star.

Mars remains a morning object throughout November. Even by the end of the month it will not rise until 1 am in the north, rather later in the south, of NZ. Three quarters of an hour before sunrise, the planet will be nearly 20 degrees up in a direction between east and northeast.

Mars starts November on the edge of M44, Praesepe, which it crosses during the course of the next 3 nights. It continues across Cancer during the rest of November to be on the constellation´s boundary with Leo on the morning of November 30. During November Mars brightens from magnitude 0.5 to -0.1.

Saturn will rise close to 3 a.m. in the north of NZ at the end of November, and about half an hour later in the south. So during the month it will become an easy pre-dawn object nearly 20 degrees up 45 minutes before sunrise. Saturn will be in Virgo all month.

Venus is also in Virgo at the beginning of November but moves into Libra mid month. Throughout November Venus will rise half an hour or less before the Sun, and be only 4 to 5 degrees up at sunrise.

Uranus is in Aquarius close to its boundary with Pisces. It sets well after midnight all month, so remains observable in binoculars throughout the evening.

Neptune, in Capricornus, is also an evening object. During November the distance between Jupiter during November decreases from 6 to 3 degrees.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is too close to the Sun for observation in November

(3) Juno is an evening object in Aquarius. during November it fades from magnitude 8.4 to 8.9.

(4) Vesta, is a morning object in Leo, passing within 2.4 degrees of Regulus on the morning of November 18. During the month it brightens a little from magnitude 8.1 to 7.8.

(18) Melpomene is slow moving in Cetus during November, reaching a stationary point on the 18th. At the beginning of November it is visible throughout the night at magnitude 8.3. It fades to 9.1 during the month. The asteroid will be about 2 degrees from the 3.4 magnitude star eta Cet.

-- Brian Loader

3. Orionid Meteors Busy Now

The Orionid meteor shower may be seen throughout most of October as the shower is active from October 2 to November 7. Peak activity is expected to occur on October 21 from a radiant of 06h20m (RA) +16 (Dec). But the shower has been known to exhibit submaxima which may occur anytime between October 18-24 (see below). With New Moon occurring near the time of their peak, this is an especially good year to observe the Orionids.

The Orionids are particles from Halley's comet travelling at a velocity of 66 km/s. As with other cometary showers of high velocity, observers should watch for substantial train production by the Orionids. The highest hourly rates are near 20 in most years under good conditions. But in 2006 and 2007 strong displays occurred (Zenith Hourly Rates over 50), and their is evidence that suggests this may continue this year.

Peter Jenniskens of the SETI Institute suggests that the strong Orionid meteor shower activity of 2006-2008 may repeat this year, based on orbit calculations by M. Sato and J.-I. Watanabe. They ascribed the 2006-2008 activity to dust trails of comet 1P/Halley that were formed by meteoroids ejected in the years 1400 BC and 11 BC. The orbital evolution of the dust is affected resonances with Jupiter. This so-called "filament" component is expected to be in the earth's path again around Oct. 18-24 in 2009, giving rise to a higher- than-normal Orionid-shower activity that is relatively rich in bright meteors.

From New Zealand the radiant rises around 1 a.m. NZDT and is on the meridian about dawn. Because of its lowness in our sky the best observed hourly rate is around half the hourly rate seen in northern places.

During the period October 14-27, observers should be aware that the minor shower Epsilon Geminids will be active, and not confuse the two since meteors from both showers will have similar velocities.

For more information see: http://meteorshowersonline.com/orionids.html http://www.imo.net/calendar/2009#ori

-- collated from information from Mark Davis of the North American Meteor Network, passed on by John Drummond, and from IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 1976 (2009 October 17).

4. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac

Kay Leather writes: "More than just a calendar, each monthly grid includes the phases of the moon, the rise and set times of the Sun and Moon, planetary phenomena, meteor activity, solstices and equinoxes, public and school holidays, religious festivals, historical astronomical events, a Maori calendar and ancient star lore pertaining to each month.

The almanac contains 24 spectacular full colour images of celestial objects or events with explanations.

In addition there are 6 full colour charts and 4 feature pages. These include star and constellation charts for each season, a map of the Moon, and a chart showing the rise and set times of the Sun and planets. An information page explains how to use the Almanac and charts"

The price of the Almanac at $20 retail & p.p To order contact Kay Leather at Hellfa(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz or write to Almanac, P.O. Box 156, Carterton 5743.

5. Astro Weather Site for Oz and NZ

Larry Field points out an Australian weather site intended for astronomers. It has a New Zealand map that isn't being much used. The site is http://www.skippysky.com.au/

Andrew Cool, who runs the website, provided the following additional notes: "The colour contours are in lots of 10% of cloud cover. So the Darkest Blue on the cloud cover maps DOES NOT mean 0% cloud cover, But rather somewhere in the range 0..10% cloud cover, and so on for the other colours.

Each map has a colour legend at the bottom of the screen - depending on the resolution of your computer screen, you may have to scroll Down to see the legend."

Andrew also asked that users always start from the site's home page, so the user's location is registered. Only regions that are used will be retained.

Another good site for cloud forecasts over this part of the world is http://www.wetterzentrale.de/topkarten/fsavnaus.html select the Mittl. Volken display.

Satellite image loops are also informative. The NZ one is at http://www.metservice.co.nz/public/ruralWeather/chartsAndMaps/tasman-ir- satellite.html The Strines have a similar one, with NZ in a corner, at http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDE00902.loop.shtml And the US's National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration has a wealth of data and imagery. Start at http://www.noaa.gov/wx.html -- Ed.

6. Astro Gathering at Gisborne November 13-15

We're planning on having a Gissy Gathering here in Gisborne in November. It's not an official camp - but more of an impromptu get-together with socialising and star gazing/imaging. It will run from 4pm on Friday 13th until the morning of Monday 16th November. There's two acres of land here to put u p tents, etc. The sky is black.

More details can be seen at - http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/gissy_gathering-2009.htm or http://tinyurl.com/kuqjnp

If you want to come please email me at Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone (06) 8627 557 (home + A/M) or 0275 609 287 (mobile).

-- abridged from a note by John Drummond

7. David Malin at Stardate South Island

Stardate South Island will be held on 15-18 January 2010, at the usual venue - the Presbyterian Church camp at Staveley, inland mid-Canterbury. The dates coincide with the new moon for January 2010 so there will be ample dark skies for everyone to get in some great deep sky observing.

David Malin, world famous astronomer and astro-imaging pioneer will be a special guest at Stardate SI. David will provide a range of talks, provisionally including one about Galileo, one about the Southern Cross, and one about his personal journey from microscopes to telescopes.

If anyone wishes to give a talk then contact the organisers as soon as possible. The focus on the off-site activities will be the Saturday afternoon walk on the Old Coal Mine Trek, near Mt Somers.

The charges are $10 per person per night. There is bunk accommodation for around 72 persons. There are also a few free power sites for caravans and campervans. There is also plenty of room to erect tents. The total number of people we can have on-site is 96, so book soon. No refunds can be made after 5 January 2010.

The weekend is a self-catering event; bring your own food. Contributions to the pot-luck dinner on Saturday will be by alphabetical order of surname: see last month's Newsletter Item 8. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is plenty of chiller space. Tea and coffee will be supplied.

On-line registrations, and all other information, are available at the Stardate South Island website: http://www.forestry.ac.nz/euan/stardate/

-- from notes by Euan Mason and Dennis Goodman.

8. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20

The 14th workshop on gravitational microlensing will be held in Auckland, New Zealand on January 18, 19, & 20 in 2010.

Gravitational microlensing has emerged as an effective tool in modern astrophysics and is rapidly advancing. Microlensing is continuing to produce new results on extrasolar planets, stellar structure, and cosmology (to name just a few). The field is poised to enter a new era with advances in data sharing technologies, robotic telescopes, and new generation microlensing projects. This workshop will bring together researchers in microlensing as well as those involved in related theoretical and observational fields. The workshop will be a forum to review the latest observational results on microlensing and to address their theoretical implications. The aim of this workshop is to then assess future directions of microlensing for new approved and proposed microlensing projects.

For registration and other details see http://microlens2010.massey.ac.nz

9. NACAA Easter 2010

The next National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers will be held over the Easter weekend, April 2-5 2010, in Canberra. Details are seen at the web site http://nacaa.org.au/2010.

The programme committee is currently inviting offers of presentations.

For those who haven't attended a NACAA before, you can get a good idea of the kind of activities to expect from http://nacaa.org.au/2008.

-- from notes by Albert Brakel and Stephen Russell

10. Host Wanted for 2012 Conference

The 2012 conference is scheduled be held mid June following on the transit of Venus which is on 2012 June 6. The SCC invites expressions of interest in hosting the conference from RASNZ affiliated societies. We would like to receive these by 2009 October 31. Please email to 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.

The conference host society is responsible for arranging a suitable conference venue in their region. The host society also looks after conference registrations and social arrangements. The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee is responsible for selecting the papers and the speaking programme and will work with the LOC to ensure all is running smoothly. A comprehensive set of guidelines for Conference Organisers is available from the RASNZ Secretary .

Any Affiliated Society that wishes to be considered as hosts for this event should email their proposal to the RASNZ Secretary by 31 October 2009. This should include an indication of the likely venue. The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee will then consider the proposals received with a view to making a decision as to location by 31 December 2009.

-- Brian Loader, RASNZ secretary, for the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

11. No Doomsday in 2012 - But Lots of Profits for Hollywood

The widespread Internet belief that 21 December 2012, will be doomsday for planet Earth because some astronomical event will destroy or decimate our planet is a complete hoax, according to NASA scientist David Morrison. His concise summary of the claims and the scientific response is being published by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific as a public service at: http://www.astrosociety.org/2012

For several months, NASA and many astronomers have received increasingly worried letters and e-mails from members of the public about the possibility, widely touted on the Internet, that the world will end in 2012. Many mechanisms for doomsday are being proposed, including a collision with a fictional planet called Nibiru, deadly activity on the surface of the Sun that lashes out at Earth, alignments with the centre of our galaxy, etc. David Morrison has coined the term ³cosmophobia² -- fear of the cosmos -- for these concerns, and has seen a huge increase in the phenomenon this year.

Dr. Morrison, a world-renowned expert on the solar system (and asteroid impacts), also serves as the public scientist for NASA¹s ³Ask an Astrobiologist² service, where he answers questions for the public. He has received so many questions about 2012 and the end of the world, that he felt he had to investigate and set the record straight.

One of his most interesting findings is that the distributors of the science fiction motion picture ³2012², to be released this November, are purposely feeding the flames of the Internet panic (in what is called a viral marketing campaign) by creating fake science websites and encouraging people to search for ³2012² on the Web. Most of the sites such searches encounter are full of nonsense and misunderstanding, often by people who have written books on coming disaster that they are trying to sell.

Morrison¹s article is in the form of questions and answers, and is followed by a resource guide that allows readers to find even more scientific information about why no 2012 disaster is in the cards. There are many reasons to worry about the future of planet Earth, of course, but absolutely no reason to single out the winter solstice of2012 as a special time to be concerned.

# # #

For an annotated guide of resources for responding to claims of astronomical pseudo-science, from astrology to crop circles, and ancient astronauts to Moon- landing denial, see:http://www.astrosociety.org/education/resources/pseudobib.html

-- forwarded by Karen Pollard. ------

See also Sky & Telescope, November 2009, for more, lots more. -- Ed.

12. And We're Safe in 2036, Probably

Using updated information, NASA scientists have recalculated the path of the 300- metre diameter asteroid (99942)Apophis. The refined path reduces the chance that Apophis will hit earth on 13 April 2036. The probability has decreased from one-in-45 000 to about one-in-250 000.

The new orbit was calculated by near-Earth object scientists Steve Chesley and Paul Chodas at NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They presented their updated findings at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society¹s Division for Planetary Sciences on Oct. 8.

A majority of the data that enabled the updated orbit of Apophis came from observations made by Dave Tholen and collaborators at the University of Hawaii¹s Institute for Astronomy. Tholen made improved measurements of the asteroid¹s position in earlier images. Measurements from telescopes in Arizona and from the Arecibo radar observatory on Puerto Rico were also used in Chesley¹s calculations.

The information provided a more accurate glimpse of Apophis¹ orbit well into the latter part of this century. Among the findings is another close encounter by the asteroid with Earth in 2068 with the chance of impact currently around three-in-a-million.

Apophis is expected to make a record-setting -- but harmless -- close approach to Earth on Friday, 13 April 2029, when it comes no closer than 29,600 km (18,300 miles) above Earth¹s surface. "The refined orbital determination further reinforces that Apophis is an asteroid we can look to as an opportunity for exciting science and not something that should be feared," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. "The public can follow along as we continue to study Apophis and other near-Earth objects by visiting us on our AsteroidWatch Web site and by following us on the @AsteroidWatch Twitter feed."

NASA detects and tracks asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground and space-based telescopes. The Near Earth-Object Observations Program, commonly called "Spaceguard" discovers these Objects and identifies those that could be potentially hazardous to our planet.

For more information about asteroids and near-Earth objects, visit: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

-- from a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard

13. SKA Research and Development Consortium Created

In June 2009, a new organisation bringing together professional researchers involved in SKA-related research in New Zealand was created. The New Zealand SKA Research and Development Consortium, or SKARD, aims to foster collaboration both within New Zealand and internationally, and to liaise with industry, government and other groups to advance New Zealand´s contribution to the SKA.

Members are drawn from all of New Zealand´s major research universities and have interests in antenna design, signal processing, imaging and inference, high performance computing and radio astronomy. SKARD, which is chaired by Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, has formed very productive links with the N New Zealand SKA Industry Consortium (NZSIC) and has produced collaborative research projects between different groups within New Zealand.

Full membership is open to New Zealand-based researchers undertaking SKA-related research and associate membership is open to parties with an interest in SKA- related activities in New Zealand. Further information is available at www.ska.ac.nz.

-- Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, Victoria University of Wellington

14. SKA Conference in Auckland 16-18 February 2010

A timely conference building on the recent agreement between Australia and New Zealand, and first light on New Zealand´s Warkworth 12-metre antenna, is planned for February 2010. Pathways to SKA Science in Australasia aims to highlight recent SKA developments in Australia and New Zealand, and to re view the main areas of SKA science.

The meeting will include sessions on: o ASKAP and SKA overviews o Engineering developments in Australia and New Zealand o Key SKA science o Related projects in Australasia

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

Where: Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand When: 16-18 February 2010 Registration: Now open

Visit www.aut.ac.nz/skanz2010 for details of the conference program and to register.

-- Dick Manchester, CSIRO (Chair, Science Organising Committee); Sergei Gulyaev, Auckland University of Technology (Chair, Local Organising Committee)

15. Cosmic Rays at 50 Year High

"In 2009, cosmic ray intensities have increased 19% beyond anything we've seen in the past 50 years," says Richard Mewaldt of Caltech. "The increase is significant, and it could mean we need to re-think how much radiation shielding astronauts take with them on deep-space missions."

The cause of the surge is solar minimum, a deep lull in solar activity that began around 2007 and continues today. Researchers have long known that cosmic rays go up when solar activity goes down. Right now solar activity is as weak as it has been in modern times, setting the stage for what Mewaldt calls "a perfect storm of cosmic rays."

"We're experiencing the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century," says Dean Pesnell of the Goddard Space Flight Center, "so it is no surprise that cosmic rays are at record levels for the Space Age."

Galactic cosmic rays come from outside the solar system. They are subatomic particles -- mainly protons but also some heavy nuclei --accelerated to almost light speed by distant supernova explosions. Cosmic rays cause "air showers" of secondary particles when they hit Earth's atmosphere. They pose a health hazard to astronauts. A single cosmic ray can disable a satellite if it hits an unlucky integrated circuit.

The sun's magnetic field is our first line of defence against these highly- charged, energetic particles. The entire solar system from Mercury to Pluto and beyond is surrounded by a bubble of solar magnetism called the heliosphere. It springs from the sun's inner magnetic dynamo and is inflated to gargantuan proportions by the solar wind. When a cosmic ray tries to enter the solar system, it must fight through the heliosphere's outer layers; and if it makes it inside, there is a thicket of magnetic fields waiting to scatter and deflect the intruder.

At times of low solar activity, this natural shielding is weakened, and more cosmic rays are able to reach the inner solar system. Three aspects of the current solar minimum are combining to create the perfect storm:

The sun's magnetic field is weak. The interplanetary magnetic field (IMF) down to only 4 nanoTesla (nT) from typical values of 6 to 8 nT. This record-low IMF undoubtedly contributes to the record-high cosmic ray fluxes.

The solar wind is flagging. Measurements by the Ulysses spacecraft show that solar wind pressure is at a 50-year low, so the magnetic bubble that protects the solar system is not being inflated as much as usual. A smaller bubble gives cosmic rays a shorter-shot into the solar system. Once a cosmic ray enters the solar system, it must 'swim upstream' against the solar wind. Solar wind speeds have dropped to very low levels in 2008 and 2009, making it easier than usual for a cosmic ray to proceed.

The current sheet is flattening. Imagine the sun wearing a ballerina's skirt as wide as the entire solar system with an electrical current flowing along the wavy folds. That is the 'heliospheric current sheet', a vast transition zone where the polarity of the sun's magnetic field changes from plus (north) to minus (south). The current sheet is important because cosmic rays tend to be guided by its folds. Lately, the current sheet has been flattening itself out, allowing cosmic rays more direct access to the inner solar system. If the flattening continues as it has in previous solar minima th en cosmic ray fluxes could jump all the way to 30% above previous Space Age highs.

Earth is in no great peril from the extra cosmic rays. The planet's atmosphere and magnetic field combine to form a formidable shield against space radiation, protecting humans on the surface. Indeed, we've weathered storms much worse than this. Hundreds of years ago, cosmic ray fluxes were at leas t 200% higher than they are now. Researchers know this because when cosmic rays hit the atmosphere, they produce an isotope of beryllium, called beryllium 10, which is preserved in polar ice. By examining ice cores, it is possible to estimate cosmic ray fluxes more than a thousand years into the pa st. Even with the recent surge, cosmic rays today are much weaker than they have been at times in the past millennium.

"The space era has so far experienced a time of relatively low cosmic ray activity," says Mewaldt. "We may now be returning to levels typical of past centuries."

For more information: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/ray_surge.html http://www.astromart.com/news/news.asp?news_id=984 http://www.astromart.com/news/news.asp?news_id=924

-- abridged from an article on Astromart News, 2009 Oct 4

16. Ninth magnitude Star Gives Clues to Early Universe

Old stars are keys to understanding the nature of the first stars and the earliest stages of the formation of the universe. Japan's Subaru Telescope in Hawaii has stumbled across a ninth magnitude star -- BD+44 493 -- that sheds light on how the early stars may have developed during the infancy of the universe.

According to the Big Bang theory, the early universe was composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. The creation of elements other than hydrogen and helium ("metals" in the jargon of astrophysics) occurred later, through a process of nucleosynthesis, when new atomic nuclei are developed inside the stars. So the proportion of "metals" in an astronomical object(its "metallicity") may provide an indication of its age. Older stars have lower metallicities than younger stars such as our Sun. Because their atmospheres usually preserve the chemical composition of the gas from which they forme d, old, low-metallicity stars hold evidence of their own creation -- information that provides clues to processes occurring in the early universe.

The combination of BD+44 493¹s exceptional brightness and the high resolution of Subaru's spectroscopic instrument allowed detailed analysis of the of the star's chemical composition. This revealed a relatively high abundance of carbon, a characteristic similar to that of the most metal-deficient star discovered four years ago, as well as detailed abundance ratio s for other elements.

The best explanation for the star's composition is that it was formed from a gas cloud polluted by the supernova explosion of a first generation massive star, which yielded carbon-rich but metal-poor material.

The results were published in Astrophysical Journal Letters in June 2009: The Astrophysical Journal, 698:L37-L41, 2009 June 10. For more see(Refer to http://www.naoj.org/Pressrelease/2005/04/13/index.html

-- condensed from a Subaru Telescope Facility press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

17. 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.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

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. You Know You're In The Southern Hemisphere When...

* You try to align on Polaris but there's a big obstruction in the way and your wife says "That's the planet Earth, dopey!"

* The SCT you bought in America will only work properly when you

glue the tripod legs to the ceiling.

* You try to find the Magellanic galaxies but there are two little

clouds getting in the way.

* You see Sagittarius high overhead when everybody 'knows' it's

supposed to be low in the south west.

* You set your telescope to the celestial pole only to find that

there's nothing there.

* You try to find the Owl Nebula when its on the meridian but all

you see is your shoelaces.

* You like the idea of being 'Down Under' and wonder what it's like

being 'Up Over'.

* Your telescope shows the planets the right way up when all the

books say they are supposed to be inverted.

* You think nothing of using Norton's Star Atlas standing on your head.

* You normally find the South Celestial Pole by drawing a line

through Achernar and Alpha Centauri and dividing by 0.4293!

* You return your new Star Atlas because the printer put in all the

star and constellation names upside down.

* You really can't understand why 47 Tucanae and Omega Centauri

aren't on the Messier List.

* You try to find the Great Bear (Ursa Major) but all you see is a

koala in a tree three kilometres away.

* All your friends say "G'day mate. Owyergoin', Orright?" AND you answer in the same way! (Replace Australian marsupial and slang with local versions!)

* You find Orion doing hand stands.

* You can't believe how clear and dark the skies are.

Found at The Munich Astro Archive: http://www.maa.mhn.de/cur4.html (Collected from the Network News; Original from Tony Hugo and Martin Brown). Passed on by Roland Idaczyk

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. Jon Hamilton
2. The Solar System in October
3. Herbert Star Party Report
4. Radio NZ Galileo Lectures
5. AAS Burbidge Dinner
6. AAS Astrophotography Competition
7. Astro Gathering at Gisborne November 13-15
8. Stardate South Island 15-18 January
9. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation
10. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20
11. NACAA Easter 2010
12. Radio Astronomy Summer Studentships at ICRAR
13. Nobel Prize Lectures
14. Space Telescope Refurbished
15. Notes from Some Herbert Talks
16. AUT Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research
17. AAO Newsletter
18. How to Join the RASNZ
19. Quotes

1. Jon Hamilton

Jon Hamilton, long-time member of the RASNZ and great supporter of New Zealand astronomy died recently at age 84. Clive Rowe kindly provided this memory of Jon:

Jon had built his own observatory on his property in Kennedy's Bush road, Halswell, in the 60s. The telescope was an equatorially-mounted Celestron 14. He often showed visitors the moon and planets and on one occasion we observed one of the black spots on Jupiter soon after the impact of one of the components of comet Shoemaker-Levy

He subscribed to Scientific American and enjoyed discussions on the science and particularly, astronomy and cosmology after reading the relevant articles in that Journal.

Jon was particularly helpful to the Canterbury Astronomical Society (CAS) and we folded the robust frame of the present 14 inch Cassegrain (Nankivell optics) on the 1000 tonne press in the Company's jetboat manufacturing facility. They welded and turned the frame on their large vertical mill. The company also built the solid equatorial mount which supports the 14 inch. Jon, until some months ago, was actively involved in an upgrade to the 14 inch dome at the CAS observatory at West Melton.

I was fortunate to share (from the passenger seat), Jon's passion for gliding about the Southern Alps on numerous occasions. The evenings were spent discussing science and astronomical topics.

I always felt, as many did, enriched by Jon's company. We shall miss him.


Jon was better known to the public as son of Sir William Hamilton, inventor of the jet-boat. 'The Press' summarised this side of Jon's busy life:

Mr Hamilton was an ambassador for his father's invention, piloting Hamilton jet- powered boats on the first upstream run of the Colorado River, and on the Ganges with mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary.

Mr Hamilton was born and raised at Irishman Creek Station in South Canterbury. He completed an engineering degree at Canterbury University and eventually became chief engineer for CWF Hamilton & Co in Christchurch. Apart from his Ganges and Colorado expeditions, Mr Hamilton also led voyages along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea and the Zaire in Africa.

In 1982 he became patron of the NZ Jet Boating Association. He was also a keen aviator who still flew gliders in his 80s. Mr Hamilton is survived by his wife Joyce, children Michael, Karen and Richard, seven grandchildren and two great- grandchildren.

2. The Solar System in October

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for October 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Oct_09.htm. Notes for November 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in october

Jupiter is the only naked eye planet visible in the evening sky during October. The planet will be slow moving in Capricornus. It is stationary on October 13, when its retrograde westerly motion through the stars will cease. It will be close to the 4th magnitude star iota Cap, with the two mostly less than half a degree apart.

At the beginning of October, Jupiter will transit about 10 pm for many places in New Zealand, but about half an hour later in the south west. The time of transit advances by about 2 hours during the month, but it does mean that Jupiter will be well placed for viewing throughout the month.

The 63% lit Moon will be 3.5 degrees below Jupiter on the 27th, the two being closest For NZ viewers immediately following sunset. Neptune, which has been a partner of Jupiter for much of the year, will be between 6 and 6.5 degrees from Jupiter during October.

Mars is the only other planet readily visible in October, and it remains a morning object. At the beginning of October it rises between about 3.30 am, in the north, and 4.30 am in the south of NZ. By the end of the month it will rise about an hour earlier. Thus the best time for viewing Mars is about an hour before sunrise, when it will be between north and northeast.

The planet starts the month in Gemini being about 6 degrees from the similarly coloured star Pollux for the first week. The planet crosses into Cancer on the morning of the 13th and moves up to be on the edge of M44, Praesepe by the end of the month.

The dawn sky - mercury, venus and saturn

The three planets will be quite close to one another in the dawn sky during October. But they will be all but unobservable, since they rise only shortly before the Sun.

Mercury will rise only some 35 minutes before the Sun on October 1, by the end of the month less than 5 minutes beforehand.

Venus rises a few minutes earlier, and due to its brilliance may be visible just before sunrise very low between east and northeast.

Saturn starts the month closest to the Sun of the three, but will be rise more than an hour before the Sun by the end of October. Even so it is likely to be too low in the dawn sky for observation. The best chance for locating the planet in binoculars may be on the mornings of October 14 and 15 when it will be very close to Venus. On the 14th, Saturn will be half a degree to the lower left of Venus, the following morning the two will be slightly further apart but virtually level.

Uranus having been at opposition in mid September will be in the evening sky. It starts October in Pisces, but moves into Aquarius on the 12th.

Neptune, in Capricornus, is also an evening object and remains fairly close to Jupiter during October.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Virgo, 8 degrees from Spica, at the beginning of October with magnitude 8.7. It then sets about 75 minutes after the Sun. It is at conjunction with the Sun at the end of October, so will be too close to it for observation for most of the month.

(2) Pallas was at conjunction mid September, so rises shortly before the Sun during October. It is fairly close to Saturn, especially early in the month, and like Saturn will be very difficult to observe

(3) Juno was at opposition on September 22, so is visible in the evening sky during October. It is in Aquarius all month, fading a little from magnitude dropping from 7.9 to 8.4.

(4) Vesta, is a morning object and starts the month in Cancer. It moves into Leo on October 12 to be less than 6 degrees from Regulus by the 31st. Its magnitude brightens slightly from 8.4 to 8.2 during the month.

(18) Melpomene is at opposition on October 9. The asteroid is in Cetus, with a magnitude 7.9 for the first half of the month. So as Juno fades slightly, Melpomene will be the brightest asteroid. By the end of October it will also have faded a little, to magnitude 8.2.

-- Brian Loader

3. Herbert Star Party Report

This year's Herbert star party was a spectacular success both for the numbers attending and the skies we encountered.

Around 55 arrived on Friday night in time for some brilliant viewing. On Saturday around 62 revelled under superbly clear skies.

We enjoyed a wide range of speakers over the weekend. Alan Gilmore told us about the recent IAU conference in Brazil. Euan Mason took us on a tour of stellar evolution. Brian Loader offered a humour-filled talk on occultations, and Robert McTague spoke on running a telescope remotely. Other speaker s included Robert Rae, Lynne Taylor, Peter Jaquiery and Craig Spencer. I counted 63 in the Hall on Saturday night, all buzzing with excitement given that the skies were looking great outside.

The Canterbury Astronomical Society was well represented brought many telescopes. On the field on the first night there was my C11, three 8 inch SCT's, Robert Rea's 18 inch Newtonian, an assortment of other 'scopes and three pairs of giant binoculars. During the day we used several solar scopes to look at the sun. These ranged from 60 mm Hydrogen alpha scopes and three 40 mm PSTs to Euan's C8 with a white light filter.

The observing was simply superb with the zodiacal light clearly visible. We observed until the wee small hours, looking at galaxies, nebulae, globular clusters, open clusters and planetary nebulae by the dozen. We used the big Cassegrain on Jupiter for a webcam demonstration which was very well received. Euan did his magic out in the field and then inside the hall he pr ojected the image processing using Registax software.

On Saturday night the seeing was good, the air was clear and the Milky Way was simply stunning overhead. It was the best sky for deep sky observing anyone could ever wish for. We all made good use of the opportunity to seek out old favourites in the superb conditions.

RASNZ members had a meeting on the Saturday in the Lodge with members of the Dunedin Society who are running next year's RASNZ conference. It is obvious that the societies in Christchurch, Dunedin and Timaru in particular are in very good health. We also had several students from an Otago high school: kids with an interest in science. They were great to have around. It was clear they wanted to be there and thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. On Saturday they, and a few older astronomers as well, really enjoyed making rockets using baking soda and vinegar. We also enjoyed a visit from Australian astronomer Ian Maclean. Ian runs a popular Australian radio show and is a science writer, presenter and host of the science hour on the radio in the Northern Territory. It was great showing him how we operate over here and meeting a true enthusiast. He was obviously an old hand and a serious deep sky observer.

Next year we are planning to have a quest speaker and hoping to get the attendance near the 100 mark. We'll be requiring early registration to sort out accommodation. Stay tuned on who the speaker will be. We have in mind a big name from across the ditch. Herbert may turn out to be a bigger event than Staveley given the success of the weekend. We are fortunate in having these two great events to keep us all going.

-- abridged from a report by Phil Barker

4. Radio NZ Galileo Lectures

The Royal Society of New Zealand Galileo Lectures are being broadcast on Radio New Zealand National. They will go to air Sundays at 4pm and again on Tuesdays at 9pm.

Broadcast dates are as follows (full list, some now past):

Sun 13 Sep & Tue 15 Lecture 1: The political and philosophical uses of Galileo's telescope, Associate Professor Ruth Barton

Sun 20 Sep & Tue 22 Lecture 2: The mystery of the first stars, Dr Grant Christie

Sun 27 Sep & Tue 29 Lecture 3: The search for other planets, other life, Alan Gilmore

Sun 04 Oct & Tue 06 Lecture 4: Comets and Asteroids: clues to our origin and threats to our survival, Professor Jack Baggaley

Sun 11 Oct & Tue 13 Lecture 5: Neutrinos - ghosts of the Universe, Dr Jenni Adams

Sun 18 Oct & Tue 20 Lecture 6: The Square Kilometre Array, Dr Brian Boyle

Past lectures can be downloaded from http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/lecturesandforums/the_galileo_lectures

The lectures are also available as CDs from Radio New Zealand.

-- From a note circulated by Danae Staples-Moon of the Royal Society of NZ.

5. AAS Burbidge Dinner

The Auckland Astronomical Society's Burbidge Dinner will be held at Novotel Ellersile on the 7th November 2009. All welcome. This year, the after dinner speaker will be Professor John Storey from the University of New South Wales. His talk will focus on Antarctic Astronomy.

Winners of the Harry Williams Astrophotography Trophy will be announced at the dinner. For competition details see the next item. The AAS will also award the annual Beaumont Writing prize.

Ticket Prices: $60.00 for a single ticket; $55.00 per ticket for a table of ten tickets Tickets can be purchased by contacting Andrew Buckingham This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Postal: AAS Burbidge Dinner 2009

P.O.Box 24-187
Royal Oak
Auckland 1345

-- from a note by Jennie McCormick

6. AAS Astrophotography Competition

The Auckland Astronomical Society is pleased to announce the 2009 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now open for entry to all New Zealand residents.

Competition categories are as follows: 1. Solar System - Sun, Moon, planets, comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, auroras, meteors, etc. 2. Deep Sky - Nebulae, galaxies, globular and open clusters, deep space objects, etc. 3. Miscellaneous - Artistic and interesting subjects with an astronomical theme, including wide field images, artificial satellites, star trails, star parties etc.

An Entry form and Conditions of Entry can be downloaded from: Auckland Astronomical Society website: www.astronomy.org.nz Royal Astronomical Society of NZ Affiliated Societies website: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/index.htm

Competition Closing Date: Friday 16th October 2009

-- from a note by Jennie McCormick

7. Astro Gathering at Gisborne November 13-15

If anyone is interested, we're planning on having a Gissy Gathering here in Gisborne in November. It will run from 4pm on Friday 13th until the morning of Monday 16th November. There's two acres of land here to put up tents, etc. The sky is black.

It's not an official camp - but more of an impromptu get-together with socialising and star gazing/imaging. If anyone wants to present a talk on an astro topic then please bring it. Power is available in the paddocks for scopes. I've got a few 16" scopes to use as well. The Moon is new Moon on the 17th November.

More details can be seen at - http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/gissy_gathering-2009.htm or http://tinyurl.com/kuqjnp

If you want to come please email me at Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone (06) 8627 557 (home + A/M) or 0275 609 287 (mobile).

-- John Drummond

8. Stardate South Island 15-18 January

Stardate South Island will be held on 15-18 January 2010, at the usual venue - the Presbyterian Church camp at Staveley, inland mid-Canterbury. The dates coincide with the new moon for January 2010 so, the weather-gods permitting (like they did this year), there will be ample dark skies for everyone to get in some great deep sky observing.

The charges are $10 per person per night. There is bunk accommodation for around 72 persons. There are also a few power sites for caravans and campervans - no extra charge for these. There is also plenty of room to erect tents. The total number of people we can have on-site is 96, so we suggest you book sooner not later. Also, no refunds can be made after 5 January 2010.

The programme of speakers will be put together over coming weeks. If anyone wishes to give a talk, please contact us as soon as possible so we can include you in the programme.

On the Saturday night there will be a pot-luck dinner. The alphabet split by surname as to what to bring is: A-F - Desserts; G-O - Mains; P-Z - Vegetables/Salads.

The weekend is a self-catering event, so please bring your own food, as well as for the Pot-Luck. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is plenty of chiller space. Tea and coffee will be supplied at break times, also biscuits.

The focus on the off-site activities will be the Saturday afternoon walk on the Old Coal Mine Trek, near Mt Somers. Bring your own water!!

Registrations are now open. On-line registrations, and all other information, are available at the http://www.forestry.ac.nz/euan/stardate/" class="blue">Stardate South Island website The webpage will be updated as talks etc are submitted. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible, not just from the South Island, but from elsewhere in NZ as well, and overseas guests are most welcome, too.

-- Dennis Goodman for the Stardate South Island Organising Committee

9. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation

ACGRG5, a regional Australia/NZ conference for professional researchers in gravity held every 2-3 years, will be take place at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, on 16-18 December, 2009.

To mark the International Year of Astronomy, this event is being run jointly with ICRANet (Italy) as part of their IYA series "The Sun, the Stars, the Universe and General Relativity". It is anticipated that there will be a couple of public lectures in conjunction with the conference.

Registration is now open. Please register as soon as possible to give us an idea of numbers. Payment is only required on arrival. Talks titles/abstracts must be submitted by 31 October. Bookings for accommodation in Bishop Julius Hall are required by 12 November (using registration form).

Registration and other information is at http://www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/ACGRG5/

-- note from David Wiltshire and the registration webpage

10. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20

The 14th workshop on gravitational microlensing will be held in Auckland, New Zealand on January 18, 19, & 20 in 2010.

Gravitational microlensing has emerged as an effective tool in modern astrophysics and is rapidly advancing. Microlensing is continuing to produce new results on extrasolar planets, stellar structure, and cosmology (to name just a few). The field is poised to enter a new era with advances in data s haring technologies, robotic telescopes, and new generation microlensing projects. This workshop will bring together researchers in microlensing as well as those involved in related theoretical and observational fields. The workshop will be a forum to review the latest observational results on microlensing and to address their theoretical implications. The aim of this workshop is to then assess future directions of microlensing for new approved and proposed microlensing projects.

For registration and other details see http://microlens2010.massey.ac.nz

11. NACAA Easter 2010

On behalf of NACAA Inc and the Canberra Astronomical Society we remind you that the next National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers will be held over the Easter weekend, April 2-5 2010, in Canberra.

We are all looking forward to an exciting and interesting convention and hope that you will join us. You can obtain details about the event via the web site http://nacaa.org.au/2010.

The programme committee, headed by Margaret Streamer, is currently inviting offers of presentations.

Please help us spread the word by passing on this invitation to any people you feel may be interested, and publishing it in your club's journal/web site/mailing list/whatever. For those who haven't attended a NACAA before, you can get a good idea of the kind of activities to expect from http://nacaa.org.au/2008.

Thanks for your help, and looking forward to meeting you in Canberra next year.

Albert Brakel Stephen Russell Convenor, NACAA XXIV General Secretary, NACAA Inc

(Slightly rearranged and abbreved. - Ed.)

12. Radio Astronomy Summer Studentships at ICRAR

The International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) is pleased to announce that applications are now open for its inaugural round of summer student scholarships.

ICRAR is a recently established and rapidly growing research institute that specialises in astrophysics, data intensive science and engineering. Our staff study a broad range of astrophysical topics, from galaxies to neutron stars. The centre also assists in the development of new telescope technologies at the Western Australian candidate Square Kilometre Array site. ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University of Technology and the University of Western Australia based in is based in Perth, Western Australia.

This year, ICRAR will offer at least 8 student fellowships to outstanding applicants who are Australian or New Zealand residents, and have completed at least two full years of their undergraduate studies in physics, astronomy or a relevant engineering discipline. Four of these fellowships will be co-funded with iVEC for a project with a computational element. The remaining four will involve astronomy or engineering. International students will have a chance to apply for our overseas scholarship program in the near future.

Successful applicants will join ICRAR for up to 10 weeks, during which time they will receive a stipend of $600 per week, consisting of $500 pw plus $1000 on receipt of a completion report. Applicants from interstate and New Zealand will receive one return airfare to Perth from their home city. Accommodation can be organised by ICRAR and will subsidised by up to 50%.

This is an excellent opportunity for undergraduate students to experience cutting edge radio astronomy research in Australia. Students will work closely with their supervisor on a particular project, but will also participate in a 4-day radio astronomy summer school for senior undergraduate and postgraduate students, to be organised by ICRAR during the scholarship period. We are also planning to host a social optical observing evening at the Gingin Observatory and the Gravity Discovery Centre.

The deadline for applications is the October 2nd, 2009. The selection committee will meet in the following week and response letters will by posted by the October 16th, 2009. Successful applicants are expected to begin work on Monday, November 30th, 2009.

For application details, project summaries and more information, see the website at http://www.icrar.org/scholarships

13. Nobel Prize Lectures

Videos of many physics Nobel prize acceptance speeches from the last ten years are available for download at http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/video_lectures.html These are good examples of the presentation of technical work to general audiences; the speakers are usually inspirational and always very interesting.

-- from a seminar note by Peter Smale, University of Canterbury

14. Space Telescope Refurbished

In early September astronomers today declared the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope a fully rejuvenated observatory ready for a new decade of exploration. Observations from four of its six operating science instruments wee released.

Topping the list of exciting new views are colourful multi-wavelength pictures of far-flung galaxies, a densely packed star cluster, an eerie 'pillar of creation' and a butterfly-shaped nebula. Hubble¹s suite of new instruments is now allowing it to view a wide swath of the Universe¹s spectrum, from ultraviolet light all the way to near-infrared light. In addition, scientists released spectroscopic observations that slice across billions of light-years to probe the structure of the cosmic web that permeates the Universe and also the distribution of the chemical elements throughout the Universe that are fundamental to life as we know it.

The new instruments are more sensitive to light and therefore will significantly improve Hubble¹s observing efficiency. The space telescope is now able to complete observations in a fraction of the time that was needed with earlier generations of Hubble instruments. Therefore the space observatory today is significantly more powerful than it has ever been.

"We couldn't be more thrilled with the quality of the images from the new Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the spectra from the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). The targets we've selected to showcase Hubble's capabilities reveal the great range of abilities in our newly upgraded Hubble", said Keith Noll, leader of the team at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, USA, that planned the early release observations.

These results are compelling evidence of the success of the STS-125 Servicing Mission in May, which has brought the premier space observatory to the peak of its scientific capabilities. Two new instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), were installed, and two others repaired at the circuit board level: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). Mission scientists also announced today that the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) were brought back into operation during the three months of calibration and testing.

For the past three months scientists and engineers at Space Telescope Science Institute and the Goddard Space Flight Center have been focusing, testing and calibrating the instruments. Hubble is one of the most complex space telescopes ever launched, and the Hubble Servicing Mission astronauts performed major surgery on the 19-year-old observatory's multiple systems. This orbital verification phase was interrupted briefly on 19 July to observe Jupiter in the aftermath of a collision with a suspected comet.

Hubble now enters a phase of full science observations. The demand for observing time will be intense. Astronomers look forward to using the telescope to conduct a broad range of observations: from studying the population of Kuiper Belt objects at the fringe of our Solar System, to observing the birth of planets around other stars, to probing the composition and structure of extrasolar planetary atmospheres. There are ambitious plans to take the deepest-ever near-infrared portrait of the Universe to reveal never-before-seen infant galaxies that existed when the Universe was less than 500 million years old. Other planned observations will attempt to shed light on the behaviour of dark energy, a repulsive force that is pushing the Universe apart at an ever-faster rate.

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

Bob Evans found the new images at http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/09sep_hubbleimages.htm?list8988

15. Notes from Some Herbert Talks

Phil Barker gave an overview of the Herbert gathering. The following are notes from some of the talks.

Brian Loader described a visit to Ward. At the north-east corner of the South Island to observe a grazing occultation of Sigma Scorpii by the moon. A grazing occultation is where the star appears to graze the moon's edge, winking off and on as it passes behind lunar mountains protruding from the edge of the moon's disk.

Given the modern technology involved in measuring the moon's position -- notably laser ranging the retro-reflectors left by Apollo astronauts -- one might question the usefulness of grazing occultation observations. Brian pointed out their usefulness in establishing the moons limb (edge) profile. During a total solar eclipse sunlight shining through gaps between lunar mountains makes the points of light known as Baily's beads. Historical recordings of Baily's beads have been used to investigate whether the sun's diameter is changing. Hence the importance of defining the moon's edge.

The observations were made by setting up three telescopes across the predicted line of the grazing occultation. The stations were manned by Brian, Larry Field and Martin Unwin. Since Sigma Sco is a very close double star they saw not only occultations as the star disappeared behind the mountains but fadings as only one of the pair disappeared.

Robert Rae gave a well illustrated account of his adventures in the southwest United States after attending a joint meeting of the Society for Astronomical Sciences and the American Association of Variable Star Observers. Other New Zealanders at the meeting were Bill Allen, Jennie McCormick, and Grant Christie. Robert later attended a star party along with a 100 other amateur astronomers and a contingent of commercial vendors. The Riverside Telescope Makers Conference was well attended but not by people actually making telescopes: there were only 13 entries in a telescope-making contest.

Robert Robert McTague, assisted by his IT-savvy son Matthew, described how to attach cordless remote control to a home telescope. One first needs to decide on whether of use Bluetooth or Wireless equipment. A Melbourne company Lantronix makes the wireless system that Robert and Matthew adopted. The system is versatile, supports a range of hardware, and has a range of 150 metres. The base price is around $600. Unfortunately one needs some IT expertise as there are about 100 items in the configuration menu. Then there's the actual controller at the user end. A laptop does everything but an Apple iPhone can be used with the right software. Robert likes Sky Voyager from Carina Software.

Lynne Taylor told of travelling to Fiji see the partial phase of the July solar eclipse, as well as to visit family there. The University of the South pacific, based in Suva, reported in local news media that it was monitoring changes in very-low-frequency (VLF) reception during the eclipse, but said the eclipse wasn't visible from Fiji. Lynne looked anyway and saw a notch on the sun's disk at 3:42 pm. By 4:30 about 45% of the sun was covered. There was a notable cooling of the air and animals and birds responded to the dimming light.

Craig Spencer told of visiting the Wolf Creek meteor crater in Western Australia. Getting there is expensive: $550 by plane or $350 by taxi. The local car rental company wanted a $4000 deposit to cover likely damage from the unpaved roads. A local drove him there for $50. Though the crater is 800 metres across it wasn't noticed till 1947. Its wall rises about 25 metres above the plains and can be seen from 20 km off. The floor is about 60 metres deep. Down the road, on the coast, are stromatalite deposits, fossilized remains of ancient (3 billion year old?) bacterial mats.

-- Alan Gilmore

16. AUT Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research

Professor Sergei Gulyaev informs the scientific community that the Auckland University of Technology's Radio Astronomy Group has been renamed as The Institute for Radio Astronomy and Space Research (IRASR)

Their website is still under construction but can be visited via www.irasr.ac.nz from where you will be redirected to www.aut.ac.nz/research/research-institutes/irasr

Professor Gulyaev notes that "The updated name better reflects the prime focus of our research activities - Radio Astronomy and VLBI . SKA research and development is one of the main objectives of the Institute. Thank you everyone for your continuing support of SKANZ and our Institute."

17. AAO Newsletter

The August 2009 Anglo Australian Observatory (AAO) newsletter is now available at: http://www.aao.gov.au/local/www/lib/newsletters/aug09/aug09.pdf

This edition contains articles on a broad range of science undertaken with AAO facilities and items relevant to the work of the AAO's Instrumentation and Instrument Science groups. For example: * Jeremy Bailey, Steve Lee and Hakan Svedhem describe IRIS2 Observations of the impact of the Kaguya satellite with the surface of the moon. * Jacco van Loon, Keith Smith, Iain McDonald, Peter Sarre, Stephen Fossey and Rob Sharp discuss their AAOmega based study of the interstellar Medium towards the globular cluster Omega Centauri. * Simon O'Toole, Hugh Jones, Chris Tinney, Rob Wittenmyer, Jeremy Bailey, Paul Butler and Brad Carter present early results from the Anglo-Australian Rocky Planet search. * Rob Sharp describes a new observing mode for AAOmega, mini-shuffling, which allows very accurate sky subtraction with a full quota of fibres.

This edition also contains a number of articles about the replacement of the telescope control system, an introduction to the new staff members and regular features such as the AusGO corner and news from Epping and Coonabarabran.

-- Paul Dobbie, AAO Newsletter Editor

18. 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..

19. Quotes

"Give it to China. Let them support the damn thing." Robert Park, a physicist at the University of Maryland, on the International Space Station, which may be deorbited in 2016 because of a lack of funding. Quoted in 'Time' July 27, p.8.

"We've arranged a civilization in which most critical elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces." -- Carl Sagan quoted by Robert Naeye in 'Sky & Telescope' August 2009, p.8.

"Belief in conspiracy theories can be comforting. If everything that goes wrong is the fault of a secret cabal, that relieves you of the tedious necessity of trying to understand how a complex world really works. And you can feel smug that you are smart enough to 'see through' the official version of events." -- 'Lexington' in The Economist 22 August 2009 p.33

"In science, a reigning theory is presumed provisionally true and continues to hold sway unless and until a challenging theory explains the current data as well and also accounts for anomalies that the prevailing one cannot." -- Michael Shermer 'Scientific American' August 2009, p.24.

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 48, number 3. September 2009. Pp 1 - 12.
In Search of Dying Stars

Stuart Parker. The discovery of two supernovae, SN2009gj and SN2009hm, within less than four weeks is described. The author is a dairy farmer in Canterbury, New Zealand north of Christchurch and has been imaging objects from the inner planets to outer galaxies for a number of years.
Volume 48, number 3. September 2009. Page

In Search of Dying Stars
Yvette Perrott.

Orbital and terrestrial parallax effects have a surprisingly large influence on observed microlensing light curves. The magnitude of the effects can be used to calculate the distances to the lens star and therefore characterise events in terms of their absolute distances and masses, rather than scaled quantities. The orbital and terrestrial parallax effects are explained and illustrated using the event OGLE-BLG-2007-349/MOA-BLG-2007-379, which is a triple-lens event still under analysis.
Volume 48, number 3. September 2009. Pp

Rectifying Lunar Images with LTVT
Maurice Collins.

In my last article I wrote about how to capture lunar images with a telescope and imaging system, and how to make full-disk mosaics out of those images of the Moon. In this article I would like to share with you some of the things that lunar images can be used for in order to learn more about our wonderful planetary neighbour using the Lunar Terminator Visualization Tool.
Volume 48, number 3. September 2009. Pp

Eta Carinae: 38 years of Photoelectric Observations
W H Allen.

Eta Carinae has been observed photoelectrically by the author for many years and this paper describes how these observations were made, analysed and recorded. The paper discusses the suspected binary nature of eta Carinae from these measurements, and concludes from these observations and others that are available in the scientific press, that it is most probably a binary star with an orbital period of 5.5 years even though the stars can not be seen directly because of the Homunculus nebula and the stellar wind caused by the massive primary star's own radiation obscuring the view of the system. This paper was delivered at the "Studying Southern Variables" colloquium in Wellington last May.
Volume 48, number 3. September 2009. 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. Academic Honours for RASNZ Members
2. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28 to 30
3. RASNZ 2010 Conference - call for papers
4. Offers to Host RASNZ 2012 Conference
5. IYA New Zealand 2009 Poster Now Available
6. The Solar System in September 2009
7. Speech by Professor Peter Gluckman at Massey University
8. RSNZ Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing 2009
9. Reminders of coming events. See previous Newsletters
10. IYA - 100 Hours of Astronomy Awards
11. The IAU General Assembly
12. Super Planetary Nebulae
13. Mars Orbiter Shows Angled View of Crater
14. Revelations in Saturn's Rings as Equinox Approaches
15. Advert: Telescope for sale
16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
18. How to Join the RASNZ
19. Usual Editor for September Newsletter

1. Academic Honours for RASNZ Members

Professor Denis Sullivan, FRASNZ -------------------------------- As many members will be aware, RASNZ Fellow Denis Sullivan was appointed professor at Victoria University as from the beginning of this year.

Early in August he delivered his inaugural professorial lecture as professor of physics. His title was "The Accidental Astronomer: a Personal Tour of the World of Astrophysics."

Extrasolar planets, the details of stars, neutrino astrophysics and even white dwarfs. The world of modern astronomy presents a vast laboratory for investigating physical phenomena. In the lecture Denis Sullivan drew on his astronomy research and teaching to give a physicist's view on life and the universe.

Denis Sullivan comments on being appointed professor of physics: "I would have also been happy with professor of astrophysics, but fundamentally I'm a physicist who teaches physics at a university and does research in astrophysics based mostly on using the observational tools in the world of astronomy."

--------------------------------------------- Professor Brian Warner, RASNZ Honorary member. --------------------------------------------- In a recent letter Brian Warner thanked the members at the recent RASNZ AGM for their message of greeting. He also gave a resume of some recent awards he has received. Last year he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of South Africa, normally reserved for overseas residents (from South Africa). Brian is one of only three local recipients. Also at the end of last year he was reinstated by the SA government funding agency as an A1 rated researcher, of which there are only about a dozen in the country. Very recently he was installed as a Fellow of his alma mater, University College London. And at the end of this year the University of Cape Town is conferring an honorary DSc.

2. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28 to 30

 

The 2010 RASNZ conference will be held in Dunedin at the Otago Museum using the Hutton Theatre. The web site of the Otago Museum is at <http://www.otagomuseum.givt.nz>. For more information about the venue follow the links to "about us" - "facilities hire" - "facilities photo gallery" or directly to: facility pictures and information.

The conference is being hosted by the Dunedin Astronomical Society who will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their foundation. You are invited to join us to mark the event.

The invited speaker will be Dunedin born Dr Stuart Ryder who is the Australian Gemini Scientist, managing the Australian Gemini Office hosted by the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Sydney.

The fellows speaker will be Bill Allen who has a long association with the Dunedin Astronomical Society. Bill's home site near Blenheim hosts the new 0.6m Yock-Allen Telescope at the BOOTES-3 Observatory.

There is plenty of accommodation available within a very short walking distance of the conference venue. More information about the conference, registration and accommodation will be posted on the RASNZ web site.

Planning for the conference by the enthusiastic Local Organising committee is well under way and this promises to be a great conference. There is plenty to see and do in Dunedin so start planning now to spend a few extra days down south so that you have time to take full advantage of the local amenities - how about taking scenic train ride to the Taieri Gorge or a boat trip down to the Otago peninsula and Taiaroa head to visit the Albatross colony and view other Marine mammals and birds.

Watch this space and the RASNZ website for more details as they come to hand.

3. RASNZ 2010 Conference - call for papers

 

The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee is now accepting expressions of interest in presenting papers at the 2010 conference. If you would like to give a paper at the conference we would like to hear from you now. Please send your name and probable topic to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In recent years we have had a very full programs and it has been difficult to fit in all requests to present papers so you are advised to contact us early. We will require abstracts by 1 April 2010 so that we can place these on the programme and website. The final deadline will be 1 May 2010 for all paper submissions.

Please note that presenters of papers are requested to provide a written version for publication in our journal Southern Stars.

4. Offers to Host RASNZ 2012 Conference

 

The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee advises that it is now seeking offers from Affiliated Societies to host the RASNZ 2012 Conference. It is hoped to hold the RASNZ Conference over a weekend of June following the transit of Venus, which occurs on Wednesday 6th June 2012. So the conference dates would probably be the weekend of June 15-17; June 22-24 is another possibility.

The Conference host society is responsible for arranging a suitable conference venue in their region. The host society also looks after conference registrations and social arrangements. The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee is responsible for selecting the papers and the speaking programme and will work with the LOC to ensure all is running smoothly. A comprehensive set of guidelines for Conference Organisers is available from the RASNZ Secretary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

Proposals to host the 2012 RASNZ Conference should include a possible location and venue and why the local Society would like to host the Conference.

Any Affiliated Society that wishes to be considered as hosts for this event should email their proposal to the RASNZ Secretary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> by 31 October 2009. The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee will then consider the proposals received with a view to making a decision as to location by 31 December 2009.

5. IYA New Zealand 2009 Poster Now Available

 

Jennie McCormick writes:

The RASNZ IYA NZ 2009 posters are now for sale. The poster celebrates New Zealand's contribution to the International Year of Astronomy. To see a copy of the new poster visit http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/poster.htm and to make an order http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/IYAPoster.pdf

Why not give a poster to family and friends, a local school or library. You may like to consider purchasing a larger number of posters to sell to your club members? Use the poster to advertise your society within your community by adding a sticker with your society's name, logo and contact details.

The IYA New Zealand 2009 Poster is in full colour and A1 size, approximately 59.5 cm x 84 cm. All posters are packaged in poster tubes and sent by standard parcel post around New Zealand, 1 - 3 days delivery.

How to order your copy/copies:

Please send an email to Jennie McCormick This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your name, delivery address and the number of posters you require. Once done, make payment to the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ. For costs and orderings details please go to http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/IYAPoster.pdf. Alternatively you can order and pay by credit card on line by visiting the RASNZ sales page: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Sales/Sales.html.

6. The Solar System in September 2009

 

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for September 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Sep_09.htm. Notes for October 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The southern spring equinox is on September 23, with the Sun on the equator at little after 9 am. NZDT starts on the last Sunday of September, which is the 27th this year. To keep to NZDT, clocks should be put forward (at 2 am NZST). New Zealand clocks will then be 13 hours ahead of UT (aka GMT).

The planets in september

The evening sky - mercury, jupiter and saturn

Mercury will set over two hours after the Sun at the beginning of September. The planet will be due west with an altitude of some 16 degrees 45 minutes after sunset. With a magnitude 0.6 it should be easy to find in the darkening sky.

Over the following evenings, Mercury will get steadily lower and become less bright making it an increasingly difficult object as it closes in on the Sun. By the middle of the month it will be lost in the evening twilight.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on September 20, after which it becomes a morning object, rising shortly before the Sun, but to low in the brightening sky for observation.

Saturn is also nominally in the evening sky setting just over an hour after the Sun on the first. It will be a difficult object in the evening twilight, only 6 degrees up half an hour after sunset.

The Earth moves through Saturn's ring plane on the 4th - that is the rings will appear edge on. The phenomenon is going to be difficult to observe, and will not occur again until March 2025 (and that in the morning sky with Saturn rising only a short time before the Sun will be no easier to see!).

Saturn's rings were edge on to the Sun on August 10 so since that date the Sun has been illuminating the northern face of the rings, while from Earth we have had a view of the southern face.

Jupiter having been at opposition mid August, will be well placed for viewing all evening throughout September and, as Saturn and Mercury disappear from the evening sky, be the only planet visible.

On September 3, immediately after sunset Jupiter will be visible with none of the Galilean satellites visible clear of the planet. Europa and Ganymede will be in transit across the face of the planet, while Io and Callisto will be in eclipse in Jupiter's shadow. From NZ the event will be short lived with Io due to move out of eclipse just before 6.30 pm. This ranges from nearly half an hour after sunset in Auckland to barely 10 minutes after in Invercargill. Io will reappear close to Jupiter's east limb. Some quick telescope viewing immediately after sunset should make the reappearance visible from most parts of the country.

The last satellite to disappear from view is Ganymede which begins its transit across the face of Jupiter at 4.45 pm, well before sunset in NZ. The last of the Moons to appear will be Callisto slowly emerging from Jupiter's shadow at about 8.35 pm. It will then be only 6 arc-seconds from Io now further out from Jupiter.

The separation of Jupiter and Neptune will increase slightly during September. On the 30th, the two will be just 0ver 6.5 degrees apart. Mid evening, the 86% lit Moon will be a similar distance from Jupiter and some 3 degrees from Neptune. The almost full moon also passes the two planets on September 3.

The morning sky - venus and mars

Venus is the third planet that closes in on the Sun during September, although its brightness should make sure it doesn't get lost in the morning twilight. By the end of the month, it will rise only 50 minutes before the Sun, so will be a very low object before sunrise.

On the morning of September 17, the Moon, a very thin crescent, will be two and a half degrees to the upper right of Venus. They will be very low in the twilight.

The 1.4 magnitude star Regulus will be to their lower right about 3 degrees away. Three mornings later, Venus will be alongside Regulus, with the star 1 degree to the right of the planet. The following morning, 21 September, Regulus will be half a degree directly above Venus. Binoculars are likely to be needed to show up the star. The two will be almost 8 degrees up 10 minutes before sunrise.

Mars will start to rise earlier in the morning after several months rising at almost the same time. By the end of month, after the start of NZDT, it will rise about 3.30 am in Auckland and almost an hour later at Invercargill.

During September, Mars crosses Gemini so that by the end of the month it will be 6 degrees above Pollux, which at magnitude 1.2 will be a little fainter than the planet.

The 38% lit Moon will pass within 2 degrees of Mars on the morning of September 14, as seen from NZ. From the Arctic the Moon will be seen to occult the planet.

Uranus is following Jupiter in the sky and is at opposition on September 17, about 9 hours before Saturn is at conjunction. So it will be observable all evening by the end of the month. Uranus is in Pieces during September, close to and moving towards the constellation's border with Aquarius.

Neptune is Capricornus, across Aquarius from Uranus and remains fairly close to Jupiter during September.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an early evening object following Saturn towards the Sun. The asteroid is in Virgo throughout the month. It will set about 2.5 hours after the Sun on the 1st, but only about 75 minutes later at the end of the month. At magnitude 8.8 it will then be a difficult object.

(2) Pallas is too close to the Sun to observe throughout September

(3) Juno is at opposition on September 22, so will be observable all evening by the end of the month. With a magnitude brightening from 8.2 to 7.8 it is the brightest asteroid and should be readily visible in binoculars.

(4) Vesta, in the morning sky Cancer, will rise some 100 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and about 2 hours before by the end of the month. It will brighten very slightly from magnitude 8.5 to 8.4.

(18) Melpomene follows Juno across the sky. By the end of September it will rise about 30 minutes after sunset. The asteroid is in Cetus and brightens from magnitude 8.7 to 7.9 during September, so that by the end of the month it is only slightly fainter than Juno.

Brian Loader

7. Speech by Professor Peter Gluckman at Massey University

 

Professor Gluckman has been appointed Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister. He gave his first speech in this role at Massey University in July. The text of his speech can be downloaded as a 13 page pdf format document from (all one long line): http://sciencenewzealand.org/content/download/1371/11983/version/1/file/09-07-17+Massey+Speech +-+Formatted+for+website.pdf

This is a fairly wide ranging look at the role of scientific research in New Zealand and its funding. There are possible implications for astronomy here.

Thanks to Roland Idaczyk for bringing this to our attention.

8. RSNZ Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing 2009

 

Edge of the universe

"I live at the edge of the universe, like everybody else." -- Bill Manhire

This year we are celebrating the International Year of Astronomy. Ever since Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter's moons, technology has been enlarging our knowledge of the universe.

We now know our own insignificance and isolation and yet we have immense power to communicate as never before. The race of humans is isolated in space and time and yet where, as individuals, do we go to be alone?

You are invited to write between 2,000 and 3,000 words about the place - past or present or future - of human beings in the universe.

There are two categories, fiction and non-fiction. A cash prize of $2,500 will be awarded to the winner of each category. The closing date for entries is Tuesday 22 September 2009.

The Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing is organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand in association with the New Zealand Listener magazine and the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington.

For more information, terms and conditions, and entry forms visit www.royalsociety.org.nz or contact: Danae Staples-Moon, Tel. 04 470 5770 or Email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

9. Reminders of coming events. See previous Newsletters

 

The Phoenix Astronomical Society - Winter Astrocamp: Fri 21 - Sun 23 August 2009 at the Carterton RSA.

Details and a registration form are available at www.AstronomyNZ.org.nz. Any queries please contact Antony Gomez This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 021 253 4979


Herbert Astronomy Weekend: Fri 18 - Sun 20 September at Camp Iona, Herbert.

Contact Phil Barker for further information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

--------------------- Waharau Dark Sky Weekend

Arranged by the Auckland Astronomical Society, this will take place over the weekend Friday 18 to Sunday 20 September.

Further details can ve found on the AAS website: <http://www.astronomy.org.nz>


Auckland Astronomical Society Burbidge Dinner

The annual Dinner will be held on Saturday, the International Year of Astronomy at Novotel Ellersile on the 7th November 2009.

Contact Andrew Buckingham This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more details.


The Letters of Beatrice Hill Tinsley

The 20-part series The Stars are Comforting - The Letters of Beatrice Hill Tinsley (1941 - 1981) is being broadcast 7.00 p.m., Wednesdays starting from 5 August on Radio New Zealand Concert.

For more information about, and access to these programmes visit http://www.radionz.co.nz/concert/home

10. IYA - 100 Hours of Astronomy Awards

 

Congratulations to Ron Fisher and the Levin StarGazers who won the international 100HA Award Three section for Community Outreach during the 100HA events in April. There were 2370 registered events worldwide, so this is a fantastic achievement and a credit to Ron and all the other people who contributed to the event. The Celestron Sky Scout prize will surely be of great benefit to the club and all who come along to our regular star parties.

Also congratulations to Paul Moss, who was Highly Commended in Award Eight for "Outstanding Individual within a registered 100 Hours of Astronomy event".

Based on a report by Mike White in New Zealand Astronomers during July.

11. The IAU General Assembly

 

Alan Gilmore reports on the meeting held in Rio de Janeiro.

The International Astronomical Union's 23rd General Assembly ended in Rio de Janeiro last Friday [August 14th]. It was a feast of information and debate on current research and new discoveries. Six week-long symposia covered areas of astronomy ranging from icy bodies in the solar system to the co-evolution of galaxies and their central black holes. Running concurrently with them were 16 Joint Discussions, two-day affairs covering just about everything else, and Special Sessions liking diverse areas.

As well there were Plenary Reviews on six mornings before the other meetings began. At these an expert selected from a symposium gave overview of the science to be covered in the symposium. And, in case one’s head wasn’t full after a day of talks, there were after-work Invited Discourses on four evenings. There an expert in a field talked about his or her subject. Their titles show the range: ‘The Legacies of Galileo’, ‘Water on Planets’, ‘Evolution of the Structure of the Universe’ and ‘Do Low Luminosity Stars Matter?‘. To the last title’s question Maria Teresa Ruiz of the University of Chile put up a slide answering ‘Yes!’. She then filled a fascinating hour justifying her answer.

Each Symposium and Joint Discussion was organised by a Division (explained below) covering a particular area of interest. Special Sessions (SpSs) were organised for diverse areas of astronomy sharing a common interest. Sps 2 reviewed the International Year of Astronomy. Sps 3 Astronomy in Antarctica had contributions on the Icecube neutrino detector, the BICEP cosmic microwave background telescope at the south pole, plans for observatories on the high dry Antarctic domes, and a fascinating talk on detection of past supernovae and solar cycles in ice cores.

Honours were bestowed. The annual Gruber Cosmology Prize was awarded jointly to Wendy Freedman, Robert Kennicutt and Jeremy Mould for their leadership in the definitive measurement of the Hubble constant. The recipients gave a three-part lunch-time lecture on the topic.

Among all this there were IAU business meetings. National Representatives had three meetings to attend before each of the two General Assembly (GA) meetings. Everyone is expected to attend the GA meetings. These were pretty routine; nothing like the fierce Pluto debates at the Prague GA of 2006. There was a financial scandal to spice things up, but it wasn’t featured. Unlike Prague, where several TV crews turned up to the second GA‘s Pluto debate, the news media took no interest at all.

Specialist interests are looked after by Commissions.  These range from Commission 4 (C4)
Ephemerides through areas like C15 Physical Studies of Comets and Minor Planets, C46
Astronomy Education and Development, C50 Protecting of Existing and Potential Observatory
Sites to C55 Communicating Astronomy with the Public. Each Commission is part of a Division.
Divisions cover the broad areas of astronomy: Division I (divisions have Roman numerals)
groups all the Commissions dealing with fundamental astronomy: astrometry, time keeping,
numerical standards and the like. D III covers planetary systems sciences. D XII Union Wide
Activities gathers the general purpose commissions like C5 Documentation and Astronomical
Data, and C6 overseeing the quaintly named Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.
Each Commission and each Division had a business meeting. Commissions have to justify their
existence at every GA. One or two didn’t and were disbanded.  Others decided to amalgamate.

And, if this wasn’t enough work, many Commissions also have specialist Working Groups to cover some sub-speciality. C5 has a Working Group (WG) on Virtual Observatories, Data centres and networks. C41 has one for Astronomy and World Heritage.

Most days began at 9 and ended at 5:30 with the Invited Discourses going on till 7 pm. Most of us were in hotels in Copacabana, a 20 minute Metro ride from the conference centre in Centro. So getting enough sleep was quite a challenge.

All meetings were at the Centro de Convencoes SulAmerica in Centro. This is a large place, still being completed, well suited for the assembly. Conference halls and smaller meeting rooms were on three levels. A large area for poster papers was on the ground floor where the morning and afternoon coffees were served.

12. Super Planetary Nebulae

 

Press release from the Royal Astronomical Society, London.

Date: 14th August 2009

Issued by: Dr Robert Massey Press and Policy Officer Tel: +44 (0)794 124 8035, +44 (0)20 7734 4582 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: www.ras.org.uk

Super planetary nebulae (ras pn 09/51)

A team of scientists in Australia and the United States, led by Associate Professor Miroslav Filipovic from the University of Western Sydney, have discovered a new class of object which they call "Super Planetary Nebulae." They report their work in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Planetary nebulae are shells of gas and dust expelled by stars near the end of their lives and are typically seen around stars comparable or smaller in size than the Sun.

The team surveyed the Magellanic Clouds, the two companion galaxies to the Milky Way, with radio telescopes of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Australia Telescope National Facility. They noticed that 15 radio objects in the Clouds match with well known planetary nebulae observed by optical telescopes.

The new class of objects are unusually strong radio sources. Whereas the existing population of planetary nebulae is found around small stars comparable in size to our Sun, the new population may be the long predicted class of similar shells around heavier stars.

Filipovic's team argues that the detections of these new objects may help to solve the so called "missing mass problem" - the absence of planetary nebulae around central stars that were originally 1 to 8 times the mass of the Sun. Up to now most known planetary nebulae have central stars and surrounding nebulae with respectively only about 0.6 and 0.3 times the mass of the Sun but none have been detected around more massive stars.

The new Super Planetary Nebulae are associated with larger original stars (progenitors), up to 8 times the mass of the Sun. And the nebular material around each star may have as much as 2.6 times the mass of the Sun.

"This came as a shock to us", says Filipovic, "as no one expected to detect these object at radio wavelengths and with the present generation of radio telescopes. We have been holding up our findings for some 3 years until we were 100% sure that they are indeed Planetary Nebulae".

Some of the 15 newly discovered planetary nebulae in the Magellanic Clouds are 3 times more luminous then any of their Milky Way cousins. But to see them in greater detail astronomers will need the power of a coming radio telescope - the Square Kilometre Array planned for the deserts of Western Australia.

FURTHER INFORMATION Accompanying images are available from http://staff.scm.uws.edu.au/~evan/PNE/

An optical image from the 0.6-m University of Michigan/CTIO Curtis Schmidt telescope of the brightest Radio Planetary Nebula in the Small Magellanic Cloud, JD 04. The inset box shows a portion of this image overlaid with radio contours from the Australia Telescope Compact Array. The planetary nebula is a glowing record of the final death throes of the star. (Optical images are courtesy of the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey (MCELS) team).

The MNRAS paper is available as an Early View article from http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/122542603/abstract

CONTACT Professor Miroslav Filipovic University of Western Australia Tel: +61 (0)41 1547892 Mob: +61 (0)41 1547892 E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Forwarded by Karen Pollard

13. Mars Orbiter Shows Angled View of Crater

 

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has returned a dramatic oblique view of the Martian crater that a rover explored for two years.

The new view of Victoria Crater shows layers on steep crater walls, difficult to see from straight overhead, plus wheel tracks left by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between September 2005 and August 2007. The orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera shot it at an angle comparable to looking at landscape from an airplane window. Some of the camera's earlier, less angled images of Victoria Crater aided the rover team in choosing safe routes for Opportunity and contributed to joint scientific studies.

The new Victoria Crater image is available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/multimedia/mro20091012a.html and as a sub-image of the full-frame image at: http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ESP_013954_1780

Another new image from the same camera catches an active dust devil leaving a trail and casting a shadow. These whirlwinds have been a subject of investigation by Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit.

The new dust devil image is available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/multimedia/mro20091012b.html and as a sub-image of the full-frame image at: http://hirise.lpl.arizona.edu/ESP_013545_1110 .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been studying Mars with an advanced set of instruments since 2006. It has returned more data about the planet than all other past and current missions to Mars combined. For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mro .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo.

From a JPL press release, forwarded by Karen Pollard

14. Revelations in Saturn's Rings as Equinox Approaches

 

Thanks to a special play of sunlight and shadow as Saturn continues its march towards its August 11 equinox, recent images captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft are revealing new three-dimensional objects and structures in the planet's otherwise flat rings.

Through the detections of shadows cast upon the rings, a moonlet has been spotted for the first time in Saturn's dense B ring and narrow vertical structures are seen soaring upward from Saturn's intricate F ring.

The new images can be found at <http://ciclops.org>, <http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov> and <http://www.nasa.gov/cassini> .

The search for three-dimensional structures in Saturn's rings has been a major goal of the imaging team during Cassini's "Equinox Mission," the 27-month-long period containing exact equinox -- that moment when the sun is seen directly overhead at noon at the planet's equator. This novel illumination geometry, which occurs every half-Saturn-year, or about 15 Earth years, lowers the sun's angle to the ring plane and causes out-of-plane structures to cast long shadows across the rings' broad expanse, making them easy to detect.

Saturn's rings are hundreds of thousands of miles or kilometers wide, but the main rings -- D, C, B and A rings (working outward from the planet) -- are only about 30 feet, or 10 meters, thick. These main rings lie inside the relatively narrow F ring. The thinness of the rings -- well below the resolving power of the spacecraft's cameras -- makes the determination of vertical deviations from them difficult through routine imaging. Solid evidence of these newly seen structures and others like them becomes available only during the period of equinox when features protruding above and below the rings can cast shadows.

The new moonlet in the B ring, situated about 300 miles, or 480 kilometers, inward from the outer edge of the B ring, was found because of a shadow 25 miles, or 41 kilometers, long that it throws on the rings. The shadow length implies the moonlet is protruding about 660 feet, or 200 meters, above the ring plane. If the moonlet is orbiting in the same plane as the ring material surrounding it, which is likely, it must be about 1,300 feet, or 400 meters, across. Unlike the band of moonlets discovered in Saturn's A ring earlier by Cassini, this object is not attended by a propeller feature. The A ring moonlets, which were not imaged directly, were found because of the propeller-like narrow gaps on either side of them that they create as they orbit within the rings. The absence of a propeller feature surrounding the new moonlet is likely because the B ring is denser and the ring material in a dense ring would be expected to fill in any gaps more quickly than in a less dense region like the mid-A ring. Also, it may simply be harder in the first place for a moonlet to create propeller-like gaps in a dense ring.

In recent weeks scientists also have collected a series of images of shadows being cast by vertically extended structures or objects in the F ring. One image shows the shadow of what appears to be a vertically extended object in the core of the F ring, while another image may show the shadow of an object on an inclined orbit which has punched through the F ring and dragged material along in its path. A third image shows an F-ring structure casting a shadow long enough to reach across the wide Roche Division and appear on the A ring. Imaging scientists are working to understand the origin of these structures.

New sights such as these -- and the questions they raise and the insights they may provide -- will continue in the coming days of Saturn's equinox.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France, and Germany. The imaging operations center and team leader (Dr. C. Porco) are based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

-- From a press release from the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory at the Space Science Institute, Colorado and forwarded by Karen Pollard

15. Advert: Telescope for sale

 

Philip Ivanier has a telescope for sale. The details he sends are:

Celestron NexStar 8se Celestron Tripod Is like new condition (no scratches, dings or dents)! Comes with hard case for storage and transport. Laser Star Sight

I have been the only owner of the scope and it has been very well looked after.

Anyone interested should contact Philip at: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

18. 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..

19. Usual Editor for September Newsletter

 

Please send any contributions to the September Newsletter to Alan Gilmore as usual: 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

Pauline and Brian Loader This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

20 August 2009


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. Local Amateur Discovers Two Supernovae
2. The Solar System in August
3. Beatrice Tinsley Radio Series
4. Winter Astrocamps
5. Galileo Lectures in August
6. AAS Burbidge Dinner
7. AAS Astrophotography Competition
8. Creative Writing Competition
9. South Canterbury Astronomy Group Formed
10. Apollo Lunar Landing Sites Imaged
11. Women in Astronomy
12. Sunspots Modelled in Supercomputer
13. Perth Scholarships
14. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation
15. RASNZ in Wikipedia
16. Biographies, please
17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
18. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
19. How to Join the RASNZ
20. Heaviest Element Yet Discovered
21. Different Editors for August Newsletter

1. Local Amateur Discovers Two Supernovae

Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury, has discovered two supernovae in the past month. He found supernova 2009gj in NGC 134 on June 20 and supernova 2009hm in NGC 7083 on July 17. The second supernova was also independently found by South African amateur Berto Monard. The first supernova was red magnitude 15.9; the second at R magnitude 14.7.

Stuart uses a ST8 CCD camera mounted on a 35-cm Celestron C14 f/6.3 reflector telescope. On a good night he searches up to 200 galaxies and checks them with reference images. He has been working on his supernova search programme with an informal network of Australian astronomers for a few years.

A spectrum obtained on June 24 with the 6.5-m Magellan Clay telescope (+ MagE), showed that 2009gj is a type-IIb supernova about three weeks after explosion. Type IIb supernovae are likely massive stars which have lost most, but not all, of their hydrogen envelopes through tidal stripping by a companion star. As the ejecta of a Type IIb expands, the hydrogen layer quickly becomes optically thin and reveals the deeper layers.

At press time there was no word on what type of supernova 2009hm was. It was noted that supernova 1983Y was also appeared in NGC 7083 (cf. IAUC 3792).

-- from notes to nzastronomers by Stuart Parker, a press release by RASNZ Publicity Officer Marilyn Head, and IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams 1856, 1858 and 1880.

2. The Solar System in August

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for August 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Aug_09.htm. Notes for September 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in august

The evening sky - mercury, jupiter and saturn

Mercury will become well placed for evening viewing from the southern hemisphere during August, giving the best chance for viewing the planet during the year. At the beginning of August it will set about 90 minutes after the Sun, being some 7 degrees above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset. The planet will also be close to Regulus, 3 degrees below the star on August 1. Star and planet are closest on August 3, when Mercury will be three-quarters of a degree to the right of, and slightly higher, than Regulus. Mercury will be the brighter by nearly 2 magnitudes.

During the first half of August, Mercury will rise further into the evening sky and set later, two and a half hours after the Sun by mid month, so that the planet is readily visible to the west as the sky begins to darken following sunset. It will have an altitude of about 16 degrees, 45 minutes after sunset. Mercury remains similarly well placed for viewing for the rest of August.

As Mercury moves up a little into the evening sky, SATURN will be getting lower. The planets pass mid August, Saturn being just over 3 degrees to the right of Mercury on August 16, and just under 3 degrees the following evening.

Saturn's rings are edge on to the Sun on August 10; after that date the southern face of the rings will be in view from the Earth, albeit very obliquely, while the northern face is illuminated by the Sun. The Earth passes through the ring plane early in September. Saturn will set nearly 3.5 hours after the Sun on August 1, but only 90 minutes after on the 31st.

By mid August JUPITER will dominate the evening sky to the east. It is at opposition on August 14, so will then rise close to the time of sunset. It will remain quite close to Neptune, although Jupiter's more rapid retrograde motion will take it a little further from the fainter planet during the month, with the two being nearly 5 degrees apart by August 31. Both planets stay in Capricornus all month.

The morning sky - venus and mars

Mars is the first of the two planets to rise, with the time at which it does do so changing little during the month, about 4 am in most parts of New Zealand early in August and some 15 minutes earlier by the end of the month.

Mars starts the month some 6 degrees below the star Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus. They will be similar in magnitude and of course have a similar colour. During the rest of August Mars will move across Taurus, to enter Gemini on August 27. It will end the month some 17 degrees below Betelgeuse.

Venus rises about an hour after Mars on August 1, increasing to nearly 2 hours later by the 31st. It will then rise less than 90 minutes before the Sun. Fifteen minutes before sunrise, the planet will be to the northeast about 10 degrees up. Even so it should be an easy object to spot. The angle between Venus and Mars will almost double, from 16 degrees to over 30 degrees, during August.

Uranus is following Jupiter in the sky, about 30 degrees behind the larger planet. It will rise about 9.30 at the beginning of August and two hours earlier by the end of the month. It remains in Pisces throughout August.

Neptune remains fairly close to Jupiter during August. It is at opposition on August 17, 3 days after Jupiter.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an early evening object about 11 degrees from Saturn and setting 40 minutes later on August 1. By the end of the month Ceres will be 19 degrees behind Saturn and set some 90 minutes later. Its magnitude is 8.8 or 8.9, the asteroid being in Virgo.

(2) Pallas, a very early evening object, leads Saturn by some 20 degrees at the beginning of August, their separation halving during the month. The asteroid starts the month at magnitude 9.0 but brightens slightly to 8.8 as it gets closer to the Sun during August. By the end of the month it will be less than 7 degrees from the SUN and set 35 minutes later.

(4) Vesta will gradually move a little higher into the morning sky, passing Venus on the morning of August 26 when the two will be half a degree apart. Vesta will be to the lower left of Venus at magnitude 8.4. A 7th magnitude star will be almost midway between them.

(3) Juno spends the month in Pisces about 8 degrees from Uranus. During August it will brighten from magnitude 9 to 8.2 as it approaches opposition.

(18) Melpomene is not far from Juno. The two are 14.5 degrees apart on August 1, increasing to 21.5 degrees on the 31st. Melpomene brightens from magnitude 9.4 to 8.7 during the month.

-- Brian Loader

3. Beatrice Tinsley Radio Series

Radio New Zealand's Concert Programme is running a 20-part series of readings 'The Letters of Beatrice Hill Tinsley' at 7pm from Wednesday 5 August.

Beatrice Hill Tinsley (1941-1981) was a world leader in modern cosmology especially noted for her study of the Evolution of Galaxies. Her research on how galaxies evolve over time changed the standard method for determining distances to far galaxies, which, in turn, is significant in determining the size of the universe and its rate of expansion.

Beatrice Tinsley was raised in New Plymouth, studied at Canterbury University, and then The University of Texas and California Institute of Technology. At the time of her death she was Professor of Astronomy at Yale University. But Beatrice's talents extended beyond the field of science.

For more information about, and access to these programmes visit http://www.radionz.co.nz/concert/home

-- from a Royal Society Alert, forwarded by Bob Evans.

4. Winter Astrocamps

The following extracted from RASNZ's 'Keeping in Touch' 2009 July 19.

The Phoenix Astronomical Society - Winter Astrocamp: Fri 21 - Sun 23 August 2009 at the Carterton RSA.

Held from Friday until Sunday evening, the focus of Winter Astrocamp is observational astronomy and astrophotography. During the day there will be the opportunity to observe the Sun. In the evenings we have the wonders of the winter Milky Way and beyond. In addition to observing we have, during the day, a programme of lectures and workshops with opportunities to exchange ideas and socialise. A dinner will held at the RSA on the Saturday evening. Please mark these dates down in your diaries so you are free to come along.

The timing of Winter Astrocamp to take advantage of the wonderful winter night skies when the most brilliant region of the Milky Way is overhead in the early morning.

This year we are again at the Carterton R.S.A. Talks and workshops will be held at the R.S.A. between 10:00am and 4:00pm (exact times to be confirmed) Saturday and Sunday. The RSA is a large and comfortable venue and the bar will be open. Observing will take place at the Observatory site at Ahiaruhe.

Coffee and tea are part of the registration. Lunch will be soup and a roll or something very similar. The evening meals will be smorgasbord style, and a range of dishes will be provided.

For those of you who wish to stay in the Wairarapa for the weekend, the Carterton Holiday Park, 198 Belevedere Road, (Ph 06 379 8267) is only one block away from the RSA and both are only one block away from the main street, its shops and cafes. Further accommodation details can be obtained from Antony Gomez email below. More details and a registration form is available at www.AstronomyNZ.org.nz. Any queries please contact Antony Gomez This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 021 253 4979 ---------------------

Canterbury Astronomical Society - Stargazers Get Away: Fri 18 September at Camp Iona, Herbert.

For southern astronomy buffs, the Herbert Weekend will be held at Camp Iona, Herbert which is some 20km south of Oamaru. The cost for this weekend is $11 for Friday night only, $22 for Friday and Saturday, or $25 for the full weekend. Payment can be made when you arrive.

The weekend is arranged in a similar way to the South Island Stardate at Staveley, perhaps being a little less formal, giving a great chance to catch up and see what everyone has been up to. The site offers very good bunk rooms, a spacious meeting room and excellent cooking facilities. Bring warm sleeping If it is cloudy be prepared to watch DVD's on a big screen and sit in front of a lovely open fire.

Please contact Phil Barker for further information: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

5. Galileo Lectures in August

The Galileo Lecture Series is produced by Radio New Zealand National in partnership with the Royal Society of New Zealand.

It celebrates 2009 International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since Galileo used a telescope to view the solar system and transform our understanding of Earth´s place in the Universe.

------------- Lecture TBC

Tuesday 11 August, 6pm Space Room, Stardome Observatory, One Tree Hill Domain, 670 Manukau Road, Royal Oak, Auckland


The political and philosophical uses of Galileo´s telescope Associate Professor Ruth Barton, The University of Auckland

When Galileo turned his telescope to the stars he saw spots on the sun, mountains on the moon, and moons about Jupiter. The moons of Jupiter, he wrote, proved the glory of the Medici name (and this gained him the position of Mathematician and philosopher at the Medici court), but did they prove the Copernican theory that the Earth moved in circles around the Sun as Galileo claimed?

Telecom Playhouse, WEL Tech Energy Trust Performing Arts Centre University of Waikato, Knighton Road, Hamilton Wednesday 12 August, 7.30pm

Ruth Barton is an associate professor of history at The University of Auckland. She teaches the history of science from the 15th to the 20th centuries, from Copernicus in Poland to James Hector in New Zealand. She has published widely on science and culture in nineteenth century Britain.

------------- Comets and Asteroids: clues to our origin and threats to our survival Professor Jack Baggaley FRAS, FRSNZ, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

Comets and asteroids provide us with vital clues as how the solar system was born. Small sized asteroids may reach the ground as meteorites, sometimes producing impact craters or exploding dramatically. Impacts by large comets and asteroids are a very real threat to the survival of mankind. There are international programmes with networks of dedicated telescopes to map the positions of these objects and forecast their future trajectories and approaches to the Earth.

Wednesday 19 August, 7.30pm Lecture theatre E1, College of Engineering, University of Canterbury, Creyke Road, Christchurch

Professor Jack Baggaley, Physics and Astronomy Department, University of Canterbury, uses radar to track meteoroids and map their solar system orbits. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and the Royal Astronomical Society (FRAS). He serves on international scientific bodies like The International Astronomical Union - commissions 22 - Meteors Meteorites & Interplanetary dust, and also commission 21 - The Light of the night sky and The International Radio Science Union.

------------- The search for other planets, other life Alan Gilmore, Mt John Observatory, University of Canterbury

The realisation that stars are just distant suns, like our own, led to speculation about the existence of other planets, and other life forms. The first extra-solar planet orbiting a `normal´ star was detected in 1996. More than 300 planets have now been identified, and many have been discovered by New Zealand astronomers. But the chances of finding one which has the pre-requisites for life are slim, and even if we do find another in "The Goldilocks Zone", the possibility of travelling to it is as yet out of the question. Earth is a very special place indeed.

Lake Tekapo Community Hall, Aorangi Crescent, Lake Tekapo. Thursday 20 August, 7.30pm, Supper provided

Alan Gilmore has been resident superintendent of the Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo since 1996. An amateur astronomer since his school days, he began professional astronomy at the Carter Observatory, Wellington, in 1970. He is involved in many observing programmes at Mt John, including, with wife Pam Kilmartin, a long running programme to track near Earth asteroids.

------------- Neutrinos - ghosts of the Universe Dr Jenni Adams, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Canterbury

More than 50 trillion solar neutrinos pass through your body every second! Abundant but elusive, these particles have truly amazing properties and provide a new way to look out at objects in our galaxy and beyond.

Friday 21 August, 7.30pm Land Service Building Cnr George Street and Station Streets, Timaru.

Dr Jenni Adams is a senior lecturer in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Canterbury. Her PhD was at Oxford, supported by a Rhodes Scholarship. She leads the University of Canterbury neutrino astrophysics group which has been supported by two Marsden Fund grants. Dr Adams has just finished a two year term as president of the New Zealand Institute of Physics, where she has she has worked to propagate the message that physics is at the heart of social and economic advance and is fundamental to well informed decision making in many key policy areas.

------------- The Square Kilometre Array Brian Boyle, CSIRO, Director, Australian National Telescope Facility

Stretching over a continent and comprised of over 5000 antennas, the Square Kilometre Array is proposed to be the world's largest radio telescope and one of the most ambitious pieces of scientific infrastructure ever built. It will address some of the key questions of 21st century astronomy and physics and act as a scientific icon for generations to come. New Zealand has the opportunity to join in Australia's Bid to host this multi-billion dollar telescope.

Brian Boyle completed his PhD at the University of Durham in the UK. He held positions at the University of Edinburgh; the Anglo-Australian Observatory; the University of Cambridge; was Director of the Anglo- Australian Observatory (1996 to 2003) and Director of CSIRO Australia Telescope (2003 to 2009) before his appointment to CSIRO SKA Director in February 2009. His primary research interests are in the fields of quasars, active galaxies and cosmology.

This talk will not be delivered as a public lecture.

------------- These lectures are being recorded by Radio New Zealand and will be broadcast as a series celebrating the International Year of Astronomy.

-- from a summary provided by Danae Staples-Moon of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

6. AAS Burbidge Dinner

The Auckland Astronomical Society would like to invite you, your members, family and friends to attend their annual Dinner to be held on Saturday, 7 November this year, the International Year of Astronomy.

The AAS Burbidge Dinner will be held at Novotel Ellersile on the 7th November 2009. This year, the after dinner speaker will be Professor John Storey from the University of New South Wales. His talk will focus on Antarctic Astronomy which promises to be a very informative and interesting presentation.

As always, the AAS will award the winner of the Harry Williams Astrophotography Trophy including the winners of the three competition sections. For details see next item.

The AAS will also award the annual Beaumont Writing prize.

Ticket Prices: $60.00 for a single ticket;

$55.00 per ticket for a table of ten tickets

Tickets for this event are now on sale and can be purchased by contacting Andrew Buckingham This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Postal: AAS Burbidge Dinner 2009

P.O.Box 24-187
Royal Oak
Auckland 1345

-- from a note by Jennie McCormick

7. AAS Astrophotography Competition

The Auckland Astronomical Society is pleased to announce the 2009 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now open for entry to all New Zealand residents. Please pass this message onto your members, family and friends.

As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009, The Auckland Astronomical Society, invites entries for the 2009 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition.

Competition categories are as follows: 1. Solar System - Sun, Moon, planets, comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, auroras, meteors, etc. 2. Deep Sky - Nebulae, galaxies, globular and open clusters, deep space objects, etc. 3. Miscellaneous - Artistic and interesting subjects with an astronomical theme, including wide field images, artificial satellites, star trails, star parties etc.

An Entry form and Conditions of Entry in MS Word and PDF can be downloaded from: Auckland Astronomical Society website: www.astronomy.org.nz Royal Astronomical Society of NZ Affiliated Societies website: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/index.htm

Competition Closing Date: Friday 16th October 2009

-- from a note by Jennie McCormick

8. Creative Writing Competition

"I live at the edge of the universe, like everybody else." --Bill Manhire

This year we are celebrating the International Year of Astronomy. Ever since Galileo first aimed his telescope at Jupiter's moons, technology has been enlarging our knowledge of the universe.

We now know our own insignificance and isolation and yet we have immense power to communicate as never before. The race of humans is isolated in space and time and yet where, as individuals, do we go to be alone?

A cash prize of $2500 will be awarded to the winner of each category. The closing date for entries is Tuesday 22 September 2009.

The Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing is organised by the Royal Society of New Zealand in association with the New Zealand Listener magazine and the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington.

For more information, terms and conditions and entry forms visit www.royalsociety.org.nz or contact: Danae Staples-Moon, Tel. 04 470 5770 or Email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Thanks to George Jones of Wellington and Jennie McCormick for passing this along.

9. South Canterbury Astronomy Group Formed

Robert McTague, Secretary, South Canterbury Astronomers Group writes:

It's finally happened! South Canterbury once again has an Astronomy group where those interested in the vast subject of astronomy can meet and share ideas together.

It has been well over a decade since there was an astronomy group in the South Canterbury area. After several attempts to get a group established, myself and a few dedicated enthusiasts decided to get behind the "100 Hours of Astronomy" event. This proved to be the catalyst for the formation of the South Canterbury Astronomers Group. Between sessions in Geraldine and Timaru, we had over 400 people attend. They enjoyed solar and night-time viewing. Our thanks to www.nztelescopes.co.nz for their sponsorship.

We now have a core membership of twenty, covering all age groups. Many of our members are beginners so the programme has been very much orientated towards teaching the basics to members. We are fortunate to have several experienced astronomers on board who give their time and experience freely.

The programme so far has included visits to amateur observatories, including Peter Aldous's wonderful observatory in Geraldine; workshops on telescopes; learning about space; and several observing sessions.We are a very friendly bunch and actively encouraging others of all ages. We meet on the last Friday of each month, 7-30 p.m. at Aoraki Polytechnic in Timaru, we also have a very informative website set up to encourage membership and help our members: is www.scastro.co.cc .

If you're in the Timaru area towards the end of any month you are most welcome to visit.

10. Apollo Lunar Landing Sites Imaged

NASA has released low-resolution images from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter of the Apollo landing sites (except Apollo 12) showing the lunar module descent stages sitting on the surface. See them at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/multimedia/lroimages/apollosites.htm l

-- from a note by Maurice Collins to nzastronomers.

11. Women in Astronomy

The Astronomical Society of Australia had a recent discussion about women in astronomy. Mailing lists and links that were mentioned during this session were:

* American Astronomical Society "Women in Astronomy" mailing list: - subscription info and back issues at http://www.aas.org/cswa/AASWOMEN.html

(one digest email per week; extremely informative)

* AAS Women in Astronomy blog: - http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com - following on from the questions raised at the ASA, an excellent discussion on whether astronomers should change their name when they get married is at

http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com/2009/06/name-game.html and
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=130053915504

* AAS Committee on Status of Women in Astronomy - http://www.aas.org/cswa/ - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Committee-on-the-Status-of-Women-in- Astronomy/43977374494

- twice-yearly newsletter at http://www.aas.org/cswa/STATUS.html

* Australian Institute of Physics "Women in Physics" WWW page (slowly being revamped):

- http://www.physics.usyd.edu.au/wip

* Examples of "family-friendly" fellowships available in Australia: - http://www.science.usyd.edu.au/wisci/family.shtml - http://www.uq.edu.au/equity/index.html?page=11462 - https://intranet.csiro.au/intranet/executive/scienceteam/PayneScottAward/P ayneScottOverview.htm

(accessible from CSIRO only)

-- forwarded to ASA members by Professor Bryan Gaensler

12. Sunspots Modelled in Supercomputer

An international team of scientists led by the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), Boulder, Colorado, and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany has created the first-ever comprehensive computer model of sunspots. The resulting visuals capture both scientific detail and remarkable beauty.

The high-resolution simulations of sunspot pairs open the way for researchers to learn more about the vast mysterious dark patches on the Sun's surface. Sunspots are the most striking manifestations of solar magnetism on the solar surface, and they are associated with massive ejections of charged plasma that can cause geomagnetic storms and disrupt communications and navigational systems. They also contribute to variations in overall solar output, which can affect weather on Earth and exert a subtle influence on climate patterns.

Ever since outward flows from the center of sunspots were discovered 100 years ago, scientists have worked toward explaining the complex structure of sunspots, whose number peaks and wanes during the 11-year solar cycle. Sunspots encompass intense magnetic activity that is associated with solar flares and massive ejections of plasma that can buffet Earth's atmosphere. The resulting damage to power grids, satellites, and other sensitive technological systems takes an economic toll on a rising number of industries.

Creating such detailed simulations would not have been possible even as recently as a few years ago, before the latest generation of supercomputers and a growing array of instruments to observe the Sun. Partly because of such new technology, scientists have made advances in solving the equations that describe the physics of solar processes.

New computer models capture pairs of sunspots with opposite polarity. In striking detail, they reveal the dark central region, or umbra, with brighter umbral dots, as well as webs of elongated narrow filaments with flows of mass streaming away from the spots in the outer penumbral regions. They also capture the convective flow and movement of energy that underlie the sunspots, and that are not directly detectable by instruments.

The models suggest that the magnetic fields within sunspots need to be inclined in certain directions in order to create such complex structures. The authors conclude that there is a unified physical explanation for the structure of sunspots in umbra and penumbra that is the consequence of convection in a magnetic field with varying properties.

To create the model, the research team designed a virtual, three- dimensional domain that simulates an area on the Sun measuring about 31,000 miles by 62,000 miles and about 3,700 miles in depth - an expanse as long as eight times Earth's diameter and as deep as Earth's radius. The scientists then used a series of equations involving fundamental physical laws of energy transfer, fluid dynamics, magnetic induction and feedback, and other phenomena to simulate sunspot dynamics at 1.8 billion points within the virtual expanse, each spaced about 10 to 20 miles apart. For weeks, they solved the equations on NCAR's new bluefire supercomputer, an IBM machine that can perform 76 trillion calculations per second.

The work drew on increasingly detailed observations from a network of ground- and space-based instruments to verify that the model captured sunspots realistically.

The new models are far more detailed and realistic than previous simulations that failed to capture the complexities of the outer penumbral region. The researchers noted, however, that even their new model does not accurately capture the lengths of the filaments in parts of the penumbra. They can refine the model by placing the grid points even closer together, but that would require more computing power than is currently available.

For more see: http://www.ucar.edu/news/journalists.jsp

-- from a University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Perth Scholarships

The Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia advises that applications for the 2010 round of Curtin Research Fellowships will open soon. In 2010 Fellowships will be available in two categories:Senior Fellowships and Early Career Fellowships. The Curtin Institute of Radio Astronomy is seeking highly qualified applicants for this Fellowship scheme and will support a number of applicants (not restricted to radio astronomy researchers). A summary of relevant information with pointers to the Fellowship scheme application materials can be found at:

http://cira.ivec.org/dokuwiki/doku.php/crs/start

Further information on this opportunity can be sought from CIRA co-Director, Prof. Steven Tingay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

14. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation

ACGRG5, a regional Australia/NZ conference for professional researchers in gravity held every 2-3 years, will be take place at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, on 16-18 December, 2009.

To mark the International Year of Astronomy, this event is being run jointly with ICRANet (Italy) as part of their IYA series "The Sun, the Stars, the Universe and General Relativity". It is anticipated that there will be a couple of public lectures in conjunction with the conference.

Although registration is only due to open later in the year, a preliminary webpage is up at http://www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/ACGRG5/

-- note from David Wiltshire

15. 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.

16. Biographies, please

Marilyn Head writes: This is another call for listings for NZ astronomers on our IYA site http://www.astronomy2009.org.nz . There are so many prominent people missing and many who are named but have nothing written about them. We envisage it being a 'who's who' of NZ astronomy and an historical record of people who have been (and are) active and held positions in local astronomical societies and, for those who want, contacts.

Send your biography to Christopher Henderson, Webmaster, IYA 2009 NZ. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . See www.astronomy2009.org.nz

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. Heaviest Element Yet Discovered

Ursula McFarlane saw this news after visiting CERN.

Lawrence Livermore Laboratories has discovered the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element, Governmentium (Gv), has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons, and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons. Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert; however, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction that would normally take less than a second, to take from 4 days to 4 years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 2-4 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places.

In fact, Governmentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons.

21. Different Editors for August Newsletter

As the Editor will be away much of August, attending the IAU's General Assembly in Rio de Janeiro, Brian and Pauline Loader have kindly offered to compile the August 20 Newsletter. Please forward contributions to them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view 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

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

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

Contents

1. The Conference
2. The Solar System in July
3. 'Closest Mars' Hoax Email Around Again
4. Jack Dunlop QSM
5. Most Distant GRB Seen from NZ
6. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation
7. RASNZ in Wikipedia
8. South Africa Queries SKA´s Size and "Affordability"
9. Astrometry Finds a Planet Orbiting Smallest Star
10. 16-inch Mirrors for Sale
11. Biographies, please
12. Star Parties in September
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Quotes

1. The Conference

The RASNZ Conference in Wellington was a lively affair with a great variety of contributions: something for everyone. Registrations were just shy of 100 with good representation from North, South and West Islands.

Honours were bestowed:

Phil Yock was elected a Fellow of the RASNZ for his long service to NZ astronomy and science in general. Professor Yock was instrumental in getting the JANZOS cosmic ray experiment set up on Black Birch Range in Marlborough to look for high energy shrapnel from Supernova 1987A. This resulted in a long collaboration with cosmic ray researchers at Nagoya University. When Nagoya's interest turned toward Dark Matter, Phil did all the local diplomatic work setting up the MOA collaboration. He was the Principal Investigator for the NZ side of the MOA programme for a decade, seeing it through the development stages.

Richard Hall was awarded the Murray Geddes Prize for his long services to astronomy. Richard ran astronomy many courses at the Carter Observatory and has written several books; he was the leader of the group who built Stonehenge Aotearoa in the Wairarapa. Richard also compiles the Phoenix Astronomical Calendar.

Variable Star Colloquium Astronomy talks kicked off on Friday morning -- before the Conference proper -- with the Variable Star Colloquium: "Studying Southern Variables". RASNZ President Grant Christie opened the Colloquium, noting that variable star observers were the elite of amateur astronomers. The old Variable Star Section, directed for 70 years by Frank Bateson, had been the 'jewel in the crown' of the RASNZ, much enhanced by the energy and diligence of Albert Jones. Predictions that amateur observing would be superseded by new technologies have yet to materialise. And amateurs have upped their game by adding CCD photometry to earlier photo-electric photometry. Grant thanked Pauline Loader for stepping into the breach at Frank's retirement. Pauline kept the Section running till Tom Richards offered to take over and move it forward in new directions. Then followed a day of papers by a range of observers. (The editor hopes to do summaries of the various talks in upcoming Newsletters.)

Conference Opening The Conference was formally opened by Dr Helen Anderson, CEO of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (MORST). Before the official opening President Grant thanked the Conference Organising Committee members: John Field, Warwick Kissling, Marilyn Head, Gordon Hudson, Pauline and Brian Loader, and Dennis Goodman and members of the Wellington Astronomical Society. Grant noted that the travel support of Conference guest speakers had been generously supported by the embassies of their own countries: Dr Fulvio Melia's by the US Embassy; Dr Chris Fluke by the Australian High Commission.

Dr Anderson said her main scientific interest was in the mechanics of large earthquakes. Since these didn't happen often she now has a 'day job' leading MORST. She is interested in astronomy and has a telescope that, to the annoyance of her family, shows things upside down. Astronomy holds great fascination for the public. Maori used the stars for navigation. For its small size NZ has a high number of amateur astronomers, including one cabinet minister. And there is much new investment: Mt John's MOA telescope; AUT's radio telescope at Warkworth; and the Boötes-3 telescope in Marlborough.

The serious message for astronomy is that policy makers have to fund a wide variety of sciences important to the economy: bio-security, health, etc. This government wants publicly-funded science to deliver benefits to the New Zealanders. New money has been provided for agriculture and climate-change research. Environmental research gets $100 million; around 10% of the science spending. Total research funding is around $700 million. Basic research gets $37 million, allocated through the Marsden Fund.

Much of modern science needs big kit; the SKA is an example. The global financial crisis will mean the deferral of big-ticket items internationally. Building community support for the SKA is good but not enough. The emphasis must be on industrial development, astro-tourism and industries around the SKA.

On the literary side Dr Anderson recommended that we all read Bill Manhire's poem "Herschel at the Cape", published in "Dark Matter".

Variable Stars South Tom Richards began the conference talks by outlining his ideas for the re- constituted variable star section, now Variable Stars South. Tom noted that, under Frank Bateson, observing territory was partitioned at declination -30 degrees. South of -30 degrees was covered by the RASNZ's VSS; north of -30 was left to the AAVSO and other northern variable star organisations.

Tom noted that we now have amazing equipment at astonishingly low prices: telescopes, mounts, detectors and computers. Communications have improved out of sight in recent years: instant alerts worldwide in many fields like gamma ray bursts. We can upload data from international centres, and remotely access robotic telescopes.

Despite al the sophisticated gear there was still a need for the visual observations for alerts and monitoring of interesting variables, for data continuity in long-period variable stars and for collaborative projects. CCD work is moving into niches where it excels: faint objects and fast- varying objects.

To co-ordinate all the work, and because nobody has expertise in all fields now, Tom plans to divide the VSS into "Programmes". Cataclysmic variable work will be the responsibility of Paddy McGee; Tom will look after eclipsing binary work; long-period variables will be Stan Walker's province and Alan Plummer will supervise visual research. Tom hoped that RASNZ members would join at least one of these groups and contribute observations. VSS's website is under construction by Michael Chapman of the Sydney City Skywatchers (formerly the NSW Branch of the British Astronomical Association.)

Honouring the history of the variable star work in Australasia was another project. As a start the VSS has made Honorary Life Members the three people who made the old VSS what it was. The three represent the 'pipeline' of variable star work.

Mati Morel has provided observers with finder charts for variable stars complete with magnitude sequences for brightness estimations. He has produced some 1252 charts, many replacing the original 'lettered' comparison stars with modern V magnitudes. Mati joined VSS in 1972 and is still going strong. [At least one nova chart and sequence has appeared since the Conference.]

Albert Jones has made 500 000 magnitude estimates; a world record. He is co-discoverer of supernova 1987A in the Large Cloud of Magellan; discovered comets in 1946 and 2001; has contributed to numerous publications; has an Honorary D.Sc. from Victoria University of Wellington and many international awards and honours.

Ranald McIntosh began converting all the VSS results into machine-readable form in 1984. Since then he has supervised the archiving of one million observations, adding 4000-8000 new records monthly. Along the way he has provided observers with data-entry programs.

The VSS will be a success, Tom concluded, if it attracts active members, has many projects and a sense of continuity. He asked anyone interested to join in and contribute to the science of astronomy.

The Rest of the Weekend Saturday and Sunday were crammed with a wide range of talks, everything from planet searches to the problems of adding an upstairs observatory to a house. The editor hopes to summarise these talks, curtly; but no promises.

The Dinner The Conference Dinner was enlivened by the 'Come as your favourite astronomer' theme. Several Greeks and Alexandrians appeared, dressed in summery robes and goosebumps. Two Tycho Brahes argued over who was the impostor -- perhaps the real Tycho was the one with the metal nose. A well-dressed 17th Century Englishman -- first Treasurer of the Royal Society and discoverer of the rotation of Saturn, he claimed -- turned out to be Sir Peter William Ball, who nobody had heard of {still searching - Ed.) There were several Herschels. Some modern astronomers were in attendance: Davis S Evans was remembered; our Honorary Member was hilariously celebrated with bushy eyebrows and wide floral tie. And there were two Frank Andrewses; the larger one being the real McCoy.

After the Weekend The two-day Occultation Workshop followed the main Conference. It was attended by observers from both sides of the Tasman.

2. The Solar System in July

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for July 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jul_09.htm. Notes for August 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The Earth is at aphelion on July 4, when it will be 152.1 million kilometres from the Sun.

A very slight penumbral eclipse of the Moon on July 7 will produce no noticeable change in the Moon's brightness. At most just over one-sixth of the Moon's diameter will enter the outer edge of the penumbra. The event occurs in the evening while the Moon is in NZ skies.

On July 22 a total eclipse of the Sun is visible in the northern hemisphere. The path of totality starts at sunrise on the coast of India near Mumbai then crosses northern India and China. It leaves China on an easterly track taking it just south of the main islands of Japan, before turning to head to the southeast across the Pacific to end at sunset to the northeast of New Zealand.

No part of eclipse is visible from New Zealand. The only part of Australia to see anything of it is the tip of the Cape York Peninsula where a slight penumbral eclipse occurs.

The planets in july

The evening sky - saturn

Saturn will set shortly after 9pm by the end of July so that it is very much an early evening object. The planet remains in Leo moving slowly to the southeast.

During July the rings, already a narrow band, are going to close up further. By the end of the month the tilt of Saturn's south pole towards the Earth will be less than 2 degrees, and less than 0.2 degrees towards the Sun.

The 37% lit waxing Moon will be some 7.5 degrees above Saturn on the night of July 28. The previous night a thinner Moon will be rather further away to the left of the planet.

Saturn's brightest satellite Titan will be in eclipse in the planet's shadow twice in July, on the 10th and 26th. On both occasions the eclipse starts before sunset and ends after Saturn sets on NZ, hence Titan will not be visible those evenings.

The last stages of shadow transits of Titan across Saturn are visible early evening on July 2 and 18. The transits end at 8:37pm and 7:52pm respectively, both starting before sunset.

More details on observing these events and a table of the times of all the eclipses can be found on the page of eclipses of Titan and Rhea on the web site. Moderate sized telescopes are needed to see these events.

Jupiter will rise before 7pm by late July and so be a mid to late evening object. The retrograde motion of Jupiter takes it past Neptune for a second time this month. The two are closest on July 10 when they are just over half a degree apart. On the same night, the Moon, three days past full, will be a few degrees from the pair.

On the days the two planets are closest the 5th magnitude star mu Capricorni will be close to midway between the two. This should help in detecting Neptune which, at magnitude 7.8, is a lot fainter than the star. In binoculars it is likely to be easier to see Neptune when the Moon is not too close.

The morning sky - venus and mars

Venus and Mars will start July about 4 degrees apart, rising close to 4.30 am. Venus will be in Taurus, with Mars just over the border in Aries; it moves into Taurus on July 3. As it moves across Taurus during the month, Venus will draw away from Mars so that by July 31 the two will be nearly 16 degrees apart. Venus will then be rising after 5 pm.

As they move across Taurus the planets will pass between Aldebaran and the Pleiades. Venus will be on a line between them on July 12, only half the distance from the star it is from the cluster. A week later Mars will be midway between the two. The planet and star will be similar in magnitude and colour. On the same morning the crescent Moon will be nearly 8 degrees below Mars and only slightly further from Venus. The three with Aldebaran will form a kite shape to the northeast, with the Moon to the lower left and the more pointed corner and the star to the upper right and blunter corner of the shape.

Towards the end of July, Mars will be at its closest to Aldebaran, with the two some 5 degrees apart on the morning of July 27.

Mercury rises about an hour before the Sun at the beginning of July, making it a very low object half an hour before sunrise. The planet will be fairly bright at magnitude -1. It will quite rapidly move towards the Sun during the first half of the month, to be at superior conjunction on July 14.

After conjunction, Mercury becomes an evening object. By July 31 it will set nearly 90 minutes later than the Sun and begin to be briefly visible as the sky darkens in a direction between west and northwest. It will be in Leo nearly 25 degrees below and to the left of Saturn and some 5 degrees below Regulus.

Uranus is in Pisces between Jupiter and Venus, but considerably closer to the former. By the end of July Uranus will rise about 9.30 pm and transit a little before 4 am, thus being observable from late evening.

Neptune remains close to Jupiter during July.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an evening object setting about 10:30pm on July 1 and 9.30 by July 31. Its magnitude ranges from 8.7 to 8.9. The asteroid starts July in Leo 7.5 degrees from Saturn. By the end of July it will have moved into Virgo and be some 11 degrees from the planet.

(2) Pallas starts July in Hydra moving on into Sextans later in the month. It is an early evening object setting about 8.30 pm on July 1 and 7.30 on July 31. By then it will be 9 degrees to the upper left of Mercury.

(4) Vesta is too close to the Sun for observation until late July, when it will rise soon after 6.30 am. It will then have a magnitude 8.4 and be in Gemini, 18 degrees to the lower right of Venus.

(7) Iris is at opposition on July 4 in Sagittarius a couple of degrees from the 3.5 magnitude star xi2 Sgr. Iris will then be in the sky all night with a magnitude 8.7. By the end of July it will have faded to magnitude 9.3.

-- Brian Loader

3. 'Closest Mars' Hoax Email Around Again

The Earth catches up on Mars and passes it by every 26 months. Emails announcing that Mars will be unusually close this year arrive more often. Some of them imply, on a quick reading, that Mars will appear as big as the full moon. A more careful reading finds that Mars seen in a telescope magnifying 100x or more will appear as big as the full moon does to the naked eye.

We pass by Mars in January-February 2010. At that time it will be an eye-catching orange 'star' near the Praesepe cluster in the northeast sky at dusk. It is nearly 100 million km from us then, around the greatest distance that an opposition can be. So you'll need to magnify it 130x to make it look as big as the full moon does to the naked eye.

-- Ed.

4. Jack Dunlop QSM

Congratulations to John (Jack) Dallin Dunlop of Napier. Jack was awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to astronomy and the community in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Jack did much of the local organising for the RASNZ Conference held in Napier in 1980.

5. Most Distant GRB Seen from NZ

In May Grant Christie recorded the fading light of a gamma ray burst (GRB) that turned out to be the most distant recorded by a NZ observer. The GRB after-glow was seen on a stacked image set with a total exposure time of 45 minutes taken with Auckland Observatory's 40-cm telescope. The red magnitude was 20.8 +/- 0.2.

Spectra of the GRB obtained with one of the giant telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile showed that the GRB's light was red-shifted by 4.1. Using the currently accepted expansion rate of the universe the light travel time was 12.1 billion years. The GRB was designated GRB 090516.

In March the Yock-Allen telescope in Marlborough recorded GRB 090328; see the April Newsletter Item 9. In 2003 GRBs were seen from Mt John in March and April. They had light travel times of 11.5 and 11.2 billion years respectively.

-- from notes forwarded by Phil Yock.

To convert red shift to light travel time, etc, see http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/CosmoCalc.html" class="blue">Convertions

6. 5th Australasian Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation

ACGRG5, a regional Australia/NZ conference for professional researchers in gravity held every 2-3 years, will be take place at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, on 16-18 December, 2009.

To mark the International Year of Astronomy, this event is being run jointly with ICRANet (Italy) as part of their IYA series "The Sun, the Stars, the Universe and General Relativity". It is anticipated that there will be a couple of public lectures in conjunction with the conference.

Although registration is only due to open later in the year, a preliminary webpage is up at http://www2.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/ACGRG5/

-- note from David Wiltshire

7. 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.

8. South Africa Queries SKA´s Size and "Affordability"

After hosting a big international meeting of radio astronomers in February (Australasian Science, April 2009, p 13), the Director of the South African bid to host the giant Square Kilometre Array has acknowledged to 'Australasian Science' that plans for nearby countries to host outstations of the 2000-3000 antennas required to give the instrument its requisite sensitivity and resolution might need to be "flexible".

'Australasian Science' understands that such a possible shift was not raised in the meeting and certainly wasn´t hinted in the public statement issued in the name of the meeting, which concluded with a generally optimistic (but contestable) view that the global financial crisis won´t affect funding for the enormous instrument costing ~A$3 billion.

One undercurrent, never stated openly in scientifically polite circles, has emerged as a result of the bloody coup in Madagascar, one of the outstation countries nominated by South Africa. Another proposed outstation country, Kenya, had already had a violent change of government in December.

'Australasian Science' asked South Africa´s SKA Director, Dr Bernie Fanaroff, to explain how they would handle the evident political instability in the region, and noted that Zimbabwe, South Africa´s immediate northern neighbour, was not listed as an outstation host.

"We hope that the situation in Madagascar will normalise sooner rather than later," Fanaroff responded. "The Madagascan scientists and students have been particularly enthusiastic about the project. "The configuration beyond a few hundred kilometres allows for considerable flexibility. We believe that creating a network of dishes in many African countries would greatly enhance the scope for VLBI [Very Long Baseline Interferometry], but that will of course depend on affordability. So it is still possible to involve countries which are currently not in the list of partners. There has been discussion of that, because other countries have expressed interest. "You should perhaps also ask about the affordability of extending the SKA beyond (say) several hundred kilometres."

Fanaroff did not respond about Zimbabwe, but this deeply troubled state is obviously in no position to share any resources in such a massive venture. Fanaroff´s statement raised the possibility of a radically changed specification for the array in order to accommodate a reduction in scale and variation in distribution of antennas, and that this might be more "affordable". Implicitly, this could be desirable if the global economic crisis eats into the agreed funding timetable (site decision 2011-12, construction funding 2012-13).

As Fanaroff invited, his statement was referred for comment to the two most relevant authorities - the Director of the SKA Program Development Office in England, Prof Richard Schilizzi, and South Africa´s competitor for siting the SKA, Australia, led by SKA Director, Prof Brian Boyle.

Schilizzi responded: "Reducing the scale of the array to several hundred
kilometres will reduce the achievable angular resolution proportionately
(i.e. by a factor of 10).That would make the high angular resolution
science impossible.  The sensitivity is proportional to the collecting
area, the system temperature of the receivers and various other factors.
The sensitivity would not change with a reduction in overall scale of the
array provided the collecting area is not reduced or system temperature
increased etc.  "This is not being discussed in the SKA Collaboration. It
will most naturally come up when we have completed the costing of the SKA
design at the end of PrepSKA."

South Africa has therefore been told to get on with meeting the detailed specifications for the array that had been devised, revised and agreed over several years by the multinational collaboration, and to hold off raising such significant changes until the two bids are assessed independently.

The South African and Australian governments had announced in February an agreement to cooperate in technical development of the SKA, but it appears this had not been invoked by South Africa in Fanaroff´s floating of a significant change in planning. Boyle confirmed to 'Australasian Science': "Australia continues to develop a compelling case for hosting the SKA on the basis of the specifications and criteria as originally outlined".

-- by Peter Pockley in 'Australasian Science' June 2009, 13 forwarded by Roland Idaczyk and by Marilyn Head. For the original article see http://www.australasianscience.com.au/bi2009/305B2.pdf

9. Astrometry Finds a Planet Orbiting Smallest Star

A long-proposed tool for hunting planets has netted its first catch: a Jupiter-like planet orbiting one of the smallest stars known.

The technique, called astrometry, was first attempted 50 years ago to search for planets outside our solar system, called exoplanets. It involves measuring the precise motion of a star on the sky and watching for a tiny wobble as the star and an unseen planet circle their centre of gravity. But the method requires very precise measurements over long periods of time. Until now it has failed to turn up any exoplanets.

Two astronomers from NASA¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have, for the past 12 years, used Mt Palomar's five-metre telescope to make precise measurements of 30 stars. One of the stars shows a wobble revealing it has a planet with a mass six times that of Jupiter.

The host star is VB 10, a M-dwarf only one-twelfth the mass of our Sun and 20 light years away. VB 10 is the smallest star known; just barely big enough to fuse atoms at its core and shine with starlight. Now it is the smallest star known to host a planet. In fact, though the star is more massive than the newfound planet, the two bodies would have a similar girth.

The planet, labelled VB 10b, though considered a 'cold Jupiter', is located about as far from its star as Mercury is from the Sun. Any rocky Earth-size planets that might happen to be in the neighbourhood would lie even closer in.

The wobble revealing the star is very tiny: equivalent to measuring the width of a human hair from about three kilometres away. (That's less than 5 milliarcseconds! -- Ed.)

More information about exoplanets and NASA¹s planet-finding program is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov . More information about the Palomar Observatory is at http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/

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

10. 16-inch Mirrors for Sale

(This is a repeat of an advert published in February except that the price has dropped. -- Ed.)

Matthew Lovell of Telescopes and Astronomy writes: We are gathering numbers for those who wish to purchase a completed 16-inch BK7 F4.5 Mirror. Great for those who want to build a 16-inch Binocular Telescope! At the current exchange rate the price will be $1600AUD plus any postage. These mirrors test up quite accurately, and are used in many popular telescopes of their size. Please email for more information. Matthew Lovell, Telescopes and Astronomy, PO Box 292, O'Halloran Hill, SA 5158, Australia. Phone: +61 8 8381 3188; Fax: +61 8 8381 3588; Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website: http://www.telescopes-astronomy.com.au

11. Biographies, please

Marilyn Head writes: This is another call for listings for NZ astronomers on our IYA site http://www.astronomy2009.org.nz . There are so many prominent people missing and many who are named but have nothing written about them. We envisage it being a 'who's who' of NZ astronomy and an historical record of people who have been (and are) active and held positions in local astronomical societies and, for those who want, contacts.

Send your biography to Christopher Henderson, Webmaster, IYA 2009 NZ. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . See www.astronomy2009.org.nz

12. Star Parties in September

The next Waharau weekend, south of Auckland, will be Friday September 18th to Sunday 20th. For details contact David Moorhouse at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Herbert Star-party 2009 will be held at Camp Iona, Herbert, North Otago, 20 minutes drive south of Oamaru, on 18-20 September. Ross Dickie and Phil Barker are the prime organisers of the event. More details later.

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. Quotes

Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind. -- Marston Bates.

Here's something to think about: How come you never see a headline like 'Psychic Wins Lottery?' -- Jay Leno.

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Edison

Irrigation of land with seawater desalinated by fusion power is ancient. It's called 'rain'. -- Michael McClary

These days an income is something you can't live without -- or within. -- Tom Wilson.

The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments. -- Friedrich Nietzsche.

The 'Net is a waste of time, and that's exactly what's right about it. -- William Gibson.

-- Selected from 'The Press' 21 March 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

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

Southern Stars: Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp 1 - 24.
Building an Observatory in your Own Home.

Owen Moore. The inspiration for and construction of a home observatory is described. The requirement was for it to be attached to and accessible from within the house but high enough to gain a clear view of the sky.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp

Stardate 2009 - A Review.
Ian Cooper.

Amateur astronomers have been gathering in the North Island at Stardate for 21 years. This is a review of the most recent one; in January this year near Hastings.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp

Lunar Imaging Techniques.
Maurice Collins.

For the last couple of years the author has fascinated members of the nzastronomers Yahoo group with his lunar imaging. His mosaics, closeup detail and supersaturated colouring has brought the Moon back to life for us. This paper describes his techniques. All images are by the author.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp

Solar Active Regions 11017 and 11019.
Harry Roberts.

Well into the present deep solar minimum, we see some unusual activity on our star; activity perhaps last seen in the year 1911. In particular, large faculae regions have begun to appear that are almost spotless. NASA dubs the current large faculae regions "proto-sunspots" and speaks of them as "spots trying to emerge".
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Page

Book Review - "The Cosmic Detective" by Mani Bhaumik. reviewed by William Tobin.

Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Page

Introducing Variable Stars South.
Tom Richards.

The Variable Star Section of the RASNZ was founded by the late Dr Frank Bateson OBE in 1927. Over the decades he made it the acknowledged centre for Southern Hemisphere variable star work. Early this year I was appointed the second Director, with the task of modernizing it in terms of both the type of research carried out and bringing together once again observers and researchers from around the hemisphere and beyond to revitalize the study of southern variables. In this paper I will outline what we are doing to develop Variable Stars South as it is now known, and relate that to the changed world of variable star research. Plus of course a big encouragement to contribute to astronomy via variable star work.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp

Three Life Members for Variable Stars South.
Tom Richards.

At the opening of the 2009 RASNZ Conference, I had the privilege as Director of Variable Stars South, to announce the awards of Honorary Life Memberships to three outstanding and long-serving members of the former Variable Star Section. In their roles, the three represent the pipeline of variable star work: preparing the information an observer needs, observing the stars, and communicating the results in a durable and accessible way to the world. Without the long efforts of these three people, the Variable Star Section would never have received the pre-eminence it gained.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Page

The VSS RASNZ Legacy and the Evolving BV Centauri.
Mati Morel and Alan Plummer.

The astronomical community benefits today from work begun 80 years ago by the Variable Star Section (now called Variable Stars South) of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand. Some of the VSS history is outlined below. We focus on two 'end products' of these years of work. First, how more than 1250 charts with good sequences have been made for southern stars, and second, the research value of the data is illustrated with reference to one particular star, the southern dwarf nova BV Centauri. Use of the BV Cen historical data suggests a slow decrease in mass transfer with a larger recent drop, evidence for a magnetic cycle, and a strengthened case for an unobserved nova eruption in the past. It is also suggested that the classification of the object be changed from UG/SS to a new class: GK Per.
Volume 48, number 2. June 2009. Pp