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December 2015

Log in or become an RASNZ member to access this Southern Stars issue.

The Fourth Microlensing Planet Revisited
Philip Yock
 
Volume 54, number 4. December 2015. p3

 

Lunar Occultation of Venus - 2015 October 9th
 
Volume 54, number 4. December 2015. p7

 

Third New Zealand Astrophotography Weekend
Stephen Chadwick
 
Volume 54, number 4. December 2015. p8

 

Successful Presentation of Astronomy Projects for Students to Teachers
Carl Knight
 
Volume 54, number 4. December 2015. p10

 


RASNZ Electronic Newsletter December 2015

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

Email Newsletter Number 180

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 is Looking for an Archive Place
2. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize
3. 2016 Nominations for Council
4. Star Parties in January
5. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8
6. The Solar System in January
7. NACAA Easter 2016
8. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
9. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer
10. UTC to retain "leap second"
11. Will Phobos Create a Ring Around Mars?
12. LISA Pathfinder Launched
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Report Cards for Famous Mathematicians
17. Quotes

1. RASNZ is Looking for an Archive Place

Gordon Hudson, RASNZ Archivist writes:

The RASNZ urgently needs a space to store its ever increasing Archive. The archive is currently stored in the World War I gun bunker under the Dominion Observatory in Wellington, close to Carter Observatory. This bunker is owned by the Department of Conservation. We have use of it for the next six months, having already occupied it for the past six months. We have access to one room only and we are out-growing this space. What RASNZ needs is a more permanent storage space at least for the next four years.

Does anyone have any space they could lease to us at a low rental as we are a non-profit Society?

The current situation is that RASNZ does not have its own home where material can be stored and properly archived. Ideally we would like to take over the Dominion Observatory but the cost of renting one room is $9000 per year. RASNZ cannot afford to pay this sort of money.

The Dominion Observatory is currently leased to a commercial mapping business and they sub-lease to other small businesses. The lease runs out in 2020. I have spoken to DOC about the possibility of RASNZ taking over the lease as 2020 will be the 100 year anniversary of the RASNZ. This is a possibility which would have to be negotiated.

The Dominion Observatory is the original home of where RASNZ was created in 1920 with Charles Adam and James Hector. The original name of the Observatory was the Hector Observatory. It was the home of the NZ Time Service from 1907.

The RASNZ needs its own home as it is one of the few Astronomical Societies in NZ that does not have one. The home of RASNZ used to be the Carter Observatory and it is still its registered office. A return to the Carter Observatory is no longer possible as it has now been taken over by the Wellington City Council.

The Wellington Astronomical Society is in the same situation. It also needs a home. Both the RASNZ and WAS were based at the Carter Observatory.

If you can help please contact Gordon Hudson RASNZ Archivist at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize

Nominations for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize are invited. This prize is awarded annually to a New Zealand resident who has made a contribution to astronomy in New Zealand. Nominations need to be sent to the Executive Secretary no later than 20 February 2015. The prize is normally awarded at the society´s conference dinner. More information can be found on the society´s web page http://www.rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/mg-prize

3. 2016 Nominations for Council

The current RASNZ Council term ends at the AGM in May next year. Nominations are called for Council for the period 2016-2018. Nominations are required for President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and five Councillors elected by members. The current President may not stand for a second consecutive term, but is on council ex-officio as a Vice-President. In addition there are two Affiliated Societies representatives on Council and these are elected at the Affiliated Societies Committees meeting(again in May next year) and one fellows representative, nominated by and elected by Fellows of the society.

All members and Fellows of the society are eligible to hold office, and may be nominated by any members or Fellows. Only Fellows may propose or second candidates for the Fellows´ representative on Council.

All nominations should show clearly the name of the candidate and position sought the names and signatures of the proposer and seconder and also includes the nominee´s signed consent. Nominees may also include a resume of not more than 200 words, which would be included with the voting paper in the event of a postal election. A nomination form is available from the Executive Secretary at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Email nominations cannot be accepted as all nominations must be signed by the proposer, seconder and nominee. Nominations should be posted to the secretary to arrive no later than 20 February 2016 to the address given below. Should the number of nominations exceed the number of positions then a postal ballot will be conducted. Further information can be found on the website in the Rules and Bylaws http://www.rasnz.org.nz/images/articleFiles/Council/Rules2015.pdf

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. TUAKAU 2697 ----------

Does anyone want to be Newsletter Editor? - Ed.

4. Star Parties in January

Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay from Friday January 1st to Tuesday 5th (a.m.) at Tuki Tuki Camp, Hawkes Bay. For more details see http://www.censtar.party/Stardate 2016, at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa, January 8-10. Email Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line. Full details of local accommodation are available at: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

See earlier Newsletters for details of both gatherings.

5. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

Stardate SI will be held at the hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February 5th and Monday February 8th, 2016. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large. For details see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/Link to the Facebook event for Stardate SI. If you are attending, then use this link to choose which DVDs you'd like to watch in the (we hope) unlikely event of cloudy weather

We look forward to seeing you there.

-- Euan Mason

6. The Solar System in January

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in january

                         January  1  NZDT              January 31  NZDT
                morning     evening            morning    evening
      SUN: rise:   5.48am,  set: 8.59pm    rise: 6.21am,  set: 8.45pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.17am, ends: 9.31pm  starts: 5.53am, ends: 9.14pm
 Nautical: starts: 4.34am, ends:10.14pm  starts: 5.15am, ends: 9.52pm 
 Astro:    starts: 3.43am, ends:11.04pm  starts: 3.33am, ends:10.34pm

January PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  January  2 at  6.30 pm (05:30 UT)
  New moon:      January 10 at  2.30 pm (01:30 UT)
  First quarter: January 17 at 12.26 pm (Jan 16, 23:26 UT) 
  Full moon:     January 24 at  2.46 pm (01:46 UT)

The Earth is at perihelion on January 3 at noon NZDT (Jan 2, 23 hrs UT). It will then be 147 million km from the Sun (0.9833 AU).

The planets in January

At the beginning of January only Mercury of the naked-eye planets will be in the evening sky. But, at best, it will be very difficult to see. After conjunction mid month, Mercury joins the other four naked eye planets in the morning sky. The early evening sky will then be bereft of naked eye planets. By the end of January, Jupiter will rise about 10.30 pm so be easily visible to the east by midnight.

MERCURY starts January as an evening object setting some 80 minutes after the Sun. On the 1st its magnitude will be -0.3 but with an altitude only 3.5 degrees, 45 minutes after sunset, it will be a difficult object. The Sun will be 8 degrees below the horizon so the westerly sky will still be bright making the planet difficult to see.

During the next few days Mercury gets closer to the Sun, especially after it is stationary on January 5 when the planet will start moving to the west and so towards the easterly moving Sun. Inferior conjunction is on January 14 when Mercury will be just under 50 million km from the Sun with the Earth 100 million km further out.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object rising shortly before the Sun. The planet's westerly movement will take it quite quickly further from the Sun making it visible in the dawn sky. It is again stationary on January 26 by which date its motion away from the Sun will have slowed. On the last morning of January Mercury will rise almost 2 hours before the Sun. An hour after it rises the planet will be 8 degrees above the horizon with Venus the same distance above and to its left. At magnitude 0.3 Mercury should be fairly easy to see especially with Venus to act as a guide. But this is about 5.30 a.m.

VENUS remains a morning object rising about 140 minutes before the Sun all month. It starts January in Scorpius but moves into Ophiuchus on the morning of the 6th. Venus moves into Sagittarius on the 21st. On January 8 Venus will be 6 deg from Antares and on the 30th 3 degrees from the 2.8 magnitude star lambda Sgr.

As it moves to the east through the stars, Venus will overtake Saturn on January 9. At their closest, at about 5 pm, the two planets will be just over 5 arc minutes apart, about 1/6th of the moon's diameter. >From NZ on the 9th at 5 am the two planets will be just over half a degree apart with Venus to the left of Saturn. They will be a similar distance apart on the 10th but with Venus now on the right of Saturn.

The crescent moon is closest to the two planets on the morning of January 7 when it will be 5 degrees left of Venus and 7.5 degrees from Saturn. The following morning the moon as a thinner crescent will below and a little to the right of the planets.

MARS rises 4 hours before the Sun on January 1 and nearly 6 hours before it on the 31st. Mars will be considerably higher than Venus. The planet starts the month at magnitude 1.3 in Virgo, 6 degrees below Spica. On the 18th Mars moves into Libra where it ends month a little brighter, magnitude 0.8. The morning of the 31st finds Mars 1.5 degrees from the star alpha Lib, magnitude 2.73

The moon, 36% lit, is closest to Mars on the morning of the 4th. The moon will be 2.5 degrees to the left of Mars.

JUPITER starts January in Leo with the 65% lit moon less than a degree to its upper left. On the 1st Jupiter rises about 12.30 am, by the end of January it will rise just before 10.30 pm so becoming visible late evening.

The planet is stationary on the 9th so its position changes little during the month. It gets to within a quarter of a degree of the boundary of Leo with Virgo, but as it starts moving back to the west retreats from the latter constellation.

The moon, now 82% lit, returns to the vicinity of Jupiter towards the end of January. On the morning of the 28th the two will be close to 4 degrees apart just before sunrise. Later in the morning, well after they set, the two will be just over a degree apart

SATURN rises just under two hours before the Sun on January 1, over four hours before the Sun on the 31st. It is in Ophiuchus all month at magnitude 0.5. See the notes for Venus for further details.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during January at magnitude 5.8 to 5.9. It is an evening object. By the end of January it will be setting about 11.30 pm.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout January, by the end of the month it will set at 10.00 pm. The planet, magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius throughout January at magnitude 14.4. It is at conjunction with the Sun on January 6, after which it becomes a morning object rising as much as 2 hours before the Sun by the 31st. At conjunction Pluto will be nearly 5.1 billion km, 34 AU from the Earth and just over 33 Au beyond the Sun.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is an evening object setting just before midnight on the 1st. It starts January in Capricornus at magnitude 9.3; on the 15th it moves into Aquarius. By the 31st, when it sets at 10.18, Ceres will be just over 10 degrees from Neptune.

(4) Vesta is in Cetus during January. It fades a little during the month from magnitude 8.0 to 8.3. The asteroid will be 6 degrees from Uranus on the 31st when it will set just before midnight.

(15) Eunomia is an evening object in Pisces during January, its magnitude fading from 9.5 to 9.8. It sets just before 11 pm on the 31st.

(27) Euterpe starts January in Gemini at magnitude 8.8 and is in the sky almost the whole night. By the 31st it will be a magnitude fainter and sets by 3am. The asteroid moves into Taurus on January 6.

-- Brian Loader

7. NACAA Easter 2016

At the Australian astronomy conference (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) hosted by the Sutherland Astronomical Society astronomers from Australia and NZ will come together to share their knowledge on a range of topics such as variable stars, spectroscopy, occultations, comets, pro-am collaboration, citizen science and more. The convention will be held 25 to 28 March 2016 at Sydney University. On the Friday (25 March) the Variable Stars South Symposium 4 will be held and papers are currently being prepared. On the afternoon of Sunday and Monday (27-28 March) an Occultation Workshop (TTSO 10) will be held.

Other activities will be a workshop on image processing, guest speaker Fred Watson at the conference dinner, and a tour of historic Sydney Observatory.

Registration packages will range from half day to the full four days. When registrations open sometime in December, go to http://www.nacaa.org.au/

-- Copied from the NACCA website by Alan Baldwin.

8. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

9. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer

The RASNZ Lecture Trust is pleased to announce that the 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecturer will be Dr Michael Person. Dr Person is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. His interests include observational astronomy, focusing on the techniques needed to observe stellar occultations, eclipses, and transits; and identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of solar system bodies. Dr Person has a special interest in distant solar system bodies, specifically Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects and so the lectures will focus on Pluto and the recent New Horizons mission. The lecture tour will take place during July-August 2016.

--- Gary Sparks, Secretary, RASNZ Lecture Trust.

10. UTC to retain "leap second"

New reference time scale to be considered by World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023.

The ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15), at its meeting in Geneva in November, decided that further studies are required on the impact and application of a future reference time-scale, including the modification of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and suppressing the so-called "leap second".

Leap seconds are added periodically to adjust to irregularities in the earth´s rotation in relation to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the current reference for measuring time, in order to remain close to mean solar time (UT1). A leap second was added most recently on 30 June 2015 at 23:59:60 UTC. The proposal to suppress the leap second would have made continuous reference time-scale available for all modern electronic navigation and computerized systems to operate while eliminating the need for specialized ad hoc time systems.

The decision by WRC-15 calls for further studies regarding current and potential future reference time-scales, including their impact and applications. A report will be considered by the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2023. Until then, UTC shall continue to be applied as described in Recommendation ITU?R TF.460?6 and as maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM).

WRC-15 also calls for reinforcing the links between ITU and the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM). ITU would continue to be responsible for the dissemination of time signals via radiocommunication and BIPM for establishing and maintaining the second of the International System of Units (SI) and its dissemination through the reference time scale.

Studies will be coordinated by ITU along with international organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM), the International Committee for Weights and Measures (CIPM), the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service (IERS), the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG), the International Union of Radio Science (URSI), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), and the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

"Modern society is increasingly dependent on accurate timekeeping," said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. "ITU is responsible for disseminating time signals by both wired communications and by different radiocommunication services, both space and terrestrial, which are critical for all areas of human activity."

"The worldwide coordination of time signals is critical for the functioning and reliability of systems that depend on time," said François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. "ITU will continue to work with international organizations, industry and user groups towards providing coherent advice on current and potential future reference time-scales."

-- Slightly abridged from the ITU's website note forwarded by Howard Barnes.

11. Will Phobos Create a Ring Around Mars?

Dynamicists predict that the larger of Mars's two moons will shatter to create a ring, slam into the planet - or both - in 20 to 40 million years.

The Red Planet's two moons, discovered by Asaph Hall in 1877, are small and irregularly shaped. Deimos circles every 30.3 hours from an orbit that averages 20,100 km high. Larger Phobos, only 27 km long, orbits just 5,980 km above the Martian surface. In fact, Phobos hovers closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. That's not a good thing.

Because it whips around in just 7.7 hours, compared to the 24.7 hours that Mars takes to rotate, Phobos is doomed. Thanks to a teensy tidal interaction that its gravity creates in the Martian interior, this moon is slowly losing orbital energy and moving ever-so-slowly closer to the planet. Dynamicists predict that it should drop into the Martian atmosphere in perhaps 20 to 40 million years.

Arguably, Phobos should have performed its death dive long ago. But its small size minimizes the tidal torquing inside Mars, and it likely started out just inside the altitude (20,500 km) that would have synched its orbital period with the planet's spin rate. So it's taken 4½ billion years for Phobos to migrate this far inward.

As it gets closer to Mars, the tidal forces that are inexorably building within Phobos will start to tear it apart - and maybe they already are. Earlier this month, at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, Terry Hurford (NASA Goddard) presented a new analysis of the numerous grooves found in the surface of Phobos. When the Viking orbiters first imaged these in 1976, geologists assumed they were fractures radiating from Stickney, a 10- km-wide pit that takes up a sixth of the moon's circumference. But, as Hurford and his collaborators point out, the fractures are actually mostly symmetric to the point on Phobos directly facing toward Mars. The implication is that The End has already begun. "We think that Phobos has already started to fail," Hurford says, as the moon is gradually distorted into an oblong shape. "And the first sign of this failure is the production of these grooves."

Right now the tidal forces exerted by Mars are too weak to be cracking Phobos open if its interior is solid throughout, which is how planetary scientists once envisioned this fast-moving moon. But the thinking these days is that Phobos is a big pile of rubble masked by a veneer of fine dust perhaps 100 meters thick. What's the evidence for that? The Stickney impact would have shattered a solid object, so the interior must have been at least partly fragmented when it endured that big whack. Also, the spectrum of Phobos is a dead ringer for that of the Tagish Lake meteorite, a porous carbonaceous chondrite that fell onto a frozen lake in 2000.

To Hurford and his team, all this suggests that the many grooves are akin to stretch marks created as the interior shifts around and fractures. Curiously, the pattern of grooves on the moon's northern half provides a remarkable fit to the stress calculations, yet the southern half has grooves oriented much more randomly. Some grooves appear fresher than others, implying that the tidal deconstruction of Phobos is going on now.

Yet To Come: A Ring Around Mars? The timetable for Phobos' demise depends critically on how much of a tide its gravity is creating inside Mars, and estimates for that vary. If the Martian interior is relatively "squishy," yielding stronger tides, then Phobos has at most 25 million years before its ultimate plunge. A stiffer Mars, which some researchers support, might give the moon another 70 million years.

Regardless, bad things will happen to Phobos once its orbit drops too close to the Martian surface. Exactly what will take place and when depends on the moon's interior structure, and researchers Benjamin A. Black and Tushar Mittal (University of California, Berkeley) examine the possible outcomes in the November 21st issue of Nature Geoscience. They conclude that Phobos won't simply plunge intact into Mars. Instead, it's more likely that the moon's dusty, outer layer will stripped away first, creating a temporary ring around Mars very quickly - in just a week or so.

Once Phobos comes close enough to Mars, the planet's gravity will create tides in the moon's interior strong enough to tear it apart. One possible outcome is that the moon's outer layers will be drawn away first, rapidly creating a ring around Mars that could last for tens of millions of years.

Depending on how much mass it sucks away from the moon, the ring might initially rival Saturn's in its particle density - but Saturn's will likely still appear brighter because its ring consists of icy bits whereas particles in a Phobos-derived ring would be nearly black. In any case, Black and Mittal calculate that, once formed, the ring could linger for anywhere from 1 to 100 million years.

Meanwhile, the solid chunks of Phobos will meet a quicker end. They'll strike the surface, creating a series of oblique craters around the planet's equator. If big pieces break apart while plunging through the atmosphere, they could strafe the surface and create chains of craters sorted in size by the fragments' masses. Then that beautiful but ephemeral ring will be all that remains of Phobos, and Deimos (out of danger thanks to its higher orbit) will become Mars' lone moon.

-- Copied from Kelly Beatty's article on Sky and Telescope's webpage, 27 November 2015. See the original with pictures and diagrams at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/will-phobos-create-a-ring-112720155/ See also the NASA Goddard press release at www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/phobos-is-falling-apart Thanks to Karen Pollard for passing along this link.

12. LISA Pathfinder Launched

The European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder was launched on December 3. It is a forerunner to the full-fledged Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (eLISA) project and will test the technologies key to conducting long-baseline laser interferometry in space.

Coming almost exactly 100 years after Einstein proposed his theory of general relativity, this mission will prove vital in the hunt for one of the theory´s more bizarre predictions: gravitational waves. The equations of general relativity say that accelerating massive objects, such as exploding stars or a pair of whirling black holes, ought to send ripples through spacetime. There´s solid indirect evidence that gravitational waves exist, but direct detection has eluded scientists so far.

LISA Pathfinder paves the way for eLISA, the Evolved Laser Interferometer Space Antenna, which will take that hunt into space. Slated for launch in 2034, eLISA will use three free-flying spacecraft to create a triangular baseline a million kilometres on a side - a feat impossible on Earth. Lasers will measure the position of two masses suspended at the end of each arm, and then researchers will analyse the data to look for the very slight jiggling induced by gravitational waves passing by. The unique setup and location will give eLISA an unprecedented sensitivity.

The setup poses several engineering challenges. To reduce the risk, LISA Pathfinder serves as a testbed for these new technologies, basically mimicking one arm of the future eLISA triplet.

The spacecraft will circle around a stable Lagrangian point (L1) 1.5 million km sunward of Earth. The mission is designed to last only 180 days, during which LISA Pathfinder will perform a miniaturized test of so-called "precision metrology," the fine measurements vital to detecting gravitational waves. The spacecraft carries two 46-mm-wide gold-platinum masses suspended in separate vacuum compartments and separated by 38 cm (scaled down from eLISA´s eventual 1,000,000-km-long baseline). Researchers aim to detect relative motion between the two masses with an accuracy down to 10 picometres, or 10 times a million- millionth of a metre.

In addition, LISA Pathfinder will test propulsion, laser ranging, and gravitational sensors built for the full-up eLISA mission. The mission will also demonstrate the first use of a micro-newton electric propulsion system.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

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. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

16. Report Cards for Famous Mathematicians

Pierre de Fermat. B+. Pierre is an insightful problem-solver, but he must do a better job of showing his work. He has a bad habit of skipping crucial steps.

Albert Einstein. D. Though a promising student, Albert has not internalized the key concepts of Newtonian mechanics. Gravity is a force, Albert! Please learn the basics.

Richard Feynman. C. Despite his strong potential, Richard spends most lessons playing the fool. Focus, Richard! You simply cannot be a serious thinker and a mischief-maker!

Alan Turing. C-. Instead of solving problems by hand, Alan insists on using his calculator for every question. He will never make progress if he lets a machine do his thinking for him!

Andrew Wiles. B-. After an excellent first quarter, Andrew wasted the entire second quarter on a single challenge problem, refusing to do other work despite making no progress. Please invest your time more wisely, Andrew!

Euclid. B. Euclid is very careful and methodical. Unfortunately, his caution sometimes hardens into stubbornness. For example, he insists on proving every single statement before accepting its truth. Try to work more efficiently, Euclid!

Carl Gauss. A-. Carl is a very clever young man! However, he sometimes employs shortcuts of his own devising rather than solving problems by the proper methods. This is an area for him to improve next semester.

Gottfried Leibniz. Incomplete. I am sorry to report that Gottfried turned in a final project suspiciously similar to another student's. Both Gottfried and Isaac have accused the other of plagiarism. I am withholding a final grade until this serious matter is resolved.

---- See the original at http://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2015/12/02/report-cards-for-famous-mathematicians/Thanks to Ned Gilmore for passing along the link.

17. Quotes

"Eternity's a terrible thought. I mean, where's it all going to end?" -- Tom Stoppard.

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement." -- Rita Mae Brown.

"When you're through changing, you're through." -- Garry Shandling.

"Misquotation is, in fact, the pride and privilege of the learned. A widely-read man never quotes accurately, for the rather obvious reason that he has read too widely." -- Hesketh Pearson.

Seasons greetings to all our readers. Ed.

Newsletter editor:

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

In general speakers will only be able to present 1 oral presentation at conference unless invited to present additional talks. You may submit more than 1 presentation for consideration (please indicate any preferences in this case) and poster papers are always welcome.

As a speaker we ask that you take note of the following:

  1. Provide a professional quality presentation that is on the agreed upon topic
  2. Keep to the allocated speaking time of 20 (or sometimes 30) minutes, which includes 3-5 minutes for questions.
  3. Invited or feature speakers are allocated 40-45 minutes, including time for questions
  4. Talks must be in either PowerPoint (ppt or pptx), or Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format. No other formats will be accepted. * As a general guide a maximum of 1 slide or page for each minute allocated is usually appropriate.
  5. Please ensure that your slides or pages are easily readable from a distance. In general, nothing below 18pt type is going to be readable by anyone not in the first few rows - 24pt and up is usually safe. If you can't easily read your slide 3m from a PC screen, enlarge your text. Also, beware of light colours on light, or white backgrounds, such as yellow, which are nearly invisible on a screen at a distance.
  6. Yoy must bring your talk on either a USB memory stick or CD/DVD and provide it to the conference organisers prior to the start of conference. Ensure you bring a spare copy on different media to guard against failure of your primary copy.
  7. Speakers will be asked to load their talks onto the 'central' laptop prior to the commencement of conference. The use of speaker's personal laptops will not be permitted.
  8. Speakers are responsible for ensuring that their talks display properly. Please ensure (for example) that embedded movies run correctly on the conference laptop prior to your talk. (Please try your talk on another PC to make sure it will run stand alone eg. without any extras that may only be installed on your computer.*)
  9. Slide projectors, overhead projectors and white boards will not be available to speakers.
  10. Speakers must take note of any signal by the session chair to finish one's talk if the allocated time is going to be exceeded. Speakers must stop if indicated to by the session chair.

Please note that there have been requests that technical presentations include a brief introduction for those who may be unfamiliar with the topic.

* A good thing to check is whether your movie plays in VLC player (a free, open source, cross platform video player).

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter November 2015

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

Email Newsletter Number 179

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. Ian Griffin Awarded Science Communication Prize
2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5
3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10
4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8
5. The Solar System in December
6. NACAA Easter 2016
7. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
8. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer
9. Giant Solar Storms Confirmed in Ice Cores
10. More Pluto Results from New Horizons
12. Giant Online Image of Milky Way
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Headlines

1. Ian Griffin Awarded Science Communication Prize

The Prime Minister´s 2015 Science Media Communication Prize has been presented to Dr Ian Griffin, Director of the Otago Museum and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Otago´s Department of Physics. Under Dr Griffin´s leadership, science communication has become a key focus for the Museum which is investing $3.5 million in the next two years to create a world-class science engagement facility. Outside of work, Dr Griffin is a self-described evangelist for astronomy and the beauty of the night sky.

The 2015 Prime Minister´s Science Prizes were presented to winners on Wednesday 11 November at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

To find out more about the Prime Minister´s Science Prizes visit: www.pmscienceprizes.org.nz

-- From Scoop media.

2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5

The Inter Society Astronomical Advancement Committee have rescheduled the dates for the Central Star Party from the 7-11 Jan 2016 to Friday 1st - Tuesday 5th (am) January 2016. The official opening will be Friday 1st January at 7:00pm. With New Year's Day being a holiday, hopefully people can get to Tuki Tuki Camp, Hawkes Bay during the day. For more details see http://www.censtar.party/-- John Drummond.

For those into long-term planning John advises that the 2017 and 2018 Central Star Parties will be: On Thurs 19 - Mon 23rd January 2017 (we leave the morning of Tues 24th January 2017). The last quarter moon is Fri 20th. On Thurs 18th - Tues 23rd (am) January 2018. New Moon is Wed 17th January 2018.

3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10

Stardate 2016 will be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa. This is the same venue where Stardate was held last year. The camp site will again be in the field behind the Visitors´ Centre. The main part of the programme will be based around the 8th, 9th and 10th of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier by arrangement.

The facilities are still basic but we hope to add to these with time. Camping is the order of the day. Attendees will be able to use the toilets in the AV centre and basic showers will be erected. We do not have bunk rooms, however full details of local accommodation are available here: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

Stonehenge Aotearoa will be in full operation during the period from 10 am to 4 pm. A free guided tour will be arranged for attendees during Stardate and some observing may take place from the henge after opening hours (depending on bookings).

Registration costs will be very similar to or the same as last year: $23 for adults; children (pre-teens) accompanied by parents free (these costs have yet to be confirmed by the Phoenix Council). We will arrange for a mobile caterer to visit the site, so that at least one meal during Stardate can be purchased on site.

This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2016 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line.

We want to confirm programme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2016, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can. Hopefully, we can have a preliminary programme in the November newsletter.

-- Kay Leather.

4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

Stardate SI will be held at the hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February 5th and Monday February 8th, 2016. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large. For details see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/Link to the Facebook event for Stardate SI. If you are attending, then use this link to choose which DVDs you'd like to watch in the (we hope) unlikely event of cloudy weather

We look forward to seeing you there.

-- Euan Mason

5. The Solar System in December

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. The southern summer solstice occurs on December 22 at 5.48 pm NZDT (04:48 UT)

sunrise, sunset and twilight times in december

                         December  1  NZDT             December 31  NZDT
              morning        evening         morning       evening
      SUN:  rise:  5.40am,  set: 8.39pm    rise: 5.47am,  set: 8.59pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.10am, ends: 9.10pm  starts: 5.16am, ends: 9.31pm
 Nautical: starts: 4.28am, ends: 9.51pm  starts: 4.33am, ends:10.14pm 
 Astro:    starts: 3.40am, ends:10.40pm  starts: 3.42am, ends:11.05pm

December PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  December  3 at  8.40 pm (07:40 UT)
  New moon:      December 11 at 11.29 pm (10:29 UT)
  First quarter: December 19 at  4.14 am (Dec 18, 15:14 UT) 
  Full moon:     December 26 at 12.12 am (Dec 25, 11:12 UT)

THE PLANETS in December Only Mercury will be an evening object during December and it will be difficult to see. The remaining naked eye planets will be spread across the morning sky. Saturn too close to the Sun for observation early in the month, all 4 spread widely across the easterly morning sky at the end of December.

MERCURY, an evening object, will set some 40 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, only 10 minutes after the end of civil twilight. As a result it will be too low to observed despite a -0.8 magnitude The planet moves rather further from the Sun during December until it reaches its greatest elongation 20° east of the Sun on the 29th. Even then it will set only 75 minutes after the Sun at the end of Nautical twilight. 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be only 4.5° above a level horizon towards the west-north-west, so still not an easy object despite its -0.4 magnitude.

VENUS, MARS, JUPITER and SATURN in the morning sky during December.

Saturn was at conjunction on the last day of November, so will be too close to the Sun to see during the early part of December.

On the 1st as seen at 5am, the other three planets will be spread out across the dawn sky. Most obvious will be Venus, due east and just on 13° up. Mars, magnitude 1.5, will be 14° away to its upper left with an altitude 20°. Jupiter will be 20° beyond Mars and nearly 27° up. Mars and Venus will be in Virgo with the latter 4° below Spica. Jupiter will be in Leo.

During December all three planets will be moving to the east through the stars, Venus most rapidly and Jupiter the slowest. As a result they will spread further apart. Venus will be in Libra by the 12th while Mars will pass Spica on the 24th some 3.5° below the star. Jupiter will remain in Leo but be close to the constellation´s boundary with Virgo by the end of the month. Saturn, in Ophiuchus, will move further into the morning sky to become visible by the end of December.

On the morning of the 31st the 4 planets, from Saturn, through Venus and Mars to Jupiter will be spread across some 77° of sky. Added to that, the Moon, 74% lit, will be 13° beyond Jupiter making a spread of a full 90° in all. At 5am with the Sun just over 8° below the horizon (at Wellington), Venus will be 15.5° up and in a direction 10° south of east. Saturn at magnitude 0.5, will be some 9° up just over 10° to the lower right of Venus. Mars will be on the opposite side of Venus 33° away and 33° above the horizon. Jupiter will be another 35° beyond Mars and 41° above the horizon. Finally the moon will be another 13° beyond Jupiter but at the same altitude.

Earlier in the month, the moon passes the planets. On the morning of December 5 the moon, 37% lit, will be 5.5° from Jupiter, 2 mornings later the moon now 20% lit will be 7° from Mars and the next morning, the 8th, just over 1° from Venus.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during December at magnitude 5.7. It is an evening object. By the end of December it will be setting about 1.30 am.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout December, by the end of December it will set at midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.9 throughout the month.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius throughout December at magnitude 14.4. At the end of the month it sets a few minutes after the Sun.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is in Capricornus during December with a magnitude 9.3. It is about 20° from Neptune and like the planet will set close to midnight at the end of December.

(4) Vesta is in Cetus during December although it crosses a corner of Pisces mid month. Its magnitude fades from 7.5 to 8.0 during December. Vesta will be about 15° from Uranus, and will set at a similar time to the planet.

(15) Eunomia starts December in Pegasus but moves into Pisces on the 23rd. Its magnitude fades from 8.9 to 9.4 during December. It is an evening object, by the end of December it will set just after midnight.

(27) Euterpe is in Gemini, it starts December at magnitude 9.4, its brightness peaks at magnitude 8.4 when at opposition on December 25 and drops back to 8.9 by December 31. Euterpe is close to two red stars during the month. On December 14, with a magnitude 8.9, it will be half a degree below mu Gem, mag 2.9. Eight nights later Euterpe, at 8.6, will be 43 arc minutes below eta Gem, mag 3.3. In both instances it will be the brightest object immediately below the star.

-- Brian Loader

6. NACAA Easter 2016

At the Australian astronomy conference (National Australian Convention 
of Amateur Astronomers) hosted by the Sutherland Astronomical Society 
astronomers from Australia and NZ will come together to share their 
knowledge on a range of topics such as variable stars, spectroscopy, 
occultations, comets, pro-am collaboration, citizen science and more. 
The convention will be held 25 to 28 March 2016 at Sydney University. 
On the Friday (25 March) the Variable Stars South Symposium 4 will be 
held and papers are currently being prepared. On the afternoon of 
Sunday and Monday (27-28 March) an Occultation Workshop (TTSO 10) will 
be held.

Other activities will be a workshop on image processing, guest speaker Fred Watson at the conference dinner, and a tour of historic Sydney Observatory.

Registration packages will range from half day to the full four days. When registrations open sometime in December, go to http://www.nacaa.org.au/-- Copied from the NACCA website by Alan Baldwin.

7. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

8. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer

The RASNZ Lecture Trust is pleased to announce that the 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecturer will be Dr Michael Person. Dr Person is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. His interests include observational astronomy, focusing on the techniques needed to observe stellar occultations, eclipses, and transits; and identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of solar system bodies. Dr Person has a special interest in distant solar system bodies, specifically Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects and so the lectures will focus on Pluto and the recent New Horizons mission. The lecture tour will take place during July-August 2016.

-- Gary Sparks, Secretary, RASNZ Lecture Trust.

9. Giant Solar Storms Confirmed in Ice Cores

An international team of researchers of have been looking for traces of solar storms in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. Everywhere on Earth there are traces of cosmic rays from the galaxy and the Sun, such as low levels of radioactive carbon.

A few years ago researchers found traces of a rapid increase of radioactive carbon in tree rings from the periods AD 774/775 and AD 993/994. The cause for these increases was, however, debated.

This study aimed to work systematically to find the cause for these events. It found corresponding increases for exactly the same periods in ice cores. With these new results it is possible to rule out all other suggested explanations, and thereby confirm extreme solar storms as the cause of the mysterious radiocarbon increases.

The study also provides the first reliable assessment of the particle fluxes connected to these events. This is very important for the future planning of reliable electronic systems. These solar storms by far exceeded any known events observed by instrumental measurements on Earth. The findings should lead to a reassessment of the risks associated with solar storms.

For the complete paper see http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/151026/ncomms9611/full/ncomms9611.html

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

10. More Pluto Results from New Horizons

Four months after New Horizons' historic flyby, mission scientists are amazed by unexpected discoveries - and by how some preconceptions about Pluto were flat-out wrong.

Results from New Horizons' July 14th flyby of Pluto and its moons continue to trickle back to Earth. About 80% of the data remains unseen. Analyses of the data so far received were presented at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences annual meeting, held in early November at National Harbor, Maryland. The following is abridged from a report by Kelly Beatty posted on Sky & Telescope's website on November 10.

Although several dozen presentations offered glimpses of all the mission results, the spotlight shone most brightly on Pluto's surface, its atmosphere, and its quartet of small moons. (Results about Charon, an amazing little world in its own right, will likely take centre stage next month at a meeting of American Geophysical Union.)

The spacecraft's images have already shown that Pluto has an unexpectedly dynamic geology, with towering ice mountains, fresh plains of nitrogen ice that have slowly oozed like glaciers, and a deeply fractured crust. Now you can add "giant ice volcanoes" to that list.

These are two broad, tall mountains that are at least 150 km across and topped with depressions at their summits. They're dead ringers for the kind of broad shield volcanoes found on Earth (think Mauna Kea) and other inner planets (Olympus Mons) - and very unlike anything ever seen on dozens of icy moons in the outer solar system.

The two mounds aren't immediately obvious in any given image, but they're obvious in the 3-D topographic maps created by viewing the surface from multiple angles. The taller one, informally named Piccard Mons, is 5 km high, and Wright Mons is 3 km high. The "lava" in this case would have been slushy mixtures of water and other icy compounds that became liquefied deep down and gushed out onto the surface. If these really are cryo-volcanoes, their summit depressions mark areas of collapse once the source feeding them shut down. Strange, hummocky textures on their flanks might represent individual flows.

Add "Piccard" and "Wright" to the growing evidence that Pluto's interior remained warm - and likely still is warm - for more than 4 billion years. Ordinarily, objects of this size should have frozen solid long ago. Interior heat could have been stoked by tidal interactions with another body, as occurs on Io. But Pluto and its big moon Charon are locked in a spin-orbit coupling that rules out tidal energy. The only other plausible heat source would be the long-term decay of radioactive isotopes in Pluto's rocky core.

Pluto's Surprising Atmosphere Ever since the 1988 discovery that Pluto has a thin atmosphere, researchers have pondered how it's managed to stick around. The surface is so cold - especially when Pluto is farthest from the Sun in its strongly elliptical orbit - that what little gas exists should freeze and fall to the icy surface. Calculations also show that ultraviolet part of sunlight, though weak, should be energizing atoms of gas to escape velocity.

New Horizons's pass behind Pluto, gave two sets of occultations: one of the sun and one of the Earth. These yielded profiles of Pluto's atmosphere's density and temperature with altitude. They showed that the exobase (essentially the level at which atoms can fly away freely into space) is about 2½ times Pluto's radius. So the atmosphere is far colder and more compact than expected.

This means the atmospheric loss must be thousands of times less rapid than predicted. Early assumptions suggested a rate rapid enough to lose the equivalent of a 1 km thick layer of surface ice over 4½ billion years. The New Horizons measures show its more like 15 cms. Moreover, the atmosphere's structure is defying expectations as well. The New Horizons team had expected to find a well-defined troposphere just above the surface, mimicking the 8-km-high layer found around Neptune's moon Triton (long thought to be a geologic sibling of Pluto). But the occultations showed a barely-there troposphere in some spots and none at all in others.

Cratering Tells a Story The spacecraft's good views of the daylit side of Pluto reveal more than 1,000 craters in the icy surface, but they're not evenly distributed. Pluto's northern and mid-latitudes, along with the enigmatic dark region that's been dubbed Cthulhu, appear to be oldest - surfaces largely unchanged for perhaps 4 billion years.

By contrast, the eastern half of the big, heart-shaped plain known as Tombaugh Regio might be just 1 billion years old. And billiard-ball- smooth Sputnik Planum, completely craterless, can't be any older than about 10 million years - and could be much younger.

Crater counters are also using the New Horizons images to learn about the bodies in the Kuiper Belt that created all those icy divots. Most of the impactors were no bigger than a few km across, but that's smaller than ground-based telescopes can detect. Observers using the Hubble Space Telescope have detected two ultra-brief dimmings of background stars that they attribute to Kuiper Belt objects only about 1 km across. Those HST finds imply that the Kuiper Belt teems with abundant small planetesimals - the building blocks from which larger bodies assembled.

But the cratered faces of Pluto and Charon don't bear out that scenario. Instead the distribution of sizes in the Kuiper Belt must be more akin to what's found in the asteroid belt. In that case, the Kuiper Belt's basic building blocks were tens of km in size. This is the likely diameter of the spacecraft's next target - icy asteroid 2014 MU69. So if New Horizons gets a green light from NASA managers to reconnoitre that body, planetary scientists might get a glimpse of a truly primordial object when it flies past in early 2019.

Chaotically Whirling Moons Dynamicists assume that Pluto's five moons - beefy Charon and much smaller Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx - all resulted from a titanic impact on Pluto, early in solar system history, that yanked its spin axis over to one side and created a ring of debris in its reoriented equatorial plane. July's flyby didn't provide lots of opportunities to view Pluto's four small moons closely, but images taken at long-range provided enough coverage to establish their sizes, refine their orbits, and clock their rotation rates.

Researchers suspect that at least two of Pluto's small moons - and maybe all four of them - resulted from mergers of smaller bodies. The moons' elongated shapes argue that they're clumps of smaller objects that merged at low speeds. Possibly Pluto once had hundreds of small moons that eventually got swept up into Charon and its four smaller siblings. (That said, such a winnowing process should have driven many bodies into Pluto itself, and there's no evidence for enhanced cratering around Pluto's midsection.)

Typically small moons end up, thanks to strong tidal interactions, locked in spin rates that match their orbital periods. That's the norm in the satellite systems of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But not so with Pluto's small moons! All four appear to be spinning chaotically: Styx in 3.239 days, Nix in 1.829 days, Kerberos in 5.33 days, and Hydra in just 10.31 hours. All of these rates are much faster than the moons' orbital periods - in fact, Hydra spins around 89 times per 38-day-long orbit. Moreover Nix is a retrograde rotator (its spin axis is tipped 132°) and that the spin axes of other three are tipped over sideways.

See Kelly Beatty's full article with images at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/pluto-stuns-scientists-111020155/?et_mid=798394&rid=246399573

11. The Curious Case of KIC 8462852

----------

The Kepler spacecraft recorded a bunch of irregular dimmings around one of its target stars, designated KIC 8462852. No natural phenomenon explains the dips well. Planets cause periodic dimming they cause when passing in front of their host stars. The drop in starlight is usually brief (hours long) and precisely repetitive.

But the light dips seen in a target star designated KIC 8462852 don't fit that phenomenon at all. Early in the mission, Planet Hunters volunteers spotted a dip of just 0.5% that lasted for an incredible 4 days. Over time, the behaviour got more and more bizarre. The recorded dips were ragged and irregular, sometimes shallow but sometimes blocking up to 20% of the star's light - and their timing was unpredictable.

So what exactly is going on around KIC 8462852? A team of researchers led by Tabetha Boyajian (Yale University) delves deeply into that mystery in an analysis published October 17th in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

First, the researchers ruled out variability of the star itself. It is 12th-magnitude and situated 1,480 light-years away in east-central Cygnus. There's no hint of giant starspots, pulsations, or other quirks. KIC 8462852 seems to be a perfectly normal F star, though it spins rapidly every 21.1 hours. They found a much fainter M-dwarf star just 2 arcseconds away, revealed by infrared observations with the UK Infra-Red Telescope and Keck II telescopes. But if that's really a companion, then the two stars are generously separated by nearly 900 astronomical units (A.U.) or 130 billion km.

Whatever is creating such deep dips in the star's light must be gigantic, far larger than Kepler's typical exoplanet finds. Boyajian and her colleagues assessed several possible explanations, but most are fatally flawed. For example, observers looked for excess infrared radiation coming from KIC 8462852, a tell-tale sign that the star is surrounded by lots of dust, but didn't find any. So the irregular dips can't be due to enormous clouds of opaque dust passing across the star's disk, clumps of debris from collisions in a putative asteroid belt.

"One can think of lots of ways stars can behave oddly like this, but almost all of them invoke young stars," explains Jason Wright, an exoplanet specialist at Penn State University. "This star is moving too fast to have formed recently, and doesn´t show any infrared signs of a big disk that you would associate with the material that could cause those dips."

One idea that fares reasonably well involves the breakup of one or more comets passing within 1 A.U. of the star. It's at least plausible - after all, comets break up in our solar system all the time when they venture too near the Sun (or near a planet, as happened when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 came too close to Jupiter in July 1994).

A large, random assortment of cometary debris spread out along a single orbit around KIC 8462852 could explain the irregular dips seen by Kepler - but it's an imperfect solution, as the recorded light curves have some quirky shape characteristics that can't easily be matched by the shattered-comet model.

After the putative breakup these fragments would disperse quickly, so why was Kepler lucky enough to be watching precisely when this solitary comet just happened to come undone? The researchers sidestep this timing dilemma by postulating that that a family of comets are buzzing close to the star, perhaps perturbed inward by gravitational nudges from the distant companion.

There is one more hypothesis, not mentioned in the paper, that the team is contemplating: a partially completed "Dyson sphere." For those not up on your science fiction, that's a hypothetical mega-structure constructed by an advanced alien civilization around a star to capture all that radiant energy.

Far-fetched, yes, but as reported by The Atlantic's Ross Anderson, Boyajian has now teamed up with Wright and SETI researcher Andrew Siemion (University of California, Berkeley). They hope to use a sensitive radio dish to eavesdrop on any transmissions that might be leaking out from the aliens' construction site.

The radio search, though admittedly a long shot, would be simple and straightforward. Less sexy, but just as telling, would be to continue to monitor KIC 8462852 for more dips (perhaps they're periodic after all?) or for infrared energy coming from all the dust that would have been released during a comet's breakup. The American Association of Variable Star Observers has issued an alert requesting more observations of this star.

See Kelley Beatty's full article with graphs and pictures at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/curious-case-of-kic-8462852-102020155/?et_mid=793431&rid=246399573#sthash.Q4q9O8qg.dpuf

-- Abridged from the above article by Kelly Beatty of Sky & Telescope.

12. Giant Online Image of Milky Way

Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have compiled the largest astronomical image to date. The picture of the Milky Way contains 46 billion pixels. In order to view it, The RUB researchers have provided an online tool at http://gds.astro.rub.de.

The image contains data gathered over five years with telescopes at Bochum´s university observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. More than 50,000 new variable objects have been discovered by so far. The observed region is subdivided onto 268 sections. Each section is imaged at intervals of several days. By comparing the images, variable objects are identified.

To make the comprehensive image the team assembled the individual images of the 268 sections. Each section comprised images taken in several colours. This created a 194 Gigabyte file.

Using the online tool, any interested person can view the complete ribbon of the Milky Way at a glance, or zoom in and inspect specific areas. An input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects. If the user types in "Eta Carinae," for example, the tool moves to the respective star; the search term "M8" leads to the Lagoon Nebula.

For the full text & images see: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2015/pm00143.html.en

-- From a Ruhr-Universität Bochum press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

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. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

16. Headlines

  • Town to Drop School Bus When Overpass Is Ready
  • Cause of Aids Found - Scientists
  • American Ships Head to Libya
  • Fund Set Up For Beating Victim's Kin
  • Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
  • Drunk Drivers Paid $1000 in 1984
  • Hitler, Nazi Papers Found In Attic
  • 20 Year Friendship Ends at Altar
  • Woman on Drugs Charges
  • Priests Agree Sex Abuse Rules
  • Asians Working Hard to Overcome Workaholic Stereotype
  • Homicide Victims Rarely Talk to Police
  • Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After Age 25
  • "We hate math" say 4 in 10 - a Majority of Americans
  • 4 Arrested In Math Lab Bust
  • Maori Quartet Brings Past Flooding Back
  • Parents Keep Kids Home to Protest School Closure
  • Barbershop Singers Bring Joy to School for Deaf
  • Rock's Papers Scissor Union
  • Pig in Australia Steals 18 Beers from Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow
  • Anxiety May Be Inherited From Parents
  • China May Be Using Sea to Hide Its Submarines

Newsletter editor:

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

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter November 2015 enews201511 2015-11-21 12:00:00

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter October 2015

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

Email Newsletter Number 178

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. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15
2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5
3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10
4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8
5. The Solar System in November
6. Variable Stars South 4th Symposium - March 24
7. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer
8. Ceres Bright Spots Seen in More Detail
9. Enceladus's Global Ocean
10. Perplexing Images of Pluto
11. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy's Evolution
12. Galaxy Cluster with Star-Burst Core
13. Massey University Introductory Astronomy Course
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. Quote

1. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is hosting its third annual astrophotography weekend. This will be held at the usual venue: Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, on the weekend of 13th-15th November 2015.

The weekend is open to everyone interested in astrophotography from beginners to advanced. Come along and share your knowledge, tips and experiences. It is a great venue for undertaking practical photography so feel free to bring as much imaging equipment as you like. If you have anything to sell this is a perfect opportunity. In addition to a range of interesting talks there will also be practical workshops lead by experts on processing software including Maxim DL, Pixinsight, Registax, ImagesPlus, and PT GUI PRO. Talks throughout the day. Places are limited and are running out so please book ASAP by going to the web address: www.horoastronomy.org.nz or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Stephen Chadwick

2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5

The Inter Society Astronomical Advancement Committee have rescheduled the dates for the Central Star Party from the 7-11 Jan 2016 to Friday 1st - Tuesday 5th (am) January 2016. The official opening will be Friday 1st January at 7:00pm. With New Year's Day being a holiday, hopefully people can get to Tuki Tuki Camp, Hawkes Bay during the day. For more details see http://www.censtar.party/-- John Drummond.

For those into long-term planning John advises that the 2017 and 2018 Central Star Parties will be: On Thurs 19 - Mon 23rd January 2017 (we leave the morning of Tues 24th January 2017). The last quarter moon is Fri 20th. On Thurs 18th - Tues 23rd (am) January 2018. New Moon is Wed 17th January 2018.

3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10

Stardate 2016 will be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa. This is the same venue where Stardate was held last year. The camp site will again be in the field behind the Visitors´ Centre. The main part of the programme will be based around the 8th, 9th and 10th of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier by arrangement.

The facilities are still basic but we hope to add to these with time. Camping is the order of the day. Attendees will be able to use the toilets in the AV centre and basic showers will be erected. We do not have bunk rooms, however full details of local accommodation are available here: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

Stonehenge Aotearoa will be in full operation during the period from 10 am to 4 pm. A free guided tour will be arranged for attendees during Stardate and some observing may take place from the henge after opening hours (depending on bookings).

Registration costs will be very similar to or the same as last year: $23 for adults; children (pre-teens) accompanied by parents free (these costs have yet to be confirmed by the Phoenix Council). We will arrange for a mobile caterer to visit the site, so that at least one meal during Stardate can be purchased on site.

This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2016 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line.

We want to confirm programme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2016, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can. Hopefully, we can have a preliminary programme in the November newsletter.

-- Kay Leather.

4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

Stardate SI will be held at the hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February 5th and Monday February 8th, 2016. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large. For details see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/Link to the Facebook event for Stardate SI. If you are attending, then use this link to choose which DVDs you'd like to watch in the (we hope) unlikely event of cloudy weather

We look forward to seeing you there.

-- Euan Mason

5. The Solar System in November

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in november

                         November  1  NZDT             November 30  NZDT
               morning       evening          morning      evening
      SUN:  rise:  6.06am,  set: 8.03pm    rise: 5.40am,  set: 8.38pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.39am, ends: 8.31pm  starts: 5.10am, ends: 9.09pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.03am, ends: 9.07pm  starts: 4.29am, ends: 9.50pm 
 Astro:    starts: 4.24am, ends: 9.46pm  starts: 3.41am, ends:10.38pm

November PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  November  4 at  1.24 am (Nov  3, 12:24 UT)
  New moon:      November 12 at  6.47 am (Nov 11, 17:47 UT)
  First quarter: November 19 at  7.27 pm (06:27 UT) 
  Full moon:     November 26 at 11.44 am (Nov 25, 22:44 UT)

The planets in november

Saturn will be the only naked eye evening planet during October, and that only for the first part of the month. There is more interest in the morning with Venus, Mars and Jupiter forming a loose cluster in the dawn sky. Mercury is not likely to be visible.

MERCURY is at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on the night November 17/18 NZ time. The planet starts November as a nominal morning object but rises only 18 minutes before the Sun. After conjunction the planet becomes an evening object. By November 30 it will set 40 minutes later than the Sun, but is not likely to be visible in the evening twilight.

At this conjunction, Mercury passes behind the Sun as "seen" from the Earth. The planet moves behind the Sun at about 9.25 pm, an hour after sunset, and doesn't emerge again until about 6.29 am on the 18th, 40 minutes after sunrise the following morning. (Times are as shown by GUIDE 9). So Mercury is behind the Sun for about 9 hours. At conjunction the planet will be 216 million km (1.446 AU) from the Earth and 0.457 AU (68 million km) beyond the Sun.

VENUS, MARS and JUPITER in the morning sky during November.

The three planets will start the month as a close group in Leo, although Venus and Mars both move into Virgo within a day. On the 1st Jupiter is about 6° from the other two planets.

Venus and Mars start October close together, within a degree of each other for the first 5 days of the month. On the morning of the 3rd they will be three-quarters of a degree apart with Mars below Venus. The following morning, the two will be very slightly closer, with Mars now to the lower left of Venus.

To see the pairing it will be necessary to look for the planets at least half an hour before sunrise. By then Mars may be lost to naked eye view in the brightening twilight, although Venus should still be easily seen. Binoculars will then readily show Mars, magnitude 1.7. Obviously viewing earlier will make it easier to see Mars, but the two will be low: they rise a little short of two hours before the Sun.

The crescent moon joins the group of planets on the 7th when it will be 2° to the right of Jupiter. By the following morning the moon will have moved past Mars to be 2° to the right of Venus.

For the rest of October, Venus and Mars move across Virgo, with slower moving Mars dropping behind Venus. As a result by the end of October Mars will be higher in the sky than Venus, rising two and a half hours before the Sun while Venus still rises just under two hours before it. Jupiter will be higher still rising over 3 hours before the Sun.

SATURN is heading for its conjunction with the Sun at the end of November. It starts the month setting two hours after the Sun. On the 1st, an hour after sunset, Saturn will be visible 10° up and a good 15° round to the south of due west. Antares will be some 8.5° above the planet, the constellation Scorpius appearing as an upright curled fern with Saturn at its root. During the following nights, Saturn and the constellation will get steadily lower, so that by mid-month it will be lost in the evening twilight.

On the 13th the moon, as a very thin crescent, will be just over 4° to the right of Saturn, providing a possible last chance to find Saturn, or maybe an opportunity to find the crescent moon about 36 hours after new. 40 minutes after sunset with the Sun some 8° below the horizon, Saturn and the moon will be less than 4° above the horizon.

At conjunction on the 30th, Saturn will be 11AU, 1644 million km, from the Earth and 10AU beyond the Sun. As "seen" from the Earth, Saturn will pass 1.5° north of the Sun.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during November at magnitude 5.7. Opposition was on October 12, so the planet will be visible throughout the evening, setting several hours after midnight.

There is yet another occultation of the Uranus by the moon on November 23. It occurs in the morning after Uranus sets and is visible at night from the south Indian and Southern Oceans to the west of Australia.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout November, setting after midnight but about 90 minutes before Uranus. The planet is at magnitude 7.9 and is in Aquarius throughout the month.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius throughout November at magnitude 14.4.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres starts November in Sagittarius and ends in Capricornus, having crossed a corner of Mica between the 7th and 17th. The asteroid is an evening object setting after midnight, its magnitude dimming slightly from 9.1 to 9.3

(4) Vesta is in Cetus throughout November, its magnitude ranging from 6.9 to 7.5. The asteroid is stationary mid month.

(15) Eunomia remains in Pegasus during November its magnitude varying from 8.4 to 8.9. Also an evening object, it is stationary on the 7th.

(29) Amphitrite is in Pisces all month, its magnitude fading from 8.9 to 9.6. It will be just over 1° north of the mag 3.6 star eta Psc mid- month. It sets well after midnight all month.

(192) Nausikaa is in Perseus and rather low in NZ skies. It starts November at magnitude 9.4 a little over a degree from the magnitude 2.9 star zeta Per. During November Nausikaa brightens to magnitude 9.0 at opposition on the 17th. By the end of November it will have faded again to 9.3. The asteroid rises about 11 pm on the 1st and at sunset on the 30th.

-- Brian Loader

6. Variable Stars South 4th Symposium - March 24

The National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) will hold its 27th meeting in Sydney over the 2016 Easter long weekend. NACAA will be hosted by the Sutherland Astronomical Society Inc, and will be held at the new Law Annexe at the University of NSW. Details of accommodation and the like will be posted to the NACAA website soon.

While details of the programme are still being finalised, it is intended that Variable Stars South (VSS) will hold its 4th Symposium on the Friday (March 25 - Good Friday).

Members of the VSS community are invited to submit papers and posters via the NACAA website (http://www.nacaa.org.au/2016/proposal) for either the Symposium (most likely focused on specific research reports and the like) or the main NACAA meeting (more general variable star observing subjects).

More details of the event can be found at the NACAA website, and if you register your interest you will receive alerts as they are posted.

-- David O´Driscoll, Programme Committee Chair, NACAA 2016 & VSS Webmaster

7. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer

The RASNZ Lecture Trust is pleased to announce that the 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecturer will be Dr Michael Person. Dr Person is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. His interests include observational astronomy, focusing on the techniques needed to observe stellar occultations, eclipses, and transits; and identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of solar system bodies. Dr Person has a special interest in distant solar system bodies, specifically Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects and so the lectures will focus on Pluto and the recent New Horizons mission. The lecture tour will take place during July-August 2016. Expressions of interest are invited from Affiliated Societies to host one of the 2016 BHT lectures. Societies have until the end of October to contact the RASNZ Lecture Trust at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register their interest.

-- Gary Sparks, Secretary, RASNZ Lecture Trust.

8. Ceres Bright Spots Seen in More Detail

The brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres gleam with mystery in new views delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These closest-yet views of Occator crater, with a resolution of 140 meters per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features.

The individual animations are available at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=pia19890 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=pia19891

The new up-close view of Occator crater from Dawn's current vantage point reveals better-defined shapes of the brightest, central spot and features on the crater floor. Because these spots are so much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, the Dawn team combined two different images into a single composite view -- one properly exposed for the bright spots, and one for the surrounding surface.

Scientists also have produced animations that provide a virtual fly- around of the crater, including a colourful topographic map.

Dawn scientists note the rim of Occator crater is almost vertical in some places, where it rises steeply for nearly 2 km.

Views from Dawn's current orbit, taken at an altitude of 1,470 km, have about three times better resolution than the images the spacecraft delivered from its previous orbit in June, and nearly 10 times better than in the spacecraft's first orbit at Ceres in April and May.

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

9. Enceladus's Global Ocean

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn´s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA´s Cassini mission.

Researchers found the magnitude of the moon´s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

The finding implies the fine spray of water vapour, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon´s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research has been presented in a paper published online in the journal Icarus.

Previous analysis of Cassini data suggested the presence of a lens- shaped body of water, or sea, underlying the moon´s south polar region. However, gravity data collected during the spacecraft´s several close passes over the south polar region lent support to the possibility the sea might be global. The new results -- derived using an independent line of evidence based on Cassini´s images -- confirm this to be the case.

Cassini scientists analysed more than seven years´ worth of images of Enceladus taken by the spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since mid-2004. They carefully mapped the positions of features on Enceladus -- mostly craters -- across hundreds of images, in order to measure changes in the moon´s rotation with extreme precision.

As a result, they found Enceladus has a tiny, but measurable wobble as it orbits Saturn. Because the icy moon is not perfectly spherical -- and because it goes slightly faster and slower during different portions of its orbit around Saturn -- the giant planet subtly rocks Enceladus back and forth as it rotates.

The team plugged their measurement of the wobble, called a libration, into different models for how Enceladus might be arranged on the inside, including ones in which the moon was frozen from surface to core.

If the surface and core are rigidly connected, then the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than is observed. This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core.

The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus´ ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Among ideas for future study is the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn´s gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought.

The unfolding story of Enceladus has been one of the great triumphs of Cassini´s long mission at Saturn. Scientists first detected signs of the moon´s icy plume in early 2005, and followed up with a series of discoveries about the material gushing from warm fractures near its south pole. They announced strong evidence for a regional sea in 2014, and more recently, in 2015, they shared results that suggest hydrothermal activity is taking place on the ocean floor.

Cassini is scheduled to make a close flyby of Enceladus on Oct. 28, in the mission´s deepest-ever dive through the moon´s active plume of icy material. The spacecraft will pass a mere 49 km above the moon´s surface.

For the original text & Images see: http://www.ciclops.org/view.php?id=8199 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-298

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

10. Perplexing Images of Pluto

The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from NASA´s New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details.

One image, showing an area on Pluto´s best-mapped hemisphere near the line that separates day from night, captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that has astonished New Horizons team members. It may have been made by some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto´s faint sunlight.

The spacecraft also captured the highest-resolution colour view yet of Pluto -- along with detailed spectral maps and other high-resolution images. The new "extended colour" view of Pluto -- taken by New Horizons´ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 19 -- shows the extraordinarily rich colour palette of Pluto.

Additionally, a high-resolution swath across Pluto taken by New Horizons´ narrow-angle Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, and downlinked on Sept. 20, homes in on details of Pluto´s geology. These images, the highest-resolution yet available of Pluto, reveal features that resemble dunes, the older shoreline of a shrinking glacial ice lake, and fractured, angular, jammed-together water ice mountains with sheer cliffs.

This closer look at the smooth, bright surface of the informally named Sputnik Planum shows that it is actually pockmarked by dense patterns of pits, low ridges and scalloped terrain. Dunes of bright volatile ice particles are a possible explanation, mission scientists say, but the ices of Sputnik may be especially susceptible to sublimation and formation of such corrugated ground.

Beyond the new images, new compositional information comes from a just- obtained map of methane ice across part of Pluto´s surface that reveals striking contrasts: Sputnik Planum has abundant methane while the region informally named Cthulhu Regio shows none, apart from a few isolated ridges and crater rims. Mountains along the west flank of Sputnik lack methane as well.

The distribution of methane across the surface is anything but simple, with higher concentrations on bright plains and crater rims, but usually none in the centres of craters or darker regions. Outside of Sputnik Planum, methane ice appears to favour brighter areas, but scientists aren´t sure if that is because methane is more likely to condense there or that its condensation is what brightens those regions.

For the full text & Images see: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20150924

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

11. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy's Evolution

As part of its public image display the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has published an image of the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy. The photo was obtained with the Wide Field Imager camera, installed on the 2.2- metre MPG/ESO telescope at ESO´s La Silla Observatory.

The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy is a close neighbour of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Despite their close proximity, both galaxies have very distinct histories and characters. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy is much smaller and older than the Milky Way, making it a valuable subject for studying both star and galaxy formation in the early Universe. However, due to its faintness, studying this object is no easy task

The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy - also known as the Sculptor Dwarf Elliptical or the Sculptor Dwarf Spheroidal - is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy, and is one of the fourteen known satellite galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. These galactic hitchhikers are located close by in the Milky Way´s extensive halo, a spherical region extending far beyond our galaxy´s spiral arms. As indicated by its name, this galaxy is located in the southern constellation of Sculptor and lies about 280 000 light-years away from Earth. Despite its proximity, the galaxy was only discovered in 1937, as its stars are faint and spread thinly across the sky. (This faint galaxy should not be confused with the much brighter Sculptor Galaxy, NGC 253, in the same constellation.)

Although difficult to pick out, the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy was among the first faint dwarf galaxies found orbiting the Milky Way. The tiny galaxy´s shape intrigued astronomers at the time of its discovery, but nowadays dwarf spheroidal galaxies play a more important role in allowing astronomers to dig deeply into the Universe´s past.

The Milky Way, like all large galaxies, is thought to have formed from the build-up of smaller galaxies during the early days of the Universe. If some of these small galaxies still remain today, they should now contain many extremely old stars. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy fits the bill as a primordial galaxy, thanks to a large number of ancient stars, visible in this image.

Astronomers can determine the age of stars in the galaxy because their light carries the signatures of only a small quantity of heavy chemical elements. These heavy elements accumulate in galaxies with successive generations of stars. A low level of heavy elements thus indicates that the stars in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy are old.

This quantity of old stars makes the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy a prime target for studying the earliest periods of star formation. In a recent study, astronomers combined all the data available for the galaxy to create the most accurate star formation history ever determined for a dwarf spheroidal galaxy. This analysis revealed two distinct groups of stars in the galaxy. The first, predominant group is the older population, which is lacking in heavier elements. The second, smaller population, in contrast, is rich with heavy elements. The youthful stellar population is concentrated toward the galaxy´s core.

The stars within dwarf galaxies like the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy can exhibit complex star formation histories. But as most of these dwarf galaxies´ stars have been isolated from each other and have not interacted for billions of years, each collection of stars has charted its own evolutionary course. Studying the similarities in dwarf galaxies´ histories, and explaining the occasional outliers, will help to explain the development of all galaxies, from the most unassuming dwarf to the grandest spirals. There is indeed much for astronomers to learn from the Milky Way´s shy neighbours.

To see the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy image go to http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&facility=15 and enter'eso1536' into the search window.

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

12. Galaxy Cluster with Star-Burst Core

An international team of astronomers has discovered a gargantuan galaxy cluster with a core bursting with new stars - an incredibly rare find. The discovery, made with the help of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the first to show that gigantic galaxies at the centres of massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

Galaxy clusters are vast families of galaxies bound together by gravity. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way resides within a small galaxy group known as the Local Group, which itself is a member of the massive Laniakea supercluster.

Galaxies at the centres of clusters are usually made of stellar fossils - old, red or dead stars. However, astronomers have now discovered a giant galaxy at the heart of a cluster named SpARCS1049+56 that seems to be bucking the trend, instead forming new stars at an incredible rate. It appears that the giant galaxy has recently collided with, and merged with, a smaller galaxy rich in gas. The gas is now forming into stars at the rate of 800 new stars per year. The Milky Way forms two stars per year at most!

The galaxy was initially discovered using NASA´s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai`i and confirmed using the W.M. Keck Observatory, also on Mauna Kea. Follow-up observations using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope allowed the astronomers to explore the galaxy´s activity.

The Spitzer data showed us a truly enormous amount of star formation in the heart of this cluster, something that has rarely been seen before, and certainly not in a cluster this distant.

The SpARCS1049+56 cluster is so far away that its light took 9.8 billion years to reach us. It houses at least 27 galaxies and has a combined mass equal to 400 trillion Suns. It is a truly unique cluster in one aspect - its vibrant heart of new stars.

Spitzer picks up infrared light, so it can detect the warm glow of hidden, dusty regions of star-birth. Follow-up studies with Hubble in visible light helped to pinpoint what was fuelling the new star formation.

Building on their other observations the team used Hubble to explore the galaxy in depth. What they found was a "train wreck" of a merger at the centre of this cluster. The images showed features that looked like beads on a string."

Beads on a string are a tell-tale signs of something known as a "wet merger". Wet mergers occur when gas-rich galaxies collide. The gas is then converted quickly into new stars. "Dry mergers" involve the coming together of two galaxies lacking in gas. The two just mix their existing stars, rather than causing the birth of any new ones.

The new discovery is one of the first known cases of a wet merger at the core of a galaxy cluster. Hubble had previously discovered another closer galaxy cluster containing a wet merger, but it was not forming stars as vigorously. Other galaxy clusters grow in mass through dry mergers or by siphoning gas towards their centres. For example, the mega galaxy cluster known as the Phoenix Cluster grows in size by sipping off gas that flows into its centre.

The astronomers now aim to explore how common this type of growth mechanism is in galaxy clusters. Are there other "messy eaters" out there similar to SpARCS1049+56, which also munch on gas-rich galaxies? SpARCS1049+56 may be an outlier - or it may represent an early time in our Universe when messy eating was the norm.

These new results are presented in a paper entitled "An Extreme Starburst In The Core Of a Rich Galaxy Cluster At z = 1.7", published in The Astrophysical Journal on 21 August 2015.

For more see: https://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/heic1414a/http://www.spacetelescope.org/static/archives/releases/science_papers/h eic1519a.pdf

-- From a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Massey University Introductory Astronomy Course

In the second semester of 2015 (13 July 2015 - 11 November 2015) Massey University´s Manawatu campus has been running an introductory astronomy paper at first year level. The paper is being run in conjunction with an existing paper at Massey´s Albany campus, and is taught by Jeremy Moss (who is also the President of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society) and Stephen Chadwick (also President of the Horowhenua Astronomical Society). The paper includes a practical observing component as part of the assessment, and it covers the following topics: the Solar System and astronomical history; the Sun and stars; galaxies and cosmology.

The paper is designed to cover the basics of astronomy for non-science students, but it also links in with Massey´s second year paper in Special Relativity and Cosmology.

It will also be run in the second semester of 2016, and there are plans For extending it to an extramural option in the future. For more details, please contact Jeremy Moss at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

14. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 November 2015. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

16. Quote

"In 'Birth of a Rocket' [Scientific American, June 2015, p.44], David H. Freedman reports that 'the real justification for human spaceflight is to take steps toward expanding the human race's stomping grounds.' Does he mean for a few elite astronauts or humanity generally? The former may be achievable - but why bother? The latter seems just shy of delusional. Either way, wouldn't it be more sensible to take the up to $1 trillion that a trip to Mars might cost and use it to prevent the collapse of liveable conditions on Earth?" -- Evan Fales.

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

. Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand . Email Newsletter Number 178, 20 October 2015

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. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15

2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5 3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10 4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8 5. The Solar System in November 6. Variable Stars South 4th Symposium - March 24 7. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer 8. Ceres Bright Spots Seen in More Detail 9. Enceladus's Global Ocean 10. Perplexing Images of Pluto 11. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy's Evolution 12. Galaxy Cluster with Star-Burst Core 13. Massey University Introductory Astronomy Course 14. How to Join the RASNZ 15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund 16. Quote

1. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is hosting its third annual astrophotography weekend. This will be held at the usual venue: Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, on the weekend of 13th-15th November 2015.

The weekend is open to everyone interested in astrophotography from beginners to advanced. Come along and share your knowledge, tips and experiences. It is a great venue for undertaking practical photography so feel free to bring as much imaging equipment as you like. If you have anything to sell this is a perfect opportunity. In addition to a range of interesting talks there will also be practical workshops lead by experts on processing software including Maxim DL, Pixinsight, Registax, ImagesPlus, and PT GUI PRO. Talks throughout the day. Places are limited and are running out so please book ASAP by going to the web address: www.horoastronomy.org.nz or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Stephen Chadwick

2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5

The Inter Society Astronomical Advancement Committee have rescheduled the dates for the Central Star Party from the 7-11 Jan 2016 to Friday 1st - Tuesday 5th (am) January 2016. The official opening will be Friday 1st January at 7:00pm. With New Year's Day being a holiday, hopefully people can get to Tuki Tuki Camp, Hawkes Bay during the day. For more details see http://www.censtar.party/-- John Drummond.

For those into long-term planning John advises that the 2017 and 2018 Central Star Parties will be: On Thurs 19 - Mon 23rd January 2017 (we leave the morning of Tues 24th January 2017). The last quarter moon is Fri 20th. On Thurs 18th - Tues 23rd (am) January 2018. New Moon is Wed 17th January 2018.

3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10

Stardate 2016 will be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa. This is the same venue where Stardate was held last year. The camp site will again be in the field behind the Visitors´ Centre. The main part of the programme will be based around the 8th, 9th and 10th of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier by arrangement.

The facilities are still basic but we hope to add to these with time. Camping is the order of the day. Attendees will be able to use the toilets in the AV centre and basic showers will be erected. We do not have bunk rooms, however full details of local accommodation are available here: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

Stonehenge Aotearoa will be in full operation during the period from 10 am to 4 pm. A free guided tour will be arranged for attendees during Stardate and some observing may take place from the henge after opening hours (depending on bookings).

Registration costs will be very similar to or the same as last year: $23 for adults; children (pre-teens) accompanied by parents free (these costs have yet to be confirmed by the Phoenix Council). We will arrange for a mobile caterer to visit the site, so that at least one meal during Stardate can be purchased on site.

This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2016 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line.

We want to confirm programme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2016, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can. Hopefully, we can have a preliminary programme in the November newsletter.

-- Kay Leather.

4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

Stardate SI will be held at the hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February 5th and Monday February 8th, 2016. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large. For details see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/Link to the Facebook event for Stardate SI. If you are attending, then use this link to choose which DVDs you'd like to watch in the (we hope) unlikely event of cloudy weather

We look forward to seeing you there.

-- Euan Mason

5. The Solar System in November

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in november

                         November  1  NZDT             November 30  NZDT
               morning       evening          morning      evening
      SUN:  rise:  6.06am,  set: 8.03pm    rise: 5.40am,  set: 8.38pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.39am, ends: 8.31pm  starts: 5.10am, ends: 9.09pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.03am, ends: 9.07pm  starts: 4.29am, ends: 9.50pm 
 Astro:    starts: 4.24am, ends: 9.46pm  starts: 3.41am, ends:10.38pm

November PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  November  4 at  1.24 am (Nov  3, 12:24 UT)
  New moon:      November 12 at  6.47 am (Nov 11, 17:47 UT)
  First quarter: November 19 at  7.27 pm (06:27 UT) 
  Full moon:     November 26 at 11.44 am (Nov 25, 22:44 UT)

The planets in november

Saturn will be the only naked eye evening planet during October, and that only for the first part of the month. There is more interest in the morning with Venus, Mars and Jupiter forming a loose cluster in the dawn sky. Mercury is not likely to be visible.

MERCURY is at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on the night November 17/18 NZ time. The planet starts November as a nominal morning object but rises only 18 minutes before the Sun. After conjunction the planet becomes an evening object. By November 30 it will set 40 minutes later than the Sun, but is not likely to be visible in the evening twilight.

At this conjunction, Mercury passes behind the Sun as "seen" from the Earth. The planet moves behind the Sun at about 9.25 pm, an hour after sunset, and doesn't emerge again until about 6.29 am on the 18th, 40 minutes after sunrise the following morning. (Times are as shown by GUIDE 9). So Mercury is behind the Sun for about 9 hours. At conjunction the planet will be 216 million km (1.446 AU) from the Earth and 0.457 AU (68 million km) beyond the Sun.

VENUS, MARS and JUPITER in the morning sky during November.

The three planets will start the month as a close group in Leo, although Venus and Mars both move into Virgo within a day. On the 1st Jupiter is about 6° from the other two planets.

Venus and Mars start October close together, within a degree of each other for the first 5 days of the month. On the morning of the 3rd they will be three-quarters of a degree apart with Mars below Venus. The following morning, the two will be very slightly closer, with Mars now to the lower left of Venus.

To see the pairing it will be necessary to look for the planets at least half an hour before sunrise. By then Mars may be lost to naked eye view in the brightening twilight, although Venus should still be easily seen. Binoculars will then readily show Mars, magnitude 1.7. Obviously viewing earlier will make it easier to see Mars, but the two will be low: they rise a little short of two hours before the Sun.

The crescent moon joins the group of planets on the 7th when it will be 2° to the right of Jupiter. By the following morning the moon will have moved past Mars to be 2° to the right of Venus.

For the rest of October, Venus and Mars move across Virgo, with slower moving Mars dropping behind Venus. As a result by the end of October Mars will be higher in the sky than Venus, rising two and a half hours before the Sun while Venus still rises just under two hours before it. Jupiter will be higher still rising over 3 hours before the Sun.

SATURN is heading for its conjunction with the Sun at the end of November. It starts the month setting two hours after the Sun. On the 1st, an hour after sunset, Saturn will be visible 10° up and a good 15° round to the south of due west. Antares will be some 8.5° above the planet, the constellation Scorpius appearing as an upright curled fern with Saturn at its root. During the following nights, Saturn and the constellation will get steadily lower, so that by mid-month it will be lost in the evening twilight.

On the 13th the moon, as a very thin crescent, will be just over 4° to the right of Saturn, providing a possible last chance to find Saturn, or maybe an opportunity to find the crescent moon about 36 hours after new. 40 minutes after sunset with the Sun some 8° below the horizon, Saturn and the moon will be less than 4° above the horizon.

At conjunction on the 30th, Saturn will be 11AU, 1644 million km, from the Earth and 10AU beyond the Sun. As "seen" from the Earth, Saturn will pass 1.5° north of the Sun.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during November at magnitude 5.7. Opposition was on October 12, so the planet will be visible throughout the evening, setting several hours after midnight.

There is yet another occultation of the Uranus by the moon on November 23. It occurs in the morning after Uranus sets and is visible at night from the south Indian and Southern Oceans to the west of Australia.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout November, setting after midnight but about 90 minutes before Uranus. The planet is at magnitude 7.9 and is in Aquarius throughout the month.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius throughout November at magnitude 14.4.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres starts November in Sagittarius and ends in Capricornus, having crossed a corner of Mica between the 7th and 17th. The asteroid is an evening object setting after midnight, its magnitude dimming slightly from 9.1 to 9.3

(4) Vesta is in Cetus throughout November, its magnitude ranging from 6.9 to 7.5. The asteroid is stationary mid month.

(15) Eunomia remains in Pegasus during November its magnitude varying from 8.4 to 8.9. Also an evening object, it is stationary on the 7th.

(29) Amphitrite is in Pisces all month, its magnitude fading from 8.9 to 9.6. It will be just over 1° north of the mag 3.6 star eta Psc mid- month. It sets well after midnight all month.

(192) Nausikaa is in Perseus and rather low in NZ skies. It starts November at magnitude 9.4 a little over a degree from the magnitude 2.9 star zeta Per. During November Nausikaa brightens to magnitude 9.0 at opposition on the 17th. By the end of November it will have faded again to 9.3. The asteroid rises about 11 pm on the 1st and at sunset on the 30th.

-- Brian Loader

6. Variable Stars South 4th Symposium - March 24

The National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) will hold its 27th meeting in Sydney over the 2016 Easter long weekend. NACAA will be hosted by the Sutherland Astronomical Society Inc, and will be held at the new Law Annexe at the University of NSW. Details of accommodation and the like will be posted to the NACAA website soon.

While details of the programme are still being finalised, it is intended that Variable Stars South (VSS) will hold its 4th Symposium on the Friday (March 25 - Good Friday).

Members of the VSS community are invited to submit papers and posters via the NACAA website (http://www.nacaa.org.au/2016/proposal) for either the Symposium (most likely focused on specific research reports and the like) or the main NACAA meeting (more general variable star observing subjects).

More details of the event can be found at the NACAA website, and if you register your interest you will receive alerts as they are posted.

-- David O´Driscoll, Programme Committee Chair, NACAA 2016 & VSS Webmaster

7. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer

The RASNZ Lecture Trust is pleased to announce that the 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecturer will be Dr Michael Person. Dr Person is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. His interests include observational astronomy, focusing on the techniques needed to observe stellar occultations, eclipses, and transits; and identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of solar system bodies. Dr Person has a special interest in distant solar system bodies, specifically Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects and so the lectures will focus on Pluto and the recent New Horizons mission. The lecture tour will take place during July-August 2016. Expressions of interest are invited from Affiliated Societies to host one of the 2016 BHT lectures. Societies have until the end of October to contact the RASNZ Lecture Trust at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to register their interest.

-- Gary Sparks, Secretary, RASNZ Lecture Trust.

8. Ceres Bright Spots Seen in More Detail

The brightest spots on the dwarf planet Ceres gleam with mystery in new views delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft. These closest-yet views of Occator crater, with a resolution of 140 meters per pixel, give scientists a deeper perspective on these very unusual features.

The individual animations are available at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=pia19890 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=pia19891

The new up-close view of Occator crater from Dawn's current vantage point reveals better-defined shapes of the brightest, central spot and features on the crater floor. Because these spots are so much brighter than the rest of Ceres' surface, the Dawn team combined two different images into a single composite view -- one properly exposed for the bright spots, and one for the surrounding surface.

Scientists also have produced animations that provide a virtual fly- around of the crater, including a colourful topographic map.

Dawn scientists note the rim of Occator crater is almost vertical in some places, where it rises steeply for nearly 2 km.

Views from Dawn's current orbit, taken at an altitude of 1,470 km, have about three times better resolution than the images the spacecraft delivered from its previous orbit in June, and nearly 10 times better than in the spacecraft's first orbit at Ceres in April and May.

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

9. Enceladus's Global Ocean

A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn´s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA´s Cassini mission.

Researchers found the magnitude of the moon´s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

The finding implies the fine spray of water vapour, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon´s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research has been presented in a paper published online in the journal Icarus.

Previous analysis of Cassini data suggested the presence of a lens- shaped body of water, or sea, underlying the moon´s south polar region. However, gravity data collected during the spacecraft´s several close passes over the south polar region lent support to the possibility the sea might be global. The new results -- derived using an independent line of evidence based on Cassini´s images -- confirm this to be the case.

Cassini scientists analysed more than seven years´ worth of images of Enceladus taken by the spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since mid-2004. They carefully mapped the positions of features on Enceladus -- mostly craters -- across hundreds of images, in order to measure changes in the moon´s rotation with extreme precision.

As a result, they found Enceladus has a tiny, but measurable wobble as it orbits Saturn. Because the icy moon is not perfectly spherical -- and because it goes slightly faster and slower during different portions of its orbit around Saturn -- the giant planet subtly rocks Enceladus back and forth as it rotates.

The team plugged their measurement of the wobble, called a libration, into different models for how Enceladus might be arranged on the inside, including ones in which the moon was frozen from surface to core.

If the surface and core are rigidly connected, then the core would provide so much dead weight the wobble would be far smaller than is observed. This proves that there must be a global layer of liquid separating the surface from the core.

The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus´ ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Among ideas for future study is the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn´s gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought.

The unfolding story of Enceladus has been one of the great triumphs of Cassini´s long mission at Saturn. Scientists first detected signs of the moon´s icy plume in early 2005, and followed up with a series of discoveries about the material gushing from warm fractures near its south pole. They announced strong evidence for a regional sea in 2014, and more recently, in 2015, they shared results that suggest hydrothermal activity is taking place on the ocean floor.

Cassini is scheduled to make a close flyby of Enceladus on Oct. 28, in the mission´s deepest-ever dive through the moon´s active plume of icy material. The spacecraft will pass a mere 49 km above the moon´s surface.

For the original text & Images see: http://www.ciclops.org/view.php?id=8199 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-298

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

10. Perplexing Images of Pluto

The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from NASA´s New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details.

One image, showing an area on Pluto´s best-mapped hemisphere near the line that separates day from night, captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that has astonished New Horizons team members. It may have been made by some combination of internal tectonic forces and ice sublimation driven by Pluto´s faint sunlight.

The spacecraft also captured the highest-resolution colour view yet of Pluto -- along with detailed spectral maps and other high-resolution images. The new "extended colour" view of Pluto -- taken by New Horizons´ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14 and downlinked to Earth on Sept. 19 -- shows the extraordinarily rich colour palette of Pluto.

Additionally, a high-resolution swath across Pluto taken by New Horizons´ narrow-angle Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 14, and downlinked on Sept. 20, homes in on details of Pluto´s geology. These images, the highest-resolution yet available of Pluto, reveal features that resemble dunes, the older shoreline of a shrinking glacial ice lake, and fractured, angular, jammed-together water ice mountains with sheer cliffs.

This closer look at the smooth, bright surface of the informally named Sputnik Planum shows that it is actually pockmarked by dense patterns of pits, low ridges and scalloped terrain. Dunes of bright volatile ice particles are a possible explanation, mission scientists say, but the ices of Sputnik may be especially susceptible to sublimation and formation of such corrugated ground.

Beyond the new images, new compositional information comes from a just- obtained map of methane ice across part of Pluto´s surface that reveals striking contrasts: Sputnik Planum has abundant methane while the region informally named Cthulhu Regio shows none, apart from a few isolated ridges and crater rims. Mountains along the west flank of Sputnik lack methane as well.

The distribution of methane across the surface is anything but simple, with higher concentrations on bright plains and crater rims, but usually none in the centres of craters or darker regions. Outside of Sputnik Planum, methane ice appears to favour brighter areas, but scientists aren´t sure if that is because methane is more likely to condense there or that its condensation is what brightens those regions.

For the full text & Images see: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/News-Center/News-Article.php?page=20150924

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

11. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy's Evolution

As part of its public image display the European Southern Observatory (ESO) has published an image of the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy. The photo was obtained with the Wide Field Imager camera, installed on the 2.2- metre MPG/ESO telescope at ESO´s La Silla Observatory.

The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy is a close neighbour of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Despite their close proximity, both galaxies have very distinct histories and characters. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy is much smaller and older than the Milky Way, making it a valuable subject for studying both star and galaxy formation in the early Universe. However, due to its faintness, studying this object is no easy task

The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy - also known as the Sculptor Dwarf Elliptical or the Sculptor Dwarf Spheroidal - is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy, and is one of the fourteen known satellite galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. These galactic hitchhikers are located close by in the Milky Way´s extensive halo, a spherical region extending far beyond our galaxy´s spiral arms. As indicated by its name, this galaxy is located in the southern constellation of Sculptor and lies about 280 000 light-years away from Earth. Despite its proximity, the galaxy was only discovered in 1937, as its stars are faint and spread thinly across the sky. (This faint galaxy should not be confused with the much brighter Sculptor Galaxy, NGC 253, in the same constellation.)

Although difficult to pick out, the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy was among the first faint dwarf galaxies found orbiting the Milky Way. The tiny galaxy´s shape intrigued astronomers at the time of its discovery, but nowadays dwarf spheroidal galaxies play a more important role in allowing astronomers to dig deeply into the Universe´s past.

The Milky Way, like all large galaxies, is thought to have formed from the build-up of smaller galaxies during the early days of the Universe. If some of these small galaxies still remain today, they should now contain many extremely old stars. The Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy fits the bill as a primordial galaxy, thanks to a large number of ancient stars, visible in this image.

Astronomers can determine the age of stars in the galaxy because their light carries the signatures of only a small quantity of heavy chemical elements. These heavy elements accumulate in galaxies with successive generations of stars. A low level of heavy elements thus indicates that the stars in the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy are old.

This quantity of old stars makes the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy a prime target for studying the earliest periods of star formation. In a recent study, astronomers combined all the data available for the galaxy to create the most accurate star formation history ever determined for a dwarf spheroidal galaxy. This analysis revealed two distinct groups of stars in the galaxy. The first, predominant group is the older population, which is lacking in heavier elements. The second, smaller population, in contrast, is rich with heavy elements. The youthful stellar population is concentrated toward the galaxy´s core.

The stars within dwarf galaxies like the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy can exhibit complex star formation histories. But as most of these dwarf galaxies´ stars have been isolated from each other and have not interacted for billions of years, each collection of stars has charted its own evolutionary course. Studying the similarities in dwarf galaxies´ histories, and explaining the occasional outliers, will help to explain the development of all galaxies, from the most unassuming dwarf to the grandest spirals. There is indeed much for astronomers to learn from the Milky Way´s shy neighbours.

To see the Sculptor Dwarf Galaxy image go to http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&facility=15 and enter'eso1536' into the search window.

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

12. Galaxy Cluster with Star-Burst Core

An international team of astronomers has discovered a gargantuan galaxy cluster with a core bursting with new stars - an incredibly rare find. The discovery, made with the help of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the first to show that gigantic galaxies at the centres of massive clusters can grow significantly by feeding off gas stolen from other galaxies.

Galaxy clusters are vast families of galaxies bound together by gravity. Our own galaxy, the Milky Way resides within a small galaxy group known as the Local Group, which itself is a member of the massive Laniakea supercluster.

Galaxies at the centres of clusters are usually made of stellar fossils - old, red or dead stars. However, astronomers have now discovered a giant galaxy at the heart of a cluster named SpARCS1049+56 that seems to be bucking the trend, instead forming new stars at an incredible rate. It appears that the giant galaxy has recently collided with, and merged with, a smaller galaxy rich in gas. The gas is now forming into stars at the rate of 800 new stars per year. The Milky Way forms two stars per year at most!

The galaxy was initially discovered using NASA´s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, located on Mauna Kea in Hawai`i and confirmed using the W.M. Keck Observatory, also on Mauna Kea. Follow-up observations using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope allowed the astronomers to explore the galaxy´s activity.

The Spitzer data showed us a truly enormous amount of star formation in the heart of this cluster, something that has rarely been seen before, and certainly not in a cluster this distant.

The SpARCS1049+56 cluster is so far away that its light took 9.8 billion years to reach us. It houses at least 27 galaxies and has a combined mass equal to 400 trillion Suns. It is a truly unique cluster in one aspect - its vibrant heart of new stars.

Spitzer picks up infrared light, so it can detect the warm glow of hidden, dusty regions of star-birth. Follow-up studies with Hubble in visible light helped to pinpoint what was fuelling the new star formation.

Building on their other observations the team used Hubble to explore the galaxy in depth. What they found was a "train wreck" of a merger at the centre of this cluster. The images showed features that looked like beads on a string."

Beads on a string are a tell-tale signs of something known as a "wet merger". Wet mergers occur when gas-rich galaxies collide. The gas is then converted quickly into new stars. "Dry mergers" involve the coming together of two galaxies lacking in gas. The two just mix their existing stars, rather than causing the birth of any new ones.

The new discovery is one of the first known cases of a wet merger at the core of a galaxy cluster. Hubble had previously discovered another closer galaxy cluster containing a wet merger, but it was not forming stars as vigorously. Other galaxy clusters grow in mass through dry mergers or by siphoning gas towards their centres. For example, the mega galaxy cluster known as the Phoenix Cluster grows in size by sipping off gas that flows into its centre.

The astronomers now aim to explore how common this type of growth mechanism is in galaxy clusters. Are there other "messy eaters" out there similar to SpARCS1049+56, which also munch on gas-rich galaxies? SpARCS1049+56 may be an outlier - or it may represent an early time in our Universe when messy eating was the norm.

These new results are presented in a paper entitled "An Extreme Starburst In The Core Of a Rich Galaxy Cluster At z = 1.7", published in The Astrophysical Journal on 21 August 2015.

For more see: https://www.spacetelescope.org/videos/heic1414a/http://www.spacetelescope.org/static/archives/releases/science_papers/h eic1519a.pdf

-- From a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Massey University Introductory Astronomy Course

In the second semester of 2015 (13 July 2015 - 11 November 2015) Massey University´s Manawatu campus has been running an introductory astronomy paper at first year level. The paper is being run in conjunction with an existing paper at Massey´s Albany campus, and is taught by Jeremy Moss (who is also the President of the Palmerston North Astronomical Society) and Stephen Chadwick (also President of the Horowhenua Astronomical Society). The paper includes a practical observing component as part of the assessment, and it covers the following topics: the Solar System and astronomical history; the Sun and stars; galaxies and cosmology.

The paper is designed to cover the basics of astronomy for non-science students, but it also links in with Massey´s second year paper in Special Relativity and Cosmology.

It will also be run in the second semester of 2016, and there are plans For extending it to an extramural option in the future. For more details, please contact Jeremy Moss at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

14. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 November 2015. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

16. Quote

"In 'Birth of a Rocket' [Scientific American, June 2015, p.44], David H. Freedman reports that 'the real justification for human spaceflight is to take steps toward expanding the human race's stomping grounds.' Does he mean for a few elite astronauts or humanity generally? The former may be achievable - but why bother? The latter seems just shy of delusional. Either way, wouldn't it be more sensible to take the up to $1 trillion that a trip to Mars might cost and use it to prevent the collapse of liveable conditions on Earth?" -- Evan Fales.

Newsletter editor:

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

September 2015

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Events leading up to the Pluto Occultation
Gordon Hudson, Larry Wasserman, Kara Hartig
 
The Pluto Occultation of a 12th magnitude star was a rare event and a lot of effort was being put into observing it. The programme for the early hours of June 30th that I was involved in was run by the South West Research Institute (SWRI) in Boulder Colorado.
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p3

 

SOFIA The Stratospheric Observatory For Infrared Astronomy
Haritina Mogosanu
 
In July 2015 the author secured a trip aboard SOFIA. Leading up to her experiences that she will describe later here is a background to this flying telescope.
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p7

 

StellaFest 2015
Steve Chadwick
 
Another Great Success! On the weekend of August 14th-16th the Horowhenua Astronomical Society held its 4th annual StellarFest at the Foxton Beach Bible Camp. As always the weekend was designed with viewing, talks and general chit-chat in mind.
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p10

 

A New Eclipsing Binary Star in Sagittarius
Simon Lowther
 
I present a new variable star in Sagittarius discovered during routine observations of V1223 Sgr for the Centre for Backyard Astrophysics, at CBA Pukekohe on 14th June 2014 NZST (JD2456822). The shape of the light curve suggests this star is an eclipsing binary of EW type with a period 0.2585 days and amplitude of 0.85 mag unfiltered. This star has been submitted to and accepted into the VSX catalogue of variable stars.
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p12

 

Essay Review - Setting Aside All Authority: Giovanni Battista Riccioli and the Science against Copernicus in the Age of Galileo
William Tobin
 
 
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p14

 

Bright Cepheids - A Variable Stars South Project
Stan Walker
 
Practical observing projects for beginners in astronomy with scientific value are hard to find and are often disappointing to the participants. What do we need to inspire us?
Volume 54, number 3. September 2015. p17

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter September 2015

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

Email Newsletter Number 177

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. Colin Keay 1930-2015
2. Auckland Ast Soc's Burbidge Dinner - Oct. 3
3. Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival - Oct. 9-11
4. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15
5. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10
6. Central Star Party - Hawkes Bay, January 7-11
7. The Solar System in October
8. Variable Stars South Symposium in 2016
9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend Report
10. Oxygen Doesn't Always Mean Life
11. ISS Photos Yield "Cities at Night" World Map
12. How to Join the RASNZ

1. Colin Keay 1930-2015

Colin Keay PhD DSc FRASNZ FAAAS FInstP FASA, who was born in Timaru died August 24th aged 85 in Brisbane. In the early 1960s Colin was lecturer in the Canterbury University Physics Department and used his initiative together with Frank Bateson to push for astronomy to become part of the Department's teaching and research (the formal department name change took place in 1991).

He initiated a programme of radar measurements of interplanetary meteoroid fluxes carried out at the Rolleston Field Station. Colin created a new branch of science called geophysical electrophonics: the production of audible noises of various kinds through direct conversion by transduction of very low frequency electromagnetic energy generated by a number of geophysical phenomena. Within 24 hours of the launching of the first satellite (the Russian Sputnik in 1957) he was the first to calculate that it would be visible over NZ. This led to the publication of the first two papers on observing a satellite.

He moved to the University of Newcastle Australia in 1965. He published the first papers on high resolution infra-red maps of Jupiter and was President of Commission 22 of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and inaugural chairman of the IAU working group on the prevention of interplanetary pollution (space junk). In 1997 Minor Planet 5007 was named after him in recognition of his services to astronomy.

Colin was an accomplished science communicator and produced monthly newspaper articles on astronomy over several decades. He was founding president of the Newcastle Astronomical Society. He was active in the Australian community being the founding president of the Hunter Skeptics (1987) and President of the Newcastle Cycleways Movement (lobbying for more cycle tracks): in these, as in his science work, he was always enthusiastic in impressing his well-researched views.

-- Jack Baggaley

2. Auckland Ast Soc's Burbidge Dinner - Oct. 3

The Auckland Astronomical Society invites you to the 2015 Burbidge Dinner. The guest speaker this year is: Professor Chris Lintott from Oxford University, UK. His talk will be "Is the Milky Way Special?" See last month's Newsletter for details.

The evening will include the presentation of the Beaumont prize for the best article written in the Journal by a member and the Astrophotography Competition including the Harry Williams Trophy.

Date: Saturday, 3rd October 2015, starting at 6:30 pm. Venue: Alexandra Park, Epsom. Tickets: $60 per person. Includes a buffet dinner. Tickets can be purchased through the Astronz website or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

-- Jonathan Green.

3. Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival - Oct. 9-11

Where: Twizel Events Centre, Twizel (with some events at Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook village) When: Friday 9 October 2015 to Sunday 11 October 2015. Why: The Festival will celebrate the creation of the southern hemisphere´s first International Dark Sky Reserve, in the Mackenzie Basin and at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park in the centre of New Zealand´s South Island.

It will also mark the International Year of Light (IYL) 2015, which has been proclaimed by UNESCO to educate the public about light-based technologies and to recognize the role of light in the development of astronomy. Light has helped us to see and better understand the universe, which has enabled us to capture stunning images of the cosmos. IYL2015 will celebrate discoveries and breakthroughs in Astronomy and promote an appreciation of dark skies and the need to combat light pollution.

The Festival will comprise a mix of scientific, educational and cultural events over three days, designed to attract school students, family groups and members of the public who are interested in learning more about the stars, the night sky, the problems of light pollution and the appreciation of the environment and outer space. The events include stargazing, lectures, a concert, documentaries on the night sky, a photographic exhibition, and more. Prizes will be presented to the Winners of the earlier-organised Margaret Mahy Starlight Essay and Poetry Competition. Some events are free, while others have a nominal charge. See the website for ticket purchases.

The main Festival venue will be the Twizel Events Centre, 61 Mackenzie Drive, Twizel, South Canterbury. Some events will be at the Hillary Alpine Centre, Mt Cook village and at Mt John University Observatory, Lake Tekapo. Transport between venues will be organized by a festival bus for those who need it.

For details see the Starlight Festival at http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/starlightfestival/

4. Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach, Nov. 13-15

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is hosting its third annual astrophotography weekend. This will be held at the usual venue: Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton beach, Horowhenua on the weekend of 13th-15th November 2015.

The weekend is open to everyone interested in astrophotography from beginners to advanced. Come along and share your knowledge, tips and experiences. It is a great venue for undertaking practical photography so feel free to bring as much imaging equipment as you like. If you have anything to sell this is a perfect opportunity. There will also be practical workshops and talks throughout the day. Please book ASAP by going to the web address: www.horoastronomy.org.nz or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Steve Chadwick

5. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10

Stardate 2016 will be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa. This is the same venue where Stardate was held last year. The camp site will again be in the field behind the Visitors´ Centre. The main part of the programme will be based around the 8th, 9th and 10th of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier by arrangement.

The facilities are still basic but we hope to add to these with time. Camping is the order of the day. Attendees will be able to use the toilets in the AV centre and basic showers will be erected. We do not have bunk rooms, however full details of local accommodation are available here: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

Stonehenge Aotearoa will be in full operation during the period from 10 am to 4 pm. A free guided tour will be arranged for attendees during Stardate and some observing may take place from the henge after opening hours (depending on bookings).

Registration costs will be very similar to or the same as last year: $23 for adults; children (pre-teens) accompanied by parents free (these costs have yet to be confirmed by the Phoenix Council). We will arrange for a mobile caterer to visit the site, so that at least one meal during Stardate can be purchased on site.

This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2016 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line.

We want to confirm programme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2016, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can. Hopefully, we can have a preliminary programme in the November newsletter.

-- Kay Leather.

6. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay, January 7-11

Come and celebrate the first annual `Central Star Party´ - to be held in January 2016. The goal of the organisers, the Inter-Society Astronomical Advancement Committee (ISAAC), is to provide a fun social astronomical gathering laced with talks and activities. We plan to move the event around the central North Island over the years to various venues so that attendees from all locations can see/explore new parts of our great country, enjoy the local attractions, and catch up with any local friends and family. We think that doing this will make it a fantastic central North Island annual summer star party. We decided to hold the 2016 event at the Tuki Tuki Camp site in the Hawkes Bay since the owners have been doing the camp up recently and have demolished the old hall and built a new one. They also have two additional meeting rooms for alternate meetings, a new kitchen and three new dormitories that can house ten people in each. Accommodation is tenting, staying in the dormitories or using one of the four powered caravan sites. A number of people have expressed an interest to see and enjoy the new facilities at Tuki Tuki.

This premier 2016 event will run from Thurs 7th- Mon 11th (morning) January (four nights). Prices will be much cheaper than previous events held at Tuki Tuki - in 2016 an early bird attendee will pay $47 for the whole time (Thur-Fri-Sat-Sun nights) - as opposed to $101 in 2014.

If you want to give a talk or run a workshop then please let the organisers know - we´d love to hear what you can share...

Details can be seen at - http://www.censtar.party/

All the best and clear skies.

-- Inter-Society Astronomical Advancement Committee - (Gary Sparks (Hawkes Bay), John Drummond (Gisborne), Steve Lang (Auckland))

7. The Solar System in October

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in october

                            October  1  NZST              October 31  NZDT
                    morning  evening              morning  evening
       SUN: rise: 6.54am,  set: 7.28pm    rise: 6.07am,  set: 8.02pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.29am, ends: 7.54pm  starts: 5.40am, ends: 8.30pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.56am, ends: 8.26pm  starts: 5.04am, ends: 9.06pm 
 Astro:    starts: 5.23am, ends: 9.08pm  starts: 4.26am, ends: 9.45pm 
October PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter: October 5 at 10.06 am (Oct 4, 21:06 UT)

New moon: October 13 at 1.06 pm (00:06 UT)
First quarter: October 21 at 9.31 am (Oct 20, 20:31 UT)
Full moon: October 28 at 1.05 am (Oct 27, 12:05 UT)

LUNAR OCCULTATIONS OF PLANETS An occultation of Venus by the moon on the morning of October 9 will be visible from New Zealand. Despite being a day time event, the occultation should be readily visible in binoculars or a small telescope and probably with the unaided eye for those with good vision.

Later in the month, on the evening of October 26, the moon, only one day short of full, will occult Uranus, again visible from most of New Zealand.

More information on these events is given in the section for the planets.

THE PLANETS in October Only Saturn is visible in the evening sky, best viewed following sunset as the sky darkens. Mercury remains too close to the Sun to observe all month, while Venus, Mars and Jupiter have a get together in the dawn morning sky,

MERCURY is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of October 1 at about 4 am. At conjunction the planet will pass about 2.4° south of the Sun and as seen from the Earth. Mercury will be 0.656 AU, 98 million km from the Earth and 0.347 AU, 52 million km from the Sun.

After conjunction, Mercury becomes a morning object rising before the Sun. At its best, in mid October, the planet will rise 30 minutes before the Sun; by the end of October only 20 minutes earlier. In effect Mercury will not be visible at any time during the month.

VENUS, MARS and JUPITER in the morning sky during October. The three planets will start the month well spread out in the dawn sky.

VENUS will be readily visible as a brilliant point of light in the dawn sky throughout October. It rises 2 hours before the Sun on the 1st, reducing to about 105 minutes earlier by the 31st. It will be the furthest of the three from the Sun at the start of October.

MARS rises some 75 minutes before the Sun on the 1st, and 100 minutes earlier on the 31st, so then little different to Venus.

JUPITER rises 1 hour before the Sun on the 1st, almost 2 hours earlier on the 31st. So it starts October as the closest of the 3 planets to the Sun and ends the furthest.

As a result of these changing positions there will be some close passes during the month. On the morning of October 18 Mars and Jupiter will be 24' apart, a little less than the diameter of the full moon. Mars, magnitude 1.7 will be to the lower left of the far brighter Jupiter, magnitude -1.8. The planets will be low while the sky is still dark enough to see them. Half an hour before sunrise Mars will be just 9° up as seen from Wellington. At magnitude 1.7 Mars is likely to be difficult to see but Jupiter should be fairly easy to spot, at an azimuth nearly 20° to the north of east. Binoculars will then show Mars if it is not visible to the eye. The elongation of the planets, 40° from the Sun, means the worst of the glare should be to the right of the planets

Eight mornings later, on the 25th, Venus will be 1° above Jupiter. Half an hour before sunrise Jupiter will be some 12° up, so now a little better placed. The brightness of Venus will make locating the pair simple.

Finally the last morning of October will find Mars some 1.7° to the lower right of Venus. This is not their closest approach: that will be on November 3.

The crescent moon will pass Mars and Jupiter on the morning of October 10 when it will be at the apex of a triangle formed by it and the two planets defining its base. The moon, 9% lit, will be just under 3° from each of the planets. The three will be low with the moon a little over 7° up 40 minutes before sunrise.

OCCULTATION of VENUS, morning of October 9, NZDT In NZ the occultation takes place well after sunrise. Even so both phases of the occultation will be observable with binoculars or a small telescope. The light intensity of Venus will exceed that of the sunlit edge of the moon making the disappearance against the moon's lit limb observable. For New Zealand the occultations will take place fairly centrally round the moon's limb. The moon will be a 15% lit crescent

It will take about 90 seconds for the moon to cover the full diameter of Venus (30 arc second). But Venus will be only 40% lit, with the moon covering and exposing the unlit half first. Hence from the observer's point of view the occultation will start at about the time given in the table below for the mid event. The lit portion of Venus will be hidden or exposed to view over the following three-quarters of a minute.

The predicted times (NZDT am) for a number of places in NZ are given below, D = Disappearance and R = Reappearance:

Auckland:      D 8:11:59,  R 9:52:32
Hamilton:      D 8:14:35,  R 9:54:33
Palmerston N:  D 8:20:14,  R 9:57:26
Wellington:    D 8:20:34,  R 9:56:01
Nelson:        D 8:17:51,  R 9:52:16
Christchurch:  D 8:21:35,  R 9:52:01
Dunedin:       D 8:23:31,  R 9:48:01
Invercargill   D 8:21:44,  R 9:43:22

Times for other places will of course vary, even in different parts of the same city. Those who have the Occult program should generate their own predictions, otherwise Venus should be easily visible, weather permitting, a few minutes before the disappearance.

The occultation is also visible from the eastern half of Australia where the disappearance occurs in a dark sky and the reappearance around the time of sunrise.

SATURN will be the only naked eye planet in the evening sky. It sets just before midnight on the 1st and soon after 10pm on the 31st. So even it will be low especially by the end of the month when it will set an hour after the end of nautical twilight (Sun 13° below the horizon).

The planet starts the month in Libra but crosses into Scorpius on the 17th. Saturn will be about 10° below Antares, getting a little closer as the month progresses.

The 10% lit crescent moon will be about 5° below Saturn on the 16th. The following night it will be 9° to the upper right of Saturn.

OUTER PLANETS URANUS is in Pisces during October, being at opposition on October 12. It will then be 19.0 AU, 2840 million km from the Earth and 20 AU, 2992 million km from the Sun. Being at opposition mid October means it is in the dark sky all night throughout the month.

OCCULTATION OF URANUS. On the evening of October 26 an occultation of Uranus by the moon will be visible in NZ for places from just north of Auckland southwards. A grazing occultation occurs just south of Wellsford. The path of the graze is very close to the one for the graze of Uranus on the morning of September 2.

At the October graze the disappearance will be nominally at the unlit limb of the 98.3% sunlit moon, near its north pole. With the moon so near full, the disappearance of Uranus will be very close to the terminator of the sunlit region, especially in the northern half of the North Island.

Times of the disappearance vary from 11:09:17 at Auckland, the planet taking 36.2 seconds to completely disappear, to Hamilton 10:03:36 (21.4 seconds), Wellington 10:52:39 (12.8 seconds), Christchurch 10:46:54 (11.4 seconds), Dunedin 10:41:58 (10.4 seconds) and Invercargill 10:35:59 (10.4 seconds). The times are for the 50% occultation of the planet.

The reappearance takes place some time later ranging from 11:26:26 at Auckland where the planet will be behind the moon for just over 17 minutes to 11:30:54 at Invercargill with Uranus behind the moon for 55 minutes. This will be at the sunlit limb of the moon.

NEPTUNE was at opposition at the beginning of September, so it will be visible all evening throughout October. The planet will continue to be in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8 to 7.9, so is quite easily seen in binoculars. The 77% lit gibbous moon is closest to Neptune on October 23 when the planet will be 6° to the right and rather higher than the moon. The following night the two will be 10.5° apart with Neptune to the moon's upper left.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius all October with a magnitude 14.4.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is in Sagittarius during October its magnitude ranging from 8.7 to 9.1. Ceres will be moving to the east through Sagittarius towards the constellation's triple boundary point with Microscopium and Capricornus

(4) Vesta is in Cetus throughout October its magnitude ranging from 6.2 to 6.9 during the month. It is at opposition on October 3, when it is brightest. The asteroid will be moving to the west, 9 to 10° from beta Cet, Diphda (magnitude 2.0). On the 17th it will be on the line from beta Cet to iota Cet (3.5), with Vesta a little under 2° from the latter.

(15) Eunomia is in Pegasus during October its magnitude varying from 8.0 to 8.3 as the Earth moves away from the asteroid following its end of October opposition. The asteroid moves in an arc through Pegasus more or less centered on gamma Peg (2.8), 8.4° away.

(29) Amphitrite starts October at magnitude 9.3 in Aries. It is at opposition on the 23rd at magnitude 8.7 and crosses into Pisces 4 nights later. By the end of October its magnitude will be back to 8.9. During October, Amphitrite will be moving to the west about 3° from beta Ari (2.6). On the 23rd, gamma Ari (4.6) will be close to midway between beta and Amphitrite.

(471) Papagena will be at opposition in Cetus on October 21 with a magnitude 9.5. It will then be 1.5° from tau Cet (3.5) The two are closest on the 17th with Papagena 1.26° to the lower left of the star.

-- Brian Loader

8. Variable Stars South Symposium in 2016

The 4th Variable Stars South Symposium will be held in Sydney on Easter Friday, 25th March 2016. The venue is the University of Sydney´s Law Building (Camperdown Campus) which is centrally located, with good transport links, and plenty of accommodation options nearby.

The event is being held in conjunction with the 27th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers, NACAA XXVII, which will run over the entire Easter Weekend. Chair of the Programme Committee is David O´Driscoll.

-- Alan Baldwin.

9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend Report

Eleven of us from Dunedin, Gore and Cromwell stayed the Friday night at Camp Iona, 2km to the west of Herbert township. The night was initially wet with cold showery rain, so we kept warm by the log-burner in the Lodge. At 9:00pm, the rain stopped and the dark night sky above us fully cleared. Telescopes and cameras were out in force, and we were treated to a broad auroral glow up to 30 degrees altitude in the southwest. It was the first aurora seen at a Herbert Astronomy Weekend since 1993!

Saturday was sunny and solar telescopes were in force. Four members of the South Canterbury Astronomy Group arrived. Robert McTague showed how to correctly align an equatorial telescope mount north-south by aiming centrally at the Sun at its exact transit time. Robert got Camp Iona's longitude and the Sun's transit time from his smartphone.

Later three more attendees arrived nearer Saturday evening, two from Dunedin, and another from Christchurch. A relatively new member of the Canterbury Astronomical Society set up his 12-inch Orion Dobsonian telescope, the largest aperture telescope of our Weekend. In the hall a data projector was set up for the talks. The intended evening speaker was late so, without an evening talk, we used another great clear night sky with telescopes and cameras finishing past midnight. I could detect a faint hint of the remaining broad aurora above the south- western hills.

Sunday morning saw a mass departure and a clean-up of Camp Iona. Despite only 18 attendees we had a very successful weekend of two clear night skies with an aurora.

Among those from Dunedin was Amadeo Enriquez of the Otago Museum and his "Astronomy Club" of four teenagers, two Year 12 students and two Year 9 students. They were keen astrophotographers with their DSLR cameras, especially on the aurora. One year 9 student, Stephen Xu, came from China last year. He had never seen so many stars in his life as he saw on the Friday night! And an aurora as well. A week after the event he is still buzzing from experiencing the night sky above Camp Iona!

-- From notes by Ross Dickie, Convenor.

10. Oxygen Doesn't Always Mean Life

The Earth´s atmosphere contains oxygen because plants continuously produce it through photosynthesis. This abundant supply of oxygen allows life forms like animals to flourish. Therefore, oxygen had been thought to be an essential biomarker for life on extrasolar planets. However, oxygen may be made by non-biological processes. Norio Narita of the Astrobiology Center of Japan's National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) and Shigeyuki Masaoka, of the Institute of Molecular Science of NINS, have presented a novel hypothesis that it could be possible for planets to have large quantities of abiotic (non- biologically produced) oxygen. The study is published in Scientific Reports on September 10.

Until now, it had been thought that if a planet has oxygen that must mean that some form of vegetation are producing it through photosynthesis. Therefore, it had been assumed that when searching for signs of life on habitable extrasolar planets, the presence of oxygen in the atmosphere could be considered a definitive biomarker. However, non-biological chemical reactions can also affect atmospheric compositions of extrasolar planets. Now, the research team led by Dr Narita has shown that it is possible for titanium oxide to make abiotic oxygen by a photocatalytic reaction. Titanium oxide is abundant on the surfaces of terrestrial planets, meteoroids, and the Moon in the Solar System.

For a planet with an environment similar to the Sun-Earth system, continuous photocatalytic reaction of titanium oxide on about 0.05% of the planetary surface could produce the amount of oxygen found in the current Earth´s atmosphere. In addition, the team estimated the amount of possible oxygen production for habitable planets around other types of host stars with various masses and temperatures. They found that even in the least efficient production case of a low-temperature star, the photocatalytic reaction of the titanium oxide on about 3% of the planetary surface could maintain this level of atmospheric oxygen through abiotic processes. In other words, it is possible that a habitable extrasolar planet could maintain an atmosphere with Earth- like oxygen, even without organisms to perform photosynthesis.

Dr Narita said, "To search for life on extrasolar planets through astronomical observation, we need to combine the knowledge from various scientific fields and to promote astrobiology researches to establish the decisive signs of life. Although oxygen is still one of possible biomarkers, it becomes necessary to look for new biomarkers besides oxygen from the present result."

For the original text & image see http://www.nao.ac.jp/en/news/science/2015/20150910-abc.html

-- From a press release by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. ISS Photos Yield "Cities at Night" World Map

Researchers on the ground have combed through a trove of images taken by orbiting astronauts to reveal unprecedented details about light pollution streaming from Earth's major cities.

Since the Mercury missions in 1960s, NASA astronauts have taken more than a million hand-held pictures of Earth. With the introduction of digital time-lapse imaging from the International Space Station (ISS), in the last decade the collection grew rapidly. Many of these NASA and ESA images are catalogued and publicly released in high-resolution on the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Visitors can search photos of specific locations on the world map or search by coordinates.

The astronauts' images have scientific value in mapping the distribution and intensity of lights visible at night. Scientists from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain) and the Cégep de Sherbrooke (Canada), together with members of the public, have worked on a project called Cities at Night.

After three years of work, the team officially announced the program and its early results at the recent General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in August. The aim is to produce a global colour map of the entire Earth at night. The first released version of the map presents selected densely populated areas.

Earlier maps of Earth's night lights were derived from Defence Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) images. These show resolutions of about 1 km per pixel, good enough to resolve towns and villages. NASA's Night Lights, known as the Black Marble and introduced in 2012, provides the improved resolution of 750 meters. These maps have been great tools for educators and science communicators, but they not convey colour or spectral information and do not resolve fine details necessary for advanced studies on light pollution.

But Earth-watchers were quick to realize the potential of images taken by astronauts aboard the ISS. While DMSP satellites orbit at altitudes near 830 km, the ISS orbits at roughly half that. Also, astronauts have access to an arsenal of lenses that range from an 8-mm Nikon fisheye to 1,200-mm super telephoto.

Like astrophotographers on Earth, challenged by constantly moving celestial objects, due to Earth's rotation, and long exposures, ISS photographers are also limited by the station's rapid velocity over the ground below (8 km per second). Night-time photography demands longer exposures, higher sensitivities, and faster lenses. In order to freeze the motion and capture a sharper image, astronaut Don Pettit fashioned a barn-door tracker from available parts on board, which enabled the first motion-compensated night time imagery from the ISS. The European Space Agency's NightPod, a motorized tripod installed in 2012, compensates for the station's speed and the motion of Earth below.

Thanks to these improvements, some images taken by astronaut aboard the Space Station can resolve details down to only a few meters per pixel resolution. According to Sanchez, on rare occasions and with advanced processing methods, the resolution can even reach only a meter per pixel - good enough to resolve individual streetlights.

However, the typical resolution range of astronaut images used in the project are 20 to 200 m per pixel, still far better than previous maps. The Cities at Night team has worked with more than 130,000 images since last year. Most of these were single photos made with lenses of 40-mm focal length and higher.

While astronauts' photography does not cover the entire Earth, the ISS's orbital inclination of 52° gives them an excellent stage for observing most populated areas of the world. Thanks to this resolution power the team were able to estimate the total cost of street light energy consumption in the European Union which is more than 6 billion euros per year.

NASA's Johnson Space Center provided images in their original (Raw) format, which enabled the team to analyse data in separate colour channels (RGB) and access valuable spectral information. Sanchez and his colleagues could also calibrate the cameras' spectral response, make flat fields for each lens, and stitch neighbouring images together to create mosaics, starting with some of the world's capitals.

For example, a comparison of images of Milan taken in 2012 and 2015 are very revealing. The newer image shows how the city centre is now dominated by brighter, bluer LED lights, having replaced older (but "warmer") high-pressure sodium street-lighting. This sudden change shows greater light pollution and a shift to wavelengths with greater impact on human health and the environment. (Blue light at night is harmful.) Such environmental monitoring is an important potential of the project.

According to Christopher Kyba (German Research Centre for Geoscience), who studies the ecological impact of artificial lights, "The ISS images are currently the only way to effectively study the global transition to solid state lighting (LEDs)." He notes that that these images have many uses beyond monitoring the spread of light pollution (and the consequent loss of starry skies). For example, they can play a role in many aspects of city planning: demographics, economics, ecological effects, conservation, and circadian disruption. They have even been used in studies that trace the causes and incidence of breast cancer and other diseases.

The ISS images record light directly straight up into the sky. However, according to studies by Chris Luginbuhl and others, the main cause of the skyglow we see at ground level is light beamed sideways, just above horizontal. On their long glancing path through the atmosphere, photons scatter much more strongly than those directed toward the zenith.

An important part of the new study led by Sanchez is to correlate what's seen in the astronauts' images with the light pollution seen from the ground. The photos do contain evidence of diffuse skyglow, but up to now this had not been measured quantitatively. Prior surveys such as the World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness indirectly estimated skyglow brightness based on satellite images. However, amateur astronomers now routinely measure skyglow using portable devices such as the Sky Quality Meter or by even smartphone apps. The Cities at Night team implemented some of these ground-based measurements in the project. This space-ground correlation, done for the first time, is an important step in creating more reliable estimates of actual light pollution.

"This project is incredibly important for science and really doesn't cost a lot of money," Kyba says. "It would be a real shame if it's not successful." If you're interested in supporting it, the project recently started a citizen-science effort and crowdfunding on Kickstarter to continue and extend the map.

See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/iss-photos-yield-cities-at-night-map-09052015/?et_mid=782828&rid=246399573#sthash.tRkGDrpw.dpuf

For more information about light pollution and how to fight it, check out the extensive website of the International Dark-Sky Association. Better yet, become an IDA member!

-- From the above Sky & Telescope article by Babak Tafreshi.

12. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

Newsletter editor:

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

President:

John Drummond

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Address:
P O Box,
Patutahi 4045

Immediate Past President:

John Hearnshaw

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Address:
Department Physics & Astronomy
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800,
Christchurch 8140

Vice President:

Nicholas Rattenbury

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Address:
The Department of Physics,
The University of Auckland,
38 Princes St, Auckland.

Secretary:

Nichola Van der Aa

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Address:
85 Douglas street,
Whakatane 3120.

Treasurer:

Simon Lowther

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Address:
19 Cape Vista Crescent,
Pukekohe 2120

Councillors:

Steve Butler

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Address:
30 Hoffman Court,
Invercargill 9810

Bob Evans

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Address:
15 Taiepa Rd,
Otatara RD9,
Invercargill 9879

Sergei Gulyaev

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Address:
120 Mayoral Drive,
Auckland, 1010.

Peter Jaquiery

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Address:
31 Wright St,
Dunedin 9010

Orlon Petterson

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Address:
Department Physics & Astronomy
University of Canterbury,
Private Bag 4800,
Christchurch 8140

Karen Pollard

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Address:
Department Physics & Astronomy
University of Canterbury
Private Bag 4800,
Christchurch 8140

Glen Rowe

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Address:
23 Stanhope Grove,
Korokoro
Lower Hutt 5012

Gary Sparks

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Address:
67 Meeanee Road,
Taradale,
Napier 4112

Advisor on Space Law to RASNZ

Dr. Maria Pozza

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Address:
Lane Neave
141 Cambridge Terrace, Christchurch 8013
PO Box 2331, Christchurch 8140

Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

Mr W H Allen
Prof E Budding
Dr G W Christie
Mr R W Evans
Mr A C Gilmore
Prof. J B Hearnshaw
Ms P M Kilmartin
Mr B R Loader
Assoc. Prof. K R Pollard
Prof. D. J. Sullivan
Mr W S G Walker
Assoc. Prof. P. C. M. Yock
Ms J McCormick
Mr. S Butler

Honorary Members

Thomas Richards MA(Hons VUW), DPhil(Oxon)
Brian Warner BSc(Hons), PhD, DSc(London), MA, DSc(Oxon), Assoc RAS, FRSSA, MASSA

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter August 2015

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

Email Newsletter Number 176

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. Auckland Astronomical Society's Burbidge Dinner
2. 2015 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition
3. Herbert Astronomy Weekend - September 11-14
4. The Solar System in September
5. Pluto's Young Plains
6. Pluto Feature Names Unofficial
7. 'Maunder Minimum' Prediction Clarified
8. StellarFest 2015 at Foxton
9. Variable Stars and Astronomy Education
10. Population III Stars Seen?
11. ALMA Images Distant Galaxy
12. Buckyballs Solve Interstellar Mystery
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. Quote

1. Auckland Astronomical Society's Burbidge Dinner

The Auckland Astronomical Society invites you to the 2015 Burbidge Dinner. The guest speaker this year is: Professor Chris Lintott from Oxford University, UK. His talk will be:

Is the Milky Way Special? We are on the verge of finally getting to know our celestial neighborhood. New missions such as Gaia and Fermi are poised to reveal the Milky Ways past, present and perhaps future, and so it seems an excellent time to ask whether there's anything really special about our home galaxy. In this talk, Chris Lintott will draw on cutting-edge research and results from his own Galaxy Zoo project to compare the Milky Way to the other galaxies which surround us, and ask whether were living in a special time in its history. For starters, it seems there's something odd about the black hole that lurks in the centre of the Milky Way.

Chris Lintott is Professor of Astrophysics and Citizen Science in the Department of Physics at Oxford University. Lintott is involved in a number of popular science projects aimed at bringing astronomy to a wider audience. He is the primary presenter of the BBC series The Sky at Night, having previously been co-presenter with Sir Patrick Moore until Moore's death in 2012. Lintott co-authored 'Bang! - The Complete History of the Universe' with Patrick Moore and Queen guitarist and astrophysicist Brian May.

The evening will include the presentation of the Beaumont prize for the best article written in the Journal by a member and the Astrophotography Competition including the Harry Williams Trophy. Date: Saturday, 3rd October 2015, starting at 6:30 pm. Venue: Alexandra Park, Epsom. Tickets: Early-bird price $50.00 per person. $60 per person after 31st August. Includes a buffet dinner. Tickets can be purchased through the Astronz website or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

-- Adapted from a note by Jonathan Green to the nzastronomers group.

2. 2015 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition

Entries to the Harry Williams Astrophotography competition close on September 7. Winners of the competition will be announced at the Auckland Astronomical Society's annual Burbidge Dinner.

This year's competition will be judged by Pete Lawrence who is an expert in image processing and one of the UK's foremost astrophotographers. Pete is probably best known for being one of the co-hosts of the very popular BBC "Sky at Night" television program where he routinely provides advice on astro-imaging and general astronomical observing. Pete also has a degree in physics with astrophysics.

This year the Deep Sky category is sponsored by the Nikon D810a full frame astrophotography camera. Nikon has very generously provided a cash prize of $500 for the winner of the category as well as a loan of their new Nikon D810a, Nikon's first dedicated astrophotography DSLR.

For Competition details and the Entry Form see http://www.astronomy.org.nz/new/public/default.aspx

-- Adapted from a note by Jonathan Green to the nzastronomers group.

3. Herbert Astronomy Weekend - September 11-14

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend will be on the weekend of September 11th to 14th at Camp Iona, 2 km to the west of Herbert in North Otago, beginning from Friday afternoon.

The overnight fees are $34 per adult for two nights and $17 for one night. For secondary school teenagers, they are $14 and $28 for one and two night per teenager, and for primary schoolchildren they are $11 and $22 for one and two nights. For those staying the full three nights at Camp Iona, the charge is $38. There is also a daytime or evening visitor charge of $6 per person for those who wish to our Herbert Astronomy Weekend without the need to stay overnights at Camp Iona. Those fees are payable in cash or cheque at Camp Iona.

Speakers are welcome at our Herbert Astronomy Weekend, and a data projector is available for those who wish to speak. Please contact Euan Mason at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you wish to speak.

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend´s website is http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/ where online registrations are encouraged for those attending the Weekend.

-- Ross Dickie, Herbert Astronomy Weekend Convenor.

4. The Solar System in September

Dates and times are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise specified up to September 26. From September 27 they are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours). NZDT commences on Sunday September 27 at 2am when clocks should be put forward one hour.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The southern spring equinox is on September 23, with the Sun on the celestial equator at 8:21 pm

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in september

                       September  1  NZST            September 30  NZDT
                 morning    evening              morning  evening
       SUN: rise:  6.44am,  set: 5.58pm    rise:  6.55am, set:  7.27pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 6.19am, ends: 6.24pm   starts: 6.30am, ends: 7.53pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.47am, ends: 6.56pm   starts: 5.58am, ends: 8.25pm 
 Astro:    starts: 5.15am, ends: 7.28pm   starts: 5.24am, ends: 8.59pm

September PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  September  5 at  9.54 pm (09:54 UT)
  New moon:      September 13 at  6.41 pm (06:41 UT)
  First quarter: September 21 at  8.59 pm (08:59 UT) 
  Full moon:     September 28 at  3.51 pm (02:51 UT)

ECLIPSES A partial eclipse of the Sun on September 13 will be visible from southern parts of Africa, the southern half of the Malagasy Republic, the South Indian Ocean and Antarctica. No part of the eclipse is visible from Australia or New Zealand. This is an annular eclipse but the path of annularity misses the Earth.

A total eclipse of the moon on September 28 is also not visible from Australasia. The total phase of the eclipse, lasing some 82 minutes, is best seen from countries either side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The planets in september

Mercury will be well placed for evening viewing during the earlier part of the month. Venus, Mars and Jupiter are all morning objects rising a little before the Sun. Saturn, in the evening sky, will set before midnight. An occultation of Uranus by the moon on the morning of September 2 will be visible from most of NZ.

MERCURY is an easy early evening object during the first half of September, setting 2 hours or more after the Sun. On the 1st, 50 minutes after sunset the planet, magnitude 0.2, will be some 15° above the horizon to the west. On the 4th Mercury is at its greatest elongation, 27° east of the Sun. For nearly two weeks after that its evening altitude slowly declines.

The angle of Mercury from the Sun rapidly declines in the latter part of September as does its evening altitude so that it slips out of view. Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun at the very end of the month.

VENUS was at inferior conjunction mid-August, so September finds it moving up into the morning sky. It rises nearly 100 minutes before the Sun on September 1. It continues to rise earlier so it is up almost 2 hours before the sun on the 30th. On the morning of the 10th the 11% lit crescent moon with be 7° to the left of Venus.

MARS is also a morning object, but rather lower than Venus. It rises just under an hour before the Sun on the 1st and 70 minutes before the Sun on the 30th. Mars will be at magnitude 1.8 all month.

Like Venus, Mars starts the month in Cancer, moving on into Leo on the 6th. In Leo it will move towards Regulus, alpha Leo, and is closest to the magnitude 1.4 star on the morning of September 25, when the two will be about 50 arc-minutes apart. Mars, at magnitude 1.8 will be slightly fainter than Regulus and to the lower left of the star.

The moon, a 6% lit waning crescent, will be just under 4° above Mars on the morning of the 11th, one day after it passes Venus.

JUPITER is the third planet in the morning sky that rises shortly before sunrise. It is in Leo all month, moving away from Regulus. It was at conjunction with the Sun on August 26, so will rise only 3 minutes earlier than the Sun at the beginning of September. By the end of the month this will have increased to nearly an hour before the Sun, but the planet will be only 5° above the horizon twenty minutes before sunrise making it a difficult object to see.

SATURN will be the only naked eye planet left in the evening sky once Mercury has slipped out of it. It sets at 12.40 a.m. at the beginning of September and 11.56 p.m. (NZDT) on the 30th. Hence it will be readily visible in the earlier part of the evening. It will be in Libra about 12° below Antares all month, Saturn moving slightly closer to Antares as the month progresses.

The moon a 29% broad crescent will be some 3.5° to the right of Saturn on September 19.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during September. It rises around 9.14 p.m. on the 1st and 8.15 p.m. (NDST) on the 30th. The planet will be at magnitude 5.7 so readily seen in binoculars.

OCCULTATION OF URANUS. On the morning of September 2 an occultation of Uranus by the moon will be visible in NZ for places just north of Auckland southwards. A grazing occultation occurs just south of Wellsford. The disappearance will be at the bright limb of the 88% lit moon so difficult to observe. The reappearance at the unlit limb will be a lot easier to see using a small telescope.

Unlike stellar occultations, the occultation of Uranus will not be instantaneous due to the angular diameter of the planet. In the South Island the reappearance will take about 6 seconds, but this time will increase further north, nearer the graze path, to almost 20 seconds at Auckland.

The time of the reappearance is near 5 a.m.; for most places a little before, but for Wellington and places near the east coast of the North Island Uranus will reappear shortly after 5 a.m. Users of Occult will be able to generate accurate times for their position.

NEPTUNE is at opposition on the 1st. It then rises 15 minutes before sunset and sets a few minutes after sunrise. By the end of the month Neptune sets an hour before sunrise. The planet remains in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8, so is quite easily seen in binoculars. The near full moon is closest to Neptune on September 26.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius all September with a magnitude 14.3 to 14.4.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Sagittarius during September fading a little from magnitude 8.2 to 8.7 during the month. The dwarf planet will be slow moving in Sagittarius, being stationary on the 15th. It will then be about 3.5° from the M55 globular cluster.

(4) Vesta is in Cetus throughout September brightening from magnitude 6.7 to 6.3 during the month. The asteroid rises at 8.16 p.m. on the 1st. By the end of September it will rise about 40 minutes before sunset and set nearly an hour after sunrise.

(15) Eunomia starts September in Andromeda with a magnitude 8.4. It moves into Pegasus on the 22nd. Opposition is at the end of September when Eunomia will have brightened to 7.9. It will then be the second brightest asteroid in the sky, having crossed into Pegasus on the 22nd.

-- Brian Loader

5. Pluto's Young Plains

A close-up image of Pluto reveals a craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old, and is possibly still being shaped by geologic processes. This frozen region is north of Pluto´s icy mountains, in the centre-left of the heart feature, informally named "Tombaugh Regio" (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

This fascinating icy plains region -- resembling frozen mud cracks on Earth -- has been informally named "Sputnik Planum" (Sputnik Plain) after the Earth´s first artificial satellite. It has a broken surface of irregularly-shaped segments, roughly 20 km across, bordered by what appear to be shallow troughs. Some of these troughs have darker material within them, while others are traced by clumps of hills that appear to rise above the surrounding terrain. Elsewhere, the surface appears to be etched by fields of small pits that may have formed by a process called sublimation, in which ice turns directly from solid to gas, just as dry ice does on Earth.

Scientists have two working theories as to how these segments were formed. The irregular shapes may be the result of the contraction of surface materials, similar to what happens when mud dries. Alternatively, they may be a product of convection, similar to wax rising in a lava lamp. On Pluto, convection would occur within a surface layer of frozen carbon monoxide, methane and nitrogen, driven by the scant warmth of Pluto´s interior.

Pluto´s icy plains also display dark streaks that are a few miles long. These streaks appear to be aligned in the same direction and may have been produced by winds blowing across the frozen surface.

The New Horizons Atmospheres team observed Pluto´s atmosphere as far as 1,600 km above the surface, demonstrating that Pluto´s nitrogen-rich atmosphere is quite extended. This is the first observation of Pluto´s atmosphere at altitudes higher than 270 km above the surface.

The New Horizons Particles and Plasma team has discovered a region of cold, dense ionized gas tens of thousands of miles beyond Pluto -- the planet´s atmosphere being stripped away by the solar wind and lost to space.

For the full release and images see http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-new-horizons-discovers-frozen-plains-in-the-heart-of-pluto-s-heart

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

6. Pluto Feature Names Unofficial

Amidst all the excitement of seeing Pluto´s unique features for the first time, NASA researchers have been using unofficial names to talk science until official terms come down the pipeline. These preliminary names come from the list compiled during the OurPluto naming campaign, but so far the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has not approved them (or any others).

The IAU is very precise about how they name planetary features. Similar to how biological beings are divided into kingdoms, classes, and species, so too are solar system features (along with stars and galaxies) grouped and classified, then named according to an overarching theme. For example, craters 60 km or greater on Mars are named after deceased scientists and explorers, as well as writers who wrote about the Martian planet. Smaller Martian craters are named after cities with populations less than 100,000. For more on the IAU´s themes and conventions see https://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming/#planetaryfeatures

As such, until those studying Pluto can understand and classify Pluto´s features, the IAU will have to wait to properly group and approve names. However, according to Rita Schulz, chair of the IAU´s Working Group on Planetary System Nomenclature, the first name likely to come down the Pluto-naming pipeline will be the Tombaugh Regio - and it seems fitting to name Pluto´s heart after the world´s discoverer.

>From a Sky & Telescope article by Anne McGovern. See the original with images at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/unofficially-naming-pluto-0723201566/?et_mid=771005&rid=246399573

7. 'Maunder Minimum' Prediction Clarified

Last month's Newsletter Item 7 was a press release by the Royal Astronomical Society (U.K.) detailing a model of solar magnetism that predicts a fall in solar activity by 60 percent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645.

This was widely interpreted as a 60% fall in the Sun's total energy output. In fact the Sun's magnetic activity was all that was being discussed. Variations in magnetic activity, most obvious in sunspot numbers, change the Sun's energy output by around 0.1%.

The press release strayed from the original paper's predictions by linking the 'Maunder Minimum' to the mini ice age. The duration, extent and cause of that weather event is still controversial.

Duncan Hall provided a link to a clarification of this on Radio NZ's Media Watch programme at http://podcast.radionz.co.nz/mwatch/mwatch-20150726-0911-winter_is_coming_churnalism_freezes_out_the_facts-048.mp3 Put up with the Paul Henry piece in the first few minutes. The rest is worth the wait.

8. StellarFest 2015 at Foxton

StellarFest ran from 14-16 August 2015 at Foxton Beach. About 70 people registered for this event, including a dozen or so students enrolled in the astronomy paper running this semester at Massey University. There were many excellent presentations including, amongst others, observing - solar, variable stars, DSLR night sky and light pollution meters; basic physics - observing equipment, gravity; recent discoveries - exoplanets, New Horizons probe and the infra-red satellite (WISE).

The most up-to-the-minute presentation (by Skype) was by Paul Delaney of York University, Toronto, about dwarf planet Pluto: firstly a brief history of the discovery and the definition of a planet and then some detail on the images which indicate relatively recent activity, in contrast to the previously assumed view of it as a dead, cold world. The question to be resolved is, what is the source of the energy for this activity?

As well as the interesting lectures the clouds cleared on Saturday night to allow some viewing.

-- Rapporteur Alan Baldwin

9. Variable Stars and Astronomy Education

During this year there has been discussion amongst some Variable Stars South (VSS) associates about hands-on activities for folk new to astronomy. Recently two projects have risen above the horizon.

1. Carl Knight, based in the Manawatu, has become involved in a school

Science Fair project being undertaken by Tessa, a student at Freyberg High School. The project decided on with the help of Stella Kafka of AAVSO was to measure the variability of UU Muscae, a Delta Cepheid variable with a period of 11.6 days. Much has been learnt from this exercise about the practical difficulties of running such astronomy projects within a short time-frame. One benefit coming out of the project has recently opened up, with the opportunity for Carl to talk about astronomy in education at a lunch-time meeting of the science teachers at this local school.

Science Fair projects may be a way to work with secondary school students and Carl plans to make available some notes on his experiences for the benefit of others going down this track.

2. AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) has

"published" their introductory Variable Star Astronomy education course on-line; this consists of notes for students and guide notes/PowerPoint for teachers. With the support of the Chandra X-ray Centre this is now available for FREE (AAVSO Newsletter 2015 Aug). Web-site https://www.aavso.org/education/vsa A quick inspection has shown that it is northern Hemisphere based. Perhaps the curriculum could be used to develop a Southern equivalent using existing web resource and a small amount of new material.

Anyone who has experience with practical astronomy exercises is invited to join in the current discussion.

-- Alan Baldwin

10. Population III Stars Seen?

By far the brightest galaxy yet found in the early Universe appears to have the first generation of stars in it. First generation stars are massive, brilliant, and previously purely theoretical objects. They were the creators of the first heavy elements necessary to make the stars, planets and life we have today. The newly found galaxy, labelled CR7, is three times brighter than the brightest distant galaxy known up to now.

Astronomers have long theorised the existence of a first generation of stars, known as Population III stars. They formed from the hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium from the Big Bang. All the heavier chemical elements - such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon and iron, which are essential to life - were made in later generations of stars.

Population III stars would have been enormous: several hundred or even a thousand times more massive than the Sun. They would have been very hot and short-lived, exploding as supernovae after only about two million years. Until now the search for physical proof of their existence had been inconclusive.

An international team used several of the biggest ground-based telescopes -- the European Southern Observatory´s Very Large Telescope (VLT), the W. M. Keck Observatory and the Subaru Telescope -- as well as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to look back into the ancient Universe, to a period known as reionisation. That was approximately 800 million years after the Big Bang. In the widest survey of very distant galaxies ever attempted the team discovered, and confirmed, a number of surprisingly bright very young galaxies. CR7 was one of these.

Closer study found strongly ionised helium emission in CR7 but, crucially and surprisingly, no sign of any heavier elements in a bright pocket in the galaxy. This meant the team had discovered the first good evidence for clusters of Population III stars that had ionised gas within a galaxy in the early Universe

Within CR7, bluer and somewhat redder clusters of stars were found, indicating that the formation of Population III stars had occurred in waves - as had been predicted. What the team directly observed was the last wave of Population III stars, suggesting that such stars should be easier to find than previously thought. They reside amongst regular stars, in brighter galaxies, not just in the earliest, smallest, and dimmest galaxies, which are so faint as to be extremely difficult to study.

Further observations with the VLT, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA), and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are planned to confirm beyond doubt that what has been observed are Population III stars, and to search for further examples.

CR7 is three times brighter than the previous titleholder, Himiko, which was thought to be one of a kind at this very early time. Dusty galaxies, at much later stages in the history of the Universe, may radiate more total energy than CR7 in the form of infrared radiation from warm dust. The energy coming from CR7 is mostly ultraviolet/ visible light.

The team considered two alternate theories: that the source of the 
light was either from an active galactic nucleus (AGN) or Wolf-Rayet 
stars. The lack of heavy elements, and other evidence, strongly refutes 
both these theories. The team also considered that the source might be 
a direct-collapse black hole, which are themselves exceptional exotic 
and purely theoretical objects. The lack of broad emission lines and 
the fact that the hydrogen and helium luminosities were much greater 
than what has been predicted for such a black hole indicate that this, 
too, is unlikely. A lack of X-ray emissions would further refute this 
possibility, but additional observations are needed.

The name Population III arose because astronomers had already classed the stars of the Milky Way as Population I (stars like the Sun, rich in heavier elements and forming the disc) and Population II (older stars, with a low heavy-element content, and found in the Milky Way bulge and halo, and globular star clusters).

-- From ESO Science Release eso1524 forwarded by Karen Pollard. See the original text http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1524/

11. ALMA Images Distant Galaxy

The Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) Long Baseline Campaign has produced a spectacular image of a distant galaxy being gravitationally lensed. The image shows a magnified view of the galaxy´s star-forming regions, the likes of which have never been seen before at this level of detail in a galaxy so remote. The new observations are far sharper than those made using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and reveal star-forming clumps in the galaxy equivalent to giant versions of the Orion Nebula in the Milky Way.

Observations made at the end of 2014 as part of the campaign targeted a distant galaxy called HATLAS J090311.6+003906, otherwise known as SDP.81. This light from this galaxy is bent by a cosmic effect known as gravitational lensing. A large galaxy between SDP.81 and us is acting as a lens, warping and magnifying the view of a more distant galaxy and creating a near-perfect example of a phenomenon known as an Einstein Ring.

The lensed galaxy is seen at a time when the Universe was only 15 percent of its current age, just 2.4 billion years after Big Bang. The light has taken 11.4 billion years to reach us. The massive foreground galaxy that is bending the light is comparatively close at four billion light-years away from us.

At least seven groups of scientists have independently analysed the ALMA data on SDP.81. This flurry of research papers has revealed unprecedented information about the galaxy, including details about its structure, contents, motion, and other physical characteristics.

The astronomers´ sophisticated models reveal fine, never-before-seen structure within SDP.81, in the form of dusty clouds thought to be giant repositories of cold molecular gas - the birthplaces of stars and planets. These models were able to correct for the distortion produced by the magnifying gravitational lens.

As a result, the ALMA observations are so sharp that researchers can see clumps of star formation in the galaxy down to a size of about 200 light-years, equivalent to observing giant versions of the Orion Nebula producing thousands of times more new stars at the far side of the Universe. This is the first time this phenomenon has been seen at such an enormous distance.

Using the spectral information gathered by ALMA, astronomers also measured how the distant galaxy rotates, and estimated its mass. The data showed that the gas in this galaxy is unstable; clumps of it are collapsing inwards, and will likely turn into new giant star-forming regions in the future.

The modelling of the lensing effect indicates the existence of a supermassive black hole, 200-300 million times the mass of the Sun, at the centre of the foreground galaxy lens.

ALMA acts as an interferometer. Simply speaking, the array´s multiple antennas work in perfect synchrony to collect light as an enormous virtual telescope up to 15 kilometres across. As a result, the new images of SDP.81 have a resolution up to six times higher than those taken in the infrared with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

In angular terms, details down to 0.023 arc-seconds, or 23 milli- arcseconds, can be measured. Hubble observed this galaxy in the near- infrared, with a resolution of about 0.16 arcseconds. However, when observing at shorter wavelengths, Hubble can reach finer resolutions, down to 0.022 arcseconds in the near-ultraviolet. At the Moon's distance 1 milli-arcsecond is about 2 metres. So 0.022 arcseconds is about 44 metres on the Moon, seen from Earth.

For the original text and picture see http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1522/

-- From ESO Science Release eso1522 forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Buckyballs Solve Interstellar Mystery

The term "diffuse interstellar bands" may not run chills down your back, but it´s code for a spectral mystery that has haunted astronomers for almost a century. First discovered in 1922, these absorption lines (more than 400 of them) are seen anytime astronomers look toward dust- reddened stars. But no ions or molecules tested in the lab have provided a good match. Sometimes the bands even appear where there´s very little dust.

Now new research published in the July 16 Nature has finally confirmed that buckyballs - officially known as buckminsterfullerene, a molecule that links 60 carbon atoms into a soccer-ball-shaped cage - are responsible for two of these mysterious absorption bands.

Buckyballs lie on the periphery of our ordinary experience, showing up in small amounts among soot particles and easily created in the lab. (In fact, some chemists are building so-called buckybombs, nanoscale explosives designed to attack cancer cells.) The molecule´s extremely stable lattice shape withstands high temperatures and pressures. Given its stability, it´s not surprising that this molecule might exist in space. The Spitzer Space Telescope had detected buckyballs several years ago: in their gaseous form in 2010, and in their solid form, where the spheres stack together like oranges in a crate, in 2012. But knowing that these molecules could exist in space was only the first step.

Neutral buckyballs don´t absorb light at the right wavelengths to explain diffuse interstellar bands, but ionized buckyballs could. So Ewen Campbell (University of Basel, Switzerland) and colleagues trapped a few thousand charged buckyballs, then cooled them to the icy temperature of the interstellar medium by colliding them with cold (5.8 K or -449°F) helium atoms. Then the chemists measured the spectrum. What they found was an exact match to two diffuse interstellar bands, a confirmation that at least two of these mysterious absorption bands are due to the presence of charged buckyballs in space.

The loss of an electron reshapes the buckyball slightly, by the way, so it's no longer quite the shape of a soccer ball. They're "slightly distorted, not that anybody but a spectroscopist would notice," says co-author John Maier (University of Basel, Switzerland). "A bit like when Messi kicks a football - it becomes a bit squashed."

Buckyballs aren´t the only carbon-bearing molecule lurking in interstellar space either. It´s likely that a number of other molecules, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (smelly molecules also found in fossil fuels, natural crude oil, and coal deposits) or silicon-tipped carbon chains, are responsible for the remaining absorption bands. But these other suggestions still await confirmation. So that´s two down, 400 or so to go...

-- Monica Young on Sky & Telescope's webpage. For the full article, with many pictures, see http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/buckyballs-solve-interstellar-mystery-0720201564/?et_mid=771005&rid=246399573

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2015. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

16. Quote

"The world's nations have agreed that global warming must be limited to less than two degrees Celsius to avoid its most serious consequences. The science makes it quite clear that in order to achieve this target, global emissions of carbon dioxide need to be reduced to zero before the end of the current century. Therein lies the challenge of our time." -- Tim Naish, Director of Victoria University's Antarctic Research Centre.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
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