General Information

The object of the Society is the promotion and extension of knowledge of astronomy and related branches of science. It encourages interest in Astronomy, and is an association of observers and others for mutual help and advancement of science. It was founded in 1920 as the New Zealand Astronomical Society and assumed its present title on receiving the Royal Charter in 1946. In 1967 it became a Member Body of the Royal Society of New Zealand. The address of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand is:

P O Box 3181, Wellington, New Zealand.

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

Membership

See Glen Rowe's Member benefits article.

Membership of the Society is open to all interested in astronomy. The RASNZ has about 180 individual members, including both professional and amateur astronomers. Many of the astronomical research and observing programmes carried out in this country involve collaboration between professional and amateur observers in New Zealand and elsewhere. In addition the society has a number of special interest groups or sections which cater for people who have interests in particular areas of astronomy. There are also a number of local societies which are affiliated to the RASNZ but generally cater for local amateur astronomers.

The RASNZ rules and bylaws are available to download (RASNZ Rules and Bylaws) as a PDF file.

Subscriptions

The 2015 annual subscription of the RASNZ for ordinary members is $40.00. This is reduced to $20.00 for students engaged in full-time study. Special rates apply to Affiliated Societies, and to overseas members.   Subscriptions cover the calendar year, reduced rates apply for those joining late in the year.  Membership forms and further details are available on line.

Publications received by members include Southern Stars is the Society Journal published four times a year. This is published in both electronic format (PDF) for download, and also printed and offered to members at a reduced rate over the normal subscription rate.  The Email Newsletter is published monthly apart from December and sent to members by email. Members without Email may receive a printed copy. An Astronomical Yearbook is published annually towards the end of one year covering astronomical events for the following year. This is available to members as an optional extra.

Membership application.

Contacts for the Society Officers

Society Officers may be contacted by Email from the following links.
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Annual Conference

An Annual RASNZ Conference is held at which members and non-members present papers on their own observations, research and other topics of astronomical interest. Anyone interested in astronomy is welcome to attend.


RASNZ Publications

The RASNZ produces or co-produces a number of publications. These are supplied to all members as part of their subscription.
Southern Stars
Southern Star is the official journal of RASNZ. It is intended the new look publication should contain:
  • RESEARCH PAPERS - theoretical, observational, technical, historical, etc.
  • NEWS ARTICLES regarding recent events in NZ astronomy - discoveries, gatherings, awards, etc.
  • ANNUAL REPORTS from NZ astronomical institutions.
  • REVIEWS of astronomical activities - sections, local/regional groups, personal, etc
  • LETTERS to the editor
  • OBSERVERS FORUM - particularly interesting photographs or descriptions.
Southern Stars is normally published quarterly. Institutions may subscribe to Southern Stars at the rate of $75 per annum. Intending contributors should contact the editor who will advise on current requirements for contributions.
Send Emails to the editor, Mr R W Evans This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., postal address: 15 Taiepa Road, RD9 Otatara, Invercargill, New Zealand.

General enquiries about Southern Stars should be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by postal mail to Southern Stars, RASNZ, PO Box 3181, Wellington, NZ.

Recent Southern Stars issues are available (to members only) for download as .PDF files.


Email Newsletter
RASNZ now produces a monthly Email Newsletter. This is sent by Email to all members with this facility and to all Societies affiliated to RASNZ. Members without Email will be sent a printed copy.

Any other person or institution who would like to receive this Newsletter by Email should send a message requesting they be added to the circulation list to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The Email Newsletter is published monthly from January to November and is timed to appear about the 20th of the month. It contains news about RASNZ council, Affiliated Societies and RASNZ sections, together with items of current interest in astronomy in New Zealand and beyond. Contributions may be sent to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. at any time. The deadline for each issue is normally the 18th of the month.


Astronomical Yearbook
This handbook of stars and planets in the southern skies is published by the Auckland Observatory and is optionally distributed by RASNZ to its members.

The Astronomical Yearbook contains articles and information on a wide range of topics aimed to provide a useful resource for everyone who is interested in astronomy in New Zealand. It includes monthly star charts, sunrise and sunset tables for four major districts of New Zealand, tables of moonrise and set and much more.

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

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

Contents

1. 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures
2. The Solar System in October
3. Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)
4. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)
5. Variable Star Visual Observing
6. Herbert Astronomy Weekend Report
7. 2015 RASNZ Conference
8. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)
9. Pleiades Problem Resolved?
10. Supermassive Black Hole in Tiny Galaxy
11. Philae Landing Sites Discussed
12. How to Join RASNZ
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Quotes

1. 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures

Presented by the RASNZ Lecture Trust.

This year's lectures are by Dr Tamara Davis who is the Future Fellow of the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia.

NEW PLYMOUTH - Cosmological Confusion Sunday September 21st 7:30 pm. Ryder Hall, New Plymouth Boys´ High School. Adults $5, Junior gold coin donation..

LEVIN - Cosmological Confusion Monday September 22nd 7:00pm School Hall, Waiopehu College, Bartholomew Road, Levin. Gold coin donation.

NAPIER - The Dark Side Tuesday September 23rd 7:00pm Holt Planetarium, Chambers St, Napier. Gold coin donation.

INVERCARGILL - The Dark Side Wednesday September 24th 7:30pm Oreti Room, Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. Adults $5, Students $2.

DUNEDIN - Cosmological Confusion Thursday September 25th 5:30pm Hutton Lecture Theatre, Otago Museum, Dunedin. Free.

CHRISTCHURCH - The Dark Side Friday September 26th 7:00pm C2 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury, Christchurch. Free.

Further details on RASNZ website, www.rasnz.org.nz .

Enquiries to Bob Evans, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. The Solar System in October

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

On October 1 the Sun rises at 6.53 am and sets at 7.28 pm. On October 31 the times are 6.07 am and 8.02 pm respectively. Nautical twilight starts about 1 hour before sunrise in the morning and ends about 1 hour after sunset in the evening. Nautical twilight starts/ends when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. The sky is then reasonably dark except for a near horizon glow in the direction of the Sun.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: October  2 at  8.32 am (Oct 1,  19:32 UT)
Full moon:     October  8 at 11.51 pm (        10:51 UT)
Last quarter   October 16 at  8.12 am (Oct 15, 19:12 UT)
New moon:      October 24 at 10.57 am (Oct 23, 21:57 UT)
First quarter: October 31 at  3.48 pm (        02:48 UT)

Total eclipse of the moon, october 8 to 9.

A total eclipse of the moon takes place on October 8. All phases of the eclipse are visible from New Zealand. Totality lasts for almost an hour from 11:25 pm to 12:24 pm. The moon starts entering the Earth's umbral shadow about 10:15 pm and finally leaves it at 1.35 am.

Numerous stars will be occulted during the eclipse, although none will be visible to the unaided eye. One of the brightest is SAO 109533, magnitude 7.4 which will disappear just before totality starts and reappear during the total part of the eclipse.

Lunar occultations of asteroids are rarely visible due to the brightness of the Moon and faintness of most asteroids. An occultation of (37) Fides, magnitude 9.8, occurs during the eclipse, so will be visible. It disappears behind the moon shortly before the end of totality and reappears at the darkened limb of the moon about 40 minutes later. Precise times of the occultation of Fides and stars for any locality can be generated using Dave Herald's Occult program.

Partial eclipse of the sun, october 23.

The partial eclipse of Sun follows a fortnight later on October 23. Technically it is an annular eclipse but the path misses the Earth passing over the north pole. A partial eclipse is visible from the northern Pacific and north America as far south as the Yucatan Peninsula, apart from Labrador and Newfoundland. For the eastern half of Canada and the USA the Sun sets while partially eclipsed. It rises in eclipse for eastern Siberia.

The planets in october

The two inner planets, Mercury and Venus are both at conjunction with the Sun during October. Mercury will be visible as an evening object for the first few days of the month. Mars and Saturn are both early evening objects, although is very low in the evening twilight by the end of the month.

Jupiter is a morning object rising 3 hours before the Sun at the end of October.

Planets in the evening sky.

Mercury starts October as a magnitude 0.5 evening object, setting more than two hours after the Sun. Some 45 minutes after sunset the planet will be 14° above the horizon a little to the south of west. Spica at magnitude 1.1 will be 8° below Mercury while Saturn will be 20° higher and a little to the right of Mercury.

Over the following evenings Mercury will rapidly get lower in the evening sky, especially after it is stationary on October 4. As a result it will be lost in the evening twilight within a few days. Inferior conjunction is on October 17, when the planet will be 50 million km from the Sun and 100 million from the Earth. After conjunction, Mercury becomes a morning object but will rise little more than half an hour before the Sun on the 31st, so being unobservable.

Mars is the best placed planet for viewing in the evening sky, setting after midnight all month. It starts October just under 4° from Antares, with Mars very slightly brighter. The planet is then in Ophiuchus and steadily moves away from Antares and across the constellation until entering Sagittarius on the 21st.

The moon makes a rather distant pass of Mars on the 18th, when the two will be 7.5° apart. The moon will be a 21% lit crescent.

Saturn sets considerably earlier than Mars, ranging from three and a half hours after the Sun on the 1st to only an hour and a quarter later on the 31st. The planet is in Libra with the two brightest stars of the constellation below and to either side of Saturn.

On October 25, the moon as a very thin crescent will be 5° below Saturn. The following evening the slightly thicker moon will be 8° to the upper right of the planet.

At the beginning of October the asteroid Ceres, magnitude 9, will be a little over a degree below Saturn. Over the following few evenings Ceres will overtake Saturn, the two being less than half a degree apart on the 5th, with Ceres to the right. Those wanting to identify the asteroid using binoculars should note that Ceres will be a little lower than Saturn. A slightly brighter star, magnitude, 8.6 will be almost level with Saturn but a little further away.

Jupiter in the morning sky.

Jupiter rises 2 hours before the Sun on October 1 and 3 hours earlier on the 31st. Thus it will be a brilliant object visible fairly low to the northeast before sunrise. The planet starts October in Cancer but moves on into Leo on the 13th.

The moon passes Jupiter mid month. As seen from NZ the 32% lit moon will be 5.5° to the upper left of Jupiter on the morning of the 18th and 9.5° to the right of the planet the following morning.

Jupiter's equator is currently near edge on as seen from the Earth. As a result a series of mutual events of the major satellites is starting. A partial eclipse of Callisto by Ganymede on the morning of the 6th will not be observable as it takes place too close to sunrise. The two satellites reverse their roles at the end of the month, but for NZ the eclipse takes place on the morning of November 1. At present Jupiter is well north of the equator, so rather low in NZ skies.

Venus is at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun to the Earth on October 25 so will be observable during October. At conjunction Venus will be 108 million km (0.72 AU) beyond the Sun and 257 million km (1.72 AU) from the Earth. At closest it would appear to be 1° to the north of the Sun.

Outer planets

Uranus is at opposition on October 8, the planet will then be 2844 million km, 19 AU, from the Earth. Consequently the planet will be in the sky all night. It is currently in Pisces.

A few hours after Uranus is at opposition the Earth's moon is in total eclipse. Uranus, at magnitude 5.7 will be 2° above the moon as seen from NZ. A similar magnitude star will be 1.3° to the left of Uranus, otherwise there is no object likely to be confused with Uranus in binoculars above the moon.

Neptune is an evening object throughout October, it sets well after midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.8 to 7.9.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. By the end of October Mars will be 8.5° from Pluto.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is an evening object in Libra at magnitude 9.0. As noted above it passes Saturn at the beginning of October, with the two less than 0.5° apart on the 5th. By the end of October, Ceres will set less than 2 hours after the Sun. (4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, starts October in Libra. It crosses part of Scorpius between October 11 and 21; on the latter date it carries on into Ophiuchus. On the 26th it is just over 6° from Antares. (6) Hebe brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during October, making it a fairly easy binocular object. It is in Eridanus, rising about 10.30pm on the 1st and 8.15pm on the 31st. (3) Juno brightens to magnitude 9.3 at the end of October. It will then be a morning object in Hydra rising about 1.24 am.

-- Brian Loader

3. Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS)

This comet passed perihelion, 158 million km from the sun, at the end of August. It is now moving up the dawn sky. At total magnitude 7 it should be easily seen in small telescopes, possibly in binoculars.

The comet is approaching us as it moves away from the sun. It will be 234 million km away on September 21, closing to 154 million km by October 20.

Positions at 5 a.m. NZDT:
         R.A. (2000) Dec.                  R.A.(2000) Dec.        
          h  m  s    °  '    m1               h  m  s    °  '   m1
Sep. 21   8 46 17  -03 21   7.0      Oct. 6   8 22 32  -15 24  6.8
     22   8 45 07  -04 01   7.0           7   8 20 17  -16 25  6.8
     23   8 43 54  -04 41   7.0           8   8 17 55  -17 27  6.8
     24   8 42 38  -05 23   7.0           9   8 15 26  -18 31  6.8
     25   8 41 20  -06 05   6.9          10   8 12 47  -19 36  6.8
     26   8 39 58  -06 49   6.9          11   8 10 00  -20 44  6.8
     27   8 38 33  -07 34   6.9          12   8 07 04  -21 54  6.8
     28   8 37 05  -08 21   6.9          13   8 03 56  -23 05  6.8
     29   8 35 32  -09 09   6.9          14   8 00 38  -24 18  6.8
     30   8 33 56  -09 58   6.9          15   7 57 07  -25 34  6.8
Oct.  1   8 32 15  -10 48   6.9          16   7 53 24  -26 51  6.8
      2   8 30 29  -11 40   6.9          17   7 49 26  -28 09  6.7
      3   8 28 39  -12 34   6.9          18   7 45 13  -29 30  6.7
      4   8 26 42  -13 29   6.9          19   7 40 43  -30 52  6.7
      5   8 24 41  -14 26   6.8          20   7 35 56  -32 15  6.7

The ephemeris, based on elements from MPC 89726, is from the Minor Planet Center. -- Ed.

4. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is likely to fade as it moves away from the Earth. It passes close to Mars in October then sinks into the evening twilight in November as it moves to the far side of the sun. The comet will be 153 million km from us on September 20, growing to 268 million km by October 27.

The ephemeris below is for 10 pm NZDT = 0900 UT.

         R.A.(2000) Dec.                  R.A.(2000) Dec.          
         h  m  s    °  '   m1               h  m  s   °  '   m1    
Sep. 20  18 13 20  -52 57   9.3      Oct. 8  17 41 14  -32 44   9.8
     21  18 09 31  -51 30   9.3           9  17 40 39  -31 55   9.8
     20  18 13 20  -52 57   9.3          10  17 40 08  -31 08   9.9
     21  18 09 31  -51 31   9.3          11  17 39 40  -30 23   9.9
     22  18 06 07  -50 06   9.3          12  17 39 16  -29 39   9.9
     23  18 03 05  -48 44   9.4          13  17 38 54  -28 56  10.0
     24  18 00 22  -47 24   9.4          14  17 38 35  -28 14  10.0
     25  17 57 55  -46 07   9.4          15  17 38 19  -27 34  10.0
     26  17 55 42  -44 53   9.4          16  17 38 05  -26 55  10.0
     27  17 53 43  -43 40   9.5          17  17 37 53  -26 17  10.1
     28  17 51 56  -42 30   9.5          18  17 37 44  -25 40  10.1
     29  17 50 19  -41 22   9.5          19  17 37 36  -25 04  10.1
     30  17 48 51  -40 16   9.6          20  17 37 30  -24 29  10.2
Oct.  1  17 47 32  -39 13   9.6          21  17 37 26  -23 55  10.2
      2  17 46 20  -38 12   9.6          22  17 37 23  -23 22  10.2
      3  17 45 15  -37 12   9.7          23  17 37 22  -22 50  10.2
      4  17 44 16  -36 15   9.7          24  17 37 22  -22 18  10.3
      5  17 43 23  -35 20   9.7          25  17 37 24  -21 48  10.3
      6  17 42 35  -34 26   9.7          26  17 37 26  -21 18  10.3
      7  17 41 52  -33 34   9.8          27  17 37 30  -20 49  10.3

m1 is the comet's total magnitude, the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head.

The ephemeris is from Minor Planet Center, based on orbital elements in MPC 89727.


C/2013 A1 will pass just 130,000 km from Mars on October 19. That is one- third the Earth-Moon distance. The closest comets known to have passed Earth have been at least ten times more distant.

Such a close encounter means the dust tail left in Siding Spring´s wake might graze Mars´s upper atmosphere, severely damaging orbiting spacecraft. The time of greatest danger will occur about 90 minutes after Siding Spring´s closest approach, and will last about 20 minutes.

To avoid the threat of Siding Spring´s debris, NASA engineers will manipulate the trajectories of the Mars orbiters so that all three will end up on the opposite side of the planet during the flyby.

-- The above from Sky & Telescope.

Read more at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/mars-orbiters-duck-cover-comet-siding-spring-081420142/?et_mid=687221&rid=246399573

5. Variable Star Visual Observing

A number of variable stars have been identified by AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers) as suitable for visual observing and requiring more visual observations. Amongst these are some Southern variables such as R Car, S Car and R Cen which were formerly closely followed by the RASNZ Variable Star Section.

Variable Stars South (VSS) would like to find a few more observers in this region to follow these stars and some others. We expect people to start on a small scale with a couple of charts allocated and become familiar with these fields as the seasons change. As you gain experience and if you enjoy the challenge you can progress to more stars and/or join one of the VSS scientific observing programmes. In addition visual variable star observing is a great way to explore the night sky.

If you have a small to moderate sized telescope and can take a few hours per month to observe on fine nights we would like to hear from you. Your first point of contact is Alan Baldwin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get more information or make enquiries.

Variable Stars South is an observing Section of RASNZ, the successor to the Variable Star Section of RASNZ which supported southern observers of variable stars.

-- Alan Baldwin

6. Herbert Astronomy Weekend Report

Nineteen arrived at Camp Iona on Friday for what turned out to be the only clear night sky for our whole weekend at Herbert. Next morning, another seven attendees arrived.

At midday, Steve Butler of Invercargill presented his "The Colours of Night" talk. Steve spoke about the issue of the colour temperature of artificial light at night used especially for street lighting. The introduction of LED and some other technologies have brought whiter light into use. The older low and high pressure sodium yellow/orange lights are being replaced with blue white LED lights.

During Steve´s lecture, a reporter from the Otago Daily Times (ODT) newspaper arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to be interviewed by him. A photo of my father, Norman Dickie age 97, and me appeared in Monday 25th's ODT along with a brief article about the Herbert Astronomy Weekend. This created interest in Gore, where Norman and I live, and elsewhere in Otago.

After Steve´s talk ended, everyone went outside and each group of attendees was photographed in front of solar telescopes. A relaxing afternoon was had by many. Further attendees arrived during the course of the afternoon, as the sky clouded over. A Dunedin attendee had his 50th birthday celebrated that evening with the earlier surprise arrival of his family members from Dunedin.

Martin Unwin of Haast spoke about the upcoming Mutual Eclipses and Occultations Phenomena of Jupiter´s satellites. These begin this month and will continue until next August. Martin shown videos of Jovian Mutual Eclipse phenomena he had taken during its previous mutual apparition in 2009 and 2010.

Amadeo Enriquez of the Otago Museum coordinates an Astronomy Club for keen children and teenagers in Dunedin. He spoke about launching a meteorological balloon near Queenstown last August. First, they did some fundraising for a balloon to be released into the stratosphere. They purchased the balloon from NIWA Lauder, with a bottle of helium. They built a box equipped with a GPS tracking device and a digital camera intending to photograph the curvature of the Earth from the stratosphere. This was attached to the balloon. They drove for four hours to their launch site between the foot of the Remarkables range and the shore of Lake Wakatipu, southeast of Queenstown. Helium gas was gradually fed into the expanding balloon by the group, and away it went. It sailed over the Remarkables and drifted eastward, tracked by Amadeo and his Astronomy Club. It attained a maximum altitude of 31km into the stratosphere before it burst. It landed in a paddock near Ranfurly, where it was retrieved by the Astronomy Club. Though the digital camera took photos, the camera unfortunately did not look sideways to capture anything of the Earth´s curvature from the stratosphere. Instead the camera was facing downward onto Wakatipu and Central Otago. The Astronomy Club intends to purchase another balloon and launch it in October, this time with multiple cameras on board.

David Brian told of the activities of the Canterbury Astronomical Society. It is co-hosting the RASNZ Conference and symposium to be held at Lake Tekapo on May 6th to 12th, 2015. David also announced that the next Stardate SI camp will be held on the weekend of February 20th to 23rd.

Robert McTague of the South Canterbury Astronomers Group spoke about the upcoming Space Camp NZ to be held at Raincliff this September 19th to 22nd.

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend concluded on Sunday morning with a clean up and the departure of a lot of attendees, leaving four behind for a cloudy Sunday night. It was a pleasant and interesting weekend attended by a total of 41 astronomy enthusiasts persons from Christchurch to as far south as Invercargill and Riverton.

-- Ross Dickie, Convenor.

7. 2015 RASNZ Conference

The 2015 RASNZ Conference will be held in Lake Tekapo village From Friday May 8 to Sunday 10th. It will be followed by the 9th Trans-Tasman Occultation Meeting on the Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12.

Preceding the RASNZ Conference will be a two-day meeting celebrating Mt John Observatory's 50th Anniversary. The meeting will be held in Lake Tekapo village on the Thursday and Friday, May 7-8. The theme is `Celebrating 50 years of Mt John´. Past Pennsylvania and Canterbury students will contribute papers but anyone is welcome. About 80 participants are expected. Details are available at www.mjuo50.org.nz.

8. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)

The RASNZ Occultation Section is pleased to announce that the 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9) will be held at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, over 11-12 May 2015. Comprehensive information about the meeting is available here:

http://occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO9/TTSO9.htm

The meeting will immediately follow the 2015 RASNZ Conference and the Mt John Observatory 50th Anniversary Symposium. Because attendance at all these meetings is expected to be high, accommodation space in Tekapo is likely to be limited. If you plan to attend any of these meetings we recommend that you book your accommodation early.

For those who are members of the Occultation Section, the latest Section Circular was released today. We also expect the next issue of the Journal for Occultation Astronomy to be available very soon. To access these visit:

http://occultations.org.nz/members/publ/publ.htm

-- Graham Blow

9. Pleiades Problem Resolved?

A new measurement, made using radio interferometry, argues that the distance to the Pleiades star cluster measured by ESA's Hipparcos satellite is decidedly wrong and that ground-based astronomers had it right all along.

Open star clusters like the Pleiades and Hyades are perfect proving grounds for models of stellar evolution because their stars all have the same age and composition yet exhibit a wide range of masses. But for these models to work, it's critical that astronomers know the clusters' distances precisely.

The Hipparcos satellite launched by the European Space Agency in 1989 gave a distance of 392 light-years (120.2 parsecs), supposedly with an error of less than 1%. This distance was in serious conflict with ground-based methods that had consistently shown that the Pleiades are about 435 light-years (133 parsecs) away.

To gauge the distances of stars, Hipparcos measured their trigonometric parallax, the tiny shift of nearby stars against distant background stars as Earth orbits the sun. A star one parsec (3.26 light-years) away shows a shift of one second of arc (arcsecond) over a baseline of 1 astronomical unit, the mean Earth-Sun distance. So, over a year, a star 3.26 light years away shows a total parallax shift of two arcseconds. Hipparcos could measure star positions to 0.001 arcsecond, far more precisely than is possible with ground-based telescopes. Thus Hipparchos could measure star distances out to many hundreds of light-years away. Its measurement of the Pleiades distance had to be taken seriously.

If the cluster really was 10% closer than everyone had thought, then its stars must be intrinsically dimmer than stellar models suggested. A debate ensued about whether the models or the spacecraft data were wrong. Much hung in the balance, but the discrepancy remained unresolved. The "Pleiades problem" remained a major embarrassment among astrometrists worldwide.

Now Carl Melis (University of California, San Diego) and others have seemingly put the matter to rest. In the August 29th issue of Science, they report distance results derived with a different and powerful method: very- long-baseline radio interferometry. They have seemingly nailed the distance at 444.0 light-years (136.2 parsecs), likewise accurate to within 1%.

The distance found by Melis's team agrees well with previous ground-based determinations - and not with Hipparcos. If this result holds up, it´s good news for the standard models of how stars work. But astronomers must try to understand why the Hipparcos observations misjudged the distance so obviously - and whether its entire database of stellar distances is suspect.

There's some suspicion that mission scientists failed to notice systematic positional errors during the processing of the Hipparcos data, but no one has yet turned up evidence for that. In any case, the mission team for Gaia, ESA's much more accurate follow-on astrometry mission, are taking special care.

In fact, as Léo Girardi (Padova Astronomical Observatory) points out in an accompanying Science perspective, by 2020 Gaia data should completely resolve any lingering aspects of the puzzling Hipparcos discrepancy. Perhaps there really were errors in the Pleiades distance determination - or, conceivably, the cluster's stars could be quite spread out along our line of sight.

For the original Sky & Telescope article by Kelly Beatty see http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/resolving-pleiades-distance-problem-08282014/?et_mid=689473&rid=246399573

For detailed papers see http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/504/1/170 and http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/504/1/192

10. Supermassive Black Hole in Tiny Galaxy

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found a monster lurking in a very unlikely place. New observations of the ultracompact dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 have revealed a supermassive black hole at its heart, making this tiny galaxy the smallest ever found to host a supermassive black hole. This suggests that there may be many more supermassive black holes that we have missed, and tells us more about the formation of these incredibly dense galaxies. The results were published in the journal Nature on 18 September 2014.

Lying about 50 million light-years away, M60-UCD1 is a tiny galaxy with a diameter of 300 light-years - just 1/500th of the diameter of the Milky Way. Despite its size it is pretty crowded, containing some 140 million stars. While this is characteristic of an ultracompact dwarf galaxy (UCD) like M60- UCD1, this particular UCD happens to be the densest ever seen. In fact, if you lived inside this galaxy the night sky would dazzle with the light of at least a million stars, all visible to the naked eye. On Earth, a comparatively measly 4000 stars are visible.

Despite their huge numbers of stars, UCDs always seem to be heavier than they should be. Now, an international team of astronomers has made a new discovery that may explain why - at the heart of M60-UCD1 lurks a supermassive black hole with the mass of 20 million Suns.

The supermassive black hole at the centre of M60-UCD1 makes up a huge 15 percent of the galaxy's total mass, and weighs five times that of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. This is surprising in a galaxy that is 1/1000th the mass of our Milky Way. The black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy has the mass of four million Suns it is still less than 0.01 percent of the Milky Way's total mass

The team discovered the supermassive black hole by observing M60-UCD1 with both the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini North 8-metre optical and infrared telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea. The sharp Hubble images provided information about the galaxy's diameter and stellar density, whilst Gemini was used to measure the movement of stars in the galaxy as they were affected by the black hole's gravitational pull. These observations were then used to calculate the mass of the unseen black hole.

The finding implies that there may be a substantial population of previously unnoticed black holes. In fact, the astronomers predict there may be as many as double the known number of black holes in the local Universe.

Additionally, the results could affect theories of how such UCDs form. This finding suggests that dwarf galaxies may actually be the stripped remnants of larger galaxies that were torn apart during collisions with other galaxies, rather than small islands of stars born in isolation.

One explanation is that M60-UCD1 was once a large galaxy containing 10 billion stars, and a supermassive black hole to match. The galaxy may have passed too close to the centre of its much larger neighbouring galaxy, Messier 60. In that process the outer part of the galaxy would have been torn away to become part of Messier 60, leaving behind only the small and compact galaxy we see today."

The team believes that M60-UDC1 may one day merge with Messier 60 to form a single galaxy. Messier 60 also has its own monster black hole an amazing 4.5 billion times the size of our Sun and more than 1000 times bigger than the black hole in our Milky Way. A merger between the two galaxies would also cause the black holes to merge, creating an even more monstrous black hole.

For more see http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2014/41

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

11. Philae Landing Sites Discussed

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft finally arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko a month ago, after a 10-year cruise through interplanetary space. In an ideal world, Comet C-G would have been a nice smooth ball of dust and ice with a big X marking the safest and most scientifically interesting landing site for the craft's Philae lander. Had that been the case, says Rosetta mission manager Fred Janssen, his team would have put the odds of a successful landing at 70% or 75%.

But nature has thrown the project a few curves. Not only is the comet's nucleus complicated - an irregular, double-lobed structure 4 km long - but it's also much rougher and craggier than expected. Add to that the comet's ahead-of-schedule activity (it's already giving off jets of gas despite being 3.4 astronomical units from the Sun), and all bets are off. At an ESA press briefing Janssen declined to offer a revised risk assessment. "No site meets all the engineering criteria," he allowed.

That said, Philae has to set down someplace, and the team has winnowed down an initial set of 10 candidate sites to primary and backup locations. The best location, designated Site J, is on the comet's smaller lobe (think of it as the "head"); the backup, Site C, is on the larger "body." Engineers opted to stay clear of the smooth-textured "neck" between them, because from there it would be difficult for Philae to remain in constant radio contact with the main spacecraft as it orbits the nucleus.

The smaller-lobe site won out in part because cameras have already identified two small pits near it that are sources of outgassing. Each of Philae's 10 instruments will be able to operate at least once to its full capability. Assuming no "gotchas" emerge, the spacecraft will release Philae on November 11th for its 7-hour-long "fall" the the comet's surface. Once it makes contact at roughly one meter per second), the washing-machine-size, 100-kg lander will anchor itself using a mechanical harpoon, then quickly take a 360° panorama and measure the pressure of cometary gas surrounding it. - From a note by Kelly Beatty on Sky & Telescope's website. For the full article see http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/spacecraft-and-space-missions/philae-landing-site-on-comet-67p-09152014/?et_mid=693144&rid=246399573

12. How to Join 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/RASNZInfo/MemberBenefits.shtml

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/RASNZInfo/Membership/

Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

14. Quotes

"Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear." -- Alan Coren.

"The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency. An efficient bureaucracy is the greatest threat to liberty." -- Eugene McCarthy.

"Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm." -- John F. Kennedy.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." -- Benjamin Franklin.

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


Newsletter editor:

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

September 2014

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

Brian Mason - from the New Zealand Mainland, to Meteorites, and Moon Mountains
Vicki Irons

After giving my talk at Stellarfest about meteorites in which I discovered the illustrious career of Brian Mason and his role in identifying lunar meteorites, a member suggested a piece in Southern Stars might be appropriate. Dr Mason died in 2009 at the age of 92 and there is a Wikipedia page about him, but I found a wealth of information in the little booklet ''œFrom Mountains to Meteorites'' which was put out by the NZ Geological Society. I am continuously amazed at the accomplishments of New Zealanders who go offshore to further their field of study.
Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P3

More on Astronomy in Wellington in the 1840s
Pendreigh Brown

Wellington pioneers with astronomy connections were J. Hurley, J. H. Marriott, R. Sheppard and also W. M. Smith and C. Grace. Local newspapers recorded two comets seen in Wellington in the 1840s, while of these five pioneers, one was a sawyer and timber merchant, one made and repaired telescopes, two were surveyors and one taught astronomy.
Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P6

2014 Murray Geddes Prize - Chris Monigatti
This year's Murray Geddes Prize was awarded to Chris Monigatti during the annual conference in Whakatane. He is the first recipient of the MGP medal that was struck this year.

Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P9

StellarFest 2014
Carl Knight

This weekend of astronomy was held at the Foxton Beach Bible Camp, beginning Friday July 25th.
Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P10

2014 Homer F. DaBoll Award - Brian Loader
Graham Blow

Brian Loader of Darfield, NZ, has been awarded the 2014 Homer F. DaBoll Award by the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). The award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to occultation science, or to the work of IOTA.
Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P11

What's in a Name? - VIII
Pam Kilmartin

This is another of her popular talks given to RASNZ conferences on the subject of minor planet names. It was presented in 2014, at the Whakatane conference.
Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P12

Book Review - Craters of the Near Side Moon by John Moore
Maurice Collins

Volume 53, number 3. September 2014. P14


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

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

Contents

1. 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures
2. The Solar System in September
3. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)
4. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25
5. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21
6. AAO Student Fellowship Program - Applications Invited (Quickly!)
7. 2015 RASNZ Conference
8. Variable Stars South Symposium Report
9. Gaia 'Go' for Science
10. More Notes from the Conference
11. Rosetta Rendezvous with Comet Nucleus
12. How to Join RASNZ
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Correction to Thorne-Zytkow
16. Here and There

1. 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures

Presented by the RASNZ Lecture Trust.

This year's lectures are by Dr Tamara Davis who is the Future Fellow of the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia.

She is a cosmologist who spends her time investigating why the expansion of the universe is accelerating. She was part of the WiggleZ Dark Energy Survey, which made one of the largest ever maps of the distribution of galaxies in the universe, and uses supernovae to measure the properties of "dark energy". She´s an avid science communicator and has a knack for turning complex concepts into everyday language.

She is offering one of two lectures at each of six venues this year. Updates will be posted on the RASNZ website.

NEW PLYMOUTH Sunday September 21st, 7:30 pm, Ryder Hall, New Plymouth Boys´ HS. "Cosmological Confusion"

LEVIN Monday September 22nd, 7:00 pm, School Hall, Waiopehu College, Levin. "Cosmological Confusion"

NAPIER Tuesday September 23rd, 7:00 pm, Holt Planetarium, Chambers St, Napier. "The Dark Side"

INVERCARGILL Wednesday September 24th, 7:30 pm, Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. "The Dark Side"

DUNEDIN Thursday September 25th, 5:30 pm, Hutton Lecture Theatre, Otago Museum. "Cosmological Confusion"

CHRISTCHURCH Friday September 26th

She is also giving three special student lectures in New Plymouth, Levin and Invercargill. Contact Bob Evans, Lecture Trust secretary, for more information. <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

2. The Solar System in September

Up to September 27 dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. NZDT starts September 28. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 6.44 am and sets at 5.58 pm on September 1. On September 30 the times are 6.55 am NZDT and 7.27 pm NZDT respectively.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: September  2 at 11.11 pm (11:11 UT)
Full moon:     September  9 at  1.38 pm (01:38 UT)
Last quarter   September 16 at  2.05 pm (02:05 UT)
New moon:      September 24 at  6.14 pm (06:14 UT)

The planets in september

Mercury has its best evening appearance of the year for southern hemisphere viewers this month. Mars and Saturn are also early evening objects

Jupiter rises further into the morning sky but Venus is too close to the Sun to observe.

PLANETS IN THE EVENING SKY. Best viewed as the sky darkens following sunset.

Mercury is an evening object throughout September. It reaches its maximum elongation 26° east of the Sun on September 21. It will then set more than 2 hours after the Sun. With a magnitude 0.1 it will be readily visible fairly low to the west as the sky darkens especially later in the month. It will be the brightest star like object in that region of the sky.

On the 20th and 21st Mercury will be only 45 arc minutes from the Spica, magnitude 1.1 thus an obvious pair in the western sky. Mercury will be noticeably brighter.

Mercury is in Virgo all month. It will be brightest early in September, on the 1st magnitude -0.2, when it sets about 100 minutes after the Sun. By the end of September the planet will be a little less bright, magnitude 0.4. It will still be setting over 2 hours later than the Sun.

On the 26th a very thin crescent moon will be 5.5° below and to the right of Mercury with Spica just over 3° left of the moon.

Mars remains an evening object setting just after midnight all month; when NZDT starts at the end of September the planet will set close to 1am.

Mars starts September in Libra. It moves across the narrow part of Scorpius between the 13th and 25th and then on into Ophiuchus. While in Scorpius, Mars will move through the head of the Scorpion passing just over half a degree from the 2.3 magnitude star delta Sco on the 18th. After entering Ophiuchus, Mars will move past Antares, being closest on the 28th when the two will be just over 3° apart. Planet and star will be almost identical in brightness, thus they will make a notable pair of reddish objects in the evening sky.

The Moon passes Mars twice in September. On the 1st the 38% lit moon will be some 5.5° from Mars (but much closer to Saturn). On the 29th the 24% lit moon will 8° from Mars, the next evening the two will be 9° apart with the moon 34% lit.

Saturn, like Mars remains an early evening object throughout September. But as Saturn's motion to the east is less than that of Mars, it will drop behind the red planet and steadily set earlier. On the 1st it will set about half an hour before Mars, by the 30th almost two hours earlier at about 11 pm NZDT. So the planet is best viewed early evening as the sky darkens.

Saturn is in Libra during September. The moon joins Saturn on September 28, with the 16% moon 2° to the right of Saturn. Earlier, at about 5 pm NZDT, the moon will occult Saturn, an event visible from Hawaii and the western parts of Alaska.

By the end of September the two asteroids Ceres and Vesta will be close to Saturn. In fact Vesta is closest to Saturn on the 14th, with the asteroid, magnitude 7.8, just over a degree to the right of, and slightly lower than Saturn. On the 30th Ceres, magnitude 9.0, will be 1.5° below Saturn.

Planets in the morning sky.

Jupiter rises a little over an hour before the Sun on September 1, two hours before it on the 30th. So, unlike Venus it will become more visible in the morning sky as the month progresses. Jupiter is in Cancer all month. On the mornings of the 20th and 21st the crescent moon will be a few degrees from the planet.

The equatorial plane of Jupiter is now nearly edge-on to the Earth. The four major satellites of Jupiter orbit close to the plane of Jupiter's equator. As a result eclipses, transits and occultations of Callisto, as well as the other three, are now taking place. Also a series of mutual events of the moon's are about to start. The first, on September 10, involves a very slight penumbral eclipse of Ganymede by Callisto. At this event the change in brightness is too slight to detect. Some events later this year and in 2015 will be easier to see.

Venus is also a morning object but not readily visible. It rises only half an hour before the Sun at the beginning of September, and only 7 minutes earlier than the Sun by the 30th. The planet is in Leo much of the month but moves into Virgo on the 24th. On the 6th it will be less than 1° from Regulus, but with an altitude only 4° at sunrise, the conjunction will not be visible.

Outer planets

Uranus rises just before 9 pm on September 1st and close to sunset on the 30th. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.7.

Neptune rises more than an hour before sunset the 1st and is highest just after midnight. The times get earlier by about 2 hours during the month, but start of NZDT drops it to only one hours earlier on the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.8.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, about 6° from Nunki, sigma Sgr. Nunki, at magnitude 2.1, is the brightest star in the handle of the teapot.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Libra during September in the vicinity of Saturn. As noted above Vesta is in conjunction with Saturn on the 14th, Ceres' conjunction is early October. Their magnitudes change little in September at 9 and 7.8 respectively.

(6) Hebe brightens from magnitude 9.1 to 8.6 in the month. The asteroid starts September in Taurus but it moves into Eridanus on the 7th.

-- Brian Loader

3. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring)

C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will be at its brightest when it makes its closest approach to Earth in September. It will then be 0.891 AU or 134 million km from us. It passes Mars in October then sinks into the evening twilight in November as it moves to the far side of the sun. The ephemeris below is for 8 pm NZST.

         R.A.(2000) Dec.                    R.A.(2000) Dec.
         h  m  s    °  '   m1             h  m  s   °  '   m1
Aug. 20  02 35 47  -59 25   8.3    Sep. 9  19 53 35  -69 50   7.7
     21  02 29 34  -60 48   8.3        10  19 36 46  -68 26   7.7 
     22  02 22 27  -62 12   8.2        11  19 22 17  -66 57   7.7 
     23  02 14 18  -63 37   8.2        12  19 09 47  -65 25   7.7 
     24  02 04 54  -65 02   8.1        13  18 59 00  -63 51   7.7 
     25  01 54 03  -66 27   8.1        14  18 49 38  -62 16   7.7 
     26  01 41 29  -67 50   8.0        15  18 41 30  -60 40   7.7 
     27  01 26 53  -69 11   8.0        16  18 34 24  -59 06   7.7 
     28  01 09 56  -70 27   8.0        17  18 28 10  -57 32   7.7 
     29  00 50 19  -71 38   7.9        18  18 22 40  -56 00   7.7 
     30  00 27 45  -72 40   7.9        19  18 17 49  -54 29   7.8 
     31  00 02 11  -73 32   7.8        20  18 13 31  -53 00   7.8 
Sep.  1  23 33 48  -74 11   7.8        21  18 09 41  -51 34   7.8 
      2  23 03 11  -74 34   7.8        22  18 06 16  -50 10   7.8 
      3  22 31 21  -74 40   7.8        23  18 03 13  -48 48   7.8 
      4  21 59 33  -74 29   7.7        24  18 00 29  -47 28   7.9 
      5  21 29 03  -74 00   7.7        25  17 58 01  -46 11   7.9 
      6  21 00 49  -73 15   7.7        26  17 55 49  -44 56   7.9 
      7  20 35 26  -72 17   7.7        27  17 53 49  -43 43   7.9 
      8  20 13 03  -71 08   7.7        28  17 52 01  -42 33   8.0

m1 is the comet's total magnitude, the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. The comet is 'new' in the sense that it has not passed close to the sun before. It came from a distance of 52,f600 AU from the sun. (1 AU 'astronomical unit' is the Earth's distance from the sun, 150 million km.) The gravity pull of the planets will shrunk its orbit. It will go out to a maximum distance of 15,600 AU some 700,000 years from now.

Orbit data from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2014-P53. The ephemeris is from Minor Planet Center.


Tony Barry points out that the comet will cross the globular cluster NGC 362 on the morning of August 29. NGC 362 is just off the edge of the Small Magellanic Cloud.


C/2013 A1 will pass just 130,000 km from Mars on October 19. That is one- third the Earth-Moon distance. The closest comets known to have passed Earth have been at least ten times more distant.

Such a close encounter means the dust tail left in Siding Spring´s wake might graze Mars´s upper atmosphere. The smallest particles are only about half a mm across, but careening through space at 56 km per second, even these could severely damage a spacecraft. The time of greatest danger for the spacecraft orbiting Mars will occur about 90 minutes after Siding Spring´s closest approach, and will last about 20 minutes.

To avoid the threat of Siding Spring´s debris, NASA engineers will manipulate the trajectories of the Mars orbiters so that all three will end up on the opposite side of the planet during the flyby. The MRO team executed one manoeuvre at the beginning of July, with another planned for the end of August. The Mars Odyssey team took similar steps on August 5th, and the MAVEN team will perform a precautionary manoeuvre shortly after the spacecraft enters orbit around Mars.

-- The above from Sky & Telescope. Read more at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/mars-orbiters-duck-cover-comet- siding-spring-081420142/?et_mid=687221&rid=246399573

4. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend will be on the weekend of August 22nd to 25th at Camp Iona, 2km to the west of Herbert in North Otago, beginning from this Friday afternoon.

The overnight fees are now $34 per adult for two nights and $17 for one night. For secondary school teenagers, they are $15 and $30 for one and two night per teenager, and for primary schoolchildren they are $12 and $24 for one and two nights. For those staying the full three nights at Camp Iona, the charge is only $35 for three nights. There is also a daytime or evening visitor charge of $5 per person for those who wish to come 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.

Confirmed speaker are Steve Butler on "The Colours of the Night" and Martin Unwin on the upcoming "2014/2015 Mutual Phenomenas of Jovian satellites". Other speakers are welcome at our Herbert Astronomy Weekend, and a data projector is available for those who 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

5. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21

Date: 19th to 21st September 214 Location: Raincliff Youth camp South Canterbury Contact: Robert Ph 03-6883735 Website: http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

This astronomy event is packed with activities, seven speakers, three overseas speakers who will present remotely, there presentations will be interactive with the audience. Speakers: Dr Joe Liske (European Southern Observatory), Dr Pamela Gay (USA, professional astronomer, citizen science), Warren Keller (USA, renowned astro imager), John Whitby (NZ, video astronomy), Stephen Chadwick (NZ author, astro imager), Peter Aldous (NZ, Hyperstar Photoraphy), Robert McTague (NZ, Hyperstar Photography).

Registrations are flowing in, its possible that we will have to limit numbers because of the facility, so register as soon as possible.

-- Robert McTague, South Canterbury Astronomers Group

6. AAO Student Fellowship Program - Applications Invited (Quickly!)

The Australian Astronomical Observatory provides opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in research projects. Students will spend 10-12 weeks in the period Dec 2014 - Feb 2015 working at the Australian Astronomical Observatory in Sydney on research projects under the supervision of AAO staff astronomers and engineers. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a field trip to visit the telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory.

Please encourage your undergraduate students to apply.

The deadline for applications is: 31 August 2014.

Details are available here: http://www.aao.gov.au/science/research/students/fellowships The stipend is A$700 per week.

How to Apply

Applications are required to be sent by e-mail. Please send your application as a single Word or PDF document attachment to the AAO Student Fellowship Coordinator, A.Prof. Andrew Hopkins (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). The application should include the following: - Full name and contact address (it is essential to include an e-mail address). - Full details of university studies, including a transcript of academic record (if your university supplies only hardcopy transcripts, please scan it and send us the JPEG or PDF file). - Names and e-mail addresses of TWO academic referees who have been asked to e-mail letters to A.Prof. Hopkins by the application deadline, outlining the applicant's suitability for this scholarship program. The AAO does not chase up late referees, and missing references can hinder your chances of selection. - A one page statement giving the applicant's reasons for applying and their interests in Astronomy/Astrophysics/Instrumentation. If you have prior research experience, computing skills, or other skills associated with astronomy or research, please emphasise these. - A short resume (2-3 pages) is optional, but often helpful, to provide as well.

Please contact Andrew Hopkins with any queries about the program or the application process.

-- Andrew Hopkins, Associate Prof. Andrew Hopkins, Head of AAT Science Australian Astronomical Observatory, P.O. Box 915, North Ryde, NSW 1670, Australia. ph: +61 2 9372 4849 fax: +61 2 9372 4880

7. 2015 RASNZ Conference

The 2015 RASNZ Conference will be held in Lake Tekapo village From Friday May 8 to Sunday 10th. It will be followed by the 9th Trans-Tasman Occultation Meeting on the Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12.

Preceding the RASNZ Conference will be a two-day meeting celebrating Mt John Observatory's 50th Anniversary. The meeting will be held in Lake Tekapo village on the Thursday and Friday, May 7-8. The theme is `Celebrating 50 years of Mt John´. Past Pennsylvania and Canterbury students will contribute papers but anyone is welcome. About 80 participants are expected. Details are available at www.mjuo50.org.nz.

8. Variable Stars South Symposium Report

Variable Stars South (VSS) held a very successful Symposium in Whakatane associated with the 2014 RASNZ Conference. The papers covered instrumental techniques, current observing projects and astrophysics. Transcriptions of most of the papers and the associated discussion have now been placed on the VSS website (www.variablestarssouth.org). PowerPoint presentations with associated captions are available for a paper on visual observing and on a discussion of the early stage light curve of nova 1369 Centauri and nova ejecta phenomena. The material is open to all who visit the site.

A feature of the Symposium was a Workshop on DSLR photometry. This was a comprehensive coverage of the topic presented by Mark Blackford and participants benefited greatly from his practical experience. The information is available through both the original PowerPoint and a transcript and will be of particular benefit to anyone wanting to start out in this field.

If you are interested in any of the observing projects described - Short Period Eclipsing Binary, Southern Eclipsing Binary (CCD) Cepheid, Semi- regulars - you are invited to contact the appropriate Project Leader. Some programmes utilise CCD devices; others involving brighter stars are more suited to DSLR and some projects can accommodate visual observing.

Finding Symposium 3 Content: Symposium Programme and Transcripts: Tab Community > Events > RASNZ Conference and VSS 3 Symposium 2014 Link http://www.variablestarssouth.org/community/events/category/4-rasnz- conference-and-vss-3-symposium-2014

PowerPoint Presentations Tab Community > Community Publications > Presentations > VSS Symposium

You are encouraged to explore aspects of the programme which interest you.

Also carrying coverage of the VSS Symposium 3 is the latest Newsletter, issued July 2104. Again look under the "Community" tab.

-- Alan Baldwin

9. Gaia 'Go' for Science

Following extensive in-orbit commissioning and several unexpected challenges, the European Space Agency´s billion-star surveyor, Gaia, is now ready to begin its science mission. The satellite was launched on 19 December 2013, and is orbiting a virtual location in space 1.5 million km from Earth.

Gaia´s goal is to create the most accurate map yet of the Milky Way. It will make extremely accurate measurements of the positions and motions of about 1% of the total population of roughly 100 billion stars in our home galaxy to help answer questions about its origin and evolution.

Repeatedly scanning the sky, Gaia will observe each of its billion stars an average of 70 times each over five years. Small shifts in the positions of the stars will allow astronomers to determine their distances and movements through the Milky Way. In addition, Gaia will also measure key physical properties of each star, including its brightness, temperature and chemical composition.

Gaia spins slowly once every six hours, sweeping its two telescopes across the sky and focusing the light from their separate fields simultaneously onto a single focal plane -- the largest digital camera ever flown in space, with nearly a billion pixels. As the stars drift across the camera, the relative positions of all detected stars are measured and downlinked to Earth. Over time, a complete network of positions of stars covering the whole sky is built up, before being analyzed to yield a highly accurate 3D map.

The accuracy required is astonishing: Gaia must be able to measure positions to a level equivalent to the width of a human hair seen at 2,000 km. In turn, these measurements demand a very rigorous calibration of the satellite and its instruments, a painstaking procedure that has taken the first part of the year to complete.

Gaia is now ready to begin its five-year science phase, but the commissioning also uncovered some unexpected anomalies.

One problem detected early in the commissioning was associated with water freezing on some parts of the optics, causing a temporary reduction in transmission of the telescopes. This water was likely trapped in the spacecraft before launch and emerged once it was in a vacuum. Heating the affected optics to remove the ice has now largely solved this problem, but it is likely that one or two more `decontamination´ cycles will be required during the mission to keep it in check.

Another problem is associated with `stray light´ reaching Gaia´s focal plane at a level higher than predicted before launch. This appears to be a mixture of light from the Sun finding its way past Gaia´s 10-m-diameter sunshield and light from other astronomical objects, both making their way to the focal plane as a diffuse background. The effect on Gaia´s performance is negligible for brighter objects at magnitude 15 and above, and a slight degradation in the positional accuracy is seen for fainter stars, reaching 50% for stars at Gaia´s nominal faint limit of magnitude 20. There is also some effect on the accuracy to which stellar brightnesses will be measured.

The impact of the stray light should, in principle, be more significant for faint stars seen by Gaia´s Radial Velocity Spectrometer (RVS). "However, we are optimizing the onboard software to mitigate as much as possible the impact caused by these higher background levels of light, and we are confident that we will not be far off our initial and somewhat conservative estimate of studying 150 million stars with RVS, as planned," says Giuseppe Sarri, ESA´s Gaia project manager. "We will still be able to analyze one billion -- if not more -- stars with the astrometry and photometry instruments, measuring each star´s position and motion up to 100 times more accurately than Gaia´s predecessor Hipparcos and for a far larger number of stars."

The commissioning has not only focused on the spacecraft performance, but also on the flow of data on the ground, testing procedures that will be used to process and analyze the vast amount of data that will be transmitted to Earth on a daily basis for the next five years. Thus, after extensive testing and analysis of systems both in space and on the ground, Gaia is now in a position to begin routine operations.

It is anticipate that the first intermediate catalogue of science data will be released in summer 2016. However, if rapidly-changing objects such as supernovas are detected, open alerts will be made as soon as possible -- a service the Gaia scientists hope to have up and running before the end of this year.

For more see http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Gaia_Go_for_science

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

10. More Notes from the Conference

Featured speaker Jocelyn Bell-Burnell´s talk about `Transient astronomy - Bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night´. Transients, short bursts have been an interest of Jocelyn´s for 40 years. Now others are taking notice of them too, and not only at radio wavelengths. Optical telescopes like Panstarrs are taking four 30s exposures 10 minutes apart and seeing if anything changes. They find a lot of NEOs that way. Results are announced quickly to allow follow-up. The Catalina Real Time Transient Survey sweeps 3/4ths of the sky. It has found 9000 transients since 2004. Most are active galactic nuclei, supernovae and cataclysmic variables. We need more supernova examples; there are now many types. Objects disrupted by tidal forces fall into black holes in separate pieces, the way Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 met Jupiter. Gamma ray bursts mostly come from distant supernovae, we think, but the Crab pulsar produces gamma ray emissions lasting several days.

Radio transients have been discovered accidentally by pulsar astronomers. The distance to a radio source can be estimated by the dispersion of the signal. Electrons in space slow low frequencies more than the high. `Whistlers´, pulses from lightning, travelling along Earth´s magnetic field, are prime examples of this effect. The effect is seen with pulsar signals. Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) have dispersions showing that they come from far beyond the galaxy. Some have red shifts greater than 1, indicating they are from billions of light-years away, yet they are strong signals.

Oxford University, Dame Jocelyn´s home institution, is involved with the Large Synoptic Telescope (LSST). It will have an 8.4-metre mirror and wide field of view. It is likely to find a million transient events per night. Pipelining of events will be required: variable stars, supernovae, cataclysmic variables and asteroids. The Square Kilometre Array radio telescope has a transient programme as does LOFAR, a European network of low- frequency radio antennas. The `Lorimer Burst´, six years ago, has drawn attention to these phenomena.

Norman Izett gave a history of the Whakatane Astronomical Society. Playing in the background was an old video of the removal of an historic shed from what is now the WAS´s observatory site. Action in this, particularly some frighteningly non-OSH chainsaw work, rather distracted this scribe from Norman´s talk. However, Norman kindly provided a draft of the history.

Pam Kilmartin gave the eighth in her long-running series on asteroid names. Among the gems, asteroid 327512 Biro is named for Lazlo Jozsef Biro (1899-1985), the Hungarian inventor of the ubiquitous ballpoint. He wasn´t the first to think of the ballpoint but having a printer brother enabled him to get the ink mix right. Argentina, where he later emigrated, celebrates him on Inventors´ Day, 29 September. Asteroid 11425 Wearydunlop commemorates Colonel Sir Ernest Edward Dunlop 1907-93, an Australian Army surgeon who was a prisoner-of-war on the infamous Thai-Burma railway. There he was "a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering". He was Australian of the year in 1976.

11. Rosetta Rendezvous with Comet Nucleus

After a decade-long chase, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft rendezvoused with the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P) on August 6. 67P and Rosetta were then 405 million km from Earth, about halfway between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars, rushing towards the inner solar system at nearly 55,000 km per hour.

The comet is in an elliptical 6.5-year orbit that takes it from beyond Jupiter at its furthest point, to between the orbits of Mars and Earth at its closest to the Sun. Rosetta will accompany it for over a year as they swing around the Sun and back out towards Jupiter again.

Comets are considered to be primitive building blocks of the solar system and may have helped to 'seed' Earth with water, perhaps even the ingredients for life. But many fundamental questions about these enigmatic objects remain, and through a comprehensive, in situ study of the comet, Rosetta aims to unlock the secrets within.

The comet began to reveal its personality while Rosetta was on its approach. Images taken by the OSIRIS camera between late April and early June showed that its activity was variable. The comet's 'coma' -- the extended envelope of gas and dust around the nucleus -- became rapidly brighter and then died down again over the course of those six weeks. Microwave measurements suggested that the comet was emitting water vapour into space at about 300 mls per second.

Meanwhile, the Visible and Infrared Thermal Imaging Spectrometer, VIRTIS, measured the comet¹s average temperature to be about -70°C, indicating that the surface is predominantly dark and dusty rather than clean and icy. Images taken by Rosetta reveal that the nucleus comprises two distinct segments joined by a 'neck', giving it a duck-like appearance.

Till late September Rosetta will describe two triangular-shaped trajectories in front of the comet, first at a distance of 100 km and then at 50 km. At the same time, more of the suite of instruments will provide a detailed scientific study of the comet, scrutinizing the surface for a target site for the Philae lander. Eventually, Rosetta will attempt a close, near-circular orbit at 30 km and, depending on the activity of the comet, perhaps come even closer.

The primary landing site will be identified in mid-September. The final timeline for the sequence of events for deploying Philae -- currently expected for 11 November -- will be confirmed by the middle of October. After landing, Rosetta will continue to accompany the comet until its closest approach to the Sun in August 2015 and beyond.

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

12. How to Join 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/RASNZInfo/MemberBenefits.shtml

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/RASNZInfo/Membership/

Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

15. Correction to Thorne-Zytkow

Last month's Newsletter had an item about a possible Thorne-Zytkow object. The plain-text spelling should have been Thorne-Zytkow. Formally, the Z has a dot over it.

-- Ed.

16. Here and There

From The Observatory, 2014 June.

A SENSIBLE PRECAUTION Before diving into black holes, you should make sure you have a solid understanding of the concepts and equations related to density and escape speed.

-- A Student's Guide to the Mathematics of Astronomy (CUP), 2013.

LIGHT ON ACCURACY Early measurements showed that the galaxy had a mass of 1bn suns, which is 40bn to 50bn times lighter than the Milky Way.

-- The Guardian, 2013 October 24.

THE SHRINKING MOON The cluster is 95 arc-seconds across, meaning it is three times the size of the full moon...

-- Journal of the British Astronomical Association, v123, 372, 2013.


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. Brian Loader's Occultation Work Recognised
2. Microlensing Finds Earth-Like Planet
3. The Solar System in August
4. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27
5. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25
6. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21
7. 2015 RASNZ Conference
8. Rosetta Nears Comet Nucleus
9. Possible Hybrid Star Found in SMC
10. Young Stars Around Ancient Galaxies
11. More Conference Notes
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. Quote

1. Brian Loader's Occultation Work Recognised

Brian Loader of Darfield, NZ, has been awarded the 2014 Homer F. DaBoll award by the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA). The award is presented to an individual who has made a significant contribution to occultation science, or to the work of IOTA.

Brian joined the RASNZ Occultation Section in 1980 and immediately adopted a prominent role as a prolific observer of total and grazing occultations. From 1980 to the present he has timed over 6000 lunar occultations (averaging 183 per year) making him one of the top observers worldwide. Between 1980 and the end of 2013 he also observed 83 positive minor planet occultations. (His tenacity is illustrated by the fact that it took him until 1989 to see his first positive event).

Also in 1980 Brian instituted the Jovian Satellite Eclipse programme which he then co-ordinated for more than 20 years. This programme provided data to Dr Jay Lieske at JPL for use in updating the ephemerides of the Galilean satellites, a result which was of direct benefit to the Galileo mission. Starting about 1985, Brian also instituted and co-ordinated observations of the mutual events of the Galilean satellites across multiple seasons. In more recent times he has initiated and continues to co-ordinate the double star programme for the determination of true separations and position angles from occultation observations made at different locations. Observers from around the globe contribute to this programme, which has resulted in a string of publications, including a number in the Journal of Double Star Observations.

Brian has acted as a regional co-ordinator and reducer for total occultations for many years, a role which has required him to interact with and provide advice to almost every new observer in this part of the world. Together with his wife Pauline, Brian has for many years prepared and published annual summaries of upcoming bright total and grazing occultations for all of Australasia. These have materially assisted in attracting new observers to these events.

Brian's role in nurturing observers worldwide is also significant, especially in the field of double star occultations. He has acted as a mentor for many new observers, and has frequently presented on occultation matters at RASNZ, NACAA and TTSO meetings over more than three decades. Brian has also been Assistant Director of the RASNZ Occultation Section for almost 30 years.

The Homer F. DaBoll award to Brian reads: "For Total and Grazing lunar occultations, the Jovian Satellite eclipse program, lunar double star co-ordination, publications, and nurturing new occultation observers worldwide."

In accepting the award Brian stated that he felt very honoured, and he thanked all those who had supported his nomination as well as his wife Pauline for her continuing encouragement. He also remarked that it was great to receive an award for doing something he just enjoyed doing!

-- Graham Blow, Director, Occultation Section, RASNZ

2. Microlensing Finds Earth-Like Planet

New Zealand astronomers have played an important role in the discovery of an Earth-like planet in a binary star system located 3,000 light-years from Earth. This expands astronomers´ notions of where Earth-like - and even potentially habitable - planets can form and how to find them.

At just twice the mass of Earth, the planet (now named OGLE-2013-BLG-0341LBb) orbits one of the stars in the binary system at almost exactly the same distance from which Earth orbits the sun. However, because the planet´s host star is much dimmer than the Sun, the planet is much colder than Earth-a little colder, in fact, than Saturn's icy moon Titan.

Four international research teams, led by Professor Andrew Gould of The Ohio State University, published their discovery in the July 4 issue of the prestigious international journal Science. New Zealand astronomers, both professional and amateur, who were members of these research teams made significant contributions to the discovery using a powerful technique called "gravitational microlensing".

The study provides the first evidence that terrestrial planets can form in orbits similar to Earth´s, even in a binary star system where the stars are not very far apart. Although this planet itself is too cold to be habitable, the same planet orbiting a sun-like star in such a binary system would be in the so-called "habitable zone" - the region where conditions might be right for life.

"Small dim stars are the most common in our galaxy and the majority of these are found in binary systems. They have much longer lives than our Sun and could potentially provide a stable habitable environment over very large time spans", said Stardome astronomer, Dr Grant Christie. "Now we have shown that planets like Earth can form and survive in these systems, it opens up exciting new opportunities to explore. Planets such as this are likely to be volcanically active so potential habitats for life could exist beneath the surface."

Detailed analysis showed that the planet is twice the mass of Earth, and orbits its star from an Earth-like distance, around 135 million kilometres. But its star is 400 times dimmer than our Sun, so the planet is very cold -- around -210° Celsius. The second star in the star system is only as far from the first star as Saturn is from our Sun. But this binary companion, is also very dim and contributes almost no heat to the planet.

While four other terrestrial planets have been discovered in binary systems that have similar separations using different techniques, this is the first discovery within a binary system of a planet that is both Earth-like in size and follows an Earth-like orbit.

Four amateur observatories in New Zealand contributed observations covering four nights (23-27 April, 2012) while working as part of the international MicroFUN collaboration (Microlensing Follow-up Network). In particular, Ian Porritt of Palmerston North worked through gaps in clouds to obtain the first few critical measurements that revealed the planet was in a binary star system.

The New Zealand members of MicroFUN who contributed to the discovery of this planetary system: Dr Grant Christie, Stardome Observatory (Auckland), Jennie McCormick, Farm Cove Observatory (Auckland), John Drummond, Possum Observatory (Gisborne), Ian Porritt, Turitea Observatory (Palmerston North). The 1.8m MOA telescope at Mt John Observatory near Tekapo was also able to cover the event. This telescope is one of only two large telescopes dedicated to exploring the galaxy using gravitational microlensing.

-- From a Stardome press release.

3. The Solar System in August

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.26 am and sets at 5.28 pm on August 1. On August 31 the times are 6.46 am and 5.57 pm respectively.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: August  4 at 12.50 pm (        00:50 UT)
Full moon:     August 11 at  6.10 am (Aug 10, 18:10 UT)
Last quarter   August 18 at 12.26 am (Aug 17, 12:26 UT)
New moon:      August 26 at  2.13 am (Aug 25, 14:13 UT)

THE PLANETS IN August A conjunction of Mars and Saturn on August 25 and 26 is the best planetary conjunction of the year. Mercury becomes visible in the evening sky by the end of August. Jupiter emerges from the Sun in the morning while Venus gets lower in the dawn sky.

The two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta have been a close pair this year. They begin to separate during August.

Mercury starts August as a morning object, but rises only 17 minutes before the Sun on the 1st, so is not observable. The planet is at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun on the morning of August 9 when it will pass less than 2° north of the Sun.

Superior conjunction sees Mercury return to the evening sky. It will continue to be too close to the Sun to see at first, but by the end of August the planet will set more than 90 minutes after the Sun and so be visible in the evening sky. On the 31st, half an hour after sunset, Mercury will be 11° above the horizon in a direction just north of west. At magnitude -0.3 it will be easily the brightest star like object to the west and so the first to appear as the Sun's glow diminishes.

Venus is in the dawn sky all month. It rises some 75 minutes before the Sun on the 1st, but only half an hour earlier on the 31st. So by then it will be a very low object to the ENE just before the Sun comes up. Jupiter will be rather higher and to its upper left.

Venus and Jupiter are at a close conjunction on the mornings of the 18th and 19th of August, when they will about half a degree apart, slightly further on the 19th. Their low altitude, only 6° a few minutes before sunrise, will make the conjunction difficult to see, but the planets are likely to be visible in binoculars. Look for the two planets very low about 30° round to the north of east a little before sunrise.

Mars and SATURN get close in August. Mars moves further east, away from Spica, during August to join Saturn in Libra. The two planets are closest on the 25th and 26th, when they will be 3.4° apart. They will both be at magnitude 0.6. Alpha Lib will be close forming the third corner of a small triangle with the planets. Alpha is fainter than the planets by 2 magnitudes. From the point of view of visibility this is the best planetary conjunction for 2014, but not the closest.

Beta Lib slightly brighter than alpha, will be the opposite side of Saturn to Mars, and about twice as far away. Antares will be some 22° above the two planets.

Earlier in August the moon passes first Mars and then Saturn. In both cases the moon will be closest to the planets late evening. On the 3rd the 43% lit moon will be 2.7° from Mars at 11 pm. On the 4th the moon will get much closer to Saturn, the 54% lit moon being 35' from Saturn as seen from Wellington. Further north the two will appear even closer, until from Kaitaia northwards there will be an occultation. This will occur close to midnight. A grazing occultation is visible in a band from just south of Kaitaia north to Motutangi. In this band only part of Saturn will be hidden by the moon. Further north the planet will disappear completely for up to a few minutes.

The occultation is earlier visible from all parts of mainland Australia except the extreme south point of Victoria where a graze occurs. The Occultation misses Tasmania.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta continue to be near Mars all month. During the second half of August they will be about 7° from the planet.

Jupiter will be in the dawn sky. It starts August even closer to the Sun than Mercury and is not likely to then be visible. The two planets are in conjunction on the morning of the 3rd when they will be just under a degree apart, but only 6.5° from the Sun.

After this, Jupiter will steadily move further away from the Sun. On the morning of the 18th it will pass Venus at a distance of just under half a degree. The following morning the two will be just over half a degree apart. The two planets will then be some 18° from the Sun, so the conjunction may be visible in binoculars shortly before sunrise.

For the rest of the month Jupiter continues to move away from the Sun. By the 31st it will rise over an hour before the Sun. Half an hour before sunrise it will be some 6° above the horizon, in a direction 30° round to the north from east.

Outer planets

Uranus rises just before 11 pm on August 1st and two hours earlier on the 31st. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.7.

Neptune rises at 7.37 pm on the 1st and 5.35 pm on the 31st. It is in Aquarius and at opposition on the 29th at magnitude 7.8. At opposition it will be 29 AU, 4333 million km, from the Earth.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, 2.5° from the magnitude 3.5 star xi2 Sgr.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Virgo at the beginning of August at magnitudes 8.8 and 7.5 respectively. By the end of August they will both have moved into Libra, and have magnitudes 9.0 and 7.7.

During the month Ceres and Vesta will separate a little, so that by the end of August they will be nearly 5° apart.

On the 31st the 29% lit moon will be 1.5° left of Vesta and 4° above Ceres late evening. All 3 will be a few degrees below Mars and Saturn

-- Brian Loader

4. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the third annual StellarFest on 25-27 July 2014 at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, Lower North Island.

The overall theme of the weekend will be the Winter Milky Way and the Clouds of Magellan. The venue is situated in a very dark site so these wondrous areas of the night sky will be easily visible and riding high in the sky. There will also be a programme of interesting talks on a variety of topics throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. See last month's Newsletter, Item 5, for details.

More info can be found at http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest Bookings can be made online at http://groupspaces.com/HoroAstronomy/item/633390

5. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend will be on the weekend of August 22nd to 25th at Camp Iona, 2km to the west of Herbert in North Otago.

The overnight fees are now $34 per adult for two nights and $17 for one night. For secondary school teenagers, they are $15 and $30 for one and two night per teenager, and for primary schoolchildren they are $12 and $24 for one and two nights. For those staying the full three nights at Camp Iona, the charge is only $35 for three nights. (Only $1 more than the $34 adult charge for two nights, due to very few people staying the Sunday night.) There is also a daytime or evening visitor charge of $5 per person for those who wish to come 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.

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

-- Ross Dickie

6. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21

Space Camp NZ 2014 at Raincliff Youth Camp, South Canterbury, 19th to 21st September 2014

Speakers, workshops, solar & night sky observing. Activities for beginners to the more experienced astronomer.

All meals are BYO, except for Saturday evening which is a pot luck meal, details of what to bring based on numbers will be made available closer to the time. See last month's Newsletter, Item 9, for the speaker list. For details see http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

-- From the above webpage.

7. 2015 RASNZ Conference

The 2015 RASNZ Conference will be held in Lake Tekapo village From Friday May 8 to Sunday 10th. It will be followed by the 9th Trans-Tasman Occultation Meeting on the Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12.

Preceding the RASNZ Conference will be a two-day meeting celebrating Mt John Observatory's 50th Anniversary. The meeting will be held in Lake Tekapo village on the Thursday and Friday, May 7-8. The theme is `Celebrating 50 years of Mt John´. Past Pennsylvania and Canterbury students will contribute papers but anyone is welcome. About 80 participants are expected. Details are available at www.mjuo50.org.nz.

8. Rosetta Nears Comet Nucleus

The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is expected to rendezvous with the nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on August 6. It will be the first spacecraft to park near a comet. Previous comet encounters have been fly-bys.

Rosetta was launched by the European Space Agency in 2004. Since then multiple passes of Earth and Mar have gradually manoeuvred the craft into the 6.45-year orbit of Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (C-G). This orbit took the spacecraft out beyond the orbit of Jupiter, more than five times Earth's distance from the sun. Sunlight there was too weak to power the craft even with its 64 square metres of solar cells. So Rosetta was put into hibernation for two and half years until January this year when it and the comet were headed toward the sun.

Rosetta will stay by C-G's nucleus as the comet passes perihelion in August 2015. At that time the comet will be 180 million km from the Sun, 1.2 times Earth's distance. The mission ends in December 2015, probably with Rosetta being landed on the comet's nucleus. Measurements by the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based telescopes indicate that CG's nucleus is about 4km across and rotates every 12 hours.

In November a lander called Philae will be deployed from Rosetta. If all goes to plan it will attach itself to the nucleus's surface. The gravity of the nucleus is far too small to hold the lander on its own. On the nucleus the 100 kg lander will have the weight of a sheet of paper.

Rosetta and Philae carry a range of instruments to sample, analyse and probe the nucleus. Rosetta has 11 experiments. The lander carries 10. The first job will be to map the nucleus with Rosetta's cameras. This has to be done carefully as the nucleus may be firing off jets of gas and dust. The cameras are protected by a set of doors. To keep dust off the optics as far as possible the doors will be opened 10-20 times a day for quick looks. They are designed for 10,000 door cycles.

After the nucleus is mapped, two landing sites will be chosen: a primary site and a backup. Early pictures will have a resolution of 20 metres. The selected landing sites will be imaged to about 50 cm resolution. The error in Philae's landing is likely to be 100 metres.

Philae has a gas analyser to identify complex organic molecules. Comets are thought to contain the same organic chemicals that form in cold dark interstellar clouds. Such chemicals may have assisted the start of life on early Earth.

Another gas analyser will look at light elements, notably hydrogen. The origin of Earth's water is much debated. The Giant Impact hypothesis for the origin of the Moon makes the early Earth very hot. All its original water should have been lost into space. One idea is that water we now have was brought here by comets. A test of this is to measure the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in the water. Earth's water has 1.56 parts deuterium (heavy hydrogen) to 10,000 parts water. Measurements of six comets found their deuterium is twice as abundant. However, last year ground-based measures of Comet 103P/Hartley found its deuterium/hydrogen ratio exactly matched Earth's. P/Hartley 2, like C-G is a comet from the Kuiper belt just beyond Neptune. The earlier measurements were of long-period comets from the Oort cloud around 1 light-year away. It is much more likely that Earth was bombarded with Kuiper-belt comets in its early days. So the measures of isotope ratios from C-G are eagerly awaited.

Philae has several cameras to image the site in different wavelengths and multiple sensors to probe the surface. One experiment will drill into the surface so samples can be tested in an on-board oven. Philae has a radio transmitter that will be switched on when Rosetta is on the other side of the comet. The transmission of radio waves through the nucleus will probe its interior structure.

Initially Rosetta will orbit less than 50 km from C-G's nucleus. However the streams of gas coming off the comet as it nears perihelion, combined with the sail area of the wing-like solar panels, will probably push Rosetta off into space. At the perihelion part of the mission Rosetta is likely to be escorting the nucleus from a distance of more than 70 km.

The most recently released images, taken by Rosetta on July 11, appear to show a 'contact binary' nucleus: two quite distinct objects joined together. See http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27110882 and http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta

-- by Ed with cribs from articles by Jonathan Amos of the BBC, by Joel Parker in 'Sky & Telescope' August 2014, and by Robin McKie in 'Cosmos' No.56. April/May 2014, cosmosmagazine.com.

9. Possible Hybrid Star Found in SMC

A possible hybrid star called a Thorne-Zytkow Object has been identified in the Small Cloud of Magellan. Until now such objects have been theoretical entities, the result of a neutron star merging with a massive companion star.

The theory stars with a pair of massive, tightly orbiting stars. The more massive star explodes in a supernova first, leaving behind a neutron star remnant. According to one model, the remaining massive star exhausts its fuel supply and begins to swell, ultimately engulfing the neutron star. An alternative model suggests that the force of the initial supernova actually launches the neutron star into the middle of its supergiant companion.

Either way, a TZO will look similar to the red supergiant star that has engulfed its neutron star partner. But unlike normal red supergiants, the boiling atmospheres of TZOs dredge up thermonuclear products that form on the surface of the hot, embedded neutron star. The recently discovered TZO candidate, dubbed HV 2112, initially appeared to be a lone M-type red supergiant, but with a mass much greater than the upper limit for giant stars. The real clincher came in the form of HV 2112´s spectrum, which showed lines from the heavy metals lithium, molybdenum, and rubidium in its atmosphere in a combination unique to the thermonuclear processes at work in TZOs.

But a few features in HV 2112´s spectrum weren´t expected. For example, the amount of lithium and heavy metals in HV 2112´s atmosphere are not as extreme as predicted by TZO models, which could mean that HV 2112 is a just-formed TZO. Also, some elements show up in the spectrum that aren´t associated with TZO models; however, there is hope that more advanced models for stellar convective envelopes will eventually clear up the origin of these unexpected enhancements.

Currently, HV 2112 seems to meet the basic criteria of a TZO, and if it´s the real deal, it promises exciting developments for stellar astronomy. Not only is there an entirely new model for some stellar interiors, but there´s also a new way to produce the heavy metals that ultimately form exoplanets.

Kip Thorne, who first proposed the TZO model with Anna Zytkow in 1975, states that HV 2112 looks like a strong TZO candidate. But co-discoverer Emily Levesque of the University of Colorado, Boulder, urges caution in the buzz of discovery: "We´re calling [HV 2112] a `candidate´ for a reason. Claiming that we´ve found a totally new model of star is an extraordinary claim, it requires extraordinary proof." Bolstering the claim will involve both theoretical and observational work, as astronomers create more detailed models of stellar interiors, as well as find other TZO candidates in the red supergiant population.

See more at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/hybrid-star-spotted-small-magellanic-cloud/#sthash.Qu76jeAH.dpuf

-- abridged from the above article by Maria Temming posted on Sky & Telescope's webpage on 18 June 2014. Young Stars Around Ancient Galaxies

10. Young Stars Around Ancient Galaxies

NASA´s Hubble Space Telescope has photographed an unusual structure 100,000 light-years long, which resembles a corkscrew-shaped string of pearls and winds around the cores of two colliding galaxies. The unique structure of the star spiral may yield new insights into the formation of stellar superclusters that result from merging galaxies and gas dynamics in this rarely seen process.

Young, blue super star clusters are evenly spaced along the chain through the galaxies at separations of 3,000 light-years. The pair of elliptical galaxies is embedded deep inside the dense galaxy cluster known as SDSS J1531+3414. The cluster´s powerful gravity warps the images of background galaxies into blue streaks and arcs that give the illusion of being inside the cluster, an effect known as gravitational lensing.

It was first thought that the "string of pearls" was actually a lensed image from one of these background galaxies. Recent follow-up observations have ruled out this hypothesis.

The underlying physical processes that give rise to the "string of pearls" structure are related to the Jeans instability, a physics phenomenon that occurs when the internal pressure of an interstellar gas cloud is not strong enough to prevent gravitational collapse of a region filled with matter, resulting in star formation. This process is analogous to that which causes a column of water falling from a rain cloud to disrupt, and rain to fall in drops rather than in continuous streams.

Scientists currently are working on a better understanding of the star chain´s origin. One possibility is that the cold molecular gas fuelling the burst of star formation may have been native to the two merging galaxies. Another possibility is a so-called "cooling flow" scenario, where gas cools from the ultra-hot (10 million degree) atmosphere of plasma that surrounds the galaxies, forming pools of cold molecular gas that starts to form stars. The third possibility is that the cold gas fuelling the chain of star formation originates from a high-temperature shock wave created when the two giant elliptical galaxies crash together. This collision compresses the gas and creates a sheet of dense cooling plasma.

For Text & Images see: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/july/hubble-spots-spiral-bridge-of-young-stars-linking-two-ancient-galaxies/

-- From a press release by the Space Telescope Science Institute and NASA, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. More Conference Notes

Tom Richards led off the Saturday morning session with an outline of the evolution of close binary stars. Single stars stay about their original size while their cores are `burning´ hydrogen. When the hydrogen is exhausted the star´s core contracts and heats up. The star begins `burning´ helium. The outer layers of the star expand away from the hot core so the star grows into a red giant. Depending on the star´s mass this phase ends in one of two ways. For stars like the sun, the core exhausts the available energy supply then blows the outer layers into space, briefly making a planetary nebula. Big stars can make heavier nuclei before their cores collapse and they explode as supernovae.

For close binary stars life is more complicated. As the more massive star expands first into a red giant, its outer envelope is drawn off by the gravity pull of its lighter less-evolved companion. After a time the original `big brother´ is the lighter of the two stars. The originally smaller star then evolves into a red giant and gas is drawn off it by the original `big brother´. Various complications can happen. One is gas spiralling off into space from the binary pair. Another is the two stars sharing a common envelope, like a pair of rugby balls with their pointy ends squashed together. The cores of the two stars may merge to form a fast-spinning single star that appears younger than it should.

Denis Sullivan described the latest development of his fast-photometry equipment. A fast CCD camera `Pouka nui´ allows exposures as short as 5 milliseconds if one uses a small part of the chip. This is quick enough to resolve the 33.689 ms flashes of the Crab pulsar. Denis´s usual targets are pulsating white dwarfs that vibrate over minutes. Analysis of the vibration frequencies gives information about the star´s interior that is used to check against astrophysical models. Denis and his PhD student Paul Chote use Mt John´s 1-metre telescope for this work. Colleagues of Denis´s at MacDonald Observatory in Texas use a second Pouka Nui to increase the coverage time. Paul has contributed much to the software that runs `Pouka nui´.

Warwick Kissling described the method used by Eratosthenes (275-192 BC) to estimate the size of the Earth. The Greek traveller Pytheas of Massalia (modern Marseille) had earlier reported that the sun shone straight down a well at Syene, now Aswan, at summer solstice. At Alexandria Eratosthenes measured the sun´s angle from the zenith at the solstice. Combining this with an estimate of the north-south distance between the two places he arrived at a figure for the Earth´s circumference that is close to the modern value. It turns out that he underestimated one of the numbers and overestimated the other, cancelling the errors. Warwick generalized the mathematics for any two latitudes and any solar declination. He measured shadow lengths at Wellington and Hamilton last summer. Unfortunately his errors were both on the positive side so the Earth circumference derived was much bigger than the modern distance. Trying to measure shadow lengths isn´t easy.

Steve Butler called attention to 2015 as the International Year of Light. He sees it as an opportunity to up our game and engage with senior levels of government. There is a growing recognition that light at night is not only bad for migrating birds, turtles and astronomers, it is also bad for sleeping humans. In particular blue light, produced by many LED lights, has an effect on receptors in the retina that control circadian rhythms. More work needs to be done monitoring night sky brightness. Results should be reported to the Ministry for the Environment. Observations are needed at national, regional and local levels and must be of high quality. Unihedron Sky Quality Meters (SQMs) have been used for this in recent years. The more advanced models come with a USB link so results can be continually posted on the web. Recently another company has appeared with STEM Lab sky meters; see skyglownet.org for details.

-- From the Editor's notes. Not to be taken as a true and correct record.

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

14. Quote

"I don't watch soccer. If I wanted to watch someone struggle to score for 90 minutes I'd take my friends out to a bar."

-- Rock 103's tee-shirt. Photo passed along by Chris Gilmore.


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. 2014 Conference in Whakatane
2. The Solar System in July
3. Phil Yock's Fellows Lecture
4. Bill Bradfield
5. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27
6. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25
7. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21
8. 2015 RASNZ Conference
9. NEO Imaged by Radar
10. 2014 Gruber Prize
11. Industrial Pollution as a Biomarker
12. Dwarf Galaxies are Tidal Remnants?
13. Magnetar Formation Mystery Solved?
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. Quotes

1. 2014 Conference in Whakatane

Some 70 astronomers of various stripes gathered in Whakatane June 6-8 for the 2014 Conference of the RASNZ. Some stayed on for a meeting of the Variable Star South group on Monday. The Conference was hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society and celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Society's founding.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, the discoverer of pulsars, was the featured speaker. Dame Jocelyn had earlier spoken in Christchurch and, after Whakatane, was generously touring the North Island to talk to several local societies.

Professor Phil Yock of Auckland University gave the Fellows Lecture. [See Item 3.] The after-dinner speaker on the Saturday evening was MP Moana Mackey who told of the difficulties that scientifically-trained persons have in relating to attitudes and mind-sets in Parliament.

David Herald, author of the Occult software, and Margaret Streamer visited from Canberra. Dr David Moriarty travelled from Queensland. New Zealanders attended from north of Kaitia to Dunedin.

The meeting was held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall, an ideal venue with excellent sound and data projection. Coffee breaks and lunches were superbly catered. It was all a tribute to the local organising committee of Norman Izett, Nichola Vanderaa, Keith Blair, Jonathon Walker, Sheila David, Ian Bigham and Charlie Lampitt.

The RASNZ's Standing Conference Committee (SCC) had overseen the broad organisation of the meeting and had filled the talks programme. Special mention must be made of the contribution of Brian and Pauline Loader who have been on the SCC for many years and are now stepping down. For this meeting they were supported by Orlon Petterson, Denis Goodman, Tim Homes and Warwick Kissling.

Proceedings began on Friday evening with outgoing RASNZ President Gordon Hudson thanking the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the SCC for their fine work. Gordon noted two major events of the past year in NZ astronomy: the death of Albert Jones of Nelson, the world's most productive visual variable star observer, and the award to Graham Blow of the Order of New Zealand Medal to Graham Blow for founding and running the RASNZ's Occultation Section for 37 years.

Norman Izett, President of the Whakatane Astronomical Society thanked the LOC for its work then introduced Whakatane Mayor Tony Bonne to do the official opening. Tony noted the attractions of the region. Volcanic White Island is an increasingly popular tourist designation off the coast, but not yet on a par with Hobbiton near Matamata which is visited by one in seven of overseas tourists. Kiwis of the feathered variety live in the bush between Whakatane Observatory and Ohope Beach. And the Green Party had recently voted Ohope Beach the best beach in NZ. Tony said that reducing light pollution is a challenge for every council in NZ. To this end, Whakatane is gradually replacing old streetlights with downward- directed LED lights.

Tony presented Norman Izett with a certificate recognising the long service of the Whakatane Astronomical Society to the Whakatane community in running the observatory, talking to the public and school groups, and generally raising the profile of the region. The citation read "The Whakatane District Council would like to acknowledge the Whakatane Astronomical Society on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary, 6 June 2014".

2. The Solar System in July

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.45 am and sets at 5.04 pm on July 1. On July 30 the times are 7.27 am and 5.27 pm respectively.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: July  5 at 11.59 pm (        11:59 UT)
Full moon:     July 12 at 11.25 pm (        11:25 UT)
Last quarter   July 19 at  2.08 pm (        02:08 UT)
New moon:      July 27 at 10.42 am (Jul 26, 22:42 UT)

THE PLANETS IN JULY Mars and Saturn are visible in the evening sky while Mercury and Venus are morning sky objects. Jupiter is a very low evening object early in July but is at conjunction on the 25th.

The two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta have been a close pair this year. They are at their closest in July, only 10 arc-minutes apart early in the month.

Mercury is a morning object during July. It rises some 80 minutes before the Sun on July 1 with a magnitude 2.4. 45 minutes before sunrise it will be 5° up at an azimuth of 60°. So it will not be not an easy object in the dawn sky.

Things improve a little over the next few days. On the 13th it reaches its greatest elongation, 21° west of the Sun. Its magnitude then will be 0.4, so 2 magnitudes brighter and 7° up at an azimuth 55° 45 minutes before sunrise.

By the 20th Mercury will be at magnitude -0.4, but only 4° above the horizon 45 minutes before sunrise. The planet gets closer to the Sun during the rest of the month.

Venus is also in the morning sky and rises 40 to 50 minutes before Mercury all month. Venus starts the month 4° from Aldebaran, the distance increasing to 10° by the 31st.

On the 25th a very thin crescent moon only 4% lit will be 4° to the upper right of Venus, about midway between the planet and the 2nd magnitude star gamma Geminorum.

Mars is losing brightness as the faster-moving Earth moves ahead of, and further from, the red planet. During July, Mars dims slightly from magnitude 0.0 to 0.4. It transits at 6.51 pm on the 1st and 5.46 pm on the 31st, so is highest in the early evening. Mars remains in Virgo, a few degrees from Spica. The two are closest on the 14th with Mars 1.3° to the lower right of Spica early in the evening. By late evening the sky's rotation will bring Mars almost level with Spica still to its right.

The 58% lit moon joins Mars and Spica on the on the 6th. Early evening the moon will be 2.4° from Mars, during the evening the moon will move a little closer to Spica, so that by 8 pm the moon and star will be 2.4° apart. Earlier in the day, the moon will occult Mars, the event being visible from northern parts of South America.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta continue to be near Mars all month. During the second half of July they will be about 7° from the planet.

Jupiter sets some 80 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of July, so will be a very low object only 7° up and round towards the northwest half an hour after sunset. The planet closes in on the Sun through the month so becoming lost to view within a few days. It is at conjunction with the Sun on the 25th.

At conjunction Jupiter will be 940 million km from the Earth, 788 million km beyond the Sun. At its closest it will pass 8 arc minutes north of the Sun as "seen" from the Earth.

Saturn transits at 8.44 pm, two hours after Mars, on the 1st and 6.45 on the 31st, only 1 hour after Mars. That is the two planets get closer during the month, with a separation of about 14° by its end. Saturn is in Libra and will reach a stationary point on the 21st. Hence it will show little change in its position during July, just under 2.5° from alpha Librae.

The 77% lit moon will be 2.5° from Saturn on July 8, with Saturn between the moon and Alpha Lib. As is the case for Mars, the moon will occult Saturn earlier in the day. In this case the occultation is visible from southern parts of South America. The paths of the occultations will not overlap, there will be a strip of the continent between the two which see neither event.

Outer planets

Uranus rises an hour after midnight on July 1st and an hour before on the 31st. The planet is in Pisces at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune rises at 9.42 p on the 1st and 6.41 pm on the 31st . It is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.8 by the month's end.

Pluto is at opposition on July 8. The dwarf planet is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.3, position RA 18hr 51.1 min, Dec -2° 19'. This places it 1.7° from the mag 3.5 star xi2 Sgr and 40" south of the 7.6 mag star V4088 Sgr.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are at their closest on July 5 and 6, when they will be 10 arc-minutes apart, about one-third the diameter of the full moon. Vesta'a magnitude ranges from 7.1 to 7.5 during July, Ceres's 8.4 to 8.8.

The two asteroids are also close to Mars some 7 or 8 degrees from the planet. All three are in Virgo. On the 14th when Mars is closest to Spica, the two asteroids will be 7° from the planet on the opposite to Spica.

-- Brian Loader

3. Phil Yock's Fellows Lecture

Professor Phil Yock's Fellows Lecture was titled "From Particles to Planets". Phil skipped over his early involvement with particles, nuclear physics, and started the story at supernova 1987A. It was widely expected that cosmic rays from the supernova would soon be seen. Phil facilitated the setting up of cosmic-ray detectors on Black Birch Range by Nagoya University's Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory. That project ran for seven years with no cosmic rays being seen. (No pulsar has yet been detected either.)

Nagoya's interest moved to searching for Dark Matter. When a star or other compact mass exactly crosses our line of sight to a more distant star then it focuses the star's light toward us, causing the star to brighten then fade. The bigger the lensing mass, the longer the event lasts. Lensing by a star causes a rise and fade lasting many tens of days. The line-up has to be very precise, so it is essential to observe fields dense in stars. The usual targets are the Magellanic Clouds and the Galactic Bulge. The Bulge or central region is seen through a gap in the interstellar dust clouds near M8.

After enquiring with Bill Allen, Phil contacted John Hearnshaw about using a Mt John telescope. With help from Norman Rumsey and Garry Nankivell one of Mt John's 60-cm telescopes was converted to f/6 and equipped with a CCD camera made at Nagoya. After some preliminaries, observations got underway in 1996.

The success of this work led to a grant of about $7m from Monbusho (the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture, of the government of Japan) to design, build and run the 1.8-metre MOA telescope. The nascent Earth and Sky Company (Graeme Murray and Hide Ozawa) contributed $500k for the control building and dome foundation. Telescope was officially opened in December 2004.

Since 2004 the MACHO programme has morphed into a search for planets around distant stars. A planet circling the lensing star can distort the gravitational lens so the normally symmetric rise and fall in brightness has extra bumps on it. The programme has found many planets, some in multiple systems. Microlensing can find planets that are not detectable by other planet-finding technologies. Most of these are thousands of light-years away toward the Galactic Bulge.

-- From the Editor's notes. Not to be taken as a true and correct record. Notes from other Conference talks will be included in forthcoming Newsletters.

4. Bill Bradfield

The following note was circulated by Professor John O'Byrne of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

I am sad to report the recent death of Australian comet hunter Bill Bradfield (1928-2014). Bill Bradfield was the 20th Century's foremost visual comet hunter, discovering 18-comets between 1972 and 2004. He won the ASA's page Medal in 1981 and has asteroid 3430 Bradfield named in his honour. He was also a former employee of DSTO in Adelaide who worked as a research scientist on rocket-propulsion systems.

Bill died peacefully after a long illness on the 9th of June.


There is a long article about Bill on Sky & Telescope's website at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/bill-bradfield-comet-hunter-extraordinaire-1927-2014/ Thanks to Warwick Kissling for pointing this out.

5. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the third annual StellarFest on 25-27 July 2014 at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, Lower North Island.

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

The weekend will include:

  • Hydrogen-alpha solar viewing and photography
  • Interesting talks by both professional and amateur astronomers
  • Night-time observing, through a variety of telescopes. Feel free to bring your own telescopes - the more the merrier!
  • A telescope trail

There will also be a programme of interesting talks on a variety of topics throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. The following speakers are confirmed: Professor Tony Signal - `Gravitational Waves and Cosmology: Latest Results show Inflation works!'; Jeremy Moss: "Telescopes - Beyond the visible"; Steven Keen- "Space Invaders - High Altitude Ballooning"; Professor Bill Williams - TBA; Edwin Rodley - "Space news update"; Catherine Abou-Nemeh - Comets in late 17th-Century Europe"; Frank Andrews - TBA; Carl Knight - "Factors affecting Novae Ejecta"; Vicki Irons - "Catch a falling Star"; Owen Moore - TBA; Stephen Chadwick - "Wonders in the Ship of Argo"; Grant Christie - "A Galaxy of Planets: The search for another Earth"; Ian Cooper - "Joining the Dots"; Peter Felhofer - "The Cosmological Scale"; John Talbot - "Watching Stars go out (Occultation Observing)"; Otto Gruebl - "Astronomy vs Astrology".

If you have your own telescope/binoculars/camera please bring it along. If you would like some advice about getting the most out of your equipment there will be experts on hand to assist. Don't be shy!

There is a pool table and table tennis as well as a playground with trampolines and a flying fox, rugby and soccer, grass tennis and volleyball to keep the young (and not so young!) amused.

More info can be found at http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

Bookings can be made online at http://groupspaces.com/HoroAstronomy/item/633390

6. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend, at Camp Iona, south of Oamaru, is on August 22nd-25th. For map and registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/.

Other details later. -- from a note by Euan Mason

7. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21

Space Camp NZ 2014 at Raincliff Youth Camp, South Canterbury, 19th to 21st September 2014

Speakers, workshops, solar & night sky observing. Activities for beginners to the more experienced astronomer.

All meals are BYO, except for Saturday evening which is a pot luck meal, details of what to bring based on numbers will be made available closer to the time. See April's month's Newsletter, Item 9, for the speaker list. For details see http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

-- From the above webpage.

8. 2015 RASNZ Conference

The 2015 RASNZ Conference will be held in Lake Tekapo village From Friday May 8 to Sunday 10th. It will be followed by the 9th Trans-Tasman Occultation Meeting on the Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12.

Preceding the RASNZ Conference will be a two-day meeting celebrating Mt John Observatory's 50th Anniversary. The meeting will be held in Lake Tekapo village on the Thursday and Friday, May 7-8. The theme is `Celebrating 50 years of Mt John'. Past Pennsylvania and Canterbury University students will contribute papers but anyone is welcome. About 80 participants are expected. Details are available at www.mjuo50.org.nz.

9. NEO Imaged by Radar

NASA scientists using Earth-based radar have produced sharp views of a recently discovered asteroid 2014 HQ124 as it passed the Earth on June 8. The new views of the object are some of the most detailed radar images of a near-Earth asteroid ever obtained. An animation of the rotating asteroid and a collage of the images are available at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/video/index.php?id=1310

The radar observations were led by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. The JPL researchers worked closely with others at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to plan and execute the observations.

The radar images show 2014 HQ124 to be an elongated, irregular object that is at least 370 metres wide on its long axis. Lance Benner, one of the JPL scientists involved said "This may be a double object, or 'contact binary,' consisting of two objects that form a single asteroid with a lobed shape."

At its closest approach to Earth on June 8, the asteroid came within 1.25 million km, or slightly more than three times the distance to the moon. Radar observations began shortly after the closest approach, when the asteroid was between about 1.39 million km and 1.45 million km from Earth.

The images show features as small as about four metres wide. This is the highest resolution currently possible using scientific radar antennas. Such sharp views for this asteroid were made possible by linking together two giant radio telescopes to enhance their capabilities.

To obtain the radar views, researchers paired the 70-metre Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, with two other radio telescopes, one at a time. Using this technique, the Goldstone antenna beams a radar signal at an asteroid and the other antenna receives the reflections. The technique dramatically improves the amount of detail that can be seen in radar images.

To image 2014 HQ124, the researchers first paired the large Goldstone antenna with the 305-metre Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico. They later paired the large Goldstone dish with a smaller companion, a 34-metre antenna, located about 32 km away. Scientists were fortunate to be able to make these radar observations at all, as this particular asteroid was only recently discovered. NASA's NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for searching the sky for the infrared light emitted by asteroids and comets, first spotted the space rock on 23 April. The story of the asteroid's discovery and its orbit was earlier shared online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-178

For asteroids, as well as comets, radar is a powerful tool for studying the objects' size, shape, rotation, surface features and orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities enable researchers to compute orbits much further into the future than if radar observations were not available.

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and identifies their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. To date, U.S. assets have discovered more than 98 percent of the known near-Earth objects. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data helps improve asteroid orbits after they are found.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch Twitter updates are at: http://www.twitter.com/asteroidwatch

-- From NASA press release http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-186


2014 HQ124 approached the Earth in the southeast dawn sky. Useful

astrometry was obtained from Mt John in late April and early June.

10. 2014 Gruber Prize

The 2014 Gruber Foundation Cosmology Prize has been awarded to Jaan Einasto, Ken Freeman, R. Brent Tully, and Sidney van den Bergh for their individual roles in the development of Near Field Cosmology - laying the foundation in our understanding of the structure and composition of the nearby Universe. The Cosmology Prize honours a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical, conceptual or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the Universe.

For more details see http://www.iau.org/news/pressreleases/detail/iau1403/

11. Industrial Pollution as a Biomarker

In a recent paper three researchers from Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics point out that air pollution is a sign of intelligent life, though difficult to detect in exoplanets.

The abstract reads: Detecting biomarkers, such as molecular oxygen, in the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets has been a major focus in the search for alien life. We point out that in addition to these generic indicators, anthropogenic pollution could be used as a novel biomarker for intelligent life. To this end, we identify pollutants in the Earth's atmosphere that have significant absorption features in the spectral range covered by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). We estimate that for an Earth-mass planet in the habitable zone of a white dwarf, methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) can be detected at earth-like concentrations with an integration time of ~1.5 hrs and 12 hrs respectively. Detecting pollutants that are produced nearly exclusively by anthropogenic activities will be significantly more challenging. Of these pollutants, we focus on tetrafluoromethane (CF4) and trichlorofluoromethane (CCl3F), which will be the easiest to detect. We estimate that ~1.5 days and ~3 days of total integration time will be sufficient to detect or constrain the concentration of CCl3F and CF4 to 100 times current terrestrial level.

See the paper at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1406.3025v1.pdf

-- Thanks to Phil Yock for drawing attention to this paper.

12. Dwarf Galaxies are Tidal Remnants?

Dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxies defy the accepted model of galaxy formation, and recent attempts to wedge them into the model are flawed, reports an international team of astrophysicists.

The study pokes holes in the current understanding of galaxy formation and questions the accepted model of the origin and evolution of the universe. According to the standard paradigm, 23 percent of the mass of the universe is shaped by invisible particles known as dark matter. The model predicts that dwarf galaxies should form inside of small clumps of dark matter. These clumps should be distributed randomly about their parent galaxy. What is observed is very different. The dwarf galaxies belonging to the Milky Way and Andromeda are seen to be orbiting in huge, thin disk-like structures.

This distribution favours an alternate, and much older, model: that the satellites were pulled out from another galaxy when it interacted with the Local Group galaxies in the distant past. This `tidal' model can naturally explain why the observed satellites are orbiting in thin disks.

A pre-print of the paper is available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1406.1799.

http://www.rit.edu/news/story.php?id=50841

-- From the Rochester Institute of Technology 'University News'. Thanks to John Arnold for passing along the link.

13. Magnetar Formation Mystery Solved?

Magnetars are the bizarre super-dense remnants of supernova explosions. They are the strongest magnets known in the Universe - millions of times more powerful than the strongest magnets on Earth. A team of European astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) now believe they've found the partner star of a magnetar for the first time. This discovery helps to explain how magnetars form - a conundrum dating back 35 years - and why this particular star didn't collapse into a black hole as astronomers would expect.

When a massive star collapses under its own gravity during a supernova explosion it forms either a neutron star or black hole. Magnetars are an unusual and very exotic form of neutron star. Like all of these strange objects they are tiny and extraordinarily dense - a teaspoon of neutron star material would have a mass of about a billion tonnes - but they also have extremely powerful magnetic fields. Magnetar surfaces release vast quantities of gamma rays when they undergo a sudden adjustment known as a starquake as a result of the huge stresses in their crusts.

The Westerlund 1 star cluster, located 16 000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Ara (the Altar), hosts one of the two dozen magnetars known in the Milky Way. It is called CXOU J164710.2-455216 and it has greatly puzzled astronomers.

Earlier work showed that the magnetar in the cluster Westerlund 1 must have been born in the explosive death of a star about 40 times as massive as the Sun. But this presents a problem. Stars such mass are expected to collapse to form black holes after their deaths, not neutron stars. It was not understood how it could have become a magnetar.

Astronomers proposed a solution to this mystery. They suggested that the magnetar formed through the interactions of two very massive stars orbiting one another in a binary system so compact that it would fit within the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. But, up to now, no companion star was detected at the location of the magnetar in Westerlund 1, so astronomers used the VLT to search for it in other parts of the cluster. They hunted for runaway stars - objects escaping the cluster at high velocities - that might have been kicked out of orbit by the supernova explosion that formed the magnetar. One star, known as Westerlund 1-5, was found to be doing just that.

The star had the high velocity expected if it is recoiling from a supernova explosion. It also had a combination of low mass, high luminosity and carbon-rich composition. This appears impossible to replicate in a single star - a smoking gun that shows it must have originally formed with a binary companion.

This discovery allowed a reconstruction the stellar life story that permitted the magnetar to form, in place of the expected black hole. In the first stage of this process, the more massive star of the pair begins to run out of fuel, transferring its outer layers to its less massive companion - which is destined to become the magnetar. This transfer caused the less massive star to rotate more and more quickly. This rapid rotation appears to be the essential ingredient in the formation of the magnetar's ultra-strong magnetic field.

In the second stage, as a result of this mass transfer, the companion itself becomes so massive that it in turn sheds a large amount of its recently gained mass. Much of this mass is lost but some is passed back to the original star that we still see shining today as Westerlund 1-5.

It is this process of swapping material that has imparted the unique chemical signature to Westerlund 1-5. It also allowed the mass of its companion to shrink to low enough levels that a magnetar was born instead of a black hole - a game of stellar pass-the-parcel with cosmic consequences.

It seems that being a component of a double star may therefore be an essential ingredient in the recipe for forming a magnetar. The rapid rotation created by mass transfer between the two stars appears necessary to generate the ultra-strong magnetic field and then a second mass transfer phase allows the magnetar-to-be to slim down sufficiently so that it does not collapse into a black hole at the moment of its death.

The full paper's available at http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1415/eso1415a.pdf


The open cluster Westerlund 1 was discovered in 1961 from Australia by Swedish astronomer Bengt Westerlund. The cluster is behind a huge interstellar cloud of gas and dust, which blocks most of its visible light. The dimming factor is more than 100 000, and this is why it has taken so long to uncover the true nature of this particular cluster.

Westerlund 1 is a unique natural laboratory for the study of extreme stellar physics, helping astronomers to find out how the most massive stars in the Milky Way live and die. From their observations, the astronomers conclude that this extreme cluster most probably contains no less than 100 000 times the mass of the Sun, and all of its stars are located within a region less than 6 light-years across. Westerlund 1 thus appears to be the most massive compact young cluster yet identified in the Milky Way galaxy.

All the stars so far analysed in Westerlund 1 have masses at least 30-40 times that of the Sun. Because such stars have a rather short life - astronomically speaking - Westerlund 1 must be very young. Its age is somewhere between 3.5 and 5 million years.


-- From a joint Open University and European Southern Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

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. 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. Quotes

"Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure science." -- Edwin Hubble.

"The true men of action in our time, those who transform the world, are not the politicians and statesmen, but the scientists." -- W.H. Auden.

"I cannot but stress often enough that what science is all about is not proving things to be true but proving them to be false." -- Lawrence M. Krauss.

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." -- John F. Kennedy.

"People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use." -- Soren Kierkegaard.

"There are two ways slide easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking." -- Alfred Korzybski.

"If you have any doubts that we live in a society controlled by men, try reading down the index of contributors to a volume of quotations, looking for women's Names." -- Elaine Gill.

"The facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought." -- Dorothy L Sayers.


Newsletter editor:

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

June 2014

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

Investiture of Graham Blow - ONZM
Gordon Hudson

Graham Blow, a well known and respected New Zealand astronomer, was this year invested as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM). This is an eye-witness view of the day.
Volume 53, number 2. June 2014. P3

The KPO Weather Station
Gordon Hudson

The idea behind my building of a weather station goes back to 1993 when the Carter Observatory C14 with a Compustar built into it was installed in my observatory. First we had to try to automate the telescope which was not easy. Once we achieved automation we needed to automate the dome. Once this was achieved we needed a way of closing the dome in the middle of the night while we slept. If the wind rose to say 20 knots or more the dome would rotate to its park position and then close the shutter which opened like a clam shell and then parked the telescope and shut the dome and close down the power so the only equipment left running was the computer.
Volume 53, number 2. June 2014. P4

Karen Pollard
John Hearnshaw, Alan Gilmore, Pam Kilmartin

Associate Professor Karen Pollard was elected to Fellowship of the RASNZ at the society's 2014 Annual General Meeting in Whakatane.
Volume 53, number 2. June 2014. P7

Apia Aurorae
A L Cullington, R W Evans

This is the text of a talk given by A.L. Cullington of the Magnetic Observatory in Christchurch to the Canterbury Astronomical Society on 16th September 1958. Photos of two 1962 Pacific aurorae by J.G. Keys, Observer in Charge at the Apia Magnetic Observatory are included. Compiled by Bob Evans.
Volume 53, number 2. June 2014. P8


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

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

Contents

1. Jocelyn Bell Burnell Lecture Tour
2. RASNZ Conference 2014, Whakatane
3. Notice of RASNZ AGM
4. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting
5. The Solar System in June
6. Primary Science Week, May 19-25
7. RSAA Winter School, July 14-20
8. Horowhenua StellarFest July 25-27
9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25
10. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21
11. Comet 209P/LINEAR
12. New Controls on High-Power Laser Pointers
13. Not a Meteorite, Just a Rock, Missed Skydiver
14. BICEP2 CMB Polarization Questioned
15. Bugs in Space
16. AstronomíA Magazine - English Edition Launched
17. How to Join the RASNZ

1. Jocelyn Bell Burnell Lecture Tour

The RASNZ Conference's guest speaker is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, DBE, FRS, FRAS. At Whakatane she will speak about "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

Dame Jocelyn will also be speaking at the following locations:

  • 4 June Christchurch - 4pm, Room 701, Dept Physics & Astronomy, University of Canterbury. "Pulsars and Extreme Physics "; 8pm C2 Lecture theatre, University of Canterbury, Canterbury Astronomical Society and Royal Society of NZ Canterbury Branch joint meeting, "Reflections on the discovery of pulsars"
  • 5 June Auckland - Auckland University, TBA
  • 6-8 June Whakatane - RASNZ Conference
  • 9 June New Plymouth - New Plymouth Astronomical Society, 7:30pm Peace Hall Lounge, Vivian St. opposite St Marys´. "We are made of star stuff"
  • 10 June Napier - Napier Astronomical Society, 7pm Holt Planetarium, Chambers Street, Napier. "Black Holes, White Holes and Wormholes"
  • 11 June Palmerston North - Horowhenua Astronomical Society, 6:30pm Te Manawa Main Museum Building, Palmerston North. "We are made of star stuff".
  • 12 June Wellington - Royal Society of NZ, TBA

Contact your local society where details TBA.

-- Thanks to Orlon Petterson

2. RASNZ Conference 2014, Whakatane

There is still time to register for the conference on June 6, 7 and 8 and with the VSS symposium on the Sunday evening and Monday June 9. Register using the RASNZ wiki: <www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:registration>.

More information about the conference will be found on the Wiki by clicking on "timetable" or on "papers" on the conference page. Information about the venue is on the RASNZ website

Below is a newsletter containing more information prepared by Pauline Loader, which has been sent to those already registered.


For those registered for the RASNZ Conference in Whakatane

The organisers look forward to meeting with friends old and new at this year's RASNZ conference. Planning is well under way for a great time in Whakatane. Here is some advance information which you may find useful.

Contents:

2.1. Previous (April) Newsletter
2.2. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm - Reminder
2.3. Friday Dinner 5:30pm to 7:00pm
2.4. VSS Symposium
2.5. Conference Timetable
2.6. Registration Payments

2.1. Previous (April) Newsletter

For information about Accommodation or Transport options please refer to the previous newsletter, a copy of which can be found on the RASNZ wiki pages using this link: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:newsletter

2.2. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm - Reminder

A bus trip to Celestial wines, Whakatane Observatory and Scenery lookout. Cost $30 per person. If you wish to attend this tour please contact Nichola by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. BY 31 MAY. (This email address will expire at end of May). The $30 fare is to be deposited into account 03 0490 0204427 01. Please make sure you include your name as reference.

2.3. Friday Dinner 5:30pm to 7:00pm

If you wish to join members of the conference organisers for a meal at the Whakatane Cobb & Co between 5:30 and 7:00pm please let email Nicola This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. BY 31 MAY. Nicola will advise Cobb & Co of expected numbers. This will of course be on the basis of order and pay for your own meal. The Cobb & Co is at 79 The Strand, Whakatane. Their website is http://www.cobb.co.nz/locations/whakatane.

2.4. VSS Symposium

The VSS Symposium organisers have arranged for a preliminary meeting to take place at the Whakatane Observatory on the Sunday evening from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. As well as the welcome by VSS director Tom Richards this preliminary session will include a brief overview of 'measuring stars' by Stan Walker and part 1 of Mark Blackford's workshop on DSLR Photometry. A preliminary timetable in .pdf format has been placed on the RASNZ wiki pages, please see http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:timetable. The Whakatane Astronomical Society have volunteered to proved light refreshments at the end of the evening. I suggest that attendees make a donation to the Whakatane Astronomical Society in a token recognition of their assistance in providing their facilities for the evening.

2.5. Conference Timetable

A provisional timetable for the conference is available on the RASNZ wiki pages at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:timetable.

2.6. Registration Payments

If you have not already paid your registration fee, please do so by 20th May. I will be sending out reminders later this week. The conference bank account number is Kiwi bank account number 389012 0228548-00. For those who have opted for credit card payment please do so via the RASNZ conference payments page http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference/Registration/ . Please note that we can ONLY accept credit card payments via the webpage which links to a secure Paypal website. We regret we are unable to accept credit card payments by any other methods.

-- Pauline Loader

3. Notice of RASNZ AGM

The 2014 Annual General Meeting will be held in Whakatane on the 7th of June 2014. The meeting will be held in the Whakatane War Memorial Hall and will begin at 4.30 pm. The agenda includes the usual items and announcement of the membership of Council for 2014 - 2016 including the results of the recent ballot for council members. No notices of motion have been received. The full agenda is available on the RASNZ website.

-- Rory O'Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ.

4. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting

This meeting will be held on Friday 6th June 2014 in the Whakatane War Memorial Hall starting at about 4.30pm. The full agenda has been emailed to Affiliated Societies and should have been received by 13 May 2014. Presidents of affiliated societies, or their nominated representatives, are eligible to attend and vote on behalf of the society. Amongst the business for the meeting is the election of two representatives to the RASNZ Council. If you have any enquires regarding these meetings please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Rory O'Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ.

5. The Solar System in June

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.34 am and sets at 5.02 pm on June 1. On June 30 the times are 7.45 am and 5.03 pm respectively.

The Southern winter solstice is on June 21, with the Sun at its furthest north at 10.52 pm. For Wellington, earliest sunsets are a few seconds after 5.00 pm for a few days near June 14; latest sunrises are a few seconds after 7:45 am for a few days near June 28.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: June  6 at  8.39 am (June 5,  20:39 UT)
Full moon:     June 13 at  4.11 pm (         04:11 UT)
Last quarter   June 20 at  6.39 am (June 19, 18:39 UT)
New moon:      June 27 at  8.09 pm (         08:09 UT)

The planets in june

Mercury will be difficult to see at any time in June. In the evening Jupiter gets low to set fairly soon after sunset, Mars and Saturn are visible all evening. Venus remains a brilliant morning "star" but gets a little lower during the month.

Mercury sets some 80 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of June. It will be at magnitude 1.4. 45 minutes after the Sun sets Mercury will be only 4.5° above the horizon. With the Sun 8.7° below the horizon the sky will be bright in the direction of the planet, making it a very difficult object.

Over the following evenings Mercury will get even lower especially after it is stationary on June 7. This leads up to the planet being at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of June 20. At conjunction Mercury will be 82.9 million km, 0.554 AU, from the Earth and 0.464 AU from the Sun.

Following conjunction Mercury will become a morning object rising before the Sun. By the end of the month, 45 minutes before sunrise, the planet will be only 4.2° up with a magnitude 2.7, so not visible

Venus, in the morning sky, will rise just over 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st dropping to just over 2 hours before it on the 30th. Thus it will get a little lower, but remain a prominent object to the northeast in the dawn sky.

Towards the end of June, Venus will be in Taurus and move to be between the Pleiades and Aldebaran at the end of the month. On the morning of the 27th the Pleiades and Venus will ruse at the same time, with the star cluster 7° to the left of the planet.

On the morning of the 25th a very thin crescent moon, 6% lit, will be 3.5° to the right of Venus, with the moon slightly lower.

Mars remains a bright object in the evening sky throughout June. It will lose brightness a little, dimming from magnitude -0.5 to 0.0 during the month. It sets just before 3 am on the 1st and by 1.25 am on the 30th. It is in Virgo, by the end of June just over 6° from Spica.

The 73% lit moon will be about 3.5° to the right of Mars early in the evening of June 8. During the evening their separation will slowly increase as the moon moves towards Spica. The moon is closer to Spica the following night.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta will be near Mars all month, some 12° from the Planet on the 1st and 9° away on the 30th.

Jupiter gets low in the early evening sky during June. It sets 170 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, half this, 85 minutes later on the 30th. Hence by then it will be very low once the sky begins to darken following sunset.

Jupiter remains in Gemini during June, about 7° from Pollux which will be lower than the planet.

The moon passes Jupiter twice during June. On the 1st the crescent moon, 11% lit will be just under 5° to the upper left of Jupiter early evening. On the 29th the moon and Jupiter are closest about 1pm. At 6 pm the moon as a very thin crescent only 3% lit, will be again be 5° from the planet, and again to its upper left. At 6pm Jupiter will be only 4° up as seen from Wellington.

Saturn will be a prominent object throughout the evening. It transits and so is to the north and at its highest a few minutes before 11 pm on the 1st, advancing to 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet will be in Libra, between the two brightest stars of the constellation. By the 30th the 3 will almost be in line.

The 90% lit moon will be 5° from Saturn on the evening of June 10. They are only half this distance apart before Saturn and moon set about 5am the following morning.

This month's occultation of Saturn by the moon is mostly over the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the Antarctic. Early on the northern edge of the occultation path crosses southern parts of Namibia and South Africa. Towards its end the extreme northern edge touches the southeast corner of Western Australia, with a graze well south of Perth. By then the moon will be very low and close to setting.

OUTER PLANETS Uranus rises shortly before 3 am on June 1st and just after 1 am on the 30th. Thus it remains a morning object. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude ranging from 5.9 to 5.8 during the month.

Neptune rises 20 minutes before midnight on the 1st and nearly 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta get even closer during June. On the 1st they are about 2° apart, by the 30th the separation will drop to only 25', less than the diameter of the full moon. This presents an unusual opportunity to view two asteroids in the same binocular field. Vesta'a magnitude ranges from 6.6 to 7.0 during June, Ceres's 7.8 to 8.4.

The two asteroids are also close to Mars, all three being in Virgo. On the 1st the two asteroids will be some 12° to the right of Mars, by the 30th they will about 9° to its right. Spica will then be about 6° above Mars as seen late evening.

-- Brian Loader

6. Primary Science Week, May 19-25

David Britten notes that Primary Science week is May 19-25. There are plenty of activities of all sorts on the NZ Association of Primary Science Educators (NZAPSE) web site http://nzapse.nzase.org.nz/ .

David also points to a wealth of activities and projects exploring "Out of This World" science on the Stardome web site http://www.stardome.org.nz/education/primary-science-week/ .

David asks that teachers let him know if you have material on your web sites that Stardome can direct visitors to. Stardome would also be happy to feature students´ work on their web site as an inspiration to other schools. David's email is <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

7. RSAA Winter School, 14-20 July

The Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA), ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences, advises that applications are now open for the 2014 RSAA Winter School. Travel bursaries are available to students at all Australian and New Zealand universities. Please distribute to 3rd year (and exceptional 2nd year) undergraduate Astronomy students.

When: 14-20 July 2014. Location: Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories. Cost Free for selected participants. Travel scholarships available. See last month's Newsletter, Item 7, for details.

Applications close 30 May 2014. For application details contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Brad E. Tucker, circulated by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

8. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the third annual StellarFest on 25-27 July 2014 at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, Lower North Island.

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

The weekend will include: o Hydrogen-alpha solar viewing and photography o Interesting talks by both professional and amateur astronomers o Night-time observing, through a variety of telescopes. Feel free to bring your own telescopes - the more the merrier! o A telescope trail

There will also be a programme of interesting talks on a variety of topics throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. The following speakers are confirmed - more to follow: Professor Tony Signal, Jeremy Moss, Professor Bill Williams, Steve Keen, John TalbotStephen Chadwick, Catherine Abou-Nemeh.

If you have your own telescope/binoculars/camera please bring it along. If you would like some advice about getting the most out of your equipment there will be experts on hand to assist. Don't be shy!

There is a pool table and table tennis as well as a playground with trampolines and a flying fox, rugby and soccer, grass tennis and volleyball to keep the young (and not so young!) amused.

For details of accommodation options, costs, etc, see http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend, at Camp Iona, south of Oamaru, is on August 22nd-25th. For map and registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/. Other details later.

-- from a note by Euan Mason

10. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21

Space Camp NZ 2014 at Raincliff Youth Camp, South Canterbury, 19th to 21st September 2014

Speakers, workshops, solar & night sky observing. Activities for beginners to the more experienced astronomer.

All meals are BYO, except for Saturday evening which is a pot luck meal, details of what to bring based on numbers will be made available closer to the time. See last month's Newsletter, Item 9, for the speaker list. For details see http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

-- From the above webpage.

11. Comet 209P/LINEAR

The faint periodic comet 209P/LINEAR passes 0.0554 AU or 8.3 million km from Earth on May 29. It is not likely to be of interest to visual observers but may be recorded by CCD cameras. The ephemeris below, from the Minor Planet Center, is for 7 p.m. NZST.

R.A.(2000) Dec. R.A.(2000) Dec. May h m s ° ' m1 June h m s ° ' m1

  1. 09 57 58 +42 49 12.6 1 11 15 59 -34 10 10.8
  2. 10 04 18 +38 36 12.4 2 11 25 59 -41 18 10.9
  3. 10 10 53 +33 34 12.1 3 11 36 27 -47 19 11.0
  4. 10 17 46 +27 33 11.8 4 11 47 23 -52 18 11.2
  5. 10 24 58 +20 26 11.5 5 11 58 45 -56 26 11.3
  6. 10 32 29 +12 12 11.3 6 12 10 33 -59 51 11.5
  7. 10 40 22 +02 59 11.0 7 12 22 44 -62 40 11.7
  8. 10 48 39 -06 49 10.8 8 12 35 16 -65 01 11.8
  9. 10 57 20 -16 38 10.7 9 12 48 04 -66 57 12.0
  10. 11 06 26 -25 53 10.7 10 13 01 06 -68 34 12.1

m1 is the comet's total magnitude, the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. Though 0.0554 AU is close for a comet, 209P/LINEAR can potentially come closer. Its orbit passes just 0.00295 AU, 443,000 km, from Earth's orbit; not much further away than the moon. 209P orbits the sun in 5.09 years.

Peter Jenniskens and E. Lyytinen suggest that the comet might cause a meteor shower visible in the United States and southern parts of Canada on May 24 between 06:03 and 8:09 UT, with peak activity most likely between 6:33 and 7:49 UT. (CBET 3853, 2014 April 12.) See also Sky & Telescope May 2014, p.30-35.

12. New Controls on High-Power Laser Pointers

Because idiots have been misusing high-power lasers -- pointing them at aircraft, vehicles, sports-persons, etc -- the government has had to restrict access to them. The restrictions apply to any laser with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt (mW).

The Ministry of Health's Environmental and Border Health Team has kindly provided a detailed summary of the new regulations and how they apply to astronomers. Peter Jaquiery will put the full text of the summary on the RASNZ's Affiliated Societies webpage at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/Societies/

The guts of the document are summarized below.

The new controls cover the importation, sale/supply and acquisition of high-powered laser pointers. Before importing high-powered lasers one must get authorisation from the Director-General of Health. Astronomical societies and their members DO NOT have to get permission to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers because the government recognises that they have a legitimate use for such devices. (Note that "supply" means both "sell" and "give for free".) Astronomical societies and their members still need to apply for permission to import them, however.

While astronomical societies are entitled to supply a device to their members for astronomical purposes, you cannot automatically supply a high- power laser pointer to anyone. It will be an offence to give a laser to anyone not authorised to use it.

If you wish to buy a high-power laser pointer from a New Zealand-based supplier, you will need to provide them some proof that you belong to an approved class of persons. For example, you could show them a letter from your astronomical society, on headed paper, confirming that you are a bona fide member.

The controls mentioned above DO NOT cover possession of laser pointers. That is, people do not have to get any authorisation to possess laser pointers that they already own. However, a proposed law change is currently being considered by Parliament. The Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill is proposing to make it an offence to be in possession of a high-power laser pointer in a public place without having a reasonable excuse. A similar offence currently exists for knives.

Even if this proposed law change is passed by Parliament then astronomers are unlikely to be adversely impacted. Being an approved class of person, entitled to acquire high-power laser pointers under the regulations noted above, and having a legitimate reason to have a laser pointer will provide a `reasonable excuse´ (unless the devices are being misused). More information about laser pointers, the new controls and their implications for you, and how to apply for authorisation is available on the Ministry of Health´s website: http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/environmental-health/high-power-laser-pointers You can also email any questions on the new controls to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Thanks to Rob Smith of the Ministry of Health for providing the full document.

13. Not a Meteorite, Just a Rock, Missed Skydiver

Several readers who know about skydiving said it was a terrestrial rock, not a meteorite that missed the skydiver. (See last month's Newsletter Item 1.) Apparently enthusiastic skydivers simply stuff their parachutes back into their bags on the ground and go up for another jump. Occasionally they gather up a rock as well!

14. BICEP2 CMB Polarization Questioned

The biggest discovery in cosmology in a decade could turn out to be an experimental artefact - at least according to an Internet rumour. The team that reported the discovery is sticking by its work, however.

Eight weeks ago, researchers working with a specialized telescope at the South Pole reported the observation of pinwheel-like swirls in the polarization of the afterglow of the big bang, or cosmic microwave background (CMB). Those swirls are traces of gravitational waves rippling through the fabric of space-time a sliver of a second after the big bang, argue researchers working with the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 (BICEP2) telescope. Such waves fulfilled a prediction of a wild theory called inflation, which says that in the first 10^-32 seconds, the universe underwent a mind-boggling exponential growth spurt. Many scientists hailed the result as a "smoking gun" for inflation. [See March Newsletter, Item 1.]

However, scientists cautioned that the result would have to be scrutinized thoroughly. And now a potential problem with the BICEP analysis has emerged, says Adam Falkowski, a theoretical particle physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of Orsay in France and author of the Résonaances blog. The BICEP researchers mapped the polarization of the CMB across a patch of sky measuring 15° by 60°. To study the CMB signal, however, they first had to subtract the "foreground" of microwaves generated by dust within our galaxy, and the BICEP team may have done that incorrectly, Falkowski reports on his blog today.

To subtract the galactic foreground, BICEP researchers relied on a particular map of it generated by the European Space Agency's spacecraft Planck, which mapped the CMB across the entire sky from 2009 until last year. However, the BICEP team apparently interpreted the map as showing only the galactic emissions. In reality, it may also contain the largely unpolarized hazy glow from other galaxies, which has the effect of making the galactic microwaves coming from any particular point of the sky look less thoroughly polarized than they actually are. So using the map to strip out the galactic foreground may actually leave some of that foreground in the data where it could produce a spurious signal, Falkowski explains. "Apparently, there is something that needs to be corrected, so at this point the BICEP result cannot be taken at face value," he tells Science.

BICEP researchers are not ready to concede the point, however. Clement Pryke, a cosmologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a co-principal investigator for the BICEP team, acknowledges that the foreground map is an important and thorny issue. Part of the problem is that the Planck team has not made the raw foreground data available, he says. Instead, BICEP researchers had to do the best they could with a PDF file of that map that the Planck team presented at a conference. Moreover, Pryke says, conversations with members of the Planck team leave it uncertain exactly what is in the key plot. "It is unclear what that plot shows," he says.

As for Falkowski's suggestion in his blog that the BICEP has admitted to making a mistake, Pryke says that "is totally false." The BICEP team will not be revising or retracting its work, which it posted to the arXiv preprint server, Pryke says: "We stand by our paper."

In the end, the issue may change the path forward only slightly. Many researchers had been awaiting Planck's own mapping of the polarization of the CMB, which the Planck team intends to release in October, to see if it reproduces the BICEP result. Now, however, they may be waiting as anxiously to see Planck's final map of the galactic foreground, due out at the same time, as it could make the BICEP signal go away.

-- From the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Now page on 12 May 2014; author Adrian Cho. For the original see http://news.sciencemag.org/physics/2014/05/blockbuster-big-bang-result-may-fizzle-rumor-suggests Thanks to Larry Marschall for passing along the link.

----- For a long biographical article on Alan Guth (rhymes with truth) of inflation fame see http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/05/02/alan-guth-what-made-big-bang-bang/RmI4s9yCI56jKF6ddMiF4L/story.html

15. Bugs in Space

In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers in Astrobiology Journal examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station.

Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it's important to know what types of micro- organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle.

Currently, spacecraft landing on Mars or other planets where life might exist must meet requirements for a maximum allowable level of microbial life, or bioburden. These acceptable levels were based on studies of how various life forms survive exposure to the rigors associated with space travel.

If the life forms are reduced to acceptable levels, a proxy for cleanliness, the assumption is that they will not survive under harsh space conditions. That assumption may not hold up, though, as recent research has shown that some microbes are hardier than expected, and others may use various protective mechanisms to survive interplanetary flights.

Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern because spores can withstand certain sterilization procedures and may best be able to survive the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. Spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 have shown especially high resistance to techniques used to clean spacecraft, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and peroxide treatment. When researchers exposed this hardy organism to a simulated Mars environment that kills standard spores in 30 seconds, it survived 30 minutes. For one of the recent experiments, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were exposed for 18 months on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), a test facility mounted outside the space station.

In another investigation, spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and another spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus subtilis 168, were dried on pieces of spacecraft-quality aluminium and subjected for 1.5 years to the vacuum of space, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation and temperature fluctuations on EuTEF. These samples also were subjected to a simulated Martian atmosphere using EuTEF. Most of the organisms exposed to solar UV radiation in space and in the Mars spectrum were killed, but when UV rays were filtered out and samples were kept in the dark, about 50 percent or more of those subjected to other space- and Mars-like conditions survived. That makes it likely that spores could survive a trip on a spacecraft to Mars if they are sheltered against solar radiation, perhaps in a tiny pocket of the spacecraft surface or underneath a layer of other spores.

The third study placed rock-colonizing cellular organisms in the EuTEF facility for 1.5 years, further testing a theory of how organisms might move from one planet to another, known as lithopanspermia. In this scenario, rocks ejected from a planet by a meteor impact carried organisms on their surface through space and then landed on another planet, bringing that life with them. For this investigation, researchers selected organisms especially adapted to cope with the environmental extremes of their natural habitats on Earth, and found that some are also able to survive in the even more hostile environment of outer space. Lithopanspermia would require thousands or even millions of years, much longer than the experiment's duration, but results provide the first evidence of the hardiness of these organisms in space and suggest the possibility that space-travelling rocks could carry life between planets.

Future exploration missions can use the results of these investigations to help find ways to minimize the risk of contaminating another planet. The findings also will help prevent scientists from incorrectly identifying an organism that hitchhiked on the exploring spacecraft as a native of the planet, when in fact it's an invader. That's a good thing, because no one wants to be responsible for an alien invasion of Mars.

For the full article in Science Daily, with journal references, see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140502120231.htm

16. AstronomíA Magazine - English Edition Launched

The following was received by the RASNZ Secretary:

We write to inform you that AstronomíA Magazine, the leader magazine in Spain for over 25 years, has launched its English version. It is available in digital format (pdf and tablet - for both IOS and Android).We would love that you take a look at the magazine. As to do that, you can download the April issue in pdf for free here http://www.astronomia-mag.com/shop/index.php?id_cms=14&controller=cms&id_lang=1

17. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. Meteorite Misses Skydiver
2. Notice of RASNZ AGM
3. The Solar System in May
4. RASNZ Conference 2014 in Whakatane
5. RASNZ Conference -- Call for Papers
6. NZ Rocketry Challenge 2014
7. RSAA Winter School -- 14-20 July
8. Herbert Astronomy Weekend - August 22-25
9. Space Camp NZ -- September 19-21
10. Solar Superstorm Missed Earth
11. Jean Texereau (1919-2014)
12. Smart LED Street Lighting
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Quote

1. Meteorite Misses Skydiver

 

Norwegian sky diver Anders Helstrup was narrowly missed by a meteorite during a jump. Though he didn't notice it at the time the object was recorded on his helmet camera. He remarked "I got the feeling that there was something, but I didn't register what was happening."

He was amazed and eventually took the film to the University of Oslo. The scientists there confirmed that, indeed, it was a meteorite plunging into Earth at terminal velocity, a stage called dark flight.

According to geologist Hans Amundsen - of the Natural History Museum in Oslo - this is the first ever film of a meteorite falling through its dark flight stage. During this phase, the meteorite "no longer travels at an angle, but falls straight down." According to Amundsen, who initially was very sceptical about its nature, it can't be anything else. "The shape is typical of meteorites - a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded." He believes that "the meteorite had been part of a larger stone that had exploded perhaps 20 kilometres above Helstrup."

The brick-sized meteorite has not been found in ground searches.

See the news item and helmet camera footage at http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/9905738/Skydiver-almost-hit-by-meteorite

-- Thanks to Pam Kilmartin for pointing out this news item.

2. Notice of RASNZ AGM

The 91st Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held at 4pm on Saturday 7 June 2014 at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall. Notices of motion are invited and should reach the Executive Secretary six weeks in advance of the meeting, by April 27 2014. They should be sent to:

Rory O'Keeffe Secretary 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. RD2, TUAKAU 2697

3. The Solar System in May

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.05 am and sets at 5.30 pm on May 1. By May 31 the times are 7.33 am and 5.03 pm respectively.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: May  7 at  3.15 pm (        03:15 UT)
Full moon:     May 15 at  7.16 am (May 14, 19:16 UT)
Last quarter   May 22 at 12.59 am (May 21, 12:59 UT)
New moon:      May 29 at  6.40 am (May 28, 18:40 UT)

An occultation of Saturn by the moon occurs on the night of May 14/15, a few hours before full moon. Despite the brightness of the moon, the occultation should be visible in a small telescope.

The occultation is visible from all parts of New Zealand and from Australia except the north east. A grazing occultation is visible from a little north of Brisbane. The graze path passes just north of NZ´s North Cape.

Times of mid occultation for some places in NZ are:

            Disappear  Reappear  Duration
Auckland     11:52:59   12:38:51  +/- 44s
Wellington   11:45:46   12:51:45  +/- 29s
Christchurch 11:40:05   12:54:54  +/- 25s
Dunedin      11:36:15   12:51:09  +/- 23s

The duration gives the time taken by Saturn´s disk to move behind the moon. Double these figures to obtain the approximate times for the start/end of the occultation of the rings. More details of the events can be obtained from Dave Herald´s Occult.

THE PLANETS IN MAY Saturn is at opposition on the night of May 10/11 so will be visible in the evening sky. Jupiter is in the early evening sky setting mid evening. Mars is visible all evening. Venus is in the morning sky.

Mercury is in the early evening sky, but will set less than 30 minutes after the Sun early in the month. By the end of May it will set a little more than an hour after the Sun. By the time the Sun has sunk to 10° below the horizon on the 31st, Mercury, at magnitude 1.2, will be about 3° above the horizon, so very difficult to see. On the 31st a very thin crescent moon will be 8° above Mercury.

Venus remains prominent in the morning sky although it begins to rise a little later, about 4.20am at the end of May. This is still more than 3 hours before the Sun. The planet is in Pisces all month except for 3 days mid month when it crosses an indented corner of Cetus

On the morning of May 16 Venus will be just over 1° from Uranus, with the latter to the lower left of Venus. At magnitude 5.9, Uranus will be the only bright object in the same binocular field as Venus. The previous morning Venus will be just under 2° above Uranus while on the morning of the 17th the planets will be 1.5° apart with Uranus to the left of and a little higher than Venus.

On May 25, the 9% lit crescent moon will be just under 4° below Venus.

Mars was at opposition on April 8 so will remain readily visible in the evening sky all May. As the Earth moves away from Mars, the latter will dim a little, but by the end of May it will still be magnitude -0.5. The planet is in Virgo a few degrees from Spica all month. Mars reaches a stationary point in its orbit on the 21st, so its position will not change greatly during May. The 87% lit moon will be a little less than 3° from Mars on May 11.

Jupiter will be easily seen, if rather low, early in May evenings. By the 31st it will set close to 8pm. Being well north of the equator it is low in southern skies, so best looked for shortly after sunset. The planet is in Gemini about 10° from the star Pollux. The 24% lit crescent moon will be just under 6° from Jupiter on the evening of May 4.

Saturn is at opposition on May 11 so will then be rising about the time of sunset and setting close to sunrise. The planet will then be 1331 million km (8.90 AU) from the Earth. The angular diameter of the disk will be 18.7 arc- seconds, with the rings just over twice that at 40 arc-seconds. The tilt of the north pole is 21.7 degrees towards the Earth making the rings easily visible in a small telescope.

By the end of May Saturn rises about an hour before the sun sets, so will be already visible to the east as the sky darkens.

The almost full moon will occult Saturn near midnight on May 14/15. The times at which Saturn disappears behind the moon and reappears again the other side of the moon are given above for a few locations. The moon´s limb will take about 45 seconds to move over the disk of Saturn as seen from the south of NZ. The time gets longer further north in the country reaching about 90 seconds in Auckland. The time for the ring system to be covered or uncovered is rather more than twice that of the planet´s disk.

Saturn remains in Libra during May fairly close to alpha Lib and beta Lib. Its changing position relative to the two stars will be detectable during the month.

OUTER PLANETS Uranus and Neptune are both in the morning sky. On May 1 Uranus rises at 4.50 am, Neptune about 3 hours earlier. The Sun rises just after 7.00 am. So Uranus will be at a moderate altitude an hour before sunrise. By May 31 the times are 3 am for Uranus, just before midnight for Neptune and 7.33 am for the Sun.

Uranus is in Pisces during May where it is in conjunction with Venus mid month. Neptune is in Aquarius.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain a close pair of asteroids throughout May, no more than 2.5° apart in Virgo, so easily in the same binocular field. In the evening the two asteroids form a roughly equilateral triangle with Mars and Spica. Each side of the triangle will subtend an angle of some 13° or so. As seen in the evening, the triangle is inverted with Mars and Spica forming the base and the two asteroids at the lower apex.

The two asteroids were at opposition just after Mars in April, so they will fade a little during May, from magnitude 6.0 to 6.6 in the case of Vesta and 7.2 to 7.9 for Ceres.

(2) Pallas is also an evening object rising some 3 hours before Ceres and Vesta. It is in Leo, near Regulus. Pallas´s path takes it within 1.3° of the star on May 13th when the asteroid at magnitude 8.6 will be almost directly below Regulus. By the end of May Pallas will have faded to 8.9 and be 5.5° to the right of the star.

-- Brian Loader

4. RASNZ Conference 2014 in Whakatane

The organisers look forward to meeting with friends old and new at this year's RASNZ conference. Planning is well under way for a great time in Whakatane. Here is some advance information which you may find useful.

Contents:

4.1. Conference Start and End Times; timetable
4.2. Have you booked your accommodation?
4.3. Buses and Shuttles
4.4. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm
4.5. Conference Dinner Saturday 7th June 7:30pm
4.6. For those interested in a White Island Tour

For further information please also see the RASNZ Conference Wiki <www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start>

4.1. Conference Start and End Times, timetable.

The Conference will open at 7:30pm Friday 6th June. It is likely to end on Sunday 8th June about 3pm or later if we have sufficient offers for papers and presentations.

A tentative conference timetable has been placed on the RASNZ Wiki Conference pages <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:timetable>. You can also see details of some of the papers offered on the RASNZ Wiki at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:papers>. Both these pages will be updated as more information becomes available.

Please see the item in this news letter regarding submissions to present a paper.

4.2. Have you booked your accommodation?

The venue does not provide accommodation but there are a number of motels within a few minutes walking distance. Jono Walker of the LOC points out that accommodation is being booked rapidly and advises making a reservation ASAP.

AMBER COURT MOTEL 22 Valley Road Ph: 0800 262 377 www.amber-court.co.nz: $125.00 per night; 5 minute walk to venue

ALTON LODGE MOTEL 76 Domain Road Ph: 0800 425 866 www.altonlodge.co.nz: 10 minute walk to venue; when booking mention coming to RASNZ Conference for a discount

WHAKATANE HOTEL / BACKPACKERS The Strand Ph: 07 307 1670 www.whakatanehotel.co.nz

NauMai Motel Landing Road, from $87/night Ph: 0800 802 883 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Web: www.naumai.co.nz

Whale Island Suite are offering luxury apartments for up to 4 people for $220/night. For more information please go to http://www.whaleislandsuite.co.nz/

For More Accommodation Options: please visit these websites http://www.whakatane.com/ and http://www.whakatane.info/

4.3. Buses and Shuttles

Intercity Coachlines www.intercity.co.nz. Depart Rotorua Airport 2:23pm arrive Whakatane 3:36pm Depart Whakatane 11:15am arrive Rotorua Airport 12:39pm

Naked Bus www.nakedbus.com/nz/bus/ Depart Rotorua Airport 12:40pm arrive Whakatane 2:05pm Depart Whakatane 10:00am arrive Rotorua Airport 11:25am

Baybus www.baybus.co.nz Depart Tauranga CBD 2:05pm arrive Whakatane 3:50pm Depart Whakatane, Quay Street 9:15am arrive Tauranga CBD 11:05am

Shuttle Service in Whakatane - JNP Transport Service Phone 0800 872 555 or http://www.whakatane.info/business/jnp-transport-services-airport-shuttle Rates: Airport to Motel $30 per trip plus $5 per person Motel to Venue $25 per trip - fill the van by sharing up to 11 people to cut costs.

4.4. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm

A bus trip to Celestial wines, Whakatane Observatory and Scenery lookout. Cost $30 per person. If you wish to attend this tour please contact Nichola, the Whakatane secretary, by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The $30 fare is to be deposited into account 03 0490 0204427 00. Please make sure you include your name as reference.

4.5. Conference Dinner Saturday 7th June 7:30pm

As this year's Conference celebrates Whakatane astronomical Society's 50th Anniversary the dinner theme will be 1964. So bring out that old suit or dress from the 1960's. And make sure you know something about that year.

4.6. For those interested in a White Island Tour

Tours to White Island take at least 6 hours. If you are interested in a White Island trip we suggest you visit http://www.whiteisland.co.nz/ and make your own arrangements for a trip either prior to the start of the conference or for a day following the conference and Symposium.

-- Brian Loader

5. RASNZ Conference -- Call for Papers

Dear Friends, Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to announce that the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand conference 2014 will be held in Whakatane, 6-8 June at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall.

For further information on the conference and registration please visit the website at www.rasnz.org.nz <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>

The RASNZ standing conference committee sincerely invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles and Abstracts due *1st May*. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ website www.rasnz.org.nz <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>, or you can go to the RASNZ wiki www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki>. 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.

On the Monday 9th June, following Conference there will be an Variable Star South Workshop at the Whakatane REAP Centre.

Our guest speaker is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, DBE, FRS, FRAS who will speak about "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The Fellows Lecture for 2014 will be delivered by Professor Phil Yock speaking on "From Particles to Planets".

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

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find this of interest.

-- Dr Orlon Petterson, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

6. NZ Rocketry Challenge 2014

Gerry Munden writes: Registrations are now open for the 2014 NZ Rocketry Challenge - designed to provide Year 7 and 8 students a realistic experience in designing a flying aerospace vehicle that meets a specified set of mission and performance requirements.

The Challenge: Students are tasked to design and build a safe and stable model rocket and use it to safely lift a fragile payload (one raw hen's egg) to an altitude of exactly 150 metres, then to return the payload safely and undamaged.

NEW FORMAT FOR 2014: The Challenge has been updated for 2014 to make it easier for schools all around the country to participate: You can fly in your own school, at a time that suits - but still compete against other teams in a national leader board, and optionally coordinate local school fly-offs.

Rocket kits and other resources are available, or you can build your own from scratch - and digital altimeters can be cheaply rented for your competition flights.

The NZ Rocketry Challenge is a great platform for students to apply maths, physics, teamwork and much more in a hands-on creative activity. Will your school be on the leader board?

For more information and contest rules visit: www.rocketcontest.org.nz. Register by 17 April; fly and submit results by 19 May.

AEROSPACE EDUCATION +64 9 624 3091 Box 13 368 +64 27 4 932 766 Onehunga Auckland 1643 www.aerospaceeducation.co.nz

7. RSAA Winter School -- 14-20 July

The Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA), ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences, advises that applications are now open for the 2014 RSAA Winter School. Travel bursaries are available to students at all Australian and New Zealand universities. Please distribute to 3rd year (and exceptional 2nd year) undergraduate Astronomy students.

When 14-20 July 2014. Location Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories. Cost Free for selected participants. Travel scholarships available. Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences

Come and participate in exciting science at the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics (RSAA) Winter School, where you´ll have the opportunity to experience cutting edge research and take part in scientific observations on some of Australia´s most advanced telescopes.

The Winter School will be held over seven action packed days and includes real astrophysical investigations, special presentations from leading researchers, exclusive night time access at research telescopes and participating in scientific observations. Participants will travel to Australia´s premier optical and radio astronomical observatories and will have the opportunity carry out their own observations on the ANU 2.3m telescope.

The Winter School includes: Learn about stellar physics, planetary science, black holes & cosmology Telescope tours including a VIP visit of Australia´s largest optical telescope The chance to accompany astrophysicists during scientific observations Advice on coursework options, internships and scholarships.

Application close 30 May 2014. For application details contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Brad E. Tucker, circulated by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

8. Herbert Astronomy Weekend - August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend, at Camp Iona, south of Oamaru, is on August 22nd-25th. For map and registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/. Other details later.

-- from a note by Euan Mason

9. Space Camp NZ -- September 19-21

Space Camp NZ 2014 at Raincliff Youth Camp, South Canterbury, 19th to 21st September 2014

Speakers, workshops, solar & night sky observing. Activities for beginners to the more experienced astronomer.

All meals are BYO, except for Saturday evening which is a pot luck meal, details of what to bring based on numbers will be made available closer to the time.

The featured speaker is Dr Joe Liske, a staff astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Germany. Having obtained his PhD in Sydney, Australia, he was a researcher at the Universities of St Andrews and Edinburgh in Scotland before joining the European Southern Observatory in 2003. He now spends half of his time trying to understand how galaxies like our own Milky Way formed, while the other is dedicated to the science of the European Extremely Large Telescope project. Joe will be telling us about his work at ESO, and about the world´s biggest telescope, the European Extremely Large Telescope, and what we hope to find out with it.

Other speakers will be Warren Keller, astronomer and world renowned astro photographer. Dr Pamela Gay, astronomer, educator, writer and podcaster focused on using new media to engage people. Stephen Chadwick, astro photographer and author. John Whitby, astronomer of Live View Observing. John specialises in video astronomy. Peter Aldous, amateur astronomer, supernova hunter. Peter has been involved in astronomy for over 40 years Robert McTague, amateur astronomer and full time professional photographer.

For details see http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

-- From the above webpage.

10. Solar Superstorm Missed Earth

 

Earth dodged a huge magnetic bullet from the sun on July 23, 2012, when a rapid succession of coronal mass ejections - the most intense eruptions on the sun - sent a pulse of magnetized plasma barrelling into space and through Earth's orbit. Had the eruption come nine days earlier, it would have hit Earth, potentially wreaking havoc with electrical grids, disabling satellites and GPS, and disrupting our increasingly electronic lives.

The solar bursts would have enveloped Earth in magnetic fireworks matching the largest magnetic storm ever reported on Earth, the so-called Carrington event of 1859. The dominant mode of communication at that time, the telegraph system, was knocked out across the United States, literally shocking telegraph operators. Meanwhile, the Northern Lights lit up the night sky as far south as Hawaii.

In a paper in Nature Communications of March 18 former and current University of California Berkeley researchers reported their analysis of the magnetic storm, which was detected by NASA's STEREO A spacecraft.

"Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous," said Janet G. Luhmann, who is part of the STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Observatory) team and based at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.

A study last year estimated that the cost of a solar storm like the Carrington Event could reach $2.6 trillion worldwide. A considerably smaller event on March 13, 1989, led to the collapse of Canada¹s Hydro-Quebec power grid and a resulting loss of electricity to six million people for up to nine hours.

"An extreme space weather storm - a solar superstorm - is a low-probability, high-consequence event that poses severe threats to critical infrastructures of the modern society," warned Ying D. Liu, of the National Space Science Center of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. "The cost of an extreme space weather event, if it hits Earth, could reach trillions of dollars with a potential recovery time of 4-10 years. Therefore, it is paramount to the security and economic interest of the modern society to understand solar superstorms."

Based on their analysis of the 2012 event, Liu, Luhmann and their STEREO colleagues concluded that a huge outburst on the sun on July 22 propelled a magnetic cloud through the solar wind at a peak speed of more than 2,000 km per second - four times the typical speed of a magnetic storm. It tore through Earth's orbit but, luckily, Earth and the other planets were on the other side of the sun at the time. Any planets in the line of sight would have suffered severe magnetic storms as the magnetic field of the outburst tangled with the planets' own magnetic fields.

The researchers determined that the huge outburst resulted from at least two nearly simultaneous coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which typically release energies equivalent to that of about a billion hydrogen bombs. The speed with which the magnetic cloud ploughed through the solar wind was so high, they concluded, because another mass ejection four days earlier had cleared the path of material that would have slowed it down.

One reason the event was potentially so dangerous, aside from its high speed, is that it produced a very long-duration, southward-oriented magnetic field, Luhmann said. This orientation drives the largest magnetic storms when they hit Earth because the southward field merges violently with Earth's northward field in a process called reconnection. Storms that normally might dump their energy only at the poles instead dump it into the radiation belts, ionosphere and upper atmosphere and create auroras down to the tropics.

All this activity would have been missed if STEREO A - the STEREO spacecraft ahead of us in Earth's orbit and the twin to STEREO B, which trails in our orbit - had not been there to record the blast.

The goal of STEREO and other satellites probing the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth is to understand how and why the sun sends out these large solar storms and to be able to predict them during the sun's 11-year solar cycle. This event was particularly unusual because it happened during a very calm solar period.

"Observations of solar superstorms have been extremely lacking and limited, and our current understanding of solar superstorms is very poor," Liu said. "Questions fundamental to solar physics and space weather, such as how extreme events form and evolve and how severe it can be at the Earth, are not addressed because of the extreme lack of observations."

For more information and movies see http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/fast-cme.html

-- From a University of California press release forwarded by Larry Marschall.

11. Jean Texereau (1919-2014)

Just three days after his 95th birthday, Jean Texereau -- France's doyen of optical fabrication -- passed away on 6 February. For half a century Texereau made, refigured, or tested optics for large telescopes. He also promoted amateur telescope making through the Société Astronomique de France.

But his enduring gift to "glass pushers" around the world was his book "La Construction du Télescope d'Amateur", which first appeared in 1951. An English edition, titled "How to Make a Telescope", followed six years later. Compared with the American mirror-making books of the 1950s, Texereau's was more sure-footed in its discussion of the diffraction effects in telescopes. The technique he described for evaluating a mirror's figure was a significant advance, mathematically, over those used elsewhere. A subsequent, expanded edition was greatly sought after -- before it came back into print in 1984, copies were selling for $1,000 on the second-hand book market.

Texereau's first telescopes were homemade 10- and 20-inch (25- and 51-cm) reflectors. Then in 1946, astronomer Gerard de Vaucouleurs introduced him to André Couder of Paris Observatory. Couder, who headed the optics laboratory there, promptly hired Texereau to be his right-hand man. Among Texereau's projects at the observatory were making the optics of a 24-inch(61 cm) Cassegrain reflector for Meudon Observatory and work on the primary mirrors of the 76-inch (193 cm) reflector at Haute-Provence Observatory and the 42- inch (107 cm) reflector at Pic du Midi.

In 1964 Texereau was invited to McDonald Observatory in Texas to see what could be done about the soft star images of the 82-inch (208cm) reflector. That summer he performed 17 daily figuring steps on the 28-inch (71 cm) secondary mirror, and after each step he put the uncoated mirror back on the telescope for star tests each night. Before Texereau's arrival, the overall wavefront error had exceeded one wavelength of light. By the time he left, this error had been reduced to just 1/8 wave.

-- Roger W. Sinnott in "Sky & Telescope" May 2014, p.14.

12. Smart LED Street Lighting

The city of Eindhoven plans to introduce an LED lighting system in which each individual light can be controlled individually. That means that a street light can switch on and off depending on how busy the street is: if nobody is there, they dim, but as soon as a car, bike or pedestrian approaches, they turn themselves on and accompany the vehicle or person on his way.

LED street lights, already in use in several dozen cities around the world, though in a less innovative fashion than in Eindhoven, save energy costs compared to regular street lights, though the up-front cost is more expensive. Of course, having street lights that automatically switch themselves off when the street is empty further reduces costs and CO2 emissions.

Tvilight, a startup based in the Dutch university city of Groningen, offers similar light systems with dimming lights that turn themselves on as residents move about. They're now being implemented in German, Irish and Dutch cities.

European and American cities are usually quite empty after 10pm, yet providing light to those on them remains essential for security. Both in Eindhoven's new initiative and in the cities working with Tvilight, the street lights provide a small glow to empty streets, giving residents the feeling that the street is fully illuminated, while in reality the lights only turn on fully as a person approaches.

The setup also means the street light can be adapted to fit the weather, even flashing red to warn residents of approaching storms or floods. But they can also be remotely adjusted - using wireless technology - down to areas as small as a street or a corner of a city square in order to provide a particular ambience to that area.

For more see http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-smart-lighting-systems-cities

-- Abridged from the above article in The Guardian of 12 March. Thanks to Rose McDermott for passing on the link.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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

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. Quote

"Although deniers of climate change often argue that life on earth routinely adapted to environmental shifts in the past and can thus handle future fluctuations, this is the wrong way think about our current situation. Human activities are altering ocean conditions at a speed unsurpassed in our earth's history. We are thus unwittingly conducting an experiment that has never been run on this planet, the exact outcome of which will not be known until it has occurred."

-- Ronald Martin and Antonietta Quigg in Scientific American, June 2013, p.37.


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation
2. Pickering Lectures 2014
3. The Solar System in April
4. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
5. RASNZ Conference - Call for Papers
6. Stardate SI Report
7. More Kepler Planets confirmed
8. Marsden Fund celebrates 20 years
9. HST Sees LMC spin
10. Bright Lunar Impact Videoed
11. Blink Microscope Available
12. How to Join the RASNZ
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

1. First Direct Evidence of Cosmic Inflation

Almost 14 billion years ago, the universe we inhabit burst into existence in an extraordinary event that initiated the Big Bang. In the first fleeting fraction of a second, the universe expanded exponentially, stretching far beyond the view of our best telescopes. All this, of course, was just theory.

On March 17 researchers from the BICEP2 collaboration announced the first direct evidence for this cosmic inflation. Their data also represent the first images of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time. These waves have been described as the "first tremors of the Big Bang." The observations confirm a deep connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity.

These groundbreaking results came from observations by the BICEP2 telescope of the cosmic microwave background -- a faint glow left over from the Big Bang. Tiny fluctuations in this afterglow provide clues to conditions in the early universe. For example, small differences in temperature across the sky show where parts of the universe were denser, eventually condensing into galaxies and galactic clusters.

Since the cosmic microwave background is a form of light, it exhibits all the properties of light, including polarization. On Earth, sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere and becomes polarized, which is why polarized sunglasses help reduce glare. In space, the cosmic microwave background was scattered by atoms and electrons and became polarized too.

The researchers team hunted for a special type of polarization called B-modes which represents a twisting or curl pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light.

Gravitational waves squeeze space as they travel, and this squeezing produces a distinct pattern in the cosmic microwave background. Gravitational waves have a 'handedness', much like light waves, and can have left- and right-handed polarizations.

The team examined spatial scales on the sky spanning about one to five degrees (two to ten times the width of the full Moon). To do this, they set up the BICEP2 telescope at the South Pole to take advantage of its cold, dry, stable air.

They were surprised to detect a B-mode polarization signal considerably stronger than many cosmologists expected. The team analyzed their data for more than three years in an effort to rule out any errors. They also considered whether dust in our galaxy could produce the observed pattern, but the data suggests this is highly unlikely.

BICEP2 is the second stage of a coordinated program, the BICEP and Keck Array experiments. The four Principle Investigators are from Harvard, the University of Minnesota, Caltech/JPL and Stanford/SLAC. All have worked together on the present result along with teams of students and scientists. Other major collaborating institutions for BICEP2 include the University of California at San Diego, the University of British Columbia, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the University of Toronto, Cardiff University, and Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique.

Technical details and journal papers can be found on the BICEP2 release website: http://bicepkeck.org

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

For more background on the Cosmic Microwave Background, Larry Marschall recommends http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2014/03/16/gravitational-waves-in-the-cosmic-microwave-background/

2. Pickering Lectures 2014

Pickering Lecture 2014: Exploring the Unknown - to Mars and Beyond

The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) invites you, your membership and friends to attend a presentation by NASA space explorer Dr Charles Elachi.

Dr Elachi is a space explorer who led the recent mission to Mars with a rover called Curiosity. As this year's Pickering Lecture speaker, he will tour New Zealand giving free public lectures on space exploration and his role as Director of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The self-confessed space junkie will present in the following locations: Wellington, 6.30pm 24 March - Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington. Christchurch, 6.30pm 25 March - Aurora Centre, Burnside High School, 151 Greers Road, Burnside, Christchurch. Hamilton, 6.30pm 26 March - Hamilton Gardens Pavilion, Hungerford Crescent (off Cobham Drive), SH1, Hamilton. Auckland, 6.30pm 27 March - Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls Grammar School, 16 Howe Street, Newton, Auckland.

Free entry. No registration required. The lecture starts at 6.30pm sharp and lasts one hour.

Hear behind the scenes stories about how NASA landed on Mars. The internationally-recognised space expert is excited to share his work developing robotics and other high-tech devices to explore the unknown worlds of our solar system. Following JPL's successful mission to Mars in 2012, when Curiosity made a near impossible landing on our sister planet, he has many behind-the-scenes stories to share.

-- Dr Andrew Cleland, Chief Executive, The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ)

For details see http://www.ipenz.org.nz/IPENZ/Events_and_Awards/Pickering_Public_Lecture_Series/2014_-_To_Mars_and_Beyond.cfm

3. The Solar System in April

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) until April 6. After this date, times are NZST. (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

NZDT comes to an end on Sunday April 6 at 3 am when clocks should be set back an hour to NZST. New Zealand time will then be 12 hours ahead of UTC.

Sunrise at Wellington ranges from 7.33 am NZDT on April 1 to 7.04 am NZST on April 30, while Sunset ranges from 7.15 pm NZDT on the 1st to 5.31 pm on the 31st.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: April  7 at  8.31 pm (08:31 UT              )
Full moon:     April 15 at  7.42 pm (07:42 UT total eclipse)
Last quarter   April 22 at  7.52 pm (07:52 UT              )
New moon:      April 29 at  6.14 pm (06:14 UT              )

A TOTAL ECLIPSE of the moon occurs at the full moon on April 15. The total phase of the eclipse starts at 7.06 pm and ends at 8.25 pm. All the total phase is visible from NZ. At the start the moon will be fairly low for NZ.

The moon starts to enter the umbra of the Earth´s shadow at 5.58 pm. This is just a few minutes after moonrise for most places in NZ, but 1 minute before moonrise at Invercargill. The moon leaves the umbra at 9.33 pm and the penumbra at 10.38pm. Times are taken from Dave Herald´s OCCULT program.)

This total eclipse is the first of 4 successive total lunar eclipses, two each in 2014 and 2015. The first 3 will be visible from New Zealand.

A PARTIAL ECLIPSE of the Sun occurs on April 29. No part of the eclipse is visible from NZ. From Australia the eclipse occurs in the afternoon, with the Sun setting during the eclipse in eastern Australia. For Brisbane and Newcastle the Sun sets just before maximum eclipse.

From the south of Australia about two-thirds of the Sun is hidden, the maximum is 68% at Hobart. The amount of the Sun hidden drops to just below 10% in the north at Darwin.

The planets in april

Mars is at opposition on April 8 so will be at its brightest during April and visible in the evening sky. Jupiter is in the evening sky, and will set mid evening by the end of April. Saturn is visible late evening at first, most of the evening by the end of the month. It is also visible in the morning sky.

Venus is an obvious morning object rising nearly 4 hours before the Sun. Mercury is visible in the morning sky early in the month, but is lost to view by about mid April.

Mercury is readily visible in the early dawn sky for the first part of April. On the first it rises about 2 hours before the Sun and has a magnitude -0.2. It will be about 10° up almost due east 50 minutes before sunrise. Over the following nights the planet will gradually rise later so be lower in the morning sky. But it will also brighten making it a little easier to see.

By mid April Mercury will rise only one hour before the Sun, so will be very low and lost to view about this date.

Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the 26th, marking its return to the evening sky. At conjunction the planet will be 198.6 million km from the Earth (1.3AU) and 48 million km beyond the Sun (0.32 AU). From the Earth it will appear to pass the Sun only 6 arc-minutes from the southern limb of the Sun (about 1-5th of the Sun´s diameter).

Venus remains prominent in the morning sky until shortly before sunrise. Venus rises about 3 hours 50 minutes before the Sun at the beginning of April, and 3 hours 40 minutes earlier at the end of the month.

During April Venus crosses the constellation Aquarius, which it moves into from Capricornus on the 4th and leaves on the 29th when it moves into Pisces. The 14% lit crescent moon is 4.5° to the left of Venus on the 26th. Earlier in the month, on the morning of April 12, Venus will be 47 arc-minutes from Neptune, a distance about 1.5 times the diameter of the full moon.

Mars is at opposition on April 8 with a magnitude -1.5, so a bright object, rising close to the time of Sunset. By late evening it will be a prominent object just a few degrees from Spica. At opposition the planet will be 93 million km, 0.62 AU, from the Earth. Due to the elliptical nature of the Martian orbit, Mars is closest to the Earth a few days later on the 14th when it will be 92.4 million km from us. On the 14th the angular diameter of Mars will be 15.15 arc-seconds, on the 8th it is 15.07".

Also on the 14th, the almost full Moon will, as seen from the Earth, be some 4° from Mars. Despite the brightness of the Moon, Mars should still be visible.

Throughout April Mars is in Virgo a few degrees from Spica. It will also be about 12° from the two largest asteroids, Ceres and Vesta.

Jupiter will be easily seen, if rather low, early in April evenings. At first it sets just after midnight, NZDT. By the end of April it will set about 9.30 pm. Jupiter is currently well north of the celestial equator, so low in southern skies. Hence, particularly late in April, the planet will be low quite early in the evening.

Jupiter is in Gemini all month just over 2° from the 3.0 magnitude star epsilon Gem. The moon passes Jupiter quite early in the month. On the 6th the 40% lit moon will be 8° to the left of Jupiter. The following night, the moon at first quarter will be slightly closer to Jupiter, 7° away and almost directly above the planet.

Saturn rises about 9.00 pm on April 1, and 6.00 pm on the 30th. Hence it will be best seen late in the evening, especially early in the month. Unlike Jupiter, Saturn is well south of the celestial equator so rises to a good altitude as seen from southern latitudes.

The planet is at present in Libra, forming a triangle with the two brightest stars of the constellation, the double star alpha Lib and beta Lib. Beta is in fact very slightly brighter than alpha.

On the 17th, two days after full moon and the eclipse, the moon will be close to Saturn. When the two rise ca 7.15 pm, they will be about 30 arc-minutes apart, one moon diameter. A couple of hours later when at a reasonable altitude, the separation of the two will have increased to 1.5°, 3 lunar diameters.

Earlier, before the moon rises in NZ, it will occult Saturn. This occultation is visible from a broad band across the south Pacific before crossing the southern part of South America.

Outer planets

Uranus is at conjunction with the Sun on April 2, so will be too close to the Sun to observe. After conjunction it moves into the morning sky, rising shortly before the Sun. By the end of April, Uranus will rise just over 2 hours before the Sun and be 11° up an hour before sunrise. It will also be 11° below and to the right of Venus.

Neptune is also in the morning sky but considerably higher than Uranus. On the 1st it will be about 11° below Venus. On the morning of the 12th Venus will be 47 arc-minutes, 1.5 lunar diameters, to the left of Neptune. At magnitude 7.9, the latter should be visible through a binocular. There will be a 6.6 magnitude 10 arc minutes from Neptune at about the 7 o´clock position compared to the planet.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta continue to be a close pair of asteroids throughout April. The two are about 2.5° apart in Virgo so easily in the same binocular field. The two asteroids are about 12° from Mars and slightly further from Spica. In the evening they will below the planet and star. Following the opposition of Mars on the 9th, the asteroids are at opposition and so brightest just after mid April. Vesta is then at magnitude 5.8 and Ceres 7.0. At the beginning and end of April they are each 0.2 magnitudes fainter.

(2) Pallas starts April at magnitude 7.7 and ends the month at 8.4. Pallas is in the evening sky, with a transit at 10.20 pm on the 1st and 7.42 pm on the 30th. The asteroid starts April in Hydra, but moves into Leo on the 9th where its path through the stars swings Pallas towards Regulus. The two are a little under 4° apart on the 30th.

-- Brian Loader

4. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21

The National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) is in Melbourne in Easter 2014, 18-21 April.

NACAA aims to bring together amateur (and not-so-amateur) astronomers from Australia, New Zealand, and beyond to share in learning, disseminating and planning cutting-edge astronomical work in the region. We always plan to have a full weekend, Friday to Monday, of various streams of presentations covering a great width of astronomical work including observing, instrumentation, education, research, history and local activities.

If you would like to be emailed details then go to http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/interested and sign up for info as it comes available.


The Eighth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO8) will be held over Easter 2014, in conjunction with the 26th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) which will be held in Melbourne, Australia, hosted by the Astronomical Society of Victoria. More information on the NACAA meeting is available on its website: http://www.nacaa.org.au/

5. RASNZ Conference 2014, Whakatane, June 6-8

Call for Papers:

Dear Friends, Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to announce that the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand conference 2014 will be held in Whakatane, 6-8 June at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall.

For further information on the conference and registration please visit the website at www.rasnz.org.nz <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>

The RASNZ standing conference committee sincerely invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles and Abstracts due *1st May*. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ website www.rasnz.org.nz <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>, or you can go to the RASNZ wiki www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki>. 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.

On the Monday 9th June, following Conference there will be an Variable Star South Workshop at the Whakatane REAP Centre.

Our guest speaker is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, DBE, FRS, FRAS who will speak about "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The Fellows Lecture for 2014 will be delivered by Professor Phil Yock speaking on "From Particles to Planets".

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

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find this of interest.

-- Dr Orlon Petterson, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

6. Stardate SI Report

Euan Mason writes:

We had a great Stardate celebration at Staveley last weekend, with -50 attendees, and George Ionas as our special guest. We enjoyed plenty of daytime and night time observing, some great talks, and good company. I haven't seen such a large number of solar scopes in one place before. Thanks to George for his special contributions to the event and to the Gifford-Eiby fund for his airfares. Thanks also to all the attendees.

Next on the agenda is the Herbert Star Party in August, followed by Raincliffs in September.

7. More Kepler Planets Confirmed

In February NASA's Kepler mission announced the discovery of 715 new exoplanets, planets outside our solar system. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is four times the diameter of Earth and 17 times Earth's mass. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets.

Since the discovery of the first planets outside our solar system roughly two decades ago, verification has been a laborious planet-by-planet process. Now, scientists have a statistical technique that can be applied to many planets at once when they are found in systems that harbour more than one planet around the same star.

To verify this bounty of planets, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., analyzed stars with more than one potential planet, all of which were detected in the first two years of Kepler's observations -- May 2009 to March 2011.

The research team used a technique called verification by multiplicity, which relies in part on the logic of probability. Kepler observed 150,000 stars, and has found a few thousand of those to have planet candidates. If the candidates were randomly distributed among Kepler's stars, only a handful would have more than one planet candidate. However, Kepler observed hundreds of stars that have multiple planet candidates. Through a careful study of this sample, these 715 new planets were verified.

This method can be likened to the behaviour we know of lions and lionesses. In our imaginary savannah, the lions are the Kepler stars and the lionesses are the planet candidates. The lionesses would sometimes be observed grouped together whereas lions tend to roam on their own. If you see two lions it could be a lion and a lioness or it could be two lions. But if more than two large felines are gathered, then it is very likely to be a lion and his pride. Thus, through multiplicity the lioness can be reliably identified in much the same way multiple planet candidates can be found around the same star.

"Four years ago, Kepler began a string of announcements of first hundreds, then thousands, of planet candidates -- but they were only candidate worlds," said Lissauer. "We've now developed a process to verify multiple planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds."

These multiple-planet systems are fertile grounds for studying individual planets and the configuration of planetary neighbourhoods. This provides clues to planet formation. The planets in multi-systems are small and orbit in the same plane, similar to planets in our solar system.

Four of these new planets are less than 2.5 times the size of Earth and orbit in their sun's habitable zone, defined as the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet may be suitable for life-giving liquid water.

One of these new habitable zone planets, called Kepler-296f, orbits a star half the size and 5 percent as bright as our Sun. Kepler-296f is twice the size of Earth, but scientists do not know whether the planet is a gaseous world, with a thick hydrogen-helium envelope, or it is a water world surrounded by a deep ocean.

This latest discovery brings the confirmed count of planets outside our solar system to nearly 1,700.

The findings papers will be published March 10 in The Astrophysical Journal and are available for download from http://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/digital-press-kit-kepler-planet-bonanza There you'll also find presentations from the news briefing of 26 February, animations, videos, and more.

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

8. Marsden Fund celebrates 20 years

Scientists, researchers and politicians gathered at Parliament on February 11 to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Marsden Fund, New Zealand´s largest fund for leading-edge, fundamental research projects.

"Looking back over the last two decades, it becomes clear how Marsden-funded research has benefited all New Zealanders," says Professor Juliet Gerrard, chairperson of the Marsden Fund Council. "Many projects have a long lead-in time, but increasing our basic understanding of the world has now brought improved environmental outcomes, new technologies and better medicines and healthcare."

"What´s important about the Marsden Fund is that it gives our best and brightest researchers the freedom to explore their most exciting ideas. This is how important breakthroughs are made," says Professor Gerrard.

"Who would have thought that finding a sheep that kept on having triplets would result in better IVF treatment for women? Or that investigating brain development would lead to a new product for healing wounds?"

"The research being funded by the Marsden Fund today - ranging from understanding New Zealand drinking culture to investigating how pests will respond to global climate change - is work that will benefit New Zealand for decades to come."

The Marsden Fund was started by government in 1994 and supports projects in the sciences, technology, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities. The fund is administered on behalf of the government by the Royal Society of New Zealand.

Read more on the Marsden Fund turning 20 years old. http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/marsden/marsden20/

-- From a press release in Royal Society of New Zealand Alert - Issue 801, 20 February 2014


NZ astronomy has been supported by the Marsden fund. The MOA project at Mt John involving Auckland University, Massey University's North Shore campus, Victoria University of Wellington and Canterbury University has received several three-year grants. Two other three-year research projects at Canterbury University are concluding down at Mt John now.

9. HST Sees LMC Spin

Using the sharp-eyed NASA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have for the first time precisely measured the rotation rate of a galaxy based on the clock-like movement of its stars.

According to their analysis, the central part of the neighbouring galaxy, called the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), completes a rotation every 250 million years. It takes our sun the same amount of time to complete a rotation around the centre of our Milky Way galaxy.

The Hubble team -- Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., and Nitya Kallivayalil of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. -- used Hubble to measure the average motion of hundreds of individual stars in the LMC, located 170,000 light-years away. Using background quasars for reference Hubble recorded the stars' slight movements during a seven-year period.

"Studying this nearby galaxy by tracking the stars' movements gives us a better understanding of the internal structure of disk galaxies," said Kallivayalil, "Knowing a galaxy's rotation rate offers insight into how a galaxy formed, and it can be used to calculate its mass."

Disk-shaped galaxies such as the Milky Way and the LMC generally rotate like a carousel. Hubble's precision tracking offers a new way to determine a galaxy's rotation by the "sideways" proper motion of its stars, as seen in the plane of the sky. Astronomers have long measured the sideways motions of nearby celestial objects, but this is the first time the precision has become sufficient to see another distant galaxy rotate.

"The LMC is a very important galaxy because it is very near to our Milky Way," said van der Marel, "Studying the Milky Way is difficult because you're studying from the inside, so everything you see is spread all over the sky. It's all at different distances, and you're sitting in the middle of it. Studying structure and rotation is much easier if you view a nearby galaxy from the outside."

For the past century, astronomers have calculated galaxy rotation rates by observing a slight shift in the spectrum of its starlight. This shift is known as the Doppler Effect. On one side of a galaxy's spinning stellar disk, the stars swinging in the direction of Earth will show a spectral blueshift -- the compression of light waves due to motion toward the observer. Stars swinging away from Earth on the opposite side of a galaxy will show a spectral redshift -- the stretching of light to redder wavelengths due to motion away from the observer.

The newly measured Hubble motions and the Doppler motions measured previously provide complementary information about the LMC's rotation rate. By combining the results, the Hubble team obtained a fully three-dimensional view of stellar motions in another galaxy.

Hubble is the only telescope that can make this kind of observation because of its sharp resolution, its image stability, and its 24 years in space. This measurement is the culmination of ongoing work with Hubble to refine the calculation of the LMC's rotation rate. Van der Marel began analyzing the galaxy's rotation in 2002 by creating detailed predictions, now confirmed by Hubble, of what the rotation should look like.

The team next plans to use Hubble to measure the stellar motions in the LMC's diminutive cousin, the Small Magellanic Cloud, using the same technique. The galaxies are interacting, and that study should also yield improved insight into how the galaxies are moving around each other and around the Milky Way.

For more see: http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/11

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

10. Bright Lunar Impact Videoed

A meteorite with the mass of a small car crashed into the Moon last September, according to Spanish astronomers. The impact, the biggest seen to date, produced a bright flash and would have been easy to spot from the Earth. The scientists publish their description of the event in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Moon lacks the atmosphere that prevents small rocks from space from reaching the surface of the Earth. The result is very visible -- vast numbers of craters large and small cover the whole of our nearest neighbor and record 4.5 billion years of collisions that span the history of the solar system.

Although there is almost no chance of a very large object striking the Moon or planets, collisions with smaller objects are very common even today. The odds of seeing one of these by chance are pretty poor, so scientists have set up networks of telescopes that can detect them automatically.

On 11 September 2013, Prof. Jose M. Madiedo was operating two telescopes in the south of Spain that were searching for these impact events. At 2007 GMT he witnessed an unusually long and bright flash in Mare Nubium, an ancient lava-filled basin with a darker appearance than its surroundings.

The flash was the result of a rock crashing into the lunar surface and was briefly almost as bright as the Pole Star, (2nd magnitude). Anyone lucky enough to be looking at the Moon at that moment would have been able to see it. In the video recording made by Prof. Madiedo, an afterglow remained visible for a further eight seconds.

The Spanish telescopes are part of the Moon Impacts Detection and Analysis System (MIDAS) system that monitors the lunar surface. This project is being undertaken by Prof. Jose Maria Madiedo, from the University of Huelva (UHU), and by Dr. Jose L. Ortiz, from the Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia (IAA-CSIC) and continues a pioneering programme that detected sporadic lunar impact flashes for the first time.

Since these impacts take place at huge speeds, the rocks become molten and are vaporized at the impact site instantaneously, and this produces a thermal glow that can be detected from our planet as short-duration flashes through telescopes. Generally, these flashes last just a fraction of a second. But the flash detected on 11 September was much more intense and longer than anything observed before.

Prof. Madiedo and Dr. Ortiz think that the flash was produced by an impactor of around 400 kg with a width of between 0.6 and 1.4 meters. The rock hit Mare Nubium at about 61,000 kilometres per hour and created a new crater with a diameter of around 40 meters. The impact energy was equivalent to an explosion of roughly 15 tons of TNT, at least three times higher than the largest previously seen event observed by NASA in March last year.

Observing impacts on the Moon gives astronomers an insight into the risk of similar (but larger) objects hitting the Earth. One of the conclusions of the Spanish team is that these one meter sized objects may strike our planet about ten times as often as scientist previously thought. Fortunately, the Earth's atmosphere shields us from rocks as small as the one that hit Mare Nubium, but they can lead to spectacular 'fireball' meteors.

See http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/02/19/mnras.stu083 Image at https://www.ras.org.uk/images/stories/press/Lunar%20impact%20flash%20Madiedo.jpg

-- From a Royal Astronomical Society (U.K) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Blink Microscope Available

Noel Munford writes:

Sue and I are working on downsizing our home and so there are several things to go. One of those things is an aluminium Blink Microscope that I was given years ago and I almost forgot I even had it. Of course in this digital age there is little to do with it but I thought before it heads west I'd just inquire as to if anyone is interested in aquiring it. The microscope takes up to 5x4 negs.

It is in good order although a little dusty and is free to anyone who wants to arrange to pick it up from Palmerston North.

12. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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

13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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


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