March 2014

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Astrophotography Weekend - Foxton Beach
Stephen Chadwick

On the weekend of November 29th - December 1st 2013 the Horowhenua Astronomical Society Inc. hosted its first astrophotography weekend. With attendees from as far away as Northland and the South Island it turned out to be a truly national event.
Volume 53, number 1. March 2014. P3

Some Developments at the Awarua Satellite Ground Station
Robin McNeill

Looking for all the world like a second-hand car yard in the middle of a cow paddock, Awarua Satellite Ground Station looks perhaps a little unprepossessing. The station was built in 2005 by Venture Southland - the Southland tourism, business and community development agency - with assistance from the French Space Agency CNES, for the European Space Agency's Ariane 5 ATV campaigns.
Volume 53, number 1. March 2014. P5

RASNZ Annual Report of Council for 2013

Volume 53, number 1. March 2014. P7

Bringing Astronomy to the Public
John Drummond

One VERY popular strategy with the general public that the Gisborne Astronomical Society has adopted has been an Introduction to Astronomy Course.
Volume 53, number 1. March 2014. P25

Jupiter Nights - An Astronomy Outreach Event
John Burt

On the weekend of 7 to 9 March 2014 the Gisborne Astronomical Society ran a very successful astronomy outreach event.
Volume 53, number 1. March 2014. P26


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. Call for nominations to Council
2. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations
3. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3
4. Aluminizing Plant Needs Home
5. The Solar System in March
6. High-Power Laser Pointers Restricted
7. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
8. Occultation Section Website - Correction
9. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8
10. 2015 to be International Year of Light
11. Sky TV Cosmos Series and ISS Special
12. The Oldest Star
13. New Crater on Mars
14. Meteor Shower Lists
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
18. Quotes

1. Call for nominations to Council

Council and Executive Nominations Closing date for receipt: 7 March 2014

2014, being an even numbered year, is an election year for the RASNZ Council. Nominations are requested for all officers and council positions. The positions for which nominations are required are:

President
Incoming vice-president
Executive secretary
Treasurer
5 Council members.

In addition the Fellows need to nominate a Fellows representative.

Affiliated Societies will elect two representatives at the affiliated societies' committee meeting held prior to the AGM.

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

By the terms of rule 74, nominations, including any for the fellows representative, need to be sent in writing to the Executive Secretary by 7 March 2014

The nomination must specify the name of the candidate and the office sought. It must be signed by the proposer and seconder and be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee.

The address to which nominations should be sent, as soon as possible, is:

RASNZ Executive Secretary
662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd
RD 2
TUAKAU 2697

A postal ballot will be held in April 2014 for any position for which the number of candidates exceeds the number of appointees required.

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary.

2. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2014. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. More information can be found on the link RASNZ Rules and Bylaws on the RASNZ website(www.rasnz.org.nz/Council/Rules2013.pdf) Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Secretary at the address below by 7 March 2014.

-- R O'Keeffe, Secretary RASNZ, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD2 TUAKAU 2697.

3. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3

Registrations are beginning to accumulate for Stardate SI, Feb 28-Mar 3.

Our special guest this year is George Ionas, master solar imager, experienced astronomer, and all around nice guy. We thank RASNZ's Gifford Eiby fund for funding his travel.

Find out more and register at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate

See you there, Euan Mason

4. Aluminizing Plant Needs Home

Clive Rowe writes: The Edwards Vacuum coating plant which I used for about 6 years to coat (90 plus) mirrors up to 14 inches diameter, is at present stored at a property near West Melton, west of Christchurch. If you know someone that is interested in this excellent (but heavy) piece of hardware would you please advise me.

My Nelson number is (03) 5530442. Email <c.rowe1(AT)orcon.net.nz>


The Editor can forward a photo to anyone interested.

5. The Solar System in March

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Sunrise at Wellington ranges from 7.00 am to 7.34 am through March while Sunset ranges from 8.06 pm to 7.17 pm.

The southern autumnal equinox is on March 21 at 5 am.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      March     1 at  9.00 pm (        08:00 UT)
First quarter: March     9 at  2.27 am (Mar  8, 13:27 UT)
Full moon:     March    17 at  6.08 am (Mar 16, 17:08 UT)
Last quarter   March    24 at  2.46 pm (        01:46 UT)
New moon:      March    31 at  7.45 am (Mar 30, 18:45 UT)

Two New Moons in March make up for the lack of a New Moon in February

The planets in march

Four of the five naked eye planets are stationary within a few days of one another at the end of February and early March. Mercury is stationary on February 28, about midday NZDT, Mars is stationary on March 2 at 9am, Saturn follows 32 hours later in the afternoon of March 3 and finally Jupiter on March 6 at 11 pm. This means that the positions of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter will not change much during the March.

Venus and Mercury are well placed for viewing in the morning sky. Mars is visible from late evening, Saturn later still. Both are highest in the morning sky. Jupiter is visible all evening.

Mercury is at its best in the morning sky for the year. It brightens from magnitude 1.0 to -0.1 during the month. The planet rises a hundred minutes before the Sun on the 1st and more than two hours before the Sun from the 5th for the rest of the month. At its best for some days in the middle of the month, the planet rises two and a quarter hours earlier than the Sun. Thus Mercury will be readily visible in the early dawn sky.

The planet spends much of the month crossing Aquarius, although between March 7 and 16 it will cross a lobe of Capricornus. On the morning of March 23 Neptune will be just over a degree to the left of, and slightly lower than Mercury. Sigma Aqr, mag 4.8 will be 40 arc-minutes left of Mercury (with a 6.4 star midway between them). Neptune, mag 8.0, will be just over 40 minutes below and left of sigma. All should be visible in binoculars.

On the morning of March 29 the moon, a very thin crescent 5.5% lit, will be 7° to the left of Mercury.

Venus, also in the morning sky will be to the upper left of Mercury, the two being just over 20° apart all month. Venus is, of course, far the brighter object with a magnitude around -4.5. It rises at close to the same time all month, between 3.30 and 3.40 am at Wellington. It spends most of the month crossing Capricornus after moving into the constellation from Sagittarius on the 7th.

At the beginning of March Venus will be just over 0.5 AU, 76 million km, from the Earth when it will be a broad crescent 36% lit. By the end of March its distance from the Earth will have increased to 0.74 AU, 111 million km. It will then be 54% lit. The increase in the sunlit fraction of the planet almost compensates for its increased distance so the change in brightness will not be noticeable.

The planet is at its greatest elongation, 47° west of the Sun on March 23. The 21% waning Moon will be just over 7° to the upper left of Venus on the morning of March 28 and 7° below Venus the following morning when it is 12% lit.

Mars moves more into the evening sky during March, rising about 10 pm on the 1st and 8 pm on the 31st. On the 1st it will be 120 million km from the Earth and have a magnitude -0.5. By the 31st its distance will have dropped to 95.5 million km resulting in the planet brightening to magnitude -1.3. So it will be an obvious bright object in the late evening sky a few degrees below Spica in Virgo.

Mars will be very low and to the east late evening at the beginning of the month, but rather higher and further round towards the northeast at the same time by the month´s end.

The planet is highest about 5.40 am on March 1 and 3.20 am on the 31st. At transit it will be quite high in New Zealand sky, with the reddish star Arcturus nearly 30° below.

The 97% lit moon joins Mars and Spica on the evening of March 18. Late evening the moon will be 6.5° left of Spica and 8.5° to the upper left of Mars. Before dawn the following morning the grouping will be tighter with the moon now 3.5° from the star and 6° from the planet.

Jupiter is readily visible all evening. On March 1 it transits, so is highest and due north, at 9.40 pm; on the 31st at 7.47 pm, shortly after sunset. With a declination close to that of the mid-winter Sun, the planet will be fairly low in NZ skies, especially as seen from the south of the country. Jupiter sets well after 12 midnight early in the month, but only a few minutes after by the 31st. So the planet will then be getting low late evening. Its distance from the Earth increases from 696 million km on the 1st to 765 million km on the 31st.

Jupiter is in Gemini all month, about 2° from the 3.0 magnitude star epsilon Gem. Its close encounter with the moon is on March 10. The two are closest late evening, with the 67% lit moon just over 4° from the planet.

Saturn rises about 11.15 pm on March 1, 2 hours earlier by the 31st. Saturn will be about 30° from Mars. Since Saturn is further south than Mars, it will get higher in the sky as seen in the pre-dawn sky. The planet will be visible to the east late evening by the end of March. It will then be to the lower right of Mars. With a magnitude 0.3 it will be a lot less bright than Mars, but still one of the brightest objects in the sky. Its distance from the Earth decreases from 1430 million km to 1368 million km during the month.

The planet remains in Libra during March. Late on the evening of March 21 the 78% lit moon will be just over 4° to the lower right of Saturn. The two will be visible rather low a little to the south of east from about 11 pm. By the following morning the moon will be some 7.5° from Saturn. Earlier in the afternoon of the 21st the moon will occult Saturn, an event visible in a region from Brazil across the South Atlantic to South Africa.

Outer planets

Uranus will reach conjunction with the Sun on April 2, so will be too low in the as the evening sky darkens following sunset to observe.

Neptune is less than 5° from the Sun on March 1, by the end of March it will rise almost 3 hours before the Sun and be nearly 20° above the eastern horizon 1 hour before the Sun rises. The planet will then be almost midway between Mercury and Venus. Mercury passes Neptune on March 23, when the two are just over a degree apart in the morning sky. See Mercury for more details.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta continue to be a close pair of asteroids throughout March. The two are in Virgo on the opposite side of Mars to Spica. On the 1st they will be about 9° from Mars, and 3.3° apart, with Ceres at magnitude 7.7 and Vesta at 6.6. By the 31st when they will be about 12° from Mars, their separation will have reduced to 2.5° and they will both be 0.7 magnitudes brighter.

(2) Pallas starts March at magnitude 7.0, so brighter than Ceres. In is then in the constellation Sextans, close to its boundary with Hydra and 3.75° from 2.0 magnitude star alpha Hya. By the 4th, Pallas will have crossed into Hydra, but for the rest of the month will move north close to the two constellations´ boundary. By the 31st it will have faded to magnitude 7.6. On the 19th Pallas will be almost midway between the stars iota Hya (mag 3.5) and tau2 Hya (mag 4.6).

Pallas is in the evening sky, with a transit at 12.38 am on the 1st and 10.30 pm on the 31st

-- Brian Loader

6. High-Power Laser Pointers Restricted

The following announcement from Rob Smith, Environmental and Border Health Team, Ministry of Health, was passed along by Karen Pollard.

This email is to alert you to new regulatory controls on high-power laser pointers. It is being sent to people that the Ministry of Health is aware of as having an interest in astronomy and who may use laser pointers in the course of such activity.

Please feel free to forward this message on to others who you think may be interested.

In late 2013 the government passed some new laws on high-power laser pointers i.e. any such device greater than 1 milliwatt in output power. This was in response to instances of misuse of such devices (e.g. shining them at aircraft) and because of health and safety risks to users and other people.

The new laws come into force on 1 March 2014 and apply to people wanting to: o?Import a high-power laser pointer; or o?Sell/supply a high-power laser pointer; or o?Acquire a high-power laser pointer; or o?Do a combination of the above.

These devices are NOT being banned, but there is a new authorisation system being set up where people have to apply for permission. In summary there are two new regulations:

o The Custom Import Prohibition (High-power Laser Pointers) Order 2013 restricts the importation of high-power laser pointers to those people who have received consent from the Director-General of Health to import them.

o?The Health (High-power Laser Pointers) Regulations 2013 restrict the supply of high-power laser pointers to those who are authorised suppliers and also restricts the acquisition of such devices to those who are authorised recipients.

There are two main pathways to get such authorisation(s). For many people this will require them to apply the Director-General of Health by completing and submitting an application form available on Ministry of Health´s website.

However, some classes of people have already been declared to be automatically authorised to acquire or supply high-power laser pointers. In summary, these are people who are more likely to be aware or the risks of such devices and are unlikely to misuse them. To date, the following class of people have been authorised: astronomical societies or members of astronomical societies and people who use laser pointers for scientific, industrial or research purposes. Universities, researchers, scientists, astronomers, and observatories are the sorts of people/organisations that the Ministry has in mind with such classes.

If you meet one of these classes you do not have to apply for authorisation to supply or acquire a high-power laser pointer. But there are some controls that will apply to you. For example, people are not allowed to supply such devices to others who are not authorised to acquire them. Additionally if you wanted to import a laser pointer after 1 March 2014 you will need to apply for consent to do this.

If you already owned a high-power laser pointer that you obtained before 1 March 2014, you do not need to get permission to use such device(s) you already own, but will need to be careful if you sell/supply such a device to another person to check that they are authorised to acquire such a device.

More information about laser pointers, the new controls, what devices are covered by the controls, and how they could apply to people is available on the Ministry´s website: www.health.govt.nz/our-work/environmental-health/high-power-laser-pointers

If, after reading this material, you have further queries, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

7. 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/

8. Occultation Section Website - Correction

Last month's Newsletter item about Graham Blow gave the Occultation Section's old website. It is now occultations.org.nz.

9. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

The 2014 conference is now about three and a half months away. If you have not already done so, it is time to register and booked your accommodation. The conference is in Whakatane from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June and is followed by the third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) on Monday 9th June following the conference. Registration can be carried out on the RASNZ web site <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start>. RASNZ members wll have received a printed copy with the December issue of Southern Stars so postal registrations can also be made.

Unfortunately there has been a delay in arranging payment through Paypal on the web site. This should be rectified soon.

The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street in Whakatane. More information can be found on the RASNZ web site <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from the Rex Morpeth Park.

No accommodation is available at the conference venue, but there is plenty in Whakatane, some motels are within a few minutes walking distance of the venue. Some possibilities are listed on the brochure. Early booking is advisable.

The Whakatane Astronomical Society, are acting as hosts and marking the society's 50th anniversary in 2014. On the Friday afternoon before the conference opens, the Whakatane local organising committee is arranging a bus tour which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society Observatory. More details are in the brochure.

The guest speaker for 2014 is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. The title of her talk is "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The 2014 Fellows´ Speaker is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets".

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

The RASNZ SCC is seeking submissions to present a paper at the 2014 conference. Papers may be presented orally or as posters. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper on their work. Affiliated Societies and RASNZ Sections should take the opportunity to publicise their activities to other members of the RASNZ and the NZ astronomical community by making a presentation at the conference.

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start. Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

-- Brian Loader, Standing Conference Committee chairman.

10. 2015 to be International Year of Light

Just before Christmas the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015 as the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies. Sponsoring organisations include the International Astronomical Union and the New Zealand Institute of Physics. Astronomy, its instruments and its techniques will obviously form important parts of this celebration.

The European Physical Society is coordinating the International Year. You can sign up for e-mail updates through:

http://www.eps.org/?page=event_iyol

-- William Tobin

11. Sky TV Cosmos Series and ISS Special

Anna Murdoch of Sky TV advises that they have two new astronomy related shows coming up in March, including an hour of live access to the International Space Station and Mission Control in Houston.

COSMOS: A SPACETIME ODYSSEY Sunday 16 March, 7.30pm National Geographic, SKY Channel 072

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, is a thrilling new 13-part series from executive producer Seth MacFarlane and executive producer, writer & director Ann Druyan premiering Sundays at 7.30pm from 16 March on National Geographic, SKY Channel 072

More than three decades after the debut of Carl Sagan´s stunning and iconic exploration of the universe, Seth MacFarlane has teamed with Sagan´s original creative collaborator Ann Druyan to conceive the 13-part series that will serve as a successor to Sagan´s Emmy Award-winning original series.

The series is hosted by renowned astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is the story of how we discovered the laws of nature and found our coordinates in space and time. It brings to life never-before-told stories of the heroic quest for knowledge, transporting viewers to new worlds and across the universe for a vision of the cosmos on the grandest - and the smallest - scale.

"There´s never been a more important time for Cosmos to re-emerge than right now. I want to make this so entertaining, and so flashy, and so exciting that people who have no interest in science will watch just because it´s a spectacle," said Seth MacFarlane.

The series invents new modes of scientific storytelling to reveal the grandeur of the universe and re-invent celebrated elements of the original series, including the Cosmic Calendar and the Ship of the Imagination. Uniting scepticism and wonder, Cosmos weaves rigorous science with the emotional and spiritual creating a transcendent experience.

One of the world´s most beloved science series, the original Cosmos: A Personal Voyage was a watershed moment in non-fiction television, changing the way audiences were able to look beyond our own world. For 33 years, the series has remained in ongoing worldwide distribution, seen by more than 750 million people in more than 175 countries.

Also!

LIVE FROM SPACE SATURDAY 15 MARCH AT 1pm All eyes are on the sky as National Geographic and NASA provide unprecedented LIVE access to the International Space Station and Mission Control in Houston. High definition cameras, launched for this mission, for the first time provide stunning views of Earth in real time as the ISS makes a complete orbit of planet Earth. Nat Geo and NASA will literally take audiences around the world - live!

12. The Oldest Star

A team of astronomers has discovered the oldest known star in the universe, which formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. The discovery has allowed astronomers for the first time to study the chemistry of the first stars, giving scientists a clearer idea of what the Universe was like in its infancy.

"This is the first time that we've been able to unambiguously say that we've found the chemical fingerprint of a first star," said lead researcher, Dr Stefan Keller of the Australian National University (ANU) Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. "This is one of the first steps in understanding what those first stars were like. What this star has enabled us to do is record the fingerprint of those first stars."

The star was discovered using the ANU SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory, which is searching for ancient stars as it conducts a five-year project to produce the first digital map the southern sky.

The ancient star is around 6,000 light years from Earth, which Dr Keller says is relatively close in astronomical terms. It is one of the 60 million stars imaged by SkyMapper in its first year.

"The stars we are finding number one in a million," says team member Professor Mike Bessell, who worked with Keller on the research. "Finding such needles in a haystack is possible thanks to the ANU SkyMapper telescope that is unique in its ability to find stars with low iron from their colour." Dr Keller and Professor Bessell confirmed the discovery using the Magellan telescope in Chile.

The composition of the newly discovered star shows it formed in the wake of a primordial star, which had a mass 60 times that of our Sun. "To make a star like our Sun, you take the basic ingredients of hydrogen and helium from the Big Bang and add an enormous amount of iron -- the equivalent of about 1,000 times the Earth's mass," Dr Keller says.

"To make this ancient star, you need no more than an Australia-sized asteroid of iron and lots of carbon. It's a very different recipe that tells us a lot about the nature of the first stars and how they died."

Dr Keller says it was previously thought that primordial stars died in extremely violent explosions which polluted huge volumes of space with iron. But the ancient star shows signs of pollution with lighter elements such as carbon and magnesium, and no sign of pollution with iron.

"This indicates the primordial star's supernova explosion was of surprisingly low energy. Although sufficient to disintegrate the primordial star, almost all of the heavy elements such as iron, were consumed by a black hole that formed at the heart of the explosion," he says. The result may resolve a long-standing discrepancy between observations and predictions of the Big Bang.

The discovery was published in a recent edition of the journal Nature as "A single low-energy, iron-poor supernova as the source of metals in the star SMSS J031300.36?670839.3." Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature12990

-- copied from Science Digest whose report is based on press releases from the Australian Nation University. See the Science Digest article, with numerous references, at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140209200836.htm

13. New Crater on Mars

Space rocks hitting Mars excavate fresh craters at a pace of more than 200 per year, but few new Mars scars pack as much visual punch as one seen in a NASA image released February 5.

The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a crater about 30 meters in diameter at the centre of a radial burst painting the surface with a pattern of bright and dark tones. It is available online at http://uahirise.org/ESP_034285_1835 and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17932.

The scar appeared at some time between imaging of this location by the orbiter's Context Camera in July 2010 and again in May 2012. Based on apparent changes between those before-and-after images at lower resolution, researchers used HiRISE to acquire this new image on 19 November 2013. The impact that excavated this crater threw some material as far as 15 kilometres.

-- from Science Daily based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. See the original at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206164454.htm

14. Meteor Shower Lists

John Drummond points out a series of 2014 meteor shower lists at http://www.amsmeteors.org/2013/12/2014-meteor-shower-list/

15. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ Website http://rasnz.org.nz/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..

16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

18. Quotes

"He can show you in the night sky what no man before has ever seen, by some wonderful improvements he has made in the telescope. What he has to show is indeed a long way off, and perhaps concerns us little, but all truth is valuable and all knowledge pleasing in its first effects, and may subsequently be useful."

-- Dr Samuel Johnson commenting in 1784 on William Herschel and his telescopes to Susannah Thrale, the third daughter of Mrs. Thrale, the long-time friend of the celebrated Dr. Johnson. Quoted by William Sheehan and Christopher J. Conselice in their forthcoming book "Galactic Encounters".

"Sir - I see that NASA spent $3m studying Congress ("Dr No retires", January 25th). Did it find any sign of intelligent life?"

-- Letter to The Economist 15 February 2014.


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. Graham Blow ONZM
2. Call for nominations to Council
3. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations
4. TTSO8 - Call for Presentations
5. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3
6. The Solar System in February
7. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
8. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8
9. John Dobson
10. Supernova Double Resolved
11. Closure of Major U.S. Telescopes Proposed
12. Tiny Asteroid Hits Earth
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. More Signs

1. Graham Blow ONZM

Graham Blow was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, ONZM, in the New Year's Honours List. The award is formally for 'Services to astronomy.'

Graham's interest in astronomy developed early in life while he was at secondary school in Auckland. He joined the Auckland Astronomical Society and was soon participating in their scientific programmes at the Auckland Observatory (now Stardome).

While at the University of Auckland in the mid-1970s, Graham established the National Committee for Student Astronomy. With much work and travel he helped form branches in several NZ centres. This organisation encouraged interest in astronomy at secondary school level.

Graham joined the staff of the Carter Observatory, Wellington, around 1977. There he developed his observing programme in lunar and asteroid occultations. These involve precise timing of stars being hidden by the moon or by an asteroid. The timings give detailed information on the shape and position of the moon and the size and shape of asteroids. During this time he was a guest of McDonald Observatory in Texas, then an international centre for this work.

In the late 1970s Graham formed the Occultation Section of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ). This continues to be a very productive scientific group involving many amateur astronomers in Australia and New Zealand. The group includes developers of instrumentation and software as well as observers. The range of its work is seen on the Section's webpage at http://occsec.wellington.net.nz/

In 1983 Graham organised a nation-wide tour of New Zealand by the famous British astronomy educator Patrick Moore.

Graham greatly supported NZ astronomy during his time at the Carter Observatory running both public education and scientific programmes. He also worked hard for the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ, serving on its council for many years and as President 1988-90. Graham has been awarded the Society's Murray Geddes prize and was made a Fellow of the RASNZ in 2008.

After leaving the Carter Observatory Graham formed Sky Data services Ltd. His company provided astronomical tables and widely-used graphs of planetary visibility.

Outside astronomy Graham is well-known as a photographer. His sports photography, particularly motor racing, has been widely published.

2. Call for nominations to Council

Council and Executive Nominations Closing date for receipt: 7 March 2014

2014, being an even numbered year, is an election year for the RASNZ Council. Nominations are requested for all officers and council positions. The positions for which nominations are required are:

President
Incoming vice-president
Executive secretary
Treasurer
5 Council members.

In addition the Fellows need to nominate a Fellows representative.

Affiliated Societies will elect two representatives at the affiliated societies' committee meeting held prior to the AGM.

The current president, Glen Rowe, automatically becomes a vice-president. The rules do not allow the president to serve a second consecutive term. By the terms of rule 74, nominations, including any for the fellows representative, need to be sent in writing to the Executive Secretary by 7 March 2014

The nomination must specify the name of the candidate and the office sought. It must be signed by the proposer and seconder and be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee.

The address to which nominations should be sent, as soon as possible, is:

RASNZ Executive Secretary
662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd
RD 2
TUAKAU 2697

A postal ballot will be held in April 2014 for any position for which the number of candidates exceeds the number of appointees required.

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary.

3. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2014. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. More information can be found on the link RASNZ Rules and Bylaws on the RASNZ website(www.rasnz.org.nz/Council/Rules2013.pdf) Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Secretary at the address below by 7 March 2014.

-- R O'Keeffe, Secretary RASNZ, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD2 TUAKAU 2697.

4. TTSO8 - Call for Presentations

Dave Gault, Convenor, 8th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations, writes: I wish to invite applications for a presentation proposal to the 8th Trans Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO8).

Naturally, the subject of the presentation needs to be associated with the topic of Occultation Observing in some way.

There are three opportunities for your presentation to occur:

Friday 18th - Introducing Occultation Observing Workshop - a ½ day Workshop

Presentations need to be tailored to suit the novice observer, who may be unsure of exactly how to get started on making accurate observations.

Topics might include

  • how to get a "good enough" Time-Base
  • how to set up and find the target star efficiently
  • how to make predictions
  • how to make observation reports

Sunday 20th PM only - in NACAA Parallel Stream (with NACCA approval)

Monday 21st - TTSO8 Main Program

Presentation durations - broadly speaking, durations should be of 15 minutes or 30 minutes duration and the presenter should allow for a 3 to 5 minute question time at the end. Presentations will be timed and cut short if the schedule is tight.

Typically, presentations are aided by a file created by yourself that will run on Windows Power Point that will be projected onto a screen. This will consist of a number of slides that include text (please keep to a minimum) photos, diagrams, video files, audio files sufficient to aid the description of your topic. For simplicity it´s best to provide your data on a USB memory stick and allow the presentation to run using the symposium PC and data projector however, if you MUST run your presentation on your own PC, please advise the organisers well before your presentation is scheduled. Please advise if your require any special needs, like internet connection.

Please consider submitting a separate Paper (i.e. a .doc file) that might describe in detail the individual slides of your Power Point file rather that writing reams of text on your slides. Both files (the Power Point and the Paper) will be included in the TTSO8 DVD.

To submit a presentation proposal, please use the NACAA facility available at http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/submit Note: A brief abstract will need to be included with your submission. Also you will need to list any special needs for your presentation, like internet connections or PC sound.

Deadline for the applications of submissions is Monday, 17th February.

It would be appreciated if you would send a final, or almost final draft of your presentation files by 14th April.

Registrations for NACAA XXVI and TTSO8 will commence in January 2014

-- Dave Gault, Convenor, 8th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Important Links: o NACAA Main Page: http://www.nacaa.org.au/ o Submit a Proposal to NACAA: http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/submit o TTSO8 Main Page: http://www.occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO8/TTSO8.htm

5. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley between Friday February 28th and Monday March 3rd.

Stardate SI is held at a hostel and campsite. It has the following facilities: Full toilet & showers, bunkrooms, auditorium, kitchens with shared fridges and freezers, large cafeteria, plenty of space for tents and caravans. The viewing area has excellent horizons in all directions, and space (no pun intended) for many telescopes.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful, with fine walks through beech forests - we recommend you restrict the walks to daytime 8-).

Stardate SI has the following schedule:

Start - Friday February 8th; Registration - from 3:30 pm;
Speakers - Fri 8 pm to 9 pm;
Viewing - Fri night;
Speakers - Saturday 10 am to 11 am;
Soapbox - 11 am to noon
Group photograph - noon;
Update on SI astronomical organisations - 12:30-1 pm;
Free time and solar observing workshops - 1 to 5 pm;
Trade table - 5 to 6 pm;
Telescope walk - 6 pm; Pot luck tea Saturday - 7 to 9 pm;
Viewing - Saturday night;
Speakers - Sunday 10 am - 12:30 pm;
Packup - Sunday or Monday at noon (depending on registrations)

REGISTRATION FEES: Approx. $15 per night per person from school age on and free per child under 5 years (actual amounts to be determined). There is no charge for a caravan point. After the refund cut-off date, 24 February 2014, there will be no refunds for cancellations. You can register after this date, however.

Please register on-line at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

NB: Even if you are using a tent you need to register so that we can plan effectively

6. The Solar System in February

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      January  31 at 10.38 am (Jan 30, 21:38 UT)
First quarter: February  7 at  8.22 pm (Feb  6, 19:22 UT)
Full moon:     February 15 at 12.53 pm (Feb 14, 23:53 UT)
Last quarter   February 23 at  6.15 am (Feb 22, 17:15 UT)
New moon:      March 1      at 9.00 pm (Mar  1, 08:00 UT)

There is no New moon during February 2014.

The planets in february

Apart from Jupiter, the major planets are best viewed in the morning sky during February.

Mercury starts the month as an evening object, setting about 45 minutes after the Sun. As a consequence it will be too low for observing in the evening twilight.

The planet reaches inferior conjunction with the Sun on February 16 when the planet will be 0.646 AU, 96.7 million km, from the Earth and 0.34 AU, 51.7 million km from the Sun. From the position of the Earth, Mercury will appear to pass 3.7° north of the Sun.

After conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object. The possibilities of viewing the planet by the end of the month are better due to the steep angle at which it rises. On the 28th it will rise about 100 minutes before the Sun and be some 8° above the horizon 50 minutes before sunrise. Look for the planet a little to the south of east. The crescent moon, less than 4% lit, will be 3° to the left of Mercury on that morning.

Venus is in the morning sky moving away from the Sun and so higher into the morning sky. On the 1st it will rise just under 2 hours before the Sun. 30 minutes before sunrise the planet will be about 14° above the horizon a little to the south of east. By the end of February, Venus will rise an hour earlier and be 30° up half an hour before sunrise. At magnitude -4.6 it will be an easy object.

On the morning of the 26th the 17.8% lit moon will be 6° above Venus. An occultation of Venus by the moon is visible along a broad band from equatorial Africa to India, most of the southeast Asian countries and central China.

Mars will become visible in the later evening sky during February. It rises just before midnight on the 1st, advancing to a little after 10 pm by the 28th. During the month Mars´ magnitude brightens from 0.2 to -0.5. The planet will be a few degrees from Spica throughout the month, the two are closest on the morning if the 4th when they are 4.6° apart.

The planet and star are joined by the moon on the night of 19/20 February. In the late evening the 82% lilt moon will 6° from Mars and 3° from Spica. The following morning the moon, now 80 % lit, will be 2° from Spica and 4° from Mars.

Saturn rises about 1 am on the 1st and about 11.15 pm on the 28th. The planet will be in Libra. On the morning of the 22nd the 61% lit, waning, moon will be 3° from Saturn. A few hours later, well after sunrise, the moon will occult Saturn as seen from New Zealand. The planet will disappear behind the lit limb of the moon about 12.15 pm and reappear some 40 minutes later. Actual times will vary considerably in different parts of NZ. The event may be visible through a medium sized telescope. Anyone wishing to attempt to view the occultation needs to obtain precise local predictions of the times. These can be obtained using the Occult program written by Dave Herald.

Jupiter is the only major planet visible throughout the evening during February. It rises before sunset and sets well after midnight. On the 1st the planet transits and so is at its highest to the north a little before midnight. On the 28th transit is about 9.45 pm. Jupiter is on the part of the ecliptic well north of the equator so is at the altitude of the winter Sun.

On the 11th, the 89% moon, 3 days before full, will be 4.8° from Jupiter.

Outer planets

Uranus remains in Pisces during February. It will set a little after 11 pm on the 1st and around 9.30 pm on the 28th. Particularly by the latter date, the planet will be very low in the sky as the sky darkens following sunset. So observation will be difficult. The planet is in Pisces.

Neptune is at conjunction with the Sun on the 24th, so will be too close to the Sun to observe during February. The planet is in Aquarius.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain as a pair of close objects near Mars, best seen in the morning sky. Spica, Mars, Vesta and Ceres are almost in line and in that order. On the 1st Vesta is at magnitude 7.2, Ceres 8.2. Vesta will be 7° from Mars and 4.2° from Vesta. By the 28th the magnitudes of the two asteroids are 6.6 and 7.8, with Vesta now 8.5° from Mars and 3.3° from Vesta.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra at the beginning of February. At magnitude 7.3 it is almost as bright as Vesta. Towards the end of February, Pallas starts to cross a corner of Sextans. On February 28th the asteroid, now magnitude 7.0, will be 4° from alpha Hya, magnitude 2.0. Earlier in mid February, Pallas makes a close pass of upsilon1 Hya, magnitude 4.1. The two are 22´ apart on the night of the 14/15 February. Pallas will be the closest binocular object to the star, making its detection fairly easy.

-- Brian Loader

7. 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/

See Item 4 for the programme outline.

8. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

A New Year's resolution: register for the 2014 RASNZ conference as soon as possible - and book accommodation. The conference is from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June. It is followed by the third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) which will take place on Monday 9th June following the conference.

The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street. More information can be found on the RASNZ web site. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from the Rex Morpeth Park.

RASNZ members will have received a conference registration and brochure with their December issue of southern Stars. Registrations can be made on line: <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start>

There is no accommodation at the conference venue, but plenty is available in Whakatane, some within a few minutes walking distance of the venue. Some possibilities are listed on the brochure. Early booking is advisable.

The Whakatane Astronomical Society, are acting as hosts and marking the society's 50th anniversary in 2014. On the Friday afternoon before the conference opens, the Whakatane local organising committee is arranging a bus tour which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society Observatory. More details are in the brochure.

The guest speaker for 2014 is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. The title of her talk is "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The 2014 Fellows´ Speaker is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets".

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

The RASNZ SCC is now inviting submissions to present a paper at the 2014 conference. Papers may be presented orally or as posters. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper. Affiliated Societies and RASNZ Sections should take the opportunity to publicise their activities to other members of the RASNZ and the NZ astronomical community by making a presentation at the conference.

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start. Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

Best wishes for 2014. We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

-- Brian Loader, Standing Conference Committee chairman.

9. John Dobson

John Dobson, inventor of the Dobsonian telescope, died on January 15. The following message was placed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Sidewalkastro/posts/10153646888390012

"It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we have to report the passing of Mr John L. Dobson. He died peacefully this morning, January 15th, 2014, in Burbank, California. He was 98. John leaves behind a son, many close friends, and legions of friends, fans, and admirers around the globe.

ISAN 7 (International Sidewalk Astronomy Night) will be held in honor of John on March 8th. Amateur astronomers worldwide can join in and celebrate his life by carrying the torch that John lit back in 1968 when he co- founded the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers.

John was a friend and mentor to all who met him. He will be dearly missed."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dobson_%28amateur_astronomer%29

-- Forwarded by Robert McTague

10. Supernova Double Resolved

On July 24 last year Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury, discovered a supernova in the galaxy NGC 6984. It appeared in exactly that same position as another supernova had a year earlier. As Stu has discovered more than 60 supernovae, his reports are acted on quickly. The supernova was confirmed as a new object by spectroscopy with the South Africa Large Telescope (SALT) and designated SN 2013ek. However, its identical location with the earlier SN 2012im was intriguing. Could the two be related?

Images with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) showed SN 2013ek with a fainter star-like point 0.17 second of arc east of it. Assuming the fainter star is the remnant of 2012im then the two stars are about 160 light years apart. (NGC 6984 is around 210 million light years from us.) The separation of the explosions in both time and space shows that they were not related, just coincidence. Later HST images will show if the two remnants are fading as SN remnants should.

The below, slightly edited, is Stu's summary of the discovery and the follow-up.


Astronomers Discover a Double Take of Exploding Stars in a Distant Galaxy - by Stu Parker.

As stories go the Supernova in NGC 6984 has a really good blend of amateur and professional involvement and just goes to show the value of amateur discoveries and a quick response by professionals to get real science done.

When I first saw the new possible supernova in NGC 6984 I ignored it as I knew there had been a previous SN in that galaxy (SN2012im) in the past and thought that it was just the same one that was still visible. After a few minutes of thinking it over I went back to the image and blinked it against the previous discovery and sure enough it was right on top. But this seemed strange as I looked at the date of sn2012im and it was nearly a year to the day that the last one had been found. This is not normal and it was not visible in the previous image of only a week previous. After talking it over with the BOSS [Backyard Supernova Search] guys and doing all the normal background checks I decided to send an alert out to the professional astronomers who do the spectra for us. Eric Hsiao at Carnegie Observatories was the first to contact me back. He informed me that this may be an important event and thought it may be a good idea to release an Atel to inform the wider professional community so they had the information as soon as possible. With his help we released Atel #5225.The Boss group had never released our own Atel [Astronomers Telegram] before and this alone was a pretty big deal for us.

Here is the Atel:

ATel #5225; Stu Parker, Greg Bock, Peter Marples, Colin Drescher, Patrick Pearl, Brendan Downs, and the BOSS team Distributed as an Instant Email Notice Supernovae Credential Certification: Eric Hsiao We report a new supernova candidate in NGC 6984. TOCP Designation: PSN J20575390-5152245 Observation Date: 2013 07 24.457 J2000 Position: 20 57 53.90 -51 52 24.5 Magnitude: 16.9 U Offset (arcsec): 1W 10S Locale: NGC 6984 It was detected at mag 16.9 on two 30 second images taken on the same night, July 24.457, 2013. Nothing was visible on the previous image taken on July 13.552, 2013 and 15 images taken during the past year down to mag 19. Another supernova, PSN J20575392-5152248 (SNhunt142), was discovered one year ago very close to this position by the Catalina Real-Time Transient Survey and Stan Howerton. It was discovered on July 25.540, 2012 at the position 20 57 53.92 -51 52 24.8 at mag 17.7. It was then typed as a SN Ic around peak on August 8, 2012 by PESSTO (ATEL 4300).

Around this time Dan Milisavljevic at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) contacted me with the great news that SALT had a spectra and it was a new SN. All this in ½ a hour!!. Dan and SALT had done a lot of spectra for us in the past.This was fantastic news and to be honest a real relief as we didn´t want to release an ATel with a false alert for the professional community.

This set off a chain of events which is explained below in Dan Milisavljevic´s release which is a great summary of events. It was fantastic to be involved with this. I was lucky enough to be one of the first to see the Hubble Space Telescope raw fits files of NGC6984 and process the image.

There has been a delay in releasing this as Dan and others needed to get everything ready to present these results at the 223rd annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society taking place in Washington, D.C. between January 5-9, 2014.

I make special note here of Dan Milisavljevic who got use of Director's Discretionary time on the HST. His quick thinking along with others who saw an urgent need to interrupt regular operations with the HST and to be granted time is by itself pretty amazing credit to him and his team for this fantastic effort. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Dan and Professor Robert Fesen when he asked me to be a guest at the 4 metre telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in October what a fantastic guy and I had a great time so here is a little bit about Dan.

"I completed my PhD studies at Dartmouth College in June 2011 and started work at the Harvard-Smithsonian center for Astrophysics in September 2011. My interests surround observational research on supernovae and supernova remnants at optical and NIR wavelengths. I focus on understanding the progenitor stars (i.e., what were they before they blew up?) and explosion mechanisms (i.e., how did they blow up?) of core-collapse events."


Stu's 67th SN discovery, 2014I, was officially reported today in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 3791.

11. Closure of Major U.S. Telescopes Proposed

The U.S. National Science Foundation's (NSF) budget for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS) is shrinking at 4% a year in purchasing power. Thus the Division of Astronomical Sciences (MPS/AST) has had to make hard choices so that new projects must be funded.

Because of the discrepancy between the decadal survey budget assumption and the actual MPS/AST funding levels, MPS/AST undertook a community-based Portfolio Review in 2011 and 2012 (See http://www.nsf.gov/mps/ast/ast_portfolio_review.jsp). This review was carried out under the Federal Advisory Committee Act by a subcommittee of the Advisory Committee of the NSF Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (http://www.nsf.gov/mps/advisory.jsp).

The report recommendations included significant divestment of facilities from the MPS/AST portfolio in order to retain the balance of capabilities needed to deliver the best performance on the key science of the present decade and beyond. The Portfolio Review Committee (PRC) recommended that these divestments take place expeditiously, in order to restore portfolio balance by Fiscal Year 2017. "Divestment" in the PRC context meant removal from the MPS/AST base budget, and the PRC recommendations made no presumptions about what form that removal might take.

MPS/AST presently funds five distinct federal facilities, some with multiple telescopes, for carrying out astronomical research. They are the Arecibo Observatory (Arecibo), International Gemini Observatory (Gemini), National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and National Solar Observatory (NSO). The PRC made specific divestment recommendations for four of these five facilities, whereas a budget cap (but no divestment) was recommended for Gemini.

Telescopes specifically recommended for expeditious divestment by the PRC were the following:

  • NOAO 2.1-meter telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona.
  • NOAO Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak.
  • NOAO share in 3.5-meter WIYN (Wisconsin-Indiana-Yale-NOAO) Telescope on Kitt Peak.
  • NRAO Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT), located in Green Bank, West Virginia.
  • NRAO Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA), with 10 telescope locations including Saint Croix, Hawaii, and eight continental U.S. sites.
  • NSO McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt Peak.
  • Approximately one half of the NSO Integrated Synoptic Program (NISP), with telescopes located at various sites including Kitt Peak and several other U.S. and international locations.

On a somewhat longer time scale, divestment-related recommendations included the following:

  • Reconsider status of Arecibo for the time frame following the expiration of the current cooperative agreement, after 2016.
  • Reconsider the NOAO partnership in the SOAR (Southern Astrophysical Research) telescope at the time of expiration of the SOAR collaboration agreement in 2018.
  • Divest the NSO Dunn Solar Telescope (DST), located on Sacramento Peak in New Mexico, in approximately 2017, two years before the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) comes on line.

-- Extracted from the full announcement at http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2014/nsf14022/nsf14022.jsp Passed on by Laurence Marschall via Karen Pollard.

12. Tiny Asteroid Hits Earth

A small asteroid, likely 1-4 metres diameter, probably hit the Earth on January 2. It was discovered by the 1.5-metre Mt. Lemmon Survey telescope in Arizona on Jan. 1.26 UT and tracked by them for 70 minutes. During that time it moved 2.6 minutes of arc, a tenth of the full moon's diameter. That is relatively slow for a near-Earth object as, subsequent calculations showed, it was coming straight at us. At discovery it was 400,000 km from Earth, about the moon's distance.

Unfortunately no follow-up observations were obtained so the object's exact orbit was not determined. However independent calculations by Bill Gray, the Minor Planet Center, and Steve Chesley of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory all indicate that the object hit Earth on Jan. 2.2 +/- 0.4 UT. It has been designated 2014 AA.

According to Chesley, the impact locations are widely distributed, most likely falling on an arc extending from Central America to East Africa, with a best-fit location just off the coast of West Africa on Jan. 2.10. 2014 AA was unlikely to have survived atmospheric entry intact, as it was comparable in size to 2008 TC3, the only other example of an impacting object observed prior to atmospheric entry.

-- From Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2014-A02, 2014 Jan. 2.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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. More Signs

In a laundromat: Automatic washing machines - please remove all your clothes when the light goes out.

In an office: After tea break staff should empty teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.

Notice in health food shop window: Closed due to illness.


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. What happened to Comet ISON?
2. Naked-Eye Nova in Centaurus
3. The Solar System in January
4. Stardate North Island, January 3-5
5. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3
6. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
7. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8
8. Kiwi Researchers Secure Leading Role in SKA Project
9. LOFAR Finds Its First Pulsars
10. Tropopause Explained
11. Asteroid Flying Apart?
12. Dark Energy Sought
13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
14. How to Join the RASNZ
15. Signs

1. What happened to Comet ISON?

Comet ISON C/2012 S1 broke up near perihelion. Many astronomers watched the comet disintegrate via the coronagraph telescopes on the Solar Heliospheric spacecraft SOHO.

The comet's nucleus apparently disrupted near perihelion, with the comet's head fading from perhaps a peak brightness of visual magnitude -2 some hours before perihelion to well below magnitude +1 before perihelion.

The brightest feature in the coma of the comet faded steadily after perihelion from about magnitude 3.1 when the comet first appeared from behind the SOHO coronagraph occulting disk on Nov. 28.92 UT to about magnitude 6.5 on Nov. 29.98. By Nov. 30.912 there is no visible nucleus or central condensation. All that remained was a very diffuse dust cloud, largely transparent to background stars, and fading.

-- From IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) No. 3731, 2013 December 1.

2. Naked-Eye Nova in Centaurus

The second naked-eye nova of the year appeared near Beta Centauri on December 2.

It was first noticed by John Seach, Chatsworth Island, NSW, as a magnitude 5.5 star on images obtained with a digital SLR camera and 50-mm-f.l. f/1.0lens, limiting magnitude 11, taken on Dec. 2.692 UT. John measured its position as R.A. = 13h54m47s, Decl. = -59d09'08" (equinox 2000.0). Nothing was visible at this position on an image taken by him with the same camera on Nov. 26.69 UT (limiting magnitude 11).

Seen by eye at dusk the nova was at an angle of about 7 o'clock from Beta Centauri and at one-third the distance from Beta that Alpha Centauri is. (Alpha and Beta Centauri are known 'The Pointers' to southern sky-watchers who never see the northern pair with the same name. From NZ they are near the southern skyline at dusk this time of year; below the skyline for many of our readers.)

Ernesto Guido, Nick Howes, and Martino Nicolini reported follow-up CCD observations obtained remotely through a 0.50-m f/6.8 astrograph of the iTelescope network at Siding Spring on Dec. 3.68, with coordinate end figures of 45.22s and 04.5". This put the nova just 1".5 from a star listed in USNO-B1.0 catalogue with blue magnitude 15.5 and red magnitude 15.1. An animat ion showing a comparison between Guido et al's image and a red archival Digital Sky Survey (DSS) plate from 1999 is at website URL http://bit.ly/1bfm4IR. If the faint star was the pre-cursor, as is almost certain, then a rise of at least 10 magnitudes is indicated.

Immediate confirmation that the object was a nova, and not a supernova, came from Australian and New Zealand amateur astronomers using low-resolution spectrographs. On Dec. 3.38 UT Malcolm Locke of Christchurch saw Hydrogen-alpha and -beta emission lines indicative of a nova. He was using a 25-cm Newtonian reflector, 100-lines/mm transmission grating and QHY5 camera. Malcolm's spectrum was posted at http://www.flickr.com/photos/malclocke/11187714294/ . On the same night Rob Kaufman, White Cliffs, NSW, got a similar spectrum with a digital SLR camera and a 200-mm-f.l. lens and Star Analyse r grating.

Novae having a large rise in brightness usually fade quickly. Though this one has risen by more than 10 magnitudes it hasn't faded fast. By December 9 it was brighter than magnitude 4.0, rising to 3.7 a couple of days later. It then faded a little but again brightened to 3.5 on the 15th. On the 18 th it was still around magnitude 5.0, easily seen in binoculars in twilight. The nova is now officially designated V1369 Centauri.

-- Mostly extracted from CBET 3732, 2013 December 4, with some cribs from notes to the nzastronomers Yahoo! discussion group and IAUCs 9265 and 9266.

3. The Solar System in January

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)            
New moon:      January  2 at 12.14 am (Jan 1,  11:14 UT)
First quarter: January  8 at  4.39 pm (Jan 8   03:39 UT)
Full moon:     January 16 at  5.52 pm (Jan 16, 04:52 UT)
Last quarter   January 24 at  6.19 pm (Jan 24, 05:19 UT)
New moon:      January 31 at 10.38 am (Jan 30, 21:38 UT)

The Earth is at perihelion on January 5 at 1 am. The Earth will then be 0.9833 AU, 147.1 million km from the Sun.

The planets in january

Mercury is an evening object all month but will be very low and not likely to be visible. It sets only a few minutes after the Sun on the 1st. By the 31st it will set 45 minutes after the Sun. 30 minutes after sunset, at the end of civil twilight, Mercury will be only 3° above the horizon.

Venus starts January as an evening object but sets only some 45 minutes after the Sun, so will be very low following sunset. Within an evening or two it will have disappeared completely. By the 11th it is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun. At conjunction Venus will be 5° north of the Sun as "seen" from the Earth; its distance from the Earth being 39.8 million km (0.266 AU) and 107.8 million km (0.719 AU) from the Sun.

After conjunction Venus becomes a morning object. During the rest of January it moves quite rapidly up into the morning sky, so that by the end of the month it rises nearly 2 hours before the Sun and making it an easy object in the dawn sky.

Mars remains a morning object throughout January, although it will rise just before midnight by the 31st. The planet will be in Virgo. On the 31st it will be about 5° from Spica. During January Mars brightens from magnitude 0.8 to 0.3.

On the morning of January 23 Mars will be just over 6° from the 66% lit moon, with the planet at the apex of a broad, inverted triangle, with the moon and Spica.

Jupiter is at opposition on January 6 so it will rise close to the time of sunset and set close to the time of sunrise. The planet is well north of the celestial equator so will be rather low in southern skies. Even so, particularly by the end of the month it will be a prominent object between no rth and northeast late evening. The planet is in Gemini, only 3° from the magnitude 3 star epsilon Gem by the end of January.

The moon, one day short of full, will be 5° from Jupiter on January 15

Saturn is a morning object, rising by 1am at the end of the month, so it will be well up to the northeast an hour before sunrise. The planet is in Libra forming a broad triangle with the two brightest stars of the constellation. It will be equidistant, 6.5° from each star mid month.

The 35% lit waning moon will occult Saturn on the morning of the 26 January. The reappearance will be visible from New Zealand although the moon and planet will be very low. An occultation of Saturn´s moon Titan also occurs. The time of the reappearance of Saturn is close to 2.02 am for many places in NZ, with Saturn and the moon at an altitude of 5 or 6°. The occultation disappearance of Saturn takes place, at the moon´s lit limb, before moon rise for most of NZ.

Predictions of the precise times of the reappearance at any locality can be obtained using Dave Herald´s Occult program, or contact the writer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. including your precise longitude and latitude in your email.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Pisces during January. It will set about 1 am on the 1st, and just after 11 pm on the 31st, so by then quite low at the end of twilight.

Neptune is in Aquarius all month. At the beginning of January it will set just before midnight, by the end of January it will set a little over an hour after the Sun, so will become very low in the evening twilight.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta remain as morning objects in Virgo a few degrees from one another and a few degrees from Mars. At the beginning of January Vesta will be 8° from Mars with Ceres another 5° away on the other side of Vesta. All three are moving to the east through the stars, their distances apart decreasing slightly during January. By the 31st the three Solar system objects will nearly be in line with Spica, with the star highest in the dawn sky.

Ceres brightens from magnitude 8.6 to 8.2 during January while Vesta brightens a little more from 7.7 to 7.2. Both will be readily visible in binoculars, their changing position compared to the stars visible from night to night.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and rivals Vesta as the brightest asteroid in the sky. During January it brightens from magnitude 7.9 to 7.3. At the beginning of January, late evening the asteroid will be about 25° up to the east, about 6° above mu Hya (mag 3.8) and 8° to the right of upsilon1 Hya, mag 4. 1. During the month Pallas will move towards upsilon Hya, their separation being 5° by the 31st.

Pallas rises just before 9.15 pm at the beginning of January and about 7.30 pm by the month´s end. This latter time is a little before sunset. Even so the asteroid will not set until well after sunrise as it is well south of the ecliptic. At the beginning of January the asteroid is above the horizon for 15 hours as seen from Wellington, reducing slightly to 14.5 ho urs by the end of the month.

-- Brian Loader

4. Stardate North Island, January 3-5

Location: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay. When: Official programme runs from Friday 3rd January - Sunday 5th January. You are also welcome to camp Wednesday 1st January and/or Sunday 5th January for a small extra fee

The camp site in Tukituki Valley offers a wonderful horizon, away from cloud-attracting hills and city lights, as well as the normal campsite facilities. Weather permitting; participants will be looking forward to lots of observing time. Many participants bring telescopes while for others it´s their first telescopic view of the heavens. There is ample opportunity to mix and mingle with other astronomy enthusiasts. Some people here have 30-40 years experience; others are complete newcomers.

Even if the weather is unsuitable for observing, there is a programme of talks, workshops and movies organised to complement skywatching. Whatever the weather Stardate is great astronomical experience. - a chance to ask questions, share ideas, and make or renew old friendships.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2014 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

We want to confirm prgramme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2014, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can.

Extracted from http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/stardate/stardate-2012-review.html

5. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley between Friday February 28th and Monday March 3rd.

Stardate SI is held at a hostel and campsite. It has the following facilities: Full toilet & showers, bunkrooms, auditorium, kitchens with shared fridges and freezers, large cafeteria, plenty of space for tents and caravans. The viewing area has excellent horizons in all directions, and space (no pun intended) for many telescopes.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful, with fine walks through beech forests - we recommend you restrict the walks to daytime 8-).

Stardate SI has the following schedule: Start - Friday February 8th; Registration - from 3:30 pm; Speakers - Fri 8 pm to 9 pm; Viewing - Fri night; Speakers - Saturday 10 am to 11 am; Soapbox - 11 am to noon Group photograph - noon; Update on SI astronomical organistions - 12:30-1 pm; Free time and solar observing workshops - 1 to 5 pm; Trade table - 5 to 6 pm; Telescope walk - 6 pm; Pot luck tea Saturday - 7 to 9 pm; Viewing - Saturday night; Speakers - Sunday 10 am - 12:30 pm; Packup - Sunday or Mond ay at noon (depending on registrations)

REGISTRATION FEES: Approx. $15 per night per person from school age on and free per child under 5 years (actual amounts to be determined). There is no charge for a caravan point. After the refund cut-off date, 24 February 2014, there will be no refunds for cancellations. You can register after this date, however.

Please register on-line at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

NB: Even if you are using a tent you need to register so that we can plan effectively

6. 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 c overing 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/

TTSO8 will feature reviews of recent occultation activity and results, data reduction methods and techniques, updated information on equipment, and sessions devoted to the practical needs of both new and more advanced observers. TTSO8 is expected to draw wide attendance from occultation observers throughout Australia and New Zealand. The organisers also welcome the a ttendance and participation of observers from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

TTSO8's technical sessions will be split across the weekend. The bulk of the presentations will occur on Sunday and Monday April 20-21, with an "Introducing Occultations Workshop" on Friday April 18.

Information on the TTSO8 meeting will be posted to the RASNZ Occultation Section website: http://occultations.org.nz/ Registrations will be done via the NACAA website.

The organisers also invite presentations for the TTSO8 meeting. Presentation proposals should include a title, brief abstract and requested duration. Submissions to TTSO8 should be sent to the organiser, Dave Gault: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

7. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

RASNZ members will have received the 2014 conference brochure and registration form with their copy of Southern Stars this month. We encourage you to register early for what promises to be an excellent conference. The hosts, Whakatane Astronomical Society, are marking the society's 50th anniversary in 2014. The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June. The venue is situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street. More information can be found on the RASNZ web site.

There is no accommodation at the conference venue, but plenty is available in Whakatane, some within a few minutes walking distance of the venue. Some possibilities are listed on the brochure. Early booking is advisable.

The third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) will take place on Monday 9th June following the conference. Registration for the VSSS can be made on the conference registration form. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from t he conference venue.

On the Friday afternoon before the conference opens, the Whakatane local organising committee is arranging a bus tour which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society Observatory. More details are in the brochure.

The guest speaker for 2014 is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. The title of her talk is "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The 2014 Fellows´ Speaker is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets".

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

The RASNZ SCC is now inviting submissions to present a paper at the 2014 conference. Papers may be presented orally or as posters. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper. Affiliated Societies and RASNZ Sections should take the opportunity to publicise their activities to other members of the RASNZ and the NZ astronomical community by making a presentation at the conference.

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start. Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing you at the conference.

-- Brian Loader, SCC chairman

8. Kiwi Researchers Secure Leading Role in SKA Project

Two New Zealand research groups have secured prominent positions in one of the world´s largest and most ambitious science projects - the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced today.

AUT University and Victoria University of Wellington will lead two work areas in the pre-construction of the SKA. These two areas are in the Central Signal Processor and the Science Data Processor work packages, working alongside other New Zealand experts.

"The SKA is a global effort to create the biggest and most technologically advanced radio telescope ever built. It will enable astronomers to monitor the sky in unprecedented detail and survey the entire sky thousands of times faster than any system currently in existence," Mr Joyce says.

"While this is a radio astronomy project, one of its exciting features is that the quantity of information that will be gathered by this instrument will be massive; it requires major leaps in information and communication technology to manage, store and interpret the data.

"One of the encouraging features of the SKA project is that a project of this size and complexity can only be achieved through collaboration which will develop and deepen our international linkages.

"The work with international groups is exciting - more than 350 scientists and engineers, from 18 countries, and from more than 100 institutions will be involved. This is an unprecedented opportunity for New Zealand to showcase our expertise in ICT and software development.

"The Government is investing a total of $1.717 million for this project, with New Zealand institutions providing matching contributions, totalling more than $2.17 million over three years.

"During the SKA´s three-year design phase a significant number of New Zealand organisations will be involved including the University of Auckland, Massey University, Victoria University Wellington, Callaghan Innovation, Compucon New Zealand, University of Otago, IBM, Green Button and Open Parallel."

More information on the Square Kilometre Array project is available at: http://www.skatelescope.org/project/

-- A press release from Hon Steven Joyce, Minister of Science & Innovation, passed on by Andrew Lorenc.

9. LOFAR Finds Its First Pulsars

The low-frequency array LOFAR has discovered two new pulsars -- fast- spinning neutron stars, remnants of massive supernova explosions. Two of these weak but quickly flashing radio sources were spotted for the first time during the 'warm-up' for the LOFAR all-sky survey. The results are described in the PhD thesis that astronomer Thijs Coenen of the University of Ams terdam.

The International LOFAR Telescope (ILT) is a radio telescope centred in the Netherlands and spread across Europe. The telescope consists of a network of thousands of individual dipole antennas connected over a fast network to a central supercomputer. The high sensitivity of this software telescope means it is extraordinarily suited for pulsar research. It was designed and built by ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The discovery showcases the pulsar capabilities of LOFAR, and hints at new possibilities with its successor, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). SKA will take LOFAR technology one step further, and these discoveries show we can expect to detect a large fraction of the pulsars in our galaxy with SKA.

Pulsars act as cosmic lighthouses, emitting radio beams that sweep the galaxy. Their signals allow scientists to study the behaviour of gravity and matter in circumstances so extreme that they cannot be reproduced on Earth, not even in the most advanced facility. Pulsars are important because of this -- they are true cosmic laboratories. So far, about 2,000 pulsars ha ve been identified, but astronomers think there must be about 50,000 active pulsars in our galaxy.

Using computing resources provided by the European Grid Infrastructure, Coenen and the team needed only a month to search through a set of 2010-2013 LOFAR images that would have occupied a single computer for more than a century.

These first results show how LOFAR, with its flexible configuration, can produce more than a 1,000 images per second of a large part of the sky. That means the pulsar survey will be the most sensitive ever in this radio regime.

-- From a press release by the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) and the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON). Forwarded by Karen Pollard.

For background on LOFAR start with http://www.lofar.org/

10. Tropopause Explained

It is known that air grows colder and thinner with altitude, but in 1902 a scientist named Léon Teisserenc de Bort, using instrument-equipped balloons, found a point in Earth's atmosphere at about 40,000 to 50,000 feet where the air stops cooling and begins growing warmer. He called this invisible turnaround a "tropopause", and coined the terms "stratosphere" for the atmosphere above, and "troposphere" for the layer below, where we live -- terms still used today.

Then, in the 1980s, NASA spacecraft discovered that tropopauses are also present in the atmospheres of the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, as well as Saturn's largest moon, Titan. And remarkably, these turnaround points all occur at roughly the same level in the atmosphere of each of t hese different worlds -- at a pressure of about 0.1 bar, or about one-tenth of the air pressure at Earth's surface.

University of Washington astronomer Tyler Robinson and planetary scientist David Catling have used basic physics to show why this happens. Their explanation suggests that tropopauses are probably common to all thick-atmosphere planets and moons.

The reason lies in the physics of infrared radiation. Atmospheric gases gain energy by absorbing infrared light from the sunlit surface of a rocky planet or from the deeper parts of the atmosphere of a planet like Jupiter, which has no surface.

An analytical model showed that at high altitudes atmospheres become transparent to thermal radiation due to the low pressure. Above the level where the pressure is about 0.1 bar, the absorption of visible or ultraviolet light causes the atmospheres of the giant planets -- and Earth and Titan -- to grow warmer as altitude increases.

The physics provides a rule of thumb -- that the pressure is around 0.1 bar at the tropopause turnaround -- which should apply to the vast number of planetary atmospheres with stratospheric gases that absorb ultraviolet or visible light.

Astronomers could use the finding to extrapolate temperature and pressure conditions on the surface of planets and work out whether the worlds are potentially habitable -- the key being whether pressure and temperature conditions allow liquid water on the surface of a rocky planet.

"Then we have somewhere we can start to characterize that world," Robinson said. "We know that temperatures are going to increase below the tropopause, and we have some models for how we think those temperatures increase -- so given that leg up, we can start to extrapolate downward toward the surface."

Robinson's and Catling's paper was published online Dec. 8 in the journal Nature Geoscience [http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ngeo2020.html]

-- From a University of Washington press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Asteroid Flying Apart?

An asteroid showing comet-like features is believed to be close to breaking up due to its fast spin.

The asteroid was discovered in the Pan-STARRS survey on Aug. 27. It was found to have a fuzzy appearance so was given the periodic-comet designation of P/2013 P5. Images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope on Sept. 10 showed the asteroid had six comet-like tails of dust radiating from it like spokes on a wheel. When Hubble looked at the asteroid again Sept. 23, its appearance had totally changed. It looked as if the entire struct ure had swung round.

Mathematical modelling by Jessica Agarwal of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Lindau, Germany, showed that the tails could have been formed by a series of impulsive dust-ejection events. She calculated that dust-ejection events occurred April 15, July 18, July 24, Aug. 8, Aug. 26 and Sept. 4. Radiation pressure from the Sun stretched the dust into streamers.

P/2013 P5 has been ejecting dust periodically for at least five months. Astronomers believe it is possible the asteroid¹s rotation rate increased to the point where its surface started flying apart. They do not believe the tails are the result of an impact with another asteroid because they have no t seen a large quantity of dust blasted into space all at once.

Radiation pressure could have spun P/2013 P5 up. Lead investigator David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles said the spin rate could have increased enough that the asteroid's weak gravity no longer could hold it together. If that happened, dust could slide toward the asteroid's equator, shatter and fall off, and drift into space to make a tail. So far, only about 100 to 1,000 tons of dust, a small fraction of P/2013 P5's main mass, has been lost. The asteroid's nucleus, which measures 430 metres wide, is thousands of times more massive than the observed amount of ejected dust.

Astronomers will continue observing P/2013 P5 to see whether the dust leaves the asteroid in the equatorial plane. If it does, this would be strong evidence for a rotational breakup. Astronomers will also try to measure the asteroid's true spin rate.

Jewitt's interpretation implies that rotational breakup must be a common phenomenon in the asteroid belt; it may even be the main way small asteroids die.

Jewitt said it appears P/2013 P5 is a fragment of a larger asteroid that broke apart in a collision roughly 200 million years ago. There are many collision fragments in orbits similar to P/2013 P5's. Meteorites from these bodies show evidence of having been heated to as much as 1,500 degrees Fahren heit. This means the asteroid likely is composed of metamorphic rocks and does not hold any ice as a comet does.

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

12. Dark Energy Sought

Three experiments are starting to study dark energy, the most abundant stuff in the universe. But a theory has just been published purporting to show it does not exist.

In the 1920s astronomers realised that the universe was running away from them. The farther off a galaxy was, the faster it retreated. Logically, this implied everything had once been in one place. That discovery, which led to the Big Bang theory, was the start of modern cosmology.

In 1998, however, a new generation of astronomers discovered that not only is the universe expanding, it is doing so at an ever faster clip. No one knows what is causing this accelerating expansion, but whatever it is has been given a name. It is known as dark energy, and even though its nature is mysterious, its effect is such that its quantity can be calculated. As far as can be determined, it makes up two-thirds of the mass (and therefore, E being equal to mc^2, two-thirds of the energy) in the universe. It is thus, literally, a big deal. If you do not understand dark energy, you cannot truly understand reality. Cosmologists are therefore keen to lighten their darkness about dark energy, and three new experiments-two based in Chile and the third in Hawaii-should help them do so. These experiments will look back almost to the beginning of the universe, and will measure the relationships between galaxies, and clusters of galaxies, in unprecedented detail. When they are done, though the nature of dark energy may remain unresolved, it should at l east be clearer.

If, that is, it actually exists. For a core of cosmological refuseniks still do not believe in it. They do not deny the observations that led others to hypothesise dark energy, but they do deny the conclusion. For them, then, these experiments provide an opportunity to test alternative theories.

The most advanced of the new experiments is the five-tonne, 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, which was installed last year at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, 2,200 metres (7,200 feet) above sea level in the Atacama Desert. It will take 400 one-gigabyte pictures of the sky each night, for 525 nights over five years.

This photographic marathon is part of the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a project led by Joshua Frieman of the University of Chicago. Dr Frieman´s plan is to scan an eighth of the sky, examining 100,000 galaxy clusters as he does so and measuring the distances to 300m individual galaxies within those clusters.

The reason for all this effort is that tracing the way the sizes and shapes of galactic clusters change over time allows each round of the battle between gravity and dark energy to be studied in detail. Gravity, which tends to slow down the expansion of the universe, causes clusters to become more compact. Dark energy, which tends to speed universal expansion up, causes clusters to spread out. The rate of contraction or expansion of clusters shows the relative strengths of the two forces. Dr Frieman and his colleagues cannot follow the changes in any given cluster since they see only a snapshot of its history. But looking at the differences between lots of clusters of various ages is the next best thing.

Previous observations have suggested that for more than half of the universe´s 13.7-billion-year life, gravity had the upper hand. Only about 6 billion years ago did dark energy overtake it. The DES hopes in particular to study the transitional period, by peering back as far as 10 billion years by the simple expedient of looking at clusters up to 10 billion light-years away.

The second of the new experiments, the Subaru Measurement of Images and Redshifts (SuMIRe), led by Hitoshi Murayama of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, in Tokyo, is based on a mountain top in Hawaii. It will start collecting data next year, in a manner similar to the Dark Energy Camera, but better. Though it will look at only a tenth of the sky, rather than an eighth, it can see farther - 13 billion light-years, rather than 10 billion. It also has more bells and whistles than the Dark Energy Camera; specifically, it has an integral spectrograph, for working out redshifts.

Redshifts are one of astronomy´s most important sources of information. They tell you how far away a galaxy is. The further away the galaxy is, the redder it is. It was this that allowed those 1920s astronomers, led by Edwin Hubble, to work out that the universe is expanding. The Dark Energy Camera , which lacks a spectrograph, has to rely on other telescopes which do have them to make its redshift measurements for it. Having an integral spectrograph will thus give SuMIRe an advantage.

The third experiment, ACTPol (Atacama Cosmology Telescope Polarisation sensitive receiver), run by Lyman Page of Princeton University, is rather different. Instead of looking at light from galaxies, it will study microwaves from the cosmic microwave background (CMB). This was created around 380,000 years after the Big Bang, and thus preserves an imprint of what the early universe looked like.

ACTPol, too, is in Chile, on the peak of a mountain called Cerro Toco. Tests began on July 19th. Its purpose is to look at the CMB´s polarisation, any part of which will have been distorted in meaningful ways by the microwaves´ passage through intervening galaxies from their creation to their arrival on Earth. And from that, using a lot of statistical jiggery-pokery, a third estimate of the yo-yo effect of gravity and dark matter on galactic clusters should emerge. If these three experiments work, and agree with one another, it will be a big step forward in understanding how the universe has evolved from an object smaller than an electron into the vastness seen today. Theoreticians will be able to plug the new data into their models of dark energy, and see what comes out. But others will be able to use the data too. And they may come to different conclusions.

Even as astronomers vie to explain the mystery of the expanding universe, some theorists are trying to explain it away. The most recent such attempt has just been published by Christof Wetterich, of the University of Heidelberg, in Germany. Not only does he not believe in dark energy, he does not believe the universe is expanding at all. That, in the context of modern cosmology, is a pretty grave heresy. But Dr Wetterich´s latest paper, published on arXiv, an online repository, attempts to back it up.

In Dr Wetterich´s picture of the cosmos the redshift others attribute to expansion is, rather, the result of the universe putting on weight. If atoms weighed less in the past, he reasons, the light they emitted then would, in keeping with the laws of quantum mechanics, have been less energetic than the light they emit now. Since less energetic light has a longer wavelength, astronomers looking at it today would perceive it to be redshifted.

At first blush this sounds nuts. The idea that mass is constant is drilled into every budding high-school physicist. Abandoning it would hurt. But in exchange, Dr Wetterich´s proposal deals neatly with a big niggle in the Big Bang theory, namely coping with the point of infinite density at the beginning, called a singularity, which orthodox theories cannot explain.

Dr Wetterich´s model does not-yet-explain the shifts in the shapes of galactic clusters that the Dark Energy Camera, SuMIRe and ACTPol are seeking to clarify. But perhaps, one day, it could. Dr Wetterich is a well-respected physicist and his maths are not obviously wrong. Moreover, his theory does allow for a short period of rapid expansion, known as inflation, whose traces have already been seen in the CMB. Dr Wetterich, however, thinks this inflation did not happen just after the beginning of the universe (the consensus view), for he believes the universe had no beginning. Instead, a small static universe which had always existed turned into a large static one that always will exist-getting heavier and heavier as it does so. There was thus no singularity.

Probably, this theory is wrong. As Cliff Burgess of Perimeter Institute, a Canadian theoretical-physics centre, puts it, "The dark energy business very easily degenerates into something like a crowd of people who are each claiming to be Napoleon while asserting that all the other pretenders are clearly nutty." But theories last only as long as they do not conflict with the data, and when the new experiments have finished there will be a lot more data for them to conflict with, and thus reveal who the real Napoleon actually is. Perhaps, therefore, the last word should go to Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum theory. He once said to a colleague, Wolfgang Pauli, "We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct."

-- From "The Economist" 24 August 2013

13. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

14. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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..

15. Signs

On a repair shop door: We can repair anything. (Please knock hard on the door - the bell doesn't work.)

Seen during a conference: For anyone who has children and doesn't know it, there is a day care on the 1st floor.

Notice in a farmer's field: The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

In a London department store: Bargain basement upstairs.

-- Forwarded by Rosemary Cole.

Compliments of the season to all our readers and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2014. - Ed.


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

December 2013

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

New Zealand at the 7th International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics
Navodhi Delpachitra, Connor Hale, Darina Khun, Daniel Yska, Gordon Hudson

In 2013, for the first time, a team of secondary school students from New Zealand competed in the International Olympiad on Astronomy and Astrophysics. This year the 7th was held in Volos, Greece, from July 29 to August 8.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P3

The First Great September Filament
R. W. EVans

During September 2013, astronomers observing the Sun in Hydrogen-alpha light witnessed the exciting activity of two long-lived filaments/prominences:- increasingly called 'filaproms' when they are observed both on the Sun's disc as dark filaments and then on its limb as bright prominences.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P8

Monitoring Our Skies - How do we know if we are successful?
Steve Butler

Why should we monitor the sky? We don't know whether light pollution is getting better or worse over time. We need to establish a baseline of where we are at the moment and repeat the process in a five year cycle. Adapted from a presentation to the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand conference in Invercargill in May 2013.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P9

Southern Constellation Names
J.F. Harper

La Caille's first catalogue gave constellation names in French (de la Caille, 1756) and his second in Latin (de la Caille, 1763), which had been for centuries the standard international language for European scholarly work. EVen now the International Astronomical Union (IAU) uses it for constellation names. This paper is about what happened after La Caille's time.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P12

DVD Review - Venus: A Quest
William Tobin

Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P14

The Second Great September Filament
Harry Roberts

Described are hydrogen-alpha observations of the Sun's second long-lived filament during September 2013.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P15

Dual Maxima Mira Variable Stars
W.S.G. Walker

Amongst Mira Variable stars with periods in excess of 400 days is found a small group which show two maxima in each cycle. Two of these have shown dramatic period changes. Other Miras with period changes may once have been members of this group. Light curves, colours and other behaviour are described as well as a curious distribution in the sky.
Volume 52, number 4. December 2013. P18


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. Comet ISON Cancelled?
2. The Solar System in December
3. Stardate North Island, January 3-5
4. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3
5. NACAA and TTSO8, Melbourne, April 18-21
6. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8
7. Earth-like Planets Common
8. Hot Earths Too!
9. Dark Matter Still not Found
10. 'On the Radar'
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Overly Honest Methods

1. Comet ISON Cancelled?

 

While comet ISON C/2012 S1 has been showing rapidly increasing activity in recent days, it seems likely that it is too late for a good show in the southern hemisphere. At 5 a.m. NZDT on Nov. 21, after nautical twilight starts, the comet's head will be just 3° above the horizon and a little south of due east. It will be to the right of and slightly lower than Spica: at an angle of 4 o'clock and about 8 degrees from the star. From our southern viewpoint the comet's tail is rather flat to the skyline, tilted 30° above horizontal. It runs leftward and upward toward Spica.

Over the coming week the comet moves directly toward the sun, getting lower and shifting southward along the skyline. After perihelion, on the morning of Nov. 29 NZDT the comet will be rising after the sun and setting before it, so it is completely inaccessible in our sky.

It's still not impossible that the comet could do something spectacular. It was reported last month that the comet's nucleus appears to have kept one hemisphere facing the sun on its approach. The other hemisphere, presumably rich in volatile material on this 'new' comet, begins to be exposed to the sun about now. That assumes that the spin-axis determination was reliable. Several observers reported a rapid increase in the comet's gas production between November 12 and 14.

Sun-grazing comets sometimes break up near perihelion. When that happens a cloud of dust is suddenly made. Pressure of sunlight pushes it away from the sun along a narrow steam, making a bright narrow tail. Comet Lovejoy C/2011 W3 did this around Christmas 2011. However, its position caused a tail vertical to our horizon. Also Comet Lovejoy was a true sun- grazer: one of the group of fragments in a similar orbit from an earlier large comet. Such fragments have already been weakened by previous solar cooking.

Comet ISON passes 1.2 million km from the surface on November 28.776 UT. That is still very close to the sun. Some evidence that its nucleus may be breaking up was reported by a group from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, and from Astronomical Institute, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, on November 16. They observed arclet-like wings growing on opposite sides of the nucleus in images obtained on November 14 and 16 where none were seen on the 13th. {Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 3715.]

If the nucleus did break up at perihelion then there is a chance of a narrow dust tail being flung vertically into our dawn sky.

All one can do is look and see if anything happens.

-- Ed.

2. The Solar System in December

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      December  3 at  1.23 pm (00:23 UT        )
First quarter: December 10 at  4.12 am (Dec  9, 15:12 UT)
Full moon:     December 17 at 10.28 pm (09:28 UT        )
Last quarter   December 26 at  2.48 am (Dec 25, 13:48 UT)

The southern hemisphere summer solstice is on December 22 at 6:12 am (December 21, 17:12 UT).

The planets in december

Venus starts December high and prominent in the evening sky, but will steadily lose altitude during the month as it moves towards conjunction early in 2014. Jupiter will become visible in the late evening.

Jupiter will also be visible in the morning sky, while Mars will rise some hours before the Sun. Saturn will emerge out of twilight during December, but Mercury will be too low in the dawn sky to see.

Venus, the evening planet

December sees the virtual disappearance of Venus from the evening sky. At first it sets more than 3 hours after the Sun, just after midnight (NZDT) for much of New Zealand. In the early part of the month it will remain readily visible quite high to the west shortly after sunset. As the month progresses the planet´s elongation from the Sun rapidly declines so it will get lower in the sky and set earlier, so that by the end of December it will set less than an hour after the Sun.

At the beginning of December Venus will be some 30% sunlit as seen from the Earth. During the month as it catches up with the Earth in it orbit, the amount lit will drop to little more than 4%, so the planet will look like a very thin, brilliant, crescent moon as seen through a small telescope. Its distance from the Earth drops from 66 to 42 million km during December and the apparent size of the disc increases correspondingly. As a result the brightness of the planet scarcely changes.

Jupiter will be visible for much of the night by the end of December, rather low to the northeast in the evening. It rises shortly before midnight in New Zealand at the beginning of the month, but gets steadily earlier to rise only a few minutes after sunset by the 31st. From New Zealand the planet will remain a low object due to it being well north of the celestial equator.

Jupiter is in Gemini throughout December moving slowly in a retrograde sense towards the west. It will be a few degrees from Pollux, the brightest star of the constellation. The fainter star delta Gem, magnitude 3.5, will be much closer to Jupiter, with the two only 15 arc- minutes apart, half the diameter of the full moon, on the 10th.

The moon, just past full, will be about 5° from Jupiter on the evening of the 19th.

The morning sky.

Mars moves higher into the morning sky during December. It rises about 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st and four and a half hours earlier by the 31st. The planet is close to the celestial equator so will get higher than Jupiter. It brightens slightly during the month from magnitude 1.2 to 0.9.

Mars is in Virgo throughout December and will move in the direction of Spica, the brightest star in the constellation. The moon, at last quarter, will be just over 5° from Mars on the morning of December 26.

Saturn moves out from the Sun into the morning sky during the month. It rises about 1 hour before the Sun on the 1st and 3 hours before it on the 31st. At first in December it will be low and difficult to see. By the end of December the planet will be readily visible before dawn about 20° above the horizon to the east.

Saturn is in Libra all month. At the end of December it will be almost equidistant from the two brightest stars in Libra. The crescent moon will be a degree from alpha Lib and just under 5° from Saturn on the morning of the 29th.

Mercury rises little more than half an hour before the Sun early in the month, making it virtually impossible to see. It closes in on the Sun during the following 4 weeks to be at superior conjunction at the far side of the Sun on the 29th.

OUTER PLANETS Both Uranus and Neptune are principally evening objects during December. Uranus at magnitude 5.8 is stationary on the 18th and spends the month on the border of between Pisces and Cetus. It sets well after midnight, about 3.30 am on the 1st and 1.30 am on the 31st.

Neptune is at magnitude 7.9 and is in Aquarius. It sets about 90 minutes before Uranus.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning objects in Virgo a few degrees from one another and a few degrees from Mars. The three form a rough line with Vesta in the middle. Ceres will be to the lower right of Vesta and Mars to its upper left. The two asteroids are 6° apart at the beginning of December, 5° at the end of the month, when Vesta will also be 8° from Mars.

Ceres is at magnitude 8.7 to 8.6 during December while Vesta brightens a little more from 8.0 to 7.7. Both will be readily visible in binoculars, their changing position compared to the stars visible from night to night.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and brightens during December from 8.5 to 8.0 so similar in brightness to Ceres and Vesta. It rises just before 11 pm at the beginning of December and about 9.30 pm by the month´s end.

-- Brian Loader

3. Stardate North Island, January 3-5

Location: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay. When: Official programme runs from Friday 3rd January - Sunday 5th January. You are also welcome to camp Wednesday 1st January and/or Sunday 5th January for a small extra fee

The camp site in Tukituki Valley offers a wonderful horizon, away from cloud-attracting hills and city lights, as well as the normal campsite facilities. Weather permitting; participants will be looking forward to lots of observing time. Many participants bring telescopes while for others it´s their first telescopic view of the heavens. There is ample opportunity to mix and mingle with other astronomy enthusiasts. Some people here have 30-40 years experience; others are complete newcomers.

Even if the weather is unsuitable for observing, there is a programme of talks, workshops and movies organised to complement skywatching. Whatever the weather Stardate is great astronomical experience. - a chance to ask questions, share ideas, and make or renew old friendships.

We will let you know when registrations are open for Stardate 2014.

Extracted from http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/stardate/stardate-2012-review.html

4. Stardate South Island, Feb. 28-Mar.3

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley between Friday February 28th and Monday March 3rd.

Stardate SI is held at a hostel and campsite. It has the following facilities: Full toilet & showers, bunkrooms, auditorium, kitchens with shared fridges and freezers, large cafeteria, plenty of space for tents and caravans. The viewing area has excellent horizons in all directions, and space (no pun intended) for many telescopes.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful, with fine walks through beech forests - we recommend you restrict the walks to daytime 8-).

Stardate SI has the following schedule: Start - Friday February 8th; Registration - from 3:30 pm; Speakers - Fri 8 pm to 9 pm; Viewing - Fri night; Speakers - Saturday 10 am to 11 am; Soapbox - 11 am to noon Group photograph - noon; Update on SI astronomical organistions - 12:30-1 pm; Free time and solar observing workshops - 1 to 5 pm; Trade table - 5 to 6 pm; Telescope walk - 6 pm; Pot luck tea Saturday - 7 to 9 pm; Viewing - Saturday night; Speakers - Sunday 10 am - 12:30 pm; Packup - Sunday or Monday at noon (depending on registrations)

REGISTRATION FEES: Approx. $15 per night per person from school age on and free per child under 5 years (actual amounts to be determined). There is no charge for a caravan point. After the refund cut-off date, 24 February 2014, there will be no refunds for cancellations. You can register after this date, however.

Please register on-line at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

NB: Even if you are using a tent you need to register so that we can plan effectively

5. 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/

TTSO8 will feature reviews of recent occultation activity and results, data reduction methods and techniques, updated information on equipment, and sessions devoted to the practical needs of both new and more advanced observers. TTSO8 is expected to draw wide attendance from occultation observers throughout Australia and New Zealand. The organisers also welcome the attendance and participation of observers from Asia, Europe and the Americas.

TTSO8's technical sessions will be split across the weekend. The bulk of the presentations will occur on Sunday and Monday April 20-21, with an "Introducing Occultations Workshop" on Friday April 18.

Information on the TTSO8 meeting will be posted to the RASNZ Occultation Section website: http://occultations.org.nz/ Registrations will be done via the NACAA website.

The organisers also invite presentations for the TTSO8 meeting. Presentation proposals should include a title, brief abstract and requested duration. Submissions to TTSO8 should be sent to the organiser, Dave Gault: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

Members of the Whakatane Astronomical Society are marking their 50th anniversary in 2014 by hosting the annual RASNZ conference. The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June. The venue is situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street.

The third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) will take place on Monday 9th June following the conference. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from the conference venue.

On the Friday afternoon before the conference opens, the Whakatane local organising committee is arranging a bus tour which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society Observatory. More details are in the brochure.

Registration forms for conference will be available on line in the next few days. Forms, along with the conference brochure, will also be included with the December mailing of Southern Stars.

The guest speaker for 2014 is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. The title of her talk is "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

The 2014 Fellows´ Speaker is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets".

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

The RASNZ SCC is now inviting submissions to present a paper at the 2014 conference. Papers may be presented orally or as posters. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper. Affiliated Societies and RASNZ Sections should take the opportunity to publicise their activities to other members of the RASNZ and the NZ astronomical community by making a presentation at the conference.

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start. Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

We look forward to seeing you and hearing you at the conference.

-- Brian Loader, SCC chairman

7. Earth-like Planets Common

Astronomers now estimate that one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life. Given that about 20 percent of stars are sun-like, the researchers say, that amounts to several tens of billions of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Based in these statistics, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye.

These results come from an analysis of the Kepler data by a team led by led by Erik Petigura, a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley. The team also included Geoffrey Marcy, UC Berkeley professor of astronomy, and Andrew Howard, a former UC Berkeley post-doctoral fellow who is now on the faculty of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii.

NASA launched the Kepler space telescope in 2009 to look for planets outside the solar system that cross in front of, or transit, their stars. Transits cause a slight diminution - about one hundredth of 1 percent - in the star's brightness. 150,000 stars were imaged every 30 minutes for four years. From these NASA's Kepler team reported more than 3,000 planet candidates. Many of these are much larger than Earth ranging from large planets with thick atmospheres, like Neptune, to gas giants like Jupiter. Some orbit so close to their stars that they are roasted.

To sort them out, Petigura and his colleagues are using the Keck telescopes in Hawaii to obtain spectra of as many stars as possible. This will help them determine each star's true brightness and calculate the diameter of each transiting planet, with an emphasis on Earth-diameter planets.

Independently, Petigura, Howard and Marcy focused on the 42,000 stars that are like the sun or slightly cooler and smaller, and found 603 candidate planets orbiting them. Only 10 of these were Earth-size, that is, one to two times the diameter of Earth and orbiting their star at a distance where they are heated to lukewarm temperatures suitable for life. The team's definition of habitable is that a planet receives between four times and one-quarter the amount of light that Earth receives from the sun.

What distinguishes the team's analysis from previous analyses of Kepler data is that they subjected Petigura's planet-finding algorithms to a battery of tests in order to measure how many habitable zone, Earth-size planets they missed. Petigura actually introduced fake planets into the Kepler data in order to determine which ones his software could detect and which it couldn't.

Accounting for missed planets, as well as the fact that only a small fraction of planets are oriented so that they cross in front of their host star as seen from Earth, allowed them to estimate that 22 percent of all sun-like stars in the galaxy have Earth-size planets in their habitable zones.

The results are published in the online early edition of the journal Proceedings of the [U.S.] National Academy of Sciences.

8. Hot Earths Too!

Kepler-78b is a planet that shouldn't exist. This scorching lava world circles its star every eight and a half hours at a distance of less than 1.5 million km - one of the tightest known orbits. According to current theories of planet formation, it couldn't have formed so close to its star, nor could it have moved there.

Not only is Kepler-78b a mystery world, it is the first known Earth-sized planet with an Earth-like density. Kepler-78b is about 20 percent larger than the Earth, with a diameter of 15,000 km, and weighs almost twice as much. As a result it has a density similar to Earth's, which suggests an Earth-like composition of iron and rock. Kepler-78b orbits a Sun-like G-type star located 400 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

The tight orbit of Kepler-78b poses a challenge to theorists. When this planetary system was forming, the young star was larger than it is now. As a result, the current orbit of Kepler-78b would have been inside the swollen star.

Kepler-78b is a member of a new class of planets recently identified in data from NASA's Kepler spacecraft. These newfound worlds all orbit their stars with periods of less than 12 hours. They're also small, about the size of Earth. Kepler-78b is the first planet in the new class to have its mass measured.

It is a doomed world. Gravitational tides will draw it even closer to its star. Eventually it will move so close that the star's gravity will rip the world apart. Theorists predict that Kepler-78b will vanish within three billion years. Interestingly, our solar system could have held a planet like Kepler-78b. If it had, the planet would have been destroyed long ago leaving no signs for astronomers today.

The planet's mass was measured by the way it causes its star to wobble as the two circle their centre of mass. Star velocity measurements were made by independent teams using high-precision spectrographs at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma and at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii. The teams' measurements agreed with each other, increasing their confidence in the result.

For text and images: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2013-25

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

9. Dark Matter Still not Found

Physicists are learning more about what dark matter isn´t. That will help them find out what it is.

Cosmology and particle physics - or at least, the popular versions of them - tend to the grandiose. The Higgs boson, recently discovered at CERN, Europe´s particle-physics laboratory, is not just any old particle. To the despair of many physicists, it has been dubbed the "God particle". Books on cosmology promise to reveal the "fabric of the cosmos", while their academic authors discuss different flavours of a "theory of everything".

The reality, though, is more disappointing - or perhaps more exciting, depending on your point of view. Physicists have excellent, accurate theories to describe the behaviour of the matter that makes up atoms. But they also know that this matter constitutes less than 5% of the substance of creation. The remainder is split between "dark energy", a notional force assigned responsibility for the accelerating expansion of the universe, and "dark matter", ghostly stuff whose existence seems necessary to make sense of the arrangement of the heavens. Both are the subject of intense study, and both remain deeply mysterious.

On October 30th the team running the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment, in a mine 1,500 metres below South Dakota, announced the results of their first three months spent hunting for dark matter: nothing. That is big news. It contradicts evidence from several other experiments, which offered hints that dark matter had been spotted. And LUX is the most sensitive dark-matter detector yet built.

The history of dark matter dates back to 1933, when Fritz Zwicky, a Swiss astrophysicist working at the California Institute of Technology, noticed something odd. The galaxies he was looking at seemed to be moving in ways inexplicable by the gravitational pull of their neighbours. This led him to argue that the universe is full of much more stuff than can be seen through optical telescopes.

Since then, further evidence has accumulated, from the ways in which galaxies spin, to measurements of the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, and the distorting effects that galaxy-sized concentrations of mass have on light travelling through space. None of these observations makes sense without assuming a large dollop of extra mass (more than five times the amount of atomic matter) alongside what astronomers can actually see. A small fraction of the absent mass might be mundane: sunless planets, wandering black holes, neutron stars and the like. But to be consistent with astronomical observations, most of it must be stranger stuff.

The leading candidate is the WIMP, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, which is physicist-speak for a big particle that responds to only two of the universe´s four fundamental forces. WIMPs feel the weak nuclear force (which governs radioactive decay, among other things) and gravity, but their ability to ignore both electromagnetism and the strong force that holds nuclei together makes them elusive objects that barely interact with atomic matter.

The LUX experiment consists of a cylinder filled with 368kg of liquid and gaseous xenon, which is in turn contained within a 270,000-litre tank of water. If WIMPS are real, then huge numbers of them should be streaming through the cylinder every second. Occasionally, a WIMP should bump straight into a proton or a neutron within the nucleus of a xenon atom, interact with it via the weak nuclear force, and thus cause the nucleus to recoil. The atom will then emit a scintilla of light, which will be picked up by the machine´s ultra-sensitive detectors. The water shield, and the machine´s location deep underground, are designed to protect it from cosmic rays, solar radiation and anything else that could cause false alarms.

That LUX has so far failed to find anything is important, because it runs against a promising line of evidence. Several other dark-matter detectors had seen signs, over the past few years, of the particles LUX is hunting for. Most recently, in April, the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS), located in an iron mine in Minnesota, reported three potential WIMP detections, with a confidence level of 99.8%. (That may sound high, but in particle physics it is a result of only middling significance.) Daniel McKinsey, a physicist at Yale University who is a spokesman for LUX, says that if the CDMS results were accurate, then LUX ought to have seen around 1,500 WIMPs during its first three months of operation.

Although a definite detection of dark matter would have generated more headlines (and probably, also, a Nobel prize), coming up empty-handed is a vital part of science. The WIMPs dreamed up by theorists are almost endless in their variety, says Katherine Mack, a cosmologist at the University of Melbourne, with wildly differing masses and levels of shyness about interacting with the rest of the cosmos. Rick Gaitskell, LUX´s chief scientist, reckons two decades of dark-matter hunting have covered about half the possibilities.

While astrophysicists attack the problem by looking outward, their particle-physicist brethren are looking inward. The masters of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, fresh from running the Higgs boson to ground, are trying to spot the signature of dark matter by looking for missing chunks of energy in the debris produced by the machine´s high-speed particle collisions.

Other teams are putting their detectors in space, instead of underground. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), bolted to the side of the International Space Station, is designed to search for dark matter by detecting the particles, called positrons, produced when WIMPS in the Milky Way collide and annihilate each other. In April those running the AMS announced results consistent with the idea that such annihilations are happening, although Dr Mack points out that these results are tentative, and the positrons could also have come from other things, such as pulsars.

So far, then, the great search has found nothing. But each negative result rules out certain theories and strengthens others, shrinking the conceptual space in which dark matter can be hiding. Most physicists expect a robust detection sooner or later. But if every search actually were to come up empty-handed, then that would be the most exciting negative result of all - for it would imply that whatever is responsible for the movements of the galaxies is even stranger than people think.

-- From The Economist, 2 November 2013, p.77. See the original, with cartoon, at http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21588829-physicists-are-learning-more-about-what-dark-matter-isnt-will-help-them-find


For a completely different viewpoint on dark matter - that it isn't needed at all - listen to Bryan Crump's interview with Hongsheng Zhao of the University of St Andrews at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/audio/2576794/galactic-collisions

The interview was broadcast on Monday Nov. 18th, so will be available for download till about Dec. 1.

10. 'On the Radar'

'On the Radar' - The story of Piha´s World War 2 radar station - by Sandra Coney, Published by Keyhole Press & Protect Piha Heritage.

'On the Radar' tells the story of Piha´s World War 2 radar station, where the new high-tech weaponry of radar scanned the skies for signs of invading Japanese and the seas for submarines. One of a coastal network, reporting to the secret nerve centre at the Epsom Filter Room, the Piha station was a key part of New Zealand´s home defence.

This is also a book about a place and the connections between its ancient past, its history and its present. The high hill on which the station sat was sacred to Maori, a place where supernatural feats were performed. In the 1940s, experiments were conducted here, now acclaimed as laying the foundations for the modern science of radio astronomy.

'On the Radar' will be a revelation for readers, containing much new material about strange happenings at New Zealand´s best known beach, along with over 170 previously unseen images. Sandra Coney is a well-known writer with a deep love of the West Coast.

208 pages, over 170 historic and contemporary images, colour throughout,

full reference and index

Paperback, section sewn. RRP $40 / ISBN 978-0-473-24599-3 To order email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Or order online at www.piha.co.nz/books Available in selected bookshops Phone: (09) 356 7074

Postal Order Form I´d like to order copies of ON THE RADAR @ $40 each Postage $5.50 a copy I enclose a cheque payable to Keyhole Press for $ My name My address Mail to: Keyhole Press, PO Box 106343, Auckland 1143, NZ

11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

12. 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. Overly Honest Methods

 

  • We didn't read half the papers we cite because they are behind a paywall.
  • This dye was selected because the bottle was within reach.
  • Reagent became unavailable in 2002 because nobody wanted to order more and risk being added to terrorist watchlists.
  • Sample size was smaller than planned because I had been in grad school for ten years and my advisor wanted me to graduate.
  • PCR reaction repeated for 25 cycles because that's how long it takes to go teach class.
  • We don't know how the results were obtained. The postdoc who did all the work has since left to start a bakery.
  • The samples incubated at ambient temperature in a remote customs office for 5 months.
  • Larval development was accelerated by carrying around subjects in ketchup cups inside the researchers' clothing.
  • Experimental time points were chosen so I didn't have to come into the lab in the middle of the night or over the weekend.
  • Blood samples were spun at 1500 rpm because the centrifuge made scary noises at higher speeds.
  • Tiny metal rods were used to unravel each of the (hundreds of) butterflies' probescus for feeding. Every. Flippin. Day.
  • We assume 50 Ivy League kids represent the general population, because actual 'real people' can be sketchy or expensive.
  • All reagents were purchased from Fisher Scientific because Fisher is like the Walmart of science.
  • We didn't make the corrections suggested by reviewer 1 because we think reviewer 1 is a f***ing idiot.
  • The experiment was carried out from 9am to 5pm because the lab was deserted and creepy after office hours.
  • Rat sacrifices were performed to Tom Petty because that's how we roll in this lab.
  • Our sampling locations happen to match tropical resort towns because field work doesn't have to be mud and agony.

-- See the original with photos at http://www.buzzfeed.com/kmallikarjuna/how-to-science-as-told-by-17-overly-honest-scientists#overlyhonestmethods

-- The link passed on by Ned 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. Graham Blow Receives IOTA Award
2. The Solar System in November
3. More on Comet ISON C/2012 S1
4. AAS Burbidge Dinner Saturday, 9th November
5. Astro Photography Weekend at Foxton Beach Nov. 29 - Dec.1
6. NACAA XXVI, Melbourne, 18-21 April 2014
7. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, 6-8 June 2014
8. Maya Barlev's NZ Report
9. Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival 2013
10. Major Star Atlases Up for Grabs
11. Has Anyone Got a Telescope for Loan/Lease?
12. How to Join the RASNZ

1. Graham Blow Receives IOTA Award

Homer F. DaBoll Award, 2013 awarded to Graham Lindsay Blow

The Homer F. DaBoll award is given annually by the International Occultation Timing Association () to an individual in recognition of significant contributions to Occultation Science. This year it has been awarded to Graham Blow, the award being announced at the annual meeting of IOTA held in Toronto at the beginning of October.

Graham started a programme of observing occultations with the Auckland Astronomical Society in the early 1970s. The RASNZ Occultation Section grew out of the Auckland occultation programme. Graham formed the Occultation Section in October 1977 and has remained director of the section to the present day.

His enthusiastic promotion of the observation and timing of total and, especially, grazing lunar occultations as well as those by asteroids, resulted in the Occultation Section becoming one of the most successful sections of the RASNZ, with an international reputation. It is effectively the Australasian Occultation organisation.

Since its formation the main emphasis of the Section has moved from lunar to asteroidal occultations. Increasingly accurate predictions and the use of video cameras with high accuracy time stamping of video frames have led to a greater interest in this type of event. One of the results of the advent of new technology was the first, highly successful, Trans Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO) organised by Graham Blow and held in conjunction with the 2007 RASNZ conference. A similar symposium has been held annually since then, alternately in Australia and New Zealand. The 7th symposium was held this year in Invercargill, the 8th is planned to be held in association with the Easter NACAA conference at Melbourne in 2014.

Minor Planet 19582 is named Blow recognising his promotion and coordination of minor planet occultation observations for the Australasian region.

If it had not been for Graham Blow´s interest and stimulation there probably be little or no occultation astronomy in New Zealand and probably less in Australia. I feel the award by IOTA of the Homer F. DaBoll award to Graham at this time is entirely appropriate and well deserved.

-- Brian Loader

2. The Solar System in November

THE SOLAR SYSTEM IN NOVEMBER 2013

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      November  4 at  1.50 am (Nov  3, 12:50 UT)
First quarter: November 10 at  6.57 pm (        05:57 UT)
Full moon:     November 18 at  4.16 am (Nov 17, 15:16 UT)
Last quarter   November 26 at  8.28 am (Oct 25, 19:28 UT)

At the new moon in November there will be an annular/total eclipse of the Sun. The eclipse starts as annular in the Atlantic Ocean some distance to the east of Florida. At the start of the eclipse it is annular, but rapidly becomes total and remains so for the rest of the eclipse. Its path is to the south east across the Atlantic and enters Africa close to the equator. The eclipse ends at sunset just short of the east coast of Africa.

Almost all of Africa will see some part of the eclipse as will southern Europe. No part is visible from Australia or New Zealand.

The planets in november

Venus is in the sky throughout the evening and, for most of NZ, does not set until after midnight.

Jupiter rises soon after midnight, Mars 2 to 3 hours before the Sun, so both planets are visible in the pre-dawn morning sky.

Both Mercury and Saturn are too close to the Sun to observe throughout November.

Venus, the evening planet.

Venus is at its greatest elongation, 47° east of the Sun on November 1. It is also some 3.5° south of the ecliptic. As a result the planet will be high in southern skies and set late. For most of New Zealand, Venus will set shortly after midnight (NZDT) throughout November. In the north, as at Auckland, it will set two or three minutes before midnight for much of the month, about slightly earlier at the end of the month.

So it will remain a brilliant object, magnitude -4.5, some 30° up to the west shortly after sunset. At its highest in the afternoon, between 4 and 5 pm, the planet will be around 70° above the horizon so almost overhead.

Venus will be just over 30% lit as seen from the Earth, so viewed through a small telescope will appear as a brilliant, broad crescent.

Jupiter and MARS in the morning sky.

Both these planets are only visible in the morning sky before sunrise. Jupiter comes up first, between 1 and 2 am NZDT early in November and the better part of 2 hours earlier at the end of the month. By then it will rise shortly before midnight in all but the extreme south of NZ.

Mars rises some two and a half to three hours after Jupiter, two to two and a half hours before the Sun.

Jupiter is over 20° north of the equator so remains low in NZ skies, especially in the south, at a similar altitude to the Sun near mid winter. Mars is not as far north but is still quite low while it is visible before sunrise.

The moon will be to the south of Jupiter on the mornings of the 22nd and 23rd of November. The two will be just over 7° apart on both mornings with the moon to the upper left of Jupiter on the 22nd and to its upper right on the 23rd.

The moon will be closest to Mars on the 28th. The planet, magnitude 1.3, will be 5° to the lower left of the 32% lit moon.

Mercury and SATURN, two planets not observable in November.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on November 2 (NZ time). The planet will then be just over 100 million km from the Earth and 48 million from the Sun. As seen from the Earth the planet will pass about 1 solar radius south of the Sun.

After inferior conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object. By November 18 the planet will have swung as far out from the Sun as it will get this cycle, some 19° west of the Sun. At its best the planet will rise little more than half an hour before the Sun, so will not be visible.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on the 6th. This will mark its move to the morning sky. By the end of November it will rise nearly an hour before the Sun, but is not likely to be visible in the brightening sky.

On the morning of the 27th, the two planets will be only 1° apart in the eastern sky, but will be too low in the dawn sky to see.

Outer planets

Both Uranus and Neptune are evening objects during November. Uranus at magnitude

5.7 is in Pisces very close to its border with Cetus. Neptune is at magnitude
7.9 and is in Aquarius. Both set well after midnight.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) both remain as low objects in the dawn sky, magnitudes about 8.8 and 8.2 respectively. The two asteroids are about 7° apart with Vesta to the upper left of Ceres as seen in the morning sky. They are to the lower right of Mars. The two asteroids are in Virgo all month.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and brightens slightly during November from 8.8 to 8.5. It rises just before 1 am at the beginning of November and soon after 11 pm by the month´s end.

(20) Massalia was at opposition on the last day of October at magnitude 8.8. The asteroid is in Aries, about 10° to the upper right of the second magnitude star Hamal, alpha Ari. During November it fades steadily, back to 9.5 by the 30th.

-- Brian Loader

3. More on Comet ISON C/2012 S1

Comet ISON's nucleus has one hemisphere facing the sun as the comet approaches perihelion. This is a conclusion of a team at Arizona's Planetary Science Institute led by Jian-Yang Li. Thus the other hemisphere of this 'new' comet's nucleus won't see sunshine till the comet is closer to the sun than Mercury.

The surface on the currently dark side of the comet should still retain a large fraction of very volatile materials. Sudden exposure to the strong sunlight when the comet is closer to the Sun than Mercury could trigger a huge outburst of material, the team suggests.

The outburst would begin about a week before the comet reaches perihelion. Thus we may see a sudden brightening after November 20th. If so then the comet could project a tail into the dawn sky before it rounds the sun on Nov. 28.77 UT. At its closest it will be just 1.2 million km from the sun's surface.

"As a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, Comet ISON provides astronomers a rare opportunity to study a fresh comet preserved since the formation of the solar system," said Li. "The expected high brightness of the comet as it nears the Sun allows for many important measurements that are impossible for most other fresh comets."

-- from a Planetary Science Institute press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

Images of Comet ISON taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on October 9 show the comet's solid nucleus is unresolved because it is so small. If the nucleus had broken apart then the HST images would likely seen evidence for multiple fragments.

The images also show that the coma or head surrounding the comet's nucleus is symmetric and smooth. This would probably not be the case if clusters of smaller fragments were flying along. A polar jet of dust first seen in Hubble images taken in April is no longer visible and may have turned off. For more see:

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/42/image/a/ http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasas-hubble-sees-comet-ison-intact/

4. AAS Burbidge Dinner Saturday, 9th November

 

The Burbidge Dinner is the highlight of the Auckland Astronomical Society's calendar and is always an enjoyable evening. We invite all to join us and enjoy this great event! Tickets are available from Andrew Buckingham by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by phone 09 473 5877.

The after-dinner talk will be: "The Dynamic Sky" by Dr Dick Manchester, CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science, Sydney.

When we look at the night sky, apart from the regular diurnal and seasonal progressions, it seems very stable. But this is far from the case. Many stars in our Milky Way are varying on timescales ranging from hours to years. Supernovae are exploding in distant galaxies producing bursts of light than can outshine the entire host galaxy for a few weeks. When we use radio telescopes or telescopes sensitive to gamma rays, the sky is even more dynamic. Pulsars send us regular bursts at intervals ranging from milliseconds to seconds and gamma-ray bursts from the distant Universe bombard the Earth many times a day. For some of these events we understand the underlying mechanisms reasonably well but others remain a mystery. A new generation of telescopes will help us to unravel these mysteries.

Dr Dick Manchester is a world pulsar expert and is using pulsars to test theories of gravity. A Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, he leads a team of astronomers at CSIRO's Australia Telescope National Facility (ATNF) dedicated to unlocking the secrets of pulsars. His qualifications and awards are extensive including an ISI Australian Citation Laureate in 2001 and an Inaugural Member of the ISI Highly Cited Researchers in 2002.

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

Date: Saturday, 9th November Venue: Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 13 Reeves Rd, Pakuranga, Auckland. Start Time: 6:30pm Tickets: Earlybird price $55.00 per person. ($60 per person after 26th October.) Includes a buffet dinner.

-- Andrew Buckingham

5. Astro Photography Weekend at Foxton Beach Nov. 29 - Dec.1

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is hosting an astrophotography weekend at Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, November 29th-1st December.

The weekend will be a hands-on practical event so people are encouraged to bring along their own cameras/tripods/mounts/scopes etc. All sorts of imaging is welcome - solar, planetary, deep-sky, wide field (and there may even be a comet around :-))

The venue is well equipped and secure so gear will be safe. There is a large kitchen, cabins for accommodation and a large lecture hall for presentations.

As well as actual imaging there will be processing workshops where everyone can share their tips. Also, there will be presentations on different aspects of astrophotography from Prof Bill Williams, John Burt, Stephen Chadwick, Frank Andrews, Ian Cooper, John Drummond and George Ionas.

For full details please visit this page: http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/astrophotography-weekend

-- Steve Chadwick, President, Horowhenua Astronomical Society.

6. NACAA XXVI, Melbourne, 18-21 April 2014

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.

The core of the convention is of course its presentations, and we are asking you to consider making a contribution, by yourself or in a group. There are no restrictions on topics or themes, so long as the contribution is significant and interesting. Here are a few suggestions:

An address or poster: on an observational (or desk-bound) research programme you are involved in; on a significant development in instrumentation and tools: optical, computational, imaging, electronic, whatever; on your progress with a significant project or programme, national or worldwide; to share your imaging successes with an appreciative audience; an entertaining address aimed at promoting the enjoyment of astronomy; on a significant club or local activity; or on an interesting piece of astronomical history.

A workshop, symposium, colloquium, or round-table meeting: on an observing or research technique you use; helping amateurs move to a more advanced level of astronomical activity in research, imaging, observing, etc; with likeminded specialists to discuss or plan your field; on an educational or outreach activity;

You can submit a proposal for consideration by the Programme Committee by completing the form on the NACAA website http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/submission. The full submissions guidelines can be obtained from http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/cfp. You may make multiple submissions. Submissions should be made before: 2013 October 1 for workshops, colloquia, or symposia; 2013 November 1 for oral presentations or round- tables; 2014 March 1 for posters. Late submissions may be accepted, depending on venue restrictions, scheduling, etc.

For further information contact the Programme Committee or the General Secretary via the NACAA web site http://www.nacaa.org.au/contact .

-- Abridged from a message circulated by Alan Plummer, Programme Chair, NACAA 2014.

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

The 2014 conference is being hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society, marking their 50th anniversary. The conference will be held at the Whakatane War Memorial Hall from Friday 6th June to Sunday 8th June. The venue is situated in Rex Morpeth Park off Short Street.

The conference will be followed by the third Variable Stars South Symposium (VSSS3) on Monday 9th June. The venue for the symposium is the Eastbay REAP centre in O´Rourke Place. This is about 5 minutes walk from the conference venue.

Registration forms for conference will be available on line in the near future. Forms, along with a conference brochure, will also be included with the December mailing of Southern Stars.

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Guest Speaker for 2014 The SCC is very pleased that Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell has accepted an invitation to be our guest speaker for the 2014 conference. Jocelyn is renowned for making the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967.

Philip Yock, Fellows´ Speaker for 2014 The fellows´ speaker for 2014 is Philip Yock, associate professor in the Department of Physics at Auckland University. The title of his talk is "From Particles to Planets"

Paper Submissions The RASNZ SCC is calling for offers to present a paper at the 2014 conference. All those active in any aspect of astronomy are invited to make a submission to present a paper. Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:start .

8. Maya Barlev's NZ Report

Report from Astronomy Education Exploration in New Zealand

As part of her scholarship, Maya Barlev travelled from the USA to a number of countries in pursuit of knowledge on how students learn about the concepts of astronomy. We were fortunate to have Maya come to New Zealand for a number of weeks and the RASNZ Education Group along with other organizations helped to support her with her travels connecting her with a variety of people around the country to make her trip as valuable as possible. What we got in return was to be a part of an amazing journey that culminated in her attending the International Astronomy Olympiad supporting our New Zealand team. During her visit those that spent time with Maya reported how pleasant she was and how amazing she was with children. We also got to reflect on how we do things here in New Zealand as we saw ourselves through a fresh lens. The report that follows is from Maya on her time spent in New Zealand.

-- Ron Fisher RASNZ Education group convener


As a visiting astronomer from the United States, I wanted to recognize and thank the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand for their endless support during my travels this past fall and winter. From July 2012 to August 2013, I traveled to six countries on six continents exploring how children are learning astronomy worldwide, as supported by the Thomas J. Watson fellowship in the United States. From April to July, 2013 I looked at this research specifically through a New Zealand lens. My main motivation for visiting New Zealand was to explore the intersection between a high-achieving science education system and traditional Moari/Pasifika cultural beliefs about the Universe.

In planning my year of travel, New Zealand struck me immediately as the most welcoming place to conduct my research. Long before I even received the fellowship, I had a dozen contacts from around the country ready and excited to help me in any way possible. This warmth and hospitality permeated my experience in New Zealand, and I am so thankful to the astronomical community for making my research there so productive and meaningful.

I started my project in Christchurch, working with the University of Canterbury's Astronomy Education and Outreach team, visiting local schools and also sitting in on the last few days of the AURORA camp in late April. The UC faculty also helped me plan a trip to Tekapo to visit the Mt. John Observatory and enjoy perhaps the most stunning night sky I've seen all year (even compared to my time in Northern Chile!)

During my travels on the South Island, I was introduced to New Zealand´s ubiquitous amateur astronomer community when the South Canterbury Astronomical Society invited me to speak at their Global Astronomy Month programs in Timaru. This was my first glance at how the amateur communities in New Zealand are truly the driving force behind astronomy education and outreach in a majority of the country.

I had never engaged much with amateur groups in other places, including the U.S., but in visiting New Zealand, I learned what an invaluable resource you are to public outreach. Because there are few professional astronomers in amateur societies, you are, by definition, also members of the public and able to share astronomy on a relatable and practical level. You show people that it´s possible for anyone to be passionate about astronomy, regardless of age or level of education. Much of my year has been about access to astronomy, and I was inspired in New Zealand to see how through the outreach provided by amateur groups, there is a push to make the science available to everyone. Having come personally from an academic background in astrophysics, I also learned a lot about things I never knew before which are essential to public outreach, such as knowledge of the skies and use of small telescopes.

On the North Island, I focused on visiting the major astronomy education centers in New Zealand, such as Carter and Stardome, as well as the other smaller planetariums throughout the country. I appreciate how these centers use a variety of exhibits and planetarium shows to share astronomical information with people of all ages, and also how dedicated staff is to reaching kids and educators directly.

I was also inspired by how these centers so gracefully integrate cultural and scientific aspects of astronomy. It was in these centers that I learned about Matariki and Maori astronomy. It was refreshing to see "scientific" astronomy working alongside "cultural" astronomy and even more invigorating to see that this was an approach that helped children engage with our Universe on multiple levels. It makes sense to kids that there are many stories that explain our Universe, and this plurality of ideas allows for their imaginations to construct new stories. The creativity to push an idea to something previously unimaginable is what I love about astronomy and what it is at its core.

In July, I moved on from New Zealand to Greece for the 7th International Olympiad of Astronomy and Astrophysics. This was the first year New Zealand sent a team to the IOAA, and I had the pleasure of getting to know the team well during the Olympiad. The IOAA is such an incredible event because it allows for teens from around the world to be in community based on this shared passion for astronomy. The NZ team did an incredible job within this community, with other participants, guides and leaders appreciating their company, sense of humor and unique perspectives.

I believe they offered something different to the IOAA, making the event more well-rounded and international. Their hard work, preparation and sacrifice truly paid off as they got to represent their country through their love of astronomy. It is my hope that this year´s team has set a precedent and that New Zealand can be a regular participating and leading nation for Olympiads in years to come.

With these lessons in mind, now being back in the United States and looking to dive into how astronomy education functions in my own country, I carry with me the holistic, passionate and dedicated approaches to astronomy education that I learned while in New Zealand.

My list of thank you´s is a long one, but my time in New Zealand would not have been what it was without the following people: Karen Pollard, Peter Cottrell and Sharlene Mullen at the University of Canterbury, Ben McNabb in Christchurch, Alan Gilmore at Mount John, Wyn and Peter Aldous in Geraldine, Robert and Heather McTeague in Timaru, Claire Bletherton and the education staff at Carter Observatory, Jenny Pollock and Sterling Catham in Nelson, Ron Fisher and the Cosmodome, Hari Mogosanu, Chris Monigatti from Tawa College, Marilyn Head, Frank Andrews from the Wellington Astronomical Society, Richard Hall and Kay Leather from Stonehenge Aotearoa, Gary Sparks and the Napier Planetarium, Jack Thatcher and family in Tauranga, Sky of Plenty/Whakatane Astronomical Society, Gloria Witheford, Beth Ven der Loeff, David Britten and staff from the Stardome Planetarium, Grant Christie and Andrew Buckingham from the Auckland Astronomical Society, the Painter family from the Northland Astronomical Society, and finally Darina Khun, Navodhi Delpachitra, Connor Hale, Daniel Yska and Gordon Hudson from team New Zealand at the IOAA2013.

You shared with me your experience, your knowledge, your astronomy education spaces (mobile and permanent), your classrooms, your students, your homes, great meals, and beautiful skies. I learned so much during my short time in New Zealand because of your boundless generosity and hospitality. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please always feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- Maya Barlev

9. Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival 2013

The Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival (www.starlightfestival.org.nz) took place in Tekapo from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, 11-13 October. It was a public outreach event promoting astronomy, dark skies, space and the environment put on by the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve Board (which I chair) in partnership with the University of Canterbury (in particular our Department and with help from the UC Foundation). The Festival celebrated the creation of our International Dark Sky Reserve, recognized by the International Dark Sky Association, in June last year.

The opening ceremony took place in the Godley Hotel on the Friday evening, with a powhiri, a talk on Maori astronomy by Pauline Harris, the opening of a photographic and art exhibition (curated by local artist Elizabeth Jenkins) with seven mainly local (Tekapo) exhibitors showing Mackenzie country landscapes and starscapes, and a viewing of the New Zealand documentary Venus: a Quest by Shirley and Roger Horrocks.

Next day included viewing the Sun with solar telescopes outside the Community Hall (coordinated by Steve Maddox and Loretta Dunne), a talk on human spaceflight by NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins (this packed out the Community Hall to standing room only), the presentation of certificates and Galileoscopes to the ten winners of our Margaret Mahy Starlight Essay/Poetry competition by Marsha Ivins and Genesis CEO, Albert Brantley (who had sponsored the NZ-wide schools´ competition), a Galileoscope workshop at which 120 excited young people built Galileoscopes under the guidance of five tutors from Science Alive! and UC´s outreach coordinator, Joan Gladwyn, an open-air concert by the 55-strong Christchurch Youth Orchestra playing popular pieces by Holst, Strauss, Dvo?ák and others, a documentary on light pollution and stargazing (the City Dark, directed by Ian Cheney) and a Starlight barbecue, hosted by Earth and Sky and the Canterbury Astronomical Society on Cowan´s Hill. Although there was some cloud early evening, most of the day and the night were clear, so all events went well. We also had Galileoscope viewing, a night stargazing visit to Mt John and telescopes at Cowan´s Hill Observatory, so most people who wanted to were able to see planets, stars and nebulae through small telescopes.

On Sunday, Karen Masters (University of Portsmouth, UK), who was in New Zealand as Beatrice Hill Tinsley fellow for 2013, gave a talk at the Festival on the Zoo of Galaxies; like Marsha Ivins the day before, she had 200 or so people in the Hall completely enthralled by her public talk. Sunday afternoon was a chance for the Department to show off our research, telescopes and instrumentation in astronomy at Mt John. A large number of people came up for our open day at the observatory and the chance to talk to astronomers, including Karen Pollard, Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin. Unfortunately the strong NW winds later in the afternoon curtailed this event somewhat, but most still had a good time.

Many people contributed to the success of the Festival which probably attracted over 300 people to Tekapo and contributed significantly to the local economy. I especially wish to thank Sharlene Mullen for her tireless efforts on the website, on-line ticket sales and answering queries by email and on the phone for at least six months before the event. Margaret Austin (former cabinet minister and ardent Dark Sky Reserve supporter on our Reserve Board) helped raise much of the funding for the event. Overall the Festival can be judged to have been a considerable success; it showcased UC observational astronomy and helped raise the public profile of astronomy at Canterbury.

-- John Hearnshaw

10. Major Star Atlases Up for Grabs

The Carter Observatory is disposing of its collection of ESO/SRC and National Geographic Mt Palomar star atlases. These are photographic atlases obtained with the 1.2-metre Schmidt cameras at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, the Anglo-Australian Observatory (funded by the UK Science Research Council) in Australia and the Mt Palomar Observatory in California. The Carter Observatory is also disposing a cabinet-full of the Carte Photographique Du Ciel 1900 atlas.

The ESO/SRC film atlases cover the declination range 0 to -90. The film copies are 11 X 14 inches. The Mt Palomar-National Geographic photographic atlas prints cover -30 to +90. This collection is contained in three steel 3-draw filing cabinets each 1600H x 800D x 500W mm in good condition.

The Carte Photographique Du Ciel paper charts cover the declination range -16 to +24. They are contained in an old wooden 3-draw filing cabinet 1460H x 750D x 500W mm in good condition.

These cabinets containing the above charts are FREE to a good home. The removal and cartage cost would be the responsibility of the new owner. For more information contact Carter Observatory's Gordon Hudson at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

11. Has Anyone Got a Telescope for Loan/Lease?

My Meade 12-inch LX200GPS is playing up and I need to send it away for repairs. Is there anyone who would be willing to loan/lease me something about this size for up to 3 months. It doesn't have to be computerised or motor driven. The telescope would be housed in my roll-off roof observatory and well cared for. It would be used for visual variable star work. Preferably upper half of the North Island as I live in Kaitaia. If you are able to help, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 027 520 3434. Thanks. PS. I am getting withdrawal symptoms already.

-- Stephen Hovell

12. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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

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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. Albert Jones (1920-2013)
2. Condolences from the BAA
3. Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures
4. The Solar System in October
5. Starlight Festival 11-13 October
6. NACAA XXVI, Melbourne, 18-21 April 2014
7. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, 6-8 June 2014
8. Host Sought for the 2016 Conference
9. Ruby Payne-Scott Biography
10. Charles Chilton of "Journey into Space"
11. President Kennedy's Speech 51 Years Ago
12. Historic Space Pictures Online
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Quote

1. Albert Jones (1920-2013)

Albert Jones OBE, D.Sc. (Hon), New Zealand's most famous variable star and comet observer, died on September 11 aged 93.

Albert showed an interest in astronomy early in life. Born in 1920 he was by the 1930s making his own telescopes with lenses in rolled paper tubes. Later he bought a 5-inch f/15 Calver reflector and observed anything going, though its tiny finder made it frustrating to use. He later bought a 5-inch refractor with a 30-mm finder that was much easier to handle. Still later he acquired an 8-inch telescope built by J.T. Ward of Whanganui.

Around 1941 Albert saw a bright aurora. He sent a report on it to Murray Geddes at the Cater Observatory. Geddes was impressed by the report's detail and asked Albert to continue sending reports. This friendly encouragement set him on the path to regular observing. In 1941 Geddes nominated Albert for membership of the New Zealand Astronomical Society (NZAS), the forerunner of the RASNZ.

In 1942 Nova Puppis flared to zero magnitude then faded rapidly. A.G.C. Crust published a chart for it in Southern Stars with comparison stars and instructions on how to make estimates. Albert made some estimates and sent them to Crust who published them. These observations, beginning on 18 January 1943, are the first by Albert recorded in variable star archives.

Albert then approached Frank Bateson, Director of the NZAS's Variable Star Section (VSS), to see if there were more variable stars he could observe. Frank sent him several charts. Like most of us starting variable star observing, it took Albert some time to relate what was on the charts to what was seen through the telescope; but not for long. Albert sent his first variable star estimates to the VSS in January 1943.

Albert asked Bateson if there were more stars needing observation. Bateson sent him huge pile of charts. This interaction continued for several decades: Albert making the observations; Frank Bateson collating them with other observer's results and publishing. The VSS produced dozens of special studies of variables authored by Bateson and Jones. Annual reports of the VSS regularly show Jones contributing many thousands of observations each year; up to 13,000 in a really good year.

Albert developed a particular interest in stars that behave in sudden erratic ways. Carbon-rich R Coronae Borealis variable stars suddenly fade as they puff off clouds of soot. Others, called dwarf novae, suddenly brighten. Professional astronomers are really keen to get observations of these stars when they are doing their unusual thing. Albert's diligence was invaluable in allowing spectra and other observations to be made at these critical moments.

Not only did Albert produce a huge volume of observations but the precision of his work was unmatched. When compared with electronic photometric results, Albert's estimates were within 10%. For most of us estimating a brightness to around 30% is the best we can do.

Albert never took a great interest in the volume of data he produced. Others have counted it up. Wikipedia notes that in 1963 he became the sixth astronomer in history to make 100,000 observations of variable stars. By 2004 he made more than 500,000 observations, a milestone, which nobody else had reached before. The American Association of Variable Star Observer's (AAVSO) International Database contains 464,000 of Albert's observations with more being added as they are located.

Albert joined the Comet Section of the NZAS in 1945 and took up comet searching. Ironically it was while observing variable stars that he found his first comet, now designated C/1946 P1. Albert joined the British Astronomical Association (BAA) in 1945 and became Assistant Director of their Comet Section from 1952 to 1990. For his work in estimating comet magnitudes the BAA awarded him the Merlin Silver Medal and Prize in 1968. He was also admitted to Fellowship of the Royal Astronomical Society (London) in 1947.

In 1948 Albert bought a 12-inch mirror from the U.K. firm of Hargreaves. This was delivered to NZ by Dr Leslie Comrie and his wife Betty when on a visit. In gratitude for their assistance Albert called his home-made telescope 'Lesbet'. The larger telescope enabled Albert to observe fainter variable stars and comets. He did, however, keep several smaller telescopes, even opera glasses, for brighter variable stars.

Albert discovered the brightening of several recurrent novae, stars that flare over a large brightness range at intervals of decades. In 1987 he was an independent discoverer of supernova 1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud, the first naked-eye supernova since 1604.

History was repeated on 25 November 2000 Albert found his second comet. Like the first it was in the course of variable star observing. Albert was trying to get an observation of a variable in the dawn twilight. In moving to the star he saw a fuzzy blob where no such object was known. It turned out to be re-discovery of a fast-moving comet briefly seen by Japanese amateur Syogo Utsunomiya on November 18 by but lost before follow-up observations were possible. Comet Utsunomiya-Jones C/2000 W1, as it is now designated was heading toward the sun, rounding it a month after discovery. The co- discovery gave Albert two distinctions. At 80 he was the oldest person ever to find a comet. He also holds the record, 54 years, for the longest interval between successive comet discoveries by one observer. Sometime later his co-discoverer visited Albert and Carolyn in Nelson.

Albert continued his variable star observing for as long as possible. Solidly-constructed "Lesbet" was proving too heavy for him to move out of its shed so was taken for the Archives of the Nelson Museum in March 2012. Albert continued observing with a lighter 12-inch Dobsonian from Astronz. It had castors for easy moving and a special finder bracket helpfully added by Nelson friends. The last observation by Albert in the AAVSO records was of V766 Centauri on 31 August 2011 - a span of nearly 70 years in observing.

One cannot review Albert's astronomical achievements without paying a tribute to the love and support he received from Carolyn, his wife of 29 years. Albert often called Carolyn 'his greatest discovery'. It was in recognition of Carolyn's encouragement of his work that the Murray Geddes Prize was jointly awarded to them in 2005. It was 60 years on from Albert being awarded the first ever Murray Geddes Prize in 1945. Carolyn's contribution was also recognised in the naming asteroid (9171) Carolyndiane by E.W. Elst in 2003.

The following list of honours and awards is not exhaustive but gives some idea of Albert's national and international standing over his lifetime. 1945 Murray Geddes Prize, the first awarded.

  • 1947 Donohoe Comet Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
  • 1949 Donovan Medal and Prize by the Donovan Astronomical Trust (NSW).
  • 1956 Michaelis Gold Medal and prize from the University of Otago.
  • 1960 Jackson-Gwilt Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society, jointly with Frank Bateson.
  • 1963 Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ. (Among the first four to be made Fellows.)
  • 1965 Made Member of the International Astronomical Union.
  • 1973 Comet Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
  • 1987 Order of the British Empire (OBE) "For services to astronomy".
  • 1987 Nelson City Council's Certificate of Achievement.
  • 1988 Minor Planet (3152) Jones named in his honour.
  • 1998 Edward A. Halbach Amateur Achievement Award of Astronomical Society of the Pacific
  • 2001 Edgar Wilson Award for a comet discovery by an amateur.
  • 2004 Honorary degree of the Doctor of Science from the Victoria University of Wellington.
  • 2005 Murray Geddes prize, jointly with Carolyn.
  • 2011 AAVSO Honorary Life Membership award. Albert was only the 40th recipient of this honour. See the full list at http://www.aavso.org/honorary-membership AAVSO director Arne Henden notes that Albert has also been the recipient of the AAVSO Merit Award and the Director's Award, along with every Visual Observer's Award that the AAVSO offers.

Albert is featured on the AAVSO's webpage at http://www.aavso.org/.


Much of the above summary was extracted and updated from an article by Rod Austin in 'Southern Stars' 1994 December.


Albert's funeral was attended by a wide range of Nelson friends and many from the astronomical community.

Gordon Hudson, RASNZ President, spoke on the Society's behalf. He also noted that Albert was an Honorary Research Associate of the Carter Observatory. Several astronomical friends spoke of Albert's work and the help they had received from him over many years. Brian Loader read a message from John Toone of the BAA.

Friends from the local tramping club recalled Albert's happy helpful and humble nature. It was on a tramping trip that he met Carolyn. The local University for the Third Age (U3A) valued Albert's talks on astronomical topics. Albert, despite his years, was an enthusiastic computer user who helped others and was helped in return.


The editor owes a particular debt to Albert. Back in 1959 Albert mentored me when I was starting variable star observing. He lived in Timaru then; I was in Lower Hutt. Frank Bateson, VSS director, lived in Raratonga at the time. Many letters were exchanged, Albert being a prompt and assiduous correspondent. Later he encouraged me to try comet observing. That observational work led to employment on the site-testing programme for what became Mt John Observatory. Later, with much good luck, it led to a lifetime's employment in astronomy.

2. Condolences from the BAA

John Toone of the British Astronomical Association sent the following message to Brian Loader:

I have just heard the very sad news with respect to Albert Jones. His loss is felt heavily all around the world and it is truly a dark time for variable star astronomy.

I would like to express my sincere condolences to Carolyn and Albert's extended family in particular and also to yourself and the RASNZ.

I will treasure forever the memories of the 2004 Tauranga meeting where I had the opportunity to meet both Frank and Albert, two legends of variable star lore. The gasps from the audience are still fresh in my mind when Albert said that his greatest discovery was Carolyn!!

It is only by physically meeting that you get a true character understanding and in the case of Albert I cannot honestly think of ever meeting a nicer person. Both Irene and I are feeling sad and empty at the moment, no doubt it's the same for many people in NZ at the moment.

Albert will never be forgotten either as a unique & outstanding VS observer or equally as an exemplary & humble member of human society.

With our deepest sympathy John & Irene


John sent a second message; in part:

The timing of the funeral coincides with what is forecast to be clear night in the UK. Therefore we are planning to mobilise as many BAA members as possible to undertake visual observations of Nova Del around the time of the funeral in honour of Albert. You are quite at liberty to mention this if it seems appropriate at the funeral.

In addition to observing Nova Del I intend to stop my observing for a minutes silence at 23hr UT. Our thoughts are very much with you at this sad time.

3. Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lectures

The lecture "A Zoo of Galaxies' will be given by Dr Karen Masters at the following places:

New Plymouth, Friday October 4th, at 7:30pm New Plymouth Girls High School Main Hall

Wellington, Saturday October 5th at 6:30pm (by ticket only) Carter Observatory

Nelson, Monday October 7th at 7:30pm Lecture Theatre A211, Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT),

Dunedin, Wednesday October 9th at 7:00pm Hutton Lecture Theatre, Otago Museum

More information at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/BHTLectures/BTLectures.shtml For background see http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/SC1309/S00033/top-uk-astronomer-to-give- lecture-at-uc.htm

-- Bob Evans, Secretary/Treasurer, RASNZ Lecture Trust Inc. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. The Solar System in October

All dates and times are NZDT (UT + 13 hours) unless otherwise specified.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

New moon:      October  5 at  1.35 pm (00:35 UT        )
First quarter: October 12 at 12.02 pm (Oct 11, 23:02 UT)
Full moon:     October 19 at 12.38 pm (Oct 18, 23:38 UT)
Last quarter   October 27 at 12.41 pm (Oct 27, 23:41 UT)

The planets in october

Mercury remains an easy early evening object during the first part of October. It moves up past Saturn early in the month. By the end of October both planets will be lost in the evening twilight. Venus is well above them and sets after midnight in the second part of October.

In the morning Jupiter emerges further from the Sun to rise about 2 am NZDT but will still be fairly low as seen from mid southern hemisphere latitudes. Mars remains low in the dawn sky as it only slowly distances itself from the Sun.

Planets in the evening sky: mercury, venus and saturn.

Mercury sets more than 2 hours after the Sun during the first half of October, so will be easily visible to the west as the sky darkens following sunset. At magnitude 0 it will be a little brighter than Saturn. On the 9th it is at its greatest elongation, 25° east of the Sun. It will remain an easy early evening object until it is stationary on the 21st after which Mercury will move quite rapidly back towards the Sun and become lost to view before the end of the month.

Saturn is also visible as an early evening object during most of October. It starts the month a few degrees to the upper right of Mercury, being nearly 20° above the horizon to the west about 45 minutes after sunset.

As Mercury moves away from the Sun, the distance between the two planets gets less. When the two are closest, Mercury will be less than 5° from Saturn. The best conjunction of the month occurs on the evening of October 7 with the two planets almost level and, as a bonus, the crescent moon, only 6% lit, 2° above Saturn.

By the end of October, both Mercury and Saturn set only half an hour after the Sun, on the last day of the month they are again in conjunction with Mercury a few degrees to the left of Saturn. But of course they are quite unobservable due to their proximity to the Sun.

Venus meanwhile will be visible virtually all evening. During the second half of October it will set shortly after midnight (NZDT). The moon is closest to Venus on October 8, when our 12.5% lit satellite will be 6° to the lower right of the planet. The following night the 21% lit moon is nearly 11° to the upper right of Venus.

Venus itself passes Antares a little later in the month, the two are 1.6° apart on the evening of the 17th.

Jupiter and MARS in the morning sky.

Jupiter moves further into the morning sky during October but remains rather low. On the 31st it rises close to 2 am, more than 4 hours before the Sun. The planet will remain fairly low in southern skies. By the end of the month and 30 minutes before sunrise, Jupiter will be less than 30° above the horizon for most places in NZ. It will then be only a few degrees to the east of north.

The planet will be in Gemini and lie some 6.5 arc-minutes below the 3.5 magnitude star del-Gem on the morning of the 5th. In Gemini, Jupiter is a few degrees above Pollux. On the 26th, the 62% lit moon is 5° above Jupiter.

Mars is moving away from the Sun a lot less rapidly than Jupiter. Mars rises just over an hour earlier at the end of October compared to the beginning, of the month. But the Sun also rises more than three-quarters of an hour earlier. That is, Mars only gains some 25 minutes on the Sun during the month. As a result it will remain fairly low, some 14° above the horizon as seen from Wellington, 45 minutes before sunrise.

Mars is in Leo during October, moving from west to east past Regulus during the month. At their closest on the 15th, Mars is within 1° of the star. Regulus is slightly brighter at 1.4 compared to Mars at 1.6. And of course the two are very different in colour.

The moon passes Mars twice in October. On the morning of the 1st the moon, less than 19% lit, will be some than 7° above Mars. On the 30th the 25% lit moon is 5.5° above the planet. The increased amount of the moon lit reflects the slowly increasing elongation of Mars from the Sun.

Outer planets

Uranus is at opposition on October 3 with a magnitude 5.7 The planet is in Pisces close to the constellation´s border with Cetus.

Neptune remains in Aquarius during October, magnitude 7.9. By the end of October it transits, and so is highest, about 9 pm.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) both remain as low objects in the dawn sky, magnitudes about 8.7 and 8.3 respectively. The two asteroids are about 7° apart with Vesta to the upper left of Ceres as seen in the morning sky. They are to the lower right of Mars.

The two asteroids start the month in Leo but moves into Virgo during October, Ceres on the 17th and Vesta on the 28th.

(2) Pallas is in Hydra and brightens slightly during October from 9.0 to 8.8. It rises just after 2 am early in October, and just before 1 am by the month´s end. It will then be 8° above alpha Hya, mag 2.0, as seen an hour or so before sunrise.

(7) Iris is in Aquarius and fades a little during October from magnitude 8.8 to 9.3. It is an evening object and transits about 9.45 pm on the 1st and 8 pm on the 31st.

(20) Massalia is at opposition on the last day of October, when it brightens to magnitude 8.8. The asteroid is in Aries; on the 31st it will be about 10° to the upper right of the second manitude star Hamal, alpha Ari.

(324) Bamberga starts October at magnitude 8.6 but fades during the month to 9.4. It is an evening object with a transit about 11.30 pm on the 1st and 2 hours earlier on the 31st. The asteroid starts the month in Pisces close to the southern most corner of the constellation in Pegasus. Bamberga loops into Pegasus on the 9th.

-- Brian Loader

5. Starlight Festival 11-13 October

The Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival will take place 11-13 October 2013 in Tekapo, and will celebrate the creation of the southern hemisphere´s first International Dark Sky Reserve, in the Mackenzie Basin and at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park in the centre of New Zealand´s South Island.

The Festival will be a celebration of dark skies and astronomy, and include a mix of cultural, educational and scientific activities to engage the community at the level of families and young people. It will promote awareness of the stars and the dark sky above and a range of hands-on activities for everyone will be put on. The main themes will be education and learning about stars, space and the environment.

The principal guest at the festival will be veteran NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins, who has flown into space five times on the Space Shuttle, including one trip to the International Space Station.

In addition there will be a public astronomy talk by astronomer Dr Karen Masters, suitable for school students and those wanting to learn more about stars and galaxies.

Winners of the Starlight Essay and Poetry Competition have been announced at http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/starlightfestival/poetry.shtml . The competition commemorates the name of children´s writer, the late Margaret Mahy, who was also a keen amateur astronomer. Also the Christchurch Youth Orchestra will perform a `Symphony Under the Stars´ at the Festival.

There will be ample opportunity for starwatching at the Festival which will be conducted with the support of Earth and Sky Ltd at Mt John and Cowan´s Hill observatories.

The Tekapo Community Hall will be the main venue for the festival, but some events will be at other local venues, including the Godley Hotel, the Tekapo Springs Ice Rink and Spa, Cowans Hill Observatory and Mt John University Observatory.

The programme for the First Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival can be found on the Festival website at www.starlightfestival.org.nz .

We are expecting wide community support for the Starlight Festival from throughout the Canterbury region, including from Christchurch and Timaru, with additional participants coming from throughout New Zealand. Visit the festival website to purchase tickets for all events. Some events are free, others have a nominal charge.

For more information contact: Sharlene Mullen at the University of Canterbury (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

6. NACAA XXVI, Melbourne, 18-21 April 2014

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.

The core of the convention is of course its presentations, and we are asking you to consider making a contribution, by yourself or in a group. There are no restrictions on topics or themes, so long as the contribution is significant and interesting. Here are a few suggestions:

An address or poster: on an observational (or desk-bound) research programme you are involved in; on a significant development in instrumentation and tools: optical, computational, imaging, electronic, whatever; on your progress with a significant project or programme, national or worldwide; to share your imaging successes with an appreciative audience; an entertaining address aimed at promoting the enjoyment of astronomy; on a significant club or local activity; or on an interesting piece of astronomical history.

A workshop, symposium, colloquium, or round-table meeting: on an observing or research technique you use; helping amateurs move to a more advanced level of astronomical activity in research, imaging, observing, etc; with likeminded specialists to discuss or plan your field; on an educational or outreach activity;

You can submit a proposal for consideration by the Programme Committee by completing the form on the NACAA website http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/submission. The full submissions guidelines can be obtained from http://www.nacaa.org.au/2014/cfp. You may make multiple submissions. Submissions should be made before: 2013 October 1 for workshops, colloquia, or symposia; 2013 November 1 for oral presentations or round- tables; 2014 March 1 for posters. Late submissions may be accepted, depending on venue restrictions, scheduling, etc.

For further information contact the Programme Committee or the General Secretary via the NACAA web site http://www.nacaa.org.au/contact .

-- Abridged from a message circulated by Alan Plummer, Programme Chair, NACAA 2014.

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

The 2014 conference is being hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society to mark their 50th year. The dates are Friday 6 June to Sunday 8 June. It will be followed by a one day Variable Star South Symposium. The conference venue is the Whakatane War Memorial Hall with the Symposium being held at the near- by East Bay REAP facility in O´Rourke Place.

While there is no accommodation at the conference venue itself, there are motels within a few minute´s walk of it. Details of available accommodation will be included in the conference brochure which will be included in the mail-out of the December issue of Southern Stars.

The guest speaker at the 2014 conference will be Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell who made the first observations of a Pulsar in 1967. Certainly a guest speaker not to be missed.

The fellows´ speaker for 2014 is Phil Yock of Auckland University. His chosen topic is "from Particles to Planets".

Further details of the conference will appear on the RASNZ web-site and in the brochure. Registration forms and submission to present papers will be on the RASNZ WIKI soon. Meanwhile the SCC would encourage all those active in astronomy to consider presenting a paper at the 2014 conference. Now is the time to start preparing. Each section should endeavour to ensure at least one of their members gives a talk about some aspect of the section´s work.

-- Brian Loader, chairman of the Standing Conference Committee.

8. Host Sought for the 2016 Conference

The RASNZ Standing Conference Committee (SCC) would like to receive expressions of interest from affiliated societies to host the 2016 RASNZ conference. The most likely date for the conference would be during May 2016.

Any society interested in acting as a host can obtain an outline of the requirements of host societies by sending an email to the SCC at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. The closing date for applications to be received from intending hosts is the last day of November 2013. So interested societies should make an initial contact as soon as possible.

The final decision as to the society to be appointed to host the 2016 conference will be made by the RASNZ Council.

-- Brian Loader, chairman of the Standing Conference Committee.

9. Ruby Payne-Scott Biography

A new popular level book 'Making Waves - The Story of Ruby Payne-Scott: Australian Pioneer Radio Astronomer', has been published by Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA) member Miller Goss. Payne-Scott is regarded as the first female radio astronomer (and one of the first people in the world to consider radio astronomy) and made classic contributions to solar radio physics. She also played a major role in the design of the Australian government's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research radars, which were in turn of vital importance in the Southwest Pacific Theatre in World War II. From a sociological perspective, her career offers many examples of the perils of being a female academic in the first half of the 20th century.

This book is an abbreviated, partly re-written version of 'Under the Radar - The First Woman in Radio Astronomy: Ruby Payne-Scott', also by Miller. In contrast to the original, the new book has a reasonable price of about US $37!

There is a Springer web site about the book (www.springer.com/astronomy/book/978-3-642-35751-0) and a digital copy can be found at link.springer.com and bought on-line (or some libraries may provide access).

-- John O'Byrne, Secretary of the ASA, in a note circulated to members.

10. Charles Chilton of "Journey into Space"

The words "Written and Produced for the BBC by Charles Chilton" may recall a memory for people who were around in the 1950s. These words ended a half hour BBC programme on the YAs around 9 pm; this was half an hour of drama, eerie sounding music and suspense that would literally cause the hairs on the back of the neck "to stand on end". The programme was "Journey into Space". Listening to the "Journey into Space" series on a crystal set and later "Hikers one", in the dark, I was able to dream of space flight, be taken to the moon, the distant planet Mars and land on asteroids. I felt I was part of the crew of Jet, Mitch, Doc and Lemmy. Like many others, this radio drama influenced my interest in and enjoyment of space and astronomy continuing to this day.

For years I have wondered "Who was Charles Chilton?" Recently I happened to look up his name on Wikipedia and found that Charles had published an autobiography called "Auntie´s Charlie". I´m only part way through this absorbing read but I felt it timely to mention the book in this newsletter so others may wish to obtain a copy. (Or borrow from a library) The autobiography was published in 2011 and I am not sure for how long it will be available. I obtained my copy of "Auntie´s Charlie", Charles Chilton´s absorbing autobiography, from "Fishpond".

The "Journey into Space" Series can still be heard occasionally re-broadcast on BBC digital sites and is available from the BBC on CD as well as in book form.

Charles packed an extraordinary amount into his 95 years and brought much enjoyment to many listeners. Sadly, Charles Chilton, MBE, passed away on 2 January 2013.

-- Alan Thomas

11. President Kennedy's Speech 51 Years Ago

And, while on a nostalgia trail, Ian Jordan sent this note on September 12.

Below is a link to a NASA site containing text and movie versions of President Kennedy's speech at Rice stadium 51 years ago today. http://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm The most commonly shown segment is a little over half way through. If you have never seen nor read the entire speech, and if that one segment has ever sparked a thrill in you, the rest is worth a watch or a read. If it is familiar and one of your favourites, today is an appropriate day to reflect on it.

Pursuing positive, difficult goals can be enriching nearly beyond measure.

12. Historic Space Pictures Online

Part of a historic archive of space images, including Soviet photos of the surface of Venus, hand-assembled mosaics of Jupiter's moons, and an incredibly detailed map of the Moon, has been published online by University College London (UCL). The rare photos and maps, many of which have never been available online until now, have been published as part of the Festival of the Planets http://www.europlanet-eu.org/epsc2013/outreach-activities which ran 8-13 September in London. The images are all available in high resolution at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/maps-faculty/space-history

UCL has a large archive of historical space photos from NASA and other agencies. Before the internet became a major tool for sharing scientific data, NASA shipped hard copies of its photos, and UCL was one of only seven institutions outside of the United States to receive them. The university's planetary science archives have been further enriched over the years thanks to the research interests of its astronomers.

This treasure trove of pictures gives a fascinating glimpse into the history of the space age, and many of the pictures are of remarkably good quality.

Highlights include: * The first mosaicked images to come back from the Voyager probes when they visited the moons of Jupiter in the 1970s. * Pictures of the surface of Venus, taken by Soviet landers in the 1980s. * An incredibly detailed map of the Moon, made by a British astronomer more than a century ago -- now available as a huge 400 megapixel scan.

-- from a University College London press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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. Quote

"It is the dull man who is always sure, and the sure man who is always dull." -- H. L. Menken.


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 2013

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

La Caille and the Far Southern Sky
William Tobin

The Abbé Nicolas-Louis de La Caille (1713-1762) is one of the early European explorers of the far southern sky. This essay discusses La Caille's new southern constellations as represented by Anne-Louise Le Jeuneux in a magnificent oil painting dated 1755. Along the way it also reviews new books by Ian Glass and Nick Kanas.
Volume 52, number 3. September 2013. P3

Southern Close Binaries Programme of the VSS
R Idaczyk, M Blackford, E Budding, R Butland

We review the programme of studies of southern close eclipsing binary systems that has been underway in recent years, involving observations at the Mt John University Observatory and elsewhere in the region. We include brief descriptions of equipment used, before presenting summary results on four typical examples (U Oph, V831 Cen, R CMa and η Mus) drawn from the programme. We show that absolute stellar parameters thus obtained are of high enough quality to compare favourably with any other recent data in this field. Thus, for U Oph, we derived a new value for the third star's mass, and an age consistent with the system's origin in Gould's Belt. We announced the chemical peculiarity of the third star accompanying V831 Cen. Our new parameters for R CMa solve the longstanding 'overluminosity' issue, although the close pair must have lost considerable angular momentum. For η Mus, we discovered another member of the system that removes the problem of the (otherwise) anomalous radial velocity of η Mus B. Such new findings encourage interest in further pursuit of the programme.
Volume 52, number 3. September 2013. P16

Book Review - Imaging the Southern Sky by Stephen Chadwick and Ian Cooper
Bill Williams

Volume 52, number 3. September 2013. P22

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. Naked-Eye Nova in Delphinus
2. Herbert Star Party - September 6-9
3. Submissions Sought on Lights and Lighting
4. ANU-RSAA Summer Research Scholarships -- Apply by August 31
5. Radio Astronomy Summer Studentships -- Apply by Sept. 2
6. The Solar System in September
7. Starlight Festival 11-13 October
8. RASNZ Conference DVD
9. StellarFest Report
10. Comet of the Century Cancelled?
11. Permian Extinction Due to Impact?
12. Thirty-Metre Telescope Progresses
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. XKCD Meteor Shower List
15. Quote

1. Naked-Eye Nova in Delphinus

Naked-eye novae are rare but we have one in the evening sky now. It is in the constellation of Delphinus the dolphin, between Altair and the northeast skyline at dusk. The nova's 2000 coordinates are RA 20h23m31s, Dec +20°46'. The nova is in the Milky Way well west (left) of the bright stars that outline the dolphin. The line of stars making Sagitta the arrow point toward the nova. The nova is six degrees -- roughly the arrow's length -- from the brightest star in Sagitta.

John Drummond estimated its magnitude at 4.9 on Sunday morning, August 18, about a magnitude brighter than on the previous night. So it should still be identifiable, certainly in binoculars, when this Newsletter is circulated.

The nova was first reported by Koichi Itagaki of Teppo-cho, Yamagata, Japan, as magnitude 6.8 star on an unfiltered CCD frame taken on Aug. 14.584 UT using a 180 mm reflector. Itagaki confirmed the discovery with unfiltered images taken with a 0.60-m f/5.7 reflector on Aug. 14.750. It was then magnitude 6.3. He measured the position as R.A. = 20h23m30s.73, Decl. = +20d46'04".1 (equinox 2000.0). The nova was fainter than magnitude 13, Itagaki's patrol limit, the night before.

A team of Russian astronomers, D. Denisenko et al, looking back at images from the double 0.40-m f/2.5 robotic MASTER-Kislovodsk reflector find the star was magnitude 17.1 on May 13.998 UT. They suggest that the variable is identical to the blue star USNO-B1.0 1107-0509795 (position end figures 30s.713, 03".97; blue mag 17.2-17.4, red mag 17.4-17.7) and to the ultraviolet source GALEX J202330.7+204603 (NUV magnitude 17.9). Their colour-combined (BRIR) Digitized Sky Survey finder chart is posted at http://master.sai.msu.ru/static/OT/J202330+204604-BRIR5x5.jpg (field-of-view 5' x 5') with the proposed precursor marked.

-- mostly from International Astronomical Union's Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) 3628, August 15.

2. Herbert Star Party - September 6-9

The annual Herbert Star Party will be held between September 6th and 9th 2013 at Camp Iona, just south of Herbert. This is your chance to enjoy the cosmos with other enthusiasts, share knowledge, re-affirm friendships, hear some fine talks about astronomy, view fabulous objects through a large array of telescopes, and have a great, relaxing weekend in a beautiful setting. Please register on-line at: http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/

See you there! -- Ross Dickie and Euan Mason

3. Submissions Sought on Lights and Lighting

Steve Butler of the RASNZ's Dark Skies Group asks that we make submissions on two sets of standards proposals:

1. Draft Update of the Oz/NZ Luminaire Standard

The draft of the updated AS/NZS1158 Luminaire Standard has just been released for public comment, and is available on Standards NZ and Standards Australia websites. This link will take you to the document via the Standards NZ site. http://shop.standards.co.nz/default.htm?action=viewDraft&mod=drafts&draftId=D R1158.6

The focus of this revision was to provide recommendations and requirements for Solid State Lighting (LED) light sources. Refer also the advisory section on lighting control systems. Other parts of the AS/NZS 1158 series will also be updated in time. Please take note of the process for submitting comments.

2. DOC lighting Standards for Southland, Otago and Canterbury

The Department Of Conservation have released three draft Conservation Management Strategies, for Southland, Otago and Canterbury. These are management documents for conservation managed land in these areas and set standards for activities within these areas.

Again submissions supporting the importance of dark night skies both for astronomy and ecology would be very useful.

http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/consultations/current/southland- murihiku-conservation-management-strategy-consultation/

http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/consultations/current/otago- conservation-management-strategy-consultation/

http://www.doc.govt.nz/getting-involved/consultations/current/canterbury- conservation-management-strategy-consultation/

Submissions from RASNZ Members on any aspect of these draft documents will be very useful. Steve Butler is willing to help put together your submission. Steve can be contacted at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. ANU-RSAA Summer Research Scholarships -- Apply by August 31

Applications are now open for the 2013 Summer Research Scholarships at the Australian National University's Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The SRS program provides an exceptional opportunity for undergraduate students to get a taste of graduate life by participating in a research project under the supervision of staff at Mount Stromlo Observatory. The program will last for 8 weeks from late November 2013 until late January 2014.

A Summer Research Scholarship at RSAA includes full accommodation and board on the ANU campus, a weekly allowance, and return travel to Canberra. There will be a lecture series on contemporary astrophysics, and scholars will also be given the opportunity to visit the telescopes and facilities at Siding Spring Observatory, Parkes and Narrabri. The program is open to suitably qualified undergraduate students in the third or final year of their degrees who are currently enrolled at an Australian or New Zealand university. Outstanding second-year students may also be considered.

For more details, including a list of available research projects, please visit: http://rsaa.anu.edu.au/study/undergraduate-research/summer-research

To apply, follow the instructions at: http://www.anu.edu.au/sas/scholarships/srs/apply.php

Enquiries are welcome and may be directed to:

  • Dr Dougal Mackey (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) - RSAA summer scholar coordinator
  • Ms Karen Nulty (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) - ANU student administration coordinator

5. Radio Astronomy Summer Studentships -- Apply by Sept. 2

Kirsten Gottschalk, Acting Outreach and Education Manager, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) advises that they are taking applications for summer studentships. Applications are due by COB September 2nd 2013. You can apply for an ICRAR studentship by filling out the online application form.

Studentships start on December 2nd and go for 10 weeks through to February 2014. Australian and New Zealand tertiary students are welcome to apply. Please bring this opportunity to the attention of your students.

Each studentship is for up to $6,000, $500 paid as a weekly stipend and a $1,000 payment on submission of final report. Students from outside WA also receive one return airfare and an accommodation subsidy while in Perth.

Application form and project descriptions are available at www.icrar.org/studentships

All applications must include:

  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume
  • Official Academic Transcript
  • Two Academic References

6. The Solar System in September

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

  New moon:      September  5 at 11.36 pm NZST (       11:36 UT)
  First quarter: September 13 at  5.08 am NZST (Sep 12,17:08 UT)
  Full moon:     September 19 at 11.13 pm NZST (       11:13 UT)
  Last quarter   September 27 at  3.55 pm NZST (       03:55 UT)

The Southern spring equinox is on September 23 at 8.45 am (Sep 22, 20:45 UT)

NZ Daylight Time, NZDT, commences this year on Sunday 29 September. NZDT will be 13 hours ahead of UT.

The planets in september

Mercury is at its evening best in the second part of September with Venus shining brightly to its upper right. The latter passes both Spica and Saturn during the month.

In the morning Jupiter emerges further from the Sun but will still be fairly low as seen from mid southern hemisphere latitudes. Mars remains low in the dawn sky as it only slowly distances itself from the Sun.

Planets in the evening sky: mercury, venus and saturn.

Mercury sets about 30 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of September, making it almost impossible to see despite its -1.1 magnitude. Its visibility increases quite rapidly during September even though the planet gets a little less bright. By the 8th it will be about 3° up 40 minutes after sunset at magnitude -0.6. By mid September its altitude 40 minutes after sunset is 7° at mag -0.3, so now getting fairly easy to see. On the 22nd, altitude 10.5°, mag -0.2 and at the end of the month 17° at -0.1, so by then Mercury will be an easy object to the west as the glow from the setting Sun diminishes. At the end of September, following the start of NZDT it will be after 9.30 pm before Mercury sets.

On the 25th, Mercury will be alongside Spica, the star being to the left of Mercury and less than a degree from the planet. The two will form a fine pair, with the planet over a magnitude brighter.

Venus will set around 9.30 pm, over 3 hours later than the Sun on the 1st as seen from much of New Zealand. It starts the month 6° directly below Spica. On the 6th the planet will be 1.6° to the right of the star. Two evenings later Spica, Venus, the crescent moon, 15% lit, and Saturn will form an ascending line in the western sky.

Ten evenings later again, on the 18th Saturn will be 3.5° to the right of Venus. The following evening Venus will have moved up a little so that Saturn is a similar distance to the lower right of Venus.

By the end of the month, after the start of NZDT, Venus will not set until about 11.30 pm. By then it will be some 12° above Saturn.

Saturn itself sets almost 5 hours after the Sun on September 1, reducing to about two and three-quarter hours on the 30th. At magnitude 0.7 it is a bright object but almost 5 magnitudes fainter than Venus. It will also be outshone by Mercury.

Jupiter and MARS in the morning sky.

Jupiter moves further into the morning sky during September. On the 1st it will rise some 2 hours and 40 minutes before the Sun. 40 minutes before sunrise it will shine brightly but be fairly low to the north of northeast. On that morning the crescent moon, 20% lit, will be 4° to the upper right of the planet.

The moon joins Jupiter again near the end of September. On the morning of the 28th the 45% lit moon will be 8° to Jupiter upper left. The following morning, now 35% lit, the moon is 6.5° to the upper right of the planet. The increase in the percentage of the moon lit at conjunctions at the beginning and end of September is an indication of the increasing elongation of the planet from the Sun.

By the end of September Jupiter will rise soon after 3.30 am NZDT.

Mars, by contrast does not move much further from the Sun during the month. On the 1st it rises about 90 minutes before the Sun, on the 30th 100 minutes earlier. Its magnitude will be 1.6 throughout September.

The moon passes Mars early in September. On the morning of the 1st the 14% lit moon will be some 7.5° above Mars, the following morning it, now 7% lit, it will be 6° to the right of Mars. The planet will be low, 45 minutes before sunrise only 6° above the horizon to the northeast.

Outer planets

Uranus rises mid evening at the beginning of September and just after sunset at the end of the month. The planet is in Pisces at magnitude 5.7. It is at opposition early in October. Uranus will be 3.5° to the upper right of the almost full moon near midnight on the 20th.

Neptune transits and so is highest soon after midnight at the beginning of September and 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8. Neptune will be some 7.5° to the upper right of the 95% lit moon on the 17th

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta were at conjunction with the Sun during August. As a result in September they will be rising shortly before the Sun. By the end of the month their elongation from the Sun will still be less than 30°. Both asteroids are in Leo, Ceres at magnitude 8.6 to 8.7, Vesta 8.2 to 8.3.

(2) Pallas is in Monoceros, magnitude 9.1 to 9.0, changing little during the month

(7) Iris is in Aquarius and fades a little during September from magnitude 8.2 to 8.8.

(324) Bamberga is at opposition in Pisces on September 13. It will then be at magnitude 8.1 making it the brightest asteroid for a night or two. With Vesta rather close to the Sun, Bamberga will in fact the brightest easily observable asteroid for much of the month. It starts September at 8.4 and ends the month at 8.5

-- Brian Loader

7. Starlight Festival 11-13 October

The Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival will take place 11-13 October 2013 in Tekapo, and will celebrate the creation of the southern hemisphere´s first International Dark Sky Reserve, in the Mackenzie Basin and at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park in the centre of New Zealand´s South Island.

The Festival will be a celebration of dark skies and astronomy, and include a mix of cultural, educational and scientific activities to engage the community at the level of families and young people. It will promote awareness of the stars and the dark sky above and a range of hands-on activities for everyone will be put on. The main themes will be education and learning about stars, space and the environment.

The principal guest at the festival will be veteran NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins, who has flown into space five times on the Space Shuttle, including one trip to the International Space Station.

In addition there will be a public astronomy talk by astronomer Dr Karen Masters, suitable for school students and those wanting to learn more about stars and galaxies.

Winners of the Starlight Essay and Poetry Competition will be announced. It commemorates the name of children´s writer, the late Margaret Mahy, who was also a keen amateur astronomer. Also the Christchurch Youth Orchestra will perform a `Symphony Under the Stars´ at the Festival.

There will be ample opportunity for starwatching at the Festival which will be conducted with the support of Earth and Sky Ltd at Mt John and Cowan´s Hill observatories.

The Tekapo Community Hall will be the main venue for the festival, but some events will be at other local venues, including the Godley Hotel, the Tekapo Springs Ice Rink and Spa, Cowans Hill Observatory and Mt John University Observatory.

The programme for the First Aoraki Mackenzie Starlight Festival can be found on the Festival website at www.starlightfestival.org.nz .

We are expecting wide community support for the Starlight Festival from throughout the Canterbury region, including from Christchurch and Timaru, with additional participants coming from throughout New Zealand. Visit the festival website to purchase tickets for all events. Some events are free, others have a nominal charge.

For more information contact: Sharlene Mullen at the University of Canterbury (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

8. RASNZ Conference DVD

Everyone who attended the Invercargill conference should have received a copy of the 2013 conference CD by the end of July. If you didn't receive your copy, please contact Pauline at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

Anyone who did not get to conference but would like to have a copy of the CD should send an email to Pauline at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. The cost will be $10 including post (in NZ) and packaging. Pauline will let you know arangements for payment.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC, 14 August 2013

9. StellarFest Report

Ian Cooper reported to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group on August 5. Below is a slightly abridged account.

I am just catching up after a marvellous sleep-deprived weekend at StellarFest (formerly Winter Astrocamp) hosted by the Horowhenua Astronomical Society at Foxton Beach on the Manawatu coast. The 'Costa Del Foxton' certainly lived up to its local reputation as part of the 'sunshine coast.' Despite the dire weather forecast about 50 people made the journey to the site at the Foxton Beach Bible Camp and were richly rewarded for their efforts. A great variety of talks to cover the daytime and possible cloudy night was easily offset on the Friday night with fine views of rich meteor activity in between the bunches of cloud that regularly broke of the Tararua Ranges under the strain of the cool, stiff easterly!

With clear skies beckoning, the talks planned for the Saturday night were transferred to the Sunday so that we could get out under the stars straight after dinner. Astrophotographers and telescope observers comfortably mingled on the main field. The only ones that didn't turn up in hoped for numbers on the Saturday night were the meteors! Other than that conditions were marvellous considering the weather that most anticipated. When we got cold it was inside by the big open fire of the hall with either toasted marshmallows or homemade soup to revive you.

The astrophotographers were the last to fall over. I went after imaging the Andromeda galaxy low on the northern horizon at 4.30 a.m. and Andrew Drawneek stayed the distance in order to capture the conjunction of the Moon & planets just before dawn.

After John Burt had done a white balance correction to my Canon 450D earlier on I was impressed with the difference that it made to my Milky Way shots compared to the rosy tint that it had before.

10. Comet of the Century Cancelled?

According to Ignacio Ferrin, a comet researcher at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Columbia, Comet C/2012 S1 ISON appears to have stopped brightening and may break up at or before reaching perihelion.

The comet was discovered in September 2012 by two Russian astronomers using a telescope in the International Scientific Optical Network. [See Newsletter No. 142, 2012 October 20, Item 9.] Pre-discovery images were found back to December 2011, allowing a reliable orbit to be immediately calculated. This showed that the comet would pass 1.1 million km from the sun's surface on November 29 this year. Extrapolating the discovery magnitude to the close pass of the sun resulted in the prediction that the comet would be spectacularly bright.

Dr. Ferrin notes that comet stopped brightening around January 13 and remained at a constant brightness for the 132 days after that till the last available brightness measurement. This peculiar behaviour could possibly be explained if the comet were water-deficient, or if a surface layer of rock or non-volatile silicate dust were quenching the sublimation to space.

The strange behaviour of comet ISON is reminiscent of what happened to comet C/2002 O4 Hönig which remained at the same brightness for 52 days, after which it disintegrated with no observable debris. Comet ISON has shown a constant brightness for much longer. However we don't know the current condition of the comet as it is hidden behind the sun. There will be a brief window for observation between October 7 and November 4 when the comet will be more than 50 degrees from the Sun.

For more on Dr Ferrin's suggestion see: http://urania.udea.edu.co/sitios/facom/press.php?_inicomp=3&_numcomp=1#press_10

-- The University of Antioquia in Medellin press release was forwarded by Karen Pollard.

---------- On July 24 a large international team concluded that the Comet ISON's nucleus had a minimum effective radius of 140 metres across. Their result was based on infra-red observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope as well as observations with ground-based telescopes. Broadly that means that gas production was what one would expect from a snowball 280 metres in diameter. Most comets have only small active regions on their surfaces emitting the gas and dust; they don't have volatile 'snow' exposed over the whole surface. So the size of Comet ISON's nucleus is likely to be much larger than 280 metres. Just the same the observations suggest a small nucleus by comet standards. Halley's Comet has nucleus 8 x 8 x 18 kilometres. Some observations suggested that Comet Hale-Bopp had a nucleus 40 km in diameter. The international team's result was published in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) 3598.

Observations by an American team using the ultra-violet telescope onboard the Swift space telescope confirm that the comet brightened only slightly between January 30 and May 9 (CBET 3608).

---------- In the October Newsletter note it was suggested that Comet ISON might be a fragment from an earlier sun-grazer. At that time the 'original' orbit of Comet ISON, before it was affected by the planets, appeared to have a maximum distance from the sun of 21,000 AU (1/a(orig) = +0.000096 AU**- 1). That would have made the orbital period around one million years. Also the orbit was similar to the Great Comet 1680. Measures since discovery have reduced 1/a(orig) to +0.000007 AU**-1 with a very small error margin. That means the comet is 'new', it has not been near the sun before. So its brightness at discovery was likely due to highly volatile ices like carbon monoxide evaporating off the nucleus. That is why the comet has not brightened much as it neared the sun.

From all the above it is concluded that the similarity of C/2012 S1's orbit to the Great Comet of 1680 is just a coincidence. They aren't fragments of one parent comet. The parabolic orbital elements of the two comets are

Comet         q        Peri.     Node     Incl. 
C/1680 V1  0.006222  350.6128  276.6339  60.6784
C/2012 S1  0.012472  345.5357  295.6956  62.1076

For more on Comet ISON see articles by John Bortle in September's 'Sky & Telescope', and David Seargent in 'Australian Sky & Telescope' August/September. -- Ed.

11. Permian Extinction Due to Impact?

As every schoolchild knows, the dinosaurs were wiped out in an instant, when a rock from outer space hit what is now southern Mexico. That happened 66m years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous period. Well-informed schoolchildren also know that this mass extinction was neither unique nor the biggest. The geological record speaks of four others since animal life became complex at the beginning of the Cambrian period 541m years ago.

What neither these clever schoolchildren nor anyone else knows, however, is whether these extinctions had similar causes. But evidence is accumulating that the biggest extinction of all, 252.3m years back, at the end of the Permian period, was indeed also triggered by an impact. Nevertheless, though the trigger was the same, the details are significantly different, according to Eric Tohver of the University of Western Australia.

When the dinosaurs vanished they were accompanied by more than 70% of the other animal species on Earth. At the end of the Permian, the extinction figure was more than 80%. And just as the Cretaceous slate-clearing permitted the rise of a hitherto obscure group called the mammals (including, eventually, one now referred to by biologists as Homo sapiens), so the Permian clearance permitted the rise of the reptiles, one branch of which turned into Tyrannosaurus, Diplodocus and all the other names familiar from childhood.

The idea that an impact caused the Permian extinction has been around for a while. As at the end of the Permian, as at the end of the Cretaceous, huge volcanic eruptions had been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. These may have weakened the world´s ecosystems, making them vulnerable to an external shock. But the abruptness of both extinctions indicates that the coup de grâce was administered by something else, and in the case of the Permian some fragments of meteorite of the correct age, found in rock in Antarctica, suggest that, as with the Cretaceous, that something was an asteroid or a comet. What was missing from the story, though, was a suitable crater.

Last year Dr Tohver and his colleagues thought they might have found it. They redated a hole that straddles the border of the states of Mato Grosso and Goiás in Brazil, called the Araguainha crater, to 254.7m years, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5m years. Previous estimates had suggested Araguainha was 10m years younger, but Dr Tohver has put it within geological spitting distance of the extinction date, which itself has a margin of error of plus or minus 200,000 years.

Which would all be fine and dandy, except most people think Araguainha is too small to be the culprit. It is a mere 40km (25 miles) across. The Chicxulub crater in Mexico, which did for the dinosaurs, is 180km in diameter, and it may have been paired with an even bigger impact in the Indian Ocean. (This could have happened if the incoming object was a comet that broke up in a close encounter with the sun.) Dr Tohver, however, has an answer to this criticism. His latest paper, just published in Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, describes the rock in the area in which Araguainha resides.

After an extensive geological survey, he and his team discovered that a sizeable amount of this rock is oil shale. Any hydrocarbons in the crater would certainly have been vaporised. More intriguingly, the researchers calculate that the impact would have generated thousands of earthquakes of up to magnitude 9.9 (significantly more powerful than the largest recorded by modern seismologists) for hundreds of kilometres around. In effect, it would have been the biggest fracking operation in history, releasing oil and gas from the shattered rock in prodigious quantities. The upshot, Dr Tohver believes, would have been a huge burp of methane into the atmosphere. Since methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, that burp would have resulted in instant global warming, making things too hot for much of the planet´s animal life. Presto! The Permian mass extinction is explained.

Determining whether this was really what happened will take a lot more digging, of course. Even now, there are those who think the formation of the Chicxulub crater was a coincidence, and that what did for the dinosaurs was actually the volcanoes, so Dr Tohver will have to work hard to convince the sceptics. If he does, though, he will have proved himself a great geological detective, for he will have been responsible for solving one of the biggest puzzles in palaeontology.

See http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21582243-biggest-extinction-history-was-probably-caused-space-rock-changed

-- From The Economist July 27, p.60

------ For background see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Araguainha_crater

12. Thirty-Metre Telescope Progresses

In late July the 'master agreement' for the Thirty Meter Telescope was signed by several international partners. The project is a collaboration among universities in the United States and institutions in Canada, China, India and Japan, with major funding provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Work on the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), named for its 30-meter primary mirror -- three times the diameter of the largest existing telescopes -- is scheduled to begin in April 2014 atop Hawaii's dormant Mauna Kea volcano. The TMT's scientific operations are slated to start in 2022.

The Infrared Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) will be one of three scientific instruments that will be ready for use with the TMT when the telescope begins operation. It can best be described as a sophisticated camera that takes small images at 2,000 different wavelengths simultaneously. Or it can be thought of as a spectrograph that takes 10,000 adjacent spectra over a rectangular area of the sky.

The instrument will be able to produce images three times sharper than what is currently achievable with the two powerful W. M. Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea and many times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. IRIS will image planets that are forming but are often too dim and red to be detected by smaller telescopes, and it will be the only one of the three TMT instruments to magnify images to the theoretical diffraction limit.

IRIS has a wide range of science objectives, ranging from chemical analysis of the surfaces of solar system moons like Titan and Europa, to following the evolution of galaxies over the past 13 billion years, to searching for the first stars in the very early universe.

The TMT will identify and map the orbits of fainter stars close to the black hole at the centre of our galaxy, extending our knowledge of physics with a fundamental test of Einstein's theory. Because stars in the vicinity of the black hole will be affected by the presence or absence of dark matter, their orbits will significantly constrain our current model of dark matter, which is central to our understanding of galaxy formation.

TMT will also extend our ability to measure accurate masses of black holes in more distant galaxies and in low-mass galaxies, likely revealing when and how black holes are 'fed'.

In the distant universe, IRIS's ability to image and study the internal workings of early galaxies will represent a major breakthrough in the study of galaxy formation during the known peak period of star formation.

-- from a University of California, Los Angeles, press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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. XKCD Meteor Shower List

A meteor shower list is an unlikely target for satire but the on-line comic xkcd.com had an amusing try. It was pointed out by Mike Simonsen who warned that "...this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humour (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)."

               The XKCD Guide to Meteor Showers                     
Name           Peak                       Notes                     
Qaudrantids  January 4th   Bring pets inside during peak activity   
Tricuspids   January 21st  Not viewable in Region 2 countries.      
Centaurids   February 6th  Too faint to see without going outside   
Beta         February 10th Inverted shower converges toward Aquarius
Aquariids                  instead of radiating away.               
Chelyabids   February 15th Only one meteor per shower, but it's big.
Lyrids       April 22nd    Meteors sometimes scream                 
Dayime Zeta 
Perseids     June 9th      Likely a NASA hoax.                      
June Boötids June 27th     50/50 mix of meteors and shooting stars. 
Southern Delta                                                      
Aquariids    July 19th     Meteors very bright, but stationary.     
Dromaesaurids July 22nd    Fast, highly intelligent, can open doors.
Perseids     August 12th   Instead of falling from sky, meteors     
                           erupt from ground.                       
Tau Pyramids August 15th   Visible even when eyes are closed.       
Draconids    October 8th   Very slow, but follow you if you run.    
Orionids     October 21st  Entire shower happens at once.           
Leonids      November 17th In 1966, unusually active Leonid shower  
                           killed God.                              
Geminids     December 13th Can be deflected with tennis rackets.

-- See the original at http://www.xkcd.com/1249.

15. Quote

"There are two kinds of light - the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures." -- James Thurber.


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