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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. Kiwi Teens Attending Astronomy Olympiad
2. The Solar System in August
3. RASNZ Rule Changes
4. Astronomy for Impaired Eyes
5. John Drummond Available for Talks
6. Pluto's Smallest Moons Named
7. Conference Notes - Part 2
8. Margherita Hack
9. Solar Flare Forecasts Compared
10. Kepler's Planet Search Ends
11. Long-Lost Comet Rediscovered
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. Quote

1. Kiwi Teens Attending Astronomy Olympiad

For the first time, four Kiwi school students have been selected to compete in the 7th International Astronomy and Astrophysics Olympiad, being held in Greece. The Year 13 Wellington students leave for Greece on July 25 and are seeking financial assistance towards the cost of attending the 10-day Olympiad.

Connor Hale (Tawa College), Navodhi Delpachitra and Daniel Yska (Onslow College) and Darina Khun, (Wellington East Girls College) will travel to Volos, Greece to take part in this prestigious international event. All four students have demonstrated proficiency in practical Astronomy, are active members of the Wellington Astronomical Society, and have achieved highly in NCEA Physics and Mathematics.

The level of competition will be high, as most other competing teams come from countries in which astronomy forms a significant part of the secondary school curriculum. To counter this, the four New Zealand students have been attending regular training sessions.

Gordon Hudson, current president of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, will accompany the students. "We regard this as a wonderful opportunity for New Zealand students to benefit from experiencing a different cultural opportunity, and from competing against other international students of their age," he said. "It raises New Zealand's international astronomical profile and gives the students themselves a major incentive to reach for the stars and take their abilities to the outer limits."

Donations can be deposited in Olympiad (03-0584-0301180-000). For further information, contact Gordon Hudson. 04 236 5125 (Home) 027-697 9907 (Mob) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- from a press release of July 4

2. The Solar System in August

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

New moon:      August  7 at  9.51 pm NZST (Aug 6, 21:51 UT)
First quarter: August 14 at 10.56 pm NZST        (10:56 UT)
Full moon:     August 21 at  1.45 pm NZST        (01:45 UT)
Last quarter   August 28 at  9.35 pm NZST        (09:35 UT)

The planets in august

Saturn remains visible in the evening sky throughout August, it gets lower during the month especially later evening. Venus is visible in the early part of the evening and gets higher during the month.

Mercury, Mars and Jupiter all start August as morning objects. On the 1st, forty minutes before sunrise, they will be very low to the northeast. Jupiter will be highest 8° up and so quite easily visible at magnitude - 1.9. By the end of August Mercury will have disappeared, the altitude of Mars, 40 minutes before sunrise, will be almost unchanged, Jupiter will be nearly twice as high.

Planets in the evening sky: saturn and venus.

Venus will be the first object to appear in the evening sky, visible at sunset or earlier. On August 1, 30 minutes after sunset it will be about 22° above the horizon.

By that time, as the sky darkens, SATURN will also be visible almost due north well up in the sky with Spica 12° to its left. Later in the evening, as the two swing around to the west the rotation of the sky brings Spica down to the lower left of Saturn. Saturn will set a little before 1am.

At the end of August Venus will be about 30° above the horizon half-an- hour after sunset and set more than 3 hours after the Sun. By the 31st the planet will only be 7° below Spica.

Saturn, on the other hand, will be getting lower, but still higher than Venus, now to the northwest, 14° from Spica, to the star´s upper right. The planet will set about 11 pm, so will be best observed early evening.

The moon moves through this part of the sky fairly early in the month. On the 10th, as a thin crescent 10% lit, it will be 5° above Venus. On the 12th the 27.5% lit moon will be just over 1° below Spica, the two being closest about 9 pm. The following night, the moon now 38% lit is 2.4° to the upper left of Saturn.

Mercury will be a very low evening object by the end of August, but it sets only half an hour after the Sun on the 31st, so is not visible.

Jupiter, mars and mercury in the morning sky.

At the beginning of August the three planets will all be low in the dawn sky. Jupiter will be the highest, about 8° up 45 minutes before sunrise. At the same time Mars, at magnitude 1.6, will be just over 5° up, while Mercury is 3.5° up and a little brighter at magnitude 0. Only Jupiter, magnitude -1.9 is likely to be reasonably easy to see by eye.

On the morning of the 4th the waning moon, a thin crescent 8.5% lit, will be just over 3° above Jupiter.

During the month, Jupiter will gradually get higher, Mars hardly change in height while Mercury will close in on the Sun, so there is little chance of seeing the latter.

On the 24th Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun, 1.36 AU or 203 million km from the Earth and 52 million km beyond the Sun. After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object, but remains too close to the Sun to be visible during the remainder of August.

By the 31st Jupiter will be an easy object in the early dawn sky, 40 minutes before sunrise it will be 15° above the horizon shining brightly to the northeast.

Outer planets

Neptune is at opposition on August 27, when it will be 29.0 AU, 4334 million km from the Earth and a further 150 million km from the Sun. At sopposition its magnitude is 7.8. Neptune is in Aquarius.

Uranus is more than 3 hours behind Neptune, so it will not rise until late evening early in the month and mid evening by the end. Its magnitude is 5.7, the planet being in Pisces.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are at conjunction with the Sun during August, Vesta on August 5 and Ceres August 16. At opposition Vesta will be 3.47 AU, 519 million km from the Earth and 367 million km from the Sun. From the point of view of the Earth, Vesta will pass 2.5° north of the Sun. Ceres at opposition is slightly further away, 533 million km from Earth and 3883 from the Sun. It passes 7° north of the Sun.

While Ceres and Vesta are too close to the Sun to observe, a number of other asteroids are in binocular reach during August, with two being at opposition.

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

(3) Juno Starts the month in Aquarius magnitude 9.0. It soon moves into Aquila where it is at opposition on August 14, still magnitude 9.0. By the end of August it will have dimmed a little to 9.3.

(7) Iris is also in Aquarius, it is at opposition on August 16 at magnitude 7.9, so at that date is the brightest asteroid.

(8) Flora is past opposition, its magnitude dims from 9.0 to 9.6 during the month. It is in Sagittarius where it will occult a number of faint stars.

(324) Bamberga brightens rapidly during the month, starting at magnitude 9.4, it reaches 8.5 by the 31st. The asteroid is in Pisces. Opposition is in September.

-- brian loader

3. RASNZ Rule Changes

At the AGM in Invercargill changes to Rules and By-laws were passed. RASNZ Secretary Rory O'Keeffe has forwarded a Rich Text version of changes to the Newsletter editor. This will be circulated to Members and Affiliated Societies when the Newsletter is distributed.

A full copy of the amended Rules and Bylaws is available on the Society´s website through a link at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/RASNZInfo/RASNZ.shtml.

4. Astronomy for Impaired Eyes

Allen Little advises that he has set up a website to introduce astronomy to disabled citizens. Allen has impaired eyesight or legal blindness but enjoys astronomy and the meetings of the Horowhenua Astronomical Society. There members have taken time to help him understand the multiple wonders of space and beyond.

Allen's site is at https://sites.google.com/site/viewablesky

5. John Drummond Available for Talks

RASNZ astrophotography section director and RASNZ Comet and Meteor section director John Drummond is taking an 18 month unpaid sabbatical from full- time teaching so as to focus on completing his Swinburne University `Masters´ of Science in Astronomy degree. He will still be doing relief teaching when available to help pay the bills though. Because John will have more free time, he will be available to travel to astronomical societies to give talks (during the week if need be) for the next 1.5 years. John has been invited to speak at many astronomical societies throughout NZ on a wide variety of topics over the last few years. To help his finances, he will have to charge for his services (preparation and presentation time). For societies with a city population of under 50,000 his speaker´s fee will be $100, for larger cities it will be $150 per talk. Remember that you can apply to the RASNZ Gifford-Eiby fund for travel costs. [See Item 12 for details - Ed.]

If any society is interested in having John give a talk (or do a workshop, etc), please contact him at the details below - Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Phone: (06) 8627 557 (home), 0275 609 287 (cell) Postal: John Drummond, PO Box 113, Patutahi 4045

6. Pluto's Smallest Moons Named

The names of Pluto¹s two smallest known moons, previously referred to as P4 and P5 have been formally approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). P4 has been named Kerberos, after the three-headed dog of Greek mythology. P5 has been named Styx, after the mythological river that separates the world of the living from the realm of the dead. The moons join Pluto's previously known moons Charon, Nix and Hydra. According to IAU rules, Pluto¹s moons are named for characters associated with the Underworld of Greek and Roman mythology.

Mark Showalter, Senior Research Scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, led the team of astronomers in the discoveries of Kerberos and Styx. Both were first seen in lengthy exposures of the Pluto system taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. These images were obtained in support of NASA's New Horizons mission, which will fly past Pluto in July 2015. Kerberos was discovered in 2011 and Styx in 2012.

The names were selected based on the results of an unprecedented Internet vote that was held during February 2012. The ballot at http://plutorocks.seti.org received almost 500,000 votes, including 30,000 write-in suggestions. The website received international attention, and half the votes came from outside the U.S.

Kerberos is the Greek form of the name Cerberus, which ranked second in the voting. Styx ranked third. The top vote-getter was Vulcan based on a suggestion from actor William Shatner of TV's Star Trek. Vulcan was the name of the home planet of Mr. Spock. The IAU gave serious consideration to this name, which happens to be shared by the Roman god of volcanoes. However, because that name has already been used in astronomy, and because the Roman god is not closely associated with Pluto, this proposal was rejected.

We will obtain closer looks at Kerberos and Styx in 2015, when New Horizons becomes the first spacecraft to fly through the Pluto system.

For more see http://www.seti.org/seti-institute/press-release/plutos- smallest-moons-receive-their-official-names

-- from a Seti Institute press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.


The official announcement in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram 3575 on 2013 July 8 listed the designation details

Designation and Name        Provisional Designation     Reference
Pluto IV        Kerberos    = S/2011 (134340) 1         IAUC 9221
Pluto V         Styx        = S/2012 (134340) 1         IAUC 9253

7. Conference Notes - Part 2

Richard Easther discussed the cosmic microwave background and beyond. The currently accepted history of the universe is described by the 'funnel diagram'. The universe begins as minute spark of enormous energy which undergoes an expansion of 10^30 times in a tiny fraction of a second. (An expansion greater than the speed of light is permitted as it is space that is expanding, not stuff moving through space.) This 'inflation' preserved tiny density fluctuations that existed at the quantum level before expansion. The density fluctuations later led to the bunching of matter, dark and bright, to form galaxies. In the first three minutes nuclear reactions produced mainly protons (hydrogen nuclei) with 25% helium nuclei, by mass, and a smidgen of lithium. This gas mix remained too hot to form atoms for 300,000 years. Photons and electrons bounced off each other producing a uniform black-body radiation distribution. When the gas cooled to around 3000 degrees electrons and nuclei combined into atoms. Photons were then free to roam. As the universe expanded the radiation cooled to produce the cosmic microwave background (CMB) with a temperature today of 2.7 degrees Kelvin. The CMB produced about 1% of the noise on analogue TV sets. The CMB is easily detected but is so uniform over the sky that it was missed early on. It has no variations bigger than 1 part in 100,000. In the 1970s it was found that the CMB was a fraction warmer on one side of the sky than the other. This showed that the Milky Way and its neighbours were moving at 300 km/s toward a region now known as the Great Attractor. [See the June Newsletter, Item 8.] In 1992 the COBE satellite showed there were variations in the CMB at the millionths of a degree level. That was followed by the WMAP satellite that mapped the variations in finer detail. On March 21 this year the first results from the Plank satellite were released, confirming WMAP's results and adding more detail. The CMB variations are caused by photons losing energy as they 'climb' out of dense regions. Also photons were released at different stages of oscillations of blobs of matter in potential wells formed by dark matter. The result is a power spectrum of slightly warmer and slightly cooler spots of varying sizes. The uniformity of the CMB supports inflation theory. Are the large-scale variations in the CMB due to a cause, or are they just chance? We can't test this with more observations. Studies of the CMB provide constraints on other properties of the universe such as the number of types of neutrinos.

Jean-Francois Kaufeler of the European Space Agency told of the importance of the 'ground segment' to space missions. The ground segment includes telecoms and telemetry; radiometric measures; range, angle, Doppler and other measurements. Around 10% of a mission's budget is for the ground segment. Half of that goes to development, half to operations. Control centres include mission control, flight dynamics systems, collision warning and avoidance, and mission simulator systems. Ground system engineering includes antennae and communications, data systems and software, mission analysis, flight dynamics, satellite-based navigation, space debris information, standardization, etc. ESA has recently opened a third deep-space antenna in Argentine. It includes a 35-metre dish, low- noise amplifier working at 15 Kelvin, atomic clocks based on cryo-cooled sapphire and masers. Operation was handed over in January 2013. It will support the Mars Express mission. Collision avoidance is a major task. There are now 100,000 bits of space debris more than 1 cm across. In 2010 ESA satellites performed nine evasive manoeuvres. ESA also forecasts hazardous re-entries. In answer to a question, Jean-Francois noted that debris at 600 km altitude remains there for many decades. One solution is to attach small satellites to force re-entry of orbiting objects.

Aaron Greenwood described his astro-seismology observations using Mt John's 1-metre telescope and Hercules spectrograph. As stars are point sources, their pulsations can be studied only by photometry and spectroscopy. Gamma Doradus-type variable stars, one of the class in Aaron's project, have masses 1.5-1.8 times the sun and pulsate with periods of 0.3-3 days. Their temperatures are 6500-7500 Kelvin, similar to the sun. The pulsations are non-radial. That is, they are not like a balloon inflating and deflating as are many variable stars, but are more like multiple vibrations of the surface. To measure pulsations of period near one day requires international cooperation else one is always seeing the part of the pulsation phase. The pulsations are described in terms of spherical harmonics, numbers that divide up a sphere into latitudinal and longitudinal segments. Detailed analysis of distortions in spectral lines allows pulsation modes to be identified. These give information about the internal structure of the star in the way the earthquakes tell us about Earth's interior. Interpretation requires experts in many areas of astrophysics. As well as Canterbury University, the Royal Observatory of Belgium, and the University of Louvain are involved.

Gordon Hudson summarised 150 years of observatories and their directors in the Wellington region, covering 1860 to 2010. His Wellington region also included Nelson and Marlborough. An early observatory was set up in the Wairarapa by Carkeck. Ships at Wellington needed accurate time for their chronometers. This was supplied in the 19th Century by Archdeacon Stock and later by Sir James Hector. Whanganui was one of the first of the smaller towns to set up an observatory. Nearby Hawera did the same. Father Kennedy bought from the Crossley estate the 9-inch refractor now at the Carter Observatory. In the early 20th Century Dr Charles Adams was Government Astronomer and made contributions to calculation of ephemerides. A.C. Gifford was a Cambridge-educated mathematician who set up Wellington College's first observatory. Gifford was an astronomy populariser, with a long-running astronomy column in Wellington's 'Evening Post'. He also independently showed that round craters would be made by impactors from any direction.

-- From the Newsletter Editor's notes. Not to be taken as a true and correct record of what the presenters actually said. Watch for their articles in 'Southern Stars'. More next month (I hope...) -- Ed.

8. Margherita Hack

Margherita Hack, an astrophysicist who explained her research on the stars in plain language for the public and who championed civil rights in her native Italy, died at the beginning of July in the Adriatic Sea town of Trieste, where she had headed an astronomical observatory. She was 91.

President Giorgio Napolitano's condolence message hailed her as a "high- level personality in the world of scientific culture." "At the same time, she represented a strong example of civil passion, leaving a noble fingerprint in public debate and in the dialogue with citizens," Napolitano said. The Italian news agency Ansa quoted family friend Marinella Chirico as saying Hack died in a hospital after being treated for heart problems.

Hack headed the observatory in Trieste, the first woman to hold that post, from 1964 to 1987, and was a popular and frequent commentator in Italian media about discoveries in astronomy and physics. The current director of the observatory, Stefano Borgani, noted that Hack was one of the first astronomers to have the intuition that the future of astronomical observation lay in using space satellites.

An atheist who decried Vatican influence on Italian politicians, Hack helped fight a successful battle to legalise abortion in Italy. She unsuccessfully lobbied for the right to euthanasia and also championed gay rights. Among her victories was a campaign against construction of nuclear reactors in Italy. A vegetarian since childhood, she also was an advocate for animal protection and lived with eight cats and a dog.

Hack, an optimist with a cheerful disposition, studied the heavens in the firm belief there was no after-life. "I have no fear of death," Hack once said in a TV interview. "While we are here, death isn't with us. When there is death, I won't be here," she said.

Among the many Twitter comments about her passing was one from an admirer who wrote that Hack was "so great and nice that God will pretend not to exist so as not to upset her," the Italian news agency LaPresse noted. She liked to joke that the first and last time she was in a church was for her marriage to fellow native Florentine Aldo De Rosa, in 1944. She agreed to a church ceremony only because the groom's parents were very religious.

Hack dressed simply in life, including for her own wedding, when she wore an overcoat-turned-inside out for a bridal gown. She and her widower, 93, had no children.

Hack enrolled at the University of Florence as a student of literature, but after one class, switched to physics. By the early 1950s, she was an astronomer at the Tuscan city's astronomical observatory. She was also an athlete, excelling in track. Specialising in the long jump and high jump from 1939 to 1943, she won national university championships and placed high in national championships.

Hack was active in left-wing politics, including most recently supporting the governor of southern Puglia, Nichi Vendola, one of Italy's few openly gay politicians. "With Margherita Hack's passing, we lose an authoritative voice in favour of civil rights and equality," said Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesman for a gay advocacy group, Gay Center. "More than once, Hack came out in favour of gay rights, civil unions and the dignity of gay families."

Italy's foreign minister, Emma Bonino, who as a leader of the tiny Radical Party helped wage battles to legalise divorce and abortion in Italy, said Hack was "an extraordinary figure. With her vanishes not only a great scientist but a free spirit, deeply intellectually honest," Ansa quoted Bonino as saying.

-- From http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/8863642/Leading-cultural- astrophysicist-dies the link forwarded by Pam Kilmartin.

9. Solar Flare Forecasts Compared

A comparison of solar flare forecasting systems has turned the performance table of apparently effective prediction methods on its head. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, have tested the reliability of seven techniques against their record of predicting flares and non-flare events correctly, as well as their history of missed flares and false alarms. When the predictions were put into context of the Sun´s activity levels over time, some of the most seemingly successful techniques slid down the table. Dr D. Shaun Bloomfield is presenting the findings at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Solar flares are sudden and dramatic releases of energy from the Sun's atmosphere in the form of radiation and electrically charged particles. These eruptions are associated with many aspects of 'space weather', which can damage satellites and interfere with communications, navigations and power systems. In our technology-dependent society, accurate advanced warning of solar flare occurrence is an area of increasing concern.

"The most important aspect of any type of forecast is how it performs," said Bloomfield. "If we always say, 'flare expected today', we will have successfully predicted all flares. However, we would be crying wolf and be completely wrong on most days, as flares can occur quite far apart in time. We need be accurate in both our predictions of when flares will occur and when they won´t for this to be of real value to society."

Bloomfield and his colleagues compared seven different systems for predicting solar flares: two of these used images showing the structure of sunspots; the other five used a variety of parameters relating to the magnetic field, including maximum field strength, total flux and strengths of gradients. The source data came from a range of ground based and space based solar telescopes, including SOHO.

In the past, solar flare forecasts have generally been tested over periods of time containing different amounts of flare activity. Bloomfield and his colleagues found that the previous standard system for rating flare forecasts was very sensitive to the relative activity levels between testing periods. The team suggest that the 'True Skill Statistic' (TSS) should be adopted as the new standard rating for solar flare prediction systems. TSS is calculated from the fraction of correct flare forecasts out of all flares observed, minus the fraction of false alarms out of all non-flares observed.

"The benefit of the TSS over other ratings scores is that it is not changed by the number of flares or non-flares observed. We can make a proper comparison of forecast systems, regardless whether they have made 50 or 5000 predictions. Even so, surveys with small data sets are still prone to noise and their results must be considered less reliable," said Bloomfield.

Bloomfield and his colleagues found that according to the TSS score, adaptive systems including artificial neural networks, did not actually appear to perform much better than simple predictions based on the shape of sunspots. However, the researchers were not able to include several forecasting systems in their study as not all the data needed to calculate the TSS was available.

"If we are to move forward in developing a standard ratings system for flare predictions that produces meaningful results, we need to encourage solar forecasters to be more open about publishing their results. As well as the number of flares correctly predicted, we need to know numbers of correct non-flare predictions, false alarms and missed flares. If these differences in flare statistics are not taken into account properly, some methods can appear to perform better than others when in reality they are the same or worse," said Bloomfield.

For the full text see http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/224-news-2013/2317-space-weather- forecast-study-turns-table-of-effective-predictions-on-its-head

-- from the Royal Astronomical Society's webpage.


For 3 years of the Sun in 3 minutes see http://goo.gl/QpcSd

10. Kepler's Planet Search Ends

The Kepler telescope was launched into space in 2009 to look for extrasolar planets, those that circle stars other than the sun. Since then it has spotted more than 2,700 potential alien worlds, including some that appear to be small, rocky and far enough from their stars for liquid water to exist on the surface-rather like Earth, in other words, and thus, just possibly, hospitable to life. In doing so it made "exoplanet" research one of the busiest areas of astronomy. It also whetted planet-hunters´ appetites. Originally meant to collect data for 3½ years, last year its mission was extended until 2016. So it came as a blow when, on May 15th, the telescope´s minders at NASA announced that the device was in trouble. One of the three components, known as reaction wheels, that help keep it pointing in the right direction (specifically, at a patch of stars between the constellations Lyra and Cygnus) had jammed.

With its sole spare reaction wheel already damaged, things did not look good. After two weeks of trying, NASA´s boffins have been unable to restore Kepler to working order. Geoff Marcy, a planet-hunter at University of California, Berkeley, expressed his angst by borrowing from W.H. Auden: "Kepler was my North, my South, my East and West," he lamented online. This comes just six months after COROT, a European telescope with a mission similar to Kepler´s, suffered a computer failure from which it has yet to recover.

Happily, there is plenty of science left to do. Big experiments collect such vast quantities of data these days that scientists cannot keep up. As a result, discoveries can be made long after a telescope has been decommissioned. Two papers, presented to the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held on June 2nd-6th in Indianapolis, show how.

The first, by Mark Everett, of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Arizona, and his colleagues, concerns data gathered by Kepler to help astronomers nail down how common various types of planet might be. Earlier results suggested that about 13% of the Milky Way´s stars host Earth-size planets. A further 30% host so-called Super Earths, planets that are significantly bigger than Earth but still rocky. All good news, in other words, for those hoping for signs of alien life.

But Dr Everett thinks that those numbers may be too high. Kepler scans hundreds of thousands of stars, hunting for the tiny but regular dips in brightness which occur when a planet passes in front of its parent star. Astronomers can estimate the size of a star from its brightness and its colour. Once that is known, they can estimate the radius of a transiting planet from the amount of dimming it causes.

Dr Everett and his team used ground-based telescopes to make detailed measurements of the sizes of 268 stars identified by Kepler as being orbited by planets. They found that Kepler underestimated how big the stars were. Sometimes the underestimates were small. But one in four stars seems to be larger by 35% or more.

That matters, because the size of a planet is calculated from the size of its parent star and the amount of dimming observed. If the star is bigger, therefore, so too are its planets. In other words, some of the Super Earths identified by Kepler may in fact be gas giants, more akin to Neptune and Uranus.

Bigger stars´ "habitable zones", in which temperatures are low enough for liquid water, and life, to exist, are also farther from a star system´s centre. So some planets Kepler deemed far enough from their parent star to be sufficiently cool may in fact not be. (Admittedly, some others, previously considered too far to contain any water other than ice, could be balmier than thought.)

The second paper, by John Gizis at the University of Delaware, reports the discovery not of a strange new planet, but of a strange new star. W1906+40, as it is known, is a cool dwarf that suffers from regular temper tantrums. Roughly once a week it flares, its temperature rising from around 2,000°C to 7,700°C in a matter of minutes, before slowly cooling off again.

Flares like these have never before been seen in such a small, cool star. Dr Gizis hopes that studying them will help astronomers understand the whims and fancies of the powerful magnetic fields that all stars, including the sun, generate, and which are presumed to produce the flares.

Even if Kepler cannot be mended, planet-hunters need not despair. Earlier this year NASA confirmed that in 2017 it plans to launch the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, a successor to Kepler which will search the entire sky, rather than merely a part of it, and look for exoplanets nearest to Earth. Until then, though, astronomers will be poring over Kepler´s back catalogue, where many discoveries still lurk.

-- From 'The Economist' of June 8.

11. Long-Lost Comet Rediscovered

In 1819 November 27 Marseilles astronomer Blanpain discovered a comet of magnitude 6-7 in Virgo. Measurement of its positions from December 14 to 1820 January 25 showed that it was a short-period comet that would return in five years. It was not seen again so was designated D/1819 W1 in modern catalogues; D/ for disappeared. In 2003 an asteroid was discovered that had an orbit similar to Comet Blanpain. It was designated 2003 WY25. Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center ran the orbit back in time and showed that the identity was plausible. On July 4 observers using the 1.8-metre Pan-STARRS1 telescope found an 18th magnitude comet that was quickly identified as being a return of 2003 WY25. It was also near the position of D/1819 W1 predicted by Syuichi Nakano of Sumoto, Japan, from his linkage of the 2003 asteroid to the 1819 comet. Having precise observations over ten years, Gareth Williams of the Minor Planet Centre was able to accurately run the comet's movements back to 1819. The orbital elements for each of 38 returns can be seen in Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2013-N21 at http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/ . Over the two centuries the comet's return times varied from 5.14 to 5.48 years as the gravity of planets, mostly Jupiter, tweaked its orbit. Comet Blanpain, now re-designated P/1819 W1, will be at its closest to the sun on 2014 August 28, just inside Earth's orbit. Unfortunately it will then be on the far side of the sun from us so not visible. -- From International Astronomical Union Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 3574 and from MPEC 2013-N21, both published on July 7.

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. Quote

"In 'Mission: Risk Averse' {Scientific American March 2013] John Matson expresses concern about the apparent risk-averse attitude at NASA leading to a preponderance of Mars missions at the expense of exploration of the rest of the more challenging parts of the solar system. I would suggest that there is another psychology at play: catering to the persistent hope of manned exploration. If such exploration is at all feasible, then Mars is the place (never mind that it is also an obvious dead end), and it is then natural to put so many eggs in the Mars basket. But this reveals a deeper choice that confronts NASA: How long will the capability to do real science be hobbled by the fabulously expensive Buck Rogers fantasies of manned missions? Given human psychology, this will not be easily resolved."

-- John Gaffin in Scientific American, Letters, July 2013, p.5.


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. The Conference and TTSO7
2. The Solar System in July
3. Video Occultation Observing Manual
4. Robotic Observatory in the Wairarapa
5. Deep Centaurus A Image
6. Conference Notes - Part 1
7. 2014 Conference at Whakatane
8. Video of the Nearby Universe
9. How Big Stars Form
10. Lightest Exoplanet Imaged So Far
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. How to Join the RASNZ

1. The Conference and TTSO7

The RASNZ's Conference at Invercargill was a great success. Around 90 attended from Kaitia to Bluff. As well several participants 'crossed the ditch' from as far away as Perth and Alice Springs. Details of the Conference opening and the first papers are in Item 6. Many of the Conference papers will appear in coming issues of Southern Stars.

Our featured guest was Jean-Francois Kaufeler of the European Space Agency (ESA). Jean-Francois has been responsible for the setting up of the launch monitoring station in Southland. The station tracks Ariane rockets taking supplies to the International Space Station. (See a summary of Robin McNeil's talk in Item 6.) Jean-Francois also gave a talk about some of ESA's solar system explorations.

The Conference was followed by the Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO7) on the Monday and Tuesday. Among many contributions was the release of a beginner's guide to observing occultations by video. This manual was the result of much work by Jacquie Milner and Graham Blow. Details on obtaining the manual are in Item 3. There was also the introduction of the new Astronomical Digital Video System that combines several functions in one box. Several presenters provided how-to guides of the advanced software for occultation predictions and for video image analysis. It is a tribute to Occultation Section Director Graham Blow that such a range of talented persons have been attracted to this scientific pursuit. Brian Loader proposed a vote of thanks to Graham at the end of the symposium.

For the superb organisation on the ground we have to thank the local organising committee: Phil Burt, Steve Butler, Michael Bailey, Pete Stewart and Bob Evans. The Ascot Park Hotel staff also provided great eats for the coffee breaks and a superb Conference dinner.

The overall supervision was by the Standing Conference Committee: Dennis Goodman, Orlon Peterson, Tim Homes, Pauline & Brian Loader, and Warwick Kissling. Pauline looked after the finances and registrations. Orlon and Warwick arranged the programme. Murray Forbes and Graham Blow assembled the TTSO7 programme.

The 2014 conference is at Whakatane from Friday June 6 to Sunday June 8 with a Variable star symposium on the Monday. See Item 7 for details.

TTSO8 will be Melbourne at Easter 2014 in conjunction with the National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA). Easter 2014 is April 18-21. Details will be advised later.

2. The Solar System in July

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

New moon:      July  8 at  7.14 pm NZST (07:14 UT)        
First quarter: July 16 at  3.18 pm NZST (03:18 UT)        
Full moon:     July 23 at  6.16 am NZST (Jul 22, 18:16 UT)
Last quarter   July 30 at  5.43 am NZST (Jul 29, 17:43 UT)

The Earth is at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun for the year, on July 6 at 2 am, when the distance will be 1.0167 AU, 152.1 million km.

The planets in july

Saturn is visible all evening throughout July. Venus will gradually get to be more visible to the northwest for a little longer following sunset.

Mercury starts the month as an evening object but difficult to see. Later in the month it will become a morning object, low in the dawn sky and quite close to Jupiter and Mars.

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

Saturn will remain an easy evening object during July, best viewed early evening, especially later in the month when it will set round about 1 am. The planet will remain in Virgo some 12 degrees to the right of Spica. The two make an obvious pair high to the north in the early part of the evening.

With the north pole of Saturn now tilted towards the Earth at an angle 17°, the rings are readily visible through a small telescope.

The first quarter moon will be about 1 degree from Spica early in the evening of July 16, the following evening the moon will be 4.5 degrees to the upper right of Saturn.

Saturn is stationary on July 4 when its westerly, retrograde motion will come to an end as the faster moving Earth swings away from the outer planet. Saturn will then resume its normal easterly track through the stars, slowly taking it away from Spica.

Venus will only be visible early evening. It sets two hours after the Sun on the 1st advancing to two and three-quarter hours later on the 31st. Look for the planet soon after sunset to the northwest. On July 1, half an hour after the Sun goes down, the planet will be twelve degrees above the horizon. This will increase to a good twenty degrees by the 31st.

On the 10th of July the 3.4% lit crescent moon will be 9° to the left of Venus and virtually at the same level.

Mercury will be 13 degrees to the lower left of Venus on July 1 when it will set just over an hour after the Sun. At magnitude 3.1, Mercury will be very difficult to locate in the evening twilight. Over the next few evenings the elongation of Mercury from the Sun will decrease quite rapidly until it is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 10th. After conjunction Mercury will move into the morning sky.

Jupiter, mars and mercury in the morning sky.

Jupiter passes Mars towards the end of July when low in the dawn sky. The two are closest on the mornings of July 22 and 23 when the planets will be 49 arc-minutes apart. Mars will then be to the lower left of Jupiter and, at magnitude 1.6, a lot fainter. The previous two mornings the planets will be a degree or more apart with Mars to the left of Jupiter. Their separation will increase again on the 24th and 25th with Mars now almost directly below Jupiter.

Early in July Jupiter will rise a little over 30 minutes before the Sun, making it a difficult object. Mars will rise half an hour or so earlier. By the end of July, Jupiter will rise nearly an hour and three-quarters before the Sun, so it will be easier to see, low to the northeast. Mars will have been left behind, rising about 90 minutes before the Sun.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the 9th when it will pass some 4.5 degrees south of the Sun. It then moves into the morning sky to be below Jupiter and Mars. By the end of July it will rise about an hour and a quarter before the Sun, so will remain low and a difficult object in the dawn sky. Mercury will by then have brightened noticeably, reaching magnitude 0.2 by July 31st when it will be at its greatest elongation, 20° west of the Sun.

In the second half of July all three planets will be in Gemini, so forming a fairly tight group. Mars is in Taurus for the first half of the month, moving into Gemini on the 15th.

At the end of July, three-quarters of an hour before sunrise, Jupiter will be 8° up to the northeast. Mars, much fainter at mag 1.6 will be 4° to the lower right of Jupiter. Mercury will be 7° to the right of Mars, slightly lower and brighter at mag 0.2. The star Betelgeuse in Orion, will be nearly 20° above Jupiter and Procyon will be some 24° to Jupiter´s right. Both stars have a magnitude close to 0.5, so will be only slightly fainter than Mercury.

Outer planets

Uranus will rise at midnight mid July. It will be in Pisces at magnitude 5.8.

Neptune rises more than 3 hours earlier than Uranus, so by 7.45 pm at the end of the month. During July, the planet is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.8.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres, magnitude 8.8, and (4) Vesta, magnitude 8.6, start July in Cancer. They are below Venus in the evening sky, so setting shortly after the Sun, making them virtually unobservable. Both are in conjunction with the Sun during August.

Other asteroids brighten to become possible binocular objects during July.

(3) Juno brightens from 9.7 to 9.1 during the month, and (7) Iris from 9.3 to 8.4. Both are in Aquarius and about 15° apart. Early in July they rise mid evening, so are essentially late evening objects. They are at opposition mid August reaching magnitudes 9.0 and 7.9 respectively.

(8) Flora is at opposition on July 20 at magnitude 8.7. It starts the month in Capricornus at magnitude 9.3. Flora moves into Sagittarius on the 11th.

(2) Pallas is at magnitude 9.2 in Orion, so not near opposition.

-- Brian Loader

3. Video Occultation Observing Manual

Graham Blow writes:

The RASNZ Occultation Section is pleased to announce the release of version 1 of Observing Occultations Using Video: A Beginner's Guide. You can download the Guide from here:

http://occultations.org.nz/videotime/manual.htm

Although written with observers in Australia and New Zealand especially in mind, we hope that observers elsewhere will still find its contents to be informative and useful.

The editors are looking for feedback on the content and presentation of the Guide. Does it cover all the questions you may want to ask? Is it laid out clearly enough? Please send any comments to:

Jacquie Milner: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with a copy to Graham Blow: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We'd also like to remind you that the website of the RASNZ Occultation Section has changed with immediate effect to: http://www.occultations.org.nz/ Please update your bookmarks accordingly.

4. Robotic Observatory in the Wairarapa

Terry Galuszka wrote to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group:

About a year ago I established a group for running outreach education programmes based around astronomy, target audience being primary and secondary school students. It followed on from being asked by Victoria University to assist with the transit of Venus forum in Tologa Bay. Well, we're progressing, have council support, a trust being established and offers for support (professional services and funding) coming in.

Last week, the local paper got wind of it. Here's the link to the times- age http://www.times-age.co.nz/news/masterton-first-in-online-stargazing/1900955/

5. Deep Centaurus A Image

Rolf Olsen posted on nzastronomers links to a stunning image of Centaurus (NGC 5128) taken over 43 nights in Feb-May this year. The total exposure time was 120 hours with a 10-inch (25-cm) f/5 Newtonian reflector in Auckland. The image is a composite from exposures through LRGB filters taken with a QSI 683wsg camera and Lodestar guider.

Rolf believes that the image is the deepest view ever obtained of Centaurus A. Also that it is likely also the deepest image ever taken with amateur equipment, showing stars as faint as magnitude 25.45. He spent around 40 hours and analysing processing the data, with the goal of presenting this majestic Southern galaxy as it has never been seen before - with all the main features showing in one single image, in order to truly get a grasp of what this intriguing object is all about.

The link to the high resolution image (~4MB)is http://www.rolfolsenastrophotography.com/Astrophotography/Centaurus-A-Extreme-Deep-Field/29643205_8ZwvgW#!i=2536914799&k=mNgSprP&lb=1&s=O

From there are links to other details about the image and its contents.

6. Conference Notes - Part 1

On Friday evening, May 24, around 90 RASNZ members and others gathered at the Ascot Park Hotel for the opening of the Conference.

Phil Burt, President of the Southland Astronomical Society, the host organisation, welcomed attendees. Gordon Hudson, RASNZ President congratulated the Conference Organising Committee on the assembly of a great programme. Gordon noted that this was the 93rd year of the RASNZ´s existence. Council had just held its 514th meeting.

In her welcome, Frana Cardno, Mayor of the Southland District Council, recalled how she used to enjoy looking at the stars from the family´s yacht on Lake Te Anau. Regional astronomical connections include Astronomer´s Point in Dusky Sound, named by Captain Cook in 1773. Bluff Hill was the site of the first auroral radar station in the country. It is remembered in the naming of the current radar station after Bob Unwin. (Bob´s son Martin recalled those days in a talk on Sunday.) Stewart Island is magnetically as far south as civilized places get, outside Antarctica. Hence its Maori name Rakiura: land of glowing skies.

Bob Evans led off the presentations with his Fellows presentation with his memories of the development of amateur astronomy in New Zealand. After a youthful close encounter with the Timaru Adamski Flying Saucer Group Bob discovered real astronomy and the Canterbury Astronomical Society. There he helped with building the first dome at the Joyce Observatory at West Melton. He was introduced to occultation observing by Ron Cross, and to variable star observing by Frank Bateson. In 1969 Bob visited Auckland on a teachers´ refresher course for a week, taking Clive Rowe´s first photoelectric photometer so it could be tried out on the new 50-cm Cassegrain telescope. This led to an extensive and continuing programme of photometry at Auckland Observatory. Bob moved to Ashburton College where he found an old With- Browning 10-inch Newtonian in an old dome. It originally belonged to Henry Skey of Dunedin. Bob was instrumental in having the telescope refurbished and re-housed under a run-off roof at a new site. The Ashburton Astronomical Society still use it. Bob ground an 8-inch mirror but never got it aluminized. On an English mounting it was used to take photos of the moon but little else. Satellite tracking became an amateur activity in the late 1960s with several 5-inch Apogee telescopes being established. Christchurch has two: one at Christ´s College, run by Nick Heath; another at West Melton. Systematic recording of aurora was begun in the 1930s by Murray Geddes. Ivan Thomsen continued the work at the Carter Observatory till 1958 when the auroral radar station started. Dennis Goodman revived the Auroral Section of the RASNZ in the 1970s. Bob took it over and widened its remit to solar observing as well. Bob continues to run the Aurora and Solar Section of the RASNZ. In all it has been an interesting five decades. Bob´s granddaughter is being encouraged to follow in his footprints. With Bob´s help she is already contributing to the Globe at Night surveys.

Saturday morning began with Robin McNeill, CEO of Venture Southland, talking of local space projects. The most recent is a communications station for the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA send Automated Transfer Vehicles - essentially 10-tonne trucks launched from French Guiana on Ariane 5 rockets - to supply the International Space Station. The stage 2 burn happens 400 km up over Australia and NZ. Now it has added Monitoring of the vehicle is carried out by ESA technicians. The ESA-NZ Arrangement (one step down from a Treaty) includes scholarships for Southland school pupils. Astronauts and engineers also talk to schools, broadening pupils´ horizons. A tangible result has been a doubling of the number of pupils doing Year 13 physics. Invercargill is 46 degrees south in geographical latitude but 54 degrees south in magnetic measurement. This is because the south magnetic pole in near the Australian edge of Antarctica. Thus Southland is a prime region for observing aurora. The Bluff Hill auroral station was established in 1958 with a visual and photographic station starting at Lauder, near Alexandra, in 1960. The trans-Tasman TIGER auroral radar array started in 2005, with much of the hardware made locally. Robin would like to set up a radio telescope in Southland, perhaps to link to the Auckland University of Technology´s dish at Warkworth. However, there isn´t funding for research at this time.

Tom Richards outlined the work that Variable Stars South was doing encouraging eclipsing binary observation and analysis. The section has about 50 members. Their subs provide an income to fund research. Members cover a range of activities ranging from CCD observations and brightness measurement of the target stars to analysis of the resulting light curves. There is now a wealth of software available for this. See, for example, www.binarymaker.com. Tom´s paper on this topic will appear in the June issue of `Southern Stars´.

Graeme Kershaw told of the demise and potential resurrection of the historic Townsend Telescope. The telescope was housed under a dome at the top of a tower at Christchurch´s Arts Centre, the old University of Canterbury site. The tower was weakened in the 2010 September 4 earthquake. There were discussions on removing the telescope - with minimal personnel, just in case - till 2011 February 22 when the CBD- centred after-shock shattered the tower. Photos taken immediately after the tower´s collapse show the copper dome, looking spherical, sitting on top of the masonry pile. However, an Urban Search and Rescue digger drove all over it looking for bodies. Weeks later Arts Centre staff delivered to UC all the parts of the telescope that they had found in a meticulous search of the rubble. The telescope tube was mostly flattened but, miraculously, the 150-year-old Cooke 5-inch objective lens survived. Also the finder telescope´s objective. Having been involved with refurbishment of the Townsend back in the late 1970s, Graeme is keen to repeat the exercise. The guesstimated cost is $60k-80k. Donations toward this project will be gratefully received. Contact Sharlene Mullen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> for donation details. Where will the telescope be housed? Possibly in UC´s new Science Complex.

John Talbot showed that careful photometry of Jovian satellite eclipses reveal much about a torus of sulphur atoms around Jupiter in the orbit of Io. During 2012 the sun and us were seeing the orbit plane of the Galilean satellites nearly edge on. Thus satellites were passing through each other´s shadows and occulting each other. Observers measuring these events noticed that the occulted moons often faded markedly long before they were occulted. Analysis showed that these fadings fitted with the moon being observed through the optically thick end regions of the torus of sulphur around Io´s orbit. The torus is much larger than Io, extending out to 6-8 times Io´s radius. Some observations hint that it could be asymmetrical: as much as 31 radii on one side and 10 radii on the other. Additionally, the precise photometry shows small-amplitude sinusoidal variations in brightness. These are confirmed by separate observers, so can´t be an instrumental effect. They may be related to the `zebra pattern´ found in some radio emissions from Jupiter. John´s observations were made with a home-made 25-cm f/4 `occultascope´ usually stopped down to 50mm. A video camera system did the recording. Other Jupiter moons were used as brightness check stars. A new series of these events will occur in 2014.

Steve Butler encouraged everyone to get out under the night sky and measure its brightness. For US$135 + p&p you can buy a Sky Quality Meter. See http://unihedron.com/projects/sqm-l/ for details. After a short integration an SQM tells you the sky brightness in magnitudes per square second of arc. A really dark sky looks like it has on magnitude 21.5 star in each such square. Steve made a series of measurements from the centre of Invercargill, where 20% of upward-directed floodlighting hits its target, to 15 km out of town. The CBD the sky was at 14 mag per sq.arcsec. This dropped to 20.5 just 4 km from the town centre. Malcolm Locke is doing a similar survey around Christchurch. Grant Christie reported that the Auckland astronomical Society has an application in to purchase several SQMs. These will be used to identify dark sky sites around Auckland with the aim of getting them protected. Steve also noted that the colour of the light pollution is important. Blue is particularly bad for humans. The Correlated Colour Temperature (CCT) describes the dominant colour. The moon´s CCT is around 4000 degrees Kelvin. Warm-white LEDs have a hotter CCT. One can get an estimate of the CCT by using a Spectrum Viewer for US$9.

John Hearnshaw announced that a second edition of his history of spectroscopy is just about ready for publication. Cambridge University Press expect to have it out in late 2014. The first book, in 1986, covered the history up to 1970 when 202,000 papers related to stellar spectroscopy had been published. In the interval 1971-2000 some 453,000 new papers appeared. Hence it has taken him 41/2 years to complete the update begun in 2009. The new book will be of larger format in two columns. The 30 years have seen extraordinary advances. Echelle spectrographs have become common, CCDs have replaced photography, spectral classifications have been revised, brown dwarfs have been discovered, extremely old and metal-poor Population III stars have been found, far-UV spectroscopy has been done by satellites. John found some interesting stories during his research. Enjar Hertzsprung was an amateur astronomer when he plotted up what became known as the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in 1908. He showed it to a nearby professor who was very impressed and offered him a job. Sometime later Henry Norris Russell arrived at the same diagram by a different analysis. However, the first note published about the diagram was by Hans Rosenberg, two years after Hertzsprung plotted it. So the `HR´ has two meanings. In 1905 William Campbell and Herber Curtis proposed looking for planets by the radial velocity (RV) method. This was achieved in 1995. In 1952 Otto Struve suggested using the RV method to search for massive planets orbiting close to their host stars: `hot Jupiters´. The planet found in 1995 was a half-Jupiter mass orbiting its star in four days. And in 1924 Albert Einstein predicted gravitational red-shift. After many erroneous attempts it was finally measured correctly with the Hubble Space Telescope.

-- From the Newsletter Editor's notes. Not to be taken as a true and correct record of what the presenters actually said. Watch for their articles in 'Southern Stars'. More next month (I hope...) -- Ed.

7. 2014 Conference at Whakatane

Those of you who were at the close of the Invercargill conference will have seen the presentation featuring the 2014 conference to be hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society at, naturally, Whakatane.

It will be in early June, dates are Friday June 6 to Sunday June 8 with a Variable Star South symposium on the Monday. The venue for the conference will be the Whakatane War Memorial Centre. The venue for the VSS symposium is the nearby Eastbay REAP building.

Plans for the conference are moving ahead. The Local Organising Committee is planning a pre-conference tour on the Friday afternoon which will include a visit to the Whakatane Society's fine observatory.

It's not too early to be planning your presentation for the conference. We would be particularly interested to hear details of observations being made by yourself or your local society.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

8. Video of the Nearby Universe

An international team of researchers, including University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer Brent Tully, has mapped the motions of structures of the nearby universe in greater detail than ever before. The maps are presented as a video, which provides a dynamic three-dimensional representation of the universe through the use of rotation, panning, and zooming. The video was announced last week at the conference "Cosmic Flows: Observations and Simulations" in Marseille, France, that honoured the career and 70th birthday of Tully.

The Cosmic Flows project has mapped visible and dark matter densities around our Milky Way galaxy up to a distance of 300 million light-years.

The team includes Helene Courtois, associate professor at the University of Lyon, France, and associate researcher at the Institute for Astronomy (IfA), University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa, USA; Daniel Pomarede, Institute of Research on Fundamental Laws of the universe, CEA/Saclay, France; Brent Tully, IfA, UH Manoa; and Yehuda Hoffman, Racah Institute of Physics, University of Jerusalem, Israel.

The large-scale structure of the universe is a complex web of clusters, filaments, and voids. Large voids -- relatively empty spaces -- are bounded by filaments that form superclusters of galaxies, the largest structures in the universe. Our Milky Way galaxy lies in a supercluster of 100,000 galaxies.

Just as the movement of tectonic plates reveals the properties of Earth's interior, the movements of the galaxies reveal information about the main constituents of the universe: dark energy and dark matter. Dark matter is unseen matter whose presence can be deduced only by its effect on the motions of galaxies and stars because it does not give off or reflect light. Dark energy is the mysterious force that is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate.

The video captures with precision not only the distribution of visible matter concentrated in galaxies, but also the invisible components, the voids and the dark matter. Dark matter constitutes 80 percent of the total matter of our universe and is the main cause of the motions of galaxies with respect to each other. This precision 3-D cartography of all matter (luminous and dark) is a substantial advance.

The correspondence between wells of dark matter and the positions of galaxies (luminous matter) is clearly established, providing a confirmation of the standard cosmological model. Through zooms and displacements of the viewing position, this video follows structures in three dimensions and helps the viewer grasp relations between features on different scales, while retaining a sense of orientation.

The scientific community now has a better representation of the moving distribution of galaxies around us and a valuable tool for future research.

See the video at http://irfu.cea.fr/cosmography

-- A University of Hawaii press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.


The video is most impressive and very informative. However, it starts slowly and progresses slowly over 17 minutes. If nothing seems to happen at first then just be patient. -- Ed.

9. How Big Stars Form

Stars form from accumulations of gas and dust in space. Denser clumps of gas and dust collapse under their own gravity. The squeezed gas heats up. If the mass is big enough then the temperature at the centre becomes sufficient for thermonuclear processes to start. This heat finds its way to the surface of the mass. Thus we have a star.

A long-standing problem with massive stars is that the radiation from the star should stop further material falling on it. Nevertheless massive stars are found. How does the infalling material overcome the repelling radiation and the 'stellar wind' from the hot massive star?

Part of the answer has been found in a study of the star-forming cloud W3. It is a giant molecular cloud containing an enormous stellar nursery, some 6,200 light-years away in the Perseus Arm of our Milky Way Galaxy. The region has been imaged at long infra-red wavelengths by the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory. The composite image referenced below was made from images at 70, 160 microns and 250 microns.

Infra-red observations of W3 show that in the very dense regions, there appears to be a continuous process by which the raw material is moved around. Under the influence of clusters of young massive protostars it is compressed and confined.

Through their strong radiation and powerful winds, populations of young high-mass stars may well be able to build and maintain localized clumps of material from which they can continue to feed during their earliest and most chaotic years, despite their incredible energy output.

For text & Images see; http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel/Hunting_high-mass_stars_with_Herschel

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

10. Lightest Exoplanet Imaged So Far

A team of astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO's) Very Large Telescope has imaged a faint object moving near a bright star. With an estimated mass of four to five times that of Jupiter (1300-1600 times Earth's mass), the object would be the least massive planet to be directly observed outside the solar system. The discovery is an important contribution to our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

Although nearly a thousand exoplanets have been detected indirectly -- mostly using the radial velocity or transit methods -- and many more candidates await confirmation, only a dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extrasolar _planets_directly_imaged).

Nine years after ESO's Very Large Telescope captured the first image of an exoplanet, the planetary companion to the brown dwarf 2M1207 (http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso0428), the same team has caught on camera what is probably the lightest of these objects so far.

In the new observations, the likely planet appears as a faint but clear dot close to the star HD 95086. A later observation also showed that it was slowly moving with the star across the sky. This suggests that the object, which has been designated HD 95086 b, is in orbit around the star. Its brightness indicates that it has a mass of only four to five times that of Jupiter.

The team used NACO, the adaptive optics instrument mounted on one of the 8.2-meter Unit Telescopes of ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). This instrument allows astronomers to remove most of the blurring effects of the atmosphere and obtain very sharp images. The observations were made using infrared light and a technique called differential imaging, which improves the contrast between the planet and dazzling host star.

The newly discovered planet orbits the young star HD 95086 at a distance of around 56 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, twice the Sun- Neptune distance. The star itself is a little more massive than the Sun and is surrounded by a debris disc. These properties allowed astronomers to identify it as an ideal candidate to harbour young massive planets. The whole system lies some 300 light-years away from us.

The youth of this star, just 10 to 17 million years, leads astronomers to believe that this new planet probably formed within the gaseous and dusty disc that surrounds the star. "Its current location raises questions about its formation process. It either grew by assembling the rocks that form the solid core and then slowly accumulated gas from the environment to form the heavy atmosphere, or started forming from a gaseous clump that arose from gravitational instabilities in the disc." explains Anne-Marie Lagrange, a team member. "Interactions between the planet and the disc itself or with other planets may have also moved the planet from where it was born."

Another team member, Gaël Chauvin, concludes, "The brightness of the star gives HD 95086 b an estimated surface temperature of about 700 degrees Celsius. This is cool enough for water vapour and possibly methane to exist in its atmosphere. It will be a great object to study with the forthcoming SPHERE instrument on the VLT. Maybe it can also reveal inner planets in the system -- if they exist."

SPHERE is a second-generation adaptive-optics instrument that will be installed on the VLT in late 2013. For details see http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/develop/instruments/sphere.html)

-- from a European Southern Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

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. 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

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

The VSS Southern Eclipsing Binaries Programme
Tom Richards

Yes, astronomy is fascinating and exciting to read about. And yes, it's fascinating and exciting to see the denizens of the sky through a telescope or to capture them with an image. But how about doing some astronomy; contributing to the science instead of just absorbing it? Eclipsing binaries offer a way in that's simple, un-demanding of equipment, doesn't need you outside all hours of the night, produces exciting results out of every night's imaging, and can even be done on a computer instead of a telescope. The Southern Eclipsing Binaries Programme of Variable Stars South is designed to provide all of that to the beginner in astronomical research, as well as keeping the experts Very busy. A 2013 RASNZ Conference paper.
Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P3

2013 Murray Geddes Prize - Grant Christie

Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P7

Bus Tour
On the Friday afternoon before the opening of the 2103 conference in Invercargill, attendees were invited to join a bus tour to the Unwin Radar and ESA Tracking Station at Awarua, and to Richardson's Truck Museum in Invercargill. About 30 people participated despite a cold windy day. Here are three photos from the trip.

Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P8

A Journey from the Antipodes to the Stars and Back
Margaret Austin

Hon Margaret Austin CNZM, CRSNZ, FNZIM, D.Sc (honoris causa), Chair, Lake Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook Starlight Reserve Working Party. Margaret has made an amazing contribution to New Zealand and especially to astronomy in recent times. Her experience with UNESCO and the World Heritage Committee has been applied towards establishing the Aoraki Mackenzie area as a Starlight World Heritage Area. This is an ongoing long term project marked with many meetings, contacts and journeys around the world. This is her after dinner speech at the 2013 RASNZ Conference in Invercargill.
Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P9

Reflective and Refractory: Some Observatins of NZ Amateur Astronomy
R W EVans

OVer my five decades involvement in NZ amateur astronomy, I reflect on contributions made by Various people over this time and the observing programmes that they and I have participated in. This is strictly personal so I know that I'm going to miss out a lot of people. They are for others to speak of.
Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P11

A Grazing Occultation of SAO 138754
Brian Loader

The observation of a grazing lunar occultation with some unusual features is described.
Volume 52, number 2. June 2013. P17

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. Roy Kerr Awarded Einstein Medal
2. Gerry Gilmore FRS
3. Conference Update
4. The Solar System in June
5. More on SOFIA
6. You Can Unofficially Name Exoplanets
7. Voyager 1 Hasn't Exited the Heliosphere
8. Patrick Moore - An Astronomer's View
9. The Horsehead in Infra-Red
10. Faint Supernova Type Found
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Quotes

1. Roy Kerr Awarded Einstein Medal

University of Canterbury Emeritus Professor Roy Kerr heads to Europe next week to become the first New Zealander to receive the Einstein Medal from the Albert Einstein Society in Switzerland. The Einstein Medal will be awarded to Professor Kerr at a ceremony at the University of Bern on May 28. Professor Kerr discovered a specific solution to Einstein's field equations which describes a structure now termed a Kerr black hole. He has made other significant contributions to general relativity theory, but the discovery of the Kerr black hole was so remarkable as to compare with the discovery in physics of a new elementary particle.

With over 100 million trillion black holes in the observable universe, his achievement has been of crucial importance for science. The Kerr Solution has come to be regarded as the most important exact solution to any equation in physics and has been pivotal in understanding the most violent and energetic phenomena in the Universe.

Professor Kerr's solution has already been recognised by the Royal Society, which awarded him its Hughes Medal in 1984, and by the Royal Society of New Zealand which awarded him its Hector Medal in 1982 and its Rutherford Medal in 1993.

The Einstein Medal is awarded annually by the Einstein Society which is based in Bern, Switzerland, where Einstein completed his revolutionary work in the first decade of the 20th century.

The Einstein Society works with the University of Bern to preserve Einstein's legacy in Bern and Switzerland through different activities and, in particular, by annually awarding a medal "to deserving individuals for outstanding scientific findings, works, or publications related to Albert Einstein".

The medal was first awarded to Stephen Hawking in 1979 and, since then, many distinguished scientists have received the medal including six Nobel laureates. For a not-quite-up-to-date list of Einstein Medal recipients see http://www.einstein-bern.ch/index.php?lang=en&show=medaille

-- From a University of Canterbury press release forwarded by Mike Reid.

2. Gerry Gilmore FRS

An RASNZ member of long standing, though resident in the UK for many years, has been made a fellow of the Royal Society, London. The citation on the Royal Society's website reads:

Professor Gerard F Gilmore FRS Professor of Experimental Philosophy, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Gerry Gilmore leads efforts to understand the structure and origin of our Galaxy. He led a revival of star-count analysis that first showed that the Galaxy possesses a "thick" disc, and helped to show that the thick disc formed early in the Galaxy's life. Our current understanding of how the masses of stars are distributed at birth was produced by Gilmore's team. In the early 1990s with a student he obtained the still standard estimate of the mass surface density associated with the discs. This study set the pattern of future work. He pioneered the use of spectral surveys to unravel the Galaxy's history through its chemistry and established that stars in the halo of the Galaxy are chemically distinct from stars in the Galaxy's satellites, even though much of the halo must consist of stars stripped from satellites. In 1994 with a student he discovered the Galaxy's most important satellite after the Magellanic Clouds. As its leading UK proponent, Gilmore played a big role in selection of ESA's revolutionary Gaia mission. He is the driving force behind the ESO-Gaia survey, which has over 250 co-investigators and will obtain spectra designed to complement data from Gaia.

For more see: http://royalsociety.org/people/gerard-gilmore/

3. Conference Update

The opening of the 2013 Invercargill conference is at 7.30 pm on Friday 24 May. The venue is the Ascot Park Hotel. On-line registrations will close on May 20, so if you still intend registering, please do so immediately. After the 20th you will be able to register at the registration desk when you arrive at the venue, but you may not be able to register for the conference dinner on Saturday 25 May. Accommodation in Invercargill may also be difficult to obtain by then due to the Bluff Oyster Festival also on at the weekend.

Visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> for more details about the conference and for online registration (up to May 20) for the conference and/or TTSO7.

Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz/>. If you want to present a talk at the symposium, contact Murray Forbes at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> for details.

Airport shuttle.

If you are arriving by air and require vouchers to get the reduced Shuttle fare of $5 between the Invercargill Airport and the Ascot Park Hotel you should apply to Phil Burt, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

Pre-conference tour

Those wishing to join the Friday afternoon tour, 1pm to 4pm, should make their intention known to Bob Evans, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. This is not a commitment but he needs to know approximate numbers in order to hire an appropriate bus. The cost is $20, payable when boarding the bus. More details of the tour are on the RASNZ website.

Conference Dinner

The theme for the banquet is "50 Years of Dr Who" to mark 2013 November 23rd as the 50th anniversary of the first transmission of Dr Who on BBC TV. For more information on the above, the LOC can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC. 10 May 2013

4. The Solar System in June

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

  Last quarter:  June  1 at  6.58 am NZST (May 31, 18:58 UT)
  New moon:      June  9 at  3.57 pm NZST (Jun  8, 15:57 UT)
  First quarter: June 17 at  5.24 am NZST (Jun 16, 17:24 UT)
  Full moon:     June 23 at 11.32 pm NZST (11:32 UT        )
  Last quarter   June 30 at  4.54 pm NZST (04:54 UT        )

Southern winter solstice: june 21, 5.05 pm nzst

The planets

Saturn is easily visible all evening throughout June. Venus will be briefly visible after sunset very low to the northwest. Mercury is near Venus throughout June. On the 1st Jupiter is close to Venus but even lower. It disappears after a night or two to be in conjunction with the Sun on June 19 and is virtually unobservable.

In the morning sky Mars will rise a little before the Sun but be very low.

Planetary conjunction

The last of a series of conjunctions occurs on June 21 when Mercury will be 2° to the upper left of Venus. The two will be low in the twilit evening sky almost round to the northwest from west. Mercury will be at magnitude 1.4, so Venus will act as a marker to locate the fainter planet.

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

Venus will be low in the evening sky at sunset but should be easily visible some 30 minutes later. It sets about an hour after the Sun on the 1st when it will be only 4° up half an hour after sundown. By the 30th it will set nearly 2 hours after the Sun. With an altitude of 12° half an hour after sunset it will be an easy find.

On the 1st, Venus will be the middle planet of a line of three. Jupiter will be 3.5° to its lower left but very low. Mercury will be on the opposite side of Venus, 4° away to its upper right. Given a low horizon, this grouping may be a last chance to spot Jupiter, in binoculars, before it is at conjunction with the Sun on the 19th.

The moon, as a very thin crescent only 2% lit, will be 5° to the left of, and very slightly higher than, Venus on the 10th. Mercury will 9° to the moon´s right. The following evening, the moon now nearly 6% lit and a little more obvious, will be 6° above Mercury and 9° from Venus.

Mercury starts June as a reasonably bright object in the evening sky setting some 80 minutes after the Sun. For the first part of the month it gets a little higher in the evening sky, keeping a similar distance ahead of Venus, but Mercury fades a little. The planet reaches its greatest elongation from the Sun on the 12th when it will be 24° to the east of our star.

In the days that follow Venus, still moving away from the Sun, soon catches up with Mercury. The two are in conjunction on the 21st, when Mercury will be 2° to the upper left of Venus, but a good 5 magnitudes fainter. Binoculars will probably be needed to spot Mercury in the evening twilight. Locate Venus first!

By the end of June, Mercury will be 11° to the lower left of Venus. At magnitude 2.9 it is likely to be difficult to find.

Saturn is an easy evening object all month. On the 1st it transits, when it is due north and at its highest, around 10pm, by the 30th at 8pm. The planet is well south of the celestial equator meaning it is quite high in NZ skies, nearly 60° up at its highest. The star Spica, will be about 12° to the left or lower left of Saturn throughout June, with the planet nearly a magnitude brighter.

The 78% lit moon will be 5° to the left of Saturn on the evening of June 19.

Mars IN THE MORNING SKY MARS is the only planet in the morning sky but not likely to be visible. It rises 50 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and just over 70 minutes before it on the 30th. At the latter date by the time Mars is 5° up, the Sun will be less than 7° below the horizon in a similar direction. As a result and with a magnitude 1.5, Mars is not likely to be visible to the eye.

Outer planets

Uranus rises about 2.30 am at the beginning of June and nearly two hours earlier by the end of the month. It will be in Pisces near a corner of Cetus at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune rises 3 hours before Uranus, shortly before midnight at the beginning of June. The planet is currently in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9 during June.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: Both (1) Ceres, magnitude 8.8, and (4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, start June in Gemini. Ceres moves into Cancer mid month. They will then set nearly two and a half hours after the Sun, Ceres 10 minutes after Vesta.

On the 1st Vesta will be some 17° to the upper right of Venus and 10° left of Pollux, beta Gem, mag 1.2. Ceres will be 2.5° to the left of the star. By June 7th, Ceres will be at its closest to Pollux, just over half a degree to its upper left.

Venus moves up to pass Vesta later in June. On the 22nd, Vesta will be less than half a degree to the right of Venus, the following night it will be a similar distance below Venus.

By the end of June Vesta will set just over 80 minutes after the Sun, while Vesta sets 100 minutes after.

-- Brian Loader

5. More on SOFIA

Following William Tobin's note about SOFIA coming to New Zealand, Item 6 in the April Newsletter, Karen Pollard forwarded a link to an article in The Press by Paul Gorman, last updated on April 3. ------------

A refrigerated telescope aboard a Boeing 747 sounds like pie in the sky but it's coming to Christchurch this winter to delve into the depths of the universe. Christchurch's southern latitude, its often clear night skies, its long airport runway and the relatively empty airspace have made it irresistible to the scientists involved in a new flying observatory.

Sofia - the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy - is due to land, and take off, and then land and take off quite a few more times, over a three-week period from July 12. Each flight has a price tag of more than US$1 million, which makes it as expensive per hour of observing time as the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA's outreach programme means there are likely to be public open days.

The "observatory-in-a-shortened-jumbo-jet" is a joint venture between NASA and the German space agency DLR (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luftund Raumfahrt). NASA stumped up the 1977 Boeing 747SP, formerly of United Airlines and earlier PanAm, while DLR built the 2.5-metre-diameter telescope tucked into the rear left of the plane and also the telescope's guidance systems. The telescope temperature is kept around minus 33 degrees Celsius when in observing mode and sits in a cavity flooded with nitrogen to cool it before takeoff to stop condensation.

Sofia has cost about US$800m to get off the ground. Scientists initially hoped it might begin operating in 2001, but the engineering challenges and making the plane fly smoothly proved tougher than expected. The stratosphere is the second layer of the atmosphere and provides excellent observing conditions because it lies above the weather and 99 per cent of the atmosphere's water vapour.

Sofia spokesman Nick Veronico told The Press yesterday about 40 scientists and technical staff would accompany the aircraft to Christchurch for the three-week winter observing period.

Retired Canterbury University astronomer Dr William Tobin, who visited the German Sofia headquarters in Stuttgart, said the flying telescope's focus would be on the Solar System and star-forming parts of the Milky Way galaxy. The weather was an important factor in choosing Christchurch, he said. The city's southern latitude and colder upper air meant the stratosphere was actually lower than it was closer to the equator. Consequently, the plane would not need to fly quite as high to get into that better observing layer above Christchurch and the South Island, he said.


The above article can be read at http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/8500671/Flying-observatory-in-Chch-for- winter

6. You Can Unofficially Name Exoplanets

In response to the last Newsletter's Item 7 "You Can't Name Exoplanets" an alert reader has forwarded a link to a highly detailed response on the IAU's press release on this. The guts of it is:

In a statement released earlier this week, Dr. Marcy, who is also a member of Commission 53, said, "For example, the [IAU] press release hammers home the IAU right to name exoplanets... but in reality, the IAU has failed to construct a naming system for exoplanets, after 18 years of exoplanet discoveries! The IAU hasn´t named a single planet - after 18 years! Michel Mayor and I privately decided one day to put the lower case letters "b" and "c", etc, after the star name. There has never been any IAU system of naming exoplanets."

As a follower of Uwingu from the outset, I was always profoundly aware (having actually read the information on the site) that they never made any claims to be the official source of names for exo-planets, but rather they simply wanted to act as a public forum for popular opinion.

Uwingu's goal is first and foremost to act as a source of funds to be used in planetary science, and the naming of exo-planets is simply a convenient mechanism. By equating Uwingu with charlatans who attempt to sell land on the moon, or claim to sell "official" names to stars, this press release is being disingenuous, and the results are potentially quite damaging - that is, at least compared to the completely innocent prospect of have one or two planets with popular names like "Sagan" or "Armstrong", or my favourite "Let the discovery team decide". ------- For the long -- very long -- version see http://thespacewriter.com/wp/2013/04/19/who-names-planets-the-iau-doesnt/

7. Voyager 1 Hasn't Exited the Heliosphere

In response to the April Newsletter's Item 8 "Voyager 1 Has Exited the Heliosphere" David Britten passed along this NASA Voyager Status Update on Voyager 1, dated March 20.

"The Voyager team is aware of reports today that NASA's Voyager 1 has left the solar system," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed."

To learn more about the current status of the Voyager mission: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-381

Jia-Rui C. Cook 818-354-0850 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/voyager20130320.html

8. Patrick Moore - An Astronomer's View

In the December issue of the Newsletter we reprinted obituaries to our Honorary Member Patrick Moore from British newspapers 'The Times' and 'The Economist'. Below is an obituary by astronomer Iain Nicolson, copied from 'The Observatory', vol. 133, No. 1233, 2013 April.


Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore (1923-2012)

Patrick Moore was a true giant of the astronomical world. With his infectious enthusiasm, boundless energy, and unparalleled communication skills, he inspired generations of astronomers -- both amateur and professional -- and raised the public awareness of the science of astronomy to heights that had never before been attained.

Born on 1923 March 4, in Pinner, Middlesex, he was brought up in East Grinstead, Sussex. Between the ages of 6 and 16, he was frequently ill because of a heart condition and so was educated mainly at home. When he was six years old, his mother presented him with a copy of 'The Story of the Solar System' by George F. Chambers, published in 1898; that was the book that sparked his lifelong interest in astronomy. He applied himself assiduously to the task of getting to know his way around the sky, and by 1934 had scraped together sufficient funds to buy the 3-inch refractor which enabled him to begin to study in detail the moon and planets. He joined the British Astronomical Association in 1934 at the age of 11, and presented his first paper, 'Small craters in the Mare Crisium', in 1936.

He served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, flying as a navigator on bombing missions: one way or another, he had what he described as "an interesting war". After leaving the RAF he declined to take up a place at Cambridge because he could not bring himself to apply for a government grant. Instead he worked for a time as a prep-school teacher. Following the publication of his first book, 'Guide to the Moon' (which subsequently ran to eight editions)in 1953, he resigned from his teaching post and devoted himself to a career as a freelance writer. 'Guide to the Moon' was soon followed by further books, notably 'Guide to the Planets' and 'The Amateur Astronomer', and indispensible 'bible' for budding (and established) amateur observers. With his writing career firmly on track, he continued to be an assiduous, painstaking, and accurate observer. He paid special attention to the areas around the lunar limb, which were revealed by librations. His charts of those areas were consulted by Soviet space scientists during the 'Luna' programme. Always active within the British Astronomical Association, he served as Director of the Mercury and Venus Section, Director of the Lunar Section (twice), and as President (from 1982 to 1984).

His big breakthrough came in 1957 when he was invited by BBC producer Paul Johnstone to present a series of programmes, to be broadcast once every four weeks, entitled 'The Sky at Night'. The first programme, which came out on 1957 April 24, featured the appearance in the evening sky of a bright comet - - Arend-Roland. One of the early highlights of his television career came on 1959 October 24, when the Russians provided copies of the first grainy images of the far side of the Moon, obtained by the Luna 3 spacecraft, just in time to be shown for the first time on that evenings 'The Sky at Night'. Among other pioneering ventures were his successful television coverage of a total solar eclipse from the top of a Yugoslavian mountain in 1961 February, and a first attempt later that year -- though badly frustrated by clouds -- to broadcast direct images of Jupiter and Saturn viewed through a 24-inch telescope.

In 1965, he accepted an invitation to become the first director of the fledgling Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland, but resigned from the post in 1968 and returned to his home county of Sussex, moving into the delightful thatched house in Selsey, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. Very soon afterwards, he became a key member of the BBC team that covered the Apollo missions, from the first circumlunar flight of Apollo 8 in 1968 December to the final landing mission of Apollo 17 in December 1972.

Patrick Moore remained at the helm of 'The Sky at Night' right up to the time of his death, having missed (due to a severe bout of food poisoning) only one of the more than 700 programmes that had been broadcast up to that time. Over the course of those 55 years he proved himself to be a truly exceptional guide to the world of astronomy. He explained the basics and new discoveries alike with clarity, enthusiasm, and gusto, drew the best out of many guests who graced his programme, enchanted millions of viewers and enticed many of them to get out and see for themselves the delights that the night sky holds. 'The Sky at Night' is without doubt the longest-running regular television programme with the same presenter -- a record that is unlikely to be broken any time soon, if ever, and a testament to Patrick Moore's unique flair and broadcasting style.

He was co-founder, and a former President, of the Society for Popular Astronomy (which originally was called The Junior Astronomical Society), which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2013. He edited, or co-edited, the annual 'Yearbook of Astronomy' for over fifty years from 1962, was the driving force behind the founding, in 1987, of the monthly magazine 'Astronomy Now', and was its first editor. He also played a major role in founding the BBC's 'Sky at Night' magazine in 2005. Another of his achievements was his compilation of the Caldwell Catalogue -- a list of 109 deep-sky objects accessible to modest telescopes, but which do not feature in the Messier catalogue.

His contributions to astronomy, broadcasting, and the public understanding of science have been recognized by numerous awards and honorary degrees. He was appointed OBE in 1968, CBE in 1989, and was knighted in 2001. He was awarded a BAFTA in 2002 (presented, to his great delight, by his good friend, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin) for services to television. Of all his awards, perhaps the one he prized most dearly was his election in 2001 as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society -- as an amateur astronomer he felt that to be recognized in this way by the pre-eminent scientific body in the land was an honour beyond compare.

He was a true polymath, with interests and abilities that ranged far beyond the world of astronomy. A talented self-taught musician who composed haunting piano pieces, rousing marches, waltzes, and three comic operas, he was an accomplished pianist and an excellent xylophone player whose on-stage credits included a solo performance at a Royal Command Performance and a duet with renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie. A dedicated cricket enthusiast, he was a highly effective, if unconventional, leg-spin bowler who played regularly for his local team in Selsey, and, on occasion, for The Lord's Taverners. Among other things, he was a county-standard chess player and a remarkably effective table-tennis player. Eccentric, opinionated, and certainly not politically correct (with firmly held views that he was not in the least afraid to express forcibly -- sometimes getting himself into hot water as a result), kind, generous to a fault, and intensely loyal, he had a tremendous sense of fun and a propensity for playing pranks, promulgating spoofs, berating authority, and for sending himself up.

Throughout his long career he endeavoured to reply personally to every letter that landed on his desk, and gave freely and willingly of his time, energy, enthusiasm, and resources to societies, organisations, and individuals who sought his advice or help. 'Farthings', his home for the last 44 years, was a welcoming place, where his hospitality was legendary. As his physical problems mounted in later life and his lack of mobility and dexterity became acute, he became intensely frustrated that he could no longer play the piano or xylophone, participate in cricket, nor eventually, use his telescopes of the idiosyncratic 1908 Woodstock typewriter on which the great majority of his books had been written. But his brain remained as active and focused as ever, and his work-rate nothing short of phenomenal. Until late 2012 November, when he was hospitalized for a couple of weeks, he was still working on book projects and revisions, having just completed a set of updates for the forthcoming paperback edition of his monumental 'Data Book of Astronomy'.

He passed away peacefully at home on 2012 December 9, with close friends and carers around him, and with his beloved cat Ptolemy, by his side. How best to sum up his life and influence? I can do no better than to quote words penned by his close friend -- astrophysicist and legendary guitarist, Brian May: "Patrick is irreplaceable. There will never be another Patrick Moore. But we were lucky enough to get one."

9. The Horsehead in Infra-Red

Astronomers have used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory's launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on 24 April 1990.

Looking like an apparition rising from whitecaps of interstellar foam, the iconic Horsehead Nebula has graced astronomy books ever since its discovery more than a century ago. The nebula is a favourite target for amateur and professional astronomers. It is shadowy in optical light. It appears transparent and ethereal when seen at infrared wavelengths. The rich tapestry of the Horsehead Nebula pops out against the backdrop of Milky Way stars and distant galaxies that easily are visible in infrared light.

Hubble has been producing ground-breaking science for two decades. During that time, it has benefited from a slew of upgrades from space shuttle missions, including the 2009 addition of a new imaging workhorse, the high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 that took the new portrait of the Horsehead.

The nebula is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud, located about 1,500 light-years away in the constellation Orion. The cloud also contains other well-known objects such as the Great Orion Nebula (M42), the Flame Nebula, and Barnard's Loop. It is one of the nearest and most easily photographed regions in which massive stars are being formed.

In the Hubble image, the backlit wisps along the Horsehead's upper ridge are being illuminated by Sigma Orionis, a young five-star system just out of view. Along the nebula's top ridge, two fledgling stars peek out from their now-exposed nurseries.

Scientists know a harsh ultraviolet glare from one of these bright stars is slowly evaporating the nebula. Gas clouds surrounding the Horsehead already have dissipated, but the tip of the jutting pillar contains a slightly higher density of hydrogen and helium, laced with dust. This casts a shadow that protects material behind it from being stripped away by intense stellar radiation evaporating the hydrogen cloud, and a pillar structure forms.

For image and text see http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/12

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

10. Faint Supernova Type Found

Until now, supernovae came in two main types. A core-collapse supernova, Type II, is the explosion of a star about 10 to 100 times as massive as our Sun. A Type Ia supernova is the complete disruption of a tiny white dwarf.

A third class of supernova has now been discovered. Dubbed Type Iax it is fainter and less energetic than Type Ia. Although both varieties come from exploding white dwarfs, Type Iax supernovas may not completely destroy the white dwarf.

Ryan Foley, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and his colleagues identified 25 examples of the new type of supernova. None of them appeared in elliptical galaxies, which are filled with old stars. This suggests that Type Iax supernovas come from young star systems.

Based on a variety of observational data, the team concluded that a Type Iax supernova comes from a binary star system containing a white dwarf and a companion star that has lost its outer hydrogen, leaving it helium dominated. The white dwarf collects helium from the normal star.

Researchers aren't sure what triggers a Type Iax. It's possible that the outer helium layer ignites first, sending a shock wave into the white dwarf. Alternatively, the white dwarf might ignite first due to the influence of the overlying helium shell.

Either way, it appears that in many cases the white dwarf survives the explosion, unlike in a Type Ia supernova where the white dwarf is completely destroyed. "The star will be battered and bruised, but it might live to see another day," says Foley.

Foley calculates that Type Iax supernovas are about a third as common as Type Ia supernovas. The reason so few have been detected is that the faintest are only one-hundredth as bright as a Type Ia. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope could discover thousands of Type Iax supernovas over its lifetime.

This research has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal and is available online [http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.2209].

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

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. 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. Quotes

"God runs electromagnetics by wave theory on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the Devil runs them by quantum theory on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday." -- Sir William Bragg.

"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs, and the Universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the Universe is winning." -- Rick Cook.

"There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary numbers and those who don't." -- anonymous.

"When I took office, only high energy physicists had ever heard of what is called the Worldwide Web... Now even my cat has its own page." -- Bill Clinton.

"It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." -- Alec Bourne.

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing." -- George Bernard Shaw.

"People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things." -- Edmund Hillary.


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. Conference Update
2. Notice of AGM
3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting
4. The Solar System in May
5. Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations
6. SOFIA coming to New Zealand?
7. You Can't Name Exoplanets
8. Voyager 1 Has Exited the Heliosphere
9. Youngest Stars Found
10. Most Massive Binary Found?
11. CMB Precisely Mapped by Plank
12. Some Interesting Images
13. NASA Software
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. How to Join the RASNZ
17. Quotes

1. Conference Update

Have you registered for the 2013 Invercargill conference AND booked your accommodation? The 2013 conference will be only 5 weeks away on April 20. After the end of April a registration late fee applies. Also the Ascot Hotel is only holding accommodation for conference attendees until April 30. With the Bluff Oyster Festival on the same weekend as conference, accommodation is likely to be booked out quickly. So if you need to book accommodation do so right away; if at the Ascot make sure you mention you are attending the conference.

Visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> for more details about the conference and to register for the conference and/or TTSO7.

There are still a few gaps in the conference speaking programme. We encourage members and societies to present papers on their own observing activiies or other items of astronomical interest. Submission forms to present a paper are also on the web site.

Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz>. If you want to present a talk at the symposium, contact Murray Forbes at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> for details.

Airport shuttle.

If you are arriving by air and require vouchers to procure the reduced Shuttle fare of $5 between the Invercargill Airport and the Ascot Park Hotel you should apply to Phil Burt, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

Pre-conference tour

Bob Evans writes: Delegates intending to participate in the Friday afternoon tour, 1pm to 4pm, are invited to make their intentions known to Bob Evans, <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. This is not a commitment but it would be useful to know approximate numbers in order to hire an appropriate bus. Note: cost is $20, payable when boarding the bus.

We are negotiating a slight change to the tour. Instead of including the Invercargill Met Station, we hope instead to visit the European Space Agency's Tracking Station which is at present set up ready for the launch of the Automated Transport Vehicle 5 on June 5th. We will confirm this as soon as we know.

Conference Dinner

The LOC has arranged a theme for the banquet. Realising that November 23rd this year is the 50th anniversary of the first transmission of Dr Who on BBC TV, they have decided on the theme "50 Years of Dr Who". For more information on the above, the LOC can be contacted at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee. 12 March.

2. Notice of AGM

The 90th Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held at about 4:30 pm on Saturday the 25th of May in the Oreti-Aparima Room of the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill.

-- R O'Keeffe, Executive Secretary, RASNZ.

The Agenda for the meeting, in RTF format, will be emailed to RASNZ members after this Newsletter. - Ed.

3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting

The Affiliated Societies Committee will meet on Friday the 24th of May 2013 at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. This meeting is normally attended by the Presidents of Affiliated Societies or their nominated representative

-- R O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary, RASNZ.

4. The Solar System in May

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter: May 2 at 11.14 pm NZST (11:14 UT)

New moon: May 10 at 12.28 pm NZST (00:28 UT) eclipse of Sun
First quarter: May 18 at 4.35 pm NZST (04:35 UT)
Full moon: May 25 at 4.25 pm NZST (04:25 UT) Conference dinner
Last quarter Jun 1 at 6.58 am NZST (May 31, 18:58 UT)

Solar eclipse.

An annular eclipse of the Sun will occur on the morning of May 10. The path of annularity starts at dawn in Australia, its path to the east taking it across York Peninsula where it crosses the path of the 2012 total eclipse. The subsequent northerly loop across the Pacific of this year´s eclipse takes the path away from New Zealand.

Only a very slight partial eclipse of the Sun will be visible from the North Island and the north and west of the South Island of New Zealand. At its greatest some 14% of the solar disk will be covered by the moon as seen from North Cape. The time of maximum eclipse as seen from New Zealand ranges from 11.40 am to noon. No eclipse will be visible from the southeast of the South Island south of about the mouth of the Clarence.

More details of the eclipse can be found on the RASNZ web site: <http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Eclipses/2013Eclipses.shtml#Sun1>

The planets in may

At the end of May, four of the naked eye planets will be in Taurus - along with the Sun. Only Saturn will be readily observable, by the end of May it will transit and so be highest to the north at 10 pm.

Planetary conjunctions

Venus, Mercury and Jupiter form a varying cluster of planets towards in the latter part of May with a series of mutual conjunctions. The conjunctions will all be difficult to see in the evening with the three planets setting no more than an hour after the Sun.

On the 24th Mercury will be at its closest to Venus, 1.4° below the brighter planet. Jupiter will be 4.6° away to the upper right of Venus.

Three evenings later, on the 27th, Mercury will be at its closest to Jupiter, but in fact still a little closer to Venus. The three planets will form a small triangle with Jupiter at the apex. Venus will be 1.8° below and slightly left of Jupiter. Mercury will be 2.4° below and to the right of Jupiter and 2.0° to the right of and very slightly lower than Venus.

The following evening Venus will be almost directly below and 1.1° from Jupiter, with Mercury 2.5° to the right of Venus and a shade higher.

Half an hour after sunset Venus will be about 3.5° above a sea level horizon, so very low. At magnitude -3.9 it should be readily visible in a clear sky. Jupiter a little higher is 2 magnitudes fainter while Mercury is at -0.6. All should be visible in binoculars.

Planets in the evening sky.

Mercury in fact starts May in the morning sky. On the 1st it will rise just over an hour before the Sun. Half an hour later the planet will be about 5° above the horizon a little to the north of east. At magnitude -1 it may be visible in binoculars. Mercury will steadily get lower in the sky each following morning so becoming lost to view in the brightening sky after a few days.

On the morning of the 12th Mercury is at superior conjunction with the Sun. After conjunction the planet becomes an evening object. By the end of the month it will set just over an hour after the Sun. On the 31st Mercury will be about 5° up half an hour after sunset, with the planet, magnitude -0.4, to the northwest.

During May, Mercury moves across Aries and Taurus as it passes first Mars and then Venus and Jupiter. The conjunction with Mars occurs with the planets too close to the Sun to see. On the last evening of May, Mercury will be poised to move on into Gemini.

Venus is an evening object throughout May. On the 1st it will set only 25 minutes after the Sun. This increases to an hour later by the end of May. By then it should be visible low in the north-westerly sky soon after sunset.

On the 31st, Venus will be a little less than 4° above the horizon half an hour after sunset. Jupiter will be 2.5° to its left and slightly lower, while Mercury will be 3.7° to its right and slightly higher.

Venus starts May in Aries, but moves on into Taurus on the 4th.

Jupiter sets just about 2 hours after the Sun at the beginning of May and 55 minutes later than the Sun on the 31st. So it will be a low object to the northwest as the evening sky darkens.

On the 12th a very thin crescent moon, only 4.5% lit will be 4.5° to the left of Jupiter. Three quarters of an hour after sunset the two will be about 7° up with Jupiter near northwest.

Jupiter is in Taurus all month.

Saturn was at opposition at the end of April so becomes a well placed evening object during May. At the end of the month it will be due north and highest in the sky close to 10 pm. The planet will start May in Libra but its slow retrograde motion takes it back into Virgo on the 14th. It will be about midway between Spica mag 1.1 and beta Lib, mag 2.6. When highest in the sky the three will form a nearly horizontal line high to the north.

The moon and Saturn are in conjunction a couple of days before the moon is full. Early in the evening of the 23rd, the 95% lit moon will be to upper right of Saturn.

Mars will be the only planet in the morning sky all month but remains difficult to see. It rises only 15 minutes before the Sun on the 1st increasing to 48 minutes earlier on the 31st. At magnitude 1.4 it is not likely to be visible to the eye.

Outer planets

Uranus rises about 4.30 am at the beginning of May, two hours earlier by the end of the month. It will be in Pisces near a corner of Cetus at magnitude 5.9.

Neptune rises 3 hours before Uranus, so shortly before midnight by the end of May. The planet is currently in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9 during May.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta move across Gemini during May. Vesta at magnitude 8.4 is a little brighter than Ceres. By the end of May they will set about 2.5 hours after the Sun. Ceres will then be approaching beta Gem, magnitude 1.2. It is 3° from the star on the 31st. Vesta will be 8° "behind" Ceres.

-- Brian Loader

5. Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations

This is a reminder that the Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO7) will take place in Invercargill over Monday May 27 and Tuesday May 28, 2013, immediately following the RASNZ Conference.

TTSO meetings are held in New Zealand and Australia over alternate years and attract a wide variety of participants. Their purpose is to provide a forum to swap information, experiences and ideas, and to discuss new techniques in observing occultations. The meetings are designed to cater for both new and seasoned observers so prior experience with this form of observing is not a prerequisite for attending.

A focus of this year´s meeting will be the launch of the new Astronomical Digital Video System (ADVS) developed by Tony Barry, Dave Gault and Hristo Pavlov. This revolutionary new system has been designed from the ground up to overcome ALL of the problems associated with using current video systems to observe occultations. Tony and Dave will bring with them a full working model so that TTSO7 participants will be able to get some "hands on" experience. More information about the ADVS is available at: http://www.astrodigitalvideo.com.au/

There is still time in the programme for additional presentations, in either oral form or as poster papers. Presentations can be on any occultation-related topic. If you would like to give a presentation please send a title, brief abstract and requested duration in the case of oral presentations, to the TTSO7 convenor, Murray Forbes (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with a copy to Graham Blow (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). At the meeting digital copies of all presentations will be required in a form suitable for inclusion on the Symposium CD.

For more information please visit the TTSO7 website: http://www.occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO7/index.htm

-- Graham Blow & Murray Forbes

6. SOFIA coming to New Zealand?

William Tobin writes: 'The Space Review' devotes a recent article to SOFIA, the US-German Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2220/1 ). It is reported that this observatory-in-a-747 'plans a deployment of the observatory to New Zealand in July to allow for observations of objects visible only in the southern hemisphere'. I have been unable to find confirmation on any of the official SOFIA websites (e.g. http://www.sofia.usra.edu/ or http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/SOFIA/ ) but I had heard rumours that a New Zealand expedition was in the offing, so I expect the information is reliable. The rumours did not extend to whether SOFIA would be based in Christchurch, as was its predecessor, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory.

7. You Can't Name Exoplanets

The International Astronomical Union Press Office and the European Southern Observatory's Education and Public Outreach Department advise:

In the light of recent events, where the possibility of buying the rights to name exoplanets has been advertised, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) wishes to inform the public that such schemes have no bearing on the official naming process. The IAU wholeheartedly welcomes the public's interest to be involved in recent discoveries, but would like to strongly stress the importance of having a unified naming procedure.

The full text of this press release and image are available on: http://www.iau.org/public_press/news/detail/iau1301/

-- Forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Voyager 1 Has Exited the Heliosphere

Thirty-five years after its launch, Voyager 1 appears to have travelled beyond the influence of the Sun and exited the heliosphere, according to a new study.

The heliosphere is a region of space dominated by the Sun and its wind of energetic particles, and which is thought to be enclosed, bubble-like, in the surrounding interstellar medium of gas and dust that pervades the Milky Way galaxy.

On 25 August 2012, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft measured drastic changes in radiation levels, more than 18 billion km (117 AU) from the Sun. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1 percent of previous amounts. At the same time, galactic cosmic rays -- cosmic radiation from outside of the solar system -- spiked to levels not seen since Voyager's launch, with intensities as much as twice previous levels.

"Within just a few days, the heliospheric intensity of trapped radiation decreased, and the cosmic ray intensity went up as you would expect if it exited the heliosphere," said Bill Webber, professor emeritus of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He calls this transition boundary the "heliocliff".

It appears that Voyager 1 has exited the main solar modulation region, revealing hydrogen and helium spectra characteristic of those to be expected in the local interstellar medium. However there is debate whether Voyager 1 has reached interstellar space or entered a separate, undefined region beyond the solar system.

For more see http://www.agu.org/news/press/pr_archives/2013/2013-11.shtml

-- From a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

9. Youngest Stars Found

Using a variety of telescopes, in space and on the ground, astronomers have found some of the youngest stars ever seen.

Dense envelopes of gas and dust surround fledging stars known as protostars, making their detection difficult. The 15 newly-observed protostars turned up by surprise in a survey of the biggest site of star formation near us, located in the constellation Orion. The discovery gives scientists a peek into one of the earliest and least understood phases of star formation.

Stars form when a massive cloud of gas and dust collapses under its own gravity. The gathering of thin cool gas into a ball of super-hot plasma that we call a star takes only a few hundred thousand years. It is relatively quick by cosmic standards. So finding protostars in their earliest, most short-lived and dimmest stages poses a challenge.

Astronomers long had investigated the stellar nursery in the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a vast collection of star-forming clouds, but had not seen the newly identified protostars until the Herschel infra-red space telescope observed the region.

Herschel spied the protostars in far-infrared, or long-wavelength, light. It detects wavelengths of 70 and 160 micrometers. These shine through the dense dust clouds around burgeoning stars. Herschel's scans were compared with those of the same region done by the Spitzer IR space telescope. Extremely young protostars were identified in the Herschel views but were too cold to be picked up in most of the Spitzer data. The identifications were further verified with radio wave observations from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile.

Of the 15 newly discovered protostars, 11 are very red. This indicates that the stars are still embedded deeply in a gaseous envelope, meaning they are very young. An additional seven protostars previously seen by Spitzer share this characteristic. Together, these 18 budding stars comprise only five percent of the protostars and candidate protostars observed in Orion. That figure implies the very youngest stars spend perhaps 25,000 years in this phase of their development. That is a mere blink of an eye considering that a star like our Sun lives for about 10 billion years.

For more see: http://arxiv.org/abs/1302.1203 http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-102

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

10. Most Massive Binary Found?

Astronomers have observed a binary star that potentially weighed 300 to 400 solar masses at birth. The present day total mass of the two stars is between 200 and 300 times that of the Sun, depending on its evolutionary stage. That possibly makes it the most massive binary star known to date.

The massive binary star R144 is in an outer area of the star-forming region 30 Doradus in the Large Magellanic Cloud. A number of particularly bright stars can be found in the centre of that region with a characteristic pattern of spectral lines. The masses of these so-called Wolf-Rayet stars are up to 250 times the mass of the Sun. R144 is the visually brightest light source of this type in the star-forming region 30 Doradus and radiates strongly in X-rays. This was an indication that R144 is a binary star. This presumption has now been confirmed thanks to the discovery of periodic orbital changes in the spectrum.

Spectra of R144 have been obtained with the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile. From the changing shape and position of the spectral lines it is clear that R144 is a binary star. The spectral lines also suggest that the binary system is formed by two hydrogen-rich Wolf-Rayet stars with similar masses. Their total mass of 200 to 300 solar masses. The star NGC 3603-A1 was formerly known as the most massive binary system, with a total mass that is equal to 212 times the mass of the Sun.

It is a mystery how extremely massive stars form. According to the most widely accepted theories, stars of hundreds of solar masses can only form in massive star clusters. The fact that R144 lies far out from the central star cluster in 30 Doradus is possibly an indication that these systems can form in isolation.

An alternative scenario for the formation of R144 is it was formed in the central star cluster, but was ejected by dynamical interactions with other massive stars. The team is already working on follow-up observations to determine whether R144 is indeed a 'runaway' star. They also want to definitively establish its mass and its other physical properties, to decide whether R144 really is the most massive double star discovered so far.

For more see http://mnrasl.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/03/27/mnrasl.slt029.sh ort?rss=1

Text (in Dutch) & Image: http://www.astronomie.nl/#!/actueel/nieuws/_detail/gli/kandidaat-zwaarste- dubbelster-geidentificeerd/

-- From a press release from the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA) in Amsterdam, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. CMB Precisely Mapped by Plank

The most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background -- the relic radiation from the Big Bang -- has been acquired by the European Space Agency's Planck space telescope. In it are features that challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the universe.

The map is based on the initial 15.5 months of data from Planck. It is the mission's first all-sky picture of the oldest light in our universe, imprinted on the sky when the universe was just 380,000 years old. At that time, the young Universe was filled with a hot dense soup of interacting protons, electrons and photons at about 2700°C. When the protons and electrons joined to form hydrogen atoms, the light was set free. As the universe has expanded, this light today has been stretched out to microwave wavelengths, equivalent to a temperature of just 2.7 degrees above absolute zero.

This 'cosmic microwave background' (CMB) shows tiny temperature fluctuations that correspond to regions of slightly different densities at very early times. These became the seeds of the future structure of the universe that we see today. According to the standard model of cosmology, the fluctuations arose immediately after the Big Bang and were stretched to cosmologically large scales during a brief period of accelerated expansion known as inflation.

Planck was designed to map these fluctuations across the whole sky with greater resolution and sensitivity than ever before. By analyzing the nature and distribution of the "seeds" in Planck's CMB image, we can determine the composition and evolution of the universe from its birth to the present day.

Overall, the information extracted from Planck's new map provides an excellent confirmation of the standard model of cosmology to an unprecedented accuracy. But the precision of Planck's map has also revealed some peculiar unexplained features that may well require new physics to be understood.

One of the most surprising findings is that the fluctuations in the CMB temperatures at large angular scales do not match those predicted by the standard model. Their signals are not as strong as expected from the smaller scale structure revealed by Planck. Another is an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the sky. This runs counter to the prediction made by the standard model that the universe should be broadly similar in any direction we look. Furthermore, a cold spot extends over a patch of sky that is much larger than expected. The asymmetry and the cold spot had already been hinted at by Planck's predecessor, NASA's WMAP mission, but were largely ignored because of lingering doubts about their cosmic origin.

"The fact that Planck has made such a significant detection of these anomalies erases any doubts about their reality; it can no longer be said that they are artefacts of the measurements. They are real and we have to look for a credible explanation," says Paolo Natoli of the University of Ferrara, Italy.

One way to explain the anomalies is to propose that the universe is in fact not the same in all directions on a larger scale than we can observe. In this scenario, the light rays from the CMB may have taken a more complicated route through the universe than previously understood, resulting in some of the unusual patterns observed today.

Beyond the anomalies, however, the Planck data conform spectacularly well to the expectations of a rather simple model of the universe. This has allowed scientists to extract the most refined values yet for its ingredients.

Normal matter that makes up stars and galaxies contributes just 4.9% of the mass/energy density of the universe. Dark matter, which has thus far only been detected indirectly by its gravitational influence, makes up 26.8%, nearly a fifth more than the previous estimate. Conversely, dark energy, a mysterious force thought to be responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe, accounts for less than previously thought.

Finally, the Planck data also sets a new value for the rate at which the universe is expanding today, known as the Hubble constant. At 67.15 kilometres per second per megaparsec, this is significantly less than the current standard value in astronomy. The data imply that the age of the universe is 13.82 billion years.

For more see http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Planck/Planck_reveals_an_a lmost_perfect_Universe

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

12. Some Interesting Images

Mars Panorama from Curiosity. Truly a remarkable picture -- steerable and zoomable -- stitched together by an amateur from many Curiosity Rover frames. http://www.360cities.net/image/mars-gigapixel-panorama-curiosity-solar- days-136-149#71.24,-20.08,110.0

-------------- Multiple arcs are revealed around Betelgeuse, the nearest red supergiant star to Earth, in this new image from ESA´s Herschel space observatory. The star and its arc-shaped shields could collide with an intriguing dusty `wall´ in 5000 years. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Betelgeuse_braces_for_a_co llision -------------- Composite X-ray images of the remnant of the supernova of 1006 http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2013/sn1006/

-------------- A new picture of the green planetary nebula IC 1295 from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1317/

-------------- The gravitational field surrounding the massive cluster of galaxies, Abell 68, acts as a natural lens in space to brighten and magnify the light coming from very distant background galaxies. The lensing makes a cartoon 'space invader' from video games of yore. http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2013/09/image/a/

---------------- The Hubble Space Telescope has produced a time-lapse movie of a mysterious protostar that behaves like a flashing light. Every 25.34 days, the object, designated LRLL 54361, unleashes a burst of light which propagates through the surrounding dust and gas. http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1303/

-- All forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. NASA Software

Do you want to go Mars but don't know when to leave or how much to bring? Do you want to study Earth protection by planning a mission to a near- Earth asteroid? Do you want to place a telescope in an orbit that is always looking outwards from the Earth and Sun? The General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT) is an open-source space mission design tool to help you answer these and many other space flight challenges. GMAT is developed by a team of NASA, private industry, and public and private contributors. It is used for real-world engineering studies, as a tool for education and public engagement, and (after completion of final acceptance testing in Sept. 2013) to fly operational spacecraft. In addition, we are proud to announce a formal partnership between NASA and the Korean Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to co-develop GMAT. You can download GMAT here: Windows Installer <http://sourceforge.net/projects/gmat/files/GMAT/GMAT-R2013a/gmat-winInstaller-i586-R2013a.exe/download> , Source Code <http://sourceforge.net/projects/gmat/files/GMAT/GMAT-R2013a/gmat-src-R2013a.zip/download> .

For a full description of GMAT R2013a, see the Release Notes <http://gmat.sourceforge.net/docs/R2013a/html/ReleaseNotes.html#ReleaseNotesR2013a> .

This is a one-time announcement. For further information, please visit our wiki: http://gmatcentral.org To receive future announcements, please subscribe to the project mailing list: https://lists.sourceforge.net/lists/listinfo/gmat-info

-- Forwarded by Karen Pollard.

14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

16. 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..

17. Quotes

"Any clod can have the facts, but having opinions is an art." -- Charles McCabe.

"Where facts are few, experts are many." -- Donald R. Gannon

"Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one." -- Neil Gaiman.

"A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." -- Robert Frost.

"Time is that quality of nature which keeps events from happening all at once. Lately it doesn't seem to be working." -- Anonymous.

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


Newsletter editor:

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

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

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

Contents

1. Real Star Wars
2. Notice of AGM
3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting
4. The Solar System in April
5. GLOBE at Night 2013 Campaign
6. RASNZ Conference 2013
7. Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations
8. Canon DH40 Body for Sale
9. Improved LMC Distance Measure
10. Sizing Up Neutron Stars
11. Comet to Hit Mars in October 2014?
12. How to Join the RASNZ
13. Quote

1. Real Star Wars

Geography matters. In 1908 a rock the size of a city block hit the Earth´s atmosphere at 15km (9 miles) a second. The explosion flattened an area the size of London. But the land in question was in Siberia, so few people noticed and those who did had little influence. Suppose, though, it had devastated a city in Europe or North America. The history of the 20th century would have been different, as the best scientific and engineering brains were brought to bear on the question of how to stop it happening again.

Well, it has happened again, albeit less spectacularly. By chance, Siberia bore the brunt once more, when a meteor crashed in the Urals on February 15th, injuring more than 1,000 people. It could just as easily have hit Germany or Guangdong. Moreover, on the same day another, larger rock called 2012 DA14 passed within 27,000 km of Earth. By astronomical standards, that is a hair´s breadth. It is time to think seriously about stopping such incidents by building a system that can detect space rocks with sufficient warning, and then either blast them or push them out of the way. It would be costly, of course, and would require the development of new technology. But, as luck would have it, there is a tool lying around that has both the money and the nous to do it, and which is currently underemployed and in need of a new mission.

NASA, America´s space agency, has become a curious hybrid. Part of it is one of the world´s leading scientific research organisations. This NASA sends robot probes to the planets, runs space telescopes and has already sponsored projects devoted to looking for large asteroids-the ones that would blow humanity to kingdom come if their orbits ever intersected that of the Earth. If such a large, "planet-killing" asteroid were discovered, though, the chances are that earthlings would have decades, or centuries, to act; a small nudge, judiciously applied by rocket motor or nuclear explosion (see link below), would be enough to send it off course.

The real problem is "city-killers" - things too small for existing surveys to see, but large enough to do serious damage. And it is here that the other NASA might be brought into play. The non-scientific bit of the agency, the bit that brought you the Apollo project, has been looking for a proper job since 1972, when Apollo was cancelled. It thought it had found it in the Space Shuttle, but building a cheap, reliable orbital truck proved impossible. It thought it had found it in the International Space Station, but that has turned into a scientifically useless tin can in the sky. The latest wheeze is to build a rocket that might one day, many administrations hence, go to Mars.

In a well-ordered world, this bit of NASA would have been closed down years ago. That it has not been is due, in large measure, to the lobbying power of aerospace companies which see the agency as a way to divert money from taxpayers´ pockets into those of their shareholders. This pocket- picking would be less irksome if something useful came of it. Why not, therefore, change this part of NASA´s remit to protecting the planet from external attack, not by evil aliens but by an uncaring universe?

Two things would be needed. One is a bigger system of telescopes, either on the ground or in orbit, to give notice of a threat. The other is a way to counter the threat. That might be done with lasers, or with controlled explosions that would shift the incoming object´s orbit sufficiently to make it miss altogether, or (if that is not possible) hit an unpopulated area.

Developing all this would be a technological challenge worthy of NASA´s engineers. It would keep the agency´s bureaucrats in their jobs. It would keep the money flowing to the aerospace companies. It would probably cost no more than the space station (about $100 billion). And, if it worked, it would provide something that benefited not just America, but the world - precisely the sort of thing a rich country which often claims the moral high ground ought to be doing. When Apollo 11 took off from the Moon on July 21st 1969, its crew left behind a plaque that read, "They came in peace, for all mankind". What an opportunity both America and NASA now have to prove that they meant it.

-- From The Economist, February 23 p.16. See the original at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21572203-something-useful-americas-underemployed-space-agency-do-real-star-war For a longer article on this topic see http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21572162-after-hit-and-near-miss-minds-are-focusing-risks-space-rocks

2. Notice of AGM

The 90th Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held at about 4:30 pm on Saturday the 25th of May in the Oreti-Aparima Room of the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. Notices of Motion are invited and should reach the Executive Secretary six weeks in advance of the meeting, by April 20, 2013. They should be sent in writing to: R O'Keeffe, Executive Secretary, RASNZ, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting

The Affiliated Societies Committee will meet on Friday the 24th of May 2013 at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. This meeting is normally attended by the Presidents of Affiliated Societies or their nominated representative. Notices of Motion for the meeting are invited and should reach the Executive Secretary by April 19, 2013.

-- R O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary, RASNZ.

4. The Solar System in April

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter:  Apr  3 at  5.37 pm NZDT (04:37 UT)        
New moon:      Apr 10 at  9.35 pm NZST (09:35 UT)        
First quarter: Apr 19 at 12.31 am NZST (Apr 18, 12:31 UT)
Full moon:     Apr 26 at  7.57 am NZST (Apr 25, 19:57 UT)

The planets in april

Jupiter sets just over 2.5 hours after the Sun at the beginning of April and about 1.5 hours after it at the end of the month, so will be low to the northwest following sunset.

Saturn is at opposition at the end of April. It will be an easily seen object mid to late evening throughout the month.

Mercury is in the morning sky. The first half of April will present the best morning views of the planet for the year.

Venus and Mars are both too close to the Sun to observe during April.

The evening sky.

Venus was at superior conjunction at the end of March. In April it is an evening object, but will set less than half an hour after the Sun so will be at best very difficult to see.

Mars is at conjunction with the Sun on April 18, so will also not be visible during April. After conjunction it will become a morning sky object.

Jupiter sets just over 2.5 hours after the Sun at the beginning of April and about 1.5 hours after it at the end of the month. 30 minutes after sunset it will be visible to the northwest, about 21° up on the 1st, reducing to 15° by the 30th. The planet remains in Taurus with Aldebaran to its left, their separation increasing from a little over 5° on the 1st to 9° during April.

The crescent moon passes Jupiter on the morning of the 15th. They are closest about 6 am while Jupiter is set in NZ. The previous evening the two will be about 6.5° apart with the moon left of Jupiter. The following evening they will be about a degree closer, but with the moon now to the right of Jupiter.

Saturn is at opposition on April 28 and becomes a good evening object during the month. On the 1st it will rise a little after 8.30 pm, NZDT. By the end of April it will rise a few minutes after 5.30 pm NZST. Two hours after it rises, the planet will be a little over 20° up to the east

Saturn is in Libra all April with the wide double star alpha Lib a few degrees to its right. Alpha Lib has a magnitude 2.7, its companion 5.2. Beta Lib will be about twice as far away to the lower right of the planet. Despite its name, beta is slightly brighter than alpha. The star Spica, will be another step further away to the upper left of Saturn. At magnitude 1.1 Spica is the brightest of the three star, but Saturn is a magnitude brighter still.

The moon, a few hours past full, will be some 5° to the right of Saturn in the early evening of April 26. During the evening the moon will slowly move further from Saturn towards the star alpha Lib. The moon will occult the star soon after 10.30 pm as seen in New Zealand, times varying by a few minutes through the country. This disappearance takes place on the lit limb of the moon making it very difficult to observe. Just over an hour later the star emerges again from the opposite side of the moon.

The morning sky: mercury (and saturn)

Mercury, in the morning sky, rises more than 2 hours before the Sun during the first half of April. An hour before sunrise it will be an easy object to the east about 15° above the horizon.

It starts the month at magnitude 0.3 and brightens to -0.1 by the 15th and -0.9 by the 30th. This makes it the brightest star-like object in the eastern sky.

During the second half of April the planet will become lower in the morning sky, by the 30th it rises only 70 minutes before the Sun The lower altitude will be compensate by its increasing brightness so it should be visible 45 minutes before sunrise.

On the morning of the 21st Mercury will be 2° to the right of Uranus. At magnitude 5.9 Uranus is readily visible through binoculars as the brightest object to the right of Mercury. A star, half a magnitude fainter than Uranus will be quite close to its lower. This should present a good opportunity to view the outer planet.

Saturn in the morning sky becomes very low to the west before sunrise so will only be readily visible well before that time.

Outer planets

Uranus moves up into the morning sky. Its conjunction with Mercury on the 21st is note above.

Neptune is a 7.9 magnitude, morning object in Aquarius, some 30° above and to the left of Mercury. The 14% lit crescent moon will be 6° to the left of Neptune on the morning of April 7.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta move away from Jupiter and Aldebaran during April.

Ceres spends the month in Auriga with a magnitude near 8.7. Vesta is in Taurus most of the month but moves into Gemini on the 26th. Its magnitude is near 8.3

-- Brian Loader

5. GLOBE at Night 2013 Campaign

Join the Worldwide GLOBE at Night 2013 Campaign

What would it be like without stars at night? What is it we lose? Starry night skies have given us poetry, art, music and the wonder to explore. A bright night sky (aka light pollution) affects energy consumption, health and wildlife too. Spend a few minutes to help scientists by measuring the brightness of your night sky. Join the GLOBE at Night citizen-science campaign (www.globeatnight.org). The third campaign started March 3 and runs through March 12.

More information: GLOBE at Night is a worldwide, hands-on science and education program to encourage citizen-scientists worldwide to record the brightness of their night sky. During five select sets of dates in 2013, children and adults match the appearance of a constellation (Orion or Leo in the northern hemisphere, and Orion and Crux in the southern hemisphere) with seven star charts of progressively fainter stars (www.globeatnight.org/observe_magnitude_orion.html). Participants then submit their choice of star chart at www.globeatnight.org/webapp/ with their date, time and location. This can be done by computer (after the measurement) or by smart phone or pad (during the measurement). From these data an interactive map of all worldwide observations is created (www.globeatnight.org/map/). Over the past 7 years of 10-day campaigns, people in 115 countries have contributed over 83,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night the most popular, light pollution citizen-science campaign to date (www.globeatnight.org/analyze.html).

The GLOBE at Night website is easy to use, comprehensive, and holds an abundance of background information (www.globeatnight.org/learn.html and www.globeatnight.org/observe.html). Guides, activities, one-page flyers and postcards advertising the campaign are available at www.globeatnight.org/pdf/. Through GLOBE at Night, students, teachers, parents and community members are amassing a data set from which they can explore the nature of light pollution locally and across the globe. The remaining GLOBE at Night campaigns in 2013 are: March 3 - 12, March 31 - April 9, and April 29 - May 8. Make a difference and join the GLOBE at Night campaign.

-- Constance E. Walker, Ph.D. associate scientist & senior science education specialist, NOAO director, GLOBE at Night campaign (www.globeatnight.org) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Forwarded by Steve Butler

6. RASNZ Conference 2013

The 2013 conference is now a little over 2 months away. Registrations for the conference are coming in regularly. If you have yet to do so, it would be wise to register now and book your accommodation. The venue is the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, the dates Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May, with the Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium, TTSO7 following on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 May.

Visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> for more details and to register for the conference and/or TTSO7. We encourage members to present papers on their own observing activities or other items of astronomical interest. Submission forms to present a paper are also on the web site.

If you are booking accommodation at the Ascot Park Hotel make sure you mention that you are attending the RASNZ conference. The hotel is holding accommodation for us for a limited time and special rates will apply. With the Bluff Oyster festival coinciding with the conference it is sensible to reserve your accommodation early before it is booked out.

If you intend flying to Invercargill you may be interested in using the shuttle from the airport. Let the LOC know you are flying and they will send you a voucher to entitle you to a shuttle fare of $5 each way.

The LOC are planning a tour for the Friday afternoon before the conference opens. Their plans includes a visit to the Unwin Radar at Awarua, then to the Met Station to watch a balloon release and radar tracking, then onto Richardson' Truck Museum. Cost is $20 per person which includes bus hire and admission to the Truck Museum. The tour will depart from the Ascot Hotel at 1pm returning about 4pm. More information will be available from the LOC

In response to requests, the LOC are arranging a theme for the banquet. Realising that November 23rd this year is the 50th anniversary of the first transmission of Dr Who on BBC TV, they have decided on the theme "50 Years of Dr Who". For more information on the above, the LOC can be contacted at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>.

An updated version of the conference brochure is now on the RASNZ web site. It includes details of our two guest speakers, Jean-François Kaufeler and Professor Richard Easther. Jean-François was until recently at the ESA where he was head of the ground segment engineering department and of the ESA operations centre. Richard Easther is the Head of Department, Physics, at Auckland University. The fellows speaker for 2013 is Bob Evans and our after dinner speaker will be the Hon. Margaret Austin.

Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz>.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC. 12 March 2013

7. Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations

This is a reminder that the Seventh Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO7) will take place in Invercargill over Monday May 27 and Tuesday May 28, 2013, immediately following the RASNZ Conference.

TTSO meetings are held in New Zealand and Australia over alternate years and attract a wide variety of participants. Their purpose is to provide a forum to swap information, experiences and ideas, and to discuss new techniques in observing occultations. The meetings are designed to cater for both new and seasoned observers so prior experience with this form of observing is not a prerequisite for attending.

A focus of this year´s meeting will be the launch of the new Astronomical Digital Video System (ADVS) developed by Tony Barry, Dave Gault and Hristo Pavlov. This revolutionary new system has been designed from the ground up to overcome ALL of the problems associated with using current video systems to observe occultations. Tony and Dave will bring with them a full working model so that TTSO7 participants will be able to get some "hands on" experience. More information about the ADVS is available at: http://www.astrodigitalvideo.com.au/

There is still time in the programme for additional presentations, in either oral form or as poster papers. Presentations can be on any occultation-related topic. If you would like to give a presentation please send a title, brief abstract and requested duration in the case of oral presentations, to the TTSO7 convenor, Murray Forbes (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with a copy to Graham Blow (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). At the meeting digital copies of all presentations will be required in a form suitable for inclusion on the Symposium CD.

For more information please visit the TTSO7 website: http://www.occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO7/index.htm

-- Graham Blow & Murray Forbes

8. Canon DH40 Body for Sale

For Sale: Canon DH40 Body Only, Spectrum enhanced DSLR with built-in astronomical UV/IR blocking Filter (Type 1b) Serial No. 0820519094: Frame Count 2124 Plus: Two (2) spare batteries and cables, Instruction booklet. Price: $1100.00 o.n.o. Contact: Peter Aldous - 03 6937337 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Peter has also discovered a supernova, the first in his search programme. However the discovery hasn't been officially designated or announced at the press time. -Ed.

9. Improved LMC Distance Measure

After nearly a decade of careful observations an international team of astronomers has measured the distance to our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, more accurately than ever before. This new measurement also improves our knowledge of the rate of expansion of the universe, the Hubble Constant. It is also a crucial step towards understanding the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is causing the expansion to accelerate. The team used telescopes at the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) La Silla Observatory in Chile as well as others around the globe. These results appeared in the 7 March 2013 issue of the journal Nature.

Astronomers survey the scale of the universe by first measuring the distances to close-by objects and then using them as standard candles to pin down distances further and further out into the cosmos. But this chain is only as accurate as its weakest link. Up to now finding an accurate distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) has proved elusive. It is crucially important ss stars in the LMC are used to fix the distance scale for more remote galaxies.

Careful observations of a rare class of double star have now allowed a team of astronomers to deduce a much more precise value for the LMC distance: 163,000 light-years. The result is accurate to 2%.

The improvement in the measurement of the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud also gives better distances for many Cepheid variable stars. These bright pulsating stars are used as standard candles to measure distances out to more remote galaxies. This in turn is the basis for surveying the universe out to the most distant galaxies that can be seen with current telescopes. So this more accurate distance for the Large Magellanic Cloud improves the accuracy of cosmological distances.

The astronomers worked out the distance to the Large Magellanic Cloud by observing rare close pairs of stars, known as eclipsing binaries. As these stars orbit each other they pass in front of each other, as seen from Earth. When this happens the total brightness drops.

By tracking these changes in brightness, and also measuring the stars' orbital speeds, it is possible to work out the sizes of the stars, their masses, and other information about their orbits. When this is combined with careful measurements of the total brightness and colours of the stars remarkably accurate distances can be found.

This method has been used before, but with hot stars. However, certain assumptions have to be made in this case so such distances are not as accurate. But now, for the first time, eight extremely rare eclipsing binaries where both stars are cool red giant stars have been identified. These stars have been studied very carefully and yield much more accurate distance values -- accurate to about 2%.

The result was achieved using ESO's HARPS spectrograph for extremely accurate radial velocities of relatively faint stars. The researchers also used the SOFI instrument for precise measurements of star brightness in the infrared

For text, images, and video: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1311/

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

10. Sizing Up Neutron Stars

Neutron stars, the ultra-dense cores left behind after massive stars collapse, contain the densest matter known in the universe outside of a black hole. New results from X-ray telescopes have provided one of the most reliable determinations yet of the relation between the radius of a neutron star and its mass. These results constrain how nuclear matter -- protons and neutrons, and their constituent quarks -- interact under the extreme conditions found in neutron stars.

Three telescopes -- Chandra, ESA's XMM-Newton, and NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) -- were used to observe 8 neutron stars.

An x-ray star X7 in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae is a neutron star slowly pulling gas away from a small companion star. In 2006, researchers used observations of the amount of X-rays from X7 at different energies to determine a relationship between the mass and the radius of the neutron star. A similar procedure was used for observations of the other neutron stars.

Four other neutron stars were observed to undergo bursts of X-rays that cause the atmosphere of the neutron star to expand. By following the cooling of the star, its surface area can be calculated. From that it was possible to gather more information on the relationships between the masses and radii of these neutron stars.

The mass and radius of a neutron star is directly related to interactions between the particles in the interior of the star. So these results give new information about the interiors of neutron stars. The conclusion was that the radius of a neutron star with a mass that is 1.4 times the mass of the Sun is between 10.4 and 12.9 km. The density at the centre about 8 times that of nuclear matter found in Earth-like conditions.

The new values for the neutron star's structure should hold true even if matter composed of free quarks exists in the core of the star. Quarks are fundamental particles that combine to form protons and neutrons and are not usually found in isolation. It has been postulated that free quarks may exist inside the centres of neutron stars, but no firm evidence for this has ever been found.

The results also have implications for the study of atomic nuclei generally, such as the distances between neutrons and the so-called 'symmetry energy' for nuclear matter.

Text & Image: http://www.chandra.si.edu/photo/2013/47tuc/ http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/x7.html

-- From a NASA Chandra X-ray Center and NASA Marshall Space Flight Center press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Comet to Hit Mars in October 2014?

Have you heard, it´s in the stars Next October, it collides with Mars. Maybe Earlier this year, the scientists operating a spacecraft called Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter started making plans to look at something other than Mars. Their calculations showed that a newly discovered comet called ISON will come within 10 million kilometres of their spacecraft in September. Comet ISON is causing quite a stir in astronomical circles, because if, after whizzing past Mars, it survives a close shave with the sun, there is a good chance that it will go on to emblazon itself spectacularly across the skies of Earth. How handy, astronomers thought, that there should be a spacecraft near enough to the comet´s inbound track to break off from its day job and take a first good look at this newcomer from the outer depths of the solar system.

Now Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter´s operators have a second comet to study, and this one looks like coming 200 times closer than comet ISON will. This particular comet has the awkward name C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring). It was discovered on January 3rd by Rob McNaught at Siding Spring observatory in Australia. (It isn't called Comet McNaught because Rob reported it as an asteroid and observations were published before its cometary nature was detected.) Calculations of its trajectory by researchers at NASA have it passing about 50,000km from Mars on October 19th 2014. That is close enough for HiRise, the remarkably acute telescope on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, to pick out features that are just a few tens of metres across on the solid nucleus which forms the comet´s heart.

Predicting the trajectories of recently discovered comets is a necessarily imprecise business, so C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) could yet end up farther off, missing Mars by a bit over 300,000km. But it is also possible that it will not miss Mars at all.

Calculated today, the odds of the comet hitting the planet are about 700 to one, says Paul Chodas of JPL, the laboratory in California that runs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. If that were to happen, it would be not merely an incredible sight, it would also be a huge scientific opportunity.

The nucleus of C/2013 A1 may be as small as 4km across. It may be ten times that. The speed at which it will be travelling when it comes closest to Mars, though, is known precisely: just under 56km a second. An 8km comet weighing 200 billion tonnes hitting Mars at that velocity would produce a blast equivalent to 60 million megatons of high explosive - a million times the yield of the largest hydrogen bomb ever tested. If the impact takes place on the side of Mars visible from the Earth, observers will see the planet flare up like a flash gun.

Jay Melosh of Purdue University has done some calculations on the assumption that the nucleus is 8km across. The crater formed on the Martian surface by the impact of such a nucleus would be about 160km wide. Watching this hole being torn in the planet´s crust and charting the crater´s subsequent development over hours, months and years would be a remarkable opportunity for planetary geologists. Most of the solid surfaces in the solar system are pockmarked with large craters, and much has been deduced about the processes that take place when they form. Actually seeing one created would put those deductions to the test. If the geology would be fascinating, the astrobiology would be even better. Beneath the surface of Mars there is ice - something which HiRise has confirmed by detecting its telltale glint at the bottom of newly formed craters of far less dramatic size. A cometary impact would melt a great deal of that ice. Judging by the signs of erosion and sedimentation that can be seen in Mars´s Mojave crater, a 60km-wide hole formed about 5m years ago, there would be water at the surface too, scouring the newly created landscape. Some of it might eventually form lakes which, though they would quickly be covered by ice because Mars´s atmosphere is so cold, would remain liquid below the ice-kept warm by the heat the impact generated in the underlying rock. More water would flow through cracks in those rocks. And the rocks would stay hot a long time. A patch of Mars the size of Wales would be warm and wet for millions of years.

If there are, as some would like to believe, microbes on Mars, they seem to be hiding below the surface and doing little to make themselves known. An impact big enough to melt a lot of ice may be, for them, what the rare desert rains are for the plants of America´s original Mojave: a brief chance to come out and thrive. On Earth large impacts bring death. The C2013/A1 impact, should it occur, will be similar in scale to the blast that dispatched the dinosaurs, and millions of other species, 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period. On Mars, though, such impacts may bring life, by offering sporadic oases in the dry, cold desert of the planet´s history.

A fresh crater of such scale would be a compelling new focus for planetary science, especially if it held signs of life. For the scientific instruments currently on and around Mars, though, it might prove a mixed blessing.

NASA´s Mars rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity, do not seem to be directly in the line of fire. If the comet does hit, the bulls-eye is likely to be the planet´s southern highlands, and the rovers are near the equator. They should see the flash, though, and will perhaps record all sorts of strange atmospheric phenomena. Curiosity should be able to measure subsequent changes in the atmosphere´s pressure and composition, too. (Opportunity does not have the relevant instruments.) And there is a chance that some of the hundreds of billions of tonnes of rock thrown up into the sky could come back down close enough for either rover to trundle off and study them. The downside of that possibility is that a returning rock might actually hit one of the rovers.

Spacecraft in orbit around Mars - NASA´s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN (which will have just arrived), and the European Space Agency´s Mars Express - are at greater risk that way. Lots of high- velocity grapeshot will be thrown across their orbits. Dr Melosh thinks he could work out how dangerous this might be using calculations he and some colleagues made previously, when working out the amount of Martian material the creation of Mojave crater would have deposited on Mars´s moons.

Further observations will, all likelihood, rule out an impact, though they may not do so definitively for some time yet. Even if the comet does not hit Mars, though, it poses some risk to the spacecraft in orbit. When they get into the inner solar system - within the orbit of Jupiter, about three times farther from the sun than Mars - comets develop a thin atmosphere of gas and dust called a coma. It looks likely that C/2013 A1´s coma will engulf the spacecraft around Mars, putting them at some risk of encountering a bit of grit moving at dangerously high speed. Such risks are currently being studied, but they seem unlikely to be high.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its less capable colleagues will therefore get an unprecedented scientific opportunity. Spacecraft have got close to comets before, but only to periodic comets-those which have been forced into relatively short orbits round the sun, and thus have been warmed up and cooled down again repeatedly. C/2013 A1, like Comet ISON, is a pristine object making its first and probably only visit to the inner solar system. It represents the first chance to see primordial comet- stuff, unaltered since the beginning of the solar system, close up. That both comets will be passing near, perhaps very near, to spacecraft capable of doing something with the opportunity is a remarkable stroke of luck in itself. To hope for more seems almost greedy. But that is not going to stop a lot of scientists hoping for more most fervently.

-- From The Economist 9 March, p.76-77, with the discovery note amplified by Ed. See the original at http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21573086-next-october-it-collides-mars-maybe-have-you-heard-its-stars?zid=314&ah=607477d0cfcfc0adb6dd0ff57bb8e5c9


C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is currently an 18th magnitude object in NZ's northwest evening sky at dusk. It is 6.819 AU (1023 million km) from the Earth and 6.576 AU (986 million km) from the sun.

Its perihelion is on 2014 Oct. 25.47 UT when it will be 1.399 AU (210 million km) from the sun. The comet isn't expected to reach naked eye brightness, though one never really knows with comets. However it will be a nicely placed telescopic object in our sky through the winter of 2014. It will be circumpolar through much of August and September when it is at its closest to Earth, 0.89 AU or 134 million km away.

Though C/2013 A1 was discovered in January, pre-discovery positions have been identified back to 2012 October 4. So the current orbit is based on five months observations. - Ed.

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..

13. Quote

"Outer space is no place for a person of breeding" -- Lady Violet Bonham-Carter.


Newsletter editor:

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

A .pdf for this issue is not currently available.

What's in a Name? -- VII
Pam Kilmartin

This is the seventh talk given to an RASNZ conference on the subject of minor planet names. It was presented in 2012, at the Carterton conference.
Volume 52, number 1. March 2013. P3

The Discovery of Planets and its Implications
Ed Budding

This is Part 2: Outside the Sphere, of the Fellows' Lecture given at the RASNZ 2012 Annual Conference in Carterton.
Volume 52, number 1. March 2013. P6

Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (Inc) Annual Report of Council for 2012

Volume 52, number 1. March 2013. P9

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. Meteor Damages Russia
2. Notice of AGM
3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting
4. The Solar System in March
5. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations
6. Aurora Astronomy School 2013
7. 2012 DA14 Images Sought
8. RASNZ Conference 2013
9. Book Sale - Cambridge University Press
10. 'Imaging Southern Skies'
11. 'Europe to the Stars' - ESO's 50th
12. Stu Parker finds Brightish Supernova
13. Comet Lemon (C/2012 F6)
14. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)
15. Creative Science Writing - 2012 Entries
16. Dung Beetles Steer by the Milky Way
17. How to Join the RASNZ
18. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
19. A Month of Sundays -- the Last Word (Promise!)
20. Here and There

1. Meteor Damages Russia

On Friday February 15 the day the asteroid 2012 DA14 was to pass close to the earth, a large meteor fell over Russia's Urals region. The Impact was at 0320 UT, just 16 hours before the asteroid's pass. This prompted many to conclude the two were related. In fact their orbits were completely different. The meteor came from the direction of the sun. 2012 DA14 was on a north-south trajectory as it passed Earth.

Shock waves from the fireball broke windows over a large region. Flying glass injured some 1,200 people according to Russian sources.

Fireballs were seen streaking through the skies above Chelyabinsk, about 1,500km east of Moscow, followed by loud bangs. An estimated 200,000 sq m of windows were broken; shattered glass causing most of the injuries reported in Chelyabinsk. Russian officials say the strike caused damage costing 1 billion roubles (US$33 million).

While some 9,000 people have been helping in the clear-up and rescue operation, scientists have been concentrating their search for fragments of the rock around Chebarkul Lake, where a 6 metre wide crater had been found following the strike.

Viktor Grohovsky, of the Urals Federal University, told Russian media that the material contained about 10% iron. "We have just completed the study, we confirm that the particulate matters, found by our expedition in the area of Lake Chebarkul indeed have meteorite nature. This meteorite is an ordinary chondrite, it is a stony meteorite which contains some 10% of iron. It is most likely to be named Chebarkul meteorite," he added.

Russian scientists say the meteor weighed about 10 tonnes before it entered the Earth's atmosphere, travelling at some 30km per second, before breaking apart 30-50km above ground.

However, the US space agency NASA said the meteor was 17 metres wide and weighed 10,000 tonnes before entering the atmosphere, releasing about 500 kilotons of energy. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 was 12-15 kilotons.

Such meteor strikes are rare but one is thought to have devastated an area of more than 2,000 sq km (770 sq m) in Siberia in 1908, the Tunguska event.

-- mostly from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21494963 which also has other links. Passed along by Pam Kilmartin.

2. Notice of AGM

The 90th Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand will be held at about 4:30 pm on Saturday the 25th of May in the Oreti-Aparima Room of the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. Notices of Motion are invited and should reach the Executive Secretary six weeks in advance of the meeting, by April 20, 2013. They should be sent in writing to:

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

3. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting

The Affiliated Societies Committee will meet on Friday the 24th of May 2013 at the Ascot Part Hotel, Invercargill. This meeting is normally attended by the Presidents of Affiliated Societies or their nominated representative. Notices of Motion for the meeting are invited and should reach the Executive Secretary by April 19, 2013.

-- R O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary, RASNZ.

4. The Solar System in March

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter: Mar 4 at 10.53 am NZDT (Mar 3, 21:53 UT) New moon: Mar 12 at 8.51 am NZDT (Mar 11, 19:51 UT) First quarter: Mar 20 at 6.27 am NZDT (Mar 19, 17:27 UT) Full moon: Mar 27 at 10.27 pm NZDT (9:27 UT).

The planets in march

As in February, Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during March. Jupiter will be best seen in the early evening soon after sunset, Saturn will be visible in the later evening and in the morning half an hour or more before sunrise.

In the evening Mars sets less than half an hour after the Sun and will not be visible. In the morning Venus rises less than half an hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month and is at conjunction near the end of March, so will at best be difficult to see.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the 4th and will then become a morning object. Towards the end of March it will be easily seen low to the east an hour before sunrise.

Comet PANSTARRS may be visible very low to the west an hour after sunset for the first few evenings of March.

[More on comets in Items 13 and 14.]

The evening sky.

Mars sets less than half an hour after the Sun so will not be visible in March.

Jupiter will still be prominent, visible soon after sunset, but getting low, to the northwest. The planet itself will set less than 4 hours after the Sun at the beginning of March, three hours or less later than the sun at the end of the month. So Jupiter will drop out of sight late evening.

The planet remains in Taurus a few degrees below Aldebaran with the asteroids Vesta and Ceres to its right.

The 35% lit moon is at its closest to Jupiter for the month soon after midday on March 18. The two will be less than a degree apart as seen from New Zealand in the early to mid afternoon, soon after they rise. In the evening, by the time the sky is dark enough to easily see Jupiter, the two will be nearly 3° apart.

Saturn moves more into the evening sky during March rising just after 10:30pm on the 1st and 2 hours earlier on the 31st. At the beginning of the month it will be easily visible to the east at midnight some 15° above the horizon. On the night of March 2, the 7% lit moon will be 2.5° above Saturn.

By the end of March, Saturn will be in a similar position at 10 pm and nearly 40° up by midnight. Saturn will not set until well after sunrise so will also be visible in the morning sky while it is still reasonably dark. The moon passes Saturn for a second time in March, on the night of the 29th-30th. On the morning of the 30th, the moon will be 3° to the left of Saturn. Late on the previous evening the moon will be just over 5° above the planet.

Saturn is in Libra during March moving slowly to the west. The wide double star alpha Lib will be about 5° to the right of Saturn as seen in the late evening sky. By the morning before sunrise, when Saturn will be to the west, the rotation of the sky will bring alpha Lib to be above Saturn.

During March the north pole of Saturn is tilted at an angle of 19° towards the Earth. This tilt will result in the rings being readily visible when the planet is viewed through a small telescope.

The morning sky: mercury and venus (and saturn)

Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on March 4. It will then be 94.2 million km (0.63 AU) from the Earth and 54 million km (0.36 AU) from the Sun

Following conjunction Mercury becomes a morning object, rising before the Sun. The planet will move quite rapidly up into the morning sky during the month. It passes Venus on 7th, by the 12th it will rise about an hour before the Sun, and a week later as much as 2 hours earlier.

At its greatest towards the end of March and beginning of April, Mercury will rise some 2 hours and 20 minutes earlier than the Sun, resulting in its best morning sky appearance of the year for southern hemisphere viewers. An hour before sunrise, the planet will be about 14° above the horizon almost due east. At near zero magnitude it will be the brightest object to the east. This provides an excellent chance to see the elusive planet in the morning sky. With sunrise at 7.30 am or later, it will be visible at a fairly reasonable hour.

Venus is at superior conjunction with the Sun on the morning of March 29, NZDT. It will then be 258 million km (1.72 AU) from the Earth and 109 million km from the Sun.

Before conjunction it is a morning object but at the beginning of March it will rise little more than 30 minutes before the Sun, so will not be well placed for viewing. Venus´s time of rise gets closer to that of the Sun during the rest of the month.

Following conjunction, Venus will become an evening object but will set very shortly after the Sun at first.

Outer planets

Uranus is at conjunction with the Sun on March 29, 7 hours after Venus is at superior conjunction. This will mean the planet is too close to the Sun to observe in March. At conjunction, Uranus will be 3149 million km (21 AU) from the Earth and 2999 million km from the Sun.

Neptune moves up into the morning sky a little above Mercury. The two are closest on the mornings of the 19 to 21st of March when Neptune will be just under 3° above Mercury. Neptune will be at magnitude 8 with a 7th magnitude star half a degree below it in the direction of Mercury.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta start in Taurus during March, not far from Jupiter.

On the 1st, Ceres, at magnitude 8.3 will be 1° to the left of El Nath, beta Tau at mag 1.7 the second brightest star in Taurus. The two are closest on the 8th with Ceres less than half a degree above El Nath. On the 21st Ceres slips into the constellation Auriga and moves almost along its border with Taurus for the rest of the month. On March 31 Ceres will be at magnitude 8.6 and some 18° to the right of Jupiter.

Vesta starts March at magnitude 7.9. It will be to the right of Jupiter and Aldebaran, the three forming an approximate equilateral triangle, just under 6° each side. The asteroid remains in Taurus for the rest of March. By the end of March it will be at magnitude 8.2, its distance from Jupiter increasing to almost 10°

Bright comet:

Comet PANSTARRS will probably be visible in the early evening from the latitude of NZ very low an hour after sunset for the first few evenings of March. On the 1st an hour after sunset, it will be to the southwest, but each successive evening it will have shifted a little more towards due west.

It is expected to be brightest on the 9th and 10th at magnitude 0.7 when, if visible, it will then be in a direction only just south of west. The comet will be almost directly above the set Sun so in the brightest part of the dusk sky.

-- Brian Loader

5. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2013. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Executive Secretary at the address below by 28 February.

-- R O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. Aurora Astronomy School 2013 (be quick!)

The Aurora Astronomy School is an exciting week-long learning experience aimed at Year 13 students held in April 2013. It will be held both at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch and at Mt John University Observatory in Tekapo. The school includes astronomy classes, workshops, and seeing the largest optical telescope in New Zealand.

Application forms and more details are found http://www.outreach.canterbury.ac.nz/aurora.shtml Applications close March 1st, 2013.

-- Forwarded by Emily Brunsden

7. 2012 DA14 Images Sought

On February 16 at 08:25 NZDT = February 15 19:25 UT the asteroid 2012 DA14 passed Earth at near the Roche limit. That is the distance at which a 'rubble pile' asteroid would be pulled apart by the Earth's tidal forces. So it is it is possible that the encounter has changed the asteroid's shape and its rotation period. Unfortunately the asteroid's rotation period before the flyby is not well determined. Limited observations suggest a period of 6-9 hours with an amplitude of one magnitude.

An MIT researcher, Nick Moskovitz, is seeking photometric observations of the asteroid before the encounter. He particularly seeks good quality images over a time span of two hours or more. Images that are very trailed are not much use, nor are images taken in highly variable weather conditions.

If you have images that may be useful then please contact Nicholas Moskovitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>


Phil Yock forwarded a link to a sequence of images taken with the BOOTES- 3/YA telescope in China. There is a closest approach picture (19:50 UT, 2 s exposure time) from the BOO-4/MET telescope in China, together with a movie with 0.25 seconds exposure taken few hours after: http://arae.iaa.es/~jtello/h/2012DA14/2012DA14-BOOTES4-201302152145.gif


John Drummond also got a movie of 2012 DA14's flyby. See the sequence of 2-second exposures taken with a SBIG STL11000M CCD on John's 41cm f/5.2 Meade Newtonian at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Cm-PbBJFLk&feature=youtu.be The field of view is 1.0 x 0.7 degrees.

8. RASNZ Conference 2013

The 2013 conference is now a little over 3 months away. So, if you haven't already done so get our registrations in and book you accommodation. The venue is the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, the dates Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May, with the TTSO7 Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium following on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 May.

Visit the RASNZ web site at <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> for more details, to register for the conference and for submission forms to present a paper.

If you are booking accommodation at the Ascot Park Hotel make sure you mention that you are attending the RASNZ conference. The hotel is holding accommodation for us and special rates will apply. With the Bluff Oyster festival coinciding with the conference it is sensible to reserve your accommodation early before it is booked out.

We have two guest speakers this year. Profesor Richard Easther, Head of Department, Physics, at Auckland University and Jean-François Kaufeler until recently at the ESA where he was head of the ground segment engineering department and of the ESA operations centre. In addition our after dinner speaker will be Margaret Austin.

If you intend flying to Invercargill you may be interested in using the shuttle form the airport. Let the LOC know you are flying and they will send you a voucher to entitle you to a fare of $5 each way.

The LOC are planning a tour for the Friday afternoon before the conference opens. The plans includes a visit to the Unwin Radar at Awarua, then to the Met Station and watch a balloon release and radar tracking, then onto Richardson' Truck Museum. Cost $20 per person which includes bus hire and admission to Truck Museum. Depart from the hotel at 1pm returning about 4pm. More information will be available from the LOC

In response to requests, the LOC are arranging a theme for the banquet. Realising that November 23rd this year is the 50th anniversary of the first transmission of Dr Who on BBC TV, they have decided on the theme "50 Years of Dr Who".

For more information on the above, the LOC can be contacted at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Brochures about the conference and other activities have been distributed and are available as a pdf file at the RASNZ web site. Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz>.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC. 12 February 2013

9. Book Sale - Cambridge University Press (be quick!)

William Tobin passes along a note he got from Cambridge University Press that they are having an astronomy book sale until February 28. They are offering a 60% discount on selected astronomy books. Amongst those offered are John Hearnshaw's 'Astronomical spectrographs and their history' for GBP 33.20 instead of the usual GBP 89.00. Shipping is no doubt extra. For details, follow the link at: http://cup.msgfocus.com/q/1MHYAsMQ9WXTmq/wv

10. 'Imaging Southern Skies'

Ian Cooper writes (after Ed's abridgements): This book that Stephen Chadwick and I finished nearly a year ago is now available. You can read all about it at http://www.southernskyimaging.com/ Those of you who were at the recent Stardate at Tukituki will have seen the book first hand. It would appear that Fishpond NZ have the best deals as far as price and freight are concerned.

The book covers the sky from the celestial equator to the south celestial pole, but obviously doesn't include every deep-sky object in that half of the sky. However it does include numerous objects that aren't all that well known as well as most of those that we are all familiar with. Many of the objects are only suitable for astro-photography. They range from the super wide fields that contain the likes of The Gum Nebula or some of the renowned dark nebula constellations of the southern sky such as the Emu, to regions of sub-visual nebulae like the molecular clouds of Chameleon II & III.

The book is broken up into chapters that start with the evening sky at the beginning of the year. The chapters then advance along the Milky Way with excursions off to the side and back again. It finishes with the galaxies around the south galactic pole. We would like to have done more in both Magellanic Clouds as well as the Vela Supernova Remnant. In spite of that we are happy with the outcome.

For each of the photos I give an introduction and explanation of what we are looking at as well as some impressions of what may be seen through a telescope if applicable. This is followed up by a detailed explanation by Stephen including tips on how to achieve a similar image.

The aim of the book is to not only highlight what we have in the sky south of the celestial equator but to show people that they too can expand their target range to include objects that are hardly ever imaged. In the south we often don't realize just what wonders we have available in our own backyard and so many fine sights are neglected. If we can encourage people to get out and observe or image the southern sky then Stephen and I will be well pleased.

-- from a note by Ian to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group.

11. 'Europe to the Stars' - ESO's 50th

While we were busy with the transit of Venus last year, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) reached its 50th anniversary. Celebratory books have been produced of both the serious and coffee-table kind. The coffee-table book, 'Europe to the Stars' is available from ESO in printed form for Euros 34.90 plus shipping (and for somewhat less from Amazon). But it can also be downloaded for free as a PDF in low or high resolution (37 Mbyte or 351 Mbyte). It looks rather good. Visit: http://www.eso.org/public/products/books/europe_stars/

ESO has also produced a video with the same title. Unsurprisingly it's full of superlatives, but it too is full of interest. It is available in a cardboard sleeve from the ESO shop for Euro 0.99, which looks like a bargain price. However a minimum order of Euros 2.99 applies, and in addition a minimum shipping charge to New Zealand of Euro 16.90 raises the real price to almost NZD35. Only to be recommended if you want something else from the ESO shop.

-- William Tobin

12. Stu Parker finds Brightish Supernova

Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury NZ found the brightest supernova for some years on Feb. 13.621 UT. It is in the galaxy NGC 5643. The supernova's position is R.A. = 14h32m33s.88, Decl. = -44d13'27".8 (equinox 2000.0 which is 74" west and 180" south of the nucleus of the galaxy NGC 5643. It is now designated SN 2013aa. At discovery it was red magnitude 11.9.

Spectra obtained with large southern telescopes show that the supernova is a type-Ia a few days before maximum light. The spectra showed that supernova's surface is expanding at about 10960 km/s.

Stu has posted an image of the new object at website URL http://tinyurl.com/dx7tfrx. The supernova appears considerably outside the visible part of the galaxy.

Stu works with an Australian group, the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search (BOSS). This is their 56th SN. Most (44?) have been found by Stu. See http://bosssupernova.com/ for details.

-- Mostly from Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams Electronic Telegram (CBET) 3416, February 16.

The importance of Stu's work can be judged from a paper submitted to the Astrophysical Journal "Multi-Wavelength Observations of Supernova 2011ei: Time-Dependent Classification of Type IIb and Ib Supernovae and Implications for their Progenitors" where Stu is the ninth author of 42.

13. Comet Lemon (C/2012 F6)

Comet Lemon brightened five magnitudes from its earlier predicted brightness. In recent days it has been an easy binocular object near the Small Cloud of Magellan. The waxing moon will make it harder to see over the coming week. The ephemeris below is from the Minor Planet Center and is based on elements from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2013-C52. The comet's positions are given for 10 p.m. NZDT.

    R.A.(2000) Dec.                  R.A.(2000) Dec.
Feb. h  m  s    °  '   m1         Mar. h  m  s    °  '   m1
20  23 55 03  -63 48  5.0         12  00 08 46  -37 38  4.5 
21  23 56 40  -62 16  4.9         13  00 08 57  -36 32  4.5
22  23 58 07  -60 45  4.9         14  00 09 06  -35 27  4.4
23  23 59 23  -59 15  4.9         15  00 09 15  -34 22  4.4
24  00 00 31  -57 48  4.9         16  00 09 23  -33 18  4.4
25  00 01 32  -56 22  4.8         17  00 09 30  -32 15  4.4
26  00 02 26  -54 57  4.8         18  00 09 36  -31 13  4.4
27  00 03 15  -53 34  4.8         19  00 09 41  -30 11  4.4
28  00 03 59  -52 13  4.7         20  00 09 46  -29 10  4.4
Mar.                              21  00 09 51  -28 09  4.4
01  00 04 39  -50 53  4.7         22  00 09 55  -27 09  4.5
02  00 05 15  -49 35  4.7         23  00 09 59  -26 09  4.5
03  00 05 47  -48 18  4.7         24  00 10 03  -25 09  4.5
04  00 06 16  -47 02  4.6         25  00 10 07  -24 11  4.5
05  00 06 42  -45 47  4.6         26  00 10 10  -23 12  4.5
06  00 07 06  -44 34  4.6         27  00 10 14  -22 14  4.5
07  00 07 28  -43 22  4.6         28  00 10 18  -21 16  4.6
08  00 07 47  -42 11  4.5         29  00 10 23  -20 19  4.6
09  00 08 04  -41 01  4.5         30  00 10 27  -19 22  4.6
10  00 08 19  -39 53  4.5         31  00 10 32  -18 26  4.7
11  00 08 33  -38 45  4.5

The total brightness, m1, listed has been increased by five magnitudes from the ephemeris provided by the Minor Planet Center. There is no guarantee that the comet will keep to this level of brightness.

The comet will be very low in the evening twilight from March 19 onward; elongation (angle from the sun) is less than 30 degrees. C/2012 F6 passes 0.731246 AU (110 million km) from the sun on March 24.5 UT on the far side from Earth. It remains close to the sun from our viewpoint after perihelion then gradually moves into the northern hemisphere dawn sky.

14. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)

The ephemeris below is from the Minor Planet Center and is based on elements from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2013-C52. At the end of February the comet will be south of the sun possibly allowing it to be seen at both dawn and dusk. The ephemerides below give positions for both times. In March it moves into the evening sky.

    Morning 0600 NZDT                Evening 1000 NZDT
    R.A.(2000) Dec.                    R.A.(2000) Dec.
Feb. h  m  s   °  '    m1         Feb. h  m  s    °  '   m1
                                  20  22 03 36  -39 53   3.7
21  22 06 55  -39 34   3.6        21  22 13 32  -38 52   3.5
22  22 16 51  -38 31   3.4        22  22 23 26  -37 45   3.3
23  22 26 44  -37 21   3.2        23  22 33 16  -36 31   3.1
24  22 36 32  -36 04   3.0        24  22 42 59  -35 10   2.9
25  22 46 12  -34 41   2.8        25  22 52 33  -33 41   2.7
26  22 55 43  -33 10   2.6        26  23 01 56  -32 05   2.4
27  23 05 01  -31 32   2.4        27  23 11 04  -30 22   2.2
28  23 14 04  -29 46   2.1        28  23 19 55  -28 31   2.0
Mar.                              Mar.
01  23 22 49  -27 53   1.9        01  23 28 27  -26 33   1.8
                                  02  23 36 36  -24 28   1.6
                                  03  23 44 21  -22 16   1.4
                                  04  23 51 38  -19 57   1.2
                                  05  23 58 23  -17 32   1.0
                                  06  00 04 36  -15 02   0.8
                                  07  00 10 13  -12 28   0.7
                                  08  00 15 12  -09 50   0.6

The comet is just 16 degrees from the sun on March 8, making it difficult to see in the bright twilight. It passes 0.30154 AU (45 million km) from the sun on March 10. After perihelion it moves into the northern hemisphere sky.

15. Creative Science Writing - 2012 Entries

Last year the Royal Society of NZ's annual RSNZ Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing set the topic "the Transit of Venus". Martin Unwin points out that there is a link to the contest, including the winners and all shortlisted entries, at http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/competitions/manhire-prize/2012- information/

16. Dung Beetles Steer by the Milky Way

The number of animals that navigate by the stars is small. Only some birds, a few seals and, of course, humans have the ability. It had been assumed that other creatures that might do this would need reasonably well-developed brains. That notion has now been proved wrong as the celestial-navigation club welcomes its latest member: the humble dung beetle.

Life in the world of dung beetles is fiercely competitive. After rolling up a ball of highly nutritious dung, the beetle must race off with it or risk having the ball stolen by other beetles. Strength is important, but so too is the route taken. The ideal tactic on the open plains where many dung beetles live is to move in a straight line. This is easy enough during the day, but at night - when the beetles are most active - it is more challenging. Previous work has shown that dung beetles can make use of the moon to help them navigate, yet some still set a straight course on moonless nights.

To find out how, a team working in South Africa led by Eric Warrant and Marie Dacke, of Lund University in Sweden, designed an intriguing experiment. They made caps for 19 dung beetles. Ten wore caps made of cardboard to prevent them seeing the sky and, as a control, nine wore caps made of transparent plastic. The beetles and their dung balls were then released in the centre of a circular arena made of flattened sand and enclosed by a featureless circular wall. As the beetles rolled away under a moonless night sky they were filmed by infra-red cameras.

The team found that the beetles prevented from seeing the sky by their caps had path lengths that averaged 476.7cm, much longer than the average of 143.4cm travelled by the beetles wearing clear hats. As the beetles might have used other overhead landmarks, like trees, a second arena was built with a high black wall and a small, dry moat around it. This time the beetles - minus their hats - were timed to see how long it took them to roll their balls from the centre to the point where they could be heard falling into the moat.

Under a full moon the beetles took an average of 21.4 seconds to reach the moat. On a moonless, starry night, their speed was somewhat reduced, but not significantly so. However, under overcast conditions, when neither moonlight nor the stars were visible, the beetles took an average of 117.4 seconds.

Curious as to what it was in the sky that the beetles were using to navigate, the team moved their arena inside the Johannesburg planetarium and reran their experiments. As they report in Current Biology, the beetles presented with a full starlit sky, including the Milky Way or just the Milky Way, took statistically the same amount of time to exit the arena (43.3 seconds and 53.3 seconds). Under a sky full of dim stars they were only a little slower (65.2 seconds). This, speculates Dr Warrant, is because they were still able to spot the cluster that forms the Milky Way.

When allowed to see only the 18 brightest stars or immersed in total darkness, the beetles took more than twice as long to exit the arena. The team now wonders how many other animals might be able to use the glowing strip of light created by the Milky Way to guide them.

-- From The Economist, January 26, p.67.

17. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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..

18. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

19. A Month of Sundays -- the Last Word (Promise!)

In the November Newsletter we published an anonymous assertion that December 2012's collection 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays happens only once every 823 years!

Martin Unwin and Brian Loader both wrote definitive corrections, setting out the calculation that shows that such months happen on a roughly seven- year cycle (as Ed suspected). Martin wrote:

"The true figure has to be roughly 1 year in 7. Figure it: there are seven days per week, so - on average - the first day of the month has a 1:7 chance of landing on any given day. In any year when 1 December is a Saturday you will get 5 Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays in that month. Ditto any other month with 31 days.

Thanks to leap years, the interval between such years is usually 6, but can be either 5 or 11 (very rarely 12) depending on the vagaries of the calendar. The pattern for the current epoch is ... 1957, 1963,

  1. 1974, 1985, 1991, 1996, 2002, 2013, 2019, 2024, 2030, 2041,
  2. 2052 ..."

20. Here and There

More bloopers noted in The Observatory, 2012 December:

THE TIRED LIGHT HYPOTHESIS? ... some reaching as fast as 48 million kilometres per hour (44 percent the speed of light). -- Astronomy Now, 2012 May, p.9.

A WHOLE RADIUS MIGHT SAVE SOMEONE ELSE'S TOO ...pushing an NEO at least half an Earth radius one way or the other would mean it misses our precious home. -- Astronomy Now, 2012 May, p.22.

INFLATION MUST BE A UNIVERSAL PROPERTY! ...one of the approximately 250,000 globular clusters that surround our galaxy. -- Daily Telegraph, May Night Sky.


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. Siding Spring Observatory Damaged by Bush Fire
2. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11
3. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations
4. The Solar System in February
5. RASNZ Conference 2013
6. SMC Chart Available
7. Asteroid Apophis Takes a Pass in 2036
8. Near-miss by 2012 DA14 on February 16
9. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)
10. Kepler Problems
11. How to Join the RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
13. A Month for Sundays? (cont.)

1. Siding Spring Observatory Damaged by Bush Fire

 

On Sunday evening, January 13, a fierce bush fire roared through the Warrumbungle National Park to the West of Coonabarabran (the Wambelong Fire). The brave men and women of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, local Police and other volunteers did an amazing job to ensure that no lives were lost and that the damage to properties was kept to a minimum.

Unfortunately there was damage to the Siding Spring Observatory and the Mopra Telescope. 40 properties and over 110 out-buildings have been confirmed lost as well as a large number of livestock and farm machinery.

All staff and visiting astronomers were evacuated from the Siding Spring Observatory before the fire came through. The 4-metre AAT and the UK Schmidt appear to have escaped major damage, however the Australian National University (ANU) Lodge was destroyed.

ANU and Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) websites continue to provide updates on fire damage to the Siding Spring Observatory: http://www.aao.gov.au and http://www.anu.edu.au

Updates are available on the NSW Rural Fire Service webpage, under Wambelong WNP, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au. AAO staff member Amanda Bauer (@astropixie) is also giving updates on Twitter and on her blog (amandabauer.blogspot.com.au).

Damage confirmed at Siding Spring Observatory: - 3 buildings have been destroyed (The Lodge, a cottage and a storage building) - 3 buildings have been badly damaged (The Visitors Centre and two sheds) - 4 telescopes appear to have some smoke damage to their buildings

A new update on fire damage at the Mopra Telescope is available on the ATNF website: http://www.atnf.csiro.au

Aerial footage of the Mopra Telescope and a brief first site visit from an SSO staff member on Monday indicated that there was significant fire damage to the onsite control building. This building contained an accommodation area, a control room and an equipment room containing the VLBI data correlator and the MOPS spectrometre equipment. From the aerial photo it was clear that the accommodation area was burnt to the ground and yet the concrete roof above the control and equipment rooms appeared relatively intact.

Late yesterday afternoon two CASS staff with an RFS Inspector were able to visit the site and give a brief visual report on the inside of the equipment room. There is smoke damage but the equipment is currently intact with no obvious heat or fire damage. This is very good news. Before the equipment can be tested to see if it is still operational, the structural safety of the building must be assessed and the equipment must be made physically safe.

Warrumbungle Shire Council has set up a Warrumbungle Shire Mayor´s Bushfire Appeal and will be taking donations from members of the public who wish to assist residents who have suffered, and in many cases lost everything as a result of the fire. Further information is available at: http://www.warrumbungle.nsw.gov.au/News/Articles/Warrumbungle-Shire-Mayor-s-Bushfire-Appeal

To get a feeling for the speed and intensity of the fire, the following is a post from Rob McNaught just hours after escaping the fire:

"Just a note to let folks know that I and all the other staff at Siding Spring Observatory are safe and well, following the major bushfire that went through it this afternoon. I was unaware of the threat and only became aware when I heard helicopters flying over my house on the Timor Road some 10km from the observatory. Very quickly after, the smoke plume became obvious and was massive within minutes. Much of our view is obscured by trees! Tanya and I evacuated with our dogs within minutes and are currently staying in Coonabarabran.

We are aware of damage to the Observatory. Apparently the Visitor's Center has been damaged (some reports say lost) and other buildings (specifically the Lodge as Dave said) have also been damaged. I have no news about telescopes, but note that I can log-in to computers in the Uppsala office and the 2.3m building. The AAT should be unaffected as it is a very secure and well defended building. It is in fact the evacuation area on the mountain.

Two houses on the Timor Road are known to be lost. I understand the fire went through our property so we can only hope. A high proportion of the Observatory staff have houses along this road and I met many of them in the evacuation centre this afternoon or heard reports that they were safe. Once again, many hold fears that their houses are lost. We heard a lot of hair raising stories from the last few to drive down the Timor Road as it became engulfed in flames."

As if this wasn't tragedy enough for Australian astronomers, they are recalling with sadness that it was 10 years ago that a fire destroyed Mount Stromlo Observatory, located just outside Canberra.

--- -- From messages by Kate Brooks, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia, and from a post by Kelly Beatty on Sky & Telescope's webpage at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Wildfire-Overruns-Siding-Spring-Observatory-186700031.html.

Rob McNaught's message was passed along by Robert Brand. A recent note from Rob, whose house was destroyed, is on Sky & Telescope's website at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/The-Saga-of-the-Astronomers-Hat-187467971.html

2. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11

Stardate SI will be held at Staveley, 1.25 hours from Christchurch, between February 8th and 11th. This celebration of astronomy includes talks by experts on various aspects of astronomy, a formal dinner, fabulous viewing through an array of telescopes (weather permitting), and an opportunity to catch up with fellow astronomers in a relaxing, natural setting in the Canterbury foothills.

The site has excellent sleeping and bathroom facilities, a great auditorium, space for tents, power for caravans, and a good view of the sky in all directions. You can bring your own observing gear or enjoy looking through the large array of gear that we attendees generally establish in a long line down the main viewing area. This is your chance to get away from things for a few days, with your family if you wish, and enjoy astronomy with like minded enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or you publish papers in astronomical journals, this is for you. Registrations are building rapidly. For more information and on-line registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

3. Murray Geddes Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2013. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Executive Secretary at the address below by 28 February. R O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

4. The Solar System in February

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

Last quarter: Feb 4 at 2.56 am NZDT (Feb 3, 13:56 UT)

New moon: Feb 10 at 8.20 pm NZDT (07:20 UT)
First quarter: Feb 18 at 9.31 am NZDT (Feb 17, 20:31 UT)
Full moon: Feb 26 at 9.26 am NZDT (Feb 25, 20:26 UT).

The planets in february

Only Jupiter and Saturn will be readily visible during February. By the end of the month Jupiter will set about midnight so will be low late evening. Saturn will still be best seen as a morning object, but will rise a little 11 pm at the end of the month.

Mercury and Mars will be very low in the sky immediately after sunset, while Venus will be low in the morning sky at sunrise.

Comet Panstarrs may be reasonably bright by the end of February, visible both in the morning and evening, rising before the Sun and setting after it.

The evening sky.

Jupiter will be the dominant object of the evening sky, although not very high. The planet remains in Taurus between Aldebaran and the Pleiades, about 6° lower than the star.

The moon, just past first quarter, will close in on Jupiter on the 18th. By late evening the two will be about half a degree apart as seen from New Zealand. After they set, an occultation of Jupiter will take place as seen from southwest and south Australia. The northern limb of the moon will graze Jupiter along a line from Carnarvon and swinging across southern Australia close to Port Augustus and then a little to the south of Canberra.

Mars and MERCURY form a pair during much of February, with Neptune joining them in the first part of the month.

Neptune and Mars are in conjunction early in February being just over half a degree apart on the 4th and 5th. Mercury passes Neptune on the 7th and Mars on the 9th. A week later Mercury is at its greatest elongation 18° of the Sun and is stationary on the 23rd. It then moves back towards the Sun and passes Mars for a second time on the 26th.

Unfortunately, all this activity will be lost to view. At best Mercury will set only 40 minutes after the Sun, along with Mars on the 10th. By the end of the month Mercury sets more or less at the same time as the Sun, while Mars sets just over 25 minutes later. So all three planets are likely to be too low to see in the twilight bright sky.

The morning sky: venus and saturn

Saturn rises shortly after midnight (NZDT) at the beginning of February and a little before 11 pm at the end of the month. The planet will then transit and be highest some 90 minutes before sunrise. Unlike Jupiter, Saturn is some way south of the celestial equator so will be much higher in NZ skies.

The planet is in Libra, a few from the wide double alpha Lib. Binoculars should easily show the double nature of the star. Saturn is stationary on the 19th, so its position will not change much throughout February.

On the morning of February 4, an hour before sunrise, the moon at last quarter will be about 5° from Saturn and just beyond alpha Lib. Earlier that morning the moon will occult the brighter star of alpha Lib as seen from the South Island and the southern part of the North Island.

A grazing occultation will take place along a line running close to Hawera, Whanganui and Feilding, and a little north of Palmerston North. The graze will occur just with the northern lit cusp, making it difficult to observe. The fainter star of the pair will graze the moon along a parallel path passing just south of Kekerengu on the east coast of the South Island.

Venus remains in the morning sky in February. It rises just over an hour before the Sun on the 1st and about 40 minutes earlier on the 28th. Thus it will be very low in the dawn sky, although visible for those who have a low horizon to the east.

On the morning of February 9, a very thin crescent moon will be 6.5° to the upper left of Venus. The moon will rise about 90 minutes before the Sun with Venus coming up about 30 minutes after the Moon. The two will be a little to the south of east.


Uranus will set more than two hours after the Sun at the beginning of February, reducing to just over an hour later by the end of the month. At magnitude 5.9 it should be a binocular object in Pisces early in the month, but is likely to be too low in the sunset lit sky by the end of February.

Neptune is in conjunction with the Sun on February 21 so will not be visible during the month.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are in Taurus during February, not far from Jupiter. Ceres´ magnitude varies from 7.9 to 8.3, Vesta´s 7.6 to 8.0.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

BRIGHT COMET: Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4) is expected to brighten during February. It is likely to be visible in binoculars early in the month and may brighten to become a naked eye object by the end.

The comet is well south of the equator in February, and will be circumpolar for the south of the South Island. At Christchurch it is below the horizon for less than an hour near midnight. For the first 9 days of February it will be moving to the east more or less along the border between the constellation Telescopium and Sagittarius. It will be better placed for viewing in the pre-dawn sky to the south east than in the evening sky, especially in the North Island.

By late February the comet will have moved further north, but still be visible both in the evening and the morning skies (but not near mid night), with the evening now more favoured. It will be rather low to the southwest an hour after sunset. Towards the end of February the comet will pass within a few degrees of Fomalhaut.

-- Brian Loader

An ephemeris for Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4) is in Item 9. - Ed.

5. RASNZ Conference 2013

Registrations for the 2013 RASNZ conference and TTSO7 are now coming in steadily. Don't miss out! The venue for the conference is the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, the dates Friday 24 to Sunday 26 May, with the TTSO7 Trans Tasman Occultation Symposium following on Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 May. The conference host in the Southland Astronomical Society. They have made a name for themselves in the past for organising an excellent conference and the 2013 conference looks like being at least as good as previous ones.

The Ascot Park Hotel offers on site accommodation, both hotel and motel. There is other accommodation available nearby. When booking accommodation at the Ascot make sure you mention that you are booking for the conference. The hotel is holding accommodation for us and special rates will apply. With the Bluff Oyster festival coinciding with the conference it is sensible to reserve your accommodation early before it is booked out.

RASNZ members will have received registration forms and conference brochures with their copy of the December 2012 Southern Stars. Registration can also be carried out on line, go to the RASNZ web site, <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> and follow the link to the registration form on the conference page. A printable, pdf, version of the registration form is also available on line. Click on the link to "registration" on the RASNZ Wiki.

On the web site conference page you will also find a link to information about presenting papers and to the on-line paper submission form. All active observers and anyone involved in astronomical activities are invited to present papers on their observations and work. The invitation extends to all sections and astronomical societies. Section directors should endeavour to ensure that at least one paper detailing some aspect of the work of their section is presented. Societies should take the opportunity to publicise their activities in the astronomical field.

Brochures about the conference and other activities have also been distributed and are available as a pdf file at the RASNZ web site. Further details of the plans for the TTSO7 meeting are available on the Occultation Section web page <http://www.occultations.org.nz>.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC. 15 January 2013

6. SMC Chart Available

Ian Cooper has completed an extended object chart of the Small Magellanic Cloud. The chart is a large Jpeg file. Also available is an excel spreadsheet listing all of the individual objects and their most common names and coordinates. It is for free use to all those interested. The chart can be seen at http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/stargazing/small-magellanic-cloud

The chart was originally started about 12 years ago and is now up to Version 5. Ian plans to continue updates but not more often than once a month. Check the date stamp.

-- from a detailed note by Ian to the nzastronomers Yahoo group.

7. Asteroid Apophis Takes a Pass in 2036

After tracking asteroid 99942 Apophis with NASA's giant Goldstone radar dish, astronomers are now certain that the threatening asteroid has essentially no chance of striking Earth in 2036.

Right now Apophis is in the midst of a rather distant yet much-awaited pass in Earth's vicinity, coming within 14½ million km on January 9. It was tracked for about 2½ weeks before that by NASA's 230-foot (70-m) Goldstone radio/radar dish in California. Those observations have given astronomers the confidence to issue an "all clear" for the foreseeable future.

"Goldstone single-pixel observations of Apophis have ruled out the potential 2036 Earth impact," says Jon Giorgini, a dynamicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Based on revised orbit calculations, he says Apophis will then come no closer than about 22 million km - and more likely miss us by something closer to 56 million km. Moreover, the radar data have improved the asteroid's positional uncertainty so much that dynamicists can now accurately predict its trajectory decades into the future.

When Apophis was discovered in 2004 orbital computations suggested that it had a 3% chance of striking our planet in 2029. About a year later, it was named Apophis, for the Egyptian god of evil and destruction. Fortunately, by then pre-discovery observations had led to a revised orbit, which ruled out an impact in 2029.

But we weren't out of danger yet. A collision remained possible in 2036, and the chance of that hinged on the near-miss flyby in 2029, when Apophis will zip by just 32,000 km away. Were that to occur at a particular spot in space, what dynamicists call a keyhole, an impact would become very likely on the return visit in 2036. The problem is that the orbital specs of Apophis weren't known accurately enough to predict exactly where it would fly past in 2029.

Adding to the uncertainty is the extent to which a subtle force, known as the Yarkovsky effect, might be altering the asteroid's orbit. This effect is caused by the uneven way that a spinning body absorbs sunlight and then reradiates it back to space. Ground-based observers determined that Apophis rotates in 30½ hours, but it likely has more than one period involving multiple spin axes.

Conceivably, gentle but persistent nudging from the Yarkovsky effect might have pushed Apophis straight through the 2029 keyhole. However, the Goldstone observations have shrunk the orbital uncertainties so much that, regardless of what the still-unknown physical parameters of Apophis might be, radiation pressure can't be enough to move the measurement uncertainty region enough to encounter the Earth in 2036.

Were this asteroid to hit us, very bad things would happen. Apophis is an estimated 270 metres across, and it would strike with the kinetic-energy equivalent of roughly 500 million tons of TNT.

Just-released infrared observations from the European Space Agency's Herschel spacecraft suggest that the diameter of Apophis might be some 20% larger. The 20% increase in diameter, from 270 to 325 m, translates into a 75% increase in our estimates of the asteroid´s volume or mass. However, this modelling assumes that Apophis is spherical where the actual shape is thought to be elongated.

We haven't heard the last word on this little interplanetary demon. Goldstone radar observations of Apophis will continue through January 17th, and additional tracking is planned next month with the giant Arecibo radio dish in Puerto Rico. All that pinging should yield super-accurate positional data and, perhaps, reveal the asteroid's shape and spin state.

But the worry about Apophis has only been postponed, not eliminated. Its orbit is not all that different from Earth's, and some day in the distant future the two bodies will either have a catastrophic collision - or an encounter so close that Earth's gravity will yank Apophis onto a new and significantly different interplanetary path.

-- From a Sky & Telescope posting by Kelly Beatty on 9 January. See the original at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/news/Asteroid-Apophis-Takes-a-Pass-in-2036-186245171.html

8. Near-miss by 2012 DA14 on February 16

The asteroid 2012 DA14 makes the closest approach ever predicted far in advance on the morning of February 16 NZDT. 2012 DA14 is 40-50 metres across and passes 28,500 km from us. It is closest after sunrise in NZ but will be a telescopic object before dawn.

Ephemeris for 2012 DA14 on Feb. 16 NZDT, seen from Wellington. R.A. (2000) Dec. R.A. (2000) Dec. NZDT h m s o ' Mag. NZDT h m s o ' Mag.

  1. 05 14 05 -85 36 12.4 0500 08 27 40 -82 52 11.6
  2. 05 32 16 -85 34 12.3 0505 08 38 39 -82 24 11.5
  3. 05 50 43 -85 29 12.2 0510 08 48 48 -81 54 11.5
  4. 06 09 12 -85 23 12.2 0515 08 58 11 -81 22 11.4
  5. 06 27 28 -85 15 12.1 0520 09 06 51 -80 47 11.3
  6. 06 45 19 -85 05 12.1 0525 09 14 53 -80 10 11.2
  7. 07 02 33 -84 53 12.0 0530 09 22 19 -79 30 11.1
  8. 07 19 02 -84 38 11.9 0535 09 29 12 -78 48 11.1
  9. 07 34 38 -84 21 11.9 0540 09 35 36 -78 03 11.0
  10. 07 49 19 -84 02 11.8 0545 09 41 33 -77 15 10.9
  11. 08 03 02 -83 41 11.8 0550 09 47 05 -76 23 10.8
  12. 08 15 49 -83 18 11.7 0555 09 52 15 -75 29 10.7
  13. 08 27 40 -82 52 11.6 0600 09 57 05 -74 31 10.6

At 0400 NZST the asteroid is 109,500 km away, moving at 4' per minute. At 0600 NZST the asteroid is 64,500 km away, moving at 13' per min. It passes 28,500 km from Earth's surface around 0825 NZST = February 15 19:25 UT.

Because the object is close, it will be increasingly far from the above ephemeris the further you are from Wellington. To get a prediction for your location go to http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/iau/MPEph/MPEph.html. There enter the object's designation 2012 DA14 . The UT date format is 2013 02 15 1500 for 2013 Feb. 15 15:00 UT = Feb. 16 0400 NZDT. You can enter your latitude and longitude, or make a shortcut using a nearby Observatory Code: Auckland 467; Rotorua E89; Gisborne E94; Wellington 485; Mt John 474. Make a chart of the telescope view for a particular time. Find that place in the sky ahead of time and watch for the asteroid to cross.

9. Comet PANSTARSS (C/2011 L4)

The ephemeris below is from the Minor Planet Center and is based on elements from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2013-A29. The comet's positions are given for 5 a.m. NZDT.

    R.A.(2000) Dec.                  R.A.(2000) Dec.
Jan. h  m  s   °  '   m1         Feb. h  m  s   °  '   m1
21  18 22 14 -43 27   7.8         9  20 15 44 -45 27   5.6
22  18 26 36 -43 40   7.7        10  20 23 54 -45 19   5.5
23  18 31 06 -43 52   7.7        11  20 32 18 -45 08   5.3
24  18 35 44 -44 03   7.5        12  20 40 56 -44 54   5.2
25  18 40 32 -44 15   7.4        13  20 49 47 -44 37   5.0
26  18 45 30 -44 26   7.3        14  20 58 51 -44 15   4.9
27  18 50 37 -44 37   7.2        15  21 08 07 -43 50   4.7
28  18 55 55 -44 47   7.1        16  21 17 33 -43 21   4.5
29  19 01 24 -44 56   7.0        17  21 27 09 -42 46   4.3
30  19 07 04 -45 05   6.9        18  21 36 52 -42 07   4.2
31  19 12 56 -45 13   6.8        19  21 46 42 -41 23   4.0
Feb.                             20  21 56 35 -40 32   3.8
 1  19 19 01 -45 20   6.7        21  22 06 31 -39 36   3.6
 2  19 25 18 -45 26   6.5        22  22 16 26 -38 33   3.4
 3  19 31 48 -45 31   6.4        23  22 26 19 -37 24   3.2
 4  19 38 32 -45 35   6.3        24  22 36 07 -36 08   3.0
 5  19 45 30 -45 37   6.2        25  22 45 48 -34 44   2.8
 6  19 52 42 -45 38   6.0        26  22 55 19 -33 14   2.6
 7  20 00 08 -45 36   5.9        27  23 04 38 -31 36   2.4
 8  20 07 49 -45 33   5.8        28  23 13 41 -29 50   2.2

After Feb. 23 the comet rises after 5 a.m. The comet's total magnitude m1 is the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. The m1 needs to be brighter than 3 for a comet to be obvious to the naked eye.

10. Kepler Problems

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has been discovering planets by imaging thousands of stars in a Milky Way region. Some of the stars have planets that by chance pass in front of the star, seen from our direction. This causes a tiny dip in the star's brightness at regular intervals as the planet, or planets, cross.

This method of detecting planets requires very accurate photometry, so the spacecraft's pointing has to be finely controlled. Pointing is done by reaction wheels on the craft. Kepler is equipped with four reaction wheels which are used to accurately point the telescope. One failed in July 2012. On January 17 the team announced that they detected issues with a second one. Kepler needs three reaction wheels to be used properly, if this one fails the mission is most likely over.

The team detected an increase of friction on reaction wheel #4 on January 11 2013 just after the completion of Quarter 15 flight operation. This friction persisted after the spacecraft roll, which could lead to the complete failure of the wheel.

To solve this issue, the team reported to have placed the Kepler spacecraft in a "wheel rest" safe mode. Science operation has been interrupted and the spacecraft is now in a position which does not require the use of the reaction wheels. They hope that by resting the wheel for 10 days, the internal lubricant will be redistributed and the wheel will work again in an optimal manner.

Last week the French space agency, CNES, announced that COROT, another planet hunter spacecraft was also malfunctioning, and most likely will end the mission officially soon.

-- Mostly from a blog by Franck Marchis pointed out by Karen Pollard. See the original note with images at http://cosmicdiary.org/fmarchis/2013/01/17/kepler-is-damaged-and-now-resting-mountain-view-we-have-a-problem/

11. 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..

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. A Month for Sundays? (cont.)

In the November Newsletter we published the anonymous assertion that "In 2012, December has 5 Saturdays, 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays. This apparently happens once every 823 years!" Not so, writes Alan Tunnicliffe. There were similar months in 1956 and 1984. It happens every 28 years in fact so the next time will be 2040.


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. Patrick Moore (1923-2012)
2. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21
3. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11
4. The Solar System in January
5. RASNZ Conference 2013
6. Long-lost Comet Identified
7. Tau Ceti's Planets
8. Vega's Age and Spin Revised
9. Radioactivity Important for Life?
10. How to Join the RASNZ
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Quotes

1. Patrick Moore (1923-2012)

Sir Patrick Moore astronomy populariser, author, TV presenter and Honorary Member of the RASNZ, died on December 9. Many will recall his lecture tour of New Zealand in 1983 and subsequent visit ten years later. Others will remember cutting their astronomical teeth on Patrick's numerous books.

The following are obituaries from two British publications. --------------- From The Times:

Patrick Moore did more than almost anyone else to popularise astronomy in Britain. A television journey in his company across the lunar wastes of through Saturn's rings was a journey of discovery, and his ebullience guaranteed that his performances avoided getting bogged down in technical detail, although he never talked down to his audiences.

His television presence -- and he was a man par excellence of the television age -- was one of donnish dishevelment, with outsize suit, unruly hair, tie gone awry, eyebrows agitated above squinting eyeballs; his words constantly and endearingly, threatening to race ahead of his thoughts. His wild enthusiasm for his subject could be matched on television only by Peter Snow and David Attenborough.

'The Sky at Night', which he fronted without a break from its beginning in 1957, retained a faithful "around midnight" audience. Its presenter was as much the attraction as the latest astronomical discovery; and when, during one of the early live shows, a bluebottle flew into his mouth, he did not hesitate: "I'm proud to say that I swallowed it. Horrifying experience. Buzzed all the way down."

He was old enough to have met Orville Wright and H G Wells, and late in life he wondered whether he had lived long enough also to have met young people who would one day walk on Mars.

He was born Patrick Caldwell-Moore at Pinner, Middlesex. An only child, he was plagued by illness which confined him to bed. At the age of 7 his mother gave him 'The Story of the Solar System', and his future was decided. By the time he was 11 he was a member of the British Astronomical Association and had been presented with his first good telescope.

He was about to go to university when World War II began. In 1940, lying about his age and his health (he had worn a monocle since adolescence), he joined the Royal Air Force. He served with Bomber Command through most of the war, being invalided out in 1945with the rank of flight-lieutenant. He then taught history for five years at Holmewood House Preparatory School near Tunbridge Wells, before illness overcame him.

He was already a member of the Interplanetary Society, and had written papers about the Moon, and in 1948 he translated a French book on Mars. He now took to writing in earnest, and his first effort, 'Guide to the Moon' (1953), straightforward and informative, was a great success.

There followed more guides to the planets and stars, 'The A-Z of Astronomy', 'The planet Venus', 'The Starry Sky' and the ambitious guide 'The Amateur Astronomer'. His most commercially successful work was his 'Atlas of the Universe' (1970, revised 1995), which was widely translated. He published more than 60 books, all typed two-fingers style on a 1908 Woodstock.

In 1957 Moore was suggested to the BBC for a TV programme on flying saucers. His enthusiastic intensity and clarity of exposition made an outstanding impression. On April 26, 1957, at 10.30 pm 'The Sky at Night' was launched.

He was to present it virtually every month from the launch date, a notable exception being July 2004, when he was suffering from a near- fatal bout of food poisoning. He appeared in the 'Guinness Book of Records as the longest-serving television presenter.

He was a well-regarded figure on the international scene and helped to found the International Union of Amateur Astronomers in 1967. He was feted by astronomers in New Zealand, Canada, Russia, Italy and elsewhere, and from 1982to 1984 he was president of the British Astronomical Association.

Sir Patrick Moore, CBE, astronomer, television presenter and author, was born on March 4,1923. He died on December 9, 2012, aged 89.

-- From 'The Times'. Transcribed two-fingers style from 'The Press' of 15 December 2012.

-------------------- From The Economist

In these days of ever more specific expertise, astronomy is one of the few sciences in which the enthusiastic amateur can still hope to make a contribution. Among the most enthusiastic of these self-taught folk was Sir Patrick Moore, the presenter of a BBC astronomy programme called "The Sky at Night", who died on December 9th.

Once a month for 55 years, as regular as the new Moon, Sir Patrick´s monocled face would appear on the nation´s TV screens. He and his guests would tell viewers about a spectacular constellation they might be able to see with their garden telescopes, or discuss results from an interplanetary space probe. It was, for the programme´s fans, exactly the sort of highbrow television that the BBC was created to provide, and which its commercial rivals would never have commissioned. (In fact, "The Sky at Night" was so popular that Mr Moore reportedly turned down offers from other TV stations, remaining loyally with the BBC.)

Despite his determinedly eccentric habits - he was rarely without his trademark monocle, and was a keen xylophone-player - Sir Patrick insisted that it was the beauty of the universe that drew his viewers, rather than any personal magnetism he might have possessed. Nevertheless, to many he was a national treasure on a par with Sir David Attenborough, the indefatigable presenter of the BBC´s big-budget nature documentaries.

Nor was he a dilettante or a lightweight: the study of the Moon was his passion, and he made several contributions to lunar science. Over his half-century on the air, he secured interviews with many notable figures, including Werner von Braun, the ex-Nazi designer of NASA´s Saturn V Moon rockets; Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars, rotating neutron stars; and Neil Armstrong, a media-shy astronaut. His reputation crossed the Iron Curtain: he was invited to Russia to meet Armstrong´s counterpart, Yuri Gagarin, and became the first Westerner to see results from the Soviet Luna 3 probe, which mapped the Moon´s far side in 1959.

Some of his attitudes struck audiences as odd and even offensive. Sir Patrick disliked Germans and did not care who knew it (his fiancée had been killed in a German bombing raid in the second world war, and he never married). In the 1970s he became president of the short-lived, virulently anti-immigration United Country Party; later he supported the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party. He said he had abandoned watching "Star Trek" when a woman occupied the captain´s chair.

These days science is confident and cool. Comedians such as Dara O´Briain and Robin Ince entertain with science-friendly routines. Telegenic stars including Alice Roberts, an anthropologist, and Brian Cox, an astronomer (and ex-member of D:Ream, a 1990s Britpop band), host lavish, popular-science programmes on television. The front-runner to fill Sir Patrick´s shoes is probably Chris Lintott, an Oxford University astronomer, populariser of science and regular guest on the programme. Another candidate might be Brian May, who, in addition to playing the guitar for Queen, a rock band, holds a PhD in astrophysics and is a "Sky at Night" stalwart. Whoever it proves to be, those shoes are big.

2. Stardate North Island Jan. 17-21

When: Thursday January 17 to Monday Jan 21, 2013 Where: Tukituki Youth Camp, Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay

For anyone with an interest in astronomy, StarDate provides opportunities to look through a range of telescopes, listen to a wide range of astronomy related talks and meet a variety of astronomers. See http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/society-meetings/society-meetings.html for details

3. Stardate South Island Feb. 8-11

Stardate South Island will be on the new moon weekend 2013 February 8- 11 at Staveley, near the hills inland from Christchurch. Online registration is at http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/ along with all the details you need.

Like its North Island counterpart it is great place to meet other amateur astronomers, to learn and, weather permitting, to look through a wide variety of telescopes.

4. The Solar System in January

The Earth is at perihelion on January 2, when the distance between Earth and Sun will be 0.983 AU, just over 147 million km. The Sun´s apparent diameter will be at its greatest, 32.5 arc-minutes.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Last quarter: Jan 5 at 4.58 pm NZDT (3:58 UT)

New moon: Jan 12 at 8.44 am NZDT (Jan 11, 19:44 UT)
First quarter: Jan 19 at 12.45 pm NZDT (Jan 18, 23:45 UT)
Full moon: Jan 27 at 5.38 pm NZDT ((4:38 UT).

The planets in january

Jupiter will be the prominent planet of the evening sky, as will be Saturn in the early dawn sky. Venus will appear low to the east shortly before sunrise. Mars, in the evening, will be very low and become lost in twilight during the month. Mercury starts the month in the morning sky but becomes an evening object after superior conjunction. It is likely to be too close to the Sun to see throughout January.

Mars and jupiter in the evening sky.

Mars sets about 90 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of the year. On the 1st it will be only some 6° above the horizon 45 minutes after sunset. At magnitude 1.2 it will not be an easy object in the still bright sky low to the west. It will get steadily lower during the month so lost to view. By the end of January the planet will be setting about 50 minutes later than the Sun.

Jupiter will be a much easier object. It transits late evening at the beginning of January. At this time the star Aldebaran will be just over 5° to the upper right of the planet. The asteroid Vesta at magnitude 6.9 will be a similar distance also to the right of Jupiter and about half the distance low and slightly to the right of Aldebaran.

Jupiter will be moving in a retrograde sense to the west through January but gradually slowing until in the early hours of the 31st it is stationary. By the 31st the planet will transit and be highest just before 9 pm. Jupiter is currently well north of the equator so low in southern skies. The transit altitude is 28° at Wellington.

On January 22 the moon will occult Jupiter, but before it rises in New Zealand. The event is visible at night in central South America. By the time Jupiter rises in NZ in the afternoon, the moon will be 1° beyond the planet, the distance increasing to 3° by the time the sky is dark.

The morning sky: mercury, venus and saturn

Mercury is a morning object for the first part of January. It rises 45 minutes before the Sun on January 1 when it will be 11° to the lower right of Venus, but it will be only 2° up half an hour before sunrise. Observation will thus be very difficult. On subsequent mornings Mercury gets steadily closer to the Sun until it is at superior conjunction on the 18th.

After conjunction Mercury becomes an evening object setting after the Sun. By the end of January it sets only 30 minutes after sunset, so again will be too close to the Sun to observe.

Venus will be a little higher than Mercury in the morning sky and, of course, much easier to see. The planet rises about 80 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and more like 70 minutes earlier by the 31st. Thus it should be fairly easy to see before sunrise, rather low in a direction a little to the south of east.

The thin crescent moon will be some 10° to the upper left of Venus on the morning the 10th. The following morning, as an even finer crescent, it will be only 5° directly below Venus. The strong morning twilight may make the moon difficult to see.

Saturn, in contrast to Mercury and Venus, will be an easy-to-see object before dawn. It rises about 2.30 am NZDT on the 1st and almost 2 hours earlier by the 31st. Saturn will be in Libra moving to the east. An hour before sunrise the planet will be to the left of the double star alpha Lib, the two being less than 5° apart by the end of January.

The crescent moon will be about 5° to the upper left of Saturn on the morning of January 7, and a similar distance to the lower right of alpha Lib the following morning.


Uranus and NEPTUNE remain in the evening sky during January. Uranus is in Pisces and Neptune in Aquarius. By the end of the month Neptune will be lost in the evening twilight.

Uranus will dim slightly from magnitude 5.8 to 5.9. It will set about 1 am on the 1st and 11 pm on the 31st, so will remain quite well placed for viewing during the month.

Neptune also dims slightly from magnitude 7.9 to 8.0. It will set close to midnight on January 1 and about 2 hours earlier at the end of the month, no more than an hour after the Sun. On the 31st Mars will be about 3.5° to the left of Neptune and slightly lower.

Brighter asteroids:

Both (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta fade somewhat during January, Ceres from magnitude 7.1 to 7.8, Vesta, slightly brighter from 6.9 to 7.5. Both are in Taurus with Jupiter.

Vesta will be a little over 2° from Aldebaran on January 10 and about 3° from the star on the 31st, when it will be 4° from Jupiter. Ceres will more like 15° from Jupiter and Aldebaran but 2 to 3° from beta Tau, El Nath mag 1.7.

Both Vesta and Ceres are moving in a retrograde sense in January, although Vesta is stationary on the 27th. Ceres has to wait until early February to regain its easterly movement.

(9) Metis is at opposition on January 1 at magnitude 8.5. By the end of the month its brightness will have dropped back to 9.3. The asteroid starts January in Gemini passing within 5´ of the magnitude 5.4 star 28 Gem on the 7th. Metis moves westwards into Auriga on January 12. With a declination +29°, Metis will be low in NZ skies.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

5. RASNZ Conference 2013

I would like to remind readers that the 2013 RASNZ conference will be held at the Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill. It is being hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The dates of the conference are Friday 24 May to Sunday 26 May. Members of the RASNZ will have recently received a registration form and a brochure containing details of the conference and local accommodation with their copy of Southern Stars. Brochures and registration forms have also been sent to affiliated societies. Ask your society secretary if you require one.

The registration form and brochure are also available on the RASNZ web site: follow the links on <http://www.rasnz.org.nz>. The wiki registration form provides the opportunity to register on line.

The conference will be followed by TTSO7 (the 7th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations). It will run over two days, Monday and Tuesday, 27 and 28 May. Occultation symposia are held annually, alternating between NZ and Australia where they are held in conjunction with NACAA meetings. Registration for TTSO7 is included on the conference registration forms. More details of TTSO7 are likely to appear soon on the Occultation Section web site, <http://www.occultations.org.nz>

Guest speakers for the conference are still being arranged. Final details are likely to become available in the New Year. One speaker the LOC has already been promised is a mission controller from the European Space Agency, ESA. Also Margaret Austin has agreed to be the after-dinner speaker. We can expect an extremely interesting talk with her involvement in the establishment of the Dark Sky Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin.

The Fellows' speaker for 2013 will be Bob Evans. Bob is the secretary/treasurer of the host society, the Southland Astronomical Society, as well as the editor of Southern Stars and the chairman of the Local Organising Committee for the conference. Not to mention involvement in a number of other local activities in Invercargill and Southland. And still he has time to give a talk! The title of his lecture is: "Reflective and Refractory: Some Observations of New Zealand Amateur Astronomy".

The first offers of papers for the conference have been received, there's still plenty of space for more. The SCC particularly invites papers detailing the astronomical work of individuals, the sections and of astronomical societies. Now is the time to start planning the paper you will present, if you haven´t already done so. Submission forms to present a paper are also available on the RASNZ web site.

The 2013 RASNZ conference will coincide with the Bluff Oyster Festival. As a result there is likely to be a heavy demand for accommodation in Invercargill, so early booking of accommodation is encouraged. See the brochure for details of some options reasonably close to the venue and at the venue itself.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the conference. The Southland Society has the reputation of organising an excellent meeting. The 2013 conference looks set to be just as good as previous ones at Invercargill. Meanwhile the conference organisers would like to extend our best wishes to all for Christmas and New Year.

-- Brian Loader, Chair, RASNZ SCC.

6. Long-lost Comet Identified

In 1932 Clyde Tombaugh of Lowell Observatory -- the discoverer of Pluto -- found a comet on photos he had taken on three nights in January 1931. It was 12th magnitude and diffuse with a strong condensation. Its tail was at least 2 minutes of arc long and pointed west. The comet was, of course, well and truly lost when noticed a year later.

On November 27 and 28 of this year M. Schwartz, P. R. Holvorcem using a CCD on a 41-cm f/3.75 astrograph at Tenagra II Observatory near Nogales, Arizona, discovered an 18th magnitude asteroid in Gemini near Castor and Pollux. It was designated 2012 WX_32. Further inspection of their images and those of other observers revealed that the asteroid was slightly fuzzy and had a short tail. Continued follow-up showed that it was a periodic comet that orbited the sun in 9 years. So it was re-designated P/2012 WX_32 and named Tenagra.

Syuichi Nakano, Sumoto, Japan, then found that P/2012 WX_32 was the same as an apparently asteroidal object discovered by the LINEAR asteroid survey on 2003 November 21 and 23 and given the minor-planet designation 2003 WZ_141.

Linking these two appearances of the comet provided an accurate orbit that Nakano could run back in time. His calculations showed that the P/2012 WX_32 = 2003 WZ_141 was the same as Tombaugh's comet of 1931. The comet is now renamed Tombaugh-Tenagra.

In 1931 Tombaugh had photographed the comet when it was at its closet to the sun, 2.45 AU. It was then only 15 degrees from where P/2012 WX_32 was found. The comet's orbital period back then was 9.05 years. The gravity of the planets has increased that to 9.10 years now. The 0.05-0.10 year difference from a neat number of years caused the comet to be increasingly badly placed for re-discovery at subsequent returns till recently.

Schwartz and Holvorcem, using equipment much more sensitive than Tombaugh's camera, found the comet three months before its closest approach to the sun. Its next return will be even better placed. It will still be a faint comet though, unless it has some sort of flare as it may have done in 1931.

-- by Ed from IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegrams No. 3329 (2012 December 4) and No. 3342 (2012 December 13) and from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2012-X13 (2012 December 4).

7. Tau Ceti's Planets

An international team of astronomers has discovered that Tau Ceti, one of the closest and most Sun-like stars, may host five planets -- with one in the star's habitable zone.

At a distance of twelve light-years Tau Ceti is the closest single star that has the same spectral classification as our Sun. Its five planets are estimated to have masses between two and six times the mass of the Earth -- making it the lowest-mass planetary system yet detected. One of the planets lies in the habitable zone of the star and has a mass around five times that of Earth, making it the smallest planet found to be orbiting in the habitable zone of any Sun-like star.

In the gravitational dance of a planet around a star, the planet does most of the moving. But the star too is tugged slightly to and fro as the planet orbits, and these subtle movements of the star show up as subtle shifts in the colour of the star's light we see from Earth.

This "radial velocity" measurement is a tricky one; stars' light changes also for a range of other reasons, and requires picking out the specifically planetary component from all this "noise".

The international team of astronomers, from the UK, Chile, the USA, and Australia, combined more than six-thousand observations from three different instruments and intensively modelled the data. The trick to honing the technique was to put in "fake planets" - to add signals into the messy data that planets should add - and find ways to reduce the noise until the fake planets became more and more visible in the data. In the process of doing that they found signals from real planets as well.

Over 800 planets have been discovered orbiting other worlds, but planets in orbit around the nearest Sun-like stars are particularly valuable. Steve Vogt from University of California Santa Cruz said: "This discovery is in keeping with our emerging view that virtually every star has planets, and that the galaxy must have many such potentially habitable Earth-sized planets. They are everywhere, even right next door! We are now beginning to understand that Nature seems to overwhelmingly prefer systems that have a multiple planets with orbits of less than one hundred days. This is quite unlike our own solar system where there is nothing with an orbit inside that of Mercury. So our solar system is, in some sense, a bit of a freak and not the most typical kind of system that Nature cooks up."

For more see http://star-www.herts.ac.uk/~hraj/tauceti http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-20770103

-- From a University of Hertfordshire (U.K.) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard, and a BBC News and Environment posting pointed out by Pam Kilmartin.

8. Vega's Age and Spin Revised

Vega, the bright white star low in the north on our winter nights, may be more than 200 million years older than previously thought. That's according to new findings from the University of Michigan.

The researchers estimated Vega's age by precisely measuring its spin speed with a tool called the Michigan Infrared Combiner (MIRC), developed by John Monnier. MIRC collects the light gathered by six telescopes to make it appear to be coming through one that's 100 times larger than the Hubble Space Telescope. It is installed at the Georgia State Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy Array located on Mt. Wilson, California.

The tool boosts resolution so astronomers can zoom in, relatively speaking, to observe the shape and surface characteristics of stars that would otherwise look like mere points even through the most powerful telescopes. By tracking stars' surface characteristics we can calculate how fast they rotate and deduce their inner workings.

At 25 light-years away, Vega is close on cosmic scales. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year.

About six years ago astronomers discovered that Vega is rotating so fast that it is nearly flinging itself apart. They haven't been able to agree on many of the related details, however. One of the debates centres on Vega's exact rotation rate, which is essential to gauge both its mass and age. Other controversies deal with Vega's tilt as viewed from Earth and the amount of turbulence in the system from roiling gases at the star¹s surface.

With MIRC's unprecedented resolution, Monnier and his colleagues have taken steps to rectify competing estimates of Vega's rotation rate and other properties. The new findings indicate that the star rotates once every 17 hours, rather than once every 12. The Sun's equator, for comparison, rotates much slower -- once every 27 days, or 648 hours. In addition to finding that Vega is older than previously thought, the Michigan group confirmed its mass to be just over two times the Sun's.

"Vega continues to challenge and surprise us," Monnier said. "We found out not too long ago that it has a disk of dusty debris, or a leftover solar system, around it. Then we found out it was a rapid rotator. It's a reference point for other stars, but it certainly isn't boring or normal."

The work will help astronomers build more accurate computer models of stars, so they can simulate those too far away to observe and gain a better understanding of their life cycles.

For the full paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters see http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/2041-8205/761/1/L3

-- From a University of Michigan in Ann Arbor press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

[The press release doesn't say what former estimates of Vega's age were, sorry. - Ed.]

9. Radioactivity Important for Life?

Scattered around the Milky Way are stars that resemble our own Sun -- but a new study is finding that any planets orbiting those stars may very well be hotter and more dynamic than Earth.

That's because the interiors of any terrestrial planets in these systems are likely warmer than Earth -- up to 25 percent warmer, which would make them more geologically active and more likely to retain enough liquid water to support life, at least in its microbial form.

The preliminary finding comes from geologists and astronomers at Ohio State University who have teamed up to search for alien life in a new way.

They studied eight "solar twins" of our Sun -- stars that very closely match the Sun in size, age, and overall composition -- in order to measure the amounts of radioactive elements they contain. Those stars came from a dataset recorded by the High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher spectrometer (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

They searched the solar twins for elements such as thorium and uranium, which are essential to Earth's plate tectonics because they warm our planet's interior. Plate tectonics helps maintain water on the surface of the Earth, so the existence of plate tectonics is sometimes taken as an indicator of a planet's hospitality to life.

Of the eight solar twins they've studied so far, seven appear to contain much more thorium than our Sun -- which suggests that any planets orbiting those stars probably contain more thorium, too. That, in turn, means that the interior of the planets are probably warmer than ours.

For example, one star in the survey contains 2.5 times more thorium than our Sun, said Ohio State doctoral student Cayman Unterborn. According to his measurements, terrestrial planets that formed around that star probably generate 25 percent more internal heat than Earth does, allowing for plate tectonics to persist longer through a planet's history, giving more time for life to arise.

"If it turns out that these planets are warmer than we previously thought, then we can effectively increase the size of the habitable zone around these stars by pushing the habitable zone farther from the host star, and consider more of those planets hospitable to microbial life," said Unterborn, who presented the results at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco in early December.

"At this point, all we can say for sure is that there is some natural variation in the amount of radioactive elements inside stars like ours," he added. "With only nine samples including the Sun, we can't say much about the full extent of that variation throughout the galaxy. But from what we know about planet formation, we do know that the planets around those stars probably exhibit the same variation, which has implications for the possibility of life."

His advisor, Wendy Panero, associate professor in the School of Earth Sciences at Ohio State, explained that radioactive elements such as thorium, uranium, and potassium are present within Earth's mantle. These elements heat the planet from the inside, in a way that is completely separate from the heat emanating from Earth's core.

"The core is hot because it started out hot," Panero said. "But the core isn't our only heat source. A comparable contributor is the slow radioactive decay of elements that were here when the Earth formed. Without radioactivity, there wouldn't be enough heat to drive the plate tectonics that maintains surface oceans on Earth."

The relationship between plate tectonics and surface water is complex and not completely understood. Panero called it "one of the great mysteries in the geosciences." But researchers are beginning to suspect that the same forces of heat convection in the mantle that move Earth¹s crust somehow regulate the amount of water in the oceans, too.

"It seems that if a planet is to retain an ocean over geologic timescales, it needs some kind of crust recycling system, and for us that's mantle convection," Unterborn said.

In particular, microbial life on Earth benefits from subsurface heat. Scores of microbes known as archaea do not rely on the Sun for energy, but instead live directly off of heat arising from deep inside the Earth.

On Earth, most of the heat from radioactive decay comes from uranium. Planets rich in thorium, which is more energetic than uranium and has a longer half-life, would "run" hotter and remain hot longer, he said, which gives them more time to develop life.

As to why our solar system has less thorium, Unterborn said it's likely the luck of the draw. "It all starts with supernovae. The elements created in a supernova determine the materials that are available for new stars and planets to form. The solar twins we studied are scattered around the galaxy, so they all formed from different supernovae. It just so happens that they had more thorium available when they formed than we did."

Jennifer Johnson, associate professor of astronomy at Ohio State and co-author of the study, cautioned that the results are preliminary. "All signs are pointing to yes -- that there is a difference in the abundance of radioactive elements in these stars, but we need to see how robust the result is," she said.

Next, Unterborn wants to do a detailed statistical analysis of noise in the HARPS data to improve the accuracy of his computer models. Then he will seek telescope time to look for more solar twins.

Text & Images: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/hotplanet.htm

-- An Ohio State University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75, 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..

11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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

12. Quotes

"One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say." -- Will Durant.

"I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education." -- Wilson Mizner.

---------- Festive greetings to all our readers and best wishes for 2013.

There will be a January Newsletter -- if the Editor survives the end of the world and Christmas -- so keep those contributions pouring in.


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