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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. 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.


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