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

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

Contents

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

1. Naked-Eye Nova in Delphinus

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

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

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

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

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

2. Herbert Star Party - September 6-9

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

See you there! -- Ross Dickie and Euan Mason

3. Submissions Sought on Lights and Lighting

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

1. Draft Update of the Oz/NZ Luminaire Standard

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

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

2. DOC lighting Standards for Southland, Otago and Canterbury

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enquiries are welcome and may be directed to:

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

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

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

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

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

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

All applications must include:

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

6. The Solar System in September

PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

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

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

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

The planets in september

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jupiter and MARS in the morning sky.

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

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

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

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

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

Outer planets

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

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

Brighter asteroids:

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

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

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

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

-- Brian Loader

7. Starlight Festival 11-13 October

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. RASNZ Conference DVD

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

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

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

9. StellarFest Report

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

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

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

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

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

10. Comet of the Century Cancelled?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Permian Extinction Due to Impact?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- From The Economist July 27, p.60

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

12. Thirty-Metre Telescope Progresses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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

14. XKCD Meteor Shower List

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

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

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

15. Quote

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


Newsletter editor:

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