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 in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.


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

1. Call for nominations to Council

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

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

Incoming vice-president
Executive secretary
5 Council members.

In addition the Fellows need to nominate a Fellows representative.

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

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

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

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

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

RASNZ Executive Secretary
662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd
RD 2

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

-- Rory O´Keeffe, Executive Secretary.

2. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more and register at

See you there, Euan Mason

4. Aluminizing Plant Needs Home

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

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

The Editor can forward a photo to anyone interested.

5. The Solar System in March

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

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

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

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

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

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

The planets in march

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outer planets

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

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

Brighter asteroids:

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

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

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

-- Brian Loader

6. High-Power Laser Pointers Restricted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about laser pointers, the new controls, what devices are covered by the controls, and how they could apply to people is available on the Ministry´s website:

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

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

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

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

If you would like to be emailed details then go to and sign up for info as it comes available.

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

8. Occultation Section Website - Correction

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

9. RASNZ Conference, Whakatane, June 6-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further information about the speakers is on the web site

Paper Submissions

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

Details and a submission form are available on the RASNZ Wiki: Even if you are only thinking about presenting a paper, please let us know by completing a submission form now and giving a likely title.

-- Brian Loader, Standing Conference Committee chairman.

10. 2015 to be International Year of Light

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

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

-- William Tobin

11. Sky TV Cosmos Series and ISS Special

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

12. The Oldest Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- copied from Science Digest whose report is based on press releases from the Australian Nation University. See the Science Digest article, with numerous references, at

13. New Crater on Mars

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

The image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a crater about 30 meters in diameter at the centre of a radial burst painting the surface with a pattern of bright and dark tones. It is available online at and

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

-- from Science Daily based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. See the original at

14. Meteor Shower Lists

John Drummond points out a series of 2014 meteor shower lists at

15. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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

16. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

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

17. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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


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

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

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

-- Letter to The Economist 15 February 2014.

Newsletter editor:

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