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. Jocelyn Bell Burnell Lecture Tour
2. RASNZ Conference 2014, Whakatane
3. Notice of RASNZ AGM
4. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting
5. The Solar System in June
6. Primary Science Week, May 19-25
7. RSAA Winter School, July 14-20
8. Horowhenua StellarFest July 25-27
9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25
10. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21
11. Comet 209P/LINEAR
12. New Controls on High-Power Laser Pointers
13. Not a Meteorite, Just a Rock, Missed Skydiver
14. BICEP2 CMB Polarization Questioned
15. Bugs in Space
16. AstronomíA Magazine - English Edition Launched
17. How to Join the RASNZ

1. Jocelyn Bell Burnell Lecture Tour

The RASNZ Conference's guest speaker is Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, DBE, FRS, FRAS. At Whakatane she will speak about "Transient astronomy - bursts, bangs and things that go bump in the night".

Dame Jocelyn will also be speaking at the following locations:

  • 4 June Christchurch - 4pm, Room 701, Dept Physics & Astronomy, University of Canterbury. "Pulsars and Extreme Physics "; 8pm C2 Lecture theatre, University of Canterbury, Canterbury Astronomical Society and Royal Society of NZ Canterbury Branch joint meeting, "Reflections on the discovery of pulsars"
  • 5 June Auckland - Auckland University, TBA
  • 6-8 June Whakatane - RASNZ Conference
  • 9 June New Plymouth - New Plymouth Astronomical Society, 7:30pm Peace Hall Lounge, Vivian St. opposite St Marys´. "We are made of star stuff"
  • 10 June Napier - Napier Astronomical Society, 7pm Holt Planetarium, Chambers Street, Napier. "Black Holes, White Holes and Wormholes"
  • 11 June Palmerston North - Horowhenua Astronomical Society, 6:30pm Te Manawa Main Museum Building, Palmerston North. "We are made of star stuff".
  • 12 June Wellington - Royal Society of NZ, TBA

Contact your local society where details TBA.

-- Thanks to Orlon Petterson

2. RASNZ Conference 2014, Whakatane

There is still time to register for the conference on June 6, 7 and 8 and with the VSS symposium on the Sunday evening and Monday June 9. Register using the RASNZ wiki: <www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:registration>.

More information about the conference will be found on the Wiki by clicking on "timetable" or on "papers" on the conference page. Information about the venue is on the RASNZ website

Below is a newsletter containing more information prepared by Pauline Loader, which has been sent to those already registered.


For those registered for the RASNZ Conference in Whakatane

The organisers look forward to meeting with friends old and new at this year's RASNZ conference. Planning is well under way for a great time in Whakatane. Here is some advance information which you may find useful.

Contents:

2.1. Previous (April) Newsletter
2.2. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm - Reminder
2.3. Friday Dinner 5:30pm to 7:00pm
2.4. VSS Symposium
2.5. Conference Timetable
2.6. Registration Payments

2.1. Previous (April) Newsletter

For information about Accommodation or Transport options please refer to the previous newsletter, a copy of which can be found on the RASNZ wiki pages using this link: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:newsletter

2.2. Friday 6th June - Afternoon Tour 12:30pm to 4pm - Reminder

A bus trip to Celestial wines, Whakatane Observatory and Scenery lookout. Cost $30 per person. If you wish to attend this tour please contact Nichola by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. BY 31 MAY. (This email address will expire at end of May). The $30 fare is to be deposited into account 03 0490 0204427 01. Please make sure you include your name as reference.

2.3. Friday Dinner 5:30pm to 7:00pm

If you wish to join members of the conference organisers for a meal at the Whakatane Cobb & Co between 5:30 and 7:00pm please let email Nicola This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. BY 31 MAY. Nicola will advise Cobb & Co of expected numbers. This will of course be on the basis of order and pay for your own meal. The Cobb & Co is at 79 The Strand, Whakatane. Their website is http://www.cobb.co.nz/locations/whakatane.

2.4. VSS Symposium

The VSS Symposium organisers have arranged for a preliminary meeting to take place at the Whakatane Observatory on the Sunday evening from 8:00pm to 10:00pm. As well as the welcome by VSS director Tom Richards this preliminary session will include a brief overview of 'measuring stars' by Stan Walker and part 1 of Mark Blackford's workshop on DSLR Photometry. A preliminary timetable in .pdf format has been placed on the RASNZ wiki pages, please see http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:timetable. The Whakatane Astronomical Society have volunteered to proved light refreshments at the end of the evening. I suggest that attendees make a donation to the Whakatane Astronomical Society in a token recognition of their assistance in providing their facilities for the evening.

2.5. Conference Timetable

A provisional timetable for the conference is available on the RASNZ wiki pages at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:timetable.

2.6. Registration Payments

If you have not already paid your registration fee, please do so by 20th May. I will be sending out reminders later this week. The conference bank account number is Kiwi bank account number 389012 0228548-00. For those who have opted for credit card payment please do so via the RASNZ conference payments page http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference/Registration/ . Please note that we can ONLY accept credit card payments via the webpage which links to a secure Paypal website. We regret we are unable to accept credit card payments by any other methods.

-- Pauline Loader

3. Notice of RASNZ AGM

The 2014 Annual General Meeting will be held in Whakatane on the 7th of June 2014. The meeting will be held in the Whakatane War Memorial Hall and will begin at 4.30 pm. The agenda includes the usual items and announcement of the membership of Council for 2014 - 2016 including the results of the recent ballot for council members. No notices of motion have been received. The full agenda is available on the RASNZ website.

-- Rory O'Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ.

4. Affiliated Societies Committee Meeting

This meeting will be held on Friday 6th June 2014 in the Whakatane War Memorial Hall starting at about 4.30pm. The full agenda has been emailed to Affiliated Societies and should have been received by 13 May 2014. Presidents of affiliated societies, or their nominated representatives, are eligible to attend and vote on behalf of the society. Amongst the business for the meeting is the election of two representatives to the RASNZ Council. If you have any enquires regarding these meetings please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Rory O'Keeffe, Secretary, RASNZ.

5. The Solar System in June

All dates and times are NZST (UT +12 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

The Sun rises at 7.34 am and sets at 5.02 pm on June 1. On June 30 the times are 7.45 am and 5.03 pm respectively.

The Southern winter solstice is on June 21, with the Sun at its furthest north at 10.52 pm. For Wellington, earliest sunsets are a few seconds after 5.00 pm for a few days near June 14; latest sunrises are a few seconds after 7:45 am for a few days near June 28.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

First quarter: June  6 at  8.39 am (June 5,  20:39 UT)
Full moon:     June 13 at  4.11 pm (         04:11 UT)
Last quarter   June 20 at  6.39 am (June 19, 18:39 UT)
New moon:      June 27 at  8.09 pm (         08:09 UT)

The planets in june

Mercury will be difficult to see at any time in June. In the evening Jupiter gets low to set fairly soon after sunset, Mars and Saturn are visible all evening. Venus remains a brilliant morning "star" but gets a little lower during the month.

Mercury sets some 80 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of June. It will be at magnitude 1.4. 45 minutes after the Sun sets Mercury will be only 4.5° above the horizon. With the Sun 8.7° below the horizon the sky will be bright in the direction of the planet, making it a very difficult object.

Over the following evenings Mercury will get even lower especially after it is stationary on June 7. This leads up to the planet being at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the morning of June 20. At conjunction Mercury will be 82.9 million km, 0.554 AU, from the Earth and 0.464 AU from the Sun.

Following conjunction Mercury will become a morning object rising before the Sun. By the end of the month, 45 minutes before sunrise, the planet will be only 4.2° up with a magnitude 2.7, so not visible

Venus, in the morning sky, will rise just over 3 hours before the Sun on the 1st dropping to just over 2 hours before it on the 30th. Thus it will get a little lower, but remain a prominent object to the northeast in the dawn sky.

Towards the end of June, Venus will be in Taurus and move to be between the Pleiades and Aldebaran at the end of the month. On the morning of the 27th the Pleiades and Venus will ruse at the same time, with the star cluster 7° to the left of the planet.

On the morning of the 25th a very thin crescent moon, 6% lit, will be 3.5° to the right of Venus, with the moon slightly lower.

Mars remains a bright object in the evening sky throughout June. It will lose brightness a little, dimming from magnitude -0.5 to 0.0 during the month. It sets just before 3 am on the 1st and by 1.25 am on the 30th. It is in Virgo, by the end of June just over 6° from Spica.

The 73% lit moon will be about 3.5° to the right of Mars early in the evening of June 8. During the evening their separation will slowly increase as the moon moves towards Spica. The moon is closer to Spica the following night.

The two asteroids Ceres and Vesta will be near Mars all month, some 12° from the Planet on the 1st and 9° away on the 30th.

Jupiter gets low in the early evening sky during June. It sets 170 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, half this, 85 minutes later on the 30th. Hence by then it will be very low once the sky begins to darken following sunset.

Jupiter remains in Gemini during June, about 7° from Pollux which will be lower than the planet.

The moon passes Jupiter twice during June. On the 1st the crescent moon, 11% lit will be just under 5° to the upper left of Jupiter early evening. On the 29th the moon and Jupiter are closest about 1pm. At 6 pm the moon as a very thin crescent only 3% lit, will be again be 5° from the planet, and again to its upper left. At 6pm Jupiter will be only 4° up as seen from Wellington.

Saturn will be a prominent object throughout the evening. It transits and so is to the north and at its highest a few minutes before 11 pm on the 1st, advancing to 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet will be in Libra, between the two brightest stars of the constellation. By the 30th the 3 will almost be in line.

The 90% lit moon will be 5° from Saturn on the evening of June 10. They are only half this distance apart before Saturn and moon set about 5am the following morning.

This month's occultation of Saturn by the moon is mostly over the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the Antarctic. Early on the northern edge of the occultation path crosses southern parts of Namibia and South Africa. Towards its end the extreme northern edge touches the southeast corner of Western Australia, with a graze well south of Perth. By then the moon will be very low and close to setting.

OUTER PLANETS Uranus rises shortly before 3 am on June 1st and just after 1 am on the 30th. Thus it remains a morning object. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude ranging from 5.9 to 5.8 during the month.

Neptune rises 20 minutes before midnight on the 1st and nearly 2 hours earlier by the 30th. The planet is in Aquarius with a magnitude 7.9

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres and (4) Vesta get even closer during June. On the 1st they are about 2° apart, by the 30th the separation will drop to only 25', less than the diameter of the full moon. This presents an unusual opportunity to view two asteroids in the same binocular field. Vesta'a magnitude ranges from 6.6 to 7.0 during June, Ceres's 7.8 to 8.4.

The two asteroids are also close to Mars, all three being in Virgo. On the 1st the two asteroids will be some 12° to the right of Mars, by the 30th they will about 9° to its right. Spica will then be about 6° above Mars as seen late evening.

-- Brian Loader

6. Primary Science Week, May 19-25

David Britten notes that Primary Science week is May 19-25. There are plenty of activities of all sorts on the NZ Association of Primary Science Educators (NZAPSE) web site http://nzapse.nzase.org.nz/ .

David also points to a wealth of activities and projects exploring "Out of This World" science on the Stardome web site http://www.stardome.org.nz/education/primary-science-week/ .

David asks that teachers let him know if you have material on your web sites that Stardome can direct visitors to. Stardome would also be happy to feature students´ work on their web site as an inspiration to other schools. David's email is <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

7. RSAA Winter School, 14-20 July

The Research School of Astronomy & Astrophysics (RSAA), ANU College of Physical & Mathematical Sciences, advises that applications are now open for the 2014 RSAA Winter School. Travel bursaries are available to students at all Australian and New Zealand universities. Please distribute to 3rd year (and exceptional 2nd year) undergraduate Astronomy students.

When: 14-20 July 2014. Location: Mt Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories. Cost Free for selected participants. Travel scholarships available. See last month's Newsletter, Item 7, for details.

Applications close 30 May 2014. For application details contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Brad E. Tucker, circulated by the Astronomical Society of Australia.

8. Horowhenua StellarFest, July 25-27

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the third annual StellarFest on 25-27 July 2014 at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, Lower North Island.

The overall theme of the weekend will be the Winter Milky Way and the Clouds of Magellan. The venue is situated in a very dark site so these wondrous areas of the night sky will be easily visible and riding high in the sky.

The weekend will include: o Hydrogen-alpha solar viewing and photography o Interesting talks by both professional and amateur astronomers o Night-time observing, through a variety of telescopes. Feel free to bring your own telescopes - the more the merrier! o A telescope trail

There will also be a programme of interesting talks on a variety of topics throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. The following speakers are confirmed - more to follow: Professor Tony Signal, Jeremy Moss, Professor Bill Williams, Steve Keen, John TalbotStephen Chadwick, Catherine Abou-Nemeh.

If you have your own telescope/binoculars/camera please bring it along. If you would like some advice about getting the most out of your equipment there will be experts on hand to assist. Don't be shy!

There is a pool table and table tennis as well as a playground with trampolines and a flying fox, rugby and soccer, grass tennis and volleyball to keep the young (and not so young!) amused.

For details of accommodation options, costs, etc, see http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

9. Herbert Astronomy Weekend, August 22-25

The Herbert Astronomy Weekend, at Camp Iona, south of Oamaru, is on August 22nd-25th. For map and registration see http://www.treesandstars.com/herbert/. Other details later.

-- from a note by Euan Mason

10. Space Camp NZ, September 19-21

Space Camp NZ 2014 at Raincliff Youth Camp, South Canterbury, 19th to 21st September 2014

Speakers, workshops, solar & night sky observing. Activities for beginners to the more experienced astronomer.

All meals are BYO, except for Saturday evening which is a pot luck meal, details of what to bring based on numbers will be made available closer to the time. See last month's Newsletter, Item 9, for the speaker list. For details see http://spacecampnz.scastro.org.nz/

-- From the above webpage.

11. Comet 209P/LINEAR

The faint periodic comet 209P/LINEAR passes 0.0554 AU or 8.3 million km from Earth on May 29. It is not likely to be of interest to visual observers but may be recorded by CCD cameras. The ephemeris below, from the Minor Planet Center, is for 7 p.m. NZST.

R.A.(2000) Dec. R.A.(2000) Dec. May h m s ° ' m1 June h m s ° ' m1

  1. 09 57 58 +42 49 12.6 1 11 15 59 -34 10 10.8
  2. 10 04 18 +38 36 12.4 2 11 25 59 -41 18 10.9
  3. 10 10 53 +33 34 12.1 3 11 36 27 -47 19 11.0
  4. 10 17 46 +27 33 11.8 4 11 47 23 -52 18 11.2
  5. 10 24 58 +20 26 11.5 5 11 58 45 -56 26 11.3
  6. 10 32 29 +12 12 11.3 6 12 10 33 -59 51 11.5
  7. 10 40 22 +02 59 11.0 7 12 22 44 -62 40 11.7
  8. 10 48 39 -06 49 10.8 8 12 35 16 -65 01 11.8
  9. 10 57 20 -16 38 10.7 9 12 48 04 -66 57 12.0
  10. 11 06 26 -25 53 10.7 10 13 01 06 -68 34 12.1

m1 is the comet's total magnitude, the brightness of a star defocused to the size of the comet's head. Though 0.0554 AU is close for a comet, 209P/LINEAR can potentially come closer. Its orbit passes just 0.00295 AU, 443,000 km, from Earth's orbit; not much further away than the moon. 209P orbits the sun in 5.09 years.

Peter Jenniskens and E. Lyytinen suggest that the comet might cause a meteor shower visible in the United States and southern parts of Canada on May 24 between 06:03 and 8:09 UT, with peak activity most likely between 6:33 and 7:49 UT. (CBET 3853, 2014 April 12.) See also Sky & Telescope May 2014, p.30-35.

12. New Controls on High-Power Laser Pointers

Because idiots have been misusing high-power lasers -- pointing them at aircraft, vehicles, sports-persons, etc -- the government has had to restrict access to them. The restrictions apply to any laser with a power output of greater than 1 milliwatt (mW).

The Ministry of Health's Environmental and Border Health Team has kindly provided a detailed summary of the new regulations and how they apply to astronomers. Peter Jaquiery will put the full text of the summary on the RASNZ's Affiliated Societies webpage at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/AffSocs/Societies/

The guts of the document are summarized below.

The new controls cover the importation, sale/supply and acquisition of high-powered laser pointers. Before importing high-powered lasers one must get authorisation from the Director-General of Health. Astronomical societies and their members DO NOT have to get permission to supply or acquire high-power laser pointers because the government recognises that they have a legitimate use for such devices. (Note that "supply" means both "sell" and "give for free".) Astronomical societies and their members still need to apply for permission to import them, however.

While astronomical societies are entitled to supply a device to their members for astronomical purposes, you cannot automatically supply a high- power laser pointer to anyone. It will be an offence to give a laser to anyone not authorised to use it.

If you wish to buy a high-power laser pointer from a New Zealand-based supplier, you will need to provide them some proof that you belong to an approved class of persons. For example, you could show them a letter from your astronomical society, on headed paper, confirming that you are a bona fide member.

The controls mentioned above DO NOT cover possession of laser pointers. That is, people do not have to get any authorisation to possess laser pointers that they already own. However, a proposed law change is currently being considered by Parliament. The Summary Offences (Possession of Hand-held Lasers) Amendment Bill is proposing to make it an offence to be in possession of a high-power laser pointer in a public place without having a reasonable excuse. A similar offence currently exists for knives.

Even if this proposed law change is passed by Parliament then astronomers are unlikely to be adversely impacted. Being an approved class of person, entitled to acquire high-power laser pointers under the regulations noted above, and having a legitimate reason to have a laser pointer will provide a `reasonable excuse´ (unless the devices are being misused). More information about laser pointers, the new controls and their implications for you, and how to apply for authorisation is available on the Ministry of Health´s website: http://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/environmental-health/high-power-laser-pointers You can also email any questions on the new controls to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Thanks to Rob Smith of the Ministry of Health for providing the full document.

13. Not a Meteorite, Just a Rock, Missed Skydiver

Several readers who know about skydiving said it was a terrestrial rock, not a meteorite that missed the skydiver. (See last month's Newsletter Item 1.) Apparently enthusiastic skydivers simply stuff their parachutes back into their bags on the ground and go up for another jump. Occasionally they gather up a rock as well!

14. BICEP2 CMB Polarization Questioned

The biggest discovery in cosmology in a decade could turn out to be an experimental artefact - at least according to an Internet rumour. The team that reported the discovery is sticking by its work, however.

Eight weeks ago, researchers working with a specialized telescope at the South Pole reported the observation of pinwheel-like swirls in the polarization of the afterglow of the big bang, or cosmic microwave background (CMB). Those swirls are traces of gravitational waves rippling through the fabric of space-time a sliver of a second after the big bang, argue researchers working with the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization 2 (BICEP2) telescope. Such waves fulfilled a prediction of a wild theory called inflation, which says that in the first 10^-32 seconds, the universe underwent a mind-boggling exponential growth spurt. Many scientists hailed the result as a "smoking gun" for inflation. [See March Newsletter, Item 1.]

However, scientists cautioned that the result would have to be scrutinized thoroughly. And now a potential problem with the BICEP analysis has emerged, says Adam Falkowski, a theoretical particle physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics of Orsay in France and author of the Résonaances blog. The BICEP researchers mapped the polarization of the CMB across a patch of sky measuring 15° by 60°. To study the CMB signal, however, they first had to subtract the "foreground" of microwaves generated by dust within our galaxy, and the BICEP team may have done that incorrectly, Falkowski reports on his blog today.

To subtract the galactic foreground, BICEP researchers relied on a particular map of it generated by the European Space Agency's spacecraft Planck, which mapped the CMB across the entire sky from 2009 until last year. However, the BICEP team apparently interpreted the map as showing only the galactic emissions. In reality, it may also contain the largely unpolarized hazy glow from other galaxies, which has the effect of making the galactic microwaves coming from any particular point of the sky look less thoroughly polarized than they actually are. So using the map to strip out the galactic foreground may actually leave some of that foreground in the data where it could produce a spurious signal, Falkowski explains. "Apparently, there is something that needs to be corrected, so at this point the BICEP result cannot be taken at face value," he tells Science.

BICEP researchers are not ready to concede the point, however. Clement Pryke, a cosmologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and a co-principal investigator for the BICEP team, acknowledges that the foreground map is an important and thorny issue. Part of the problem is that the Planck team has not made the raw foreground data available, he says. Instead, BICEP researchers had to do the best they could with a PDF file of that map that the Planck team presented at a conference. Moreover, Pryke says, conversations with members of the Planck team leave it uncertain exactly what is in the key plot. "It is unclear what that plot shows," he says.

As for Falkowski's suggestion in his blog that the BICEP has admitted to making a mistake, Pryke says that "is totally false." The BICEP team will not be revising or retracting its work, which it posted to the arXiv preprint server, Pryke says: "We stand by our paper."

In the end, the issue may change the path forward only slightly. Many researchers had been awaiting Planck's own mapping of the polarization of the CMB, which the Planck team intends to release in October, to see if it reproduces the BICEP result. Now, however, they may be waiting as anxiously to see Planck's final map of the galactic foreground, due out at the same time, as it could make the BICEP signal go away.

-- From the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science Now page on 12 May 2014; author Adrian Cho. For the original see http://news.sciencemag.org/physics/2014/05/blockbuster-big-bang-result-may-fizzle-rumor-suggests Thanks to Larry Marschall for passing along the link.

----- For a long biographical article on Alan Guth (rhymes with truth) of inflation fame see http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2014/05/02/alan-guth-what-made-big-bang-bang/RmI4s9yCI56jKF6ddMiF4L/story.html

15. Bugs in Space

In the movies, humans often fear invaders from Mars. These days, scientists are more concerned about invaders to Mars, in the form of micro-organisms from Earth. Three recent scientific papers in Astrobiology Journal examined the risks of interplanetary exchange of organisms using research from the International Space Station.

Organisms hitching a ride on a spacecraft have the potential to contaminate other celestial bodies, making it difficult for scientists to determine whether a life form existed on another planet or was introduced there by explorers. So it's important to know what types of micro- organisms from Earth can survive on a spacecraft or landing vehicle.

Currently, spacecraft landing on Mars or other planets where life might exist must meet requirements for a maximum allowable level of microbial life, or bioburden. These acceptable levels were based on studies of how various life forms survive exposure to the rigors associated with space travel.

If the life forms are reduced to acceptable levels, a proxy for cleanliness, the assumption is that they will not survive under harsh space conditions. That assumption may not hold up, though, as recent research has shown that some microbes are hardier than expected, and others may use various protective mechanisms to survive interplanetary flights.

Spore-forming bacteria are of particular concern because spores can withstand certain sterilization procedures and may best be able to survive the harsh environments of outer space or planetary surfaces. Spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 have shown especially high resistance to techniques used to clean spacecraft, such as ultraviolet (UV) radiation and peroxide treatment. When researchers exposed this hardy organism to a simulated Mars environment that kills standard spores in 30 seconds, it survived 30 minutes. For one of the recent experiments, Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores were exposed for 18 months on the European Technology Exposure Facility (EuTEF), a test facility mounted outside the space station.

In another investigation, spores of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 and another spore-forming bacteria, Bacillus subtilis 168, were dried on pieces of spacecraft-quality aluminium and subjected for 1.5 years to the vacuum of space, cosmic and extraterrestrial solar radiation and temperature fluctuations on EuTEF. These samples also were subjected to a simulated Martian atmosphere using EuTEF. Most of the organisms exposed to solar UV radiation in space and in the Mars spectrum were killed, but when UV rays were filtered out and samples were kept in the dark, about 50 percent or more of those subjected to other space- and Mars-like conditions survived. That makes it likely that spores could survive a trip on a spacecraft to Mars if they are sheltered against solar radiation, perhaps in a tiny pocket of the spacecraft surface or underneath a layer of other spores.

The third study placed rock-colonizing cellular organisms in the EuTEF facility for 1.5 years, further testing a theory of how organisms might move from one planet to another, known as lithopanspermia. In this scenario, rocks ejected from a planet by a meteor impact carried organisms on their surface through space and then landed on another planet, bringing that life with them. For this investigation, researchers selected organisms especially adapted to cope with the environmental extremes of their natural habitats on Earth, and found that some are also able to survive in the even more hostile environment of outer space. Lithopanspermia would require thousands or even millions of years, much longer than the experiment's duration, but results provide the first evidence of the hardiness of these organisms in space and suggest the possibility that space-travelling rocks could carry life between planets.

Future exploration missions can use the results of these investigations to help find ways to minimize the risk of contaminating another planet. The findings also will help prevent scientists from incorrectly identifying an organism that hitchhiked on the exploring spacecraft as a native of the planet, when in fact it's an invader. That's a good thing, because no one wants to be responsible for an alien invasion of Mars.

For the full article in Science Daily, with journal references, see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140502120231.htm

16. AstronomíA Magazine - English Edition Launched

The following was received by the RASNZ Secretary:

We write to inform you that AstronomíA Magazine, the leader magazine in Spain for over 25 years, has launched its English version. It is available in digital format (pdf and tablet - for both IOS and Android).We would love that you take a look at the magazine. As to do that, you can download the April issue in pdf for free here http://www.astronomia-mag.com/shop/index.php?id_cms=14&controller=cms&id_lang=1

17. How to Join the RASNZ

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

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


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