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. Clive Ruggles Talks
2. 2014 Burbidge Dinner, Auckland - 8 November
3. Horowhenua Astrophotography Weekend - 21-23 November
4. The last orbit of Georges Lemaitre
5. The Solar System in November
6. 2015 RASNZ Conference
7. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)
8. Dust Makes Cosmic Inflation Signal Iffy
9. Gravitomagnetic Field Explains Flyby Speed Anomaly?
10. Abstracts for Clive Ruggles Talks
11. How to Join RASNZ
12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

1. Clive Ruggles Talks

Professor Clive Ruggles, Professor of Archaeo-astronomy University of Leicester, U.K. is giving several talks during a visit New Zealand. See Item 10 for abstracts of the talks.

Canterbury University, Wednesday, 22 October at 7:30pm, C2 Lecture Theatre: "Of calendars and kings: gods, temples, the Pleiades, and the development of archaic states in Hawai'i". Clive will describe his fieldwork in the Hawaiian Islands with archaeologist Patrick V. Kirch studying the orientations of temple platforms and their connections with astronomy, the calendar, dryland agriculture and the emergence of "god- king" cults.

Lake Tekapo, Friday, 24 October at 7:30 p.m., in the Tekapo Community Hall, Aorangi Crescent, Lake Tekapo: "Is a dark future a bright future?" Some thoughts concerning dark skies, international heritage recognition and their potential impacts on the Mackenzie. All welcome. Tea and coffee served from 7 p.m.

Carter Observatory, Wellington, Tuesday, 28 October at 7 pm. General admission prices to the talk, planetarium show and telescope viewing apply. You can either join the 6pm or 8pm planetarium show to attend Clive's talk at 7pm. Bookings for the talk are essential. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve your place for the talk. For details see

Victoria University of Wellington, Wednesday, 29 October at 12.00 pm in Room 305, Murphy Building (MY305) seminar: "Of calendars and kings: gods, temples, the Pleiades, and the development of archaic states in Hawai`i"

Waikato University, Friday, 31 October at 5:00 pm in S.G.01 (S Block): "Of calendars and kings: gods, temples, the Pleiades, and the development of archaic states in Hawai'i".

Auckland Astronomical Society's Burbidge Dinner, Saturday, 8 November, "Whatever happened to the ancient observatories?" See next item for booking details. Clive will describe some of the world's better known and less well known monuments related to astronomy, but also some deconstruct some of the myths surrounding others - including some of the best known of all.

Stardome Observatory, Auckland, Monday, 10 November at 8.00 pm, "Monuments tied to the sky: the controversial heritage of ancient astronomy."

Clive L. N. Ruggles (born 1952) is a British astronomer, archaeologist and academic, regarded as one of the leading figures in the field of archaeoastronomy and the author of numerous academic and popular works on the subject. As of 2009 Ruggles is Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy at the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester. Ruggles has held the post since it was created in 1999, when it is believed to have been the only appointed Chair for archaeoastronomy among the world's universities. He concurrently also holds the posts of President of the Prehistoric Society, President of the IAU Commission for the History of Astronomy, and is the Chair for the IAU World Heritage and Astronomy Working Group, and was formerly the President of the International Society for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture.

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve are funding Clive's visit to the South Island.

2. 2014 Burbidge Dinner, Auckland - 8 November

Auckland Astronomical Society is holding its annual Burbidge Dinner on Saturday 8 November at 6:30 pm at the Commerce Club of Auckland, 27-33 Ohinerau Street, Remuera. This event is open to all. Members of other clubs and societies are very welcome.

Tickets are $45.00 per person and include a buffet dinner. There will be a cash bar available. Tickets are available from Oana Jones. Please book by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 09 634 1409

The Burbidge Speaker this year is Professor Clive Ruggles, Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy, University of Leicester, UK. His talk will be "Whatever happened to the ancient observatories?" See Item 10 for the talk's abstract.

The evening will include the presentation of the Beaumont prize for the best article written in the Journal and the Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition including presentation of the Harry Williams Trophy.

3. Horowhenua Astrophotography Weekend - 21-23 November

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding its second annual weekend dedicated to astrophotography in the Horowhenua/Manawatu in a wonderful dark-sky location. It will be at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua November 21st - 23rd.

It is open to everyone interested in astrophotography - from beginners to advanced. Come along and share your knowledge, tips and experiences. All sorts of astrophotography can be undertaken - solar-system/nightscapes/ deep-sky. The weekend will consist of:

  • Practical astrophotography. There are plenty of safe areas for people to set up their equipment and leave it in situ for the whole weekend.
  • Image Processing: There is a huge room with long tables available which is perfect for people to set up computers for this.
  • Presentations: There will be talks on astrophotography related topics held in the large hall (see below).
  • Bring-and-buy: Feel free to bring along any equipment that you are no longer using and wish to sell.
  • Fish and chips dinner: Saturday night. Please pay when you book.
  • Late-night movies: Should the weather not be kind then movies can be shown on the big screen.

Everyone is encouraged to bring along their own telescopes/binoculars/mounts/cameras, etc, however basic they might be.

The following people will be giving presentations on a range of practical astrophotography subjects: Peter Aldous, Robert McTague, Steve Keen, Stephen Chadwick, George Ionas, Frank Andrews, Steve Lang, Jonathan Green, Amit Kamble. More will be announced shortly.

Due to high demand numbers shall be restricted so please book early to avoid disappointment. For booking details see

4. The last orbit of Georges Lemaitre

In the early morning hours of Monday, 23 February 2015, at around 3 a.m. NZDT, a new falling star will cross the sky above New Zealand as Georges Lemaitre, the fifth in the ATV series of spacecraft launched by ESA, is deorbited and sent down to burn in the Earth's atmosphere. The Automated Transfer Vehicles (ATVs) have been used over the past few years to bring supplies and perform some minor orbital corrections to the International Space Station (ISS). Five ATVs have been launched since March 2008. According to a previous announcement by ESA, the ATV-5 will be the last vehicle in this series.

The atmospheric re-entry of the ATV-5 over New Zealand will be best viewed from the South Island. The current prediction for the final orbit has a ground track passing through Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo. A joint team of NZ and UK scientists will observe the event from multiple locations in order to determine the three-dimensional orbit of the satellite and perform other measurements. This work is part of a larger international campaign with the aim of studying the behaviour of a satellite during a shallow re- entry, in a scenario that will be used by NASA to deorbit the ISS within the next 10-20 years.

All New Zealand astronomers are invited to join the campaign and take images of the ATV-5 as it crosses the South Island. This collaborative effort will be coordinated by the Defence Technology Agency (DTA) in Auckland, where the images will be collected and included in the final data analysis. The only equipment required for the observation is a CCD camera fitted with a standard photographic lens. The aim is to record the satellite trail across the fixed stellar background. A cooled CCD camera is preferred, due to its higher sensitivity. However, a digital SLR camera might also be used, depending on the brightness of the satellite.

Expressions of interest should be sent directly to Dr Jovan Skuljan (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) who will coordinate this project. The participants will receive a PDF document describing the event and observation techniques. Please indicate the most likely location that you are planning to use (the nearest town will be sufficient at this stage), and a short description of your equipment, including the camera, lens and telescope mount (or tripod). The best locations should be within 100-200 km to either side (north or south) of the ground track (currently Lake Tekapo). The equatorial ephemerides will be available closer to the time of the event.

-- Jovan Skuljan

5. The Solar System in November

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

On November 1 the Sun rises at 6.05 am and sets at 8.03 pm. On November 31 the times are 5.40 am and 8.38 pm respectively. Nautical twilight starts about 1 hour before sunrise in the morning and ends about 1 hour after sunset in the evening. Nautical twilight starts/ends when the Sun is 12 degrees below the horizon. The sky is then reasonably dark except for a near horizon glow in the direction of the Sun.

Phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

Full moon:     November  7 at 11.23 am (Nov  6, 22:23 UT)
Last quarter   November 15 at  4.16 am (Nov 14, 15:16 UT)
New moon:      November 23 at  1.32 am (Nov 22, 12:32 UT)
First quarter: November 29 at 11.06 pm (        10:06 UT)

The planets in november

Two planets will be easily seen during November. Mars will be visible in the evening sky for two or three hours before it gets too low. Jupiter for a little longer in the morning sky after it rises and before dawn.

Mercury, Venus and Saturn are all close to the Sun during November with Saturn at conjunction on November 18. Observation of any of them will be problematical, to say the least.

Mars, PLANET OF THE EVENING SKY. Best viewed as the sky darkens following sunset.

Mars is the only planet really visible in the evening sky, it sets shortly after midnight, 12.40 am on the 1st and 12.09 am on the 30th. So it is best viewed an hour or so after sunset, when it will be almost due west all month, gradually getting a little lower as the month progresses.

The planet will be moving across Sagittarius and in the process pass close to some bright stars and clusters. On the 3rd it will, at its closest, be less than 3' (one-tenth of the full moon's diameter) from the centre of M28. By the time the sky darkens in NZ Mars will be about 5' from the centre. The following night the planet will be just over half a degree from lambda Sgr, mag 2.8. On the 6th and 7th it will be less than 1° from M22, the third brightest globular cluster, with Mars to the left of the cluster on the 6th and nearly above it on the 7th.

Mars then passes the "handle of the teapot" in Sagittarius, being just under 2° from Nunki, sigma Sgr, magnitude 2.1 on the 12th with the star to the upper left of Mars, magnitude 0.9. By November 17, Mars will be close to pi Sgr, magnitude 2.9, with the planet nearly 3° from the star, this time the star being to the lower right of Mars.

The crescent moon, 17% lit will be some 7° to the lower right of Mars on November 26.

Jupiter in the morning sky.

Jupiter rises 3 hours before the Sun on November 1 and about four and a half hours earlier on the 30th. Thus it will be a brilliant object visible fairly low to the northeast before sunrise. The planet will be in Leo all month, slowly moving towards Regulus which will be a few degrees to its right. An hour before sunrise Jupiter will be to the northeast on the 1st, rather further round towards the north on the 30th.

The moon, at last quarter, will be just over 4° above Jupiter on the morning of October 15. The two are closest just after 3am.

Jupiter's equator is currently nearly edge on as seen from the Earth. As a result a series of mutual events of the major satellites is occurring. A number of these events are visible from New Zealand during November. Most are occultations when one moon will be seen to close in on and merge with another, the two separating again a few minutes later.

Mercury, VENUS and SATURN, three planets lost in the Sun.

Mercury is nominally a morning object, it rises 35 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. 20 minutes before the Sun comes up, the planet will be only 2° above the horizon and so not observable. On the 1st Mercury is at its greatest elongation 19° west of the Sun. During the rest of November it will get steadily closer to the Sun, rising only 15 minutes earlier on the 30th.

Venus, having become an evening object at the end of October, sets just 6 minutes after the Sun on November 1. This increases to 44 minutes later by the end of the month. Hence, by then, it may be briefly visible, very low, 30° to the south of west shortly after the Sun goes down. It will then be in Ophiuchus.

Saturn sets just over an hour after the Sun on November 1. By the 18th it is at conjunction with the Sun. As "seen" from the Earth it will pass almost 2° north of the Sun but in reality it will be 9.95 Au 1488 million km, beyond it. The distance from Earth will be 10.934 AU, or 1636 million km. After conjunction, Saturn will rise before the Sun, but less than half an hour earlier by the 30th, so not observable.

Outer planets

Uranus is in the evening sky at magnitude 5.7 to 5.8. It is in Pisces, highest and to the north at about 11.30 pm on the 1st and two hours earlier on the 30th.

Neptune is also an evening object throughout November, setting after midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.9. It is stationary mid month, so its position scarcely changes during the month.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at magnitude 14.4. On the 11th, Mars will be less than 4° from Pluto, with the latter the opposite side of Mars to the star Nunki.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an early evening object magnitude 9.0 to 8.8. At the beginning of November, it sets less than 2 hours after the Sun, by the end of the month only 25 minutes later. By late November Ceres will be in Ophiuchus and will be less than 1° to the lower right of Venus on the 26th. Twilight is likely to make it impossible to view the asteroid in binoculars.

(3) Juno brightens from magnitude 9.3 to 9.0 during November. The 244 km asteroid is a morning object rising a little after midnight in Hydra. It is less than 10" from eta Hya on the morning of the 12th.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, starts November in Ophiuchus. It moves into Sagittarius on the 27th. It is an evening object, setting just before 11pm on the 1st and a little after 10pm on the 30th.

(6) Hebe is at opposition on November 20 with a magnitude 8.1. Being some way south of the celestial equator at opposition it will rise before sunset and set after sunrise. The asteroid is in Eridanus and will be less than 1° from 3.5 magnitude delta Eri between November 21 and 25.

-- Brian Loader

6. 2015 RASNZ Conference

The 2015 RASNZ Conference will be held in Lake Tekapo village From Friday May 8 to Sunday 10th. It will be followed by the 9th Trans-Tasman Occultation Meeting on the Monday and Tuesday, May 11-12.

Preceding the RASNZ Conference will be a two-day meeting celebrating Mt John Observatory's 50th Anniversary. The meeting will be held in Lake Tekapo village on the Thursday and Friday, May 7-8. The theme is `Celebrating 50 years of Mt John´. Past Pennsylvania and Canterbury students will contribute papers but anyone is welcome. About 80 participants are expected. Details are available at

7. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)

The RASNZ Occultation Section is pleased to announce that the 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9) will be held at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, over 11-12 May 2015. Comprehensive information about the meeting is available here:

The meeting will immediately follow the 2015 RASNZ Conference and the Mt John Observatory 50th Anniversary Symposium. Because attendance at all these meetings is expected to be high, accommodation space in Tekapo is likely to be limited. If you plan to attend any of these meetings we recommend that you book your accommodation early.

For those who are members of the Occultation Section, the latest Section Circular was released today. We also expect the next issue of the Journal for Occultation Astronomy to be available very soon. To access these visit:

-- Graham Blow

8. Dust Makes Cosmic Inflation Signal Iffy

A new analysis of Planck data provides the best measurements ever made of polarized dust emission across the sky - and bolsters the claim that the signal heralded as evidence for cosmic inflation is from dust instead. [See Newsletter No. 159, Item 1, 20 March 2014.)

Things are looking grim for the purported discovery of cosmic inflation´s fingerprints. Earlier this year, the BICEP2 team announced the detection of primordial B-modes, swirly polarization patterns imprinted on the cosmic microwave background (CMB) thanks to the hypothesized, split-second inflationary era. If inflation really did happen right after the universe´s birth, it should have spawned ripples in spacetime called gravitational waves, which in turn would have stretched and squeezed spacetime - and the plasma in it, ultimately fostering the creation of these polarization patterns in the CMB.

The BICEP2 telescope measured "curly" B-modes of polarization in the cosmic microwave background. The strongest curl patterns were a couple of degrees wide, roughly the size of your thumb held at arm's length against the sky.

But other cosmologists quickly raised a red flag about BICEP2´s result, cautioning that the polarization detected might instead be from dust emission in the Milky Way itself. Irregular, charged dust grains interacting with our galaxy´s magnetic field can also produce the B-mode polarization patterns, and on the same angular scale as the theorized primordial ones.

Since the debate arose, the astronomy world has been waiting impatiently for the team of ESA´s Planck mission to cast the deciding vote. Planck´s all-sky CMB observations include polarization, and the mission´s researchers have been laboriously analyzing the data to separate the primordial signals from those originating closer to home. The team is being doubly careful because its preliminary data releases have inadvertently fuelled the debate.

The galactic poles are the main regions of contention here. BICEP2 peered through the sparse galactic fog near the Milky Way´s south pole. More than a half dozen other B-mode experiments also focus on this Southern Hole. What everybody wants to know is, How much does dust emission contribute to the polarization signal in these galactic polar regions?

The Planck team has now released their preliminary analysis of the polarized dust emission near the galactic poles. The analysis doesn't include the detailed, multiple-frequency maps that will for certain settle the question, but it is still far and away the best measurement yet for this dust signal, says Planck scientist Charles Lawrence of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. What it shows is that dust is basically everywhere. "There is no escape from foregrounds, no part of the sky so clean that foregrounds can be ignored," Lawrence says. The Planck team found that the strength of the dust signal is roughly of the same magnitude as the polarization signal reported by BICEP2.

The Plank data indicates that the region that BICEP2 was looking at is only moderately clear. (See plots in the original article.) There are caveats though. First of all, the Planck analysis has sizable error bars, which the team is quick to point out. Second, there´s the ongoing issue of extrapolation. BICEP2 observed the CMB at a frequency of 150 GHz. The Planck analysis, on the other hand, uses 353-GHz data from the spacecraft´s High Frequency Instrument (HFI) and extrapolates down to what the emission should look like at 150 GHz.

To do the extrapolation, the researchers used HFI data from 100, 143, and 217 GHz, as well as maps from various data subsets, to make sure they understood how the dust signal changes as they look at different frequencies. With this information in hand, they then took the 353-GHz data and created rough "150-GHz" maps based on how the dust signal's strength changes with frequency across the sky. The team stuck with 353 GHz instead of using the lower-frequency data to make the plots directly because at 353 GHz dust emission dominates over other polarization signals, meaning data at that frequency give the clearest picture of galactic dust.

The team stresses that the emission maps are estimates. But the analysis is exceptionally careful, and the results imply that polarized dust is the dominant signal in the BICEP2 field, says David Spergel (Princeton), who coauthored one of the cautionary analyses earlier this year. "There could be a weaker signal from gravitational waves, but I don´t think that the current data are good enough to separate out this weaker signal and make a statistically significant detection," he sums up.

The Planck and BICEP2 teams are doing a joint analysis to get to the bottom of things. This analysis will hopefully be done in time for the big Planck conference in December, at which the Planck team will discuss the mission´s full temperature and polarization data (set to be released in November). These will include maps at all frequencies, Lawrence says, which will reveal features the averaging doesn't catch.

The new Planck analysis also picks out a few regions of sky that look the "cleanest" in terms of polarized dust emission. The largest region is, as expected, near the galactic south pole, as far from the dust-laden spiral disk as possible. Unfortunately, the BICEP2 field of view appears to have just missed the sweet spot. But other experiments - notably the Atacama B- mode Search (ABS) and the balloon-borne Suborbital Polarimeter for Inflation (SPIDER) - look right at it.

Even if the BICEP2 result proves a gun-jumper, the experiment has helped to create the most sensitive polarization map for this sector of the sky, Spergel says. But it looks like it´s going to take even more sensitive measurements to discover primordial B-modes.

Reference: Planck Collaboration. "Planck intermediate results. XXX. The angular power spectrum of polarized dust emission at intermediate and high Galactic latitudes." Posted to 19 September 2014.

-- Mostly from an illustrated note Camille M. Carlisle, 24 September. For the original see

9. Gravitomagnetic Field Explains Flyby Speed Anomaly?

When space probes, such as Rosetta and Cassini, fly past certain planets and moons, in order to gain momentum and travel long distances, their change in speed is not exactly as expected. A Spanish researcher has now analysed whether or not a hypothetical gravitomagnetic field could have an influence. However, other factors such as solar radiation, tides, or even relativistic effects or dark matter could be behind this mystery.

Since the beginnings of space exploration, spacecraft controllers have used the 'slingshot' effect of a close pass by a planet or moon to boost the craft's speed. However, during these flyby manoeuvres, something makes the craft fractionally faster or slower than calculated.

This anomaly has only been detected with a high level of precision in flybys of Earth, due to the availability of monitoring stations. These allow for the variations in the spacecraft speed to be measured by radar.

When the Galileo space probe flew over Earth in 1990, an unexpected increase of 4 millimetres per second was detected, as was a similar decrease when it took the same flyby in 1992. In 1998, a speed of 13 mm/s above estimates was observed in the spacecraft NEAR, and similar anomalies were repeated in the flybys of Cassini in 1999 (-2 mm/s), and those of the Messenger and Rosetta probes in 2005, with +0.02 mm/s and +1.82 mm/s respectively.

The deviations do not seriously affect the trajectories of the spacecraft. However, it is very important to clarify what they are caused by in the current era of precise space exploration.

Scientists have still not found any convincing explanation for the phenomenon, although they have put forward a range of hypotheses. One points towards solar radiation being the cause of the change in speed, whilst others suggest an influence from magnetic fields or the effect of tides. Then there are unconventional theories, such as the existence of a halo of dark matter trapped by Earth´s gravitational pull.

In a recent paper in the journal 'Advances in Space Research' Luis Acedo has proposed an explanation based on a supposed circulating gravitomagnetic field, which would follow the Earth´s parallels or lines of latitude. This hypothesis can be used to explain the effects on the majority of flybys. Einstein´s general theory of relativity predicts the existence of a similar field, but in following meridians or lines of longitude. That filed was confirmed by Gravity Probe B experiment.

"If a force field existed," Acedo explains, "its effects would also be seen in the elliptical orbits of spacecraft, and should have been detected a long time ago by geodynamic satellites such as LAGEOS or LARES; however, this is not the case, and it is therefore doubtful that a field of this kind could cast a light on this mystery without seriously changing our understanding of Earth´s gravity."

With this possibility ruled out, Acedo suggests that the anomalous behaviour of the probes during their flybys must originate in something that, although common, we have been unaware of to date. Either that or there is an error in the data analysis programs.

The difference in speeds could have serious implications for the understanding of gravity. A small deficit in the calculated advance of Mercury´s perihelion contributed to the development of the theory of general relativity. For the case in question something similar could occur.

Meanwhile, space probes continue to challenge scientists every time they perform a flyby. One of the last was that of the spacecraft Juno in October 2013, from Earth en route to Jupiter. NASA has not yet published data on this journey, but everything indicates that its speed as it flew over our planet was once again different to estimates.

Reference: Luis Acedo Rodríguez. "The flyby anomaly: A case for strong gravitomagnetism?" Advances in Space Research 54 (4): 788-796, August 2014.

See the original article at

-- Thanks to John Arnold for providing the link.

10. Abstracts for Clive Ruggles Talks

"Of calendars and kings: gods, temples, the Pleiades, and the development of archaic states in Hawai'i" In the Hawaiian islands, unlike other parts of ancient Polynesia, chiefdoms became transformed into archaic states during the centuries between the end of long-distance voyaging and European contact. Archaeoastronomy, the study of beliefs and practice relating to the sky, has recently become relevant to studies of the social, political and ideological factors that contrived to bring this about. The prominent place of astronomy within religious, navigational, and calendrical traditions in the islands, as throughout Polynesia, is evident from a rich ethnohistoric record. Clive will describe his fieldwork with archaeologist Patrick V. Kirch studying the orientations of temple platforms and their connections with astronomy, the calendar, dryland agriculture and the emergence of "god-king" cults.

"Whatever happened to the ancient observatories? Ever since Alexander Thom made "megalithic observatories" famous in Britain in the 1960s and 1970, people all over the world began to identify ancient observatory sites in their own countries, often built long before written history. These monuments not only bore witness to ancient peoples deep interest in the skies but also, as it seemed, to the sophistication of ancient knowledge. Yet some supposed ancient observatories were undoubtedly more convincing as such than others, and archaeologists were generally highly skeptical. In recent years, archaeo-astronomers have tended to avoid speaking of ancient observatories at all. What changed? If these sites weren't ancient observatories what were they? And does this mean that ancient people were not as sophisticated, or as interested in the skies, as we thought? Clive shall address these questions using examples from Britain, Peru, China, and elsewhere.

"Monuments tied to the sky: the controversial heritage of ancient astronomy" In today's brightly lit world it is all too easy to forget just how overwhelming the dark night sky would have been to human societies in the past. It was a prominent part of the environment that was impossible to ignore. The objects and cycles seen in the sky were vital to people striving to make sense of the world within which they dwelt and to keep their actions in harmony with the cosmos as they perceived it. Around the world, spectacular ancient monuments ­ as well as many that are not quite so spectacular ­ provide us with tantalising glimpses of long lost beliefs and practices relating to the sky. But they have to be interpreted with considerable caution, and because of this many of the world's most famous ancient astronomy sites are actual highly controversial. This makes it all the more difficult for bodies such as UNESCO and International Astronomical Union who are concerned to preserve and protect the most valuable heritage of ancient astronomy around the planet. In this talk I will describe some of the world's better known and less well known monuments related to astronomy, but also some deconstruct some of the myths surrounding others including some of the best known of all.

"Is a dark future a bright future?" The Aoraki-Mackenzie area was recognized in 2012 as a (gold-tier) International Dark Sky Reserve because of its exceptional dark skies. Dark sky areas can also have great significance in relation both to cultural heritage and natural heritage, and the potential for dark sky values to be recognized as part of the wider heritage value of a place is currently being carefully assessed by bodies such as the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and ICOMOS, the body that advises UNESCO on cultural sites nominated to the World Heritage List. But international heritage recognition can have a range of impacts, all of which have to be carefully assessed by a wide range of stakeholders. In this talk Clive Ruggles, who is the IAU's co-ordinator for the joint UNESCO-IAU Astronomy and World Heritage Initiative, will discuss in general terms the ways in which it could be possible to recognize and protect dark skies in a World Heritage context. In doing so, Clive will attempt to give a background that can inform local discussion and debate on the potential benefits and issues that could arise if the heritage values of the Aoraki-Mackenzie area, including its dark skies, were ever recognized internationally.

See also

11. How to Join RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at

A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at

Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

12. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

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

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


"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." -- Isaac Asimov.

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right." -- Isaac Asimov.

"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well, that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down." -- Ray Bradbury.

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