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. Graham Blow
2. Stardate South Island Feb. 20-23
3. ATV-5 Atmospheric Re-entry Update - Feb.28
4. The Solar System in February
5. 2015 RASNZ Conference
6. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)
7. ExoWorlds Naming Contest Opened
8. Antarctic Meteor Crater
9. X-ray Stars in Colliding Galaxies
10. Cassini Plumbs Titan's Lakes
11. Closure Averted for World-Class Observatories
12. More from the 2014 Conference
13. How to Join RASNZ

1. Graham Blow

As most members will be aware Graham Blow died at the age of 60 at the end of 2014. He passed away peacefully at his home on the 31st December. His death followed a severe heart attack a week earlier. Graham's funeral was held on Monday 5 January at Houghton Bay, Wellington.

Graham will be remembered for his enthusiasm for occultation observing. He formed the RASNZ Occultation Section in October 1977 and remained director of the Section for over 37 years until his death.

One of Graham's legacies will be the series of Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultation, TTSO, meetings started in 2007 and held annually since then alternating between New Zealand and Australia. The 2015 TTSO9 will be held at Tekapo on Monday and Tuesday May 11 and 12 following the RASNZ conference.

In the mid-1970s Graham and others organized the National Committee for student astronomy. This got a lot of secondary school pupils involved in astronomy. Some are now RASNZ members.

One of Graham's greatest achievements was in 1988 when Pluto occulted a 12th magnitude star. Graham encouraged several observers with photo- electric equipment to observe the event. It happened that NZ was at the southern edge of the occultation track. Seen from Mt John the star just grazed Pluto's atmosphere, till then unknown. Observers further north at Black Birch and Auckland saw the star occulted by the planet. These observations contributed to the first accurate determination of Pluto's size. The occultation also started studies of Pluto's atmosphere that continue today.

-- From notes by Brian Loader, John Talbot, Warwick Kissling and Alan Gilmore.

2. Stardate South Island Feb. 20-23

Stardate SI runs from Feb 20 to Feb 23 at the hostel and campsite at Staveley. Talks begin on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. while we wait for the sky to get dark.

The featured speaker is Steve Chadwick. Steve will talk on "A trip around the Clouds of Magellan", "An introduction to narrow-band imaging" and will run a practical workshop on using Photoshop to process astroimages.

Other talks and contributors are "Dissecting a 6" Newtonian" - Rob Glassey "How astronomy advanced inquiry to the use of an experimental method" - Philip Catton "The 2014 periastron passage of Eta Carinae" - Malcolm Locke "Deconstructing a Canon 350D" - Andrei Cotiga "Constructing an observatory" - Peter Aldous TBA - Phil Barker

For full details see

3. ATV-5 Atmospheric Re-entry Update - Feb.28

Further to the item in Newsletter No. 166, Item 4, October 2014, Jovan Skuljan writes:

The final orbit of ESA's Automated Transfer Vehicle 5 (ATV-5), also named Georges Lemaitre, has shifted more towards the south of the South Island. The expected re-entry date is now 28 February 2015, at around 1:30 a.m. NZDT. The final ephemeris is still not available, but the latest prediction is for a ground track passing almost directly above Dunedin. This means that the viewing conditions from Mt John will not be particularly good, since the maximum altitude above the horizon at Lake Tekapo is unlikely to reach 20 degrees. However, the satellite will be easy to observe from Otago and Southland.

All New Zealand astronomers are invited to join the campaign and take images of the ATV-5 as it crosses the sky above 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 digital camera fitted with a standard photographic lens. The aim is to record the satellite trail across the fixed stellar background.

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 Dunedin). The equatorial ephemerides will be available closer to the time of the event.

4. The Solar System in February

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.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in february

                   February  1                    February 28        
                  morning evening                morning evening     
            rise: 6.23am, set:  8.44pm   rise:   6.57am, set:  8.08pm
Civil:    starts: 5.55am, ends: 9.13pm   starts: 6.31am, ends: 8.35pm
Nautical: starts: 5.17am, ends: 9.51pm   starts: 5.57am, ends: 9.09pm
Astro:    starts: 4.35am, ends:10.32pm   starts: 5.22am, ends: 9.44pm

February phases of the moon (times as shown by guide)

  Full moon:     February  4 at 12.09 pm (Feb  3, 23:09 UT)
  Last quarter:  February 12 at  4.50 pm (        03:50 UT)
  New moon:      February 19 at 12.47 pm (Feb 18, 23:47 UT)
  First quarter: February 26 at  6.14 am (Feb 25, 17:14 UT)

The planets in february

Venus and Mars are close together and visible for a short time after sunset. Jupiter reaches opposition and is visible most of the night but Saturn is only visible in the morning sky although it rises just before midnight by the end of February. Mercury moves rapidly up into the morning sky to become easily visible an hour before sunrise in the second half of the month.

Mercury was at inferior conjunction with the Sun on January 30 so it starts February much too close to the Sun to observe. It subsequently moves rapidly into the morning sky, rising 45 minutes before the Sun on the 6th and nearly 100 minutes earlier a week later. On the 13th at 5.40 am, an hour before sunrise, Mercury at magnitude 0.6 will be some 7° above the horizon, easily the brightest low object a little to the south of west.

From the 17th and on into early March, Mercury will rise more than 2 hours before the Sun and it will the planet will gradually brighten a little. On the 28th Mercury will be more than 12° above the horizon an hour before sunrise, making it an easy morning object with a magnitude 0.1. This will be the best morning appearance of Mercury for the year for the southern hemisphere.

Venus and MARS become a pair of early evening planets during February. On the 1st, Venus is 9.5° left of Mars. Both planets start February in Aquarius. Both move into Pisces during the month with Venus closing in on Mars. On the 22nd, they are at their closest with Venus less than half a degree above Mars. Their brightness contrast will be extreme, Venus more than 100 times brighter than Mars.

The previous evening, when the two planets will be only slightly further apart, the moon as a fine crescent will be 4.5° to their right. By February 28 Venus will be nearly 3° ahead of Mars.

The two planets set a little over an hour after the Sun throughout February. On the 1st Mars almost 90 minutes later, Venus 68 minutes later. On the 28th Mars will set first, 63 minutes after the Sun, while Venus sets 8 minutes later (as seen from Wellington).

Jupiter is at opposition on February 7. Thus it will be visible most of the night, although low to the northeast early evening, particularly at the beginning of the month. At opposition, Jupiter will be 650 million km, 4.35 AU, from the Earth and 5.33 AU from the Sun.

The planet starts February in Leo. During February it moves to the west (that is in a retrograde sense) and into Cancer on the 4th. Early that evening the full moon will be some 4.5° to the upper right of the planet. By midnight the sky will have rotated to bring the moon almost directly above Jupiter, its distance increasing to 5°.

Mutual events of jovian satellites

There are about 16 mutual events of Jupiter's Galilean satellites observable from NZ during February. The events involve either occultations or eclipses of one satellite by another. Visually, mutual occultations are the more interesting to watch as satellites can be seen to merge and separate over a period several minutes. Eclipses are normally partial events with fairly small magnitude changes of the eclipsed satellite. Consequently they are mostly difficult to detect visually. Total eclipses are rare.

Useful observations and timings of both types of event can be made by those set up for the video observation of minor planet occultations.

For more details refer to the IMCCE web site, where predictions and requirements for observing and reporting information are available. Users of Dave Herald's Occult program can generate their own predictions.

Saturn remains a morning object throughout February. On the 1st it rises close to 1.30 am, by the end of the month a few minutes before midnight. The planet will be in Scorpius near the close double star beta Sco, magnitude 2.6. Saturn will be about 9° from Antares.

On the morning of the 13th, the moon, just past last quarter, will be 4.5° to the left of Saturn as seen in the early dawn sky.

During February Saturn's north pole is tilted almost 25° towards the Earth. This brings the northern surface of the rings well into view. They should be visible in binoculars, although a small telescope is likely to give a better view.

Outer planets

Uranus remains in Pisces as an evening object magnitude 5.9. By the end of February it will set at 8.30pm, so less than 90 minutes after the Sun and low in the fading twilight.

Neptune is within a degree of Venus on the 1st so will be low in the twilit sky. Despite being close to Venus, Neptune, magnitude 8.0, is likely to be difficult to see in binoculars due to twilight. Neptune is at conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. It will then be 4.63 billion km, almost 31 AU, from the Earth and 30 AU beyond the Sun.

Pluto is in Sagittarius and rises more than 4 hours before the Sun by the 28th. Its magnitude is 14.4

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object in Sagittarius with magnitude 9.2. By the end of the month it will rise over 4 hours before the Sun.

(3) Juno starts February in Hydra. It moves into Cancer on the 16th. This places it in the evening sky, although it doesn't set until several hours after midnight. Its brightness fades during the month from magnitude 8.2 to 8.9

(4) Vesta moves further into the morning sky following conjunction. It rises less than an hour before the Sun on the 1st, two hours before it on the 28th. The asteroid is in Capricornus, at magnitude 8.

(7) Iris and (8) Flora are both in Leo, but at opposite sides of the constellation, nearly 30° apart. Iris's magnitude varies from 9.5 to 9.0, Flora's at its brightest is 9.1 when at opposition on the 17th. Iris doesn't reach opposition until early March.

-- Brian Loader

5. 2015 RASNZ Conference

Dear Friends, Colleagues,

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held at Lake Tekapo from 8th-10th May 2015. Our guest speakers will be Professors Gerry Gilmore (University of Cambridge) and Edward Guinan (Villanova University), and the Fellows Lecture for 2015 will be delivered by Associate Professor Karen Pollard from Canterbury University. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

For further information on the RASNZ conference and registration please visit the conference website at

The conference will be preceded by a two day symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mount John University Observatory - see for registration information and other details of this meeting. Immediately after the conference the Ninth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9) will also be held at the Godley Hotel, Lake Tekapo on 11th-12th May. For details see Note that registrations for TTSO9 can ONLY be made through the RASNZ Conference registration page.

The RASNZ standing conference committee invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles and abstracts due 1st April 2015. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given above, or you can go to the RASNZ wiki Please note that you MUST be registered for the conference to make a presentation. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submission and seeing you at conference.

Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find this of interest.

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

6. 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.

-- Murray Forbes.

7. ExoWorlds Naming Contest Opened

The first ever contest allowing members of the public to name ExoWorlds began on January 13. It offers offering the registered clubs and non- profit organisations the chance to nominate their favourite systems to take through to the next rounds.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is organising a worldwide contest to give popular names to selected exoplanets along with their host stars, among a list of hundreds of well-characterized exoplanets it has offered for public naming. The first round of the competition allows all registered clubs and non-profit organisations to nominate up to 20 ExoWorlds (exoplanetary systems and their host stars) to be made available for the next stage of the contest, where names can be proposed for the most popular ExoWorlds.

Although people have been naming celestial objects for millennia, the IAU was delegated the task of assigning scientifically recognised names to newly discovered celestial bodies by its member countries. The NameExoWorlds contest is the first opportunity that the public will have to name not only exoplanets, but also, for the first time in centuries, to give popular names to stars - those that have known exoplanets in orbit around them.

To participate in the contest, clubs and non-profit organisations must first register with the IAU Directory of World Astronomy. The deadline for which has been extended to 23:59 UTC on 15 May 2015.

The deadline for the first stage of the contest itself is at 23:59 UTC 15 February 2015, when nominations for 20 ExoWorlds to be named will close. In the next phase, once the most popular ExoWorlds have been identified, the stars and planets will be made available to all registered clubs and organisations to submit their desired names. Each club or organisation can then propose a name for one ExoWorld, with all submissions having to abide by the IAU Exoplanet Naming Conventions and be supported by a detailed argument for their choice. When this stage has concluded, the public worldwide will then be invited to vote on their favourite proposed names.

The final results are expected to be announced at a special public ceremony held during the IAU XXIX General Assembly in Honolulu, USA, 3- 14 August 2015.

For the original announcement see The list of hundreds of well-characterized exoplanets is at The IAU Directory of World Astronomy is at IAU naming conventions are found at

-- From

---------- Commenting on this opportunity, Phil Yock writes:

Included amongst the 305 candidates chosen by the IAU were the first 8 exoplanets found by gravitational microlensing. New Zealand astronomers contributed to all these discoveries. Here are some details on the first four:- (1) I. Bond et al., ApJL 606, L155 (2004), discovery led by MOA, confirmed by OGLE (2) A. Udalski et al., ApJL 628, L109 (2005), discovery led by OGLE, contributions made by several observatories including NZ amateur observatories, first amateur co-found planet in 200 years (3) J. Beaulieu et al., Nature 439, 437 (2005), discovery led by PLANET with NZ members and OGLE group, contribution by MOA group (4) A. Gould et al., ApJL 644, L37 (2006), discovery led by MicroFUN with NZ members and OGLE group and members of MOA

Proposals could be made for all these planets. For example, the first microlensing planet (which was a giant planet) could be named Moa to indicate its large size, the NZ connection, and the fact that neither the bird nor the planet will be detected again. If this were to happen, the Japanese members of MOA and/or the OGLE group could perhaps propose a name for the host star of the planet.

8. Antarctic Meteor Crater

During a routine flight over the Antarctic ice shelf on 20 December last year, geophysicist Christian Müller spotted something strange: a huge, 2-kilometre-wide circle on the ice.

Müller, a contractor with research consultants Fielax from Bremerhaven, Germany, was in Antarctica as part of a polar survey conducted by the German Alfred Wegener Institute. Six days after spotting the weird ice- ring, he and his colleagues returned and flew over the site at two different altitudes, to photograph and scan it. Their working theory is that the ring marks an ice crater left by a large meteorite that slammed into Antarctica in 2004.

Two previous studies seem to back up this theory. First, a trail of dust was seen 30 kilometres above Antarctica on 3 September 2004. An Australian team speculated at the time that this was the remnants of one of the largest meteoroids to have entered Earth's atmosphere during the decade (Nature, 10.1038/nature03881).

Second, in 2007, another team used global infrasound (low-frequency sound) data to triangulate the location of a big bang that was picked up by remote sensors on that same date (Earth, Moon and Planets, 10.1007/s11038-007-9205-z. They pinpointed the Antarctic ice shelf, very close to where Müller spotted his ice crater and speculated the bang had been made by a meteoroid the size of a house.

Müller and his colleagues say their theory still needs to be carefully checked out, and will be conducting further studies.

For more see|NSNS|2012-GLOBAL|online-news#.VLb3qhX2_IU

9. X-ray Stars in Colliding Galaxies

When galaxies get together, there is the chance of a spectacular light show as is the case with NGC 2207 and IC 2163.

Located about 130 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Canis Major, this pair of spiral galaxies has been caught in a grazing encounter. NGC 2207 and IC 2163 have hosted three supernova explosions in the past 15 years and have produced one of the most bountiful collections of super bright X-ray lights known. These special objects -- known as "ultraluminous X-ray sources" (ULXs) -- have been found using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

As in our Milky Way galaxy, NGC 2207 and IC 2163 are sprinkled with many star systems known as X-ray binaries, which consist of a star in a tight orbit around either a neutron star or a "stellar-mass" black hole. The strong gravity of the neutron star or black hole pulls matter from the companion star. As this matter falls toward the neutron star or black hole, it is heated to millions of degrees and generates X- rays.

ULXs have far brighter X-rays than most "normal" X-ray binaries. The true nature of ULXs is still debated, but they are likely a peculiar type of X-ray binary. The black holes in some ULXs may be heavier than stellar mass black holes and could represent a hypothesized, but as yet unconfirmed, intermediate-mass category of black holes.

The composite image of NGC 2207 and IC 2163 at contains Chandra data in pink, optical light data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green, and blue (appearing as blue, white, orange, and brown), and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope in red.

The scientists involved in studying this system note that there is a strong correlation between the number of X-ray sources in different regions of the galaxies and the rate at which stars are forming in these regions. The composite image shows this correlation through X-ray sources concentrated in the spiral arms of the galaxies, where large amounts of stars are known to be forming. This correlation also suggests that the companion star in the binary systems is young and massive.

Colliding galaxies like this pair are well known to contain intense star formation. Shock waves -- like the sonic booms from supersonic aircraft -- form during the collision, leading to the collapse of clouds of gas and the formation of star clusters. In fact, researchers estimate that the stars associated with the ULXs are very young and may only be about 10 million years old. In contrast, our Sun is about halfway through its 10-billion-year lifetime. Moreover, analysis shows that stars of various masses are forming in this galaxy pair at a rate equivalent to form 24 stars the mass of our Sun per year. In comparison, a galaxy like our Milky Way is expected to spawn new stars at a rate equivalent to only about one to three new suns every year.

-- From a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. Cassini Plumbs Titan's Lakes

Saturn's largest moon, Titan, continues to put on a show for the Cassini spacecraft as its moves toward northern summer. In a recent flyby, Cassini sounded the depths of Titan's largest sea, Kraken Mare, and discovered new transient features similar to the previously observed "Magic Island" (

On 21 August 2014, Cassini set out to measure the depth of Kraken Mare and characterize the sea state of both Kraken and Ligeia Mare. Using the techniques developed to sound the depths of Ligeia Mare in May 2013 (, the Cassini Radar Team has isolated reflections from a 40 km segment of Kraken Mare's sea floor. These bottom echoes were found in a shallow region near the mouth of a drowned river valley that feeds the sea and showed distinctive double-peaked returns indicating shallow depths of 20-35 m. For the remainder of the 200 km shore-to-shore track across the sea, the sea floor was not observed. This means that the liquid was either too deep (> 200 m) or too absorbing (much more absorbing than Ligeia Mare). The altimetry data from dry land in and around Kraken Mare showed relatively steep slopes leading up to the sea, consistent with, but not necessarily evidence for, deep liquid. Cassini scientists are still analysing the data to determine the liquid's absorptivity, which is related to its composition, but the shallow depths, as compared to the 160 m depth of central Ligeia Mare, make this calculation difficult. Applying these techniques to the 2008 altimetry data over Ontario Lacus, the largest lake in Titan's south polar region has, for the first time, revealed depths of 20-40 m in the lake's southern areas.

In addition to measuring depths of Kraken, Cassini re-observed a mysterious transient feature, dubbed Titan's "Magic Island," first seen in July 2013 ( Observations obtained starting two weeks after the initial discovery of the "Magic Island" did not show evidence for the bright features. The data acquired in August 2014, however, reveal that bright features are again present at the location of the original "Magic Island," but that their appearance has evolved since the initial discovery. It is unclear whether the features have been continuously present since July 2013, and were in some way not detectable in the interim, or if the two observations indicate distinct transient events. Currently, the most likely candidates are waves, bubbles, or floating debris.

In an exciting development, two new transient "Magic Island" features were also observed in Kraken Mare during the August 2014 observation. Unlike the Ligeia transients, however, the Kraken Mare transients were observed within several hours of observations acquired by Cassini's Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS). The VIMS data show a 5-micron-bright detection at the same location as the radar transients. This detection is similar to returns interpreted as specular reflections from waves or wet ground. These observations require the transient feature to be located at the surface of the liquid and support explanations including waves and wet floating debris. Combined, these new observations demonstrate that Titan's polar seas are dynamic and exciting environments that will certainly continue to surprise and astonish us for the remaining years of the Cassini mission. Cassini is scheduled to observe the Ligeia features again in January 2015.

-- From a Cornell University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard

11. Closure Averted for World-Class Observatories

In a hopeful turn of events, the University of Hawaii has assumed ownership of the 35-year-old United Kingdom Infrared Telescope (UKIRT). One of the world´s leading infrared observatories, UKIRT will continue surveying nearby brown dwarfs, distant supermassive black holes, and everything in between.

Despite high productivity, UKIRT faced closure when UK´s Science and Technology Facilities Council pulled funding in 2012. A few months later, UKIRT director Gary Davis posted an Announcement of Opportunity, basically putting the world-class observatory up for sale.

It worked. Scientific operations will continue now that the University of Hawai´i supports the facility in partnership with the University of Arizona and Lockheed Martin Space Technology Advanced Research and Development Laboratories.

A similar turnabout seems to be in place for the 15-meter James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), which observes submillimeter-wavelength emission from cold dust and gas within the solar system and in distant galaxies. Also placed on the chopping block in 2012, its for-sale announcement came in June 2013. The latest update says JCMT operations will transfer early next year to the University of Hawaii, in partnership with the East Asian Core Observatories Association.

This news may cheer astronomers at a number of state-of-the-art observatories still facing closure. As funding funnels towards next-gen scopes such as ALMA, the European Extremely Large Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope, and the Square Kilometre Array, current observatories around the world are coming under budgetary fire.

The U.S. National Science Foundation announced in 2012 plans to divest from two radio telescopes, the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Long Baseline Array, as well as three optical telescopes from the Kitt Peak National Observatory. Though Green Bank received a $1 million boost from the West Virginia University, it will need more if it is to survive long-term.

In 2013 the University of California announced its intentions to stop funding the long-running Lick Observatory by 2018. This decision was amended at the end of 2014 so that Lick Observatory operations will continue under the management of University of California Observatories (UCO), the multi-campus astronomical research unit headquartered at the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz.

The University of California Office of the President has given the UCO Director, with advice from the UCO Advisory Committee and others, the flexibility to determine the best distribution of available UC resources between Lick and other UC-related astronomical facilities such as the 10-meter Keck Telescopes in Hawaii, the instrumentation labs at UC Santa Cruz and UCLA, and the future Thirty Meter Telescope now under construction.

There are now enough funds in the projected budgets of UCO to run Lick Observatory for the next five years, albeit at a frugal level. Lick has an annual operating budget of approximately $1.5 million. Ongoing fundraising efforts and potential partnerships currently being explored may provide additional funding for Lick.

-- From articles by Monica Young and Hilary Lebow on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the more at and

12. More from the 2014 Conference

Zelia Dionnet, a visitor to Auckland University, talked about work on meteorites that she was involved with in Paris. Efforts to relate particular meteors to particular asteroids rely on their similarities in colour. This comparison is impeded by `space weathering´. The colours of asteroids are altered by the flux of cosmic rays and energetic atoms from the sun. Also the surface material is continually stirred up by tiny meteors and occasionally rearranged completely by major collisions. Zelia´s research measured the effect of cosmic ray action by subjecting meteorite samples to beams of high-speed ions and measuring the change in the reflectivity. Meteoric material was reddened by this exposure.

Haritina Mogasanu showed examples of the RASNZ Education Section´s new website and its content. It is intended that this will be a resource for teaching astronomy. Haritina appealed for more contributions by RASNZ members.

Grant Christie led off Sunday morning´s presentations with a summary of ten years of the Microlens Follow-up Network, MicroFUN. The group was set up by Andy Gould of Ohio State University. At first it was assumed that relatively large telescope would be involved. However, after Jenny McCormick got critical measures of a lensing event with a 25-cm telescope, observers with smaller telescopes were encourage to join. Microlensing events that involve planets can show light variations in hours and minutes, so it is imperative to have continuous coverage. The Network has contributed to the discovery of many planets around other stars, `exo-planets´, including a Jupiter-Saturn system and a planet of four times Jupiter´s mass orbiting a red dwarf star.

The Editor apologies for misspelling David Moriarty's surname in the Conference notes in November's Newsletter, Item 12.

13. 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'.



"The important thing is not to stop questioning" -- Albert Einstein.

"The more original the discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards." -- Arthur Koestler.

"No-one has ever had an idea in a dress suit." -- Sir Frederick G Banting.

"My theology, briefly, is that the universe was dictated but not signed." -- Christopher Morely.

"And on the eighth day God said, 'OK, Murphy, you're in charge.'" -- Unknown.

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