RASNZ Electronic Newsletter February 2016

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. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 182

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.


1. Gravitational Waves Detected
2. New Windows on the Universe
3. The Solar System in March
4. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
5. Two Faint Comets Nearby in March
6. Variable Stars South Symposium 4
7. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories
8. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History
9. How to Join the RASNZ
10. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

1. Gravitational Waves Detected

On February 11 physicists announced the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity. Two massive accelerating objects - in this case, a pair of stellar-mass black holes spiralling into each other - passed through spacetime like paddles sweeping through water, creating vibrations that could (barely) be felt on Earth. The results are published in Physical Review Letters.

It's been a recurring theme in history: When scientists open a new window on the universe, they make transformative discoveries. But when LIGO, short for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, caught waves from these two colliding black holes, it didn't just open a new window - it smashed a door wide open, promising a breathtaking new ability to study exotic and otherwise-undetectable cosmic phenomena. Don't be surprised if LIGO's founders, Kip Thorne, Ronald Drever, and Rainer Weiss, earn free round-trip tickets to Stockholm to collect a Nobel Prize.

LIGO consists of two L-shaped facilities, one near Hanford, Washington state, and the other near Livingston, Louisiana. At 09:50:45 UTC on 14 September 2015, both labs caught the gravitational-wave signature of two colliding black holes, shortly after both facilities were turned on following five years of intensive upgrades.

A series of gravitational waves from a distant galaxy first passed through the Livingston detector, then just 7 milliseconds later it passed through the detector in Hanford. Both instruments shoot infrared lasers through 4-kilometer-long arms of near-perfect vacuum. The laser light reflects off ultrapure, superpolished, and seismically isolated quartz mirrors. The passing gravitational waves slightly altered the path lengths in the arms of both detectors by about 1/1,000 the width of a proton. That slight change created a characteristic interference pattern in the laser light, an event LIGO scientists have dubbed GW150914.

LIGO didn't watch the whole many-year-long dance of the black hole duo, but it did see the last few cycles of the death spiral, the merger itself, and the "ringing" effect as the merged black hole settled into its new form.

Based on the signal's amplitude (that is, the height of the gravitational wave), team members estimate that the colliding black holes had the masses of about 36 and 29 Suns, respectively. Milliseconds before they merged, these behemoths spun around each other at nearly the speed of light. LIGO watched all three predicted phases of the collision: the black holes' death spiral and ensuring merger, as well as the ringing of the merged object as it settled into its new form.

The merged black hole contains about 62 solar masses, so it's short three solar masses - the gravitational waves themselves carried away three solar masses worth of energy. At its peak, the merging pair were radiating 50 times more energy than the rest of the universe.

The minuscule difference in the waves' arrival times at the two facilities was exactly what's expected for gravitational waves, which travel at the speed of light. The LIGO team claims a 5.1-sigma detection, meaning the odds of the signal occurring by chance are about one in 3.5 million.

With only two detectors, LIGO can't pinpoint the source's exact location or host galaxy - it could come from anywhere within about 600 square degrees of sky, somewhere near the Large Magellanic Cloud in the Southern Hemisphere sky. Nor can they exactly pinpoint its distance, but measurements show the source lies between 700 million and 1.6 billion light-years away.

The direct detection of gravitational waves opens up an entirely new spectrum that doesn't involve any form of light. "It's a spectrum that carries entirely new kinds of information that have so far been largely invisible," says physicist Robert Owen (Oberlin College). Or, as Eric Katsavounidis (MIT and LIGO team member) puts it, "This is the end of the silent-movie era in astronomy."

Previously, radio astronomers studying pairs of neutron stars, the crushed, spinning remains of massive stars, had revealed compelling indirect evidence of gravitational waves. Einstein's general theory of relativity says that gravitational waves should carry away orbital energy, and indeed, these pulsars' orbits spiral inward at exactly the rate relativity predicts. Joseph Taylor and Russell Hulse shared the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering the first of these systems. But direct detection has remained elusive because of the incredible difficulty of catching gravitational waves. Merging binaries involving black holes or neutron stars generate stupendous amounts of energy. "In terms of gravitational waves, for that one millisecond prior to merger, this binary black hole system was 'brighter' than all the rest of the universe combined!" Owen says.

But the waves are incredibly difficult to detect because gravity is the weakest of the four known forces of nature, the strength of the waves fall off sharply as they traverse space, and because matter barely feels the presence of gravitational waves. "The gravitational waves from a distant galaxy that are detectable to LIGO are squeezing and stretching the Milky Way Galaxy by the width of your thumb," says LIGO science team member Chad Hanna (Penn State University).

The U.S. National Science Foundation-funded $500 million LIGO experiment has been on the lookout for gravitational waves since 2002. But only recently, after a five-year rebuild and redesign to improve LIGO's sensitivity, did the facilities have a realistic chance of catching these subtle spacetime ripples. LIGO began its first "advanced" observing run last September, but improvements continue and future runs will have at least twice the sensitivity and enable LIGO to survey ten times the volume of space.

Theorists predict Advanced LIGO should catch an additional five binary black hole mergers in its next observing run. They also expect roughly 40 binary neutron star mergers every year it runs, and an unknown number of signals from black hole-neutron star mergers and supernovae. It's even possible that LIGO could detect exotic cosmic strings.

The direct detection of gravitational waves represents another triumph for Einstein, almost exactly 100 years after he predicted their existence - and despite the fact that he never thought they'd be detected. But as LIGO builds up a catalogue of events in the coming years, and as other advanced detectors come online in Europe and Japan, physicists will be scrutinizing the waveforms in detail to see how closely they conform to general relativity's predictions.

Though this black hole merger went entirely according to Einstein's predictions, scientists hope to eventually see discrepancies that could provide vital clues to new physics, potentially reconciling contradictions between relativity and quantum theory.

"Gravitational-wave measurements will allow us to directly probe some of the most violent events in the universe, to directly measure the most tumultuous dynamics of spacetime geometry," says Owen. "Gravitational waves would allow us to probe how spacetime really behaves under the most radical of circumstances."

LIGO will prove a gold mine for astronomers: enabling them to study and build up a census of neutron stars, stellar-mass black holes, and other dim or otherwise impossible-to-detect objects in faraway galaxies. And LIGO also offers the tantalizing prospect of discovering new types of objects and phenomena hitherto unknown to science.

"We want to give ourselves plenty of opportunity to be surprised," says Hanna. "We don't want to open a new window to the universe and then refuse to look outside because we think we know what we'll see. We expect the bread-and-butter sources, but we certainly hope it doesn't stop there."

See http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/gravitational-wave-detection-heralds-new-era-of-science-0211201644/with many diagrams and links.

-- Based on the above article by Robert Naeye on Sky & Telescope's webpage.

A few of the many articles on the news are listed below. http://www.nature.com/news/einstein-s-gravitational-waves-found-at-last-1.19361 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-11/einstein's-gravitational-waves:-what-do-they-mean/7159238 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/einsteins-gravitational-waves-detected-in-major-breakthrough/news-story/ab0295587d9a8f7c0585b2aa73e3929c

and all about that chirp: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/gravitational-waves-how-they-sound-and-why-scientists-are-going-nuts-20160211-gms4bc.html

-- From Virginia Kilborn, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia.

2. New Windows on the Universe

As researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) announce they have spotted gravitational waves - ripples in space itself set off by violent astrophysical events - University of Canterbury Professor of Physics Dr David Wiltshire discusses what it means.

The announcement that gravitational waves have been directly captured for the first time ever, from the collision of two black holes, opens a new age of astronomy. From now on we will be able to "listen" to the Universe with "ears" that are not limited by the electromagnetic spectrum, completely changing our understanding. It is a moment in history every bit as important as when Galileo first pointed his telescope at the stars and planets, or when the first radio, X-ray, infrared or gamma ray telescopes were first turned on by 20th century astronomers.

It is also a story of many human triumphs. For Albert Einstein, whose theory of general relativity first predicted gravitational waves exactly 100 years ago, it is a triumph. For New Zealander Roy Kerr, who found the solution of Einstein's equations which describes rotating black holes, but had to struggle to be listened to by astronomers on announcing his result in a 10-minute conference talk in 1963, it is a triumph. For the numerical relativists, such as Frans Pretorius at Princeton who in 2005 solved a decades-long struggle of how to split space and time in Einstein's equations on a computer, to determine how gravitational waves are produced when black holes collide, it is a triumph.

And above all, for the hundreds, the thousands of ingenious and skilled experimental physicists who have struggled with their lasers, mirrors and suspensions for decades to make the most sensitive measurements ever achieved by humankind, it is a triumph. We have now made a measurement so sensitive it's like measuring the width of a human hair at the distance of Alpha Centauri.

What will we discover? Most exciting are the unknown unknowns. But the known unknowns include most of the black holes in the Universe.

By definition a black hole is an object so dense that nothing can escape, not even light. That makes them often impossible to detect. In the centres of all galaxies there are supermassive black holes. The one in our own Milky Way weighs in at 4.3 million solar masses, and is so close that we can work out its mass by observing the orbits of nearby stars.

In distant galaxies we cannot resolve individual stars. But when the Universe was younger and full of gas, there was a lot more material available to fall into and create the huge black holes in galactic centres. This stuff formed accretion disks of material swirling in, and huge jets of energetic charged particles accelerated by magnetic fields from the poles of the rotating black holes. These form quasars, the most energetic and violent phenomena since the Big Bang.

Everything we know about black holes comes from observing accretion disks around supermassive ones. It is for this that Roy Kerr of the University of Canterbury and Roger Blandford of Stanford University share this year's Crafoord Prize in Astronomy from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. [See last Month's Newsletter.]

Every galaxy in the Universe has only one supermassive black hole in the centre, but many millions of smaller black holes about which we know almost nothing - until now.

Most black holes we will never detect, but a small fraction of them - like the ones just observed - come in pairs. These orbit each other for hundreds of millions of years, before spiralling in and merging into a single rotating black hole whose surface wobbles like a bell, radiating copious gravitational waves in the process - a whole three suns worth of energy in the event just detected. In the final fleeting milliseconds of merger and ringdown black holes' secrets are revealed. This is the most spectacular direct observation of the existence of rotating black holes ever.

Some people ask: what such measurements are good for? Actually, they provide a laboratory that is impossible to create on Earth. In addition to learning about black holes, once we catch two neutron stars colliding, or a neutron star and a black hole, we will discover heaps about the properties of nuclear matter at high density from the gravitational waves produced. There are big gaps in our knowledge there. Until we actually understand the fundamental physics, it is impossible to know what we might ultimately do with it.

In a world that is struggling with war, climate change and the limits of finite resources, the money put into big science projects like LIGO is often questioned. But satisfying human curiosity, to understand the Universe and our place in it is what makes us human in the first place, regardless of what we might do with the knowledge we gain.

Furthermore, big science teaches us to solve big problems by working as teams spread across the globe. Each group of researchers has their own culture, and barriers sometimes take years to break down. This project is vast in its complexity of human interactions: experimental physicists, engineers, mathematicians, numerical modellers, theoretical physicists and astronomers have all played roles which were each essential to its success. That surely has lessons not only for opening a new age of astronomy, but also for ultimately solving the many big problems we have created on this planet.

See David's original article at http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2016/02/12/new-windows-on-the-universe-prof-david-wiltshire/ David's interview with Kim Hill on Saturday Feb. 13th is http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201789144/david-wiltshire-gravitational-waves-and-black-holes

3. The Solar System in March

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in march

                        March  1  NZDT                   March 31  NZDT
              morning        evening         morning       evening
      SUN: rise:   6.59am,  set:  8.06pm   rise: 7.33am,  set: 7.16pm
 Civil:    starts: 6.34am, ends: 8.32pm   starts: 7.09am, ends: 7.42pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.00am, ends: 9.06pm   starts: 6.36am, ends: 8.17pm 
 Astro:    starts: 5.25am, ends: 9.41pm   starts: 6.03am, ends: 8.46pm

March PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          Last quarter:  March  2 at 12.11 pm (Mar  1, 23:11 UT)
  New moon:      March  9 at  2.55 pm (01:55 UT)
  First quarter: March 16 at  6.03 am (Mar 15, 17:03 UT) 
  Full moon:     March 24 at  1.01 am (Mar 23, 12:01 UT) 
  Last quarter   April  1 at  4.17 am (Mar 31, 15:17 UT)


March 9: Total eclipse of the Sun. The path of totality crosses southern Sumatra soon after sunrise then crosses southern Borneo and the Celebes. It then heads east and northeast across the Pacific to end at sunset to the north of Hawaii. The maximum length of totality is 4 minutes 9 seconds. A partial eclipse is visible from most of southeast Asia including Japan and from most of Alaska. In the south a partial eclipse is visible from Australia except the south and southeast. A map showing the path is available on the RASNZ web site.

March 23/24: A partial penumbral eclipse of the moon. At maximum only part of the moon passes into the penumbra of the Earth's shadow. No part is totally eclipsed. The decrease in brightness of the moon will be small and it is unlikely any change will be noticed by eye. The eclipse starts at 10.39 pm NZDT, maximum eclipse is at 12.47 am, the eclipse ends at 2.55 am NZDT. The moon is visible throughout the eclipse in New Zealand and in Australia except the start in Western Australia.

THE PLANETS in March Jupiter is at opposition on March 8 so will be visible all evening by the end of the month. Mars will rise late evening, it and the other planets are in the morning sky. By the end of the month Mercury will have disappeared while Saturn will rise before midnight.

MERCURY rises about 90 minutes before the Sun on March 1st. 45 minutes before sunrise the planet, magnitude -0.3, will be some 8.5° above the horizon in a direction a little to the south of east. Mercury will be 9° below and slightly to the right of Venus.

Mercury will steadily close in on the Sun during the first 3 weeks of March. By the 11th, now at magnitude -0.7, the planet will be only a couple of degrees up 45 minutes before sunrise. It will still be a few degrees below Venus.

On March 24, Mercury will be at superior conjunction, 202 million km from the Earth and some 53 million km beyond the Sun. After conjunction Mercury will become an evening object setting after the Sun. By the 31st it will set about half an hour later, so is not likely to be visible despite its -1.6 magnitude.

VENUS rises nearly 2 hours before the Sun on March 1, reducing to 90 minutes earlier on the 31st. As a result the planet will remain easily visible low in the dawn sky all month. It starts the month in Capricornus but moves into Aquarius on the 11th. On the morning of the 21st, Venus will be half a degree to the right of Neptune. This may give an opportunity to find Neptune using binoculars.

On the morning of March 7 the 7% lit crescent moon will be 8.5° to the upper left of Venus. By the following morning the moon will be only 2.4% lit and 6.8° below Venus. Also Mercury will be 6° to the right of and a little lower than the moon.

MARS rises close to 11 pm on the 1st advancing to 9:45 pm by the 31st so will then be visible to the east late evening. It will also brighten during the month from magnitude 0.3 to -0.5 as the distance between Earth and Mars decreases.

The planet starts March in Libra but moves on into Scorpius on March 13. By the 31st Mars will be 6° from Antares and considerably brighter than its rival star.

The moon makes a close approach to Mars on the night of February 29/March 1 At midnight the 64% lit waning moon will 5.5 degrees to the left of Mars. Six hours later the moon, now 62% lit will be 4 below the planet.

A second close approach of the moon to Mars occurs on the night of 28/29 March. For New Zealand viewers the two are closest shortly before dawn when the 78% lit moon will be 4.8 degrees below Mars.

JUPITER is at opposition on March 10, so will then be visible all night. At opposition Jupiter will be 663.5 million km (4.435 AU) from the Earth and nearly another 150 million km further from the Sun.

By the end of the month Jupiter will rise an hour before the Sun making it well placed for viewing by the time the sky darkens. The planet will be in Leo moving to the west. The almost full moon will be a few degrees from Jupiter on the 22nd. Early evening the two will be 3 degrees apart with the moon to the right of Jupiter. Their distance apart will increase during the rest of the night as the moon moves away from the planet.

SATURN begins to move into the evening sky during March. At the start of the month it rises just after midnight, by the end it will rise at 10.20 pm. The planet is in Ophiuchus all month about 9° from Antares and, at the end of March, a similar distance from Mars.

The north pole of Saturn is tilted at an angle of over 26 degrees towards the Earth. The ring system is consequently wide open and readily visible in a small telescope.

The moon passes Saturn twice during the month. On the morning of March 3 the 43% lit moon will be 6 degrees below Saturn at about 4 am, the distance apart increasing to 7 degrees shortly before sunrise. For NZ viewers the two bodies will be closer on the morning of March 30 with the two less than 4 degrees apart at 4 am. Late evening shortly after they rise, the two will 4.5 degrees apart.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during March at magnitude 5.9. It sets just after 8.30 pm, 90 minutes after the Sun, on the 1st. So it will be low by the time the sky darkens. By the end of March the planet will set only 20 minutes after the Sun.

NEPTUNE moves up into the dawn sky during March. At first it will rise only 40 minutes before the Sun, increasing to a good 2.5 hours by the end of the month.

The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 8.0. As Neptune moves up in the sky it will be passed by Venus. On the morning of March 21 the two will be only half a degree apart with Venus to the right of Neptune, the latter slightly lower. There will be no stars brighter than Neptune between the two, although the magnitude 3.7 star lambda Aqr will be 1.5 degrees below it. The window of opportunity to see Neptune in binoculars close to Venus will be fairly short between the time Venus becomes visible and the sky getting too bright to see Neptune.

On the previous morning, the 20th, Venus will be just over a degree above Neptune and on the 22nd it will be a similar distance to the lower right of the faint planet. On the 19th and 23rd the separation will be about 2.5 degrees.

Minor planets

(4) Vesta, magnitude 8.4, starts March in Pisces, moves into Cetus on the 13th and on into Aries the last day of the month. It is an evening object setting at 10.15 pm on the 1st. By the 31st it will set 90 minutes after the Sun. The crescent moon will be 5.5 degrees to the right of Vesta on March 12.

-- Brian Loader

5. Two Faint Comets Nearby in March

Two faint and probably related comets pass near the Earth in March. 252P/LINEAR passes 5.4 million km from Earth around the 20th. P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS) passes 3.6 million km from us around the 22nd. The ephemerides below give the comets' positions at UT dates and times e.g. March 15d 09h UT = March 15 10 pm NZDT.

252P/LINEAR                     252P/LINEAR 
Mar.UT R.A.(J2000)Decl.         March UT R.A.(J2000)Decl. 
 d   h  m  s   °   '  m1         d  h   h  m  s    °  '  m1
09  05 56 43  -59 58  11.0      22 09  17 13 11  -65 02  10.3
12  05 57 02  -60 32  11.0      22 12  17 14 34  -63 53  10.3
15  05 57 33  -61 07  11.0      22 15  17 15 34  -62 43  10.3
18  05 58 15  -61 42  11.0      22 18  17 16 19  -61 33  10.3
09  06 01 22  -65 01  10.9      23 09  17 20 46  -55 45  10.4
12  06 01 58  -65 41  10.8      23 12  17 21 31  -54 40  10.4
15  06 02 50  -66 22  10.8      23 15  17 22 02  -53 35  10.4
18  06 03 58  -67 04  10.8      23 18  17 22 24  -52 31  10.4
09  06 09 49  -70 58  10.7      24 09  17 25 02  -47 16  10.5
12  06 11 08  -71 45  10.7      24 12  17 25 30  -46 18  10.5
15  06 12 54  -72 33  10.6      24 15  17 25 49  -45 21  10.5
18  06 15 10  -73 22  10.6      24 18  17 26 00  -44 25  10.6
09  06 29 48  -77 53  10.5                                   
12  06 33 53  -78 47  10.5      P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS)      
15  06 39 18  -79 41  10.5      March                        
18  06 46 28  -80 37  10.5       UT    R.A.(J2000)Decl.      
                                 d  h   h  m  s    °  '   m1 
09  08 05 34  -85 23  10.4      15 09  06 33 52  -25 07  15.0
12  08 43 05  -86 11  10.4      15 12  06 34 51  -24 51  15.0
15  09 39 35  -86 48  10.4      15 15  06 35 55  -24 35  15.0
18  10 59 07  -87 09  10.3                                   
09  06 43 08  -22 52  14.8
09  15 47 45  -83 57  10.3      16 12  06 44 22  -22 32  14.7
12  16 05 31  -82 55  10.3      16 15  06 45 42  -22 11  14.7
15  16 18 02  -81 50  10.3                                   
18  16 27 17  -80 42  10.3      17 09  06 54 47  -19 55  14.5
12  06 56 21  -19 29  14.4
09  16 56 11  -74 43  10.3      17 15  06 58 04  -19 01  14.4
12  16 59 32  -73 32  10.3                                   
15  17 02 04  -72 21  10.3      18 09  07 09 45  -15 54  14.1
18  17 04 03  -71 09  10.3      18 12  07 11 49  -15 17  14.1
09  17 13 11  -65 02  10.3      19 09  07 29 28  -10 17  13.8
12  17 14 34  -63 53  10.3      19 12  07 32 14  -09 25  13.7
15  17 15 34  -62 43  10.3                                   
18  17 16 19  -61 33  10.3      20 09  07 56 06  -02 17  13.4
12  07 59 54  -01 05  13.4
09  17 20 46  -55 45  10.4                                   
12  17 21 31  -54 40  10.4      21 09  08 32 44  +08 47  13.1
15  17 22 02  -53 35  10.4      21 12  08 38 00  +10 23  13.1
18  17 22 24  -52 31  10.4                                   
09  09 22 55  +22 26  12.9
09  17 25 02  -47 16  10.5      22 12  09 30 01  +24 12  12.9
12  17 25 30  -46 18  10.5                                   
15  17 25 49  -45 21  10.5      23 09  10 27 51  +35 35  13.0
18  17 26 00  -44 25  10.6      23 12  10 36 31  +37 00  13.0

From meteoroid trail models Quan-Zhi Ye, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Western Ontario, suggests that meteors from P/2016 BA14 might radiate from geocentric radiant R.A. = 5h.5 (82 deg), Decl. = -39 deg with a geocentric velocity 14.1 km/s. The most probable time for meteor activity would be around the late hours of 2016 Mar. 20 UT. (Central Bureau Electronic Telegram 4259.)

4. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. 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 submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

6. Variable Stars South Symposium 4

Variable Stars South Symposium 4 is one day of papers covering the observation and analysis of variable stars. It is being held Friday 25th March (Good Friday) at the Law School, University of Sydney. Results of instrumental (CCD and DSLR) and visual observing will be presented. Some of the types of variable stars being discussed are southern eclipsing binaries, evolving stars and irregular variables; some examples of stars being discussed are EB V0626 Sco and V0775 Cen, BC Gru; RR Sco, QZ Car, Theta Aps, WZ Sgr, RZ Vel, DI Car, SN1987A.There will also be additional presentations in poster papers available for discussion in the break sessions.

As well as the presentations at this event there is the opportunity for you to meet and discuss informally issues and techniques with practitioners in their field.

The VSS Symposium is being held in conjunction with the Australian NACAA (National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers) Conference. For the VSS Programme go to www.nacaa.org.au select the 2016 tab, then go to the LHS - Programme - Friday. The NACAA programme on Saturday and Sunday is also detailed on the website, along with full information on the Conference.

-- Alan Baldwin.

7. For Sale - 12 Foot (3.7 metre) Dome and Accessories

Peter Aldous, Geraldine, South Canterbury, writes: I am offering for sale my 12-foot dome with the following accessories for $4,000. The accessories include Digital Dome works dome automation package (original cost $2940); AAG cloud sensor ($746); shutter motor ($897); power supply ($166); four electric motors ($1794). The total value of accessories is $6543.

Contact Peter Aldous This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; phone 03 693 7337.

8. A New Book About New Zealand Astronomical History

Wayne Orchiston writes:-

Springer has just published the following book Orchiston, W., 2016. Exploring the History of New Zealand Astronomy: Trials, Tribulations, Telescopes and Transits. Pp. xlv + 688, 397 illustrations.

This book spans the period from the Maori settlement of Aotearao/New Zealand, through to about 1960. As well as dealing with Maori astronomy and the nautical astronomy associated with Cook's three voyages, it identifies Wellington's first European astronomers and New Zealand's oldest surviving astronomical observatory, and discusses the emergence of professional astronomy in New Zealand, historically- significant telescopes now in New Zealand, the 1874 and 1882 transits of Venus, the 1885 total solar eclipse, some of the nation's leading amateur astronomers and telescope-makers (e.g. John Grigg, Ronald McIntosh, Joseph Ward and C.J. Westland), and pioneering efforts in radio astronomy during the 1940s.

Note that Springer is offering a special 20% discount price to readers of the RASNZ e-Newsletter. This offer will run for one month, starting with the publication of this Newsletter. Use the following token on springer.com xykH7xQj9MGQTz5 (valid 20 February 2016 - 21 March 2016).

Printed book hardcover 129,99 EUR | £117.00 | $179.00 eBook available from your library or springer.com/shop. MyCopy printed eBook for just EUR|$ 24.99 from springer.com/mycopy .

For a copy of the book's flyer, with price and discount details -- a 2.8 MB PDF -- email the Newsletter editor. Address at end.

9. How to Join the 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 http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits 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 http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

10. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2016. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

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

11. 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


"If you cannot - in the long run - tell everyone what you have been doing, then your doing has been worthless." -- Erwin Schrödinger.

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" -- Albert Einstein.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
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

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter February 2016 enews201602 2016-02-21 12:00:00