RASNZ Electronic Newsletter August 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 188

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. Bruce Slee
2. Three Auckland Events
3. The Solar System in September
4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought
5. The Science of Pluto
6. Variable Star News
7. 2016 Conference Report - Part 2
8. Leap Second on 2016 December 31
9. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration
10. Mars's Moons from Giant Impact?
11. Dark Matter Not Found by LUX
12. MeerKAT's First Light
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

1. Bruce Slee

Virginia Kilborn, President of the Astronomical Society of Australia reports in an email received this morning:

"It is with much sadness I relay the news of the passing of ASA Foundation member Bruce Slee. Many of the community will have known Bruce, through his outstanding contribution to Australian astronomy.

Bruce's colleague Elaine Sadler had the following words to say on his passing: Very saddened to report that our colleague Bruce Slee died last night at the age of 92. Bruce's passing comes only a day after the workshop "A Celebration: Bruce Slee and 70 Years of Radio Astronomy" that we held in Sydney to celebrate his long career.

Bruce was one of the pioneers of radio astronomy, and his 1949 Nature paper (with co-authors John Bolton and Gordon Stanley) announced the optical identification of the radio sources Centaurus A (NGC 5128), Virgo A (M87) and Taurus A (the Crab nebula). He continued to be active in astronomical research well into his 90s, and his most recent paper was published only a few months ago.

Bruce's grand-daughter Belinda has sent the following message: "I was so proud of my grandfather when I saw that the workshop was being held. I had no idea but then again he often didn't tell us about these things as he is such a humble person. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away tonight in hospital. It has come very unexpectedly for us. Obviously at this stage we have no idea of any funeral arrangements we are just trying to get over the shock of it.

I know there are many people who would like to know of his passing so if you can please let them know it would be much appreciated."

Our sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Bruce."

Several New Zealanders were involved with Bruce's research on flare stars. Locals monitored the stars, notably Proxima Centauri, in the visual while Bruce listened for radio noise made during flares.

2. Three Auckland Events

Three upcoming Auckland Astronomical Society events:

31st August - Deadline for the 2016 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition entries. See July Newsletter, No.187, Item 3, for details.

12th September - "Life, the Universe and Something: Is there something else out there?", a public talk and panel with some great panellists.

8th October - 2016 Burbidge Dinner. Our guest speaker is Doug Simons from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. The early bird discount is available to RASNZ & other Society members

The full text and details are at https://www.astronomy.org.nz/new/public/events.aspx

-- Andrew Buckingham

3. The Solar System in September

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) until the start of NZDT (UT + 13 hours) on Sunday 25 September at 2 am when clocks should be put forward 1 hour.

The southern spring equinox is on September 23 at 2:22 am.

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in September

                       September  1  NZST               September 30  NZDT
               Morning       evening          morning       evening
SUN:         rise: 6.43am,  set: 5.58pm     rise: 6.54am,  set: 7.27pm
 Civil:    starts: 6.18am, ends: 6.24pm   starts: 6.29am, ends: 7.53pm
 Nautical: starts: 5.46am, ends: 6.56pm   starts: 5.56am, ends: 8.26pm
 Astro:    starts: 5.14am, ends: 7.28pm   starts: 5.23am, ends: 9.00pm

September phases of the moon (times as shown by Guide)

          New moon:      September  1 at  9.03 pm (09:03 UT)
  First quarter: September  9 at 11.49 am (11:49 UT)
  Full moon:     September 17 at  7.05 am (Sep 16, 19:05 UT)
  Last quarter   September 23 at  9.56 pm (09:56 UT)

The planets in September 2016

Mercury, Venus and Jupiter start the month as a close group low to the west after sunset. Mercury will disappear after a few days and Jupiter after a few more days as they move into conjunction with the Sun.

Saturn and Mars remain prominent throughout the evening in the vicinity of Antares.

Mercury Venus and Jupiter

Mercury starts September as an evening object setting an hour and forty-five minutes after the Sun on the 1st. That evening, three- quarters of an hour after sunset, the planet at magnitude 1.4, will be almost due west and some 10° above the horizon. Finding it will be made easier by the presence of Venus 6.5° to its right and a little higher. Jupiter will also be present below Venus and slightly to its left.

Two evenings later the moon will join the group with the thin crescent of the two day old moon between Venus and Jupiter.

Over the next few nights Mercury will rapidly get lower in the evening sky to disappear in the twilight. On the 13th it is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and the Sun prior to becoming a morning object. Towards the end of September, Mercury will rise about half an hour earlier than the Sun so remaining more or less unobservable.

Jupiter will also continue to get lower in the evening sky to be at conjunction on the far side of the Sun on the 26th. It will then be 5.45AU, 8.15 million km beyond the Sun.

Venus on the other hand will get a little higher in the evening sky, setting just over two and a half hours after the Sun on the 30th.

MARS and SATURN will also be in the evening sky forming a fairly close group with Antares at the beginning of the month. During September Mars will move away from Antares while the much slower moving Saturn will remain about 6° from the star.

Mars starts September in Scorpius, joins Saturn in Ophiuchus on the 3rd but moves on into Sagittarius on the 22nd. The moon, near first quarter, will join the two planets in Ophiuchus on September 9.

Outer Planets

URANUS, at magnitude 5.7, is in Pisces. By the end of September it will rise just over an hour after the Sun sets making it observable late evening.

NEPTUNE is at opposition on September 2 when it will be 4330 million km, almost 29 astronomical units, from the Earth. The planet is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8.

PLUTO at magnitude 14.4 is also in the evening sky during September setting well after midnight. The planet remains in Sagittarius some 1.5° from the magnitude 2.9 star pi Sgr and less than half a degree from the magnitude 3.7 star omega Sgr.

Minor Planets

(1) CERES is in Cetus during September and brightens from magnitude 8.4 to 7.8 making it the brightest asteroid. It is at its best as a morning object, although it will rise close to 10 pm on the 1st and close to 9 pm on the 30th.

(18) MELPOMENE is also in Cetus and close to Ceres, the two being less than a degree apart between September 6 and 10. Melpomene starts the month at magnitude 9.0 and ends it at 8.3, similar to Vesta.

(2) PALLAS, in the evening sky, starts September at magnitude 9.3 in Equuleus. It moves into Aquarius on the 26th, dimming a little to 9.7 by the end of the month.

(4) VESTA rises close to 4 am on September 1, remaining in Gemini throughout the month. On the morning of the 3rd it will be only 10 arc-minutes from the 4th magnitude star zeta Gem. The asteroid brightens slightly during the month from magnitude 8.5 to 8.3. By the end of September it will rise about 3.40 am NZDT.

(11) Parthenope is another asteroid which brightens during September, from magnitude 9.8 to 9.2 when at opposition at the end of the month. It is also in Cetus although over 20° from Ceres and Melpomene.

-- Brian Loader

4. Replica Spacecraft Capsule Sought

Lloyd Esler is looking for a replica spacecraft capsule that is capable of accommodating a child. No, not the last desperate hope of a harassed parent, but an educational item suitable for taking around schools.

Anyone with suggestions please contact Lloyd Esler This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph 03 213 0404.

5. The Science of Pluto

The RASNZ Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture guest this year was Prof Michael Person from the MIT Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. He was talking about his research over a number of years into Pluto´s atmosphere using observations of occultations of stars by the disc of the planet. In June 2015 another occultation was occurring and this was close to the time of the fly-pass of Pluto by the New Horizons probe so of great importance in providing comparative observations.

Person first gave a short history of previous attempts at observations which have had mixed success. For instance the immediate past observation to the current one had very thorough preparation, with three large telescopes on different continents booked to maximise success; as the event approached two sites were clouded out and at the very last moment the cloud rolled in on the third. This was a great incentive to obtain observing time on the NASA SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infra-red Astronomy) flying observatory. This observatory consists of a number of instruments fitted into a Boeing 747SP aircraft and in 2015 was scheduled to spend five weeks in Christchurch observing the southern sky and the Pluto event. The planning for the event and the description of the flight path across the southern ocean made for some fascinating background to the observations.

The maximum temperature of Pluto's atmosphere recorded was 115 K (-158 C). There appears to be haze in the lower atmosphere and the atmosphere is oblate. Along with the talk were some pictures from New Horizons and a short video of the SOFIA operation from inside the plane.

The talk was rounded off with the hopes for future research on the environment of the outer solar system and the bodies that populate it.

This was a great lecture with up-to-date astronomical information and with a NZ connection. Thanks are due to the RASNZ Lecture Trust Inc. organising Committee for the calibre of the lecturers they are providing. Also to the Horowhenua Astronomical Society for a very good venue for the event at the Horowhenua Council Chamber.

Postscript. A clear and comprehensive article by Brian Loader on the Australasian ground-based Pluto occultation observations is printed in the 2016 June issue of Southern Stars.

-- Alan Baldwin

6. Variable Star News

Long Period Variable RS Eri

The lead story in the AAVSO Aug 2016 newsletter discusses the light curve of the Long Period Variable (LPV) RS Eridani. This star has been observed in earnest for about 30 years and has primarily been observed by Andrew Pearce of Australia. The star ranges between mag 7.9 and 12.8 with a period of 299 days. RS Eri appears to have recently developed a hump on the ascending arm of the light curve, a feature which has not been detected previously in this star. Observations of further cycles should confirm whether this is an isolated incident or now a regular feature of this star´s light output. An analysis of the period indicates that it may have decreased by about nine days over the 30 year interval, but again a longer time interval is required to have confidence in the trend. Increased attention to this star is warranted.

LPVs with humps are of considerable interest because of the constraints they place on star models. A short list of target stars is given on the AAVSO web-site Long Period Variable Section page. (A more detailed list is given in a catalogue of 73 dual maxima and hump variables given on a subsidiary "LPV humps" page). These pages are accessible to all observers, not just AAVSO members.

Nova Announcements

A nova in Sagittarius, Nova Sgr 2016 No. 2 was discovered 8th August by Koichi Nishiyama (Kurume, Japan) and Fujio Kabashima (Miyaki, Japan) (CBET 4295); All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASAS-SN) (K. Z. Stanek et al., ATel #9343). V (visual) observations in the days after discovery were around magnitude 12.

A chart for Nova Sgr 2016 No. 2 can be created on the AAVSO web-site using the Variable Star Plotter (VSP) and the wording exactly as given here.

Nova Scorpii 2016 (July newsletter) has been assigned the permanent GCVS designation V1655 Sco. (from Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, No 9282, 2016 Aug 08).

-- Alan Baldwin for Variable Stars South

7. 2016 Conference Report - Part 2

Concluding Orlon Petterson's report on the RASNZ Conference in Napier over 20-22 May.

Sunday started with Sarang Shah speaking on "Finding lonely planets with the KMTNet microlensing survey" a new Korean network of telescopes starting microlensing work which forms the basis of his PhD. ALex Li talked about his work in identifying "Eclipsing binaries in the MOA database" and separating out these systems from the various variable stars and other poorly classified objects. Ed budding gave a presentation on "Basic queries in astrobiology: where do we begin, and when will it end?" looking at the chemical nature of the precurors to life as we understand it from a theoretical perspective and likely candidate compounds. Brian Loader followed up with "Lunar occultations of double stars" highlighting the recent advances in finding closely separated binary systems which have to date escaped detection and the importance of improved lunar limb mapping.

Orlon Petterson opened the next session with a talk aimed squarely at the SWAPA students attending on "Educational and research tools in Astronomy" looking at the software in use at NZ universities for teaching and skills they would need to address when moving into research astronomy. Grant Christie spoke on "Auckland Astronomy - Future directions, opportunities and challenges" the latest on what's been happening at Stardome observatory and the work of those in the Auckland city area. New vice-president of RASNZ, Nick Rattenbury looked at "Recent results from the MOA collaboration" including the observations being made on the 1.8m at UC Mt John Observatory, planet detections and the various modelling approaches being undertaken to understand the observed light curves. Newly elected President John Drummond with his recently awarded MSc in Astronomy looked at "Deeply imaging interacting galaxies to detect tidal features" where additional galaxy interactions could be extracted from deep imaging of galaxies and interpretations of the observed features in the faint extents of those galaxies.

The final session was led by new Fellow, Jennie McCormack on "The role of chance in astronomical discoveries from Farm Cove Observatory" which she gave a background talk on the events leading to her observatory and the unexpected she's observed from her location in Auckland and the opportunities that arose. A lesson for our SWAPA students on giving things a go even if you're not sure of the outcome. Mike Mackrill gave a somewhat light hearted talk on "It's life Jim... Aliens as depicted in film and television" showing the strange and somewhat simplistic view taken on what life in the rest of the universe might be like and some discussion on what might be a little more realistic.

Lin Xiao spoke on "Interpreting nebular line emission of star-forming regions with BPASS models" and the difficulty in how star forming regions evolve and the observed emission generated between models and observations. David Huijser detailed "Baysian inference of galaxy morphology using reversible jump MCMC" a highly mathematical approach based on Monte-Carlo methods of analysis to model galaxy structure.

The conference then closed with Peter Jaquiery inviting everyone to the next conference to be held in Dunedin at the Otago Museum in May 2017. That conference to bring back as many of the students that have attended conference in the last few years to interact with the SWAPA and university students.

Throughout the conference ASTRONZ had a display of a selection of the wares they have available with excellent discounts. They graciously donated several pairs of binoculars which were gifted or auctioned during the conference. Their display was a hive of activity throughout the weekend and I'm sure they had more than a few people arranging purchases.

In conclusion the 2016 conference was a great success and an attendance of 94+ people makes it one of the most well attended conferences in recent times. Much credit goes to the Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society and the LOC in providing a great venue and turning on a memorable event, not to mention the usual fabulous Hawkes Bay weather! I hope everyone who attended enjoyed themselves and for those who couldn't, remember the next conference is in Dunedin in May 2017. Start your planning to attend now! I'm sure we'll see them turning on quite a conference.

-- Orlon Petterson

8. Leap Second on 2016 December 31

The International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, Paris Observatory, advise that a positive leap second will be introduced at the end of December 2016. The sequence of dates of the UTC second markers will be:

  1. December 31, 23h 59m 59s
  2. December 31, 23h 59m 60s
  3. January 1, 0h 0m 0s
The difference between UTC and the International Atomic Time TAI is:
 from 2015 July 1, 0h UTC, to 2017 January 1 0h UTC : UTC-TAI = - 36s
 from 2017 January 1, 0h UTC, until further notice : UTC-TAI = - 37s

Website http://gdso.webs.com

-- From the official announcement, forwarded by Howard Barnes.

9. Norman Dickie's Century Celebration

Norman Dickie of Gore, an RASNZ member for 71 years, turns 100 on Sunday 2nd October. Celebrations are planned over the weekend of October 1st and 2nd. Details were in the July Newsletter, No.187, Item 7.

Please RSVP for the Saturday afternoon tea and evening BBQ by Monday 26th September for catering purposes. No RSVP is necessary for the Sunday event at the St Andrews Church as this is an open event where hundreds of people are expected.

Contact Ross Dickie, phone (03) 208 9623, mobile 027 208 9623, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for RSVP and further details.

10. Mars's Moons from Giant Impact?

Where did the two natural satellites of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, come from? For a long time, their shape suggested that they were asteroids captured by Mars. However, their circular orbits around Mars's equator contradicts this hypothesis. Two independent and complementary studies provide an answer to this question. One of these studies, published in The Astrophysical Journal and predominantly conducted by researchers from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Aix- Marseille Université, rules out the capture of asteroids. It shows that the only scenario compatible with the surface properties of Phobos and Deimos is that of a giant collision.

In the second study, a team of French, Belgian, and Japanese researchers used cutting-edge digital simulations to show how these satellites were able to form from the debris of a gigantic collision between Mars and a proto-planet one-third its size. This research, which is the result of collaboration between researchers from Université Paris Diderot and Royal Observatory of Belgium, in collaboration with the CNRS, Université de Rennes 1 and the Japanese Institute ELSI, was published on July 4 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The origin of the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, has long been a mystery. Due to their small size and irregular shape they strongly resemble asteroids, but no one could understand how Mars could have captured them and made them into satellites with almost circular and equatorial orbits. According to a competing theory, toward the end of its formation Mars suffered a giant collision with a proto-planet: but why did the debris from such an impact create two small satellites instead of one enormous moon, like the Earth's? A third possibility is that Phobos and Deimos formed at the same time as Mars, which would require that they have the same composition as their planet, although their low density seems to contradict this hypothesis. The two independent studies have now solved the puzzle: the Martian moons must have arisen from a giant collision.

One of the studies gives a complete and coherent scenario for the formation of Phobos and Deimos. They would have been created following a collision between Mars and a primordial body one-third its size, 100 to 800 million years after the beginning of the Mar's formation. According to the researchers, the debris from this collision formed a very wide disk around Mars, made up of a dense inner part composed of molten matter, and a very thin outer part primarily of gas.

In the inner part of this disk there formed a moon one thousand times the size of Phobos, which has since disappeared. The gravitational interactions created in the outer disk by this massive object apparently caused the gathering of debris to form other smaller, more distant moons. After a few thousand years, Mars was surrounded by a group of approximately ten small moons and one enormous moon. A few million years later, once the debris disk had dissipated, the tidal effects of Mars brought most of these satellites back down onto the planet, including the very large moon. Only the two most distant small moons, Phobos and Deimos, remained.

In a second study researchers ruled out the possibility of a capture on the grounds of statistical arguments based on the compositional diversity of the asteroid belt. They found that the spectra of Phobos and Deimos are incompatible with that of the primordial matter that formed Mars (meteorites such as ordinary chondrite, enstatite chondrite and/or angrite). They therefore support the collision scenario. From their spectra they deduced that the satellites are made of fine-grained dust (smaller than a micron).

The very small size of grains on the surface of Phobos and Deimos cannot be solely explained as the consequence of erosion from bombardment by interplanetary dust. The satellites were made of fine- grain material. It would have formed by gas condensation in the outer area of the debris disk, and not from the magma present in the inner part. The formation of Phobos and Deimos from these very fine grains would also be responsible for a high internal porosity, which would explain their surprisingly low density.

The theory of a giant collision, which is corroborated by these two independent studies, could explain why the northern hemisphere of Mars has a lower altitude than the southern hemisphere. The Borealis basin was most probably made by a giant collision, such as the one that in time gave birth to Phobos and Deimos. The theory also helps explain why Mars has two satellites instead of a single one like our Moon, which was also created by a giant collision. This research suggests that the satellite systems that were created depended on the planet's rotational velocity. At the time Earth was rotating very quickly, in less than four hours, whereas Mars turned six times more slowly.

New observations will soon make it possible to know more about the age and composition of Martian moons. Japan's space agency (JAXA) has decided to launch a mission in 2022, named Mars Moons Exploration (MMX), which will bring back samples from Phobos to Earth in 2027. Their analysis could confirm or invalidate this scenario. The European Space Agency (ESA) has planned a similar mission in 2024 in association with the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

Text (PDF): http://www2.cnrs.fr/sites/en/fichier/pr_phobos_deimos_ok.pdf

Related article with images & animation: https://news.cnrs.fr/articles/solved-the-mystery-of-the-martian-moons

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

11. Dark Matter Not Found by LUX

More than a mile underground, where miners once accessed precious ore, sits a 3-foot-tall, dodecagonal cylinder of liquid xenon. The 122 photomultiplier tubes at the container´s top and bottom await the glitter of light that would signal an elusive dark matter shooting through the cylinder and interacting with one of the xenon atoms. But after more than a year of data collecting, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment announced at the Identification of Dark Matter 2016 conference in July that they´re still coming up empty-handed.

Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) are the top candidates for dark matter, the invisible stuff that makes up about 84% of the universe´s matter. By definition, dark matter doesn´t interact with light, nor does it interact via the strong force that holds nuclei together. And while we know it interacts with gravity, that interaction leaves only indirect evidence of its existence, such as its effect on galaxy rotation.

But WIMP theory says dark matter particles should also interact via the weak force, a fundamental force that governs nature on a subatomic level - including the fusion within the Sun. So a WIMP particle should very rarely smash into a heavy nucleus, generating a flash of light. The chance for a direct hit is very, very low, but 350 kilograms of liquid xenon in the LUX experiment should have good odds.

After just three months of operation, in 2013 the LUX experiment had already reported a null result. At the time, the experiment had probed with a sensitivity 20 times that of previous experiments. A new 332-day run began in September 2014, and the preliminary analysis announced last week probes four times deeper than the results before. Yet despite a longer run time, increased sensitivity, and better statistical analysis, the LUX team still hasn´t found any WIMPs.

Simply put: either WIMPs don´t exist at all, or the WIMPs that do exist really, really don´t like interacting with normal matter.

It´s also worth noting that LUX isn´t just looking for WIMPs. The WIMP scenario is the primary one it´s testing, and the one that last week´s announcement focused on. But more results are forthcoming about LUX results on dark matter alternatives, such as axions and axion-like particles.

The non-finding may not win any Nobel Prizes, but in a way it´s great news for physicists. Numerous experiments (such as CDMS II, CoGeNT, and CRESST) had found glimmers of WIMP detections, but none had found results statistically significant enough to be claimed as a real detection. The LUX results have been helpful in ruling out those hints of low-mass WIMPs.

"It turns out there is no experiment we can think of so far that can eliminate the WIMP hypothesis entirely," says Dan McKinsey (University of California, Berkeley). "But if we don't detect WIMPs with the experiments planned in the next 15 years or so . . . physicists will likely conclude that dark matter isn't made of WIMPs."

That´s why - despite not finding any WIMPs this time around - the LUX team continues to work on the next-gen experiment: LUX-ZEPLIN. Its 7 tons of liquid xenon should begin awaiting flashes from dark matter interactions by 2020.

Three years of data from LUX-ZEPLIN will probe WIMP scenarios down to fundamental limits from the cosmic ray background. In other words, if LUX-ZEPLIN doesn´t detect WIMPs, they don´t exist - or they´re beyond our detection capabilities altogether.

-- From an article by Monica Young on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the original with pictures and graphs at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/no-dark-matter-from-lux-experiment/

For a description of the experiment and theory on 51 slides see http://luxdarkmatter.org/LUX_dark_matter/Talks_files/LUX_NewDarkMatterSearchResult_332LiveDays_IDM2016_160721.pdf

12. MeerKAT's First Light

South Africa´s MeerKAT radio telescope just released its first image showing more than 1,300 galaxies in the distant universe - and that´s with only a quarter of its radio dishes operational. This is an almost 20-fold increase from the 70 galaxies in this field known prior to MeerKAT. The high-resolution images also reveal nearby cosmic phenomena happening just 200 million light years away, including a massive black hole that´s launching jets of matter at close to the speed of light.

The telescope, a precursor to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), is being commissioned in phases to allow verification of the system. This enables scientists to quickly fix any technical issues, as well as conduct some initial science exploration. The first 16 dishes of the telescope array make up Array Release 1 (AR1). The eventual 64 dishes are expected to be in place by late 2017.

Once complete, MeerKAT will encompass 190,000 square feet (17,651 square meters) of the region outside Carnarvon, a small town on the Northern Cape of South Africa. The area is sparsely populated, but close enough to Cape Town to minimize construction and maintenance costs.

Ultimately, MeerKAT will be integrated into the Square Kilometre Array, which when complete will be the world´s largest radio telescope. The international effort will result in a telescope tens of times more sensitive and hundreds of times faster at mapping the sky than any other radio astronomy facility. Its full array of antennas will be powerful enough to detect very faint radio signals emitted by sources billions of light-years away from Earth.

SKA will be built in two phases starting in 2018. The SKA Mid-Frequency Aperture Array will be located in South Africa and will include MeerKAT´s 64 dishes, as well as another 100-plus dishes that still need to be built, all observing at frequencies from 350 MHz to 14 GHz.

Australia will host SKA´s Low-Frequency Aperture Array, which will consist of about 130,000 dipole antennas observing from 50 to 350 MHz. Together, the arrays will enable astronomers to probe the radio- emitting universe in unprecedented detail. Among other things, SKA will explore the universe´s first stars and galaxies, the role of cosmic magnetic fields, and possibly even life beyond Earth.

We´ve still got some time before SKA becomes fully operational and begins to change the face of radio astronomy, but in the meantime, MeerKAT is joining the ranks of the world´s great scientific instruments.

-- From an article by Ana V. Aceves on Sky & Telescope's webpage. See the original with pictures at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/meerkat-in-south-africa-sees-first-light/

13. 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 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

14. 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 November 2016. 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. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.


"The aim of argument or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress." -- Joseph Joubert.

"When a man finds a conclusion agreeable, he accepts it without argument, but when he finds it disagreeable, he will bring against it all the forces of logic and reason." -- Thucydides. Thucydides describing confirmation bias circa 500 BCE. (The Credible Hulk on Facebook.)

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