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. Situation Vacant - Executive Secretary
2. Stuart Parker's 10th Supernova
3. Albert Jones's 90th Year
4. Whakatane's 50th Anniversary
5. The Solar System in September
6. Waharau and Herbert Dark-Sky Weekends in September
7. International Observe the Moon Night
8. AAS Astrophotography Competition
9. Mackenzie Starlight Heritage Reserve Progress
10. Conference Survey Results
11. Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY Emulator
12. Government Seeks Advice on Energy/Lighting Efficiency
13. Rare Red Aurora Seen From Mt John
14. Ultra-bright Supernovae Confirmed
15. We Probably Live in an Inflating Brane-World
16. Large Binocular Telescope Tests Adaptive Optics
17. RASNZ in Wikipedia
18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
19. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
20. How to Join the RASNZ
21. Here & There

1. Situation Vacant - Executive Secretary

Recently an e-mail was sent out asking members to consider putting their name forward to become the Society's new Executive Secretary.

To date that call has gone unanswered. Perhaps you were a little bit interested but thought "someone else is sure to volunteer". Well, guess what? "Someone else" hasn't so I would encourage you to come forward and offer your services.

This is a key position in the Society and it is important that it is filled as soon as possible. This will enable the Society to continue to function fully and support and expand the services that are available to members and the astronomical community in New Zealand.

As the e-mail said, support will be available from myself, the Treasurer and previous Executive Secretary. A laptop computer is provided for the Secretary to use for Society business.

Most of Council's business is carried out via e-mail on a regular on-going basis throughout the year. Face to face meetings held once a year in conjunction with the RASNZ Conference. If you think you could undertake the secretarial duties during the year, but would find it difficult to attend the meetings at Conference time I would still like to hear from you as we may be able to make alternative arrangements for those meetings.

Job Description The Executive Secretary is responsible for carrying out all administrative tasks except those relating to the financial affairs of the Society. The Executive Secretary is largely responsible for the smooth running of the Society.

General requirements - Ensuring that minutes are kept of all RASNZ General, Special and Council meetings, including the recording of Council matters dealt with by email. - Dealing with official correspondence and recording the details. This includes email correspondence when appropriate. - Ensuring that annual returns are filed with the Charities Commission. - Making sure that resolutions of Council are carried out by the designated persons in a timely manner. - Bring to the attention of the President and Council any matters that need to be dealt with.

If you are interested in this position, or have any questions regarding this role, I would be pleased to hear from you as soon as possible by sending an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thanking you,

Glen Rowe President

2. Stuart Parker's 10th Supernova

As well as calving and doing all the other chores that dairy farmers have to do, Stuart Parker has had the time and energy to discover his 10th supernova. He found supernova 2010gw in the southern galaxy IC 4992 on August 10.61 UT. Stu, based in Oxford, Canterbury, uses a 35-cm Celestron C14 reflector and SBIG ST10 camera for his searches. The supernova was confirmed by Australian members of the Backyard Observatory Supernova Search team and reported in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram (CBET) 2410.

The new object is at R.A.20h23m25s.31, Dec -71d34'04".9 (equinox 2000.0) and was red magnitude 16.6 at discovery. Images of it can be seen at

3. Albert Jones's 90th Year

New Zealand's most famous amateur astronomer Dr Albert Jones celebrated his 90th birthday on August 9. Albert's wife Carolyn arranged a special morning tea for him at The Honest Lawyer, a local hotel. Fifty friends attended, some reciting "astro" type poems in his honour.

Albert is still recovering from a broken hip after he slipped on a dewy path some weeks back. He is making a good recovery and champing at the bit wanting to get back to his beloved variable stars.

In the meantime, Albert says " ...while there are no fresh observations to enter on computer, there are heaps of old estimates that have yet to be entered and sent to AAVSO as well as observations made without comparison star magnitudes - I can now get the mags through ASAS3. So that keeps me off the streets."

Would that we could all look forward being that active and technologically savvy at 90!

4. Whakatane's 50th Anniversary

The Whakatane Astronomical Society celebrated its 50th Anniversary this month. Norman Izett reports that "...our 50th celebrations grew somewhat, with calls from the local media, thirsting for information. In the end I gave a live interview to one of the radio reporters, and another extended one in the radio station studio with the host announcer at 11-30 a.m. on the day." There was also a newspaper article.

At the celebration Norman gave an illustrated talk on the evolution of Whakatane's observatory, followed by a video of the removal of the former meeting room, a WW2 Army Hut! Then it was time to do the symbolic cut of the beautiful cake that WAS Secretary Diana Watson had made and had professionally iced. This was followed by a toast with Riccadonna Sparkling by the remaining 12 or so after all the public had left. This was considered a very appropriate gesture to fit the achievement of this very important milestone. Photos of the celebration will appear in the next Affiliated Societies Newsletter.

Sadly neither the local mayor nor the Society's patron was able to attend.

--------- Another significant birthday celebration in Whakatane on the August 8th was that of Audrey Duthie and her twin sister Alison Hunt who lives in Auckland; both of them reaching the magic 100 years. Audrey is the widow of Jim Duthie who was president of, and a leading light in the Whakatane Astronomical Society for many years. Jim was also RASNZ president in the 1970s.

-- from notes supplied by Norman Izett and the Ed's memory.

5. The Solar System in September

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for September 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: Notes for October 2010 will be available in a few days.

The equinox is on September 23 with the Sun on the celestial equator at about 3pm NZST. NZ Daylight Saving then starts on the 26th with 2am NZST becoming 3am NZDT .

The planets in september

Venus and Mars remain close to one another during September and are visible during the first part of the evening. Saturn, below them, gets lost in the evening twilight after the first few days. Jupiter, accompanied by Uranus, is prominent later in the evening, reaching opposition on the 21st. Mercury is not observable.

Mercury is at inferior conjunction on the night of September 3, after which it becomes a morning object. At best the planet will rise only 40 minutes before the sun, making observation virtually impossible.

Mercury is stationary on September 12 and at its greatest elongation 18° west of the sun on the 18th.

Venus and MARS will form a pair of planets throughout September. Both will be crossing Virgo on nearly parallel paths, just diverging slightly. On the 25th Venus will move into Libra, followed by Mars 2 days later.

Venus will set a little before 10 pm in the north of NZ, three-quarters of an hour or more later at Invercargill (read 11 pm after the start of Daylight Saving on September 26). Being lower, Mars will set 20 to 30 minutes before Venus.

At the beginning of the month Venus will be a degree from Spica with Mars just over 3.5 degrees below the star. On the 11th the three will be joined by the crescent moon which will be just over 4 degrees from each of them.

Saturn will drop behind Venus and Mars during September, becoming lower to the west following sunset. It will set about 2 hours after the sun at the beginning of the month. Each subsequent night it will get lower to become lost in the evening twilight by about mid month. The planet will be at conjunction with the Sun on October 1.

On September 10, the thin crescent moon will be about 10 degrees above Saturn. This may provide a last chance to spot the planet before conjunction. But 45 minutes after sunset Saturn will be only some 6 degrees above the horizon.

Jupiter and URANUS will be close throughout September. Both are at opposition on the night of 21/22 September having been in conjunction two days earlier for the second time this year. At their closet, the two will be 48´ apart, just over one and a half moon diameters. They are within a degree of one another from September 13 to 25.

At magnitude 5.7, Uranus will be an easy binocular object, slightly fainter than Callisto the least bright of Jupiter´s Galilean satellites. Uranus will be to the lower left of Jupiter in the evening sky. Apart from the satellites, it will be the closest bright object near Jupiter.

This is the second conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus this year. Both will be moving in a retrograde sense. Jupiter being closer to the Earth will appear to be moving more rapidly even while moving backwards. The third and final conjunction of the present series will take place on 4 January 2011.

On September 23, the day of the equinox, the two planets will be joined by the full moon, just over 7 degrees from Jupiter. Uranus will be between the two, so slightly closer to the moon.

Neptune, magnitude 7.8, is in Capricornus, and will be a degree from the 5th magnitude star mu Cap on the 1st. By the end of the month the distance between the two will have dropped to 21´. In the mid evening, Neptune will be below the star as seen from NZ.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Ophiuchus until September 25 when it moves into Sagittarius. It will dim slightly during the month from magnitude 8.7 to 9.1. At the end of September it will be about 4 degrees below the pair gamm1 and 2 Sgr.

(4) Vesta remains close to magnitude 8.0 during September. By the end of the month it will set around 8 pm (9 pm NZDT). It will then be about 7 degrees from Spica but very low to the west by the time the sky darkens following sunset.

(6) Hebe is at opposition on September 19 with a magnitude 7.7, so a little brighter than Vesta. It will be in Cetus about 4 degrees from the 2nd magnitude star beta Cet. It will be best observed in the latter part of the evening.

(8) Flora is at opposition on September 10 with a magnitude 8.2. It will be in Aquarius, a couple of degrees from the pair omega 1 and 2 Cet. It will also be about 14 degrees from Hebe.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2010

COMET 10P/Tempel is in Cetus some 16 degrees to the lower right of Hebe mid evening. Its magnitude is expected to be around 9 in the first part of the month, fading to 10 by the end.

More details and charts are on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2010.

-- Brian Loader

6. Waharau and Herbert Dark-Sky Weekends in September

Two dark-sky weekends happen soon: the Waharau gathering south of Auckland and the Herbert weekend south of Oamaru.

----------- The Waharau dark sky weekend is the 10th to 12th of September, just after new moon. All are welcome. If you would like more information go to or contact Andrew Buckingham at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., phone 09 473 5877.

----------- This year's Herbert event in on September 10-13 at Camp Iona about 20 km south of Oamaru. Everyone welcome. Cost is $11 for 1 night; $22 for 2; and $25 for three nights. Bring your observing equipment, sleeping bag (there are bunkrooms aplenty), cutlery and food. Contact Phil Barker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 03 383 3683; or Ross Dickie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or Euan Mason at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last year's event was great with over 60 attending. Tell Phil Barker or Euan Mason if you want to give a talk. Peter Aldous of Geraldine will be talking about hunting supernovae with his C14 from home.

7. International Observe the Moon Night

Just letting you know that Sept 18, 2010 is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). Astronomers Without Borders (AWB) is partnering with NASA missions and centres, along with other institutions, to bring the excitement of observing and learning about Earth's closest neighbour in space to the worldwide public.

I encourage you to get your local astronomy clubs and societies involved and plan some great public lunar events. Please visit for more details and resources, as well as registering your events for the world to see.

-- Mike White, Levin Stargazers Coordinator, AWB NZ National Coordinator. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ph: +64 21 100 7170 / (021)100-7170

8. AAS Astrophotography Competition

The Auckland Astronomical Society 2010 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition is open to all New Zealand Astronomical Societies, clubs and groups. Competition entries are due by Friday 19th September 2010. Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland on Saturday October 9th, 2010.

Send entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2010 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition Postal Delivery Address: 2/24 Rapallo Place, Farm Cove, Pakuranga, Auckland 2012 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Header: 2010 HW Astrophotography Competition

-- Jennie McCormick

9. Mackenzie Starlight Heritage Reserve Progress

New Zealand is right on track to create one of the world´s first world heritage starlight reserve above the South Island´s Mackenzie country after a key meeting in Brasilia in early August. Former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin said the UNESCO world heritage committee approved support for monuments and sites, landscapes and cultural landscapes associated with astronomy to be recognised as part of human heritage.

The NZ delegation, including two Department of Conservation staff, helped persuade the committee to approve a thematic study which argued stars and planets were part of natural heritage and the sky was a cultural resource common to natural heritage. However, Austin said from Brasilia today there was still a long road before protecting the world´s starry nights with dark sky reserves.

She said New Zealand´s contribution from the Royal Society of NZ, the Royal Astronomical Society of NZ and UNESCO NZ was acknowledged at the Brasilia meeting. "The thematic study was regarded as a cornerstone project of UNESCO´s International Year of Astronomy 2009. As a member of the New Zealand observer team I was able to make a brief intervention in support of the study."

"The World Heritage Committee has adopted a decision covering the astronomy and world heritage thematic study to disseminate the study among the member states. Consequently the first step on the long road to nomination is achieved. Now New Zealand must prepare a detailed document, providing the evidence of outstanding universal value, its integrity and authenticity for the site, obtain the approval of all the parties concerned and adoption by the New Zealand Government in order to eventually present the case for the Lake Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook initiative as a `window to the universe´."

The New Zealand project proposes that the landscape and the skies above Lake Tekapo and Aoraki Mt Cook in the Mackenzie district become a starlight reserve. Few places remain in the world where people can enjoy the stars pollution free. Fifty percent of the world's people no longer see the stars, those places that do, had a responsibility to preserve them as the world was fast losing opportunities to observe the night sky, Austin said.

-- a media release from Word of Mouth Media NZ.

10. Conference Survey Results

Those who attended this year's RASNZ Conference held in Dunedin at the end of May may recall that a feedback form was included in the Conference pack. The RASNZ Conference Committee would like to thank those who responded by returning the completed forms. Your comments were particularly appreciated and we will try to take into account your suggestions for improvements when planning future conferences.

The survey forms included five topics; the most frequent comments and suggestions are summarised below under the same topic headings.

1 Type of Venue

--------------- Some respondents liked having the venue and accommodation on the same site as this enabled more social interaction. However all were agreed that the conference should have good facilities (i.e. meeting room, AV equipment etc) and that there should be a range of accommodation nearby to suit various budgets.

2 Overall Format of Conference

------------------------------ There was a wide range of comments on this question. The most frequent comments suggested were a) That some speakers should be given more time and b) That speakers MUST keep to their allotted time. When a speaker's allotted time is up, the chairperson should be very firm in stopping the speaker from running over time.

3 Extra Associated Events

------------------------- Most of those responding indicated they liked extra activities and workshops to run in conjunction with the Conference. Workshops on observing techniques, CCD use, Occultations, Variable Star Observing, and Astrophotography were frequently listed as desirable. Many commented that they enjoyed the Taieri Gorge Train trip (in spite of the weather causing a delayed return) and some indicated they do like to visit places of local interest as well.

4 Post Conference CD's

---------------------- Of the 38 who indicated they had attended previous conferences 31 said they liked receiving the CD. One person indicated he/she had not viewed a conference CD, and 6 did not comment. A few respondents said they would also like to receive a hard copy of the conference photo.

5 General Comments

------------------ * A large number commented that they thought the recent Conference in Dunedin was excellent.

* There were a number of requests to move the Conference to a different time of year hoping for better weather.

* We were also asked to encourage people to present more posters about their own (astronomy) activities.

* There were a number of requests that technical presentations include a brief introduction for those who may be unfamiliar with the topic.

* The cost of attending a conference is a major factor, particularly for those on fixed incomes.

Your comments have given the Conference Committee a great deal to take into account for future conferences. If you would like to add anything more there is now a Conference Bulletin Board on the RASNZ website where everyone is invited to add further comments, requests etc. for consideration by the Conference Committee. Please visit and select the "Conference" link. We would particularly like to hear from non-attendees what we could do to encourage you to attend future conferences.

-- Pauline Loader, Treasurer, Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand

11. Apollo Guidance Computer and DSKY Emulator

Maurice Collins reported to nzastronomers:

I stumbled upon this site on the weekend where you can download a full working emulator of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) DSKY (Dis Key - Display and Keyboard) for the Apollo command module and lunar module. For those unfamiliar with the DSKY, this is what the real AGC DSKY looks like from Apollo 11 clip: the emulator can do this lamp test also, Verb 35 Enter(V35E) and the "Goto POO" (V37E00E) at the end which puts the computer back in idle.

The AGC emulator runs fine on Win XP and Vista (with no modification I found). Also there are versions for linux and Mac too. The site also has a wealth of documents for the engineering of the Apollo Command and Lunar Module hardware (with blueprints) as well as docs on the AGC itself. There is also a page where some people have built real working replicas of it! There is a pdf on Scribd too on the details of the Block1 AGC the first guy built.

There is a clip on YouTube on how the AGC was made or rather woven. Yes, the Apollo computer was woven like a quilt! I have a DVD on films from MIT Science Reporter series that shows it in more detail but in BW.

So if you like the Moon, computers and Apollo hopefully you will find this fascinating too!

Maurice later noted that he found it can simulate the Lunar module simulator with the 8-ball attitude indicator and all! There is also a LM flight simulator that you can fly from that is very easy to fly and good graphics.

12. Government Seeks Advice on Energy/Lighting Efficiency

Steve Butler, RASNZ DarkSkies Group, sees an important opportunity for folks to make a contribution to New Zealand's energy/lighting efficiency future in the following release from the Ministry of Economic Development.

------- The Minister of Energy and Resources has released the Draft New Zealand Energy Strategy and Draft New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy for public consultation. Minister Brownlee´s media release is below.

The two drafts are presented together in one document. They are available through the Ministry of Economic Development´s website in both html and PDF formats at .

We encourage everyone interested in New Zealand´s energy future to provide feedback on the drafts. Details of how to submit are on the website and in the document. Submissions must be received by 5pm, Thursday 2 September 2010.

We encourage you to forward this message to your networks. I apologise for any cross-postings.

-- Lisa McDonald, Ministry of Economic Development, DD 04 474 2975

13. Rare Red Aurora Seen From Mt John

Scientists from Boston University´s (BU) Center for Space Physics (CSP) have reported sub-visual evidence of the onset of a new cycle of solar- terrestrial activity. The key fact is that recent auroral displays at high latitudes -- the ones visible to the naked eye -- were accompanied by far less luminous glows in the atmosphere at lower latitudes.

What has fascinated space scientists in recent years is the delayed onset of such effects. Typically, the Sun has an activity cycle of about 11 years, with flares and ejections of electrically charged particles (called the solar wind). These cause changes in the Earth´s magnetic field that produce luminous emissions in the atmosphere. Such effects are subdued during solar minimum years (e.g. in 1996-1997) and very prominent in solar maximum years (e.g. 2001-2002). The onset of a new wave of such activity had been expected to be well underway by 2009, but the Sun remained surprisingly quiet. Now, in 2010 there are finally signs of the cycle re- appearing.

The observations were made by the BU team using an all-sky CCD camera located at the Mt. John Observatory, Lake Tekapo. NZ-born Steve Smith, now a Senior Research Scientist in the BU Center for Space Physics, explained "The emissions we study come from regions ranging from 200-400 km above the surface. These gases are caused to glow by energy input from above, energy that flows downward along the Earth´s magnetic field lines."

The curtains of glowing gasses visible to the eye have long been called the aurora borealis and the aurora australis when they are near polar regions. The faint glows BU's camera sees come from regions more distant from the poles than the classic aurora. They are too faint to be seen by eye.

The feature captured on the Mt John camera was not a classical curtain aurora, but a glow far more diffuse in space. Such glows are caused by a steady influx of electrons that hit oxygen atoms and make them to glow with a characteristic red light. Separated from this diffuse glow was an even fainter arc that extended from east to west just south of New Zealand, again captured in the red glow of oxygen atoms. This emission is due to collisions between hot electrons and oxygen atoms in the Earth´s ionosphere. Such features are called Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arcs and form an active topic of current research in space physics. "This image of a SAR arc from New Zealand is perhaps the first-ever case of imaging an unambiguous SAR arc in the southern hemisphere," said Michael Mendillo, Professor of Astronomy at BU.

SAR arcs show where energy from the Van Allen Radiation Belts of electrically charged particles trapped in the Earth´s magnetosphere deposits heat into the ionosphere. The narrow dimension of a SAR arc shows that the energy input is confined to a small extent (100 km) in latitude, but in bands that can extend completely around the globe in longitude.

"We fully expect that a similar SAR arc occurred in the northern hemisphere, but it was cloudy at our observatory in Boston that night, and so one was not seen," Smith explained. "We hope in the years ahead to have many cases of SAR arcs in our data from both hemispheres, and then examine the full global distribution of such effects," he added. "Looking to see if the energy input is simultaneously the same or different in each hemisphere is a forefront topic in the study of solar-induced storms in our upper atmosphere."

-- from a Boston University press release.

14. Ultra-bright Supernovae Confirmed

A 'luminous optical transient' -- a bright star-like point -- discovered in a distant galaxy in March has evolved into a type Ic supernova. The object was independently discovered by three search teams around March 13 when it was at red magnitude 18.6. Its position was R.A. = 11h25m46s.71, Decl. = -8d49'41".4 (equinox 2000.0). Early spectra all showed a blue continuum with broad O II features and a host-galaxy (SDSS J112546.72- 084942.0) at redshift of z = 0.23. (A redshift of 0.23 implies a distance of around three billion light years away. But calculating cosmological distances, light travel times and luminosity distances from the red shift are complicated. For more on this see .)

The brightness and red shift indicates that the transient had an absolute magnitude around -21. Type Ia supernovae, the brightest commonly seen, reach absolute magnitude -19. This object was six times brighter again.

Further detailed spectroscopic monitoring by several observatories shows that -- 25 days after discovery -- the transient (here designated supernova 2010gx) evolved unambiguously into a type-Ic event with the characteristic broad Fe II, Si II, Mg II, and Ca II features. The spectra at +25 days are most similar to those of SN 1994I six days before its peak and SN 2003jd at its peak. This indicates a link between the "ultra- bright" optical transients and type-Ic supernovae. Further details are reported by Pastorello et al. (2010, Astrophysial Journal, submitted).

-- from IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram CBET 2413, 2010 August 16.

15. We Probably Live in an Inflating Brane-World

The following is the abstract of a seminar given to Canterbury University's Department of Physics and Astronomy by Ishwaree Neupane, Royal Society University Fellow.

The universe endows with a number of cosmological mysteries but the one that most vex physicists is the discovery made over a decade ago from observations of distant supernovae that the expansion of the universe is currently accelerating. This cosmological conundrum has so far defied an elegant and forthright explanation.

There is a large gamut of gravitational theories that can explain a period of accelerated expansion of the universe with certain modification of the standard Einstein gravity in four dimensions. The issue of cosmic acceleration (attributed to dark energy) is, however, not about the difficulty of finding a particular cosmological model which could mimic as the Lambda-CDM model, described by Einstein gravity with a positive cosmological constant and minimally coupled to both the luminous (baryonic) and non-luminous (cold dark) matter. The challenge is to come up with a fully consistent theory of four-dimensional cosmology that explains the origin of the cosmological constant and/or the source of cosmic acceleration, while providing insights into some other major problems in physics, including the mass hierarchy problem in particle physics and the origin of the three large physical dimensions.

Brane-world models, where observers are restricted to a brane in a higher- dimensional spacetime, offer a novel perspective on cosmology. In this talk, I would argue that the problem of cosmological constant is well explained within the framework of a four-dimensional de Sitter universe embedded in a five-dimensional de Sitter spacetime.

[As I understand it, a brane is a sort-of surface in a higher dimensional space. Think of a two-dimensional insect moving over a three-dimensional surface. -- Ed.]

16. Large Binocular Telescope Tests Adaptive Optics

The next generation of adaptive optics has arrived at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona, providing astronomers with a new level of image sharpness never before seen.

Until relatively recently, ground-based telescopes had to live with wavefront distortion caused by the Earth´s atmosphere that significantly blurred the images of distant objects. This is why stars appear to twinkle to the human eye. While there have been advancements in adaptive optics technology to correct atmospheric blurring, the LBT´s innovative system takes this concept to a whole new level.

The LBT´s adaptive optics system, called the First Light Adaptive Optics system (FLAO), immediately outperformed all other comparable systems, delivering an image quality greater than three times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope using just one of the LBT´s two 8.4 meter mirrors. When the adaptive optics are in place for both mirrors and their light is combined appropriately, it is expected that the LBT will achieve image sharpness ten times that of the Hubble.

The unit of measure for perfection of image quality is known as the Strehl Ratio. A Strehl Ratio ratio of 100% is equivalent to an absolutely perfect image. Without adaptive optics, the ratio for ground-based telescopes is less than 1 percent. The adaptive optics systems on other major telescopes today improve image quality up to about 30 percent to 50 percent in the near-infrared wavelengths where the testing was conducted.

In the initial testing phase, the LBT´s adaptive optics system has been able to achieve unprecedented Strehl Ratios of 60 to 80 percent, a nearly two-thirds improvement in image sharpness over other existing systems.

This is achieved by the secondary mirror, which was designed from the start to be a main component of the LBT rather than an additional element as on other telescopes. The concave secondary is 0.91 meters in diameter and only 1.6 millimeters thick. The mirror is so thin and pliable that it can easily be manipulated by actuators pushing on 672 tiny magnets glued to the back of the mirror, a configuration which offers far greater flexibility and accuracy than previous systems on other telescopes. An innovative "pyramid" sensor detects atmospheric distortions and manipulates the mirror in real time to cancel out the blurring, allowing the telescope to literally see as clearly as if there were no atmosphere. The mirror is capable of making adjustments every one thousandth of a second, with accuracy to better than ten nanometres. A nanometre is one millionth of a millimetre.

The $120 million LBT on Mount Graham has two giant 8.4 metre mirrors. With the new adaptive optics the telescope will achieve the resolution of a 22.8-metre telescope. The LBT is an international collaboration among institutions in the United States, Italy and Germany.

Images from the adaptive optics system are available at

-- from a LBT press release forwarded by Andrew Rakich. Andrew gave a talk about the LBT's adaptive optics at the 2009 RASNZ Conference in Wellington.

18. 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., P.O. Box 3181, Wellington.

19. 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. 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., P.O. Box 3181, Wellington.

20. How to Join the RASNZ

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

The annual subscription rate is $75. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

21. Here & There

TAKE THAT, CLIMATE-CHANGE SCEPTICS! Trend continues with second hottest July on record Worldwide, the average temperature in July was 61.5 degC - National Climatic Data Center. -- from Royal Society of NZ's "Science in the news" Monday 16 August 2010

AND THE U.S. STILL INCHES TOWARD THE METRIC SYSTEM Then [1970s] U.S. Surveyor-General, on the possibility of the USA going metric; "We can't go metric, we would have to resurvey the whole country." -- forwarded by Howard Barnes who insists it is true.

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6000 P.O. Box 57 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Lake Tekapo 7945 New Zealand

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