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Contents

1. John Mackie Celebrates 100th Birthday
2. Earthquake Damages Some Canterbury Observatories
3. What's the Use of Astronomy?
4. The Solar System in October
5. Bright Jupiter
6. Play about Beatrice Tinsley to be performed in London
7. New Zealand Almanac 2011
8. RASNZ Conference 2011
9. Dennis Goodman Explains Resignation
10. Black Saturn?
11. Most Massive Star Found (So Far)
12. Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Here and There

1. John Mackie Celebrates 100th Birthday

Earlier this month our oldest member, and Fellow, Professor John Mackie turned 100 and the occasion was suitably marked with family and friends in Nelson.

A larger celebration, organised by the University of Otago and held two weeks later, attracted nearly ninety former colleagues and students from the Otago School of Mines and the Department of Surveying, both of which featured prominently during John's working life.

John became a member of RASNZ in 1963 and shortly thereafter joined Council, serving as President during the period 1969-71. In 1969 he was also elected as a Fellow of the Society in recognition of "his fundamental contribution to practical astronomical surveying".

John's remarkable and distinguished life story is recounted in his autobiography "Captain Jack" which, amazingly, he completed only three years ago - a great achievement indeed.

We congratulate John on reaching this milestone and wish him all the very best and continuing good health.

-- Glen Rowe, President RASNZ

------------- Professor Mackie was interviewed on Jim Sullivan's NZ history programme Sounds Historical on National Radio on Sunday September 12th. For a programme listing see http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/soundshistorical For the audio go to http://static.radionz.net.nz/assets/audio_item/0019/2403415/history- 20100912-2104-Sounds_Historical_Hour_Two_-_12_September_2010-m048.asx or http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/history/2010/09/12/sounds_historic al_hour_two_-_12_september_2010

2. Earthquake Damages Some Canterbury Observatories

As most readers will know, on September 4 New Zealand had its biggest earthquake near a metropolitan area since 1931. It had a Richter magnitude of 7.1 and was centred near Darfield, around 40 km west of Christchurch. It occurred on a previously unknown fault buried under 16 000 year-old ice-age gravels. Thanks to the shake being at 4:35 on a Saturday morning there was no loss of life, despite major damage to old buildings in Christchurch.

What happened to nearby observatories?

---------- Townsend Observatory, situated in a stone tower in the Arts Centre -- the old Canterbury University buildings -- in Christchurch's CBD has been badly damaged. Press reports say that the tower is cracked. Nothing has been said about the state of the telescope, presumably because the tower is unsafe to enter.

---------- Brian and Pauline Loader who live at Darfield reported:

It is really remarkable how little effect the 'quake had. The shaking was fairly alarming, noisy and seemed to go on for a long time, but probably no more than a minute in reality. But seemingly no damage to our house and only two or three ornaments/flower pots broken. Even the books stayed on the book shelves.

As far as we can see, very little damage in our little town. Two or three chimneys toppled, mostly on older houses, and of course stock in shops scattered on the floor. We had power back on just over 12 hours after the main shake.

I did a quick polar alignment check on the 'scope last night, it had barely moved even though it's only on a tripod.

---------- The Canterbury Astronomical Society's observatory is at West Melton, midway between Darfield and Christchurch. Phil Barker reported:

I went to the West Melton Observatory to see if all was well the day of the quake. The roll-off roof of the 16-inch Meade building was in an unnatural position. When I opened the door I found the cover of the telescope had been thrown off and the tube was in unusual position.

The roof had run off and back on and had been held in place with 2 bolts that look to have barely held on. When we went to use the 16-inch RCX last Wednesday it was out of collimation -- it has never needed adjustment since it was put in the shed -- and the polar alignment is well out now. It took quite a while getting it well aligned, mostly by Ashley Marles. It is now back to square one. It doesn't appear damaged, thankfully.

The Cooke 5-inch pier was shaken loose from the grounding bolts around its Base and was about a foot from its original position. No damage and the telescope is fine. (The Cooke has been recalled by Carter Observatory to be no longer used for astronomical viewing, sadly. At least it survived). I was able to move it back with some effort as the pier weighs in the order of 110 kilograms.

No sign of damage in the 5 metre dome that houses the 14.5-inch classical Cassegrain. In the lodge things were strewn all over the place. In the library a bookcase was knocked over and its contents scattered.

Interestingly, a fork-mounted Celestron C11 left standing on its drive base in a storeroom had been toppled by the 'quake. It must have taken amazing force to do this. The C11 will replace the Cooke.

Overall, however, everything survived. As a serving Police officer I have been involved in the Police operation surrounding this event. The way this 'quake seemed to wreak devastation in some areas and virtually leave others alone has amazed me. The ground underneath appears to be a significant contributor to this. Around Avonside, Kingsford Street and Bexley I understand in the order of 2000 houses will need rebuilding. Several houses have split cleanly in two; some quite recently built.

---------- Stu Parker in Oxford, about 30 km north of the epicentre said:

Yes, it was quite a jolt alright. My Observatory had minor damage to the pier and a crack in the concrete. The polar alignment was out and I did another T-Point. The interesting thing was that I was remotely supernova hunting that morning, so the 'scope took a 30 sec image during the earthquake. The images before and after were fine, but the one at 4:35 a.m. rocked and rolled all over the place. I sent the image to a few people and it proved quite popular; more so than most, if not all, of my other images!!!

[Later today Stu's earthquake image will be on http://parkdale-supernova-factory.webs.com/ ]

----------- Mt John Observatory at Lake Tekapo, 150 km from the epicentre, got a very gentle rolling motion not noticed by sleeping persons. As it was the first earthquake we've felt in our 14 years on the hill, we knew it must be a biggy somewhere. Being on rock is a great help. Lake Tekapo village, on glacial sediment, was quite shook up though there was no serious damage. -- Ed

----------- -- thanks to all the contributors who I hope will forgive some re- arrangement of their notes. -Ed

3. What's the Use of Astronomy?

William Tobin writes: Britain's Royal Astronomical Society has just produced a brochure outlining some of the practical spin-offs of astronomical research, such as CCD cameras, WiFi and geographical location systems, and the wide applicability of astronomical training in other walks of life. Useful for when talking to government ministers and prospective students! The brochure is called "A new view of the Universe: Big Science for the Big Society" and can be downloaded from: http://www.ras.org.uk/publications/other-publications/1868-new-view- universe

Example article.....

WHAT´S THE USE OF ASTRONOMY? Humans have always gazed up at the Heavens and wondered what was beyond their everyday world.

Astronomy is the oldest science. The earliest civilizations made astronomical observations that led to the units of time we use today - possibly the first scientific measurements made. Many human activities, particularly navigation, have depended on observations of the Sun, Moon and stars.

Over the past couple of centuries, more detailed astronomical studies have underpinned the formulation of our current understanding of physics: the fundamental forces, in particular gravity as described by Einstein´s General Theory of Relativity; and the building-blocks of matter and the theory describing them, quantum theory. Today, the universe continues to provide a laboratory for testing basic theories that lead to a deeper understanding of nature and our own place in it.

Astronomy now covers a huge range of topics: understanding how the universe got started and how its large scale structure evolved into what we see today; the formation and evolution of galaxies, stars and planetary systems; and, excitingly, the search for planets that might support life. A major mystery recently uncovered is the existence of "dark energy" which is accelerating cosmic expansion. The dynamics of the universe seem to be dominated by this phenomenon, as well as by large amounts of invisible "dark matter". The universe we see directly is only a small component of what is really out there.

Discoveries made via astronomical observations also play a pivotal role in shaping progress in other fields. A major goal of nuclear physics is to understand how the elements are made in stars. Studying the outer layers of the Sun and other stars tells us about the physics of plasmas relevant to clean nuclear-energy generation. Exploring the geology and atmospheres of planetary bodies in the solar system may throw light on climate change on our own planet, while the burgeoning science of astrobiology - exploring the conditions in which life could exist elsewhere in the universe - could explain how life first evolved on Earth. [Read more on page 4 of the brochure].

4. The Solar System in October

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for October 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Oct_10.htm. Notes for November 2010 will be available in a few days.

The planets in october

Venus will disappear from the evening sky during the second part of October, leaving only Mars and Jupiter visible. Saturn and Mercury are both to close to the Sun for observation.

Mercury is at superior conjunction on October 17. Before that date as a morning object it is too close to the Sun to observe. After conjunction it will become an evening object, but still be too close to the Sun for observation.

Venus is still an obvious evening object early in the month setting about 3 hours after the Sun. It is stationary on October 8, after which the planet starts moving back towards the Sun so getting steadily lower and set earlier, by the 20th about 90 minutes after the Sun. A week later, on the 26th and 27th, Venus will be 7 degrees to the left of Mercury, but even Venus will be a difficult object close to the horizon. Two days later on the 29th, Venus is at inferior conjunction prior to moving into the morning sky.

Mars, also in the evening sky, starts October to the lower left of Venus, but after a few days the latter planet slips behind and then below Mars. Mars will continue to move across Libra and into Scorpius on October 27. It will end the month 2 degrees below delta Scorpii, which at magnitude 2.3 will be nearly a magnitude fainter than Mars. Antares will be some 9 degrees above Mars and slightly brighter than the planet. The two, of course, have a similar colour.

Early in October, Mars passes the wide double alpha Librae. The pair of stars and Mars are at their closest on the 7th, 40 arc-minutes apart.

Unlike Venus, the time at which Mars sets will change little during the month, near to 10pm NZDT in most parts of New Zealand. But as sunset gets later, the time when the sky darkens also gets later resulting in Mars first appearing lower in the sky.

Jupiter and URANUS will continue to be a close pair of planets during October, although the faster moving Jupiter will draw slightly further away to the west of Uranus. Their separation will increase from 1.4 to 3.2 degrees during the month.

Jupiter will be at its best in the evening sky during October, rising well before sunset and not setting until several hours after midnight. With a magnitude 5.7 to 5.8, 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.

At the beginning of October Uranus will be almost directly below Jupiter at 10 pm, by the end of the month, Uranus will be to the lower right of Jupiter with a magnitude 5.5 star almost directly between them, twice as far from Jupiter as from Uranus.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on October 1, following which it will move into the morning sky. By the end of the month it will rise nearly an hour before the Sun but is likely to be too low in the dawn sky for any observation.

Neptune, magnitude 7.8 to 7.9, is in Capricornus and spends the month close to the 5th magnitude star mu Cap. Staring just over 20 arc-minutes apart, the two will be less than 12 arc-minutes apart when closest on the 21st. Mu Cap is less than 3 degrees from delta Cap, at 2.9 the brightest star in Capricornus.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Sagittarius during October with a magnitude 9.1 to 9.3. It is an evening object setting after midnight throughout the month. Its path to the east takes it towards the handle of the teapot, passing about 1.3 degrees from delta Sgr on the 25th.

(4) Vesta will be very low to the west after sunset and is not likely to be observable.

(6) Hebe is in Cetus with a magnitude 7.8 at the beginning of the month, making it then the brightest asteroid. By the end of the month it will have faded to 8.4, but still be the brightest visible asteroid. It is well south of the equator and in the sky all night, setting close to sunrise by the end of October.

(8) Flora´s magnitude ranges from 8.5 to 9.2 during October. It is Aquarius and will be slow moving about 4 degrees from the 3.3 magnitude star delta Aqr.

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

COMET 103P/Hartley 2 moves south during October. During the first half of the month it is too far north to observe from New Zealand. By late October it will be in the morning sky in Gemini, rising soon after midnight and is predicted to reach magnitude 4.5 by about the last week on the month.

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

-- Brian Loader

5. Bright Jupiter

Jupiter is a few percent brighter than usual around now, as this extract from a Sky & Telescope note explains:

Jupiter is making its closest pass by Earth for the year. And this year's pass is a little closer than any other between 1963 and 2022. Jupiter is nearest to Earth on the night of Monday, September 20th: 592 million km away. But it remains nearly this close and bright throughout the second half of September.

At the closest point of its previous swing-by, in August 2009, Jupiter was 2% farther than this time. That translated into 8% dimmer, all things considered. At its next pass, in October 2011, it will be a little less than 1% more distant than now.

In addition, Jupiter is an additional 4% brighter than usual because one of its brown cloud belts has gone missing. For nearly a year the giant planet's South Equatorial Belt, usually plain to see in a small telescope, has been hidden under a layer of bright white ammonia clouds.

-- original forwarded by Karen Pollard.

6. Play about Beatrice Tinsley to be Performed in London

Beatrice Tinsley is well known as the New Zealand astrophysicist who thirty years ago was tragically struck down by skin cancer at the age of only 40. In 2005 the Circa Theatre in Wellington presented "Bright Star", a play about her by Stuart Hoar.

Readers who will be in London in November will have a second opportunity to see "Bright Star". The play will be performed at the Tabard Theatre in western London November 9-27, though the exact dates should be checked.

Links: Tabard Theatre: http://www.tabardweb.co.uk/ NBR review of the Circa Theatre production: http://web.archive.org/web/20051216123158/http://nbr.co.nz/smythe/2005/09/ beatrice-tinsley-superstar.html

-- William Tobin

7. New Zealand Almanac 2011

Kay Leather writes: The New Zealand Almanac 2011 is now in production. The Almanac is a beautiful calendar with wonderful photographs taken by New Zealand astronomers. Every year the photographs seem to get better - and this coming year's edition is no exception! The Almanac is also packed with information on various astronomical events occurring through out the year that is presented in an easily accessible calendar format. Almanacs make wonderful Christmas presents, so consider giving them as Christmas stocking fillers.

The price is $20 plus $2 p&p. We have succeeded in keeping the price virtually unchanged for the last few years. We will continue to give discounts for members, societies and for bulk orders.

We are now taking orders, so please contact Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to order your 2011 Almanac or post an order to Almanac 2011, P.O. Box 156, Carterton 5743.

8. RASNZ Conference 2011

The RASNZ is pleased to remind everyone that next year's Conference is being held in Napier on 27-29 May 2011. The venue is the Napier War Memorial Convention Centre on the north end of Marine Parade. There is a wide range of accommodation within easy walking distance of the venue.

Although Conference itself will run from the Friday evening till sometime on the Sunday afternoon, many of you will also want to make time for the other two events. Namely the Fifth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations which will be held on the Friday daytime (and possibly the Thursday as well - to be confirmed), and the Imaging/Photographic Workshop to be held on the Monday following Conference. Graham Blow and John Drummond respectively will provide further information on these in due course.

But back to Conference itself. The Invited Speakers are well known to many of you. Dr David Malin has visited NZ several times in the past, most recently to Stardate South Island in January of this year. David's career has largely been with the Anglo-Australian Observatory (now the Australian Astronomical Observatory). He is also Adjunct Professor of Scientific Photography at RMIT University in Melbourne. David has authored many books on astrophotgraphy, and his images are widely known. As well as presenting a feature paper, David will also be actively involved in the Imaging and Photographic Workshop. The other Invited Speaker is Dr Fred Watson. Fred is an Englishman by birth, but has lived in Australia for over 25 years. Fred is Astronomer-In-Charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory, and is Project Leader for the Radial Velocity Experiment. In addition, Fred has been active in promoting astronomy to the public through, publications, talks and, more recently overseas tours and theatre shows. In addition to his feature paper, Fred will be delivering a public lecture later on the Sunday afternoon following the formal conclusion of Conference. We look forward to hearing from these two renowned and respected astronomers.

An official Call for Papers will be made shortly. In the meantime, however, we invite members and prospective attendees to consider giving a paper and/or poster-paper, and initial expressions of interests can be made with the Standing Conference Committee - please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We hope to see many of you at Conference. This far out, good travel discounts are bound to be available for those using public transport. The Conference Registration form will be available late November/early December.

We also wish to acknowledge Matariki Wines as the initial sponsor of the 2011 RASNZ Conference.

Further information about Conference is available on the RASNZ Webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz

Further announcements will be made in future newsletters.

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

9. Dennis Goodman Explains Resignation

At the May Conference Dennis Goodman was appointed RASNZ Executive Secretary but resigned soon afterwards. Here Dennis explains why. ------------------- Hi everyone,

I thought it appropriate to explain my reasons for resigning from the position of Executive Secretary so soon after the AGM.

As many of you know, I suffered a serious accident back in 2006, which ultimately resulted in my taking early retirement from my insurance career. Although I had suffered some bruising to the brain, and severe concussion, I had largely made a complete recovery. And, as time passed I continued with, or had taken on, some voluntary positions without any noticeable side effects.

I guess taking on the role of Executive Secretary proved to be one step too far. Following the resurfacing of some side effects I had suffered following the accident, when getting into the role of Executive Secretary, I took medical advice. It was strongly recommended to me to give up the position, and that it is not the sort of role I should contemplate doing in future. In hindsight, I should have sought advice before agreeing to stand for the position.

However, I have been cleared to take an active role in discussion forums etc, and will continue to serve on the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

I am sorry I found it necessary to resign from the Executive Secretary's position, but given the problems I encountered felt it wise to act on professional medical advice.

-- Dennis Goodman.

10. Black Saturn?

From 'The Observatory' Correspondence 2010 April p.89.

Saturn's Phoebe Ring and Ancient Babylonian Observations

The Spitzer Space Telescope recently discovered an enormous 'ghost' ring (also known as the Phoebe Ring) around Saturn [Reference 1]. With a radius of between 128 and 207 times that of Saturn, a vertical thickness 40 times Saturn's radius, and an inclination of about 17 degrees with respect to the main ring plane, it incorporates Saturn's moon Phoebe, from which the dust is thought to derive through impacts. Some 100 times the diameter of the nearest rings inside it, at opposition it is estimated [2] to "span the width of two full moons' worth of the sky, one on either side of Saturn". At present the ring is visible only in the infrared, yet we wonder whether its discovery might shed some light on an unsolved problem in archaeoastronomy.

Ancient astronomers assigned specific colours to each of the traditional seven (naked eye) planets. The earliest documented examples come from the Cuneiform texts of the Babylonians and Assyrians, dating to the 8th-7th Centuries BC. In an on-going project we have been studying the rational behind the colours assigned to each planet and in most cases there is a straightforward naturalistic explanation. For example, the Babylonians systematically described the Sun as gold, the Moon is silver, Mars is red, and Jupiter as white, just as they appear. The 'green' colour ascribed to Venus can be read as green or blue, as there was no distinction between the colours in the Sumerian and Akkadian languages used by the Babylonians. While Venus generally appears white, this could shift to a greenish-blue tinge to the unaided eye, as confirmed by ethnographic parallels outside Babylonia. Though less clear from the sources, our understanding is that Mercury was associated with pale red (brown, according to the medieval scholars of Harran in northwestern Mesopotamia), and the planet can appear orange-brown in colour [3].

The colour assigned to Saturn remains a distinct problem. The Babylonians regularly described it as 'black'[4], as did ancient Indian and Graeco- Roman and medieval Jewish writers [5] (working within traditions influenced by the Babylonians). Saturn is indeed a dim planet (compared with Venus, Jupiter, and Mars), but nonetheless its visibility led to its observation, a circumstance which hardly prompts association with black! Besides, comparison with the other planets suggested that the Babylonian 'planet colours' were not based on degrees of brightness, but on actual colouration. If anything, Saturn appears yellowish in colour, yet only one of the ancient sources we have examined (Plato, "Republic", 10.14) suggests a yellow colour.

We have experimented with astrological and cosmological explanations (in
Babylonian terms) for the widespread choice of black for Saturn. For
example, the Babylonians commonly distinguished between planets thought to
be 'benefic' (Jupiter and Venus) and 'malefic' (Saturn and Mars, Mercury
being ambiguous) [Ref.6].  As the most auspicious planets were also the
two brightest, one might suspect a correlation between relative brightness
and beneficence, with the 'malefic' planet Saturn being assigned the
darkest colour possible. Yet this does not seem satisfactory, as it flouts
the underlying logic that can be seen in the colour choice of all the
other planets, where, clearly, natural appearance has dictated the choice.

The reconstruction offered of the newly-discovered Phoebe ring is thus of immense interest, not only to modern astronomers, but for those studying the thought processes of their ancient counterparts. As visualized [7], a ring of light surrounds a gigantic black space, within which the planet itself appears only as a small dot of brightness at the centre. Though the ring is presently invisible from a terrestrial standpoint, were anything like this to have been visible from the Earth in the ancient past, an explanation would readily have offered itself as to why ancient observers regarded Saturn as black: perceiving the ring as the perimeter of the planet, the 'body' of the object would appear to be black. Could the amount of dust in the Phoebe ring have been considerably larger in the recent past due to an episode of cometary or asteroidal impact activity? If so, could sunlight have reflected off the particles on a process akin to the zodiacal light, producing a ring, at least partially, as seen from the Earth? The optical form of the ring might have varied between an arc and an oval if only a part of the ring was illuminated, due to different perspectives on the ring as seen from earth.

Not only would this successfully account for the Babylonian characterization of Saturn as 'black', it might also shed light on some other curious traditions. The Greek historian, Diodorus of Sicily (1st Century BC; "Bibliotheca, 2.30.3) stated that the ancient Babylonian astrologers deemed Saturn epiphanéstatos or 'the most conspicuous' of planets -- a qualification that has remained elusive. Babylonian astrologers linked the planet to the Sun, a puzzling fact that has exercised scholars' minds for a century. Saturn was called the planet of the Sun-god Shamash by the Babylonians, followed by the writers in the Greek world ('the star of Helios') and in India ('son of the Sun')[8]. The ring, greater than the Moon if visible, could have prompted the Babylonian perception of Saturn both as a nocturnal Sun and black. Another puzzling tradition associated with Saturn comes from Hellenistic Egypt; it concerns a type of comet called the 'discus', described as round and golden, with rays around its circumference, and named after the planet Kronos (Saturn) because of its similarity in appearance [9]. Could this association have originated at a time when Saturn was still envisioned in terms of the ring?

The overriding question is whether such a ring could once have been seen by terrestrial observers? What mass of dust would be required, distributed around Phoebe's orbit, to scatter sufficient sunlight to produce a visible ring? It is beyond our ken, as historians, to guess at what kind of analysis would be involved or to do the maths. Our apologies if our naïve questions are several orders of magnitude out of bounds.

Yours faithfully Peter James Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia 2009 November 16.

------ To save space (and his time) the Editor has not transcribed the reference list. However he is happy to forward a scan of it as a PDF to anyone interested. ------ See Newsletter No. 109, 2009 November, Item 11, for discovery details of the Phoebe ring.

11. Most Massive Star Found (So Far)

The most massive star yet found is 265 times the mass of the sun and millions of times brighter. The discovery has astonished scientists, who thought it was impossible for stars to exceed more than 150 times the mass of the sun. When the star was born it could have been more than twice as massive.

The star is in the cluster RMC 136a. The cluster appears as a star-like point (in most telescopes) at the centre of the Tarantula nebula, 165,000 light-years away in the Large Cloud of Magellan. RMC 136a is a clutch of monster stars, including several that are tens of times larger than the sun and several million times brighter. Some have surface temperatures of more than 40,000C ­ seven times hotter than our own sun.

A team led by Paul Crowther, an astrophysicist at Sheffield University, used the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in the Atacama desert of northern Chile and archival material from the Hubble space telescope to study the young clusters NGC 3603 and RMC 136a. NGC 3603 is about 22,000 light-years away

These enormous stars churn out vast quantities of material, and, close up, would look fuzzy compared with the sun. They are extremely rare, forming only within the densest star clusters. Distinguishing the individual stars was made possible by the use of infra-red instruments on the telescope.

"Owing to the rarity of these monsters I think it is unlikely that this new record will be broken any time soon," said Crowther. R136a1 has now overtaken the likes of Eta Carinae and the Pistol Star as the most massive and luminous known star in existence. Like these other giants it has a large radius for its mass and surface temperature.

Lightweight stars, such as our sun, live a long and quiet life. Massive stars, on the other hand, are very rare, and have a short but intense existence before exploding as supernovae.

For more see http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/jul/21/monster-bright-star-r136a1- as

-- from an article in the Guardian on line, forwarded by Karen Pollard. [P.S. This mass claim is disputed. See Sky & Telescope Oct. 2010, p.14.]

12. Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

The Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) is a proposed infrared space observatory which was selected by U.S. National Research Council committee as the top priority for the next decade of astronomy. The design of WFIRST is based on one of the proposed designs for the Joint Dark Energy Mission (JDEM) between NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). WFIRST adds some extra capabilities to the original JDEM proposal, including a search for extra-solar planets using gravitational microlensing.

Its key science objectives are: search for dark energy; baryon acoustic oscillations; observing distant supernovae; weak gravitational lensing; exoplanet statistics; gravitational microlensing. It will also have a guest investigator mode enabling survey investigations of nearby galaxies to answer key questions about their formation and structure.

The proposed telescope will be a three-mirror design with the primary mirror being 1.5 metres in diameter. The telescope would be parked at the Lagrangian L2 point, 1.5 million km from Earth. The mission would last three years, beginning around 2020. The current cost estimate is US$1.6 billion.

-- from a Wikipedia article forwarded by Phil Yock.

--------- In cosmology, baryon acoustic oscillations (BAO) refers to an overdensity or clustering of baryonic matter at certain length scales due to acoustic waves which propagated in the early universe. In the same way that supernova experiments provide a "standard candle" for astronomical observations, BAO matter clustering provides a "standard ruler" for length scale in cosmology. The length of this standard ruler (~150 Mpc in today's universe) can be measured by looking at the large scale structure of matter using astronomical surveys. BAO measurements help cosmologists understand more about the nature of dark energy (the acceleration of the universe) by constraining cosmological parameters. For more see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baryon_acoustic_oscillations

13. 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.

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. 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.

15. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. 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..

16. Here and There

More typos and bloopers noted in The Observatory 2010 April, Vol. 130, No. 1215.

SUPERINFLATION Submillimetre galaxies at redshifts... are thought to be precursors of the giant elliptical galaxies in the present-day Universe... -- Nature, vol. 458, 673, 2009.

THE LONG VIEW ...the Solar Orbiter... will circle the Sun every 150 years. -- The Sunday Telegraph, 2009 April 26, p.14.

HARDLY SURPRISING Accelerating the craft to 38,624 kilometres per second, the six-minute TLI burn exhausted what was left of the fuel in the third stage,... -- Astronomy Now, 2009 July, p.25.

IF ONLY WE COULD ALL HAVE ONE A stunning modern property... powered by a state of the art solar system and just 15 minutes from the nearest town. -- The Week, 2009 April 11, p.32.

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