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 http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. Olwen Jones
2. Introducing our New Executive Secretary
3. The Solar System in November
4. Orionid Meteors in Morning Sky
5. SPADES Exoplanet Search Project
6. Lecturer in Astrophysics at Canterbury University
7. Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill
8. Royal Society (U.K) Journals Free on Line, Briefly
9. New Zealand Almanac 2011
10. RASNZ Conference 2011
11. Alien Liaison Officer
12. John Huchra
13. August 2010 AAO Observer
14. Historical Observatories -- Symposium Proceedings
15. Star's Vibes Reveal Starspot Cycle
16. Potentially habitable Exoplanet Found
17. Is Phobos a Chip Off Mars?
18. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
19. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
20. How to Join the RASNZ
21. Here and There

1. Olwen Jones

The RASNZ lost one of its oldest members and greatest supporters with the death of Olwen Jones on October 2. She was 93. Olwen was typist-clerk at the Carter Observatory from 1949 to 1977 but she did much more than her job title implied. For much of her time there the Observatory staff rarely numbered more than three: Director, Assistant and Olwen. They did everything, including chores like cleaning. On Public Nights, initially Friday, later Tuesday, they were assisted by a dedicated band of volunteers of whom the late Peter Read was one. As well as typing all the letters -- no emails then -- Olwen was the receptionist and answered most of the phones enquiries.

One of the Observatory's functions was to produce the annual moonrise and moonset tables for the NZ Nautical Almanac. Now such a table is done in seconds with the right software. Back then it was a mind-numbing job interpolating times listed in the Astronomical Almanac or its forerunners. Olwen did much of this work -- moonrise and moonset for every day in the four main centres -- along with typing up and checking all the numbers for the printer. Even in retirement Olwen had only a brief rest from this chore. After a major muddle with the computer-generated 1979 tables, the Nautical Almanac editor asked her to produce the tables by the pencil-and- paper method, a job she did on contract for several more years.

The RASNZ was based at the Observatory back then -- the Society's original premises having been demolished so the Observatory could use the site -- and staff gave their time freely to the Society. Olwen ran the Gestetner duplicator that printed the newsletters and the machine that printed addresses on envelopes for the mailing. As the RASNZ was also effectively the Wellington astronomical society till a formal division in 1972, most of the RASNZ executive was Wellington based. So Olwen worked closely with a succession of Society secretaries and treasurers.

Sadly Olwen's death notice in the DomPost was missed by most in the astronomical community as her name was given as Margaret Martha Olwen Jones. The editor is very grateful to Sheila Natusch who spotted the notice, attended the funeral, and passed on the details.

Tributes to Olwen can be entered at http://www.tributes.co.nz/ViewMyTribute.aspx?id=5754

2. Introducing our New Executive Secretary

Following the notice in the August Newsletter, we were very pleased to receive several expressions of interest from people interested in being our next Executive Secretary. As a result Council had a vote to decide the preferred candidate, a situation quite probably without precedent (as far as anyone can remember!). I can now announce that Rory O'Keefe is our new Executive Secretary. A secondary school teacher, Rory describes himself as having a background in education management and currently lives in Onewhero. Prior to this, Rory lived in Gisborne where he was associated with the Gisborne Astronomical Society and managed their Junior Section for a time. We welcome Rory to Council and look forward to working with him and the contribution he will make to the running of the Society.

-- Glen Rowe, RASNZ President

3. The Solar System in November

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for November 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Nov_10.htm. Notes for December 2010 will be available in a few days.

The planets in november

Venus moves up from the Sun into the morning sky as does Saturn. Mars will be low in the evening sky after sunset, joined by Mercury in the second part of the month. Jupiter, with Uranus close by, will be visible all evening.

Mercury is in the evening sky during November, but at first sets only a few minutes after the Sun. By mid month it will be easily visible, setting about 90 minutes later than the Sun and have an altitude of 8 degrees 45 minutes after sunset.

On the evening of the 17th, Mercury will be between Antares, to its left, and MARS, to its right, about 3 degrees from each. At magnitude -0.4 Mercury will be the brightest of the three. Mercury and Mars will be closest on the 20th, 100 arc-minutes apart.

This will be just about the last opportunity to spot Mars during its year long evening apparition. With a magnitude 1.4, binoculars will make it easier to see in the twilight sky. By the end of the month Mercury will have climbed slightly higher into the evening sky, but Mars will be getting lower.

On November 8, the 5.5% lit crescent moon will join Mars and Antares, the three forming an inverted triangle about 4.5 degrees on each side. Mars will be at the lower apex and Antares to the left of the moon.

Jupiter will be the dominant evening planet still setting almost two hours after midnight by the end of the month. By then Uranus will be 3 degrees to the right of Jupiter in the evening, easily visible in binoculars. There will be a 5.5 magnitude star 40´ to the upper left of Uranus, but otherwise no star of comparable magnitude between the two planets.

Jupiter is stationary on the 19th, so will show little movement throughout the month. The 75% lit moon will be some 7.5 degrees below the pair on the 16th.

Morning Sky - VENUS and SATURN

Venus, at inferior conjunction on October 29, will emerge into the morning sky in November. It is too close to the Sun to observe at first. By mid month it will rise an hour before the Sun, and 90 minutes earlier by the 30th, making it as easily visible "morning star", low to the east in the dawn sky.

Saturn, was at conjunction with the Sun at the beginning of October, but will emerge from the Sun rather more slowly than Venus. Even so it will be ahead of the brighter planet throughout November. In fact Venus will not catch up with Saturn as the former´s westerly motion comes to an end on November 17 when it is stationary.

The two planets will be about 15 degrees apart during the second part of November. Spica will be some 11 degrees to the right of Saturn, while Venus will be about half this distance to the lower right of the star

Neptune, magnitude 7.9, is in Capricornus; during November it will be about 12 arc-minutes from the 5th magnitude star mu Cap. The planet is stationary on the 7th, resulting in Neptune and mu Cap being at conjunction, for a second time in just over a month, on November 23.

There will be no star of comparable magnitude to Neptune between the planet and mu. 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 November with a magnitude 9.2 to 9.3. It is an evening object but sets just after midnight by the 30th. Its path in November takes it through the handle of the "teapot", passing about 1 degree from phi Sgr (3.1) on the 11th, 2 degrees from sigma (2.1) on the 17/18th and 15 arc-minutes from tau (3.3) on the 24th.

(4) Vesta is too close to the Sun to observe in November.

(6) Hebe is in Cetus, magnitude fading from 8.5 to 9.1 during November. It is well south of the equator and in the sky all evening, with a transit just before 11 pm on the 1st and at 9.15 pm on the 30th.

(7) Iris brightens from 9.4 to 9.0 during the month. It is a morning object in Cancer, rising soon after 2 am on November 1 and shortly after midnight by the end of the month.

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 further south in November. During the earlier part of the month it is in Monoceros and Canis Minor, about 6.5 degrees from Procyon in the 8th. Towards the end of the month, on the 22nd it moves into Puppis and will be just over 12 degrees from Sirius.

The comet is essentially a morning object, rising soon after midnight on the 1sr but by about 9.30 pm on the 30th. Its expected magnitude fades from 4.9 to 7.1 during the month.

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

-- Brian Loader

4. Orionid Meteors in Morning Sky

Anyone out after 1 a.m. NZDT might notice more than usual bright meteors. The near-full moonlight will hide the faint ones. The Orionid Meteor shower is expected to peak around October 20-25.

According to meteor experts M. Sato and J.-I. Watanabe we will pass through so-called "filament" components of the meteor shower: narrow streams of meteoroids that are kept in their tracks by orbital resonances with Jupiter. The expected meteors were ejected from Comet Halley's nucleus at several returns in times BC. A burst of meteors on Oct. 21 9h UT (10 pm NZDT, too early for us) is from the 1266 BC dust trail. One on Oct. 25 4h UT (5 pm NZDT, much too early) is from the 911 BC trail.

-- based on Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams Electronic Telegram No. 2507, 2010 October 19. ---------- John Drummond of the RASNZ's Comet & Meteor Section notes that the shower's general peak is expected on Saturday 23rd October at 3am NZDT.

5. SPADES Exoplanet Search Project

We are pleased to announce that the SPADES pro-am project (Search for Planets Around Detached Eclipsing Systems) is now up and running. We seek observers immediately to join the team. Basic requirements are a telescope of about 30 cm aperture or more, an astronomical CCD camera with a Johnson V filter, and experience in CCD photometry. Targets are all south of +10 deg declination.

You can find out more on the SPADES web pages, at our website www.variablestarssouth.org. (Please note the change of our website address.) This contains a project description including the science case, observational requirements, contact emails, and initial list of targets.

-- Simon O'Toole (Australian Astronomical Observatory) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Tom Richards (Variable Stars South) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. Lecturer in Astrophysics at Canterbury University

Applications are invited for a continuing position of Lecturer in Astrophysics at the University of Canterbury.

Job ID: 1091 Closing date: 26 November 2010

Applicants should have a Ph.D. and post-doctoral or equivalent experience in an area of galactic or extragalactic astronomy with demonstrated potential for excellent teaching and a record of high research productivity. The appointee will be required to teach and co-ordinate undergraduate courses in physics and astronomy, to teach post-graduate courses in astronomy, to contribute to teaching in other core areas as appropriate, and to supervise research students. Research interests that complement existing interests in the astronomy group and take advantage of our research facilities would be advantageous. Observational facilities available include the 10-m Southern African Large Telescope and the 1-m McLellan Telescope at the Mt John University Observatory.

The successful applicant should be able to inspire and motivate students and work within a collegial environment. The appointee will be expected to publish regularly in high-impact journals, to contribute to collaborative research, and to actively seek and obtain funding in support of research.

Enquiries of an academic nature may be made to Dr Michael Albrow, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. <mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.> . Further details about the Department of Physics and Astronomy can be found at www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz <http://www.physics.canterbury.ac.nz> .

This is one of three current academic vacancies available within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, for further information about these vacancies and to apply online visit please visit http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/hr/job_vacancies.shtml <http://www.canterbury.ac.nz/hr/job_vacancies.shtml>

The University of Canterbury is an EEO employer and invites applications from all sectors of the community. Job sharing or other innovative employment practices may be considered.

-- Michael Albrow

7. Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill

A bill to amend the Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 has recently been introduced and passed its first reading in the House of Representatives.

The Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill amends the Act to incorporate humanities into the object and functions of the Society, rename the Academy Council, amend the standard for the election of Companions of the Society, and amend the election process for Councillors of the Society. The reasons for the proposed changes to the Act relate to changes that were made to the Society´s rules in 2008 following a 2008 Council resolution, and the Society's decision to incorporate the humanities into the Royal Society of New Zealand from 2010.

The bill, including an explanatory note setting out the reasons for the bill, is available at http://www.legislation.govt.nz/bill/private/2010/0210/latest/DLM3223802.ht ml. Printed copies can be ordered from Bennetts Government Bookshops at www.bennetts.co.nz/legislation.htm. You can read the current Royal Society of New Zealand Act 1997 at http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/organisation/about/act/. The bill has now been referred to the Education and Science Committee and submissions on the bill are being invited. Any member of the public may make a submission, information about how to make a submission is available at http://www.parliament.nz/en- NZ/PB/SC/MakeSub/3/e/e/49SCES_SCF_00DBHOH_BILL10335_1-Royal-Society-of- New-Zealand-Amendment.htm. The closing date for submissions is 5 November 2010.

-- Glen Rowe, RASNZ President

8. Royal Society (U.K) Journals Free on Line, Briefly

William Tobin passed on this note from Emma Davidson, the Royal Society of London's Information and Promotion Officer: List members may be interested to note that all Royal Society journals (including Notes and Records) will be free to access until November 30th. Please see http://royalsocietypublishing.org/news for further information.

9. 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 years 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.

10. RASNZ Conference 2011

Just a further, brief, reminder about the 2011 RASNZ Conference. Now is the time for those thinking about presenting a paper or poster-paper to get their thoughts together, and send in an intention to present. Forms are available on the RASNZ Webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz

The budget is currently being worked on. Our hosts at the Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society have already done some preliminary work re accommodation options - their selections can be seen on their webpage - www.hbastrosoc.org.nz (click conference) - and there are plenty of options to choose from.

David Malin and Fred Watson are confirmed as our guest speakers, and you can read about them on the RASNZ Webpage.

Attendees are reminded that the 5th Trans Tasman Symposium on Occultations will take place on the Thursday and Friday, 26 and 27 May, before conference opens on the Friday evening. And on the Monday following Conference is the Photographic/Imaging workshop with David Malin. Registrations for these will be separate from Conference.

Cheap airfares appear readily available at this stage. Between Christchurch and Napier for example, fares are from $102.00 each way.

A full update will appear in the next Newsletter. Any queries - please email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

11. Alien Liaison Officer

A Malaysian scientist is expected to be appointed as "world leader" with responsibility for dealing with any alien visitors. Dr Mazlan Othman, an astrophysicist, is to be given the task of co-ordinating the response if extra-terrestrials make contact.

Should aliens land on Earth and ask: "Take me to your leader" they should be directed to Othman. She will set out the details of her proposed new role at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire next week.

The 58-year-old is expected to tell delegates that the proposal has been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars, which is thought to have raised the probability of discovering extraterrestrial life. Othman is to be appointed head of the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs.

In a recent talk to fellow scientists, she said: "The continued search for extraterrestrial communication sustains the hope that some day human kind will receive signals from extraterrestrials. When we do, we should have in place a co-ordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is ready-made mechanism for such co-ordination."

Professor Richard Crowther, of the UK space agency who leads delegations to the UN, said: "Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a 'take me to your leader' person".

-- Telegraph Group Ltd, passed along by Stan Walker.

Mazlan Othman gained her M.Sc. and PhD degrees at Otago University under the supervision of Professor Paul Edwards in the 1970s. She spoke at the RASNZ Conference in Dunedin in 1975 and maybe at others that the Editor has forgotten.

For more on phoning ET see http://www.economist.com/node/17199376

12. John Huchra

Prominent American astronomer Dr. John Peter Huchra died unexpectedly on October 8 at the age of 61. He was the Robert O. & Holly Thomis Doyle Professor of Cosmology and the Senior Advisor to the Provost for Research Policy at Harvard University.

Huchra received his BS from MIT and his PhD from Caltech before joining Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in 1976 as a CfA Fellow. He was a Smithsonian Astronomer from 1978 to 2005, when he became Harvard's Vice Provost for Research and Policy. He was the director of the Whipple Observatory from 1994 to 1998, and served as the Interim Director of the CfA in 2004.

He recently completed his term as president of the American Astronomical Society, and was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also served on the Decadal Survey Committee, which just released its report to help guide future investments by funding agencies in ground and space-based astronomical facilities.

Among his many accomplishments, John Huchra was perhaps best known for his leadership, with his collaborator Margaret Geller, of the CfA Redshift Survey -- a pioneering effort to map the large-scale structure of the universe. The Survey uncovered a 'Great Wall' of galaxies extending across 500 million light-years of space. This survey and others showed that we live in a 'soap bubble' universe with galaxies clustering as though on the surfaces of giant bubbles separated by huge voids.

Huchra made a number of other very important contributions to astronomy, including measurements of the Hubble constant and the discovery of Huchra's Lens, one of the most dramatic early examples of gravitational lensing.

A short autobiography of Huchra is available online: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~huchra/mapmaker.pdf -------- For more on the U.S. Decadal Survey see Sky & Telescope, November 2010, P.14. The survey report can be downloaded from www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12951

13. August 2010 AAO Observer

The August 2010 AAO Observer is now available at: http://www.aao.gov.au/library/news.html

This edition contains articles on the broad range of science undertaken with Australian Astronomical Observatory's facilities and items relevant to the work of the AAO's Instrumentation and Instrument Science groups. For example: - Andrew Hopkins presents The Galaxy And Mass Assembly (GAMA) survey first data release. - Quentin Parker introduces a bipolar Type I planetary nebula in an open cluster. - Richard Lane analyses dark matter content and testing gravity with dynamical mass-to-light ratios of globular clusters. - Nigel Douglas reminds us of the AAO roots of the Planetary Nebula Spectrograph on the William Herschel Telescope. - Rob Sharp introduces PCA sky subtraction for AAOmega data. - Simon Ellis introduces GNOSIS: an OH suppression spectrograph - the new HERMES project scientist, Gayandhi De Silva, updates us on HERMES news - Sarah Brough summarises the recent AAO conference: Celebrating the AAO: past, present, and future 23

We also include regular features such as the AusGO corner and news from Epping and Coonabarabran

-- note from Sarah Brough, AAO Newsletter Editor, circulated via the Astronomical Society of Australia

14. Historical Observatories -- Symposium Proceedings

William Tobin forwarded the following:

Cultural Heritage of Astronomical Observatories - From Classical Astronomy to Modern Astrophysics.

The proceedings of an international symposium devoted to historical observatories and their preservation is available as a free, downloadable PDF file (160 MB). The symposium was held in Hamburg in 2008 and sponsored by ICMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites. Observatories discussed include Algiers, Altona, Bucharest, Cape of Good Hope, Christiana, Hamburg, Istanbul, Kandilli, Kodaikanal, Konkoly, La Plata, Lisbon, Marseille, Nice, Ondfejov, Paris, Prague, Pulkovo, Stockholm, Strasbourg, Tartu, U.S. Naval and Vienna. Visit http://www.math.uni-hamburg.de/spag/ign/stw/Icomos09e.pdf

15. Star's Vibes Reveal Starspot Cycle

In a bid to unlock longstanding mysteries of the Sun, including the impacts on Earth of its 11-year cycle, an international team of scientists has successfully probed a distant star. By monitoring the star's sound waves, the team has observed a magnetic cycle analogous to the Sun's solar cycle.

The study, conducted by scientists at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and colleagues in France and Spain, is being published this week as a "Brevia" in Science.

The star is HD 49933, which is located 100 light-years from Earth in the constellation Monoceros, the Unicorn. The team examined the star's acoustic fluctuations, using a technique called "stellar seismology." They detected the signature of "starspots," areas of intense magnetic activity on the surface that are similar to sunspots. While scientists have previously observed these magnetic cycles in other stars, this was the first time they have discovered such a cycle using stellar seismology.

"Essentially, the star is ringing like a bell," says NCAR scientist Travis Metcalfe, a co-author of the new study. "As it moves through its starspot cycle, the tone and volume of the ringing changes in a very specific pattern, moving to higher tones with lower volume at the peak of its magnetic cycle."

The team hopes to assess the potential for other stars in our galaxy to host planets, including some perhaps capable of sustaining life. "Understanding the activity of stars harboring planets is necessary because magnetic conditions on the star's surface could influence the habitable zone, where life could develop," says CEA-Saclay scientist Rafael Garcia, the study's lead author.

Studying many stars with stellar seismology could help scientists better understand how magnetic activity cycles can differ from star to star, as well as the processes behind such cycles. The work could especially shed light on the magnetic processes that go on within the Sun, furthering our understanding of its influence on Earth's climate. It may also lead to better predictions of the solar cycle and resulting geomagnetic storms that can cause major disruption to power grids and communication networks.

The scientists examined 187 days of data captured by the international Convection Rotation and Planetary Transits (CoRoT) space mission. CoRoT is equipped with a 27-centimeter (11-inch) diameter telescope and a 4-CCD camera sensitive to tiny variations in the light intensity from stars.

HD 49933 is much bigger and hotter than the Sun, and its magnetic cycle is much shorter. Whereas past surveys of stars have found cycles similar to the 11-year cycle of the Sun, this star has a cycle of less than a year. The short cycle is important because it may enable observation of an entire cycle more quickly, thereby gleaning more information about magnetic patterns than if they could only observe part of a longer cycle.

It is planned to expand the observations by using other stars observed by CoRoT as well as data from NASA's Kepler mission. Kepler is seeking Earth- sized planets to survey. The mission will provide continuous data over three to five years from hundreds of stars that could be hosting planets. The more stars and complete magnetic cycles that are observed, the more the Sun can be put into context. More such data also allows studies the effect on magnetic activity on possible planets hosted by these stars.

-- from a press release by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

16. Potentially Habitable Exoplanet Found

A relatively nearby habitable planet has been found. It is three times to four the mass of Earth and orbits its star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the 'habitable zone', the distance where liquid water could exist on the planet's surface. This discovery was the result of more than a decade of observations using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, one of the world's largest optical telescopes.

To astronomers, a potentially habitable planet is one that could sustain life, not necessarily one where humans would thrive. Habitability depends on many factors, but having liquid water and an atmosphere are among the most important.

The new findings are based on 11 years of observations of the nearby red dwarf star Gliese 581 using the HIRES spectrometer on the Keck I Telescope. The spectrometer allows precise measurements of a star's radial velocity (its motion along the line of sight from Earth), which can reveal the presence of planets. The gravitational tug of an orbiting planet causes periodic changes in the radial velocity of the host star. Multiple planets induce complex wobbles in the star's motion, and astronomers use sophisticated analyses to detect planets and determine their orbits and masses.

The new planet designated Gliese 581g orbits its star in just under 37 days. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a definite surface (as compared to a gas giant planet) and enough gravity to hold on to an atmosphere. Gliese 581, located 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra, has two previously detected planets that lie at the edges of the habitable zone, one on the hot side (planet c) and one on the cold side (planet d). While some astronomers still think planet d may be habitable if it has a thick atmosphere with a strong greenhouse effect to warm it up, others are skeptical. The newly-discovered planet g, however, lies right in the middle of the habitable zone.

The planet is tidally locked to the star, meaning that one side is always facing the star and basking in perpetual daylight, while the side facing away from the star is in perpetual darkness. One effect of this is to stabilize the planet's surface climates, according to Vogt. The most habitable zone on the planet's surface would be the line between shadow and light, known as the terminator.

The team's new findings are reported in a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal and posted online at http://arxiv.org.

More information:

-- from a press release forwarded by Karen Pollard

17. Is Phobos a Chip Off Mars?

The origin of Mars's satellites Phobos and Deimos is a long-standing puzzle. It has been suggested that both moons could be asteroids that formed in the main asteroid belt and were then "captured" by Mars's gravity.

The latest evidence supports other scenarios. Material blasted off Mars's surface by a colliding space rock could have clumped together to form the Phobos moon. Alternatively, Phobos could have been formed from the remnants of an earlier moon destroyed by Mars's gravitational forces. However, this moon might itself have originated from material thrown into orbit from the Martian surface.

Previous observations of Phobos at visible and near-infrared wavelengths have been interpreted to suggest the possible presence of carbonaceous chondrites, found in meteorites that have crashed to Earth. This carbon- rich, rocky material, left over from the formation of the Solar System, is thought to originate in asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter.

But now data from the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft appear to make the asteroid capture scenario look less likely. Recent observations at thermal infrared wavelengths using the Planetary Fourier Spectrometer (PFS) instrument on Mars Express show a poor match between the rocks on Phobos and any class of chondritic meteorite known on Earth. This would seem to support the "re-accretion" models for the formation of Phobos, in which rocks from the surface of the Red Planet are blasted into Martian orbit to later clump and form Phobos.

Mars Express detected for the first time a type of mineral called phyllosilicates on the surface of Phobos, particularly in the areas northeast of Stickney, its largest impact crater. Phyllosilicate rocks are thought to form in the presence of water, and have been found previously on Mars. This implies the interaction of silicate materials with liquid water on the parent body prior to incorporation into Phobos.

Other observations of Phobos appear to match the types of minerals identified on the surface of Mars. Thus, the make-up of Phobos appears more closely related to Mars than to asteroids from the main belt. In addition researchers find that the asteroid-capture scenarios also have difficulties in explaining the current near-circular and near-equatorial orbit of both Martian moons.

The researchers also used Mars Express to obtain the most precise measurement yet of Phobos's density. It is significantly lower than the density of meteoritic material associated with asteroids, implying a sponge-like structure with voids making up 25%-45% in Phobos's interior. A highly porous asteroid would have probably not survived capture by Mars. Alternatively, such a highly porous structure on Phobos could have resulted from the re-accretion of rocky blocks in Mars's orbit.

Russia's robotic mission to Phobos, named Phobos-Grunt (grunt means ground, or earth, in Russian) to be launched in 2011, will investigate the moon's composition in more detail.

The study has been submitted for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Planetary and Space Science. It was presented at the 2010 European Planetary Science Congress in Rome.

--- from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11378762 pointed out by Pam Kilmartin.

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 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..

21. Here and There

Observatory 2010 June, Vol. 130 No. 1216

MIGHT OCCULT CAPELLA Titan revolves around Saturn, whose orbit is inclined at 26°44" to the ecliptic... -- Astronomy and Astrophysics Review vol. 17, 110, 2009

OF COURSE The inner 600 light years of our Galaxy is a harsh realm, drenched in radiation, powerful stellar winds, crashing shock waves and, of course, the 4.3 billion solar mass black hole. -- Astronomy Now, 2009 August, p.13.

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