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. Brian Marsden (1937-2010)
2. Total Lunar Eclipse on December 21
3. The Solar System in December
4. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations
5. Make Submissions on Urban Lighting
6. Stardate North Island
7. Stardate South Island
8. Springer Astronomy Journals - Free in November
9. Dunedin Astronomical Society's Centennial Celebrations
10. Robert H. Koch (1930-2010)
11. The Solar System in January
12. RASNZ Conference 2011
13. Allan Sandage (1926-2010)
14. Really Distant Galaxies
15. Mini Big Bangs Made at CERN
16. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
17. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
18. How to Join the RASNZ
19. Here and There
20. Next Newsletter - January

1. Brian Marsden (1937-2010)

Dan Green, Director of the IAU's Central Bureau made the following announcement in IAU Circular 9186 (2010 November 18):

BRIAN G. MARSDEN (1937-2010) It is with deep regret that we must announce the death today of Brian G. Marsden after a lengthy illness. He will be remembered as contributing much to celestial mechanics and the dynamics and orbits of minor bodies of the solar system and as having an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of astronomy. He was a dedicated servant to the astronomical community for many decades, serving as Director of the Central Bureau from 1968 to 2000 (and as Director Emeritus since then) and as Director of the Minor Planet Center from 1978 to 2006 (and as Director Emeritus since then). He also served extensively within Commissions 6 and 20 of the IAU over the years, being past President of both Commissions. And he was one of the most visible astronomers in the world over the years in terms of his generous availability to the news media on behalf of the astronomical community. -------------

Astronomers all over the world, including several in New Zealand, lost a great friend with the death of Dr Brian Marsden on November 18. As noted above, Brian was Director of the International Astronomical Union's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) from 1968 till 2000, then continued on as Director Emeritus. He was also Director of the Minor Planet Center (MPC) from 1978 till his retirement in 2006.

Brian used his directorships to encourage observers both amateur and professional. Having a lifetime interest in comets, he was particularly concerned at the lack of observers in the southern hemisphere, so greatly assisted anyone who contributed.

In 1973 Brian visited NZ to present, jointly with Dr Elizabeth ('Pat') Roemer, the Comet Medal of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific to Albert Jones. At that time Dr Roemer, at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, ran the only comet astrometry programme on large telesco pes in the world. She recovered several 'lost' comets using Brian's new calculations of their orbits.

When we began our astrometric programme at the Carter Observatory in the early 1970s, tracking southern comets and asteroids, Brian (and Pat) gave us much encouragement. He arranged for Alan to attend the Comet Colloquium at the Goddard Spaceflight Center in 1974. Around the same time he convinced Yale University Observatory's director that we would put one of their old measuring machines to good use.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Carter Observatory received telegrams and telexes from CBET and disseminated the information to astronomers around NZ. In our time at Carter we often sent information back the other way. Thus nova brightness estimates and other urgent variable star results from Albert Jones and others were sent to CBAT from Carter, so a close partnership developed. Graham Blow continued to act as go-between at Carter in the 1980s.

Much later, when Pam was made an IAU member, Brian immediately seconded her onto the Committee for Small Bodies Nomenclature (CSBN), as it is now called; the international panel that approves names for asteroids. Brian continued as Secretary of the CSBN till his death, sending out the last batch of name proposals only three weeks ago.

In the 1970s and 1980s the Carter Observatory received telegrams and cables from CBET and disseminated the information to astronomers around NZ. In our time at Carter we often sent information back the other way. Thus nova brightness estimates and other urgent variable star results from Albert Jones and others were sent to CBAT from Carter, so a close partnership developed. Graham Blow continued to act as go-between at Carter in the 1980s.

In later years Brian was particularly encouraging of the astrometric and other work being done by Auckland observers Grant Christie, Marc Bos, Jennie McCormick and Tim Natusch. He took time out on a tour of NZ with his wife Nancy in 2006 to meet the Auckland group.

-- Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin ----------------

A detailed account of Brian Marsden's life and scientific work written by MPC Associate Director Gareth Williams, who is also Brian's son-in-law, is found at

We also thank Roland Idaczyk for pointing out a tribute to Brian at

2. Total Lunar Eclipse on December 21

A total eclipse of the moon takes place on December 21. For most parts of New Zealand the total stage of the eclipse will have started before moonrise. Only from Auckland northwards will the moon rise just before totality begins. From about Timaru southwards, moonrise is not until after mid-eclipse.

Thus, throughout New Zealand the moon will, at best, be very low during the total stage. The total eclipse ends at 9.53 pm NZDT with the moon leaving the umbral shadow at 11.02 pm and the penumbra just over an hour later.

-- Brian Loader

3. The Solar System in December

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for December 2010 have been placed on the RASNZ web site:

The Southern Summer Solstice is on December 22, the Sun being furthest south just after midday, NZDT.

A total eclipse of the moon takes place on December 21, see Item 2.

The planets in december

The evening sky - MERCURY and MARS, JUPITER and URANUS.

Mercury starts December at its greatest elongation, 21 degrees east of the Sun and so is an evening object. Early in the month it will be readily visible low to the west. 45 minutes after sunset the planet will be about 9 degrees up at magnitude -0.4. It will be in a direction just over half way round from west to the southwest. Mars will be to the lower left of Mercury, at half the height.

Mercury remains a reasonably easy object to see for a few evenings. By the 10th it will be only 5 degrees up 45 minutes after sunset and almost a magnitude fainter. After the 10th it will rapidly get lower and dimmer so being lost to view. Mercury is at inferior conjunction with the Sun on December 20 when it overtake the Earth. Following conjunction Mercury will become a morning object, by the end of the year it will rise just over an hour before the Sun, but is likely to be too low in the twilight to observe.

On December 7 the very thin crescent moon, only 3% lit, will be less than 3 degrees to the lower left of Mercury. The planet will be about 8 degrees up 45 minutes after the Sun sets. As a result there will be a considerable amount of sky glow remaining. Binoculars will make locating moon and Mercury easier. Mars will be fainter and so a more difficult object to the left of the moon and a little lower.

Mars still sets after the sun in December but is likely to be too low in the twilight for observation. Early in the month it will be 5 degrees to the lower left of Mercury, so by locating that planet first, Mars should be visible in binoculars. Over subsequent evenings, Mars will get lower in the twilight and become unobservable. The presence of the moon on the 7th, a very thin crescent, may help locate Mars using binoculars. Mars will be to the left of the moon and a little lower.

When Mars and Mercury are at their closest, just over a degree apart, on the 13th, they will almost certainly be too low in the glow from the setting Sun to observe.

Jupiter remains easily visible in the in the evening sky throughout December, visible to the northwest soon after sunset. Uranus will be 3 degrees to the right of Jupiter on December 1, by the end of the month their separation will be less than 1 degree. With a magnitude 5.9, Uranus will be an easy binocular object. There will be a star slightly brighter than Uranus and to the upper left of the planet. Jupiter will pass the star at the end of December, on the 30th they will be less than 5 arc- minutes apart.

The moon, near first quarter, will be about 9 degrees to the lower left of Jupiter on December 9th and a rather similar distance to the lower right of the planet the following night.

The Morning Sky - VENUS and SATURN

Venus will be readily visible to the east in the dawn sky throughout December, at first quite low, but getting higher as the month progresses. It will start December in Virgo, 7 degrees to the lower right of Spica, the brightest star in the constellation. Venus will also be 16 degrees from Saturn, itself some 10 degrees to the left of Spica. Two mornings later, on the 3rd, the crescent moon will be 5 degrees to the upper right of Venus.

During December, Venus will move to the east through the stars taking it away from Spica and Saturn. By the morning of the 13th it will have moved into Libra. 10 days later the planet will be 3 degrees to the lower left of the close pair forming alpha Lib. The brighter star, is an easy naked eye object, magnitude 2.7. Its companion is nearly 4 arc-minutes away, at magnitude 5.2 it is best viewed in binoculars.

A few mornings later, on the 28th, Venus will be 5 degrees to the upper right of beta Lib which at magnitude 2.6 is very slightly brighter than α.

Saturn moves further up into the morning sky during December so becoming easier to see before the sky brightens from the rising Sun. All month it will be 9 to 10 degrees to the left of Spica, magnitude 1.1. Saturn will be slightly brighter at 0.8.

Saturn will rise just over 2 hours before the Sun on December 1 and just over 4 hours before by the 31st. At the beginning of the month, Venus will some 16 degrees to the lower right of Saturn, the brighter planet moving steadily further away during December.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9, is in Capricornus during December, starting the month less than 15 arc-minutes from the 5th magnitude star mu Cap. During the month, Neptune will slowly move to the east away from the star, their separation increasing to 45 arc-minutes by the 31st. 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 until the end of December with a magnitude 9.2 to 9.3. On December 1 it will be about 2.5 degrees from tau Sgr, magnitude 3.3. During the rest of the month it moves to the east across Sagittarius, crossing the small kite shaped asterism containing omega Sgr, mag 4.7, towards the end of December. On the 31st Ceres crosses into Caprcornus, but by then will set too soon after sunset for observations.

(4) Vesta is a morning object but will be too low in the dawn sky for observation.

(6) Hebe is in Cetus, magnitude fading from 9.1 to 9.5 during December.

(7) Iris brightens from 9.0 to 8.4 during the month. It is a morning object in Cancer, although rising soon after 10 pm on December 31. It will be about 20 degrees from each of the three stars Regulus, Procyon and Gemini.

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 is expected to fade from magnitude 7.2 to 9.9 during December. It starts the month in Puppis some 13 degrees from Sirius rising about 9.30 pm. The comet moves into Canis Major on the 21st and be rising well before sunset. It ends the month 8 degree east of Sirius,

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

-- Brian Loader

4. Murray Geddes Memorial Prize Nominations

Nominations are called for the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize 2011. The prize is awarded for contributions to astronomy in New Zealand. Normally the recipient is a resident of New Zealand. Nominations should be sent to the RASNZ Executive Secretary at the address below by 31January 2011. R O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

5. Make Submissions on Urban Lighting

One small step....

During 2008 the previous New Zealand government called for public submissions on a proposed Coastal Policy Statement. After a long period of consideration following the change of government, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 (NZCPS) has now been approved.

Submissions were made by the RASNZ DarkSkies Group and others to call for better protection of the night sky. Policy 13 recognises our concerns.

Policy 13 Preservation of natural character (1) To preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and to protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development: .... (2) Recognise that natural character is not the same as natural features and landscapes or amenity values and may include matters such as: (a) natural elements, processes and patterns; (b) biophysical, ecological, geological and geomorphological aspects; (c) natural landforms such as headlands, peninsulas, cliffs, dunes, wetlands, reefs, freshwater springs and surf breaks; (d) the natural movement of water and sediment; (e) the natural darkness of the night sky; (f) places or areas that are wild or scenic; (g) a range of natural character from pristine to modified; and (h) experiential attributes, including the sounds and smell of the sea; and their context or setting.

A copy of the statement is available from: coastal/coastal-management/nz-coastal-policy-statement-2010.pdf

This is an important development as, for perhaps the first time, the night environment is recognised in a New Zealand resource management policy. This NZCPS is to be applied as required by the Resource Management Act 1991 ("the Act") by persons exercising functions and powers under the Act. The Act itself should be consulted, but at the time of gazettal of this statement, its requirements in relation to this NZCPS are, in summary, that: * regional policy statements, regional plans and district plans must give effect to this NZCPS * local authorities must amend regional policy statements, proposed regional policy statements, plans, proposed plans, and variations to give effect to NZCPS provisions that affect these documents as soon as practicable, using the process set out in Schedule 1 of the Act except where this NZCPS directs otherwise; * a consent authority, when considering an application for a resource consent and any submissions received, must, subject to Part 2 of the Act, have regard to, amongst other things, any relevant provisions of this NZCPS;

....... leads to another.

The Ministry for Environment is calling for submissions on a new discussion document "Building Competitive Cities".

The Government wants New Zealand´s cities, towns and rural communities to better support the way we live, work and play. This discussion document presents options for improving New Zealand´s resource management regulations and processes. In particular, the options focus on improving the planning system for our urban areas and infrastructure. The discussion document seeks to: * improve our knowledge and understanding of the issues facing planning, urban design and infrastructure development in New Zealand * ensure that the options that have been identified address the right issues * seek input and views on the options for reform and their likely impacts and effectiveness compared to the status quo.

The Government´s final decisions will aim to achieve the following objectives: (amongst others) o provide greater central government direction on resource management o improve economic efficiency of implementation without compromising underlying environmental integrity....

The discussion document and a submission form can be downloaded from: discussion-document/index.html

Submissions close at 5:00pm on Friday 17 December 2010.

This is another opportunity to raise the issues of urban outdoor lighting especially the impacts from commercial and street lighting. I am happy to help if required.

-- Steve Butler, RASNZ DarkSkies Group. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

6. Stardate North Island

The following is from The Phoenix Astronomical Society's website: Stardate is an astronomical gathering for people who are interested in observing the stars through a variety of telescopes brought along by participants; people who like listening to interesting talks and participating in workshops; people who like good food and good company; people who are interested in diverse aspects of astronomy. By the way that includes children; Stardate is a family affair.

Where: Tukituki Valley, near Havelock North, Hawkes Bay When: 6th to 11th January 2011 For more see

7. Stardate South Island

Euan Mason writes: This year's Stardate South Island will be held at Staveley between February 4th and 7th 2011. We are still sorting out guests, speakers and so on and our website is incomplete, but if you are keen to register then here is the link:

8. Springer Astronomy Journals - Free in November

Springer is offering free access to its astronomy and astrophysics journals until November 30. For details, visit: SPR13274_V1-_-0

Of particular interest may be the issue of Experimental Astronomy devoted to the 400-year history of astronomical telescopes:

-- William Tobin

9. Dunedin Astronomical Society's Centennial Celebrations

Dunedin Astronomical Society was formed as the Otago Astronomical Society by a meting held in "The Chemistry Room" on Monday the 27th of September 1910. That makes 2010 the centennial year for the society and an excellent reason to celebrate. So we did.

We started by hosting the RASNZ conference. After a deal of work and what seemed like a long period of trepidation (due to wondering if anyone would actually come), we were rewarded with a well-attended and highly successful conference as the first main event on our centennial calendar.

We had hoped if possible to hold a centennial meeting in the same room as the original meeting. We thought we knew where that was, but being certain turned out to be harder than we had anticipated. After a lot of investigative work our original guess proved right: the Quad Four lecture theatre in the Geography block was indeed "The Chemistry Room" referred to in the records of the first meeting. Remember Monday the 27th of September 1910? Well, the 27th of September 2010 was a Monday also. That was just too good to pass up. We had a time and place so, we held a meeting.

The "Inaugural meeting of the second 100 years of the Dunedin Astronomical Society" was held in Quad Four in the Geography block at 8pm on Monday the 27th 2010, 100 years to the day after the meeting that formed the society. A welcome was given, apologies were read, the minutes of the previous meeting (100 years ago) were read and a motion taking them as a true and accurate record was passed.

Following the reading of the previous minutes two motions were put. The first honoured past officers of the society and was moved by Dale Watts, seconded Ash Pennell. The second honoured the relationship between the Otago Institute and DAS and was moved Lyn Taylor, seconded by Mike Broughton. Both motions were passed with acclimation.

David Hutchinson then introduced our guest speaker for the night: Grant Christie of Auckland's Stardome Observatory. Grant's talk concerning of the changes in our understanding of astronomy and the universe during the 100 years since the formation of our society was very well received.

The following weekend was the real focus of centennial activities. A bus excursion during Saturday afternoon visited the original site of Henry Skey's house and observatory, John Turnbull Thompson's (New Zealand's first surveyor general) home and observatory at Caversham (the initial point for surveying New Zealand) and Henry Skey's relocated 1860's wooden two story house in Leith Valley. We toured the house, had afternoon tea hosted by the current owners of the house (who are very much aware of its history), then headed to University of Otago to unveil a plaque commemorating the forming of the society and the construction of the society's first "telescope house". The trip finished back at the Beverly- Begg where people were invited to observe the observatory and view Venus through our new C14.

On Saturday evening we held the Centennial Dinner at the Dunedin Club ("Fernhill") where a grand three course dinner was followed by John Perriam talking of "Star Performances of the Sheep That Came in from the Cold" (Shrek).

Centennial events finished with a Historical and Astrophotography exhibition held over two weeks at the Beverly-Begg Observatory. The exhibition encompassed the Southland Astronomical Society's "An Eye on the Universe" touring exhibition, a collection of DAS members' astrophotography, and a collection of images and articles relating to the history of the society.

DAS to 100 years old and is going from strength to strength! We had hoped to gain 100 members for our centennial year. In the end we had 110! We attracted somewhat over 400 people through the exhibition and signed up even more new members. In all it's been a great centennial year.

-- Peter Jaquiery

10. Robert H. Koch (1930-2010)

It is with sadness that we report the passing of Robert H. Koch, an astronomer at the University of Pennsylvania. Bob Koch (pronounced `Cook´) was a photometric observer who was an expert on eclipsing binary stars. He took a personal interest in the development of Mt John University Observatory after arriving at Pennsylvania in 1967, just after the observatory at Tekapo was founded as a joint Pennsylvania-Canterbury institution.

In April 1981, Bob spent time in our department as an Erskine fellow, and his stimulating lectures on eclipsing binary stars are still remembered. He also interacted with our graduate students, most notably with David Buckley, who wrote an MSc thesis on eclipsing binaries, which Bob eventually examined. He said that at Penn, a thesis like David´s would normally be worth a PhD! He visited Mt John at this time, and schooled Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin on the art of photoelectric photometry of variable stars.

I met Bob first in 1979 at the Montreal IAU General Assembly, and from there I had an invitation to visit the astronomy department at the University of Pennsylvania immediately after the Montreal meeting. I did so with Bob as my host, and had the opportunity to visit his home on the outskirts of Philadelphia and also to see the Flower and Cook Observatory that was then operated by the University.

At that time, Canterbury was in possession of the 18-inch Brashear refractor, formerly installed in Pennsylvania at the Flower Observatory (since 1897), and destined to be one of the first telescopes erected at Mt John after it was sent here in 1963. In the event it has remained in storage in NZ for nearly fifty years, and during much of this time Bob Koch was an enthusiastic supporter of the plan that we should find a permanent home for it in a museum or with an astronomical society, so that this famous old telescope could once again be put to use. My most recent email from him was in February this year, when he expressed pleasure that a solution for the Brashear telescope might at last be within sight. The plan is to erect it on the shores of Lake Tekapo, in a facility to be run by Earth and Sky for public outreach.

Sadly Bob did not live long enough to see our dreams for the Brashear telescope realized. He passed away on 11 October as a result of a brain tumor. He will be missed as a friend, distinguished astronomer and as one of Mt John´s most ardent supporters.

-- John Hearnshaw

11. The Solar System in January

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for January 2011 should be in place on the RASNZ web site shortly: Notes for February 2011 will be available during December.

The Earth is at perihelion on January 4, NZDT, .983 AU, 147.1 million km from the Sun.

A partial eclipse of the Sun also occurs on January 4, but will not be seen in New Zealand. The eclipse is visible from most of Europe, except the extreme north where the Sun does not rise at this time of year. It is also visible from north Africa and western parts of Asia. At its greatest in north Sweden nearly 86% of the Sun's diameter will be eclipsed.

The central axis of the eclipse misses the Earth's surface by 510km. Not surprisingly, with the Earth at its closest to the Sun, this eclipse would be annular if it made contact with the Earth's surface.

The planets in january

The evening sky - MARS, JUPITER and URANUS.

Mars sets just after the Sun in January, but will be too close to the Sun to observe, 8 degrees distant on the 1st and only 1.5 degrees on the 31st.

Jupiter will set a little after midnight at the beginning of January and nearly an hour before at the end of the month. Hence it will remain easily visible in the early evening, although getting low after sunset by the 31st. The planet will be in Pisces.

The third and last of the series of conjunctions with URANUS takes place on the 4th, the fainter planet will be half a degree below Jupiter in the evening sky. The 5.5 magnitude star, 20 Psc, will be slightly further away to Jupiter´s left. By the end of January, Jupiter will have moved to be nearly 4 degrees from Uranus.

The 31% lit Moon will be 7 degrees below the two planets on the 10th.

The Morning Sky - MERCURY, VENUS and SATURN

Mercury, in the morning sky, is likely to be too low in the dawn sky early in January to see, but by mid month it will rise nearly 100 minutes before the Sun. With a magnitude -0.2, the planet will then be about 9 degrees up, 45 minutes before sunrise in a direction half way between east and southeast. So it should then be fairly easily visible to early risers. During the rest of the month, the planet will get a little lower at the same time before sunrise.

During January, Mercury will be between 25 and 30 degrees to the lower right of Venus as seen in the morning sky. On the 3rd, a very thin crescent moon, just under 3% lit, will be 3.5 degrees to the right of Mercury.

Venus will be 25 to 30 degrees up and almost due east shortly before sunrise during January, making it a very prominent object. On the morning of the 1st the 14% lit moon will be just over 6 degrees to the upper right of Venus: the two will meet again at the end of the month, with the 18% lit moon 5.5 degrees above the planet on the 30th and 7.5 degrees to it lower right the next morning, now 11% lit.

Venus starts the year in Libra, moves across a narrow portion of Scorpius between the 10th and 15th, when it will cross into Ophiuchus.

SATURN will rise about midnight by the end of January, so will be well up
into the morning sky before sunrise.   The planet is in Virgo, about 8.5
degrees to the left of Spica as seen in the morning sky.   The planet is
stationary on January 27, so shows little movement throughout the month.

The moon, 71% lit, will be 10 degrees to the upper left of Saturn on the 25th and the next morning 10 degrees to the upper right of the planet, now 60% lit.

Neptune, magnitude 7.9, will set nearly two and a half hours after the Sun at the beginning of January but only 45 minutes later than the Sun by the end of the month. It is in Capricornus most of January, crossing into Aquarius on the 24th.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Capricornus but sets only 90 minutes after the Sun at the beginning of January, the interval getting less through the month. So it is not likely to be observable.

(4) Vesta, magnitude 7.9, is a morning object starting the month close to Mercury. On the morning of the 3rd Vesta will be 7 degrees to the left of the crescent moon and 4 degrees to the upper left of Mercury. By late January, Vesta will be nearer Venus, on the 31st 6 degrees to the lower right of the planet and also just over 2 degrees to the left of the crescent moon.

(7) Iris brightens from magnitude 8.3 on January 1 to an opposition magnitude of 7.9 on January 24. Being at opposition it will be visible most of the night. The asteroid is in Cancer, some 17 degrees from Procyon on January 1 and 11 degrees from the star by January 31.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2011

-- Brian Loader

12. RASNZ Conference 2011

The RASNZ is pleased to remind everyone again 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. This ranges from backpackers through to top-notch hotel accommodation. Some suggestions are available by referring to:

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 Thursday, and into Friday morning, and the Photographic Workshop with David Malin 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. The titles of their talks will be listed on the RASNZ Webpage in due course.

The Standing Conference Committee is now calling for papers. We invite members and prospective attendees to consider giving a paper and/or poster-paper, and 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.. Or better still - please go to the RASNZ Webpage (, and complete and email back the appropriate form for consideration by the Committee.

We hope to see many of you at Conference. This far out, good travel discounts are available for those using public transport. The Conference Registration form will be available late November/early December, both in hard copy form and on the RASNZ Webpage.

We also wish to acknowledge Matariki Wines, Holt Planetaruim and Astronomy Adventures as sponsors to date of the 2011 RASNZ Conference. As with any Conference of the nature of ours, costs are skyrocketing, GST has increased and we have no control over these added costs. So every little bit of sponsorship helps. Having researched the costs of some other conferences attended by primarily amateurs in their fields, I can say without doubt that the RASNZ Conference delivers outstanding value for money.

Further information about Conference is available on the RASNZ Webpage

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

13. Allan Sandage (1926-2010)

Allan R. Sandage, Edwin Hubble´s former observing assistant and one of the most prominent astronomers of the last century, died November 13, 2010. Born in Iowa City, Iowa, June 18, 1926, Allan Sandage grew up to define the fields of observational cosmology and extragalactic astronomy.

He received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology in 1953, where he was the famous astronomer Walter Baade´s student in stellar evolution. During the early 1950s he served as Edwin Hubble´s observing assistant at the Mount Wilson and Palomar Observatories. Hubble, for whom the space telescope is named, discovered that the universe is larger than the Milky Way and that it is expanding.

Sandage joined the staff of the Carnegie Observatories in 1952 and, after Hubble´s death in 1953, Sandage became responsible for the cosmology program using telescopes at Mount Wilson and Palomar. His programmes centred on the recalibration of Hubble's extragalactic distance scale and combining discoveries in stellar evolution with observational cosmology. He continued this research for six decades.

Early discoveries at Palomar showed that Hubble's distances to galaxies
were progressively incorrect, starting with Baade's finding in 1950 that
Hubble's measured distance to the Andromeda Nebula, M31, was too small by
a factor of about two. Sandage, first alone and later with G.A. Tammann
professor of astronomy at the University of Basel, carried the corrections
progressively outward. This work indicated that by the time we reach the
nearest cluster of galaxies in Virgo, the correction to Hubble's scale is
close to a factor of 10. From 1988, Sandage and Tammann led a consortium
using the Hubble Space Telescope to determine distances to parent galaxies
that have produced type Ia supernovae, shown earlier to be one of the best
standard candles in luminosity known.

Sandage's other early research in observational stellar evolution led to a method developed in 1952 with Martin Schwarzschild of age-dating the stars from the luminosity turn-off from the main sequence of evolving stars in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. This method, improved over the years from theoretical calculations of stellar structure by many astronomers, remains the principal method of age dating.

Sandage´s prolific work yielded many honorary degrees and prestigious awards. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and sons David and John.

-- from a synthesis of and both kindly pointed out by Roland Idaczyk.

14. Really Distant Galaxies

The following is from a job advertisement for Australian Research Council Super Science Fellows at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy. The research outline was interesting in itself:

As a Super Science Fellow, the focus of your work will be on science revealed with the GNOSIS OH suppression infrared spectrograph that sees first light on the AAT [Australian Astronomical Telescope, formerly the Anglo-Australian Telescope] in early 2011 ahead of being moved to an 8m telescope in 2012-3. This machine will allow the deepest spectroscopic observations of sources out to z~7 and beyond. A related project currently under development is the multi-object integral field spectrograph (FIREBALL) being developed for the AAT prior to being moved to an 8m telescope. Our particular focus will be on how gas gets into galaxies and how feedback processes affect this process over time, although the Super Science Fellow will be at liberty to tailor this project to their own interests. -------------- At red-shift z ~ 7 the universe is around 800 million years old. Light from an object at that distance has been travelling for around 12.9 billion years.

15. Mini Big Bangs Made at CERN

In the past month scientists working on CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland have been studying a piece of the Universe as it would have been just moments after the Big Bang. This has been done by accelerating and smashing together lead nuclei at the highest possible energies. The collisions make incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs to recreate the fundamental particles that existed in the first few microseconds after the Big Bang.

The tiny fireballs exist for a fleeting moment (less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second) at temperatures over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.

This allows the study a tiny piece of what the universe was made of just a millionth of a second after the Big Bang. At the temperatures generated even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a Quark-Gluon Plasma. By studying this quark-gluon plasma, physicists hope to learn more about the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, which not only binds the nuclei of atoms together but is responsible for 98% of their mass.

The 10,000 ton ALICE experiment has been specifically designed to study the extreme conditions produced in these lead collisions. ALICE is one of the four main experiments at the LHC designed to study the physics from ultra-high energy proton-proton and lead-lead interactions.

ALICE utilizes state-of-the-art technology including high precision systems for the detection and tracking of subatomic particles, ultra-miniaturized systems for the processing of electronic signals, and a worldwide distribution network of the computing resources for data analysis (the GRID). Many of these technological developments have direct implications to everyday life such as medical imaging, microelectronics and information technology.

-- adapted from a U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

16. 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 R. O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

17. 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, R. O´Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

18. 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..

19. Here and There

ALL THE PLANETS?! Lostock is the ideal location because it is "very dark" and free from pollution unlike city and suburban areas, Mr Salway said. "In Lostock we will be able to see star clusters, nebulae and all the planets of our galaxy," he said.

-- Newcastle Herald, 8 October 2010, p.5, passed along by Dave Gault.

20. Next Newsletter - January

The next Newsletter will be published around January 20. Seasons greetings to all our readers.

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