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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. Fifty New Exoplanets Announced
2. The Solar System in October
3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition - Closes 23rd
4. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend
5. NACAA 2012 Update
6. Third International Starlight Conference
7. Light Pollution in Christchurch and Wellington
8. Comet Elinin C/2010 X1 Breaks Up
9. James Webb Space Telescope Appeal
10. Gold in Them There Merging Neutron Stars
11. A Diamond Planet?
12. Earth and Moon Imaged from Juno
13. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. Rugby Geniuses

1. Fifty New Exoplanets Announced

Astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have announced the discovery of more than 50 new exoplanets. Sixteen of them are 'super Earths' or planets a few times Earth's mass. One of them is 3.6 times Earth's mass and on the edge of the habitable zone of its star, the distance where the planet's temperature could allow liquid water. The group have also found that about 40% of stars similar to the Sun have at least one planet lighter than Saturn. And the majority of exoplanets of Neptune mass or less appear to be in systems with multiple planets. These conclusions are from an analysis of HARPS observations of 376 Sun-like stars.

In the eight years since it started surveying stars like the Sun using the radial velocity technique HARPS has been used to discover more than 150 new planets. About two thirds of all the known exoplanets with masses less than that of Neptune -- 17 times the Earth's mass -- were discovered by HARPS. These results are the fruit of several hundred nights of HARPS observations.

With upgrades to both hardware and software systems in progress, HARPS is being pushed to the next level of stability and sensitivity to search for rocky planets that could support life. Ten nearby stars similar to the Sun were selected for a new survey. These stars had already been observed by HARPS and are known to be suitable for extremely precise radial velocity measurements. After two years of work, the team of astronomers has discovered five new planets with masses less than five times that of Earth. These planets will be among the best targets for future space telescopes to look for signs of life in the planet's atmosphere by looking for chemical signatures such as evidence of oxygen.

The increasing precision of the new HARPS survey now allows the detection of planets under two Earth masses. HARPS is now so sensitive that it can detect radial velocity amplitudes of significantly less than 4 kph (1m/s) -- less than walking speed.

These results make astronomers confident that they are close to discovering other small rocky habitable planets around stars similar to our Sun. New instruments are planned to further this search. These include a copy of HARPS to be installed on the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo in the Canary Islands, to survey stars in the northern sky, as well as a new and more powerful planet-finder, called ESPRESSO, to be installed on ESO's Very Large Telescope in 2016. Looking further into the future also the CODEX instrument on the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) will push this technique to a higher level.

For more in text, image, and video see: http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1134/

-- from a European Southern Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

2. The Solar System in October

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for October 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Oct_11.htm. Notes for November 2011 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in october

Mercury and Venus become a close pair of planets visible in the early evening sky during the second half of the month.

Jupiter rises at sunset by the end of October so will be easily visible late evening as well as in the dawn sky early in the month. Mars remains a morning object to the northeast in the early dawn sky.

Saturn is at conjunction with the Sun on October 14 (NZDT) so is not observable throughout the month.

Early evening sky - venus and mercury

Venus´s elongation from the Sun increases during October: it will set about an hour after the Sun on October 1 and one-and-three-quarter hours after it by the end of the month.

As it moves a little higher into the evening sky during the month Venus will pass a couple of bright stars. The first and brighter is Spica on the 4th and 5th. The two are closest, just under 3° apart, on the 4th, with Spica to the upper left of Venus. The following evening the two will be level but a shade further apart. Half an hour after sunset they will be about 5° above the horizon.

Later in the month, Venus will pass the wide double alpha Lib. At their closest on the 21st the two will be less than 15 arc-minutes apart, shortly before they set in NZ. Venus will be to the left of the star. But by the 21st Venus will have a companion planet.

Following its conjunction at the end of September, Mercury will emerge from the glare of the Sun into the evening sky by mid October. As it emerges from the Sun, Mercury will pass Saturn on the 6th and 7th but they will be too low in the twilight to see. By mid October when it is likely to become visible, Mercury will be some 4° below Venus, but will gradually catch up with it during the second part of the month.

Mercury passes alpha Lib on the 23rd, when the planet will be just over 1.5° to the upper left of the star. At magnitude -0.4, Mercury will be much the brighter. Venus will be less than 3° to the upper right of Mercury, so the 3 will easily be in a binocular field. By the end of the month the two planets will be just about level, Mercury 2° to the left of Venus.

On the 28th the two planets will be joined by the crescent moon only 3% lit. The moon will be just above the two planets, again the three easily in a binocular field. Earlier in the afternoon the moon will occult Mercury as seen from NZ, an event which may be visible in a moderate sized telescope. But care would be needed in any attempt at viewing, as they will be only 18° from the Sun.

Jupiter is at opposition on October 29, so will be readily observable in the late evening as well as the morning sky, although very low at sunrise by the month´s end. The planet will be in Aries, some 10° or so from the 2nd magnitude alpha and beta Ari, the brightest stars of the constellation. One the other side of Jupiter, the 2.5 magnitude star alpha Ceti will be a little further away.

On the night of October 13/14 the 88% lit moon will be just under 6° from Jupiter. At midnight the two will be to the northeast with the moon to the left of and a little lower than the planet. By the morning of the 14th, before sunrise, the pair will be to the northwest, the rotation of the sky bringing the moon almost directly below Jupiter.

Morning sky

Mars rises in the morning a little over 2 hours before the Sun. So it remains best observed 45 minutes or more before sunrise when it will rather low to the northeast. Mars brightens slightly during October from magnitude 1.3 to 1.1.

The planet starts the month in Cancer on the edge of the Praesepe (Beehive) star cluster, M44. Over the following two mornings it will cross the cluster. Mars will be near the centre of Praesepe on the morning of the 2nd. The best views will be obtained through binoculars when the degree wide cluster will be seen peppered with 6th to 8th magnitude stars.

Mars will move on into Leo on the 20th heading in the direction of Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation. On the morning of the 22nd, the 33% lit moon will be just over 5° above Mars.


Uranus rises before sunset in October so will be suitably placed for viewing in the evening after the sky is dark. It will be in Pisces about 20° from the brightest star in Cetus, alpha Cet magnitude 2.0. It will also be 36° from Jupiter.

Neptune is in Aquarius during October at magnitude 7.8. It rises some hours before sunset so is well placed for viewing during the evening. It is about as far ahead of Uranus as Uranus is from Jupiter.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres, like Neptune, is in Aquarius and will also be well placed for viewing during the evening. It dims a little during the month from magnitude 7.8 to 8.3.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus starting the month half a degree from the 4th magnitude star psi Cap. The two are closest as seen from NZ on the nights of October 5 and 6 when they are about 5 arc-minutes apart. During October, Vesta fades from magnitude 6.9 to 7.5.

(15) Eunomia will brighten from magnitude 8.9 to 8.4 during October. It will then be in Perseus and move little during the month. With a declination of +37° to +38° it will remain low in New Zealand skies. Eunomia is stationary on October 16, after which will move in a retrograde sense to the west in Perseus.

(29) Amphitrite brightens to magnitude 8.9 at the end of October. It will be in Aries, some 7° from Hamal and 11° from Jupiter on the 31st.

(1036) Ganymed brightens to magnitude 9.0 at the beginning of October and to magnitude 8.3 when at opposition on the 29th, the same day as Jupiter. At the beginning of the month Ganymed will be in Andromeda, only rising in the North Island. During October the asteroid moves almost due south, crossing Triangulum from October 12 to 19 and then moving into Aries. It will be just under 1° to the left of Hamal, alpha Ari mag 2.0, on the 21st and close to Jupiter when at opposition. The planet and asteroid are closest on the 31st, with the asteroid just over 1° to the left of the planet in the evening sky.

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

Comets:

C/2009 P1 (Garradd) is expected to be at about magnitude 8 during October. It will be slowly moving to the west in Hercules during October. The comet will be set just before midnight NZDT, at the beginning of October, and by 9.30 pm at the end of the month. So particularly by late October it will be very low in southern skies.

Further details and charts for the two comets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to Comets 2011.

-- Brian Loader

3. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition - Closes 23rd

Jennie McCormick reminds astrophotographers that the Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition closing date is fast approaching - Friday 23rd September 2011.

There are 4 categories in this year's competition: Deep Space, Solar System, Artistic/Miscellaneous, Scientific.

You can download your entry form and competition details from the Auckland Astronomical Society Website. http://www.astronomy.org.nz Winners will be announced at the Burbidge Dinner in Auckland late October, 2011 (date yet to be advised) Competition closing date - Friday 23rd September 2011.

Please send your entries by email (max 2MB per email) or copied onto CDROM/USB memory stick and posted with accompanying Entry Forms to; 2011 Harry William's Astrophotography Competition Postal Delivery Address: 2/24 Rapallo Place, Farm Cove, Pakuranga, Auckland 2012. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Header: 2011 HW Astrophotography Competition

4. Gissy Gathering - Labour Weekend

John Drummond plans to hold another Gissy Gathering in October from Thursday 20th (Hawkes Bay Anniversary is on Friday) until Monday 24th (Labour Day) - people are welcome to leave Tuesday morning though.

This is like a micro-Stardate where there is imaging and observing at night and discussions about imaging/astronomy during the day using a data projector. The site offers a dark sky with a shop and pub down the road. There are number of telescopes to use for imaging - or to piggyback cameras on.

There is two acres for tenting and some sofas/floor space in the house for sleeping. The weekend costs $5 per person, per night to cover power and water. BYO food and drink.

If you want a fun, relaxing long-weekend observing with fellow astronomers then come along!!!

If you are keen on coming please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . His home number is (06) 8627 557 and mobile is 0275 609 287.

There is a webpage about the weekend at - http://www.possumobservatory.co.nz/gissy_gathering-2011.htm

5. NACAA 2012 Update

Steve Russell writes: NACAA has had some technical problems with its web site. They have unfortunately coincided with our mail-out of Bulletin 1, which asked you to register your interest in attending NACAA 2012 via our broken web site. Oops. Apologies for any inconvenience that this may have caused you.

The problems have been circumvented (for now), so if you would like to let us know that you are coming, please fill in the form at http://www.nacaa.org.au/2012/interested.

Please encourage all of your friends or colleagues who might be thinking of attending NACAA XXV to fill in the form too. This will help us expand our mailing list so that everyone will receive updates as they happen.

In case you are wondering, the Call For Presentations should be coming out in the next week or so. At this stage, the Programme Committee is particularly interested in receiving proposals for workshops, round-tables, or other major meetings. If you have something like this in mind, let us know soon to assist our planning. ---------- For more information see http://www.nacaa.org.au Email enquiries to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or write to P.O. Box 188, Plumpton, NSW 2761.

6. Third International Starlight Conference

The Third International Starlight Conference, subtitled "in defence of the quality of the night sky and the right to observe the stars" will be held on 11, 12 and 13 June 2012 at Lake Tekapo.

The conference will be the third in a series, following meetings in La Palma in April 2007 and on Fuerteventura in March 2009. It will address themes concerning o the defence of the quality of the night sky, o the right to observe the stars, the heritage of starlight, o the issues of light pollution, the protection of observatory sites, o the benefits of public outreach in astronomy and o the cultural aspects of visual astronomy. We will also discuss the concept, implementation and benefits of Starlight Reserves as a means of protecting the night sky, and the progress towards such reserves made in the document entitled "Heritage sites of astronomy and archaeoastronomy in the context of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention: a Thematic Study", which was produced under the aegis of the IAU (International Astronomical Union) and ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), with Clive Rugles and Michel Cotte as editors. The Thematic Study was presented to the World Heritage Convention in Brasilia in July 2010

In addition, several radio astronomers have pointed out that the issues of radio-frequency interference have much in common with issues of light pollution. We will therefore expand the topics under discussion to RFI and the development of radio-astronomy in New Zealand, especially the selection of radio-quiet sites. This is topical as New Zealand may participate with Australia in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio- astronomy project.

For more information see www.starlight2012.org

7. Light Pollution in Christchurch and Wellington

Christchurch's White Lights of Hope have not met with universal acclamation. This copy-cat idea -- see New York -- was instigated by Janine Morell-Gunn, of Whitebait-TV. The following paragraphs are a compilation of opinions posted to the nzastronomers Yahoo! group.

Semi-permanent xenon lights will range around Christchurch's sky every night till 23 February. So any attempt to do astrophotography near Christchurch is now out of the question. Surprisingly there is no push to have them turned off at midnight, or have them on once a week, etc.

This type of thing has set a precedent for much more light pollution in NZ. How many other centres will think something like this is a good idea and have lights on all the time? (Well, Wellington for a start. See below.)

There are complaints about green lasers being pointed at aircraft, yet these lights are allowed to go over all the sky. One would expect that the glare seen from the air would be as dangerous as a laser. Christchurch was quick to adopt Earth Hour as a symbol to save power. All these lights do is waste power and cause massive light pollution. The government has TV adverts asking people to save energy. Meanwhile the Christchurch council allowing it to be wasted on projects like this.

Westpac is said to be paying for the energy wasted by the lights. But who really pays? You and I do indirectly through higher bank fees, etc. Nothing like this is free. You pay for it one way or another.

And Wellington is into this as well. The Carter Observatory has had a clear sky ruined by a searchlight at the waterfront pointing its light over the observatory. And worse has followed if the promise in this press release from Victoria University has been fulfilled:

"This Saturday the night sky over Wellington will come alive with lights being beamed across the city. Victoria University has teamed up with key supporters to present 'Lights over Victoria', a project designed to shine lights over Wellington during the months of September and October.

High-powered beams will be projected from a building at each of Victoria's Kelburn, Te Aro and Pipitea campuses and will converge over the CBD.

We are proud of our capital city location and this light show will contribute to the amazing atmosphere that will grip the city during the exciting sporting and cultural events planned for that time, says Andrew Simpson, Chief Operating Officer.

Fuji Xerox, Dimension Data, EMC, Mainzeal, Downer and NEC Business Solutions have come on board to sponsor what they regard as a unique chance to work with a key client Victoria University to shine a light on the city of Wellington.

The lights will be on each evening from 10 September until 23 October."

---------------- For more comment, and a chance to air your views on this wastage and pollution, see http://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Light-Pollution-in-New-Zealand/213022928755587

-- thanks to the several nzastronomers contributors whose original comments have been somewhat edited and re-ordered above.

8. Comet Elenin C/2010 X1 Breaks Up

For some reason internet cranks latched onto Comet Elenin C/2010 X1 and made dire predictions of its effect on Earth when it passed by in October. Among other claims were that was a brown dwarf star and that it would block out the sun for three days. For a selection of fearful questions, and answers by people at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-255

Ironically the comet has broken up so is unlikely to even be visible in October. On August 31 Dan Green of the IAU's Central Bureau reported in CBET 2801 that observations by Michael Mattiazzo of Castlemaine, Victoria, showed the comet to be disintegrating. This followed a notable fading of the comet from August 17 to 22 and the comet becoming dispersed in CCD images. An image taken by Mattiazzo on August 27.37 UT showed the nuclear condensation spread out into an elongated, diffuse smudge, reminiscent of comet C/1999 S4. Robert McNaught confirmed this appearance on images taken with the Uppsala Schmidt telescope at Siding Spring, noting that there is absolutely no condensation visible, making astrometry very difficult.

Many comets have been seen to disintegrate in this way. The 'dirty snowball' that is the solid part of the comet simply breaks into pieces that evaporate away. From its faintness it was apparent that Comet Elinin had a small nucleus in the first place, estimated at 3-5 km across.

L. Elenin of Lyubertsy, Russia, has since discovered periodic comet P/2011 No1. It was initially filed as an asteroid before a slight fuzz around it was noticed. P/2011 No1 circles the sun in 13 years. It was discovered remotely with 0.45-m f/2.8 astrograph at the ISON-NM Observatory, Mayhill, USA.

-- Thanks to Karen Pollard for passing along the NASA JPL link. ----------------- A depressing sample of internet conspiracy delusion can be heard at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0Ydmin8Lp8&feature=share As well as the late Comet Elenin something called Nobiru is headed our way intent on our doom. As if the Mayan calendar and the global economy weren't enough to worry about...

9. James Webb Space Telescope Appeal

The following letter was circulated to US scientists and is probably not intended for action by Australasian readers. However it gives an idea of how imperilled is the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope. ----------------- Dear Colleague:

I am writing you as Department Chair or unit Director of one of the nation's Astronomy or Physics and Astronomy Departments with the request to distribute the attached information on your campus or institution. If you are no long chairing your unit, would you please forward it to the appropriate person, or distribute it independently?

As you probably know, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has been under considerable pressure recently, with the US House of Representatives canceling its Fy12 funding. More than 75% of JWST's launch mass has been procured or constructed to date, and there are no technological show-stoppers to finish the project. As NASA's next Flagship mission, JWST is a unique science mission and is a worthy successor to NASA's Great Observatories like Hubble and Spitzer, with very significant scientific promise ranging from exoplanets to the epoch of the first stars. At the time of the JWST launch in 2018, Spitzer will be gone, and HST and Chandra will be approaching the very end of their lives. JWST will be the primary tool in space to sustain a flow of discoveries and support to the astronomical community, and inspire students and science in the nation for decades to come.

Mike Turner's recent Editorial in Science shows how broad the support is for JWST outside astronomy. Quoting him: "Following in the footsteps of the Hubble, the Webb Telescope will awe us with its discoveries about our place in the universe. Although the United States has key international partners (Canada and the European Space Agency are contributing close to a billion dollars in total to the Webb Telescope), and the capabilities of other nations in space are on the rise, at present only the United States can carry out an undertaking this ambitious. The Webb Telescope is more than an instrument of scientific discovery -- it is a powerful symbol of U.S. leadership in science and space. Terminating it now would save a few billion dollars, but would be both wasteful and short-sighted. By restoring funding for the Webb in this difficult budgetary time, Congress can let the world know that the United States still has the vision and audacity to do things that inspire both the nation and the world."

The JWST project management issues that surfaced this last year have been reviewed by a number of independent teams, resulting in bottom-up cost estimates to finish the project. A viable plan has been put forward by NASA HQ to move JWST to the launchpad, while finding ways to carry out other priorities set in previous Decadal surveys. The Executive Branch is currently considering this plan, and Congress will take it up in early Fall.

I personally believe that not finishing JWST would be an unmitigated disaster for astronomy and astrophysics in the US and worldwide, that will reverberate in our field for decades to come. I would be honored for you to join me in weighing in on JWST's behalf.

More information about JWST can be found on the following web-site: http://www.aura-astronomy.org/news/news.asp?newsID=264

In case you wish to speak up more specifically on behalf of JWST's future, I will send a separate Email from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The views expressed here are my personal ones and not meant to suggest or imply any opinion or position of the University. My sincere thanks for distributing this amongst your colleagues, and your campus or institution.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Rogier A. Windhorst, Regents' and Foundation Professor, JWST Interdisciplinary Scientist, School of Earth & Space Exploration, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

-- forwarded by Karen Pollard

10. Gold in Them There Merging Neutron Stars

Heavy elements such as gold and lead may come from the merging of neutron stars. That is a conclusion from detailed numerical simulations by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPA) and affiliated to the Excellence Cluster Universe and of the Free University of Brussels (ULB).

Most heavy chemical elements are formed in nuclear fusion reactions in stars. In the centre of our Sun, hydrogen is 'burned' to create helium, thereby releasing energy. Heavier elements are then produced from helium if the star is more massive than our Sun. This process, however, only works up to iron; further fusion reactions do not yield any net energy gain. Therefore heavier elements cannot be produced in this fashion. Instead, they can be assembled when neutrons are captured onto 'seed' nuclei, which then decay radioactively.

This involves two main processes: the slow neutron capture (s-process), which takes place at low neutron densities inside stars during their late evolution stages, and the rapid neutron capture (r-process), which needs very high neutron densities. Physicists know that the r-process is responsible for producing a large fraction of the elements much heavier than iron, those with nuclear mass numbers (A) greater than 80, including platinum, gold, thorium, and plutonium. However, the question of which astrophysical objects can accommodate the r-process remains to be answered. The most popular idea has been that they originate from supernova explosions that end the lives of massive stars. But newer models do not support this idea.

Violent mergers of neutron stars in binary systems offer an alternative scenario. The two neutron stars, each itself the result of a supernova explosion, collide after millions of years of spiralling towards each other. For the first time, scientists at the MPA and the ULB have now simulated all stages of the processes occurring in such mergers by detailed computer models.

This includes both the evolution of the neutron star matter during the relativistic cosmic crashes and the formation of chemical elements in the tiny fraction of the whole matter that gets ejected during such events. That involves the nuclear reactions of more than 5,000 atomic nuclei; chemical elements and their isotopes.

In a fraction of a second after the merger of the two neutron stars, tidal and pressure forces eject extremely hot matter equivalent to several Jupiter masses. Once this so-called plasma has cooled to less than 10 billion degrees a multitude of nuclear reactions take place. These include radioactive decays that produce heavy elements. The heavy elements are 'recycled' several times in various reaction chains involving the fission of super-heavy nuclei. So the final abundance distribution is largely insensitive to the initial conditions provided by the merger model.

This agrees well with previous speculations that the reaction properties of the atomic nuclei involved should be the decisive determining factor. It is the most natural explanation for the essentially identical abundances of the heaviest r-process elements observed in many old stars and in our solar system.

The simulations showed that the abundance distribution of the heaviest elements, A > 140, agrees very well with the abundances observed in our solar system. Combining this with the estimated number of neutron star collisions in the Milky Way in the past indicates that such events could in fact be the main sources of the heaviest chemical elements in the Universe. The team plans now to conduct new studies to further improve the theoretical predictions by refined computer simulations that can follow the physical processes in even more detail.

In the meantime observational astronomers should watch for the transient celestial sources associated with neutron star mergers. The ejecta heated by radioactive decay will shine with almost the brightness of a supernova explosion -- albeit only for a few days. Such a discovery would mean the first observational hint of freshly produced r-process elements at the source of their origin. The hunt is on!

For text and mages see: http://www.mpa-garching.mpg.de/mpa/institute/news_archives/news1109_janka/news1109_janka-en.html

-- from a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. A Diamond Planet?

A planet made of solid diamond may have been found. The discovery was made by an international research team with scientists from Australia, Germany, Italy, the UK and the USA.

The planet orbits a pulsar, a fast-spinning neutron star. A neutron star is the crushed core of a star that was many times heavier than the sun. The core of the star exhausted its thermonuclear energy and collapsed, causing the outer layers of the star to explode off as a supernova. Neutron stars have densities similar to an atomic nucleus: around one billion tonnes per cubic centimetre.

The diamond planet's pulsar, catalogued as PSR J1719-1438, spins very rapidly, more than 10,000 times per minute. It has a mass of about 1.4 times that of our Sun but is only 20 km in radius. The neutron star has a very strong magnetic field. As the field rotates with the spinning star it causes a beam of radio noise to be swept over us. Radio astronomers hear this pulsing signal from the 'star'; hence the name 'pulsar'.

Because of its fast spin J1719-1438 is termed as millisecond pulsar. About 70% of millisecond pulsars have companions of some kind. It is thought that they get spun up by material spiralling onto them from a companion star. The result is a fast-spinning millisecond pulsar with a shrunken companion, most often a white dwarf.

The team was able to detect and confirm the 'diamond planet' with the 64-m radio telescope in Parkes, Australia, the Lovell radio telescope in the UK and one of the Keck telescopes in Hawaii. The pulsar and its planet lie 4,000 light-years away in the constellation of Serpens. The system is about a seventh of the way towards the galactic centre from the Earth and is in the Milky Way's plane of stars.

The pulses of J1719-1438 are modulated as it orbits around the centre of mass between it and the planet. The modulations show that the planet orbits the pulsar in just two hours and ten minutes. The distance between the two objects is 600,000 km, a little bit less than the radius of our Sun.

The closeness of the planet gives clues to its size. If its diameter was any larger than 60,000 km (less than half the diameter of Jupiter) it would be ripped apart by tidal forces from the gravity of the pulsar. To resist tidal disruption the density of the planet is at least that of platinum, 21 times that of water. That provides a clue to its origin.

The pulsar and its companion are so close together that the companion could only be a very stripped-down white dwarf. It has lost its outer layers and over 99.9% of its original mass. The remnant is likely to be largely carbon and oxygen. Stars of lighter elements like hydrogen and helium just won't fit. The density means that this material is certain to be crystalline. That is, a large part of the star may be similar to a diamond.

The ultimate fate of close binary star system is determined by the mass and orbital period of the donor star at the time of mass transfer. The rarity of millisecond pulsars with planet-mass companions means that producing such exotic planets is the exception rather than the rule, and requires special circumstances.

For full text and Images see: http://www.mpifr-bonn.mpg.de/public/pr/pr-pulsar-august2011-en.html

-- from a press release by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and the Max Planck Society in Munich, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Earth and Moon Imaged from Juno

For a picture of the Earth and Moon from 10 million km see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2011-271 The image was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft August 26.

The solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida on August 5 to begin its five-year journey to Jupiter. Juno covered the distance from Earth to the Moon, about 400,000 km, in less than a day. It will take the spacecraft another five years and 2,800 million km of looping orbits to complete the journey to Jupiter.

The spacecraft will orbit Jupiter's poles 33 times and use its eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

More information about Juno see http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu .

-- from a NASA JPL Press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

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., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

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. Rugby Geniuses

Jono Gibbs, Chiefs: "Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

Rodney So'ialo, Hurricanes, on University: "I'm going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes."

Colin Cooper, Hurricanes head coach: "You guys line up alphabetically by height." And, "You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle."

Chris Masoe (Hurricanes) on whether he had visited the Pyramids during his visit to Egypt: "I can't really remember the names of the clubs that we went to."

Colin Cooper on Paul Tito: "He's a guy who gets up at six o'clock in the morning regardless of what time it is."

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