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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. Nobel Prize to Dark Energy Discoverers
2. Albert Jones made Honorary Member of the AAVSO
3. The Solar System in November
4. SKANZ 2012 Conference
5. anzSKA Newsletter Available
6. NACAA 2012
7. Third International Starlight Conference
8. RASNZ Conferences 2012-14
9. Meteorite Hits Comettes
10. First Images from ALMA
11. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 1)
12. Planet Hunters Search Kepler Data
13. Free-Floating Brown Dwarfs Found
14. Correction - Neptune's Mass
15. How to Join the RASNZ
16. More Rugby Geniuses

1. Nobel Prize to Dark Energy Discoverers

This year's Nobel prize for physics was awarded for what was, in a sense literally, the biggest discovery ever made in physics-that the universe is not only expanding (which had been known since the 1920s), but that the rate of expansion is increasing. Something, in other words, is actively pushing it apart.

This was worked out by two groups who, in the 1990s, were studying exploding stars called supernovae. One was the Supernova Cosmology Project, at the University of California, Berkeley, led by Saul Perlmutter. The other was the High-z Supernova Search Team, an international project led by Brian Schmidt and involving Adam Riess, both of Harvard University. It is these three gentlemen who have shared the prize.

Supernovae come in various types. One particular sort, though, known as
type Ia supernovae, always explode with about the same energy and are
therefore equally bright. That means they can be used to estimate quite
precisely how far away they (and thus the galaxy they inhabit) are. In
addition, the speed at which an object such as a star or galaxy is moving
away from Earth, because of the expansion of the universe, can be worked
out from its red-shift. This is a fall in the frequency of its light
towards the red end of the spectrum. It is caused by the Doppler effect
(something similar happens when a police car or fire engine with its siren
blaring drives past you, and the pitch of the sound suddenly drops).

What both groups found was that the light from distant supernovae was fainter than predicted. In other words, the supernovae were further away than their red-shifts indicated they should be, based on the existing model of the universe. Something, then, was pushing space itself apart.

What that something is, remains conjecture. It has been labelled "dark energy", but that is really physicists' short-hand for "we haven't got a clue". It may, though, relate to a mathematical term called the cosmological constant that appears in Einstein's general theory of relativity, and which Einstein thought, before the discovery of the expansion of the universe, was necessary to stop the universe collapsing.

-- From The Economist, 8 October 2011, p. 87.

2. Albert Jones made Honorary Member of the AAVSO

Congratulations to Albert Jones on being made an Honorary Member of the American Association of Variable Star Observers. The award was announced at the AAVSO's 100th Annual Meeting held October 5-8 in Cambridge and Woburn, Massachusetts.

Albert's is just the 40th Honorary Membership to be bestowed by the AAVSO. Other famous Honorary Members include Frank Bateson, Ernest W. Brown, Annie Jump Cannon, George E. Hale, Ejnar Hertzsprung, E. Dorrit Hoffleit, Henrietta S. Leavitt, Margaret W. Mayall, Paul W. Merrill, Charles P. Olivier, Leslie C. Peltier, Edward C. Pickering, Henry Norris Russell, Charles Scovil, Harlow Shapley, and H. H. Turner. The full list can be seen at

-- Thanks to Pam Kilmartin for passing on the AAVSO's announcement.

3. The Solar System in November

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for November 2011 are on the RASNZ web site: Notes for December 2011 will be on line in a few days.

THE PLANETS IN NOVEMBER Mercury and Venus remain a close pair of planets in the early evening sky during the first half of the month, until Mercury drops back from Venus.

Jupiter is easily seen throughout the evening, especially later in November. Mars remains a morning object to the northeast in the early dawn sky. Saturn begins to emerge from the glow of the rising Sun by the end of the month.

A partial eclipse of the Sun on November 25 is mainly visible from the Antarctic, but its end at sunset can be seen from the South Island. The moon starts to move onto the solar disk a few minutes after 8pm NZDT. The Sun´s altitude will be 10° from Invercargill, 5° from Christchurch and Greymouth. The greatest eclipse occurs just after 8.40pm, with the Sun only 4° up at Invercagill and just about setting at Christhurch and Greymouth. 30% of the Sun will be eclipsed in the south, slightly less further north.

EARLY EVENING SKY - VENUS and MERCURY Mercury and Venus stay together in the evening sky for the first half of November. They will set about an hour and three quarters after the Sun on the 1st, about 2 hours later by mid month. The two planets will pass either side of the star delta Scorpii, magnitude 2.3, on November 4. On the 10th they will be passing Antares, with Mercury 2° to the right of the star and Venus a further 2° to the right of Mercury.

Mercury is at its greatest elongation, 24° east of the Sun, on November 14 after which its slowing movement to the east makes it drop back behind Venus. The separation of the two planets will increase only slowly at first, but the distance between them will increase more rapidly by the 20th. Mercury is stationary on November 24th, this will see Mercury start to move back towards the Sun, becoming lost in the evening twilight over the next few evenings.

On the 26th the moon, as a very thin crescent, will be 3° below Mercury. The moon will be very low, with Mercury 10° to the lower left of Venus. 40 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be only 6° above the horizon.

The following night the moon, now almost 6% lit and so much easier to see, will be just under 4° to the right of Venus.

Jupiter becomes easily visible throughout the evening during November. At first it will rise only 30 minutes after sunset. This will increase to about 3 hours earlier by the 30th.

The planet spends the month in Aries near the border of the constellation with Cetus. On the night of the 9th the almost full moon will be just under 6° to the left of Jupiter in the late evening. The two are slightly closer after midnight when the sky´s rotation brings the moon almost directly below Jupiter by 3 am. By then they will be low to the west, with Jupiter setting well before sunrise.

Morning sky

Mars will start to rise noticeably earlier and be up more than three and a half hours before the Sun by the 30th. Even so it will be about 2.30 am NZDT before it appears. So the planet will continue to be best seen 45 to 60 minutes before sunrise.

Mars will be moving east trough Leo in November. During the month it passes Regulus, which at magnitude 1.4 is the brightest star in the constellation. Mars will be a little brighter at 1.0. At their closest on the 11th and 12th, Mars will be less than 1.5° below the star.

The moon, at last quarter, will join Mars and Regulus on the 19th. The moon will be just under 6° from Regulus and just over 9° from Mars. The following morning the moon, now 38% lit, will be 9° to the upper right of Mars.

Saturn will slowly emerge into the dawn sky after being at conjunction with the Sun in mid October. It is not likely to be visible until late in November, and even then will be very low to the east in the brightening dawn sky.

Saturn is at conjunction with Spica in mid November when the planet will be just over 3° below the star. Since Saturn will then rise only an hour before the Sun, they are likely to be too low and the sky too bright to see them. The two remain close for the rest of the month with Saturn rising below Spica.

Uranus sets well after midnight in November so will be suitably placed for viewing in the evening after the sky is dark. The planet is in Pisces with a magnitude 5.8.

Neptune also sets after midnight in November, about 75 minutes before Uranus. Thus Neptune will also be well placed in the evening sky for viewing, although it will be low by midnight at the end of the month. Neptune, magnitude 7.9, is in Aquarius near its border with Capricornus.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres, like Neptune, is in Aquarius and will so also in the evening sky. It is stationary on November 12 when it will start moving again to the east. Ceres fades a little during the month from 8.4 to 8.8.

(4) Vesta is in Capricornus during November and also n evening object. Mid month it passes two fairly bright stars: on November 15 it will be 36.5´ from zeta Cap, magnitude 3.7 and 45´ from the 4.5 magnitude star 36 Cap. Two nights later Vesta will be only 13.5´ from 36 Cap. Vesta´s magnitude drops from 7.6 to 7.9 during November.

(15) Eunomia is in Perseus during November and will brighten from magnitude 8.4 to 7.9 when at opposition on November 29. It will thus be, with Vesta, the brightest minor planet. When at opposition Eunomia will be just over a degree from xi Per, mag 4.0. It will then rise close to 10pm NZDT, so will not be readily visible until close to midnight. Eunomia will then be to the lower right of xi Per.

(29) Amphitrite is at opposition on November 5 with a magnitude 8.7. It will be in Aries some 6°; from Hamal, alpha Ari, mag 2.0. During the rest of November Amphitrite will move towards Hamal, being 2° from the star on November 30. By then Amphitrite will have faded by half a magnitude.

(1036) Ganymed was at opposition on October 29 at magnitude 8.3. During November it will be moving to the south so getting higher in NZ skies. It will fade rapidly reaching 9.5 by November 13

On November 1 when it will have just crossed into Cetus, Ganymed will be 1.6° above Jupiter. The following night it will 1.3° to the left of xi1 Cet and 1.2° to the upper left of the star on the 3rd. Ganymed´s magnitude will then be 8.8. It will continue to move to the south through Cetus as it fades from view.

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 remain brighter than magnitude 8 during November but will set shortly after the Sun early in the month and is not likely to be observable. By mid November the comet will set before the Sun and be a day time object.

-- Brian Loader

4. SKANZ 2012 Conference

Professor Sergei Gulyaev of the Auckland University of Technology advises that registrations are now open for the SKANZ 2012 conference.

The primary aim of this SKANZ 2012 conference is to foster interaction and collaboration between Australian and New Zealand scientists and engineers, thereby helping to realise the exciting potential of the SKA. It builds on the successful SKANZ 2010 meeting and will again be hosted by the AUT University. The meeting will include sessions on SKA science, SKA precursors, wide-field science, computing for ASKAP and the SKA and transient and high-resolution science.

The conference program includes slots for contributed papers as well as a poster session. A visit to the Warkworth telescope, followed by wine tasting at a local vineyard, is also included. The conference dinner will be held at Auckland´s famous Sky Tower restaurant.

Where: AUT University When: 14-16 February 2012 Registration: Now open

Please visit for details of the conference program and to register.

Dick Manchester, CSIRO (Chair, Science Organising Committee) Sergei Gulyaev, AUT (Chair, Local Organising Committee)

5. anzSKA Newsletter Available

Dr Brian Boyle, Director of the Australia-NZ Square Kilometre Array Project, circulated the following note on 29 September:

The latest issue of the anzSKA Newsletter is now available online at the anzSKA website

On 14 September, the Australia - New Zealand SKA Coordination Committee submitted its 150-page response to the SKA Project's Request for Information on the Candidate Sites.

Forty seven organisations and Departments across Australia and New Zealand contributed to this response. The response covered areas from science and technology, cost and implementation, and political, legal, financial and working environments. Our primary industry partner, Aurecon, did an outstanding job in preparing much of the report.

This response forms the primary input to an international site evaluation process by an independent expert panel. Following a Q&A session with the site proponents in early December, the panel will make their motivated recommendation on the preferred site to the SKA Government Board in early January.

Australia and New Zealand provide an outstanding site for the international project. The developments reported in this Newsletter also demonstrate that Australia and New Zealand remain at the forefront of international developments in radio astronomy; including phased array feeds, eVLBI and industry participation.

Please feel free to forward this email to any colleague who may be interested in SKA-related activities in Australia and New Zealand. You can also follow me on Twitter @BrianBoyleSKA. Dr Brian Boyle SKA Project Director; Australia - New Zealand

6. NACAA 2012

The 25th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA) meets in Brisbane over Easter, April 6-9. The meeting at the University of Queensland campus is hosted by the Astronomical Association of Queensland and supported by other astronomy clubs in South East Queensland.

The sixth Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations and the inaugural Variable Stars South Symposium will be held as part of the NACAA programme. Those interested in attending please fill in the form at

---------- For more information see 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.

7. 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 the defence of the quality of the night sky, the right to observe the stars, the heritage of starlight, the issues of light pollution, the protection of observatory sites, the benefits of public outreach in astronomy and the cultural aspects of visual astronomy.

For more information see

8. RASNZ Conferences 2012-14

This is being held on 15-17 June 2012, and will be hosted by The Phoenix Astronomical Society (TPAS). Please note there has, on the recommendation of TPAS, and after careful consideration by the RASNZ Standing Conference Committee (SCC), been a change of venue. The Conference will now be held in the brand new Carterton Events Centre. The Centre is very keen to host us, and have put forward an attractive package.

The guest Speaker is Dr Wayne Orchiston. Wayne's present position is as an Associate Professor at James Cook Observatory in Townsville, Queensland. But of course many of us remember Wayne from when he was Executive Director of Carter Observatory. Wayne is very learned in matters relation to James Cook, and his voyages and the astronomical work carried out during those voyages. Wayne's presentation will certainly cover this, with reference to the Transit of Venus. We look forward to welcoming Wayne back to NZ and being among old friends again - and meeting new ones.

The Fellows Speaker will be Dr Ed Budding, who was also at Carter Observatory at the same times as Wayne Orchiston. Ed will be talking about the discovery of planets and the implications of that.

On the Friday the RASNZ Education Group propose to hold and Education Workshop - details on this are being worked on by Group Director Ron Fisher and his team. It will be aimed at those involved in astronomy education and outreach work - which involves a good many of us if we think about it. Updates on this will appear in future newsletters.

Stonehenge Aotearoa is a short drive from Carterton, and it is intended a visit to that will be incorporated into the weekends events.

We will shortly be making a call for papers. The form to be used is under revision and we will advise when it is ready to use and how to access it. But in the meantime please have a think about what you might like to present a paper (or poster paper) about. There is lots of good work being done in New Zealand both at a professional and amateur level, and Conference is the forum to tell us about what your have been doing, and the results and outcomes. We hope to formally invite papers in the next Newsletter

Conference comes just over a week following the Transit of Venus. Many of you will be attempting scientific observations of the transit. SCC is open to suggestions as to how we can incorporate transit observing experiences/results into the programme. Please contact us

With the change in venue, we have moved to a smaller population centre. But Carterton does have a variety of accommodations. TPAS is working with the local information people in Carterton. A list of accommodations will be made available - these range from hotels, motels, camping ground, b&b's, homestays, farmstays, holiday cottages etc. It is proposed a system will be in place where the Carterton information people will assist you finding suitable accommodations. Those who were at the Conference in Tekapo will recall the large variety of accommodations there, and we see the situation here as being not dissimilar. Also Carterton is just 16km from Masterton, and less than 10 km from Greytown - and both these centres (especially Masterton) also have a wide variety of accommodations.

Many of you will arrive by car. There is a daily Air NZ Link service into Masterton from Auckland. Others using public transport might like to fly into Wellington, and then get the scenic Tranzmetro suburban train to Carterton - the trains run up to 6 times a day, and we will have a link into the timetable in due course. Carterton Railway Station is a short walk from the Convention Centre. Another option is to car pool, as many did when coming to the Tekapo Conference - there will no doubt be good rental car options available from Wellington.

For those of you conscious about costs - well as you know we do try and keep these as low as we can - and our Conference is very sharply priced compared to other Conferences in NZ of a similar nature. You will be please to know that we have been able to strike a registration fee that is actually less than for the 2011 Conference. Full details will be on the registration form when it is made available later in November.

Please look for further updates in coming newsletters. The Wairarapa is a beautiful region in the southern North Island. Apart from Stonehenge Aotearoa, points of interest include the Mount Bruce Wildlife Reserve, the George Hood Aviation Museum, and of course the numerous boutique wineries of Martinborough, Gladstone, and around Masterton. This is an area to not only attend Conference, but also to spend a few extra days relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere of the Wairarapa.

Look out for further updates in coming Newsletters.

2013 CONFERENCE: We are pleased to announce that the 2013 Conference will

be held on 24-27 May 2013, in Invercargill - and hosted by the Southland Astronomical Society. The venue will be the Ascot complex - which is where we have held previous conferences in Invercargill. This is a great venue, with both on-site accommodation and various other accommodation options available nearby. Conference also coincides with the annual Bluff Oyster Festival, so this potentially will be a weekend of astronomy and gastronomy. We will be recommending early accommodation bookings, although at the Ascot we intend reserving a block of accommodation in advance.

2014 CONFERENCE: We are pleased to announce the 2014 Conference will be

held in Whakatane, and hosted by the Whakatane Astronomical Society. The Conference will be part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Whakatane Astronomical Society. It is well over 40 years since a RASNZ AGM (before the times of conferences) was held in Whakatane, so a return there is long overdue. The dates have yet to be finalised, and the Whakatane people are considering a couple of venues. A full announcement on this will be made once the venue and dates are finalised.

As always, if there are any queries please check up the Conference link on: , or contact the Standing Conference Committee - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

9. Meteorite Hits Comettes

When your name is Comette, you may get used to jokes about rockets and space and planets. But French schoolboy Hugo Comette, 11, had the last laugh when of all the places on Earth, a piece of rock from outer space landed on his home.

An egg-sized meteorite believed to be 4.57 billion years old smashed through the roof of the Comette family home on the outskirts of Paris some time over the northern summer. The rock, blackened by its journey through Earth's atmosphere, remained buried in the roof insulation, until Hugo's mother Martine noticed the roof was leaking and called out for someone to fix it. The roofer took one look at the broken tile and told the Comettes that whatever had smashed their roof tile must have come from the sky. 'It would have had to be Superman to break a tile in this way,' he said. It was only then that the meteorite, weighing 88 grams, was discovered.

Curious to know exactly what it was, Mrs Comette called scientist Alain Carion, who declared it an 'exceptional' discovery. 'It's extremely rare. We have had only 50 or so meteorite falls in France over four centuries,' Dr Carion said. 'We have never found anything like it within an 80- kilometre radius of Paris before.' He said the Comettes' meteorite was a piece of chondrite that had come from the belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.

Some meteorites sell for high prices but the Comettes will not be selling theirs. 'A piece of the history of space has fallen on us,' Mrs Comette told Le Parisien newspaper. 'It's like a fairytale, and less likely than winning the lottery, we're told.'

Read more: house-of-comette-20111011-1lj1l.html#ixzz1aXIP2c1G

-- Original report by Kim Willsher in The Guardian, passed along by John Drummond.

10. First Images from ALMA

Detailed views of star-formation in the Antennae Galaxies are the first astronomical test images released to the public from the growing Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). They confirm that this new telescope has surpassed all others of its kind while far from completed, and with only a fraction of its ultimate imaging capability

By 2013, ALMA will have more than tripled its current number of telescopes to 66. With the telescopes combined into a single system by one of the world's fastest, special-purpose supercomputers, and aimed at many more objects all across the sky, ALMA will reveal a Universe never before seen.

For text, images, and video see

-- From a press release by the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. MESSENGER Reports on Mercury (Part 1)

After three successful flybys of Mercury, the MESSENGER spacecraft entered orbit about the innermost planet on March 18. The orbital phase of the mission is enabling the first global perspective on the planet's geology, surface composition, topography, gravity and magnetic fields, exosphere, magnetosphere, and solar-wind interaction. The following notes are derived from two sources. One is a press release summarizing seven papers in a special section of the September 30 issue of Science. The other is a summary of 30 papers and posters presented on October 5 as part of a special session of the joint meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress and the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in Nantes, Frances.

Only six months in Mercury orbit the MESSENGER spacecraft has shown scientists that Mercury doesn't conform to theory. Its surface material composition differs in important ways from both those of the other terrestrial planets and expectations prior to the MESSENGER mission, calling into question current theories for Mercury's formation. Its magnetic field is unlike any other in the Solar System, and there are huge expanses of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of the planet and cover more than 6% of Mercury´s surface.

Mercury's surface material is similar to that of its terrestrial cousins (Venus, Earth, Moon and Mars) but less oxidized. Possibly this is due to their being less water where Mercury formed. Mercury's surface also contains more sulphur and potassium than previously predicted. Both elements vaporize at relatively low temperatures, thus ruling out several popular scenarios in which Mercury experienced extreme high-temperature events early in its history.

MESSENGER has also discovered a huge expanse of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of Mercury. These continuous smooth plains cover more than 6% of the total surface of Mercury. The deposits appear typical of flood lavas. These are poured out from long, linear vents and cover the surrounding areas, flooding them to great depths and burying their source vents.

Other vents, measuring up to 25 km long appear to be the source of some tremendous volumes of very hot lava that have rushed out over the surface of Mercury and eroded the substrate, carving valleys and creating teardrop-shaped ridges in the underlying terrain.

New landforms MESSENGER revealed an unexpected class of landform on Mercury and suggests that a previously unrecognized geological process is responsible for its formation. Images collected during the Mariner 10 and MESSENGER flybys of Mercury showed that the floors and central mountain peaks of some impact craters are very bright and have a blue colour relative to other areas of Mercury. These deposits were considered to be unusual because no craters with similar characteristics are found on the Moon. But without higher- resolution images, the bright crater deposits remained a curiosity.

Now MESSENGER's orbital mission has provided close-up, targeted views of many of these craters. The bright areas are composed of small, shallow, irregularly shaped depressions that are often found in clusters. These have been dubbed term 'hollows' to distinguish them from other types of pits that are found on Mercury.

Hollows have been found over a wide range of latitudes and longitudes, suggesting that they are fairly common across Mercury. Many of the depressions have bright interiors and halos. Those detected so far have a fresh appearance and have not accumulated small impact craters, indicating that they are relatively young, actively forming today. The old conventional wisdom was that 'Mercury is just like the Moon.' But MESSENGER is showing us that Mercury is radically different from the Moon in just about every way we can measure.

More next month. For text & images see: =view&id=356&Itemid=41 mono_color.jpg

-- The press releases were forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Planet Hunters Search Kepler Data

Since the online citizen science project Planet Hunters launched last December, 40,000 web users from around the world have been helping professional astronomers analyze the light from 150,000 stars in the hopes of discovering Earth-like planets orbiting around them. Users analyze real scientific data collected by NASA's Kepler mission, which has been searching for planets beyond our own solar system -- called exoplanets -- since its launch in March 2009.

Now astronomers at Yale University have announced the discovery of the first two potential exoplanets discovered by Planet Hunters users in a new study to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The candidate planets orbit their host stars with periods ranging from 10 to 50 days -- much shorter than the 365 days it takes the Earth to orbit the Sun -- and have radii that range in size from two-and-a-half to eight times Earth's radius. Despite those differences, one of the two candidates could be a rocky, Earth-like planets (as opposed to a giant gas planet like Jupiter), although they aren't in the so-called "habitable zone" where liquid water, and therefore life as we know it, could exist.

The Kepler team has already announced the discovery of 1,200 exoplanet candidates and will follow up on the highest potential ones with further analysis, but they had discarded the two found by Planet Hunters users for various technical reasons that led them to believe they weren't promising candidates.

Users found the two candidates in the first month of Planet Hunters operations using data the Kepler mission made publicly available. The Planet Hunters team sent the top 10 candidates found by the citizen scientists to the Kepler team, who analyzed the data and determined that two of the 10 met their criteria for being classified as planet candidates. The two candidates were flagged as potential planets by several dozen different Planet Hunters users, as the same data are analyzed by more than one user.

You can get involved yourself: For full text and image:

-- From a Yale University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Free-Floating Brown Dwarfs Found

An international team of astronomers has discovered over two-dozen new free-floating brown dwarfs that reside in two young star clusters. One brown dwarf is a lightweight youngster only about six times heavier than Jupiter. What's more, one cluster contains a surprising surplus of brown dwarfs having half as many of them as normal stars. These findings come from deep surveys and extensive follow-up observations using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii and the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, two of the world's largest optical-infrared telescopes.

Sometimes described as failed stars, brown dwarfs straddle the boundary between stars and planets. When young, they glow brightly from the heat of formation. Eventually they cool and end up with atmospheres that exhibit planet-like characteristics.

Astronomers used the Subaru Telescope to take extremely deep images of the NGC 1333 and Rho Ophiuchi star clusters at both optical and infrared wavelengths. Once they identified candidate brown dwarfs from their very red colours, the research team verified their nature with spectra taken at Subaru and the VLT. The team's findings are reported in two upcoming papers in the Astrophysical Journal.

The six-Jupiter-mass brown dwarf found in the NGC 1333 cluster is one of the puniest free-floating objects known. Several other newly identified brown dwarfs in both the NGC 1333 and Rho Ophiuchi clusters have masses that are less than 20 times the mass of Jupiter -- placing them at the low end of the mass range for known brown dwarfs.

Brown dwarfs seem to be more common in NGC 1333 than in other young star clusters. That difference may be hinting at how different environmental conditions affect their formation,

For more see:

-- From a Subaru Telescope Facility press release forwarded by Karen Pollard

14. Correction - Neptune's Mass

Last month's Newsletter said that Neptune was 17 times the sun's mass; Item 1, paragraph 2. Not quite. Neptune is 17 times Earth's mass. The unhelpful note was added by a dozy Ed. It was not in the original European Southern Observatory's press release. -- Ed.

15. 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..

16. More Rugby Geniuses

Kevin Senio (Auckland), on Night Rugby vs Day Games "It's basically the same, just darker."

David Nucifora (Auckland) talking about Troy Flavell "I told him, 'Son, what is it with you... Is it ignorance or apathy?' He said, 'David, I don't know and I don't care.' "

David Holwell (Hurricanes) when asked about the upcoming season: "I want to reach for 150 or 200 points this season, whichever comes first."

Ma 'a Nonu "Colin has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator."

Phil Waugh "We actually got the winning try three minutes from the end but then they scored."

Jerry Collins "I've never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body."

Tony Brown "That kick was absolutely unique, except for the one before it which was identical."

Tana Umaga "I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father."

Doc Mayhew "Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby, but none of them serious."

Anton Oliver "If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again."

Ewan McKenzie "I never comment on referees and I'm not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat."

Murray Mexted (1) "Andy Ellis the 21 year old, who turned 22 a few weeks ago" (2) "He scored that try after only 22 seconds - totally against the run of play." (3) "I would not say he (Rico Gear) is the best left winger in the Super14, but there are none better." (4) "Well, either side could win it, or it could be a draw." (5) "Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer."

The best Murray Deaker: "Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?" Tana Umaga: "On what?"

-- Thanks to Sylvia Allan for passing these along.

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