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Contents

1. The Conference
2. The Solar System in July
3. Venus Transit
4. Aoraki-Mackenzie becomes IDA Dark Sky Reserve
5. SKA Split Decision
6. The Universe: See It Now!
7. Heavy Elements in Ancient Star
8. Venus as an Exoplanet
9. How to Join the RASNZ
10. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Here and There

1. The Conference

A very successful Conference was held in Carterton last weekend. Around seventy attended, coming from places as far apart as Auckland and Invercargill. Clive Ruggles, our Beatrice Hill Tinsley (BHT) lecturer, was from the University of Leicester where he is Emeritus Professor of Archaeoastronomy. Featured lecturer Professor Wayne Orchiston came from Queensland, and Dr William Tobin from France.

The Conference was hosted by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. Much work was done by Kay Leather and Richard Hall. Edwin Rodley and others looked after the audio-visuals and details. RASNZ's Conference Committee members, notably Orlon Petterson, got the speakers sorted and their PowerPoints into the computer.

Unfortunately the Conference weekend coincided with the coldest week so far this winter -- white frosts in Auckland! -- so warm wrapping was required. Superb catering by Wild Oats Cafe at the coffee-breaks and lunches, and at the Conference dinner, kept everyone fuelled. (Wild Oats also did great breakfasts as well, as those of us staying at that end of town found.)

The Education Section had a workshop on the Friday. This was mostly arranged by Ron Fisher. There were talks in person illustrated with classical PowerPoint as well as new-fangled deliveries from Nelson, Oxford (Canterbury), Portugal and the USA by Skype. One Section member followed the proceedings via the internet. Communicating astronomy, and science generally, at all levels was discussed. The message from those actively involved to was to use all the modern communication devices but keep the message simple.

The Conference proper began on Friday evening with the Fellows Lecture by Ed Budding. Ed summarised current exoplanet searches and ventured some novel ideas on the possibility of life elsewhere.

At the Saturday night's Conference dinner Stuart Parker was presented with the Murray Geddes Memorial Prize for his supernova discoveries.

The Saturday and Sunday sessions were a feast of papers covering a wide range of astronomy from technical to cultural.

On the cultural side Richard Hall made assertions about the relationship of astronomy to civilization. Anna Kingsley showed how the sky has been represented in art over the past 600 years. William Tobin showed how transits of Venus had inspired art, literature and music, some dodgy. The take-home message: Sex sells! Pam Kilmartin reviewed asteroid names relating to popular culture and much else.

Clive Ruggles told of his investigations into temple sites on the Hawaiian island of Maui. This gave an insight into the scientific rigour required in interpreting ancient piles of stones. On Sunday afternoon Clive gave a BHT public lecture "Ancient Astronomies - Ancient Worlds".

Though June 6th's transit of Venus was clouded for much of New Zealand, its history was well covered at the meeting. Wayne Orchiston described Lieutenant Cook's expedition to Tahiti in 1769. The British expeditions got good results -- close to today's Earth-Sun distance -- but these disagreed with others. The disappearance of all their original records is curious. William Tobin showed a trove of photos taken by the 1874 German transit of Venus expedition to the Auckland Islands.

Further astronomy involving the sun was presented by Wayne in a history of solar physics investigated in 19th Century eclipses. This reminded us that helium was first found on the sun. Sun-grazing comets, of which last Christmas's Comet Lovejoy was the latest naked-eye example, were described by Alan Gilmore.

The recent awarding of an International Dark Sky Association gold grading to the Aoraki-Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve was noted by Steve Butler in his summary of dark sky places.

Technical astronomy was well represented. Anna Niemiec showed how high- magnification (but not too high) micro-lensing events can be used to detect planets around lensing stars. Sara Shakouri looked at diffuse radio emission from galaxy clusters, finding that the actual galaxies are a small part of a cluster's mass.

John Talbot, via Skype, summarized recent successful asteroidal occultations with a warning about timings from integrating cameras. Brian Loader's poster paper showed results from Darfield. Ian Cooper described his efforts to produce user-friendly charts of non-stellar objects in the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Orlon Petterson gave us a quick idea of the wealth of databases and software now available on-line. Orlon suggested that the next conference have a workshop on computers in astronomy. Duncan Hall hoped that developments in computer speed would be fast enough to enable processing of the SKA's output. Warwick Kissling showed how modern development of the classical 'three-body problem' has enabled spacecraft to get to distant places.

Haritina Mogasanu looked at unconventional ways of communicating science to the general public. She noted that 50% of NZers are on Facebook, presenting an opportunity for the RASNZ to be visible. Ron Fisher summarised ideas presented at Friday's Education workshop.

The 2013 Conference will be in Invercargill, May 24-26.

-- Alan Gilmore

2. The Solar System in July

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for July 2012 are on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Jul_12.htm. Notes for August 2012 will be on line in a few days.

The planets in july

Mars and Saturn will be visible in the first part of the evening, but get rather low in the later part of the evening. During the month the separation of the two planets will decrease as Mars moves towards Saturn and Spica.

Mercury will be an easy object to the northwest an hour after sunset for the first two weeks of July. It will then get lower and fainter to become lost in the setting Sun´s glare within a few days.

In the morning Venus and Jupiter will be level and quite close in the dawn sky at the beginning of the month. During the month Jupiter gets higher.

Planets in the evening sky

Mercury will be quite easy to see in the early evening during the first half of July. Best viewing is likely to be 45 minutes to an hour after sunset. As the month progresses Mercury will get fainter, its magnitude changing from 0.6 on the 1st to 1.9 on the 15th. An hour after sunset the planet will have an altitude about 10° and be to the northwest.

Procyon will be some 20° to the left of Mercury and a little brighter than the planet. Sirius will be another 25° away and noticeably higher.

After mid July Mercury will continue to fade and get lower in the evening sky as it heads back towards the Sun. It is at inferior conjunction on July 29 but no transit. The planet will pass 5° to the south of the Sun.

Mars and SATURN are both in Virgo throughout July. They will be readily visible in the first part of the evening, getting lower later. Mars sets between a little before midnight at first, half an hour earlier by the end of the month. Saturn sets a couple of hours after Mars on the 1st but only 40 minutes later on the 31st.

During July the distance between the two planets will steadily decrease, falling from 25° to 8° as Mars moves to the east through Virgo.

Saturn remains paired with Spica throughout July, with the two less than 5° apart. Saturn will be lower and slightly brighter than the star.

The distance between Mars and the Earth increases from 212 to 243 million km in July, its brightness will correspondingly drop from magnitude 0.9 to 1.1. So by the end of July Mars will be similar in brightness to Spica, but the two will of course be rather different in colour.

The moon passes the planets on July 24 and 25. On the 24th it will be 27% lit and 8° to the lower left of Mars. The following night the moon will form more of a group with the planets and Spica. The 38% lit moon will be 7° above Mars and the same distance to the left of Saturn. Spica will be a little closer to the moon, 5.5° to its upper right.

Planets in the morning sky

Venus and JUPITER are in Taurus: early in July both are to the left of Aldebaran. At first they will rise almost simultaneously, some 2 hours and 40 minutes before the Sun. The two planets will be about 5° apart with Venus to the right of Jupiter for the first week or so as they both move slowly to the east through the stars. After a few days Venus will be begin to move more rapidly than Jupiter so will move below and to the right of the gas giant as the month progresses. By the end of July the two will be 14° apart.

Jupiter starts July about midway between the Pleiades, to its left, and Aldebaran to its right. Venus starts the month in the Hyades. Jupiter, moving more slowly than Venus, will end July with Aldebaran a little above it and to its right. By then Jupiter will be rising nearly 4 hours before the Sun and so be higher in the dawn sky.


Uranus is stationary on July 13 so its position barely changes during the month. It will be at magnitude 5.8 located in a corner of Cetus close to Pisces. By the end of July it will rise a little before 11pm so remaining essentially a morning object.

Neptune is in Aquarius during July moving very slowly to the west. Its magnitude will be between 7.9 and 7.8. By the end of July it will rise about 7.30 pm, so will be well positioned a little to the north of east by late evening.

Both Uranus and Neptune will also be visible as morning objects.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres and (4) Vesta are both morning sky objects in Taurus in the vicinity of Jupiter, Venus and Aldebaran.

At the beginning of July, Ceres at magnitude 9.2 will be less than 4° above Jupiter and 5° to the upper left of Venus. Vesta will be a little over 6° above and a little left of Ceres, and little brighter at magnitude 8.5.

Ceres will be 3.3° to the upper right of Jupiter at their closest on July 12, and on the edge of the Hyades. A week later it will lie between Jupiter and Aldebaran, 1.5° from the star and 3.5° from the planet. By the end of July, Ceres will be at magnitude 9.1 and 4.6° to the right of Jupiter.

Vesta is moving to the east slightly faster than Ceres. It ends July in the Hyades some 5° above Jupiter and 2° to the upper left of Aldebaran. Ceres will be barely 6° to Vesta´s the lower right.

By the end of July the two asteroids along with Jupiter and Aldebaran will be between 10 and 15° to the upper left of Venus.

No other asteroids are within reach of binoculars during July.

More details and charts for these minor planets can be found on the RASNZ web site. Follow the link to asteroids 2012.

-- Brian Loader

3. Venus Transit

No formal reports have been seen but then it isn't much of a scientific event these days. [But see Item 8.]

For NZ the weather was predictably ropey. The north of the country had patchy cloud so some of the transit was seen. The east side of the North Island around Gisborne and Tolaga Bay got good views for most of the day.

The lower half of the North Island and the top of the South Island were mostly under cloud. Christchurch was largely shut down by snow and stayed overcast. The cold front that gave the snow cleared most of the southern half of the South Island during the transit or earlier. At Lake Tekapo the cloud stalled a frustrating ten degrees above the sun in the late morning, finally dispersing around 1:30.

All observers were impressed at how black Venus looked compared to the sunspots. That sunspots are really quite bright, in absolute terms, was obvious. Seeing the disk of a planet by naked eye was a novelty too. -- Ed.

4. Aoraki-Mackenzie becomes IDA Dark Sky Reserve

The following is from Scott Kardel of the International Dark Sky Association, Tucson. ------

Over 4,300 square kilometres of New Zealand´s South Island have just been proclaimed as an International Dark Sky Reserve, making it the first such reserve in the Southern Hemisphere and only the third in the world.

The Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR), comprised of the Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin, is also the largest dark sky reserve in the world.

International Dark-Sky Association´s Executive Director Bob Parks remarks, "The new reserve is coming in at a `Gold´ level status. That means the skies there are almost totally free from light pollution. To put it simply, it is one of the best stargazing sites on Earth."

This week´s announcement coincides with the Third International Starlight Conference, a United Nations-led effort that emphasizes that a star-filled night sky is part of the common heritage of mankind and that protections are necessary to ensure that present and future generations will be able to see the stars. The new IDSR is playing host to the conference and sets a wonderful example for attendees.

Organizers of the new reserve recognize that the night sky has played a critical role in the area´s history as its first residents, the Maori, used the night sky not only to navigate to the island but also integrated astronomy and star lore into their culture and daily lives. The reserve seeks to honour that history by keeping the night sky as a protected and integral part of the area´s natural and cultural landscape. It is a perfect place to protect and honour those traditions as the IDSR´s Mackenzie Basin has the clearest, darkest and the most spectacular night sky in New Zealand.

Outdoor lighting controls were first put into place in the area during the early 1980s. They have helped to minimize light pollution not only for the nearby Mt. John Observatory, but to conserve energy, protect wildlife and to make the area a popular stargazing destination for tourists. For the past several years increased efforts have been focused on strengthening these protections in the formation of the International Dark Sky Reserve.

About the IDSPlaces Programme

IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation programme in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, three reserves, four communities and ten parks also have received International Dark Sky designations.

To learn more about the IDSPlaces programme, please visit: http://www.darksky.org/IDSPlaces

----------------- This award is pleasing recognition of a lot of work by many people over many years.

The original lighting ordinances were drafted by the Mackenzie County Council in 1981 following submissions from John Hearnshaw. Modifications to the lighting ordinance boundary, and lobbying for improvements in Lake Tekapo's street lighting, was the work of William Tobin in the 1990s.

The move to have the region internationally recognised as a Starlight Reserve was kicked off by Graeme and Carolyn Murray when they attended the first Starlight Conference in La Palma in 2007. Margaret Austin has worked with her many UNESCO and government contacts, trying to get a framework established for recognising and preserving dark sky regions.

The local initiative has involved many interests in the Aoraki-Mackenzie region. Representatives from the Mackenzie District Council, the Department of Conservation, tourism, farming and science have all had inputs, ably assisted by Steve Butler's expertise and contacts in lighting engineering.

Canterbury University's Allison Loveridge supervised trios of students over two summers. The first group showed that any UNESCO framework suitable for a local Starlight Reserve was a distant prospect. The second group prepared the submission to the IDA with much help from all the people mentioned above. The IDA panel commented that the Aoraki-Mackenzie submission was the best they had ever seen.

The official announcement was made at the Third International Starlight Conference in Lake Tekapo on June 10th. The Conference was attended by around seventy people with good international representation and wide expertise. More on this later, we hope.

-- Alan Gilmore.

5. SKA Split Decision

The reputation of physics as the queen of sciences is reflected in the amount of money that governments are willing to spend on it. The Large Hadron Collider, Europe´s latest particle smasher, cost around $9 billion and took a decade to build. But, just occasionally, other fields get to play with some big, taxpayer-funded kit of their own, too.

On May 25th it was the astronomers´ turn in the limelight. For several years two groups of countries, one consisting of Australia and New Zealand, and the other of several sub-Saharan nations led by South Africa, have been polishing their rival bids to host the Square Kilometre Array, a gargantuan, EUR1.5 billion ($1.9 billion) radio telescope first proposed in 1991 and designed to be the most sensitive ever constructed. After months of deliberation, the SKA´s funding nations announced their decision: that the telescope would be split, and both groups would host a bit of it.

In astronomy, as in particle physics, bigger kit is better kit. A larger telescope can gather fainter signals and produce sharper images. Radio astronomers already have a few supersized instruments to have fun with, notably the 305-metre-wide Arecibo telescope, carved into a Puerto Rican hillside in 1963, and the 100-metre Robert C. Byrd instrument in West Virginia, which, unlike the Arecibo dish, can be steered to point at different parts of the sky.

Yet the physics of radio astronomy means that such mighty machines are, nevertheless, fairly crude. The resolving power of a telescope is determined by the ratio of its size to the wavelength of the radiation it is collecting. A typical optical telescope has a diameter a few million times the wavelength of visible light. Applying that sort of ratio to the SKA, which is designed to work with wavelengths measured in metres, would require a dish thousands of kilometres across.

Building such a dish is obviously impossible. But what is possible is to build many smaller dishes spaced a long way from one another, and to link them with clever computer algorithms so that they behave as if they were a single giant telescope. This is called interferometry, and is not a new idea. Many of the world´s radio telescopes are linked in this way, providing far better resolution than any of them could alone. And several countries have already built collections of small, cheap dishes and networked them into more powerful "virtual" instruments.

What makes the SKA special is its sheer scale. The design calls for around 3,000 individual receivers arranged rather like a spiral galaxy, with most of the telescopes concentrated in an inner core, and the rest arranged into a set of arms up to 3,000km (about 2000 miles) long. Fibre-optic cables will link each of these dishes to a central processing area, where supercomputers will stitch their data together. When it is fully up and running (by 2024, assuming no big delays), the SKA will be more than 50 times more sensitive than any other radio telescope, and able to survey the sky thousands of times faster.

That power will be used to investigate some of the biggest outstanding questions in astronomy. The SKA will join the hunt for gravitational waves-ripples in the structure of space predicted by Albert Einstein´s general theory of relativity. It will probe the mysterious magnetic field that exists between the stars. It will allow astronomers to peer back into the universe´s Dark Ages, a period roughly 400,000 to 800m years after the Big Bang, during which things cooled enough to allow the first large-scale objects, such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies, to form. And its resolving power will help with the search for extrasolar planets.

But all that is a long way off, and the telescope will have to be built
first. That the funding nations felt able to split the telescope in half
reflects how closely matched the two bids were. Both consortia had
constructed precursor telescopes that could be integrated into the SKA
itself, and each bid had its advantages. The African bid, whose core will
be in Northern Cape province, did well in the technical stakes, chiefly
because the geography of the area allows a more efficient layout for the
telescope, and also because electricity was thought likely to be cheaper
there. The SKA will use about 110 megawatts when up and running, so power
bills will be a significant expense. The Australasian bid, centred on the
virtually unpopulated Shire of Murchison, in Western Australia, scored
better for radio quietness (important to prevent interference), and on
non-scientific factors such as political stability and the quality of the
working environment.

Nevertheless, many people - including Naledi Pandor, South Africa´s science minister, who said as much in an official statement - reckon that the decision had more to do with politics than science. As with all such big projects, questions of national prestige intruded upon the technical judgments. And that was particularly so in Africa, where the SKA is seen as a good-news story for a continent still struggling to overcome its image as a violent and chronically unstable place.

Building on two separate sites is possible because the SKA is really three telescopes in one, with different sets of receivers designed for low-, medium- and high-frequency work. The new plan calls for the low-frequency antennae to be given to the Aussies and the Kiwis, with the other types being built in Africa. Doing it that way will cost more, if only because the bidders will each need to construct their own fibre-optic network to link their antennae together. But although the funding nations may grumble, the prospect of a bit of extra money seems unlikely to go down too badly with the legions of radio astronomers who are, at last, going to see their dream machine built, nor with South Africa´s scientific establishment, which will have a chance to show that it is up to the task of running a big project of this sort. South Africa has an impressive history of astronomy. The first permanent observatory in the southern hemisphere was built, in 1820, near Cape Town. If this project is equally successful, the country will have a strong future in the subject, too.

-- The Economist, 2012 June 2, p.82-83.

6. The Universe: See It Now!

The universe is a marvellously complex place, filled with galaxies and larger-scale structures that have evolved over its 13.7-billion-year history. Those began as small perturbations of matter that grew over time, like ripples in a pond, as the universe expanded. By observing the large- scale cosmic wrinkles now, we can learn about the initial conditions of the universe. But is now really the best time to look, or would we get better information billions of years into the future -- or the past?

New calculations by Harvard theorist Avi Loeb show that the ideal time to study the cosmos was more than 13 billion years ago, just about 500 million years after the Big Bang. The farther into the future you go from that time, the more information you lose about the early universe.

Two competing processes define the best time to observe the cosmos. In the young universe the cosmic horizon is closer to you, so you see less. As the universe ages, you can see more of it because there's been time for light from more distant regions to travel to you. However, in the older and more evolved universe, matter has collapsed to make gravitationally bound objects. This 'muddies the waters' of the cosmic pond, because you lose memory of initial conditions on small scales. The two effects counter each other -- the first grows better as the second grows worse.

Loeb asked the question: When were viewing conditions optimal? He found that the best time to study cosmic perturbations was only 500 million years after the Big Bang.

This is also the era when the first stars and galaxies began to form. The timing is not coincidental. Since information about the early universe is lost when the first galaxies are made, the best time to view cosmic perturbations is right when stars began to form.

But it's not too late. Modern observers can still access this nascent era from a distance by using surveys designed to detect 21-cm radio emission from hydrogen gas at those early times. These radio waves take more than 13 billion years to reach us, so we can still see how the universe looked early on.

'21-centimeter surveys are our best hope,' said Loeb. 'By observing hydrogen at large distances, we can map how matter was distributed at the early times of interest.'

The accelerating universe makes the picture bleak for future cosmologists. Because the expansion of the cosmos is accelerating, galaxies are being pushed beyond our horizon. Light that leaves those distant galaxies will never reach Earth in the far future.

In addition, the scale of gravitationally unbound structures is growing larger and larger. Eventually they, too, will stretch beyond our horizon. Some time between 10 and 100 times the universe's current age, cosmologists will no longer be able to observe them.

This research was published in the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (JCAP) and is available online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1203.2622

-- from a Harvard-Smithsonian press release of 22 May, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

7. Heavy Elements in Ancient Star

The Big Bang produced lots of hydrogen and helium and a smidgen of lithium. All heavier elements found on the periodic table have been produced by stars over the last 13.7 billion years. Astronomers analyze starlight to determine the chemical makeup of stars, the origin of the elements, the ages of stars, and the evolution of galaxies and the universe. Now for the first time, astronomers have detected the presence of arsenic and selenium, neighbouring elements near the middle of the periodic table, in an ancient star in the faint stellar halo that surrounds the Milky Way. Arsenic and selenium are elements at the transition from light to heavy element production, and have not been found in old stars until now.

Stars like our Sun can make elements up to oxygen on the periodic table. Other more massive stars can synthesize heavier elements, those with more protons in their nuclei, up to iron by nuclear fusion -- by the process in which atomic nuclei fuse and release lots of energy. Most of the elements heavier than iron are made by a process called neutron-capture nucleosynthesis.

Although neutrons have no charge, they can decay into protons after they're in the nucleus, producing elements with larger atomic numbers. One of the ways that this method can work is by exposure to a burst of neutrons during the violent supernova death of a star. This is called the rapid process (r-process). It can produce elements at the middle and bottom of the periodic table -- from zinc to uranium -- in the blink of an eye.

Ian Roederer of the Carnegie Observatories, with co-author James Lawler, looked at an ultraviolet spectrum of star HD 160617 from the Hubble Space Telescope public archives. HD 160617 is in the galactic halo and is 12 billion years old. In its spectrum they found lines caused by arsenic and selenium. These elements were made in an even older star, which has long since disappeared. Its remnants were among the material that formed HD 160617.

The team also examined data for this star from the public archives of several ground-based telescopes and were able to detect 45 elements. In addition to arsenic and selenium, they found rarely seen cadmium, tellurium, and platinum, all of which were produced by the r-process. This is the first time these elements have been detected together outside the Solar System.

Astronomers cannot replicate the r-process in any laboratory since the conditions are so extreme. The key to modelling the r-process relies on astronomical observations. Understanding the r-process helps us know why we find certain elements like barium on Earth, or understand why uranium is so rare.

See the original paper in http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.3901

-- From a Carnegie Institution press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Venus as an Exoplanet

Historically transits of Venus have mattered more than merely as an astronomical curiosity. In the 17th century they were used to make the first accurate-ish estimates of the size of the solar system. By the 18th and 19th centuries they were scientific festivals, with nations dispatching astronomers to every corner of the planet to record it. Modern kit has allowed astronomers to nail down cosmic distances with far greater precision. Even in the age of radar and space probes the transit has its uses. This time astronomers hope it would help them refine techniques for exploring other solar systems.

Exoplanets, which orbit stars other than the sun, have been a hot topic in astronomy since the first few were discovered in the 1990s. Hundreds have since been spotted, and NASA, America's space agency, has a telescope dedicated specifically to searching for them. Presently, astronomers can infer only very basic properties about such planets, such as their orbital periods, rough estimates of their sizes and a broad-brush picture of their composition (i.e., whether they are gaseous giants or smaller, rocky planets like Earth or Venus).

One popular exoplanet-hunting method relies on the fact that, just like Venus, such worlds will sometimes pass in front of their parent stars. Modern telescopes are sufficiently sensitive to note the miniscule drop in those stars' brightness as seen from Earth. Observing a transit close up, in front of a star as well-understood as the sun, offers oodles of useful data to help make sense of observations farther afield.

Eventually, though, astronomers want to do better still. In principle, a sufficiently sensitive telescope could examine the tiny fraction of the star's light that passes through the thin shell of the planetary atmosphere. Analysing that light with spectroscopy should reveal what gases make up the atmosphere - and, just possibly, the existence of alien life.

Although telescopes are not yet sensitive enough to analyse the atmospheres of remote exoplanets, they are perfectly adequate to the task of analysing Venus's. And thanks to probes that have actually visited the planet, astronomers have a pretty good idea of what the Cytherean atmosphere consists of (carbon dioxide, mostly, and lots of it, which accounts for the planet's hellish surface conditions). Both NASA and the European Space Agency were thus planning to test their telescope measurements against this known target. Such a dry run would let them calibrate their instruments and confirm that the spectroscopy method produces no surprises.

The timing is fortuitous. Though they follow a predictable pattern, transits of Venus are rare. Pairs of transits occur roughly eight years apart, with either 105 or 125 years separating them from the next pair. The last one took place in 2004; the next is due in 2117. The previous pair, in 1874 and 1882, happened before modern astronomy really took off. Contemporary stargazers were never going to miss this chance.

-- from The Economist's Babbage blog. See http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2012/06/transit-venus

9. 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, not including the Yearbook. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

10. 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

11. 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

12. Here and There

EVIDENCE FOR INTELLEGENT LIFE IN THE ASTEROID BELT? Vest has a visible and infrared mapping spectrometer... -- Astronomy & Geophysics, 2011, August, p.4.9.

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