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RASNZ Electronic Newsletter June 2017

The RASNZ Email newsletter is distributed by email on or near the 20th of each month. If you would like to be on the circulation list This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a copy. The latest issue is below.

Email Newsletter Number 198

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. John Hearnshaw MNZM
2. Norman Dickie 1916-2017
3. Horowhenua StellarFest, Foxton Beach, July 21-23
4. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition
5. The Solar System in July
6. Potential Meteor Shower
7. First PhD prize Winners Announced by the IAU
8. Variable Star News
9. Setting up a Remote Observatory in Chile
10. LIGO's Third Gravity Wave Detection
11. Early Earth Life Might Help Locate Mars Life
12. Two New Moons for Jupiter
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. Quote

1. John Hearnshaw MNZM

The Queen's Birthday Honours list included Emeritus Professor John Bernard Hearnshaw as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to astronomy. The citation reads:

Emeritus Professor John Hearnshaw was director of the Mt John Observatory of the University of Canterbury for a total of 25 years between 1976 and 2008, during which time he directed the construction of the McLellan telescope, the largest New Zealand-made telescope, as well as the construction of the HERCULES spectrograph.

Professor Hearnshaw pioneered the implementation of stellar spectroscopy in New Zealand, the method by which the chemical composition of stars is determined by analysing their spectra. He contributed to the establishment in 1994 of a collaboration between Japan and New Zealand named MOA to search for planets orbiting stars in the southern night sky. He is former Vice-President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Commission for Astronomy Education and Development, and of the IAU Division for Optical and Infrared Techniques. He is currently President of the IAU Division for Astronomy Education, Outreach and Heritage. He has been a long-time supporter of the Townsend Observatory for public astronomy in Christchurch. He facilitated the development of the New Zealand company KiwiStar Optics Ltd, which has supplied precision astronomical lenses and components for major telescopes in several countries. He was a founder of the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve and is currently Chairperson of the Reserve?s Board. Professor Hearnshaw has authored more than 200 publications on astronomy, including six books.


2. Norman Dickie 1916-2017

Norman Robert Dickie, the RASNZ's oldest member, died on June 4 at the age of 100. Thanks to the care of Gore Hospital and Norman's sons Ross and Grant, Norman had been able to attend the Saturday afternoon session of the RASNZ's Conference in Dunedin.

Norman was a co-discoverer of the bright Nova Puppis 1942, now CP Puppis, on 11 November 1942. Norman spotted it at 11pm while biking home from Home Guard duties. He contacted the Carter Observatory who confirmed that the nova had also been seen by Alex Crust in Wellington. Alex nominated Norman for RASNZ membership in 1945. Sadly the two never met as Alex died that year.

Norman and Ross travelled to Northland to see the total solar eclipse of 31 May 1965. Norman described it as a most beautiful and wonderful sight and the highlight of his life.

Norman's funeral in Gore on June 8 was attended by a wide range of people from the Gore community and a large contingent of astronomers. Ash Pennell spoke on behalf of the Dunedin Astronomical Society and Bob Evans on behalf the RASNZ. There was a similarly large attendance at Norman's 100th birthday last October.

3. Horowhenua StellarFest, Foxton Beach, July 21-23

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the sixth annual StellarFest in the Lower North Island on July 21-23 at the Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua.

The overall theme of the weekend will be the Winter Milky Way. The venue is situated at a dark site so this wondrous area of the night sky will be easily visible and riding high in the sky.

The weekend will include: Hydrogen-alpha solar viewing and photography; interesting talks by both professional and amateur astronomers; night-time observing, through a variety of telescopes (feel free to bring your own telescopes ? the more the merrier!); and a telescope trail

The talks, on a wide variety of astronomical topics, will be held throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening. The programme of talks is yet to be finalised but speakers already confirmed include: Professor Bill Williams, Professor Paul Delaney, Edwin Rodley, Stephen Chadwick, Nicholas Witte, JP Borberg. All talks will be accessible to a general audience.

Costs - StellarFest Fee: Applies to ALL attendees, including Day Visitors. People over 18 years $23.00, 10-18 years $12. Under 10s free. On-Site Accommodation: Shared heated Cabins (from twin to 8 per cabin) or Dormitory - $20 per night per person over 10 years old; $3 per night for under 10s.

For details of booking, facilities and alternative accommodation see If you have any queries please contact the HASI Secretary, Tina Hills, at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

4. Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition

Calling all Astrophotographers, the 2017 Harry Williams Astrophotography Competition is now open for entries, this year our judge is world-renowned planetary photographer Damian Peach, in 2010, Damian became the only Briton to win the prestigious Astronomy Photographer Of The Year Award for his composite photograph of Jupiter's moons, Ganymede and Io, orbiting the stormy surface of the Gas Giant.

Astronz has generously offered to sponsor the Deep Sky category with a Astronz $300 gift voucher as well as providing an Astronz beanie for the winner of each category!

Not only will the overall winner of the competition receive the coveted Harry Williams Astrophotography Trophy to adorn his or her mantelpiece for a year but they will also receive an OPTOLONG L-Pro light pollution filter worth $269 US dollars thanks to the very generous sponsorship of OPTOLONG Astronomical Filters.

As in previous years we are lucky to have Australian Sky & Telescope on board as sponsors of both the Solar System category and the Miscellaneous /Artistic category, the winners of these categories will receive a one year subscription to the magazine as well as the usual cash prize.

Also the winner of the Newcomers contest will receive a signed copy of 'Imaging the Southern Sky' by Steve Chadwick & Ian Cooper, more sponsors to be announced soon.

The competition cut-off date is August 31 and the competition awards will be announced at the annual Burbidge Dinner which is the Auckland Astronomical Society's premier annual event, keep an eye out on the society website for details on the forthcoming Burbidge dinner.

The competition rules and entry forms can be found on the Auckland Astronomical Society website

-- From Jonathan Green's posting to the nzastronomers Yahoo group.

5. The Solar System in July

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

The Earth is at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun for the year, on July 4 just before midday. The apparent diameter of the Sun will then be 31.46 arc-minutes, and its distance 152.1 million km, 1.016 astronomical units.

Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight Times in July

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

                   July  1  NZST                  July 31  NZST
       SUN: rise: 7.45am,  set: 5.04pm    rise:  7.27am,  set: 5.27pm
Twilights    morning        evening           morning        evening
Civil:    starts: 7.16am, ends: 5.33pm   starts: 7.00am, ends: 5.55pm
Nautical: starts: 6.42am, ends: 6.00pm   starts: 6.27am, ends: 6.20pm
Astro:    starts: 6.08am, ends: 6.41pm   starts: 5.55am, ends: 7.00pm

July Phases of the Moon (times NZST, as shown by GUIDE)

          First quarter: July  1 at 12.51 pm (00:51 UT)
  Full moon:     July  9 at  4.07 pm (04:07 UT)
  Last quarter   July 17 at  7.26 am (Jul 16, 19:26 UT)
  New moon:      July 23 at  9.46 pm (09:46 UT)
  First quarter: July 31 at  3.23 am (Jul 30, 15:23 UT)

The Planets in July 2017

The second part of July will provide an excellent opportunity to view Mercury in the early evening sky. Jupiter is also best observed early evening, while Saturn is well placed all evening. Venus remains the obvious brilliant morning "star". Mars is too close to the Sun to see all month.

MERCURY is an evening object and will be best placed for viewing at the end of the month. It sets 45 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, so will then be rather low for viewing as the sky darkens. By mid-July the planet will set just after 7 pm, nearly 2 hours after the Sun. At 6 pm, 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury, magnitude -0.2, will be almost 10° above the horizon in a direction some 30° to the north of west.

By the end of July, Mercury will be even easier to see, some 15° up 50 minutes after sunset. Regulus, at 1.4 a magnitude fainter than Mercury, will be about 6° below the planet. On the 25th Mercury, now at magnitude +0.2, will be 1.2° to the left of the star, with the latter slightly higher. On that evening the crescent moon, 4.4% lit, will be less than 3° below Mercury. The following evening, the 26th, will find Mercury just over 1° from Regulus now slightly higher than the star. The moon will be 10° above the pair.

VENUS remains an easy morning object during July. It rises about 3.5 hours before the Sun on the 1st, reducing to 2.5 hours earlier on the 31st. During July, Venus makes its way across Taurus, passing between the Pleiades and Aldebaran. At their closest, on the morning of the 14th, the planet will be 3° to the lower left of 1st magnitude Aldebaran. Venus will of course completely outshine Aldebaran, by 5 magnitudes.

On the morning of the 21st, the crescent moon will be just under 5° to the lower right of Venus. The previous morning the moon will be a little less than 3° to the left of Aldebaran. The end of July will find Venus in the most northerly part of Orion, some 15° to the lower left of Betelgeuse.

MARS is not observable during July. It finally reaches conjunction with the Sun on the 27th of July. It will then be 1.64 AU beyond the Sun and 397 million km, 2.66 AU, from the Earth.

JUPITER will remain a prominent early evening object during July. It sets at 1am on the 1st and a few minutes after 11pm on the 31st, so will then be getting a little low and to the west by mid evening. The planet will be a few degrees below Spica.

The moon, at first quarter, will be 3° to the lower right of Jupiter on the 1st. It passes Jupiter again on July 28/29. As seen from NZ, the moon will be just over 8° below Jupiter on the 28th and some 6° to the upper right of the planet on the 29th. Their closest approach is a few minutes before noon on the 28th, when the two are 3° apart. This will be about the time Jupiter rises for NZ.

SATURN will be well placed for evening viewing during July. It rises at 3.45 pm on the 1st and two hours earlier by the 31st, giving it a good altitude an hour after sunset. The planet will be moving rather slowly to the west through Ophiuchus. The moon, two days short of full, will be 4° from Saturn as seen early evening in NZ. The separation of the two will increase during the evening as the moon moves away to the east.

Outer Planets

URANUS is a morning object in Pisces during July. It rises about 2 am on the 1st and at midnight on the 31st. The planet is at magnitude 5.8 throughout the month.

NEPTUNE rises at 10.15 pm on July 1 and two hours earlier on the 31st. It is in Aquarius at magnitude 7.9.

PLUTO, magnitude 14.4, is at opposition on July 10. It will then rise close to the time of sunset and set close to the time of sunrise. The planet will remain in Sagittarius and will be 1.3° from the magnitude 2.9 star, pi Sgr, by the end of the month.

Minor Planets

(1) CERES in the morning sky, starting July in Taurus only 14° from the Sun, too close for observation. It moves into Gemini on the 11th and by the end of the month 2° from the 3.0 magnitude star epsilon Gem. Ceres, with a magnitude 9.0, will then rise 100 minutes before the Sun

(4) VESTA is in Leo during July at magnitude 8.2. Its path through Leo takes the asteroid past Regulus. The two are just over 4° apart at their closest on July 18. Vesta sets at 10.30 pm on July 1 and 7.40 pm on the 31st.

(6) Hebe, in Ophiuchus, fades from magnitude 9.3 to 9.7 during July. It rises just before sunset on the 1st.

(7) Iris is in the morning sky with a magnitude 9.7 on the 1st and 9.2 on the 31st. The asteroid is in Pisces and rises at 12.30 am on the morning of July 31.

-- Brian Loader

6. Potential Meteor Shower

Earth crosses a dust trail from comet C/2015 D4 (Borisov) on July 29 at 00:22 UT (solar longitude 125.858 deg). Unfortunately that is noon on July 30 in NZ, not a good time for looking for meteors. Anyone running a radio-detection system for meteors, or observers in the dark at other longitudes, should check for the shower. The shower is expected to radiate from R.A. = 79 deg = 5h 16m, Dec. = -32 deg, with geocentric velocity 45.9 km/s.

The shower prediction is by Peter Jenniskens, SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, and E. Lyytinen, Helsinki, Finland using an improved comet orbit. It was published in IAU Central Bureau Electronic Telegram No. 4403, 2017 June 13.

7. First PhD prize Winners Announced by the IAU

In 2016 the International Astronomical Union initiated a new annual competition to find the best PhD theses in astronomy. Up to ten prizes can be offered each year, being one for each of the nine IAU divisions and an additional prize for a graduate student from a developing country.

The first round of prize winners has just been announced. See

The nine winners will receive free registration at the next IAU General Assembly in Vienna in August 2018, plus support for their travel to Vienna.

Another round in the PhD prize competition will take place this year, with submissions due by December 15. Details are to be found at

-- John Hearnshaw, President, IAU Division C, Astronomy education, outreach and heritage

8. Variable Star News

The AAVSO website hosts a Long Period Variable (LPV) Section, which is currently posting monthly articles ?LPV of the Month? This month?s issue features BH Crucis, which is a Southern Hemisphere Mira discovered in 1969 by R G Welsh. This is a particularly interesting Mira variable as its period has been observed to increase from 421 days in 1970 to 525 days in 1999, an increase of 104 days (20%) in only 12 cycles. The period has since slipped back somewhat to 505 days. The star deserves on-going visual and colour measurements. The magnitude range in V is 6.55 ? 10.1 The article mentions the 2009 paper by W S G Walker in Vol 37 (pp 87-95) of JAAVSO and three other references. An article was also published recently in July 2016 VSS Newsletter by Stan Walker on colour measurements of BH Crucis.

To find the LPV Section Monthly Features go to the LPV Section pages (address below) and find LPV of the month link on the menu RHS, which contains all the features posted in 2017.

-- Alan Baldwin

9. Setting up a Remote Observatory in Chile

Frustrated by the reduced number of observing nights on his island home of Rarotonga (40-50 fully clear nights/year, in 15 years reduced to less than 20/year as a result of changing weather patterns) Phil Evans decided to install an automated telescope in Chile. Why not! After a false start due to delays in construction of a roll-off roof set-up on a site at 2400 m, Phil took up with a company Obstech developing a slide-off roof complex at El Sauce, altitude just under 1600 m and at latitude 30.47°S, 26 km due south of the Gemini South installation (Gemini is a partnership of five Nth & Sth American countries and the Univ. of Hawaii which runs twin 8.1m diameter optical/infra-red telescopes).

After several delays in the completion date Phil and his wife took off in March 2016 to view the installation and install equipment. Disappointment again; the building was just the skeleton of the shed and certainly not yet ready to receive the equipment they had brought with them. However they did build the pier and installed the telescope mount. Some months later Phil?s equipment was installed by the Obstech team; ?first light? was 7 Oct 2016. Phil visited the site again in November 2016 and videos from this trip are available (links given) in his article. The article also describes in detail the equipment selected and the Kepler 2 work being undertaken by Phil. Some of the detail May be of interest to those setting up automated systems.

The newsletter account is both a travel saga as well as of astronomical interest; to read the full account, liberally illustrated with photos of telescopes and mountain views + videos, go to the January 2017 issue of the Variable Stars South Newsletter (VSS website and look under the Community tab for Newsletters.

-- Alan Baldwin

10. LIGO's Third Gravity Wave Detection

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) has made a third detection of gravitational waves, ripples in space and time, demonstrating that a new window in astronomy has been firmly opened. As was the case with the first two detections, the waves were generated when two black holes collided to form a larger black hole.

The newfound black hole, formed by the merger, has a mass about 49 times that of our Sun. This fills in a gap between the masses of the two merged black holes detected previously by LIGO, with solar masses of 62 (first detection) and 21 (second detection).

The new detection occurred during LIGO's current observing run, which began November 30, 2016, and will continue through the summer. LIGO is an international collaboration with members around the globe. Its observations are carried out by twin detectors -- one in Hanford, Washington, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana -- operated by Caltech and MIT with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

LIGO made the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves in September 2015 during its first observing run since undergoing major upgrades in a program called Advanced LIGO. The second detection was made in December 2015. The third detection, called GW170104 and made on January 4, 2017, is described in a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters.

In all three cases, each of the twin detectors of LIGO detected gravitational waves from the tremendously energetic mergers of black hole pairs. These are collisions that produce more power than is radiated as light by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any given time. The recent detection appears to be the farthest yet, with the black holes located about 3 billion light-years away. (The black holes in the first and second detections are located 1.3 and 1.4 billion light-years away, respectively.)

The newest observation also provides clues about the directions in which the black holes are spinning. As pairs of black holes spiral around each other, they also spin on their own axes -- like a pair of ice skaters spinning individually while also circling around each other. Sometimes black holes spin in the same overall orbital direction as the pair is moving -- what astronomers refer to as aligned spins -- and sometimes they spin in the opposite direction of the orbital motion. What's more, black holes can also be tilted away from the orbital plane. Essentially, black holes can spin in any direction.

The new LIGO data cannot determine if the recently observed black holes were tilted but they imply that at least one of the black holes May have been non-aligned compared to the overall orbital motion. More observations with LIGO are needed to say anything definitive about the spins of binary black holes, but these early data offer clues about how these pairs May form.

There are two primary models to explain how binary pairs of black holes can be formed. The first model proposes that the black holes are born together: they form when each star in a pair of stars explodes, and then, because the original stars were spinning in alignment, the black holes likely remain aligned.

In the other model, the black holes come together later in life within crowded stellar clusters. The black holes pair up after they sink to the centre of a star cluster. In this scenario, the black holes can spin in any direction relative to their orbital motion. Because LIGO sees some evidence that the GW170104 black holes are non-aligned, the data slightly favour this dense stellar cluster theory.

The study also once again puts Albert Einstein¹s theories to the test. For example, the researchers looked for an effect called dispersion, which occurs when light waves in a physical medium such as glass travel at different speeds depending on their wavelength; this is how a prism creates a rainbow. Einstein's general theory of relativity forbids dispersion from happening in gravitational waves as they propagate from their source to Earth. LIGO did not find evidence for this effect.

The LIGO-Virgo team is continuing to search the latest LIGO data for signs of space-time ripples from the far reaches of the cosmos. They are also working on technical upgrades for LIGO's next run, scheduled to begin in late 2018, during which the detectors' sensitivity will be improved. The hope is to see other types of astrophysical events soon, such as the violent collision of two neutron stars. For the full text, images and video see:

-- From a NSF/Caltech/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Early Earth Life Might Help Locate Mars Life

Fossil evidence of early life has been found in old hot spring deposits in the Pilbara, Western Australia, that date back almost 3.48 billion years. This extends the known evidence of life at land-based hot springs on Earth by about 3 billion years. Not only is the find exciting for what it might say about the evolution of early life on Earth, but it also has implications for the search for life on Mars. Our understanding of these deposits would not be possible without the foundations laid by earlier researchers.

In the late 1970s, fossilised stromatolites ? rock structures built by communities of microorganisms ? were discovered within these Pilbara deposits. These were interpreted as once living in a quiet, shallow water coastal environment much like we see in the modern setting of Shark Bay. But extensive research over the past 20 years has led to a much better understanding of the environment that suggests it was actually part of an ancient volcano.

In modern volcanic settings, hot fluids circulate in the rocks underground and manifest as hot vents at the bottom of the salty ocean, such as the black or white smokers, or terrestrial hot springs on land where fresh rainwater is available. What was unclear about the volcanic setting in the Pilbara was whether these hot circulating fluids were indeed discharging on land, producing hot springs ? such as those we see in Rotorua ? and could we link these hot springs to signs of life?

Our recent findings from the Pilbara, published in Nature Communications, provide a smoking gun to a terrestrial hot spring scenario in the form of a particular rock type called geyserite. This was found alongside a variety of textures that indicate life. Geyserite only forms around the edges of terrestrial hot spring pools and geysers. These are found actively forming today in New Zealand, Yellowstone National Park and Iceland to name a few.

The biological signatures that we?ve found include stromatolites, but also some newly identified microbial textures. This includes a microbial texture (called palisade fabric) that represents microbes that grew upon the ancient sinter terraces ? the rocks that form around hot spring pools. We also found evidence of gas bubbles that must have been trapped in a sticky substance (microbial) in order to be able to preserve the bubble shape. Spherical bubbles preserved in 3.48 billion year old rocks in the Dresser Formation in the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia provide evidence for early life having lived in ancient hot springs on land. Importantly, all of these textures are comparable to fossil textures found in modern hot spring settings such as Yellowstone National Park or Rotorua.

The Earth?s geological and fossil record is like a thousand-piece puzzle, but we only have a few pieces. Every missing piece we discover helps us to better shape our understanding of life. But these new findings don?t just extend back the record of geyserite and life living in hot springs on land by 3 billion years, they also indicate that life was inhabiting the land much earlier than previously thought, by up to 580 million years. Before these findings, the world?s oldest evidence for microbial life on land was from ancient, organic matter-rich soils from South Africa, aged between 2.7 billion and 2.9 billion years. The new discovery has implications for the evolution, and perhaps even the origin, of life on Earth.

Scientists are currently considering two hypotheses regarding the origin of life: that it began in the ocean in hot vents, or alternatively that it began on land in a version of Charles Darwin?s ?warm little pond? which was connected to a hot spring system. The discovery of biological signatures and fossil preservation in such ancient hot springs provides at least a geological perspective of the types of environments available and inhabited by life very early on in Earth?s history. This May lend weight to the hypothesis that life originated on land and then took a downhill adaptive evolutionary pathway to the salty ocean, whereas the opposite is typically proposed.

These findings have major implications regarding the search for life elsewhere in the universe, or at least our solar system. Our neighbouring planet, Mars, has long been a target in the search for extra-terrestrial life. It is widely accepted that the red planet was likely similar to Earth once upon a time, in that it had liquid water flowing on its surface and active volcanoes. Recent data from the spirit rover has even identified ancient hot springs, of a similar age to early Earth, in an area called Columbia Hills.

In fact Columbia Hills is one of the top three potential landing sites chosen for NASA?s upcoming Mars2020 rover that?s includes a primary objective to search for fossil life on Mars. Our findings imply that if life ever developed on the red planet, and it is preserved in ancient hot springs on Earth, then there is a good chance it could be preserved in ancient hot springs on Mars too.

-- From the article by Tara Djokic, a PhD research student at the University of New South Wales, at Thanks to Edwin Rod for passing along the link.

12. Two New Moons for Jupiter

The advent of monster telescopes equipped with super-sensitive, wide-field detectors has been a boon for astronomical discoveries, among them a bevy of tiny moonlets around the outer planets. For example, observations made from 2000 to 2003 yielded 46 moons around Jupiter ? more than two-thirds of the planet's total!

Now astronomer Scott Sheppard (Carnegie Institution for Science) has added two more to the planet's extended family, bringing the total of known moons to 69. The announcements for S/2016 J 1 and S/2017 J 1 ("S" for satellite, "J" for Jupiter) came via Minor Planet Electronic Circulars issued on June 2nd and June 5th, respectively.

As Sheppard explains, "We were continuing our survey looking for very distant objects in the outer solar system, which includes looking for Planet X, and Jupiter just happened to be in the area we were looking in 2016 and 2017." So they took a minor detour to image some fields that were very close to Jupiter.

With magnitudes hovering near 24, these barely-there moonlets must be only 1 or 2 km across. So for now all that's really known is the character of their orbits:

S/2016 J 1: Sheppard discovered this moonlet during an observing run on March 8, 2016, with the 6.5-m Magellan-Baade reflector at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. Averaging 20,600,000 km from Jupiter, it's in an elongated orbit inclined 140° with an eccentricity of 0.14. It takes 1.65 years to orbit the planet.

Although Sheppard first sighted this moon last year, its orbit remained uncertain until he teamed up with David Tholen (University of Hawai'i) and Chadwick Trujillo (Northern Arizona University), who swept it up six weeks ago with the 8.2-m Subaru reflector on Mauna Kea.

S/2017 J 1: Sheppard and Trujillo recorded the second new find on March 23, 2017, using the venerable 4-m Victor Blanco reflector at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. It also turned up in images recorded with Subaru in 2016 and earlier this year, which allowed the team to confirm its existence. This moon likewise is far from Jupiter, at an average distance of 23,500,000 km. In this very elongated orbit, inclined 149° with an eccentricity of 0.40, the moonlet takes 2.01 years to go around Jupiter.

Both of these discoveries, as with the vast majority of Jupiter's moons, occupy retrograde orbits, with inclinations greater than 90°, meaning that they move in directions opposite that of the planet's spin. Such distant, irregular orbits imply that these bodies formed elsewhere in the outer solar system and were captured while passing by early in the planet's history.

According to an orbital assessment published in April by Marina Brozovi? and Robert A. Jacobson (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), 11 of Jupiter's irregular satellites have orbits known so poorly that they're considered "lost." Sheppard and his collaborators found all but one of those in 2003, and they haven't been observed since.

However, that's changing. The time Sheppard and Trujillo spent scrutinizing the region around Jupiter has already led to the recovery of S/2003 J 5, S/2003 J 15, and S/2003 J 18, as well as a better orbit for S/2011 J 2.

"We have for sure recovered five of the lost moons," Sheppard says, noting that the 2016 and 2017 observations could be easily linked to some of 2003's uncertain finds. "We have several more Jupiter moons in our new 2017 observations and likely have all of the lost moons in our new observations," he continues, but to ensure the identifications he'll need to return to those big telescopes for more observations in early 2018.

-- From Kelly Beatty's article on Sky & Telescope's webpage at

The moons' orbits from M.P.E.C.s 2017-L46 and 2017-L47 S/2003 J 15 a = 0.1521 AU, e = 0.1945, i = 143.597, P = 1.92y, H = 16.7 S/2017 J 1 a = 0.1570 AU, e = 0.3969, i = 149.197, P = 2.01y, H = 16.5

13. How to Join the RASNZ

RASNZ membership is open to all individuals with an interest in astronomy in New Zealand. Information about the society and its objects can be found at A membership form can be either obtained from This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by completing the online application form found at Basic membership for the 2017 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

14. 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., Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

15. 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. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 November 2016. 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. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

16. Quote

"Physics is like sex. It May give some practical results but it's not why we do it." -- Richard Feynman in the Wall Street Journal.

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
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