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RASNZ Electronic Newsletter January 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 193

Affiliated Societies are welcome to reproduce any item in this email newsletter or on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/ in their own newsletters provided an acknowledgement of the source is also included.

Contents

1. RASNZ 2016 Dark Sky Awards
2. Starlight Highway Named
3. The Solar System in February
4. Star Parties in Early 2017
5. 2017 Conference - Call for Papers
6. Variable Star News
7. Vera Rubin
8. Northern Nova in 2022?
9. How to Join the RASNZ
10. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
11. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
12. Quotes

1. RASNZ 2016 Dark Sky Awards

According to the 2016 World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness (http://cires.colorado.edu/Artificial-light), only17% of New Zealanders can see the Milky Way, even though it is visible from 96% of our land area. Our dark sky heritage is constantly being eroded, but there is a lot that can be done to reduce or mitigate encroaching light pollution. RASNZ, the Auckland Astronomical Society (AAS) and numerous individuals are doing what they can to educate and improve the policies and practices of local government and the lighting industry, and the awareness and understanding of the public at large.

It is therefore pleasing to note that over the past year noticeable improvements in the night skies of two major cities have become apparent. The changeover of street lighting to LED systems begun in Auckland and Christchurch is already generating anecdotal reports of much less local sky glow, and reduced glare viewed from roads and footpaths.

In Auckland, to investigate the informal reports of improved street lighting, the AAS has undertaken the Dark Sky Background Survey Project. Society members are using Unihedron Sky Quality Meters to report data from as wide a coverage of this large city (4,500 km2) as possible.

The approach is similar to the Perth study by Biggs et al. published in 2012 (http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/421/2/1450). Data gathering is progressing very well, with measurements and analysis to be completed by March 2017.

The RASNZ Dark Sky Awards are given as part of the annual lighting Awards organised by the NZ Chapter of the Illuminating Engineering Society of Australia and New Zealand (IESANZ). The aim is to both encourage and reward lighting designs and innovations that protect and promote dark sky environments and policies.

Six entries in this year´s competition were eligible for consideration for an RASNZ Dark Sky Award. It was very pleasing to see some degree of sensitivity in all these submission to mitigating or eliminating sky glow, and to providing good shielding, energy-saving system controls, warmer colour temperature of luminaires, and minimal glare and light trespass.

However, all this year´s entries had some aspects that were less than desirable from the dark sky perspective, and none had that `wow´ factor to overcome their shortcomings. Unfortunately, no `Excellence´ award was therefore made this year. This is the first time in the six years I have had the privilege of judging these awards that this has occurred.

On the other hand, as mentioned above, all the entries showed an often strong awareness of how their design could meet dark sky expectations. Two awards were therefore made, one `Highly Commended´ and one `Commended´.

The Foster Recreation Park (Stage 1 Sports Park Lighting) Project in Dunedin received a Highly Commended Dark Sky Award. Lighting design was by C. Hoy from Musco Lighting Australia for the Selwyn District Council.

There are many complications designing good lighting for sports fields. Unfortunately, the solutions to lighting the numerous fields well and keeping costs down frequently come at the expense of local neighbourhoods.

It is heartening to see the lighting at this park providing great cut-off with virtually no light spill beyond the fields. While future luminaire and design developments and improvements will be welcome, this is a good first step to protecting the night sky and residential areas neighbouring local sports fields.

The Dark Sky Commended Award went to the Wellington Public Trust Building Facade Project. Lighting design was by Greig Blackler and Sean Clancey of Pacific Consultants for Maurice Clark of Cheops Holdings Ltd.

All too often the feature lighting for public and historical building facades incorporates upward lighting that makes little or no allowance for a dark night sky. The use of blade optics in this lighting design achieves the aim of highlighting the architectural features, without uplights flooding the sky with unwanted and wasted illumination.

We can be justly proud of our lighting designers in New Zealand, who are of international standard. Past Dark Sky Award projects have been well deserved winning designs, which I hope provide inspiration for future outdoor design projects.

This year, for the first time, international excellence awards were given that included both New Zealand and Australia. With the IESANZ President, Adele Locke, visiting from Australia to present these new awards, it was a proud moment to see the design for the façade of 45 Queen Street receive an Award of Excellence, as this project won the Dark Sky Award for Excellence last year.

The IESANZ competition also includes indoor lighting designs of course, and the Supreme Brilliance Award went to the `Gallipoli: the Scale of Our War´ exhibition at Te Papa Museum, designed by Sir Richard Taylor from Weta Workshop. Nice to beat the Aussies...

-- David Britten

2. Starlight Highway Named

People travelling through the Mackenzie District will soon be doing so on the Starlight Highway. A proposal to re-name the stretches of highway connecting Fairlie to Mt Cook the 'Starlight Highway' has been given the green light by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA). The decision was expected to add to the district's reputation as an astro-tourism mecca.

The Mackenzie District Council submitted a formal proposal to NZTA earlier in the year to change the name of the sections of highway from Fairlie to Twizel, and Twizel to Mt Cook. Mayor Graham Smith said it was great news for the district.

The proposal was initially started by astronomer Rebecca Greatrex, who pitched the idea to the Mackenzie District Council and then mayor Claire Barlow. The council got on board, and worked to push it through with NZTA, Smith said. "It brings fantastic recognition to the area, with such a great night sky. Rebecca put a lot of time and a lot of effort into it."

A special new sign depicting the night sky over the Mackenzie Basin had been created, and would be displayed in Fairlie. Any future references to the stretch of road in guide books and maps would also use the new name, Smith said.

The highway proposal had been backed by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who called it "visionary". "It's yet another component to making Tekapo the go-to place internationally for stargazing," she said. "I totally support it."

More than 3.6 million people visited the Mackenzie District between February 2015 and January 2016, according to figures released by Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism.

The news follows several developments in the district's astro-tourism sector in recent months. Tekapo company Earth and Sky was granted $3 million in government funding this week, which will be used to construct the company's new multi-million dollar astronomy centre. Co-owner Graeme Murray said up to 300 people visited the company when it began 12 years ago. That number was expected to rise to more than 200,000 this summer.

Tourism operator Tekapo Springs has also announced it will venture into the astro-tourism market. Its new venture, Tekapo Star Gazing, will launch in early 2017.

>From http://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/news/87379832/starlight-highway-name-change-confirmed-for-mackenzie

3. The Solar System in February

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours).

Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in February

                  February 1  NZDT              February 28 NZDT
                  morning  evening              morning  evening
       SUN: rise: 6.24am,  set: 8.43pm     rise: 6.58am,  set: 8.07pm
Twilights
Civil:    starts: 5.56am, ends: 9.12pm   starts: 6.32am, ends: 8.34pm
Nautical: starts: 5.18am, ends: 9.50pm   starts: 5.58am, ends: 9.08pm
Astro:    starts: 4.36am, ends:10.32pm   starts: 5.23am, ends: 9.43pm

February PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)

          First quarter: February  4 at  5.19 pm (04:19 UT)
  Full moon:     February 11 at  1.33 pm (00:33 UT)
  Last quarter   February 19 at  8.33 am (Feb 18, 19:33 UT)
  New moon:      February 27 at  3.59 am (Feb 26, 14:59 UT)

Eclipses

Neither the penumbral eclipse of the Moon on February 11 nor the annular eclipse of the Sun on the 26th, are visible from New Zealand. Further details of both eclipses can be found on the RASNZ web page, <www.rasnz.org.nz/in-the-sky/eclipses>.

The planets in February 2017

Venus remains the obvious bright planet in the evening sky but gets considerably lower, setting earlier, during the month. Mars, much fainter, is only a few degrees higher. Jupiter begins to move into the late evening sky; in the morning sky it will be joined by Saturn and, during the first part of the month, by Mercury.

Evening planets, Venus and Mars

Venus will remain brilliant in the evening sky throughout February reaching magnitude -4.8 by the 28th. It will get much lower in the western sky during the month, setting before 9 pm, about 45 minutes after the Sun, at the end of February. The planet is in Pisces all month.

MARS will be about 5.5° above and to the right of Venus on the 1st, with the crescent moon less than 3° away on the other side of Mars. With a magnitude 1.1, while still quite bright, Mars will have less than 1% of the brilliance of Venus.

For the first few days of February the relative positions of two planets will change little, both moving to the east through the stars. Later in the month, as Venus' apparent motion slows, Mars will draw away from it. Venus is stationary early in March

Towards the end of February, Mars will pass Uranus. The two are closest on the evening of the 27th, when Uranus will be just over half a degree to the upper left of Mars. With a magnitude 5.9, Uranus will be an easy binocular object, with no star of a similar magnitude close by.

By the end of February Mars will set about 100 minutes after the Sun and nearly an hour later than Venus.

Late evening and morning

JUPITER rises near 11.30 pm on the 1st and 9.40 on the 28th. So by then it will be an obvious late evening object to the east. Anyone who has seen Jupiter in the morning sky recently will know that it is close to the first magnitude star Spica. Early in the month their separation will be 3.6°. On the 6th Jupiter is stationary, after that date it will start moving slowly to the west as the faster moving Earth begins to catch up with the planet. The resulting retrograde motion of Jupiter after the 6th will increase its distance very slightly from Spica.

On the night of the 15th and 16th the 80% lit waning moon will pass Jupiter. The two are closest at about 5 a.m. on the 16th when the moon will be 3° below Jupiter with Spica 3.6° above the planet, the three forming a line near to dawn.

Morning

SATURN rises about 2.40 a.m. on the 1st and an hour after midnight on the 28th. The planet is in Ophiuchus until the 21st when it moves into Sagittarius. The

  1. lit waning moon will be 5° to the left of Saturn on the morning of February 21.

Saturn's ring system is now wide open as seen from the Earth. The planet's north pole is tilted towards us by over 26°. This is sufficient to bring the far edge of the ring system into view over the north pole of Saturn. Also the satellites, visible in a fairly small telescope, will appear scattered around the planet in a pattern changing from night to night.

MERCURY rises about an hour and three-quarters before the Sun on February 1 so it should be visible in the morning sky about an hour before sunrise. The planet will then be a low 7° a little to the south of east. On the 1st Mercury is in Sagittarius at magnitude -0.2, it will be a little below the handle of the "teapot". During February Mercury moves out of Sagittarius, first into Capricornus on the 7th and then into Aquarius on the 24th. At the same time, its elongation from the Sun will steadily decrease. As a result the planet will be lost to view in the twilight glow by about the middle of the month.

The moon, as a very thin crescent, will be 5° to the left of Mercury on the morning of the 26th.

Outer Planets

URANUS, at 5.8 to 5.9, remains in Pisces and is best observe early evening. On the 1st about 12.30 am and about 10.30 pm on the 28th. As noted above it is close to Mars at the end of the month giving an easy opportunity to locate the outer planet in binoculars. On the 2nd, the 30% lit waxing moon will be just under 3° to the upper left of Uranus.

NEPTUNE is in Aquarius at magnitude 8.0 throughout February. Nominally in the evening sky, it will be too close to the Sun to observe. It sets just 7 minutes after the Sun on the 28th.

PLUTO was at conjunction with the Sun on January 7, so will be moving into the morning sky during February. The planet is still in Sagittarius and will rise at 2.40 am on the 28th.

Minor Planets

(1) CERES is an early evening object. It starts the month in Pisces but moves across a corner of Cetus starting on the 13th. The asteroid is a 9th magnitude object.

(4) VESTA is also an evening object in February with a magnitude fading from 6.6 to 7.1 during the month. It will move to the west through Gemini and will be between 3 and 4° from beta Gem, Pollux, magnitude 1.2.

Four other asteroids brighten sufficiently to be visible in binoculars during the month. Three of them (9) METIS, (14) IRENE and (29) AMPHITRITE are in Leo, although Irene crosses a spur of Leo Minor from the 3rd to the 12th. The fourth, (15) Eunomia is in Sextans. All four brighten to between magnitude 9.0 and 9.2. Three of them are at opposition during February, Eunomia February 16/17, Irene February 23/27 and Metis the following night. Amphitrite brightens from 9.8 on the 1st to 9.2 on the 28th. It is at opposition in March.

Comets.

Two comets May be visible in binoculars during February. Magnitudes shown are estimates for the whole comet.

P/Encke (2P) is in Pisces fairly close to Venus. It brightens during the month from magnitude 11.4 on the 1st to 5.5 on the 28th. Unfortunately as it brightens so it gets lower in the western early evening sky. By the 28th it will set only 34 minutes after the Sun making it virtually unobservable.

P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P) moves into the morning sky at the beginning of February. On the 8th it will be at magnitude 8.3. Two mornings later (10th) at 8.5 it will 6° to the lower left of alpha Oph (2.1). On the 13th 2° below alpha CrB (2.2) and on the mornings of 15 and 16 Feb at mag 9.2 it will be 12.5°below Arcturus (mag 0.2). Thus it will remain a very low object for NZ observers.

-- Brian Loader

4. Star Parties in Early 2017

Stardate NI (North Island): Friday 27th - Sunday 29th January. Richard Hall writes, `Stardate 2017 is to be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa on January 27th to 29th 2017. However, participants May arrive earlier or stay later than these dates. In addition to a 3-day program of astronomical lectures, workshops and observing, we have movies, a geology field trip, live music and of course barbecues. This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance´. For further information phone (06) 377 1600 or visit www.astronomynz.org

Stardate SI (South Island): Friday 17th - Monday 20th February. Stardate SI will be held at a "Christian" hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February Friday 17th to Monday 20th February 2017. Organiser Euan Mason writes, `There's nothing particularly religious about Stardate, although Phil Barker reports a religious experience when he views the cosmos through his twin brother Kevin's 5" Zeiss refractor. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large´. For more details see - http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/

-- From 'Keeping in Touch' #19. 23 October 2016

5. 2017 Conference - Call for Papers

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Dunedin over the weekend of 12th -14th May 2017. Our guest speaker will be Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from the University of Sydney, and the Fellows´ Lecture for 2017 will be delivered by Jennie McCormick. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2017 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ Conference website www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference. Please note that you must be registered for the conference to give an oral presentation and for your convenience a link has been provided if you wish to do this when you register.

Following the conference, the 11th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO11) will be held at the conference venue on Monday/Tuesday 15th - 16th May. Details of the registration for TTSO11 will be available with the registration form for the conference, and paper submissions should be sent directly to the convenor Murray Forbes (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can. We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who May find it of interest.

For further information on the RASNZ conference, registration details and associated events please visit the conference website at www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

-- Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

6. Variable Star News

Variable Stars South News Another quarterly newsletter (2017 January) of Variable Stars South is currently being prepared and will be posted on the website ( www.variablestarssouth.org ) by the end of January. To find Newsletters go to tab Community/heading Newsletters.

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope RNZ (Radio New Zealand) is running a TED talk series on Sunday nights. (TED stands for "Technology, Education & Design"). The TED Radio Hour programme on 15th January was based on talks given on "Big Data". The last topic of the night was an astronomical one, describing a new telescope being installed in Chile. The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) is due to be operating by 2019 and is designed to greatly multiply the discovery of supernova. The survey is scheduled to be completed by 2030. The current estimates of dark energy are based on a limited number of supernova observations and this work is designed to give a lot more data to work with. As well as the physical telescope there will need to be massive computing power to deal with the amount of data being generated by the images.

The item was based on a TED talk by Professor Andrew Connelly, University of Washington. If you go to the RNZ TED talk web-site you can either listen to the radio programme or you can find the original pod-cast by Prof Andrew Connelly: - "What Data will be Discovered by the World´s Most Powerful Telescope".

The RNZ link is http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ted/audio/201828101/big-data-revolution-15-January

-- Alan Baldwin.

7. Vera Rubin

Vera Rubin, the astronomer who established the existence of dark matter, died on December 25th at age 88.

When in 1965 Vera Rubin arrived for a four-day stint at "the monastery", as the Palomar Observatory, home of the world´s largest telescope, was dubbed, there were no women´s lavatories. No female astronomer had ever worked there before. How could they, when it would mean walking home late at night?

It had been the same thinking at high school. When she told her revered science teacher of her scholarship to Vassar he said: "You should do OK as long as you stay away from science." She was the only astronomy major to graduate there in her year. When in 1947 she requested a graduate-school catalogue from Princeton, the dean told her not to bother: women were not accepted for physics and astronomy. George Gamow, later her doctoral adviser, said she could not attend his lecture at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab "because wives were not allowed".

She was indeed a wife. She married - aged 19 - Robert Rubin, a physicist whom she followed to Cornell, sacrificing her place at Harvard. He was, she said, her greatest ally. Later, when she attended night classes at Georgetown University, he drove her there, eating his dinner in the car until he could drive her home, while her parents baby-sat. Still, she found raising four children "almost overwhelming". When she halted her academic career - the worst six months of her life - she wept every time the Astrophysical Journal arrived in the house. But, working part-time, she made sure to be home when the kids returned from school. She never inspected their rooms, she said, and they grew up fine, all with PhDs in science or maths.

Her master´s thesis was, her Cornell supervisor said, worthy of being presented to the American Astronomical Society. But she was about to give birth, so, he suggested, he would present it - but in his name. She refused. Her parents drove up from Washington and took their 22-year-old daughter, nursing her newborn, on a gruelling snowy trip from upstate New York to Philadelphia. She addressed the roomful of strangers for ten minutes about galaxy rotation, soaked up some patronising criticism and a smidgen of praise - and left.

Though rows were unpleasant, defeat was worse. "Protest every all-male meeting, every all-male department, every all-male platform," she advised. At Palomar, she made a ladies´ room by sticking a handmade skirt sign on a men´s room door (she returned a year later: it was gone).

She´d never anticipated such problems. Her father encouraged her childhood habit of watching meteor showers, leaning out of her bedroom window and memorising their geometry in order to look them up later. He even helped her make her first telescope, from a cardboard tube; she had already made her own kaleidoscope. She hadn´t ever met an astronomer, but it never occurred to her that she couldn´t be one. But her early research was largely ignored. In other work, male astronomers elbowed her aside. Fed up, she looked for a problem "that people would be interested in, but not so interested in that anyone would bother me before I was done."

She found it. In the 1930s Fritz Zwicky, an idiosyncratic Swiss astrophysicist, had suggested that the brightly shining stars represented only a part of the cosmic whole. There must also be "dark matter", unseen but revealed indirectly by the effects of its gravity. That conjecture languished on the margins until Ms Rubin, working with her colleague Kent Ford, examined the puzzle of galactic rotation. Spiral galaxies such as Andromeda, she proved, were spinning so fast that their outer stars should be flying away into the never-never. They weren´t. So either Einstein was wrong about gravity, or gravitational pull from vast amounts of something invisible - dark matter - was holding the stars together.

The discovery reshaped cosmology, though initially her colleagues embraced it unenthusiastically. Astronomers had thought they were studying the whole universe, not just a small luminous fraction of it. New theories developed on what the matter might be - but its fugitive particles escaped all direct detection.

Some are worried by the absence. Ms Rubin was unbothered. Astronomy, she reckoned, was "out of kindergarten, but only in about the third grade". Many of the universe´s deep mysteries remained to be discovered by eye and brain, with all the joy that involved.

There were other scientific feats, too: in 1992 she discovered NGC 4550, a galaxy in which half the stars orbit in one direction, mingled with half that head the other way. She won medals aplenty: the Gold Medal of Britain´s Royal Astronomical Society (last awarded to a woman in 1828) and America´s National Medal of Science. Princeton, which had once shunned her, was among the many universities to award her an honorary doctorate. She gave notable commencement speeches.

The plaudits were pleasant, but numbers mattered more: the greatest compliment would be if astronomers years hence still used her data, she insisted. She was a perennial favourite for a Nobel prize in physics - only ever awarded to two women. That call never came: like dark matter, her fans lamented, she was vitally important, but easy to overlook.

-- From The Economist, 7 January 2017, p.66. See also http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/vera-rubin-mother-of-dark-matter-dies-at-88

8. Northern Nova in 2022?

Some astronomers suspect that a binary star system in Cygnus is preparing to make one star of two, erupting in a red nova that will be visible to the naked eye from northern places.

If Lawrence Molnar (Calvin College) and his colleagues are correct, the two stars in the binary KIC 9832227 are about to merge. Stellar mergers are not a new idea. Astronomers suspect they happen in densely populated places, such as globular clusters. One team also recently suggested that the famed red supergiant Betelgeuse might be the result of a merger, explaining its unusually fast spin.

Astronomers have already (probably) observed a stellar merger. In 2008, the star V1309 Scorpii revealed its existence when it suddenly flared. Follow-up work by Romuald Tylenda (Nicolaus Copernicus Astronomical Center, Poland) and colleagues, using more than 2,000 archival observations from the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), determined that V1309 Sco was likely a contact binary star. Contact binaries are stars that orbit so close together that they share a common outer atmosphere, like two peanuts inside their mutual dumbbell shell.

At first, Tylenda´s team concluded, V1309 Sco´s two stars orbited each other about every 1.4 days. That period shortened exponentially with time as the stars´ outer atmospheres combined to wrap them both in a single envelope. When this happened, the object began to brighten, then faster, until the two stellar cores merged, releasing energy and dazzling observers with an outburst 10,000 times brighter than the contact binary´s original luminosity.

Although astronomers aren't sure how bright it will become if the stellar pair mergers, it could potentially rise to 2nd magnitude, easily naked eye.

This 12th-magnitude binary lies in the constellation Cygnus, with a current orbital period of about 11 hours. Back in 2013, one of Molnar´s students had discovered that the period was growing shorter; follow-up work showed the change was accelerating, as V1309 Sco´s had before its eruption. Molnar suggested in 2015 that KIC 9832227 might be heading toward a crash, but at the time his group wasn´t sure if the change was due to a distant, unseen companion star instead.

Using a variety of observations spanning 17 years, the team has now found a closer companion - which might have driven the binary into contact in the first place - but nothing farther out that could explain the apparent change in period. They also found that the period has continued to shorten, as expected if the stars are spiralling in toward each other. Although the overall change is only about 1 second, that´s notable in a field with eight decimal points of precision. Thus, lacking a solid alternative, they´re going with the imminent merger scenario.

Using V1309 Sco as a model, the astronomers predict that KIC 9832227´s duo will merge in 2022, give or take a year. Molnar announced this on January 6th at a press conference at the winter American Astronomical Society meeting in Dallas.

Even assuming the team's explanation is the correct one, there are still several unknowns. For example, the researchers don't know when the outburst will begin. V1309 Sco started brightening nearly 2 years before its great flash, but given KIC 9832227´s characteristics, its uptick might only begin a month in advance, the team estimates.

Other binary-star astronomers are skeptical. Statistically, it's unlikely to have turned up this kind of system without trawling through a much larger number of stars, Tylenda points out. Another astronomer wondered whether the model used to predict the timing for this whole process is really dependable enough to pinpoint 2022.

Sadly the star is too low for all but northernmost NZ. Its coordinates are (2000) RA 19h 29m 15.95s, Dec. +46° 37´ 19.9". That's more than 1° north and well east of Deneb, or 12° NE of Vega.

V1309 Sco is a member of a larger category of stellar outbursts called red novae. The token example of this class is V838 Monocerotis, sighted in 2002 and known for the spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images of its light echo illuminating surrounding dust. But astronomers are hesitant to assert that mergers could explain all red novae.

References: L. A. Molnar et al. "Prediction of a Red Nova Outburst in KIC 9832227." Presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting, abstract 417.04. R. Tylenda et al. "V1309 Scorpii: Merger of a Contact Binary." Astronomy & Astrophysics, April 2011.

-- Mostly from an article by Camille M. Carlisle on Sky & Telescope's website. The original with images is at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/stars-en-route-to-merger/

9. 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 http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-benefits 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 http://rasnz.org.nz/rasnz/membership-application Basic membership for the 2016 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

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

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. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2017. There will be a secondary round of applications later in the year. 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.

12. Quotes

"Scientists get very sure of the things that they think they're sure of. And sometimes they've been wrong - and when they are, it's a hell of a job to change the folklore." -- John Kormendy (University of Texas at Austin), passed along by Bob Evans.

"No matter how humble the spirit it's offered in, a sermon is an act of aggression." -- Ursula Le Guin.

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