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.

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.

Contents

1. Real Amateur Astronomers
2. The Solar System in December and January
3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28-30
4. Council and Executive Nominations, Please
5. RASNZ Web Site Manager Wanted
6. Mackenzie Country on List of World Heritage Starlight Reserves
7. Advice on Fighting Light Pollution
8. Anthropologist Analyses Amateur Astronomy
9. Laser Pointer Fact Sheet
10. Spacecraft Impact Confirms Lunar Water
11. Large Diffuse Ring Found Around Saturn
12. Radio Astronomy Enhances Wi-Fi
13. Galactic Centre Image Released
14. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac
15. David Malin at Stardate South Island
16. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20
17. Call for Presentations for NACAA XXIV
18. RASNZ in Wikipedia
19. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
20. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
21. How to Join the RASNZ
22. Here and There
21. Next Newsletter - January

1. Real Amateur Astronomers

In early August Albert Jones of Nelson saw that R71, a luminous blue variable star in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), had quickly brightened to ninth magnitude. That made it the brightest star in the LMC. Albert alerted astronomers interested in such stars. Spectroscopic follow-up on August 26, showed that the spectrum of R71 resembles that of an extreme early-F-type hypergiant. This spectrum is significantly cooler than that previously seen at the star's maximum state in 1970-1977, when the system reached an A1 Ieq spectral type. The current outburst phase of R71 was first noted visually by Australian amateur Peter Williams in March last year but has accelerated recently. It was also picked up by T. Kato in April 2008 on the ASAS-3 photometric database (ASAS 050207-7120.2). Albert uses a 30 cm reflector and ~88 year-old eyeball. Details from IAU Circular 9082, 15 October 2009.

Jennie McCormick of Auckland stumbled across a 'new' asteroid on September 16. Jennie has long been an observer of variable stars and microlensing targets and more recently a tracker of comets, but this was her first asteroid discovery. It appeared as a 20th magnitude spot on CCD images taken with her 35 cm telescope. Provisionally designated 2009 SA1 the object orbits at an average distance of 2.3 AU or 350 million km from the sun in 3.5 years. The orbit is moderately elliptical (e = 0.19) and inclined 7 degrees to the plane of Earth's orbit. The object's "absolute magnitude" is 18.2 implying a diameter in the range 400-1400 metres, depending on its reflectivity.

In the July Newsletter we noted that Stuart Parker of Oxford, Canterbury, had discovered two supernovae in the previous month. Stu has continued this productive run, reporting his sixth supernova on November 12, confirming images he obtained the night before. Supernova 2009la in NGC 1572 was at red magnitude 15.7 on unfiltered images taken with a 35-cm Celestron C14 f/6.3 Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector and ST8 CCD camera. It was a type-Ia supernova a few days before maximum light. South African amateur L.A.G. Monard of Pretoria also independently found 2009la. Details from IAU Central Bure au Electronic Telegrams 2013 and 2017.

2. The Solar System in December and January

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for December 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/Dec_09.htm. Notes for January 2010 will be in place in a few days.

The southern summer solstice is on December 22 NZDT, with the Sun furthest south just before 6 am. The Earth is at perihelion 2010 January 3 when it will be 0.9833 AU from the Sun.

A very slight partial eclipse of the moon, with no more than 7.5% of its diameter in the Earth´s umbral shadow, occurs on December 31, January 1 in New Zealand. An annular eclipse of the Sun takes place on January 15. No part of either is visible from New Zealand.

The annular eclipse of the Sun starts in equatorial Africa and crosses the Indian Ocean to brush the extreme southeast of India and northwest Sri Lanka, with the centre line between the two. After crossing the Bay of Bengal, the annular path moves over Burma and on into China, to end on the Shantu Peninsula to the southeast of Beijing.

The planets in december and january - the evening sky

Jupiter remains easily visible in the evening sky throughout December, although by the end of the month that planet will set about 2.5 hours after the Sun, a little before midnight for all places in NZ except the far south, where it will set just after midnight. The planet will then be getting low by late evening. By the end of January, Jupiter will set only an hour after the Sun and be virtually lost in the evening twilight.

Jupiter, now moving in the normal easterly direction, will again overtake Neptune during the December. The two are closest on December 21 when the planets will be just over half a degree apart. This is their third conjunction for the year. On the same evening the crescent Moon, some 20% lit, will be 4.5 degrees below the planets.

In the New Year, Jupiter will move away steadily from Neptune. It will cross from Capricornus into Aquarius on January 6. On the 18th the crescent moon will be 5 degrees from Jupiter. Both will be low in the evening twilight.

Mercury will also be in the evening sky in December, visible for much of the month in the evening twilight. Its magnitude is close to -0.5 for the first 3 weeks of December after which it fades fairly rapidly.

In the middle of the month Mercury will set about 90 minutes after the Sun, times ranging from just after 10 pm in Auckland to just after 11 pm at Invercargill.

The planet is at its greatest elongation, 20 degrees east of the Sun on December 18. After this its easterly motion through the stars slows until it reaches a stationary point on December 26. By then it will set about 1 hour after the Sun and be at magnitude 0.4. During the last few days of December Mercury will rapidly close in on the Sun, so set sooner after sunset, and also rapidly fade losing two magnitudes of brightness by December 31.

On the evening of December 18, a very thin crescent Moon, only 3% lit, will be 2 degrees to the lower right of Mercury.

In the New Year, Mercury is at inferior conjunction on January 4, following which it becomes a morning object. It moves fairly rapidly up into the morning sky, with the planet being stationary on January 16 and at greatest elongation, 25 degrees west of the Sun, on the 27th. By the last week of January the planet will rise 2 hours before the Sun. 45 minutes before sunrise it will be some 12 degrees above the horizon. With a magnitude close to zero it should be visible in the dawn sky. Mercury will then be in Sagittarius close to the handle of the "teapot". At 2 magnitudes brighter than Nunki, the brightest star in the asterism, Mercury should be easily distinguishable.

The Morning Sky

Venus, Mars and Saturn remain as morning objects throughout December, although by the end of the month, Mars will rise shortly before midnight except in the far south of New Zealand. It reaches opposition at the end of January.

Venus will be only 10 degrees from the Sun at the beginning of December and rise less than half an hour before it. By the end of December the two will be only 2.5 degree apart, making observation impossible. It is at superior conjunction on January 12, 8 days after Mercury is at inferior conjunction.

This will put Venus in the evening sky. But by the end of January it will be only 5 degrees from the Sun and setting less than 20 minutes after the Sun.

Mars, in Leo, will brighten from magnitude -0.1 to -0.7 during December. It is stationary on the night of December 21/22 following which it starts moving in a retrograde sense. Its position will not change much during the month, with the planet about 10 degrees from Regulus.

The 76% lit moon will be 6 degrees to the upper left of Mars on the morning of December 7.

January will see Mars rising before midnight, after having been a morning object throughout 2009. It reaches opposition on January 30 (NZDT) having been closest to the Earth 2 days earlier. At opposition Mars will have a magnitude -1.3, and an angular diameter of 14". This will make it a little brighter than Sirius, some 50 degrees above Mars. It will be well north of the equator, so a low object for New Zealand.

At opposition, Mars will be quite close to the full moon, the two being just over 6 degrees apart on the evening of January 30.

Saturn will rise close to 3 am in the north of NZ at the beginning of December, and about half an hour later in the south. By the end of December it will rise two hours earlier and be readily visible an hour before sunrise to the northeast at a moderate altitude. Its will be at magnitude 0.9

Saturn will remain in Virgo about 20 degrees from Spica throughout December. It ends the month 1 degree from the 3.9 magnitude star eta Vir.

By mid to late January, Saturn will start to rise before midnight, but still remain essentially a morning object. It is stationary on January 15, so will show little change in position throughout the month.

Outer planets

Uranus is in Aquarius very close to its boundary with Pisces into which it moves on January 16. During December Uranus will set after midnight, so remain visible throughout the evening. By the end of January it will set about 10.30 pm.

Neptune, in Capricornus, will set before midnight by the end of December, so will be best placed for viewing as soon as the sky darkens. On December 21 Neptune will be just over half a degree from Jupiter making it reasonably easy to locate the fainter planet. By the end of January, Neptune will set only 40 minutes after the Sun.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is a morning object starting December in Libra only 18 degrees from the Sun. It moves into Scorpius on Christmas Day and on into Ophiuchus 12 days later. By the end of December it will rise two hours before the Sun and 4 hours earlier at the end of January.

(2) Pallas is a magnitude 9.4 object in Virgo in December and most of January. On the 24th it moves into Serpens and brightens slightly to magnitude 9.2 by January 31. On the morning of January 30, NZDT, Pallas will cross the star cluster M5.

(3) Juno, an evening object, starts December in Aquarius but moves into Cetus after two days. During December it fades from magnitude 8.9 to 9.3 and to 9.5 by the end of January.

(4) Vesta is a morning object in Leo a few degrees east of Regulus. During December it brightens from magnitude 7.8 to 7.2 and to 6.5 a month later. It is stationary on January 7 some 8.6 degrees east of Regulus.

(18) Melpomene, in Cetus, fades from magnitude 9.1 to 9.8 during December.

-- Brian Loader

3. RASNZ Conference 2010 May 28-30

Just a further reminder about next year's Conference. Plans are coming together nicely.

The Standing Conference Committee is now calling for papers. Anyone wanting to present a paper, or poster paper can access the appropriate form from the RASNZ webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz - and submit the paper for consideration. We already have some papers, but at the moment there is plenty of space available in the programme. As with recent conferences it is proposed to go through till around 5pm Sunday with the programme.

Registration forms will be available shortly. The paper form will be sent to members in December, along with other promotional material, and the on-line form will be available on the RASNZ webpage within a few weeks. We encourage early registration, as this helps the local organising committee with their planning.

We have made a departure from the normal type of programme on the Friday. The local organising committee was keen to impart a local flavour, and for those who would like to go, there will be Conference trip on the Taieri Gorge Railway. A special conference price has been negotiated, and you can book on the Conference registration form. The train leaves at 12.30pm, and returns at 4.30pm.

Just a reminder that Dr Stuart Ryder is our guest. He is a southern guy - completed his degree at Canterbury University, and is now the Australian Gemini Scientist at the Australian Gemini Office, hosted by the Anglo-Australian Observatory. We will have a formal title shortly, but Stuart's feature paper will include discussion of supernovae he has observed.

Bill Allen will be delivering the Fellows Lecture on the Friday evening.

We also recommend taking advantage of competitive airfares by booking early. Air New Zealand and Pacific Blue fly to Dunedin.

The Conference is being held at the Otago Museum - an excellent venue. And there is plenty of accommodation options within easy walking distance of the Museum. The Local Organising Committee may include information and recommendations with the material being distributed with the registration form.

Early in the new year we will also have further announcement re both the 2011 and 2012 Conferences.

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

******************** Call for conference papers.

Submissions to present papers at the 2010 conference are now invited. The time allocation for papers is normally 20 minutes. Further details of requirements and closing dates, together with a submission form are on the RASNZ web site.

-- Brian Loader

4. Council and Executive Nominations, Please

1. Appointment of Vice-president

Members will remember that Duncan Hall was elected as incoming vice-president at the Tekapo AGM in 2008. Since that time Duncan has been appointed to a position with the SKA in Manchester, England, so has resigned from Council.

Recently Council voted to co-opt Glen Rowe to Council as vice-president. Older members may remember that Glen served as executive secretary for much of the 1980s.

-------------------------------------------- 2. Call for nominations to Council.

Closing date for receipt: 26 February 2010

2010, being an even numbered year, is an election year for the RASNZ

Council. Nominations are requested for all officers and council positions.

The positions for which nominations are required are:

President

Incoming vice-president
Executive secretary
Treasurer
5 Council members.

In addition the fellows need to nominate and elect a fellows representative

Affiliated Societies will elect two representatives at the affiliated societies' committee meeting held prior to the AGM.

The current president, Grant Christie, automatically becomes vice-president. The rules do not allow the president to serve a second consecutive term.

By the terms of rule 74, nominations need to be sent in writing to the Executive Secretary by Friday 26 February 2010. The nomination must specify the name of the candidate and the office sought. It must be signed by the proposer and seconder and be accompanied by the written consent of the nominee.

The address to which nominations should be sent is:

RASNZ Executive Secretary

14 Craigieburn Street
Darfield 7510
New Zealand

A postal ballot will be held in March 2010 for any position for which the number of candidates exceeds the number of appointees required.

-- Brian Loader, Executive Secretary, 14 November 2009

5. RASNZ Web Site Manager Wanted

The RASNZ web site <http://www.rasnz.org.nz> is widely used by the public, both in NZ and overseas, as a source of astronomy information. In 2008 there were over 178 000 visits to the site with the number of hits in excess of 1 million. Numbers for 2009 by the end of October were already in excess of the total for 2008.

The present web site manager has been maintaining the site since its inception over 10 years ago. It is now time for him to step aside and hand over control to a younger person. This handover is envisaged to take place during 2010.

Applicants are invited. The applicant will need to have some skills at preparing html files for a web site, and obtaining the material to go on the site.

Thus any would-be applicants for the job, completely unpaid of course, should be aware that there are two sides to it. These are researching and preparing the material for the monthly and other updates, and then preparing the actual html files for uploading onto the site.

These do require several hours of work each month. In addition there are less frequent updates required 3 or 4 times a year and a heavier number required in preparation for each New Year. The present manager expects to be preparing these latter over a time span of about two months towards the end of the previous year.

In addition the web site is an outlet for keeping members informed about the annual conference and other RASNZ functions. In the weeks leading up to conference updates are needed on a regular basis, sometimes a few times a week. The web site has also developed as a means of communication between RASNZ and the affiliated societies. Thanks to Jennie for providing the material needed for this.

The web site also results in the occasional query being received which needs to be answered, although many of these are sent to the publicity officer who handles them.

There would also seem to be a need for the development of the site, for instance to make it more interactive.

Please send any offers to take on the role, with an indication of experience to the RASNZ secretary, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

6. Mackenzie Country on List of World Heritage Starlight Reserves

New Zealand has been nominated as one of five world heritage night sky reserve sites for the UNESCO World Heritage meeting in Rio de Janeiro next year.

The Tekapo-Aoraki/Mt Cook night sky bid presented by former Cabinet minister Margaret Austin was unanimously supported by the UNESCO meeting in Santa Cruz, the Canaries, on November 11. "I´m just overwhelmed our NZ bid was approved without exception here. We have got to the first hurdle and will be ready to push our case further to the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in Rio next year. If we get through that, as we hope, we will then need government commitment to proceed to the final stage."

Mrs Austin, who is chairman of the Tekapo-Aoraki/Mt cook bid also noted the need to have the public on board so they can see the massive global benefits of being recognised as a world night sky heritage park. She will be briefing ministers, the Prime Minister and conservation heads on her return.

The other sites included in the Thematic Study for world heritage approval are in Austria, La Palma, Chile and Hawaii. Mrs Austin said she was determined to speed up the process for the NZ bid to be approved, possibly within two years.

She told the conference that Tekapo Aoraki/Mt Cook had exceptional unpolluted skies with very low light pollution because of Mackenzie District Council lighting ordinances which are now nearly 30 years old.

-- from a press release from Word of Mouth Media NZ

7. Advice on Fighting Light Pollution

A discussion in the nzastronomers Yahoo group about organising a petition protesting light pollution elicited this response from Steve Butler, RASNZ Dark Skies Group:

One of the big issues in trying to fight light pollution in NZ is the inertia present in most local councils in general regarding street lighting. Because there are around 86 different territorial and regional authorities in New Zealand there are a similar number of battles to be fought if you take on each one. But there are changes happening in New Zealand with rega rd to street lighting. The Electricity Commission, Lighting Council of New Zealand and the Illumination Engineering Society of NZ are working towards improving the efficiency of NZ Street Lighting.

Have a look at: http://www.localgovernmentmag.co.nz/Portals/3/Street_lighting_09.pdf to see what is happening in New Zealand local councils and street lighting.

Fighting Light Pollution is a many faced issue. It is about vision, economics e.g. life cycle costs, ecology, human health, safety, amenity values e.g. astronomy, heritage, energy consumption, CO2 emissions.

It is not surprising that there are so many issues. When you modify half of this planet's environment by artificially lighting the darkness there are bound to be impacts.

8. Anthropologist Analyses Amateur Astronomy

Brian Howe has produced a thesis on amateur astronomy as an Anthropology project.

The abstract (with references removed) reads: "In this examination of amateur astronomy in New Zealand, I suggest that astronomical science can be a medium through which adherents attempt to enact social transformation. Contemporary studies of leisure often emphasise the individualistic nature of l eisure activity, with social interaction framed as a means to support the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of participants. However, while amateur astronomers do engage in `serious leisure´, I suggest their extended roles as educators and liaisons for professional counterparts push their endeavour beyond mere participation and into wider territories of public engagement and scientific discourse.

Following analysis by [several authors] I argue that the New Zealand astronomical community´s proclivity for education operates as a forum for constructing recursive and normative action, in which ideologies congruent with scientific rationalism are disseminated through a form of moral regulation. Commencing with a discussion of the structure of New Zealand´s astronomical community, I examine how informants´ narratives and attitudes to contributive participation manifest in demonstrative actions that provide idealised templates for behaviour."

The complete pdf is at: http://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10063/1062/thesis.pdf?sequence=1

-- Thanks to Paul Moss for pointing this out and Stephen Hovell for adding more background, both on the nzastronomers Yahoo group.

9. Laser Pointer Fact Sheet

John O'Byrne, Secretary, Astronomical Society of Australia (ASA), circulated the following. The factsheet might be of interest.

Late last year we released an ASA Factsheet on laser pointers. It can be seen at the Australian Astronomy site http://www.astronomy.org.au/ngn/engine.php?SID=1000011&AID=1003110 It concentrates on legislation in NSW because that is where legislation and regulation changes had recently been made.

We would like to update the information on this sheet, in particular incorporating any information on legislative changes (or proposed changes - Tasmania for example) in other states and territories. If you know anything about such changes, I would appreciate the information. It would be particul arly useful if you can point to specific web sites. Please just respond to this email.

Any other comments on the factsheet are also welcome.

(Any reader who wants to respond to John's email can get his email address from me. -Ed.)

10. Spacecraft Impact Confirms Lunar Water

Preliminary data from NASA¹s Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, indicates the mission successfully uncovered water in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. The discovery opens a new chapter in our understanding of the Moon.

The LCROSS spacecraft and a companion rocket stage made twin impacts in the Cabeus crater on October 9. The impacts created a plume of material from the bottom of a crater that has not seen sunlight in billions of years. The plume travelled at a high angle beyond the rim of Cabeus and into sunlight, while an additional curtain of debris was ejected more laterally.

Scientists long have speculated about the source of significant quantities of hydrogen that have been observed at the lunar poles. The LCROSS findings are shedding new light on the question with the discovery of water, which could be more widespread and in greater quantity than previously suspected. If the water that was formed or deposited is billions of years old, these polar cold traps could hold a key to the history and evolution of the solar system, much as an ice core sample taken on Earth reveals ancient data. In addition, water and other compounds represent potential resources that could sustain future lunar exploration.

The team took the known near-infrared spectral signatures of water and other materials and compared them to the impact spectra the LCROSS near infrared spectrometer collected. No other reasonable combination of other compounds that were tried matched the observations. The possibility of contamination from the Centaur also was also ruled out.

Additional confirmation came from an emission in the ultraviolet spectrum that was attributed to hydroxyl, one product from the break-up of water by sunlight. Just after impact, the LCROSS ultraviolet visible spectrometer detected hydroxyl signatures that are consistent with a water vapour cloud in sunlight.

Data from the other LCROSS instruments are being analyzed for additional clues about the state and distribution of the material at the impact site. The LCROSS science team and colleagues are poring over the data to understand the entire impact event, from flash to crater. The goal is to understand the distribution of all materials within the soil at the impact site.

For information about LCROSS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/lcross

-- from a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Large Diffuse Ring Found Around Saturn

NASA¹s Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous ring around Saturn. The new belt lies at the far reaches of the Saturnian system, with an orbit tilted 27 degrees from the main ring plane. The bulk of its material starts about 6 million km away from the planet and extends outward roughly a nother 12 million km. Seen from earth the outer extent is nearly a degree across -- two full moon diameters. One of Saturn¹s farthest moons, Phoebe, circles within the newfound ring, and is likely the source of its material. The ring has a vertical height about 20 times the diameter of the planet or 2.5 million km.

The ring itself is tenuous, made up of a thin cloud of ice and dust particles. Spitzer¹s infrared eyes were able to spot the glow of the band¹s cool dust. The telescope, launched in 2003, is currently 107 million km from Earth in orbit around the Sun.

The discovery may help explain why Saturn¹s moon Iapetus is bright on one side and dark on the other. The dark side is now named Cassini Regio in honour of Giovanni Cassini who first spotted Iapetus in 1671.

Saturn¹s giant ring could explain how Cassini Regio came to be. The new ring is circling in the same direction as Phoebe while Iapetus and the other rings and most of Saturn¹s moons are going the opposite way. Some of the dark and dusty material from the outer ring moves inward toward Iapetus, slamming the icy moon like bugs on a windshield.

The ring would be difficult to see with visible-light telescopes. Its particles are diffuse and may even extend beyond the bulk of the ring material all the way in to Saturn and all the way out to interplanetary space. The relatively small numbers of particles in the ring wouldn't reflect much visible light, especially out at Saturn where sunlight is weak. Spitzer was able to sense the glow of the cool dust, which is only about 80 Kelvin (-190 C). Cool objects shine with infrared, or thermal radiation. Even a cup of ice cream is blazing with infrared light. These observations were made before Spitzer ran out of coolant in May and began its "warm" mission.

For additional images relating to the ring discovery and more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer.

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

12. Radio Astronomy Enhances Wi-Fi

Inside almost every Wi-Fi device in the world is a little bit of the Australian sky: patented technology that makes Wi-Fi fast and reliable. This invention was recognised last Wednesday with the Australian Prime Minister´s $300,000 Prize for Science being presented to radio astronomy engineer John O´Sullivan.

It´s one of the most significant discoveries in the history of Australian science and a classic example of how blue sky research can have unexpected outcomes. The story has been largely untold until this week due to a long and complex commercialisation process that led earlier this year to 14 technology companies agreeing to pay CSIRO for their use of the patent. The terms of each settlement are confidential but CSIRO has announced that $150 million of the royalties earned by the invention will fund future blue sky research through an endowment fund.

Nearly a billion people use John O´Sullivan´s invention every day. When you use a Wi-Fi network -- at home, in the office or at the airport -- you are using patented technology born of the work of John and his CSIRO colleagues. They created a technology that made the wireless LAN fast and robust.

In 1977 John O´Sullivan co-wrote a paper about the use of a set of mathematical equations known as Fourier transforms to sharpen optical telescope images distorted by the atmosphere. The paper is short and, like O´Sullivan, somewhat humble. It builds on first principles of physics, but brings together a broad view joining radio and optics. And the paper is seminal. It explains the techniques known as adaptive optics and proves why they work.

Amongst John´s many research interests was the search for radio waves from exploding black holes -- predicted in 1974 by Stephen Hawking. John didn´t find them, but the techniques he and his collaborators developed to clean up intergalactic radio wave distortion eventually found expression as the technology in the wireless LAN.

Fourier transforms were the key to his work. They were essential for the new Australia Telescope at Narrabri. To simplify and speed up the transform task he worked with Austek Microsystems to create a computer chip to do the processing for him.

By 1990 CSIRO was looking for ways to commercialise its capability in radio physics. "We realised that our skills with antennas, signal processing, and radio design might allow us to cut the network cable that linked every office computer," John says. "From the beginning we set out to match the speed of the best wired networks of the time."

But reflections got in the way. In the confines of buildings and rooms, radio waves bounce off many surfaces, so that a transmission arrives at a receiver followed by a series of echoes. This leads to a fuzzy, ambiguous signal, akin to `ghosting´ on a television.

Using the same techniques he´d applied to astronomy, John and his team realised they could send the information over many different frequencies and recombine the signal at the receiver. Within a year, in 1992, CSIRO applied for an Australian patent and the long process of prototyping, trialling, and then commercialising and defending the technology and the patent, began.

The US patent came in 1996. The solution was so successful, that IEEE, the global standards body, wrote it into one of its standards for wireless networking, 802.11a. It is now part of two subsequent standards, 802.11g and n. But it took until April 2009 to agree on licensing terms with the makers of wireless computers.

Meanwhile the wireless LAN technology continues to change the world. It´s built into the next generation of mobile phones and is set to transform how we interact with our cars and homes.

Full story: http://www.scienceinpublic.com/blog/prime-ministers-prize/2009-science

-- abridged from a SKA press release forwarded by Marilyn Head.

13. Galactic Centre Image Released

A never-before-seen view of the turbulent heart of our Milky Way galaxy were unveiled by NASA on Nov. 10. This event commemorated the 400 years since Galileo first turned his telescope to the heavens in 1609.

The composite image shows the bustling hub of our galaxy that combines a near- infrared view from the Hubble Space Telescope, an infrared view from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and an X-ray view from the Chandra X-ray Observatory into one multiwavelength picture. This composite image provides one of the most detailed views ever of our galaxy's mysterious core.

See it at http://hubblesite.org/news/2009/28

-- from a NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

14. The Phoenix Astronomical Society Almanac

Kay Leather writes: "More than just a calendar, each monthly grid includes the phases of the moon, the rise and set times of the Sun and Moon, plantary phenomena, meteor activity, solstices and equinoxes, public and school holidays, religious festivals, historical astronomical events, a Maori calendar and ancient star lore pertaining to each month.

The almanac contains 24 spectacular full colour images of celestial objects or events with explanations.

In addition there are 6 full colour charts and 4 feature pages. These include star and constellation charts for each season, a map of the Moon, and a chart showing the rise and set times of the Sun and planets. An information page explains how to use the Almanac and charts"

The price of the Almanac at $20 retail & p.p To order contact Kay Leather at Hellfa(at)xtra(dot)co(dot)nz or write to Almanac, P.O. Box 156, Carterton 5743.

15. David Malin at Stardate South Island

Stardate South Island will be held on 15-18 January 2010, at the usual venue - the Presbyterian Church camp at Staveley, inland mid-Canterbury. The dates coincide with the new moon for January 2010 so there will be ample dark skies for everyone to get in some great deep sky observing.

David Malin, world famous astronomer and astro-imaging pioneer will be a special guest at Stardate SI. David will provide a range of talks, provisionally including one about Galileo, one about the Southern Cross, and one about his personal journey from microscopes to telescopes.

The charges are $10 per person per night. There is bunk accommodation for around 72 persons. There are also a few free power sites for caravans and campervans. There is also plenty of room to erect tents. The total number of people we can have on-site is 96, so book soon. No refunds can be made after 5 January 2010.

The weekend is a self-catering event; bring your own food. Contributions to the pot-luck dinner on Saturday will be by alphabetical order of surname: see last month's Newsletter Item 8. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is plenty of chiller space. Tea and coffee will be supplied.

On-line registrations, and all other information, are available at the Stardate South Island website: http://www.forestry.ac.nz/euan/stardate/

-- from notes by Euan Mason and Dennis Goodman.

16. Gravitational Microlensing Workshop January 18-20

The 14th workshop on gravitational microlensing will be held in Auckland, New Zealand on January 18, 19, & 20 in 2010.

Gravitational microlensing has emerged as an effective tool in modern astrophysics and is rapidly advancing. Microlensing is continuing to produce new results on extrasolar planets, stellar structure, and cosmology (to name just a few). The field is poised to enter a new era with advances in data sharing technologies, robotic telescopes, and new generation microlensing projects. This workshop will bring together researchers in microlensing as well as those involved in related theoretical and observational fields. The workshop will be a forum to review the latest observational results on microlensing and to address their theoretical implications. The aim of this workshop is to then assess future directions of microlensing for new approved and proposed microlensing projects.

For registration and other details see http://microlens2010.massey.ac.nz

17. Call for Presentations for NACAA XXIV

The 24th National Australian Convention of Amateur Astronomers (NACAA XXIV) will be held over Easter 2010 (2nd-5th April) in Canberra. This is a reminder that the closing date for submissions is Friday, 27th November, 2009.

Our theme for this convention is "Astronomy in the On-line Age". We plan to have a full weekend, Friday to Monday, of various types of presentations covering a great width of astronomical work including observing, instrumentation, astroimaging, education, outreach, research, history, and other topics.

The core of the convention is of course its presentations, and we are asking you to consider making a contribution, by yourself or in a group. We are primarily looking for posters, oral presentations, round-table meetings, and workshops, but are happy to hear suggestions of other activities. So please consider contributing, and if you wish, talk it over with the Programme Committee.

Please go to the NACAA website (http://www.nacaa.org.au/2010/programme) for more information on the types of presentations and our requirements for submissions.

-- Margaret Streamer, Programme Committee Chair, NACAA Inc.

18. RASNZ in Wikipedia

Peter Jaquiery writes that he has started an RASNZ entry on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Astronomical_Society_of_New_Zealand

Peter invites anyone who can fill in some of the details (especially the history) to do so.

19. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

20. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

21. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

22. Here and There

 

And an eclipse too

The Moon crosses the celestial equator at 16.44 BST on [September] 22nd, and this point thus marks the autumnal equinox. -- The Times, September 1 [2008?]

Just an arm and a leg

Only 0.003% of the 9000 university science graduates in Australia were of Aboriginal origin. -- Astronomy & Geophysics, vol. 49, 3.37, 2008.

Pin-point accuracy

The most important object in Andromeda is M33, the Pinwheel galaxy. -- The Daily Telegraph, October [2008?] Night Sky.

--from The Observatory, Vol. 129, p.180.

23. Next Newsletter - January

----------------------------- The next Newsletter will be published around January 20. Seasons greetings to all our readers.

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