RASNZ 2017 Conference - Dunedin 12 - 14 May

The 2017 RASNZ Conference will be held in Dunedin on 12 to 14 May. The conference is hosted by the Dunedin Astronomical Society at the Otago Museum. It will be followed by the 11th Trans-Tasman Occultation Symposium (TTSO11).

This is the third conference for RASNZ's SWAPA (Students With A Passion for Astronomy) program, and at this conference students from the first SWAPA conference (in Tekapo) are among your hosts to help bring youthful energy, enthusiasm and exuberance to the conference!

Registrations now open

Conference registration may now be made using the online conference registration form.

The Oral presentation program is now full! We are no longer able to accept submissions for oral papers. You may still submit poster Conference papers using the Conference Paper Submission form.

Conference Brochure

The Conference Brochure is now available for download as a .PDF.

Pre-Conference Excursion

On Friday 12 May 2017, delegates have the opportunity to book a cruise on The Monarch. Experience royal albatross, admire the Otago peninsula and if you are lucky, catch a glimpse of dolphins or the New Zealand sea lion.

The tour includes return shuttle transfers and can be booked through the online conference registration form. For further tour information see Monarch Wildlife Cruises & Tours - Otago Peninsula Wildlife Tour. Numbers for this excursion are limited so be in quick!

Preliminary Conference Program

The following preliminary program is avilable to assist you with travel planning. Please note that times may vary from those shown as the details of the Conference are finalised!

Friday 12th May

Harbour Cruise – departs from 20 Fryatt St, Dunedin at 1 pm
RASNZ Council Meeting 10:30-4:00
Affiliated Societies meeting 4:30-5:30
Conference Opening from 7:30-9:00, followed by Refreshments and Socialising

Saturday 13th May

Talks 9:00-10:30
Morning tea
Talks 11:00-12:45
Talks 2:00 – 3:30
Afternoon tea
RASNZ AGM 4:00-5:00
Conference Dinner  6:30-late

Sunday 14th May

Talks 9:00-10:30
Morning tea
Talks 11:00-12:30
Talks 1:30-3:00, followed by Conference Closure
RASNZ Council Meeting – late

Monday 15th May

11th TransTasman Symposium on Occultations -  all day, times tba

Tuesday 16 May

11th TransTasman Symposium on Occultations -  morning, times tba

Conference Papers (details added as they come to hand)

If you are considering presenting a paper to the conference please visit the Conference Paper Submission form and help enhance the conference.

Joss Bland-Hawthorn. Near Field Cosmology

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, is a benchmark for understanding disk galaxies. It is the only galaxy whose formation history can be studied using the full distribution of stars, i.e. from white dwarfs to supergiants. The oldest components provide us with unique insight into how galaxies form and evolve over billions of years. We can learn about the physics and chemistry of the first stars, about the impact of reionization on galaxy formation, on the build up of mass and the chemical elements. We can also learn about secular processes that redistribute mass, metals and angular momentum over cosmic time. Galactic studies will continue to play a fundamental role far into the future because there are measurements that can only be made in the near field and much of contemporary astrophysics depends on such observations.

Joss Bland-Hawthorn. Reconstructing ancient star clusters in dwarf galaxies

The chemical abundance patterns of the oldest stars in the Galaxy are expected to contain residual signatures of the first stars in the early universe. Just how the complex data are to be interpreted with respect to "progenitor yields" remains an open question. Here we show that stochastic chemical evolution models to date have overlooked a crucial fact. Essentially all stars today are born in highly homogeneous star clusters and it is likely that this was also true at early times. When this ingredient is included, the overall scatter in the abundance plane can be much less than derived from earlier models. We present tentative evidence for the existence of dissolved star clusters in two dwarf galaxies.

We use the technique of “chemical tagging” to identify stars that are highly clustered in a multi-dimensional abundance space. If corroborated by follow-up spectroscopy, one star cluster at [Fe/H] = -3 is the most metal-poor system identified to date.
Collaborators: A. Frebel, J. Simon, D. Yong

Maria Pozza. New Zealand’s developing space law

New Zealand is presently teasing out the final provisions of its Outer Space and High Altitude Activities Bill. However, is the Bill going to be everything that New Zealand needs as it enters into the commercial space environment. This paper will speak to the oral submission presented at the Select Committee in February 2017 concerning both the strengths and weaknesses of the Bill.

Duncan Hall. The analemma, dials and digits: some unusual combinations

I will demonstrate two types of digital sundial, and a digital clock with a gnomon shadow display.

Robin McNeill and Duncan Hall. Looking down is looking up: contributions towards developing New Zealand’s extra-terrestrial remote sensing capabilities

An arrangement first signed in 2007 was recently renewed between the European Space Agency (ESA) and the New Zealand Government for the Awarua Satellite Station, near Invercargill, to continue to support resupply missions to the International Space Station. Venture Southland and the French Space Agency CNES are the implementing authorities in the arrangement. The agreements include a clause, negotiated by Venture Southland, requiring ESA to promote the space sector to Southland students – which has had significant impact on education in Southland. The Awarua Satellite Station is but one example of New Zealand’s evolving participation in the growing space industry. Building on its work with CNES, Venture Southland now has contracts with five space agencies and satellite operators from two continents to support earth observation from satellites.

Chris Gordon. Discovery of Gamma-Ray Emission from the X-shaped Bulge of the Milky Way

An anomalous signal has been found in Fermi Gamma-Ray Large Area Telescope data covering the center of the Galaxy. Given its morphological and spectral characteristics, this `Galactic Center Excess' is ascribable to self-annihilation of dark matter particles. We report on an analysis that exploits hydrodynamical modeling to register the position of interstellar gas associated with diffuse Galactic gamma-ray emission. Our improved analysis reveals that the excess gamma-rays are spatially correlated with both the X-shaped stellar over-density in the Galactic bulge and the nuclear stellar bulge. Given these correlations, we argue that the Galactic Center gamma-ray excess is not a dark matter phenomenon but rather associated with the stellar population of the bulge and the nuclear bulge.

Ian Griffin. Observing from the Stratosphere with SOFIA & Air New Zealand

In this presentation I will share my experiences as an observer on NASAs SOFIA Observatory during its deployment to Christchurch in July 2016. I will also outline how participating in that flight gave me the idea to organise the first ever charter flight to the Southern Auroral Oval in March 2017, from which images will also be presented.

Steve Kerr. Lucky Star: An International Pro-Am program to explore the outer solar system using occultations

New Zealand amateur observers have long collaborated with international professional groups in support of major occultation science programs. The Lucky Star program based at Paris Observatory commenced in late 2015 with the aim of bringing considerable professional focus on using occultation science to study outer solar system objects. Amateur observers are a major part of this strategy and already significant results have been delivered from our part of the world. This paper covers the scope of Lucky Star, results gained already and future prospects.

Brian Loader. A decade of Double Star video occultations

The programme to study lunar occultations of double stars was launched in 2007. A review of the programme, its antecedents and its results will be presented. Some of the more interesting, mostly recent, observations will be highlighted.

Karen Pollard. The Music of the Stars

I present a summary of the asteroseismology program that we are carrying out at the University of Canterbury Mt John Observatory using the 1.0m telescope and HERCULES spectrograph. The types of stars that we analyse and the insights into the structure and evolution we can make from these observations are described.

Bob Evans. Aurora Australis 1979 to 2016

A summary of the former Aurora & Solar Section's data collected over 37 years will be presented.