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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. New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens
2. Rosetta Finds 67P's Water Unlike Earth's
3. Stan Walker to Direct Variable Stars South
4. The Solar System in January
5. 2015 RASNZ Conference
6. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)
7. Report on the 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture Tour
8. Huggins History Wins Prize
9. ANITA III Seeks High-Energy Neutrinos
10. How to Join RASNZ
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
13. Quotes

1. New Horizons Spacecraft Awakens

After a voyage of nearly nine years and five billion km -- the farthest any space mission has ever travelled to reach its primary target -- NASA´s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on Dec. 6 for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland verified that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to "active" mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons -- currently more than 4.6 billion km from Earth, and just over 260 million km from Pluto -- needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA´s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

Since launching on January 19, 2006, New Horizons has spent 1,873 days -- about two-thirds of its flight time -- in hibernation. Its 18 separate hibernation periods, from mid-2007 to late 2014, ranged from 36 days to 202 days in length. The team used hibernation to save wear and tear on spacecraft components and reduce the risk of system failures.

The wake-up sequence had been programmed into New Horizons´ onboard computer in August, and started aboard the spacecraft at 3 p.m. EST on Dec. 6. About 90 minutes later, New Horizons began transmitting word to Earth on its condition, including the report that it is back in "active" mode.

The New Horizons team will spend the next several weeks checking out the spacecraft, making sure its systems and science instruments are operating properly. They´ll also continue to build and test the computer-command sequences that will guide New Horizons through its flight to and reconnaissance of the Pluto system.

With a seven-instrument science payload that includes advanced imaging infrared and ultraviolet spectrometers, a compact multicolour camera, a high- resolution telescopic camera, two powerful particle spectrometers and a space-dust detector, New Horizons will begin observing the Pluto system on Jan. 15.

New Horizons´ closest approach to Pluto will occur on July 14, but plenty of highlights are expected before then, including, by mid-May, views of the Pluto system better than what the mighty Hubble Space Telescope can provide of the dwarf planet and its moons.

"New Horizons is on a journey to a new class of planets we´ve never seen, in a place we´ve never been before," says New Horizons Project Scientist Hal Weaver, of APL. "For decades we thought Pluto was this odd little body on the planetary outskirts; now we know it´s really a gateway to an entire region of new worlds in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons is going to provide the first close-up look at them."

The Sleeping Spacecraft: How Hibernation Worked During hibernation mode, much of the New Horizons spacecraft was unpowered. The onboard flight computer monitored system health and broadcast a weekly beacon-status tone back to Earth. Onboard sequences sent in advance by mission controllers woke New Horizons two or three times each year to check out critical systems, calibrate instruments, gather some science data, rehearse Pluto-encounter activities, and perform course corrections.

New Horizons pioneered routine cruise-flight hibernation for NASA. Not only has hibernation reduced wear and tear on the spacecraft´s electronics, it also lowered operations costs and freed up NASA Deep Space Network tracking and communication resources for other missions.

A Musical Wake-Up New Horizons joins the astronauts on four space shuttle missions who "woke up" to English tenor Russell Watson´s inspirational "Where My Heart Will Take Me" -- in fact, Watson himself recorded a special greeting and version of the song to honour New Horizons! The song was played in New Horizons mission operations upon confirmation of the spacecraft´s wake-up; listen to it at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/mp3/wakeup.htm

Text & Images: http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/news_center/news/20141206.php http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons/on-plutos-doorstep-new-horizons-spacecraft-awakens-for-encounter/

-- From a joint Johns Hopkins University and NASA press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

2. Rosetta Finds 67P's Water Unlike Earth's

First measurements by the Rosetta mission´s ROSINA instrument show that the deuterium-to-hydrogen (D/H) ratio of the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is highly enriched in deuterium. These results contradict the theory that the water present in the Earth´s atmosphere and oceans has a cometary origin. They also indicate that 67P comets do not all come from one region, the Kuiper Belt: some may have originated in the Oort Cloud. This international study, which involved laboratories from the CNRS, University Toulouse III -- Paul Sabatier, UPMC, UVSQ, University d´Orleans, University de Lorraine and University de Franche-Comte, with support from CNES, is published in Science Express on 10 December 2014.

Born 4.55 billion years ago, the various bodies that make up the solar system - the Earth and planets, asteroids and comets - originally formed from the same cloud of gas and dust, the protosolar nebula. From this common origin they have developed in different ways, depending on their orbit and therefore on their exposure to solar radiation. Comets, which have been at great distances from the Sun for most of their lives, have hardly changed at all, and are thus privileged witnesses of the conditions that prevailed at the birth of the solar system. The isotopic compositions of their principal constituents are therefore likely to provide unique information about the conditions and processes underlying the formation of the solar system, and especially about the origin of the Earth´s water.

The D/H ratio is a key marker for determining the origin of the Earth´s water and understanding the role that the comets and/or asteroids may have played. The detailed study of the first spectra obtained by the ROSINA instrument since it arrived in the neighbourhood of the comet gives a value for the D/H ratio of 5.3 ± 0.7 x 10^-4, whereas its value on Earth is 1.55 x 10^-4. This ratio, highly enriched in deuterium in comparison with the Earth, therefore conflicts with the assumption that the water present in the Earth´s atmosphere and oceans has a cometary origin, contrary to what other results from Jupiter family comets suggested. Since the value of the terrestrial D/H ratio falls within the range of the D/H ratio of asteroids located between Mars and Jupiter, the water in the Earth´s oceans may have come mainly from asteroids and/or certain comets. In addition, cometary reservoirs are located at considerable distances from the Sun: the Oort Cloud, for instance, stretches out to over 10^5 AU, and is the source of long-period comets such as Halley. The Kuiper Belt, located at a distance of over 50 AU, is known to be the origin of the comets of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko family, known as Jupiter family comets since the distant part of their orbits are in the neighborhood of Jupiter´s orbit. According to ROSINA´s new results, the comets in this family may not all come from a single source region, the Kuiper Belt: some may have originated in the Oort Cloud.

The researchers now aim to continue elucidating the chemical and isotopic composition of the atmosphere of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko´s, especially for gaseous species other than hydrogen, such as noble gases and nitrogen. These measurements should make it possible to undertake a detailed exploration of the origin of the volatile elements on Earth that allowed the emergence of life.

Companion press release from the European Space Agency: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Rosetta_fuels_debate_on_origin_of_Earth_s_oceans

Companion press release from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=4404

-- A press release from Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)in Paris, forwarded by Karen Pollard.

3. Stan Walker to Direct Variable Stars South

The RASNZ Council has confirmed the appointment of Stan Walker as Director of Variable Stars South (VSS) from the beginning of 2015. He replaces Tom Richards who has directed VSS for the past six years. Stan intends to take on the position for a maximum of three years.

Tom tendered his resignation at the end of September and began canvassing the VSS community and the leadership group for a successor.

Tom set up VSS as the reincarnation of the Variable Star Section in January 2009. Pauline Loader had kept the VSS running after the resignation of Frank Bateson till Tom took over. In the six years under Tom's direction the VSS has flourished strongly, and has now thirteen research projects led by various very able astronomers. Its membership, though that is now an informal concept, hovers around 50-60 and its finances are strong. It has run three symposia with 30 or more attendees, presented papers at every RASNZ and NACAA conference, and has an accelerating stream of refereed publications in recognized astronomical journals.

With VSS in such a strong and healthy state, Tom decided this was an opportune time to hand over to another leader. Because of the diversified non-centralized nature of VSS it is to a large extent functioning autonomously.

In his letter of resignation, Tom noted "I am very ably assisted by three office-bearers: Bob Evans (Invercargill) for financial matters, Phil Evans (Rarotonga) editing the quarterly Newsletter, and David O'Driscoll (Brisbane) as webmaster. I am sure these three will provide continuing support to a new Director. In addition Stan Walker (Kaitaia) has been a close and invaluable adviser with far more knowledge than I have, and I'm confident will be willing to assist whoever replaces me."

4. The Solar System in January

All dates and times are NZDT (UT +13 hours) unless otherwise specified. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

SUNRISE, SUNSET and TWILIGHT TIMES in JANUARY                         
                       January  1                  January 31         
               morning      evening         morning        evening    
Sun         rise: 5.48am,  set: 8.59pm      rise: 6.22am,  set: 8.45pm
Twilights                                                             
Civil:    starts: 5.17am, ends: 9.31pm    starts: 5.54am, ends: 9.14pm
Nautical: starts: 4.34am, ends:10.14pm    starts: 5.15am, ends: 9.52pm
Astro:    starts: 3.43am, ends:11.04pm    starts: 4.33am, ends:10.34pm

The Earth is at perihelion, its closest to the Sun for the year, on January 4 when it will be 0.983 Astronomical Units, 147 million km, from the Sun.

JANUARY PHASES OF THE MOON (times as shown by GUIDE)    
Full moon:     January  5 at  5.52 pm (        04:52 UT)
Last quarter:  January 13 at 10.47 pm (        09:47 UT)
New moon:      January 21 at  2.14 am (Jan 20, 13:14 UT)
First quarter: January 27 at  5.48 pm (        04:48 UT)

The planets in january

Venus and Mars are visible for a short time after sunset. Mercury will also be close to Venus in the first part of the month, but will be lost to view by about the 20th. Jupiter rises in the opposite side of the sky a little later in the evening at first. It rises at sunset at the end of January. Saturn remains a morning object although rising earlier as the month progresses.

Mercury will be briefly visible in the evening sky, near Venus, during the first half of January. It will set just over an hour after the Sun up to mid January. During the first part of January, Mercury will gradually move closer to Venus as they both move to the east through the stars. They are less than 1° apart from the 8th to the 13th. But Mercury will never quite catch up to Venus as its motion slows. With a magnitude of -0.7 Mercury will be easy to see, especially in binoculars, to the lower left of the much brighter Venus.

After mid January Mercury will fall behind Venus again as the innermost planet's motion drops away. Mercury is stationary on the 14th when it stops moving to the east. It will then be 19° east of the Sun. Over the next few days the planet will move increasingly rapidly to the west and towards the Sun, until it is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun on the 30th. At conjunction it will be nearly 3.5° north of the Sun; the planet will be 98.6 million km, 0.659 AU, from the Earth and half this distance from the Sun.

Obviously Mercury will be lost to view several evenings before conjunction.

Venus is also an early evening object, setting just over an hour after the Sun all month. It starts January in Sagittarius but moves into Capricornus on the 3rd and on into Aquarius on the 25th. On the 22nd the brightest star in Capricornus, delta Cap mag 2.85, will be 1° above Venus.

By the end of the month Venus will be 10° to the lower left of Mars. As noted above, Venus and Mercury will be close during the first half of the month, less than 3° apart up to the 18th. Mercury will always be to the lower left of Venus and visible before any star.

On the evening of the 22nd the 5% lit crescent moon will be 7° to the lower right of Venus. The moon will set about 50 minutes after the Sun, so will be very low.

Mars is the third early evening planet of the month. It sets about two and a quarter hours after the Sun on the 1st, but only 90 minutes later on the 31st. Thus it will gradually get a little lower during the month. Mars starts January in Capricornus but moves on into Aquarius on the 9th.

In Aquarius Mars will catch up with and pass Neptune which moves much more slowly. The two will be closest on the 20th when Neptune will be only 20 arc-minutes (two-thirds the diameter of the full moon) below and a little left of Mars. Neptune's magnitude will be 8.0. Thus it should be readily visible in binoculars once the sky is sufficiently dark. There are no stars between the planets likely to be mistaken for Neptune. But the two planets will be low with an altitude of only 6° one hour after sunset. On the 19th Mars will be 40 arc-minutes left of Neptune, on the 21st, 1° to its upper right.

On the 23rd the moon, the crescent now 11% lit, will be just over 5.5° to the lower right of Mars.

Jupiter rises 2 hours after sunset on the 1st and at the time of sunset on the 31st. Thus it is the fourth planet visible in the evening sky, albeit later than the other three. It will spend the month moving slowly to the west through Leo, situated 8 to 12° to the left of Regulus, magnitude 1.4.

The 90% lit waning moon passes Jupiter on the 8th when the moon will be 5° to the upper right of the planet as seen late evening shortly after they rise.

Mutual events of jovian satellites

There are about 26 mutual events of Jupiter's Galilean satellites observable from NZ during January. The events involve either occultations or eclipses of one satellite by another. Visually, mutual occultations are the more interesting to watch as satellites can be seen to merge and separate over a period several minutes. Eclipses are normally partial events with fairly small magnitude changes of the eclipsed satellite. Consequently they are mostly difficult to detect visually. Total eclipses are rare.

Useful observations and timings of both types of event can be made by those set up for the video observation of minor planet occultations.

For more details refer to the IMCCE web site, <http://www.imcce.fr/phemu/> where predictions and requirements for observing and reporting information are available. Users of Dave Herald's Occult program can generate their own predictions.

Saturn is a morning object throughout January. It rises some 2 hours and 20 minutes before the Sun on the 1st and nearly 5 hours earlier on the 31st. The planet starts the month in Libra, moving into Scorpius on the 18th when it will be 10° to the left of Antares. At the end of January, Saturn will be 1° from the star beta Sco. The magnitude 2.6 star has a fainter companion, magnitude 4.5, some 13.8" from it. Binoculars will show the pair.

On the morning of January 17 the waning moon, 19% lit, will be a little less than 4° below Saturn.

Outer planets

Uranus remains in Pisces as an evening object magnitude 5.8. By the end of January it will set soon after 11pm. The 30% lit moon will be 2° below Uranus on January 25. An occultation of the planet will be visible from a large part of northeast Asia

Neptune is an early evening object in Aquarius at magnitude 8.0. On January 31 it will set at the same time as Venus, a few minutes before 10 pm. It will then be a little under 2° to the right of Venus. The conjunction of Mars and Neptune on the 20th (see Mars above) will give an opportunity to easily find the fainter outer planet using binoculars.

Pluto is in Sagittarius at conjunction with the Sun of the 3rd. It will then be 32.8 astronomical units beyond the Sun and just over 5 billion km from the Earth. Light from Pluto takes about 4hours and 40 minutes to reach the Earth.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres rises an hour before the Sun on January 1, some three and three quarter hours before it on the 31st. The asteroid is in Sagittarius, it will dim slightly during the month from magnitude 8.9 to 9.2 during January.

(3) Juno is at opposition on January 27 with a magnitude 8.1. This makes it the brightest asteroid currently observable. The asteroid is in Hydra.

(4) Vesta is at conjunction with the Sun on January 11. At conjunction it will be 35 arc-minutes from the Sun as seen from the Earth. Its distance from the Sun will be 2.20 AU, from the Earth 3.16 AU, 473 million km.

(6) Hebe, in the evening sky, dims from magnitude 9.0 to 9.6 as the Earth's distance from the asteroid increasing during January. The asteroid will be in Eridanus at first but moves into Taurus on the 11th.

-- Brian Loader

5. 2015 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held at Lake Tekapo from 8th-10th May 2015. Our guest speakers will be Professors Gerry Gilmore (University of Cambridge) and Edward Guinan (Villanova University), and the Fellows Lecture for 2015 will be delivered by Associate Professor Karen Pollard from Canterbury University. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

For further information on the RASNZ conference and registration please visit the conference website at http://www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference

The conference will be preceded by a two day symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Mount John University Observatory - see http://www.phys.canterbury.ac.nz/mtjohn50/. Following the conference, the 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations will also be held at Lake Tekapo. For details see http://occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO9/TTSO9.htm. Conference attendees are welcome to attend these meetings, but please Note that separate registrations are required for them which must be done through the above websites; they will NOT be handled by RASNZ.

The RASNZ standing conference committee invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit papers, with titles and abstracts due 1st April 2015. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given above, or you can go to http://www.rasnz.org.nz/wiki/doku.php?id=conference:paper_submission. Even if you are just thinking of presenting a paper please submit the form, and we can follow up with you at a later date.

We look forward to receiving your submission and seeing you at conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find this of interest.

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

6. 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9)

The RASNZ Occultation Section is pleased to announce that the 9th Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations (TTSO9) will be held at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, over 11-12 May 2015. Comprehensive information about the meeting is available here:

http://occultations.org.nz/meetings/TTSO9/TTSO9.htm

The meeting will immediately follow the 2015 RASNZ Conference and the Mt John Observatory 50th Anniversary Symposium. Because attendance at all these meetings is expected to be high, accommodation space in Tekapo is likely to be limited. If you plan to attend any of these meetings we recommend that you book your accommodation early.

For those who are members of the Occultation Section, the latest Section Circular was released today. We also expect the next issue of the Journal for Occultation Astronomy to be available very soon. To access these visit: http://occultations.org.nz/members/publ/publ.htm

-- Graham Blow

7. Report on the 2014 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture Tour

Dr Tamara Davis from the University of Queensland made a whirlwind tour of New Zealand at the end of September, giving 10 lectures in 6 days on the subject of Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

She arrived in Auckland on September 21st and immediately flew to New Plymouth to give a public lecture that evening to 55 people. The next morning she spoke to 45 school students from three local schools. Local organising was done by the New Plymouth Astronomical Society.

She then drove her rental car to Levin where the Horowhenua Astronomical Society had organised a public meeting. 114 people attended this, some of whom had driven from Wellington. The next morning 80 students from five different colleges heard her speak.

Tamara then drove to Napier where the Hawkes Bay Astronomical Society had organised her lecture in the Holt Planetarium. 50 people attended.

The next morning she flew to Invercargill. Upon arriving she was taken to CUE TV for an interview, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3sgYvpgcqM . In the evening she spoke to 44 people. The following morning she spoke to 60 students from three local high schools.

After a quick lunch provided by a member of the Southland Astronomical Society I drove her to Dunedin. During the trip she tapped away at her laptop computer. She was verifying analyses of spectra taken of distant galaxies that had experienced a supernova. Occasionally she would give a cheer when she came across the most distant galaxy she had ever found. Redshifts of 4.5 and more. She tried to explain to me what she was doing. Fascinating, but I don´t have a PhD!

We arrived in Dunedin right on schedule and were able to set her up for the public lecture organised jointly by the Dunedin Astronomical Society and the Otago Institute. 53 people attended. At the conclusion she was whisked away for a live radio interview. (http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/audio/20151088/the-dark-universe)

Her flight for Christchurch did not leave until around lunchtime the next day so she had a free morning. Over a meal the previous evening, unbeknown to me, a cunning plan was hatched where she agreed to speak to a Spanish class at Kavanagh College. However this rapidly grew to a lecture to over 300 students. Many of them were not science students. At the end she was being asked for her autograph!

Finally in Christchurch, she spoke to 150 people at the University of Canterbury, organised by the Canterbury Astronomical Society.

Dr Tamara Davis seemed indefatigable. She told me that she thoroughly enjoyed the tour, even though it was apparent she was starting to tire by the end. A comment I´m sure she´d want me to repeat, stemming from her experience with the Kavanagh College lecture, is: "The GREAT thing about this audience is that they WERE NOT generally science students. So there was more of a "wow" factor about the material I presented, because many of them had not seen as much of what science could do as the science students. This is the sector of the population we most want to reach!!"

The tour was organised and travel financed by the RASNZ Lecture Trust. This is a separate entity from the RASNZ itself. There is some confusion over this. We are now about to start organising next year´s lecture tour, the lecturer being Professor Gerry Gilmore. He is a New Zealander working at Cambridge University in the UK.

-- Bob Evans

Apologies to Bob, and to the Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture sponsor, that this item was overlooked earlier. -- Ed.

8. Huggins History Wins Prize

The Historical Astronomy Division of the American Astronomical Society awarded of its Donald E. Osterbrock Book Prize for 2015 to Dr. Barbara J. Becker for Unravelling Starlight: William and Margaret Huggins and the Rise of the New Astronomy (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Becker taught history of science at the University of California, Irvine, and is now retired and living in North Carolina.

Becker has studied William and Margaret Huggins for decades, and the culmination of her detailed archival work is Unravelling Starlight, an invaluable analysis of the roles of these pioneers in astrophysics. The Hugginses were active in England in the late 19th century at a time when merely measuring the positions and brightnesses of stars and planets was widely considered the proper role of astronomers; their emphasis on the new technique of spectroscopy was a key ingredient in the birth of what came to be called astrophysics.

William Huggins, a former London silk merchant, was a prime example of a Victorian "amateur" astronomer who made fundamental contributions to the field. From his home in a London suburb he observed for decades, at first visually and then photographically, the spectra of stars and nebulae.

Huggins was the first to observe emission lines in the spectra of some nebulae (e.g., planetary nebulae), thereby suggesting their gaseous nature (by comparison with laboratory emission spectra), and he found no emission lines in others (e.g., globular clusters, the Andromeda nebula and its companion). Huggins was also the first to apply Christian Doppler's principle to shifts in wavelength of a star's light (Sirius) in order to determine its motion along the line of sight, even though it took a later generation of astronomers to understand its true importance.

Becker's double biography also reveals new insights regarding the underappreciated role of Margaret Huggins in all aspects of the work after 1875. She was especially skilled in photographic techniques and, rather than a mere "assistant," she was a true collaborator.

Another of Becker's new insights is how thoroughly the Hugginses were involved in solar observations, in particular suggesting plausible methods of observing solar prominences and photographing the solar corona without a total eclipse.

Since the publication of her prize-winning book, Becker has also compiled the Selected Correspondence of William Huggins (Pickering & Chatto, 2014).

The Osterbrock Book Prize will be awarded at the 225th AAS meeting in Seattle, Washington [http://aas.org/meetings/aas225], on 5 January 2015, after which Becker will deliver a prize lecture.

For more see: http://had.aas.org/osterbrock/2015osterbrock2becker/

9. ANITA III Seeks High-Energy Neutrinos

If all went to plan - the editor hasn't found the right link to verify - then ANITA III, the third iteration of the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna will have been launched in early December.

ANITA comprises an array of antennas suspended from a giant balloon. The antennas are looking down at Antarctica´s ice listening for radio waves which that ice is giving off. These radio waves are generated by neutrinos passing through the ice, making Antarctica the biggest neutrino-detection laboratory in the world.

The particular neutrinos that ANITA seeks are of extremely high energy. Where they come from, no one knows - nor, strictly speaking, is it actually known that they exist, for ANITAs I and II, which were smaller devices, failed to find them. But theory says they should be there, generated in whatever giant explosions also create cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are high-velocity protons, sprinkled with a smattering of heavier atomic nuclei, that fly through space until they hit something such as Earth´s atmosphere, when they disintegrate into a shower of other particles. They have been known for a century, but their origin remains mysterious because, being electrically charged, their paths are bent by the galaxy´s magnetic field. That means the directions they come from do not point to whatever created them.

Neutrinos, however, are electrically neutral, as their name suggests. Their paths should thus point back towards their origins. Neutrinos do not interact much with other sorts of matter, but when one of ultra-high energy does so, the result is a shower of particles travelling at speeds which exceed that of light in ice. An object travelling faster than light´s speed in the medium through which it is passing will generate electromagnetic waves. These are known, after their discoverer, as Cherenkov radiation. And it is pulses of radio-frequency Cherenkov radiation, the electromagnetic equivalent of a sonic boom, which ANITA is looking for.

Once airborne under her balloon - an object made of cling-film-like plastic that, when fully inflated, will be a fifth of the size of a football stadium - ANITA will take advantage of the polar vortex, a wind in constant revolution around the pole. She will fly at an altitude of 35-40 km, which will mean her antennae can see 1.5 million sq.km of ice. Ultra-high-energy neutrinos travelling through the ice are thought to interact with it and produce Cherenkov radiation about once per century per sq.km, so an area of this size would be expected to yield about 40 bursts a day. ANITA will complete several laps of the continent, each lasting about 15 days. Then the balloon will be cut loose, and she will deploy a parachute and be guided back to the surface for re-use.

Astrophysicists are not the only people rubbing their mittens together in expectation of the results of this experiment. The neutrinos ANITA is looking for are far more energetic than anything produced by the Large Hadron Collider, the world´s most powerful particle accelerator. That means they may obey hitherto unperceived extensions of the laws of physics. One possibility is that, among the Cherenkov-radiation-generating particles produced when a neutrino collides with the ice, there may be an occasional miniature black hole.

That would be particularly exciting, because such black holes might themselves disintegrate in a characteristic puff of radiation named after another physicist, Stephen Hawking. If Hawking radiation exists, it means black holes are not truly black-a discovery which would almost certainly win Dr Hawking a Nobel prize.

Though it is not designed to search for Hawking radiation, ANITA would probably see it if it were there. And, since Hawking radiation is created, quite literally, out of nothing (the particles it is made from emerge from the vacuum of space and then steal the energy needed to become real from the black hole itself), that would assist understanding of a very strange piece of physics indeed.

-- Mostly copied from The Economist. For the original see http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21635452-experiment-antarctica-may-solve-mystery-cosmic-rays-balloon

10. How to Join 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/RASNZInfo/MemberBenefits.shtml 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/RASNZInfo/Membership/ Basic membership for the 2015 year starts at $40 for an ordinary member, which includes an electronic subscription to our journal 'Southern Stars'.

11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund

The RASNZ administers the Gifford-Eiby Memorial Lectureship Fund to assist Affiliated Societies with travel costs of getting a lecturer or instructor to their meetings. Details are in RASNZ By-Laws Section H.

For an application form contact the Executive Secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

12. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

The RASNZ is responsible for recommending to the trustees of the Kingdon Tomlinson Fund that grants be made for astronomical projects. The grants may be to any person or persons, or organisations, requiring funding for any projects or ventures that promote the progress of astronomy in New Zealand. Full details are set down in the RASNZ By-Laws, Section J.

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697

13. Quotes

 

"Maybe this world is another planet´s hell." - Aldous Huxley.

"Just remember, if the world didn´t suck, we´d all fall off." - Unknown.

The next Newsletter will be in January so keep those contributions flooding in.

Season's greetings to all our readers.


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