RASNZ Electronic Newsletter July 2015

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 175

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 Passes Pluto
2. John Hearnshaw Elected IAU Division C President
3. StellarFest at Foxton Beach, 14th-16th August
4. The Solar System in August
5. Pluto Occultation - Local Successes
6. Southern Eclipsing Binaries Programme
7. 'Maunder Minimum' Predicted by New Solar Model
8. Asteroid Day - Sceptics Reply
9. Astro-Converted Camera for Sale
10. How to Join the RASNZ
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
13. Quote

1. New Horizons Passes Pluto

Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by NASA's New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft´s first ever Pluto flyby.

A new close-up image of an equatorial region near the base of Pluto´s bright heart-shaped feature shows a mountain range with peaks jutting as high as 3,500 metres above the surface of the icy body.

The mountains on Pluto likely formed no more than 100 million years ago -- mere youngsters in a 4.56-billion-year-old solar system. This suggests the close-up region, which covers about one percent of Pluto´s surface, may still be geologically active today.

"This is one of the youngest surfaces we´ve ever seen in the solar system," said Jeff Moore of the New Horizons Geology, Geophysics and Imaging Team (GGI) at NASA´s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

Unlike the icy moons of giant planets, Pluto cannot be heated by gravitational interactions with a much larger planetary body. Some other process must be generating the mountainous landscape. "This may cause us to rethink what powers geological activity on many other icy worlds," says GGI deputy team leader John Spencer at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI).

The new view of Charon reveals a youthful and varied terrain. Scientists are surprised by the apparent lack of craters. A swath of cliffs and troughs stretching about 1000 km suggests widespread fracturing of Charon´s crust, likely the result of internal geological processes. The image also shows a canyon estimated to be 7 to 9 km deep. In Charon´s north polar region, the dark surface markings have a diffuse boundary, suggesting a thin deposit or stain on the surface.

New Horizons also observed the smaller members of the Pluto system, which includes four other moons: Nix, Hydra, Styx and Kerberos. A new sneak-peak image of Hydra is the first to reveal its apparent irregular shape and its size, estimated to be about 43 by 33 km.

The observations also indicate Hydra's surface is probably coated with water ice. Future images will reveal more clues about the formation of this and the other moon billions of years ago. Spectroscopic data from New Horizons´ Ralph instruments reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences among regions across the frozen surface of Pluto.

Follow the New Horizons mission on Twitter and use the hashtag #PlutoFlyby to join the conversation. Live updates also will be available on the mission Facebook page.

For more information on the New Horizons mission, including fact sheets, schedules, video and all the new images, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/newhorizons and http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/planets/plutotoolkit.cfm

-- From a NASA press release. See the original at https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/from-mountains-to-moons-multiple- discoveries-from-nasa-s-new-horizons-pluto-mission

-------- For an almost-local take on the Pluto images hear New Zealander Dr Michele Bannister of the University of Victoria in British Columbia at http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thiswayup/audio/201762806/pluto-mission

-------- Other Pluto-related links New Horizons (NASA) http://1.usa.gov/1HvMiKE Last, Best Look at Pluto's Far Side and Four Perplexing Spots: 2 Days Out from Flyby (Universe Today) http://bit.ly/1GgjWjB NASA's New Horizons Zooms by Pluto, Solar Systems Last Planet - King of The Kuiper Belt (Universe Today) http://bit.ly/1Mv2VY3 The Inside Story of New Horizons' 'Apollo 13' Moment on its Way to Pluto (Washington Post) http://wapo.st/1DaRsI0 The Man Who (Almost) Discovered Pluto...and Also (Almost) Discovered the Expanding Universe (Discover Magazine: Out There) http://bit.ly/1O4btpT

On the lighter side... Pluto (xkcd) http://bit.ly/1K8IQti New Horizons (What If?) http://bit.ly/1LjK7fK Stuff in Space [3D map of earth-orbiting objects] http://bit.ly/1NWQVQ9

-- Links passed on by John Arnold, University of Canterbury's Engineering and Physical Sciences Library.

2. John Hearnshaw Elected IAU Division C President

RASNZ President Professor John Hearnshaw has been elected as the new President of the International Astronomical Union´s Division for Education, Outreach and Heritage (Division C) for a three-year term from August 2015.

The IAU has been completely restructured this year into nine divisions, and Division C covers four commissions, Education and Development, History of Astronomy, Communicating Astronomy to the Public, and Astronomy and World Heritage. Of course these are all the non- scientific activities of the IAU, but all are areas John has been active in over the last few years.

The elections for new presidents, vice-presidents and steering committees were held electronically by the IAU (based in Paris) during June, and the results announced June 30. The IAU has over 11,000 members in about 100 countries world-wide.

3. StellarFest at Foxton Beach, 14th-16th August

The Horowhenua Astronomical Society is holding the fourth annual StellarFest at Foxton Beach Bible Camp, Foxton Beach, Horowhenua, in the Lower North Island on 14th-16th August.

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

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

The talks, on a wide variety of astronomical topics, will be held throughout the day and, in the event of bad weather, during the evening.

The programme of talks is yet to be finalised but speakers that are already confirmed include: Brian Crump (Radio New Zealand), Professor Paul Delaney (York University, Toronto) via Skype, Professor Bill Williams (Massey University), Dr Peter Eisenhardt (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) via Skype, Frank Andrews, Carl Knight, Gary Sparks, Professor Euan Mason (University of Canterbury), Stephen Chadwick. All talks shall all be accessible to a general audience.

If you have your own telescope/binoculars/camera please bring them along. If you would like some advice about getting the most out of your equipment there will be experts on hand to assist. Don't be shy!

For cost and booking details see http://www.horoastronomy.org.nz/upcoming-events/stellarfest

-- From the above website. Thanks to Alan Baldwin for pointing this out.

4. The Solar System in August

Dates and times are NZST (UT + 12 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 august

                  August  1  NZST               August 31  NZST
                 morning    evening              morning  evening
            rise:  7.27am,  set: 5.27pm    rise:  6.46am, set:  5.57pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 7.00am, ends: 5.55pm   starts: 6.21am, ends: 6.23pm
 Nautical: starts: 6.27am, ends: 6.28pm   starts: 5.49am, ends: 6.55pm 
 Astro:    starts: 5.54am, ends: 7.01pm   starts: 5.17am, ends: 7.22pm

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

  Last quarter:  August  7 at  2.03 pm (02:03 UT)
  New moon:      August 15 at  2.53 am (Aug 14, 14:53 UT)
  First quarter: August 23 at  7.31 am (Aug 22, 19:31 UT) 
  Full moon:     August 30 at  6.35 am (Aug 29, 18:35 UT)

The planets in august

Both Venus and Jupiter are at conjunction with the Sun during August, marking their return to the morning sky. Mercury will become well placed for evening viewing during the month. Mars moves up a little in the pre-dawn sky. Saturn, in the evening sky, will set before midnight.

MERCURY will set some 40 minutes after the Sun on August 1 making it a very difficult object to see despite its -1.1 magnitude. On the evening of the 7th Mercury, Jupiter and the star Regulus will form a cluster in the western sky. Mercury will be half a degree to the lower right of Jupiter which itself will be a degree below Regulus. The group will be very low in the sky before it is dark enough to see them.

As a marker Venus will be about 7.5° to the left of the group only slightly higher than Regulus. Obviously finding Venus will be a guide. Binoculars will help show the other objects.

As the month progresses, Mercury will set increasingly later than the Sun, by the 16th 95 minutes later and on the 31st a good two and a quarter hours later. At the end of nautical twilight the planet at magnitude 0.2 will be 15° up and slightly to the north of west making it an easy visual object. Around this date will provide the best opportunity of the year to see the elusive innermost planet. Mercury starts the month in Leo crossing into Virgo on the 23rd.

VENUS, unlike Mercury, will be heading back towards the Sun. It sets 2 hours after the Sun on August 1, so will be readily visible for a while after sunset. The distance between the planet and the Sun will decrease over the next couple of weeks until Venus is at inferior conjunction between the Sun and Earth on the morning of the 16th (NZST).

At this conjunction Venus will pass the Sun at an angular distance of 7.5° south of the Sun as seen from the Earth. Also as seen from the Earth the planet will be barely 1% lit, yet despite that it will be at magnitude -3.9.

As a result of its southerly elongation it may be visible at conjunction shortly before sunrise on the morning of the 16th. That morning Venus will rise at 6.33 am, the Sun 35 minutes later. So the planet should be in view very low a little to the north of east. The time of conjunction is about 7 a.m.

By August 31, Venus will rise into the morning sky more than 90 minutes before the Sun so will readily be visible before sunrise some way round towards the northeast.

JUPITER is also heading towards the Sun during August. Although it starts the month closer to the Sun than Venus, the faster-moving inner planet overtakes the gas giant and get there first. Jupiter is at conjunction on the 27th (NZST). It will of course be beyond the Sun as seen from the Earth passing less than a degree south of the Sun. No hope of seeing Jupiter at conjunction!

At conjunction the planet will be 806 million km (5.388 AU) beyond the Sun and 957 million km (6.398 AU) from the Earth. After conjunction Jupiter becomes a morning object in early September.

On the other hand at the beginning of August Jupiter will set nearly 100 minutes after the Sun, so is likely to be briefly visible for the first few evenings of August with Venus a few degrees to its upper left. On the evening of the 11th, Jupiter will be less than half a degree from Regulus, but the two will be only 11.5° from the Sun so very difficult to see.

SATURN is very much an evening object in August, but only as an early evening object by the end of the month. It sets just after midnight on the 1st, and before 10.30 pm on the 31st. The planet will be in Libra moving slowly to the east towards beta Scorpii in the head of Scorpius.

On the evening of August 22, the moon will be some 6° degrees below Saturn. The moon will be nearly half lit, just before first quarter.

MARS will slowly move a little further up into the morning sky before sunrise. It rises 40 minutes earlier than the Sun on the 1st, just over an hour earlier on the 31st. But it will remain low in the dawn sky and at magnitude 1.8 very difficult to see in the twilight. The planet starts August in Gemini but crosses into Cancer on August 6.

Outer planets

URANUS is in Pisces all August. It rises around 11.20 pm on the 1st and 2 hours earlier on the 31st. The planet will be at magnitude 5.8 so readily seen in binoculars. The 67% lit moon will be 3° from Uranus on the night of 5/6 August.

NEPTUNE rises just before 8 pm on August 1 with its rise time advancing to just before 6 pm on the 31st. The planet remains in Aquarius at magnitude 7.8, so is quite easily seen in binoculars. The moon passes Neptune twice in August. The first occasion is on the night of August 2/3, the second at the time of full moon on the 30th.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius all August with a magnitude 14.3.

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is in Sagittarius during August fading a little from magnitude 7.6 to 8.2 following its opposition late July. During August the asteroid moves further into Sagittarius; by the end of the month it will be between the kite-shaped asterism containing omega Sgr and the wide pair of stars theta 1 and 2 Sgr.

(4) Vesta is in Cetus throughout August brightening from magnitude 7.2 to 6.7. The asteroid rises at 10.25 pm on the 1st and 8.20 pm on the 31st. It is stationary mid month.

(9) Metis starts the month at magnitude 10.0 but brightens to 9.2 by the 31st. The asteroid is in Aquarius about 11° from Neptune at the end of August.

(15) Eunomia starts August in Pisces at magnitude 9.7, rising at 11.10 pm. It is well north of the equator and moving further north. On the 25th it swings into Andromeda. By the end of August it will rise at 9.30 pm and be at magnitude 8.5, only slight fainter than Ceres.

-- Brian Loader

5. Pluto Occultation Local Successes

Pluto passed in front of a magnitude 12 star on the morning on June 30th NZST. The star was ten times brighter than the planet so provided a high-signal probe for measuring the depth and transparency of Pluto's atmosphere. New Zealand and Tasmania were on the centreline of the occultation thus attracting several international teams and inspiring much local effort. Kelly Beatty of Sky & Telescope made an early summary of their reports, here slightly edited for Australasian readers. ----------

During a stellar occultation by an airless body, such as an asteroid, the star's disappearance and reappearance are very abrupt. But Pluto's extremely tenuous atmosphere creates a more gradual decline and rise, along with nuances that reveal the pressure and temperature of the gas and the presence (or not) of haze layers. This is especially true when the star is bright enough to record its changing light at high speed with a good signal-to-noise ratio.

The effort involved several teams of observers on the ground and a large contingent aboard the SOFIA flying observatory. All of the teams, contacted by Sky & Telescope, report good results. An especially detailed record came from Mount John Observatory on New Zealand's South Island, where Jay Pasachoff and Bryce Babcock (Williams College) led a team that included resident observers Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin and Williams undergraduates Christina Seeger and Rebecca Durst.

The facility and its 1-meter McLellan Telescope were positioned almost exactly on the occultation's centreline. So the Mount John observers hoped to see a strong central flash, created when the thin atmosphere acts like a lens to refract a concentrated beam of light toward Earth. For this event, it could only occur if the centre of Pluto's disk and the star were almost perfectly aligned.

Success was in doubt just one night before, when fierce winds whipped the observatory and the deep snow cover around it at speeds up to 85 km per hour. But the wind abated and the clouds parted when it mattered most. "Yes, we have a central flash! We are oh so pleased," Pasachoff reported afterward. The nearly 2-minute-long event was also captured by Mount John's two 0.6-m telescopes, one operated by Stephen Levine (MIT) and the other by Nagoya University observers led by Fumio Abe.

Meanwhile, veteran occultation-chaser Bruno Sicardy (Paris Observatory) had established two observing stations. One was the brand-new, just- opened 1.3-m telescope at John Greenhill Observatory in Hobart, Tasmania, where he'd assisted the staff in recording the event. The other, a robotic 0.6-m telescope at Lauder, New Zealand, recorded a central flash.

>From Brian Loader's location in Canterbury the occultation lasted about 90 seconds. There's even a hint of a central flash during the event's midpoint - an indication that Loader's telescope was near the centreline.

Two groups went to great lengths to make sure the occultation would be seen. John Talbot provided coordination for the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, and more than two dozen amateur observers fanned out for the event - some observing an occultation for the first time. "Many observers had cloud, and many had equipment problems of some sort," he tells Sky & Telescope. Despite those issues - and interference from a nearly full Moon only 30° away - Talbot concludes, "I would rate this as a very successful campaign and an excellent demonstration of pro-am cooperation."

Not shy about mounting a big observing effort for such an important occultation, Eliot Young (Southwest Research Institute) dispatched seven teams from the United States to New Zealand, Tasmania, and southeastern Australia. Most of these paired a professional observer with an undergraduate student. Some got to use an existing telescope, but others lugged "portable" 14-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes to desirable locations. And often the original plan didn't work out as anticipated.

For example, Amherst College student Jason Mackie and Lowell Observatory's Larry Wasserman got as far as a cattle farm in Napier, only to find that their scope wouldn't track (stripped gears). So they scrambled to join local amateur John Drummond at his observatory in Gisborne, a 3-hour drive up the coast. "We'd gotten up at 2 a.m. for the event, but it was cold and completely overcast," recalls Mackie. It cleared just in time for the event, which lasted 105 seconds, and they were very lucky: "It completely clouded over just a few minutes later."

Under cold but mostly clear skies in Timaru Matt Nelson and Aaron Resnick use a 14-inch Meade telescope to record Pluto's passage in front of the 12th-magnitude star.

Carol Carriazo, also from Amherst, headed with Anne Verbischer (University of Virginia) to Greenhill Observatory outside of Hobart. They piggybacked on the visual-band observations that Sicardy and the facility's staff had planned by adding a dichroic beamsplitter. This allowed them to obtain a near-infrared light curve simultaneously.

-- See the original article, with Brian Loader's light-curve, at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/down-under-observers-capture-pluto-occultation/#sthash.2VnCe3ZT.dpuf ------- Further comment by Jay Pasachoff can be seen at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/opinion/pluto-comes-into-focus.html?ref=opinion&_r=0

6. Southern Eclipsing Binaries Programme

Firstly, a correction to an item published in the June RASNZ Newsletter. We publicised the publication of a paper (ejaavso292) by a number of VSS members on the light elements of 78 southern eclipsing binaries, and stated that the paper could be downloaded from the JAAVSO website. However, now that the AAVSO Journal has been published, this may not work. You should try eJAAVSO and if this does not work contact the lead author, Margaret Streamer, for a copy (snail mail address given in the author list).

The Southern Eclipsing Binary Programme is described on the VSS website (http://www.variablestarssouth.org/). Go to Research Areas\Eclipsing Binaries\Southern Eclipsing Binaries. If you have instrumentation - CCD or DSLR - and wish to get involved, get in touch with one of the contacts.

Visit of AAVSO Director Stella Kafka visited Auckland and Wellington on her way south to the Mt John Symposium and RASNZ Conference. Two Palmerston North folk - Carl Knight and Alan Baldwin - caught up with her in Wellington, firstly for an informal chat over coffee, and then at the Wellington Astronomical Society meeting.

Stella gave a talk about the different types of variable stars with the title - The Good, The Bad, The Explosive and The Weirdos. The good (well behaved) were eclipsing binaries and regular pulsating stars; the bad were spotted stars, and stars that carry on at minimum and then have a cataclysmic event. Explosive stars were supernova and the importance of these as standard candles. Her favourite variables were the Weirdos, and amongst these were the R Coronae Borealis stars, e.g. S Apodis, very large stars e.g. Betelgeuse and Proto stars e.g. T Orionis.

For more details and a photo access the VSS July Newsletter due for publication on the VSS web-site towards the end of the month.

-- Alan Baldwin

7. 'Maunder Minimum' Predicted by New Solar Model

A new model of the Sun's solar cycle is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun's 11-year heartbeat. The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 percent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645. Results were presented by Professor Valentina Zharkova on July 5 at the Royal Astronomical Society's [UK] National Astronomy Meeting in Llandudno.

It is 172 years since a scientist first spotted that the Sun's activity varies over a cycle lasting around 10 to 12 years. But every cycle is a little different and none of the models of causes to date have fully explained fluctuations. Many solar physicists have put the cause of the solar cycle down to a dynamo caused by convecting fluid deep within the Sun. Now, Zharkova and her colleagues have found that adding a second dynamo, close to the surface, completes the picture with surprising accuracy.

"We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs, originating in two different layers in the Sun's interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different, and they are offset in time. Over the cycle, the waves fluctuate between the northern and southern hemispheres of the Sun. Combining both waves together and comparing to real data for the current solar cycle, we found that our predictions showed an accuracy of 97%," said Zharkova.

Zharkova and her colleagues derived their model using a technique called 'principal component analysis' of the magnetic field observations from the Wilcox Solar Observatory in California. They examined three solar cycles-worth of magnetic field activity, covering the period from 1976 to 2008. In addition, they compared their predictions to average sunspot numbers, another strong marker of solar activity. All the predictions and observations were closely matched.

Looking ahead to the next solar cycles, the model predicts that the pair of waves become increasingly offset during Cycle 25, which peaks in 2022. During Cycle 26, which covers the decade from 2030 to 2040, the two waves will become exactly out of synch and this will cause a significant reduction in solar activity.

"In Cycle 26, the two waves exactly mirror each other -- peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the Sun. Their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a 'Maunder minimum,'" said Zharkova. "Effectively, when the waves are approximately in phase, they can show strong interaction, or resonance, and we have strong solar activity. When they are out of phase, we have solar minimums. When there is full phase separation, we have the conditions last seen during the Maunder minimum, 370 years ago."

See text and images: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/2680-irregular-heartbeat-of-the-sun-driven-by-double-dynamo

-- A Royal Astronomical Society press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

8. Asteroid Day - Sceptics Reply

The June Newsletter, Item 3, described the motivations behind Asteroid Day on June 30th. An article by Jan Hattenbach on Sky & Telescope's website presented some contrary opinions. ----------

Asteroid Day's 100X Declaration, an online petition, does not include details on the means or cost of the proposed goal - or about who should pay the bill. Eric Christensen, who leads the NASA-financed Catalina Sky Survey, is already bothered by its premise that "millions" of asteroids potentially threaten our cities. "The vast majority of these objects have essentially zero chance of impacting our planet within our lifetime," he explains, "and if one were to impact, there is only about a 3% chance that it would impact over a populated area."

"The most likely effect would be a spectacular light show that nobody sees, and a few meteorites that get dropped into the ocean," Christensen adds. He sees the B612 Foundation as one of the driving forces behind Asteroid Day. Established by former astronauts Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, this organization is trying to raise funds to build and launch a space-based infrared survey telescope to search for NEOs. "The B612 foundation has provided a steady stream of fear-based press releases over the last few years in order to scare up funding for their project," says Christensen. This tone is also found in Asteroid Day's declaration, he adds. "It is full of language that turns asteroids into menacing killers, injecting an inordinate amount of fear into what could be a reasoned discussion about the asteroid-impact threat."

Timothy Spahr, former director of the IAU's Minor Planet Center, concurs: "Much of the B612 Foundation commentary on smaller objects is fear-mongering. Yet its proposed Sentinel space-based telescope, Spahr notes, is designed to discover larger objects - not the 30- to 50-m "city killers" that are being spotlighted. "In my opinion there is no need for an Asteroid Day," Spahr states flatly, "and if there is to be an Asteroid Day, then including other scientists such as experts in the NEO field would make sense."

Signatories of the 100X Declaration disagree, of course. Schweickart disputes that the initiative is just a fundraising stunt for Sentinel: "Asteroid Day does not propose any particular system or project. It is an event to help educate the general public about the asteroid impact threat that recognizes the current low rate of asteroid discovery and calls for a significant acceleration."

The actual risk of a small asteroid hitting a city might be small, but investing in asteroid research is like investing in car insurance, Schweickart explains: you might never need it, but you probably would not take the risk and do nothing. "And this 'insurance' can preclude the accident itself, not just mitigate the cost of it should it occur," he says.

Thanks to NASA's Spaceguard search effort, started in the 1990s, we know the orbits of 95% of all NEOs at least 1 km across. Not one of them is on collision course with Earth - for now there's no danger of a mass-extinction event. But our knowledge of the smaller ones is still fragmentary, a fact beyond dispute among experts. And even small ones locally can cause severe harm.

Had the space rock that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2014 been a little larger than 20 m, instead of 1,500 injured there might easily have been thousands of fatalities, says Alan Harris, coordinator of the NEOShield project financed by the European Union. "If we want to take the risk, then we can sit back and just carry on as most of the NEOs will eventually be discovered by ongoing search programs, but the smaller you go, the longer it takes."

For Chelybinsk-type objects, at the present rate and with present telescopes Harris estimates it will take probably hundreds of years. "Pay less, wait longer, is an option", Harris says. "Pay more" would mean spending a lot more, however. Spahr estimates that to meet the 100× goal within 10 years, the goal of Asteroid Day's proponents, billions of extra dollars would be needed. As part of the existing, "pay less" approach, astronomers are building the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope in Chile. When it begins observations, perhaps by 2019, LSST is expected to provide a sharp jump in NEO discoveries - but maybe not to the extent Asteroid Day proposes.

The 100× goal might be unrealistic or economically unsound, as some critics argue. But it wouldn't hurt to do a little more, says Harris, who has not signed the declaration: "Worldwide we are currently looking at probably $50 or $60 million a year [spent on the NEO threat], which, let's face it, is really a trivially small amount of money for a worldwide effort." More should be spent on follow-up and characterization studies of known asteroids, he says, useful details were one of them come too close.

Ed Beshore, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx, NASA's forthcoming asteroid sample-return mission, recommends focusing on intermediate-size asteroids, those massive enough to do considerably more damage than the Barringer-size objects that could wipe out a single city. "Concerning the estimates of the consequences of such small objects impacting the Earth, I think the risk to lives may be overstated," says Beshore. "But I fully support the search for larger objects of a couple of hundred meters and larger, because the consequences of those impacts are very large, even if the likelihood is low." There is no doubt that asteroids pose a threat for our planet, he affirms. But dramatization does not help: "At the risk of being ignored, science must work very hard to paint an accurate picture of the risks that mankind faces."

For a quick snapshot of the current known threats from potentially hazardous asteroids, check out the risk pages maintained by NASA's NEO office and by the University of Pisa's NEODyS-2 effort. http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/risk/ http://newton.dm.unipi.it/neodys/index.php?pc=4.1

See Jan Hattenbach's full article with pictures and diagrams at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/do-we-need-asteroid-day-062620151/?et_mid=763537&rid=246399573#sthash.8DtFZ6sk.dpuf

9. Astro-Converted Camera for Sale

Astro-converted Canon camera, 5D Mk III. It has a visible-H-alpha filter, heat reduction system by Spencers Camera & Photo USA, extra battery, 240 volt mains supply, T-adapters 2 inch, battery charger. Frame count 1957. Price $3,200 plus p&p. If interested please contact Peter Aldous: phone 03-6937337; email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

10. 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 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. Applications are now invited for grants from the Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund. The application should reach the Secretary by 1 May 2015. 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. R O'Keeffe, 662 Onewhero-Tuakau Bridge Rd, RD 2, TUAKAU 2697.

13. Quote

"I honestly think it is better to be failure at something you love than be a success at something you hate." -- George Burns.

"The unreal is more powerful than the real, because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it, because it's only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles, wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on." -- Chuck Palahniuk.

"Not all chemicals are bad. Without chemicals such as hydrogen and oxygen, for example, there would be no way to make water, a vital ingredient in beer." -- Dave Barry

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