RASNZ Electronic Newsletter November 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 179

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. Ian Griffin Awarded Science Communication Prize
2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5
3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10
4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8
5. The Solar System in December
6. NACAA Easter 2016
7. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference
8. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer
9. Giant Solar Storms Confirmed in Ice Cores
10. More Pluto Results from New Horizons
12. Giant Online Image of Milky Way
13. How to Join the RASNZ
14. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
15. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
16. Headlines

1. Ian Griffin Awarded Science Communication Prize

The Prime Minister´s 2015 Science Media Communication Prize has been presented to Dr Ian Griffin, Director of the Otago Museum and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Otago´s Department of Physics. Under Dr Griffin´s leadership, science communication has become a key focus for the Museum which is investing $3.5 million in the next two years to create a world-class science engagement facility. Outside of work, Dr Griffin is a self-described evangelist for astronomy and the beauty of the night sky.

The 2015 Prime Minister´s Science Prizes were presented to winners on Wednesday 11 November at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

To find out more about the Prime Minister´s Science Prizes visit: www.pmscienceprizes.org.nz

-- From Scoop media.

2. Central Star Party, Hawkes Bay -- Rescheduled to January 1-5

The Inter Society Astronomical Advancement Committee have rescheduled the dates for the Central Star Party from the 7-11 Jan 2016 to Friday 1st - Tuesday 5th (am) January 2016. The official opening will be Friday 1st January at 7:00pm. With New Year's Day being a holiday, hopefully people can get to Tuki Tuki Camp, Hawkes Bay during the day. For more details see http://www.censtar.party/-- John Drummond.

For those into long-term planning John advises that the 2017 and 2018 Central Star Parties will be: On Thurs 19 - Mon 23rd January 2017 (we leave the morning of Tues 24th January 2017). The last quarter moon is Fri 20th. On Thurs 18th - Tues 23rd (am) January 2018. New Moon is Wed 17th January 2018.

3. Stardate 2016 - Wairarapa, January 8-10

Stardate 2016 will be held at Stonehenge Aotearoa, near Carterton in the Wairarapa. This is the same venue where Stardate was held last year. The camp site will again be in the field behind the Visitors´ Centre. The main part of the programme will be based around the 8th, 9th and 10th of January but attendees will be able to arrive earlier by arrangement.

The facilities are still basic but we hope to add to these with time. Camping is the order of the day. Attendees will be able to use the toilets in the AV centre and basic showers will be erected. We do not have bunk rooms, however full details of local accommodation are available here: http://www.stonehenge-aotearoa.co.nz/Tours++Treks/Booking+Your+Visit/Carterton+Accommodation.html

Stonehenge Aotearoa will be in full operation during the period from 10 am to 4 pm. A free guided tour will be arranged for attendees during Stardate and some observing may take place from the henge after opening hours (depending on bookings).

Registration costs will be very similar to or the same as last year: $23 for adults; children (pre-teens) accompanied by parents free (these costs have yet to be confirmed by the Phoenix Council). We will arrange for a mobile caterer to visit the site, so that at least one meal during Stardate can be purchased on site.

This is an attractive site with good swimming holes in the Ruamahanga River just down the road. The wine growing areas of Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton are within 30 minutes. There is a thriving tourist industry with many activities and venues available within the same distance.

If you are interested in attending Stardate 2016 please send an expression of interest to Kay Leather: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with Stardate in the subject line.

We want to confirm programme details as quickly as possible and we want to put together a varied and interesting programme. If anyone has a presentation that they are prepared to make at Stardate 2016, please let Richard (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kay (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) know as many details as you can. Hopefully, we can have a preliminary programme in the November newsletter.

-- Kay Leather.

4. Stardate SI, Staveley, February 5-8

Stardate SI will be held at the hostel and camp at Staveley between Friday February 5th and Monday February 8th, 2016. Come and join us for this magnificent celebration of astronomy, science, and the cosmos at large. For details see http://www.treesandstars.com/stardate/Link to the Facebook event for Stardate SI. If you are attending, then use this link to choose which DVDs you'd like to watch in the (we hope) unlikely event of cloudy weather

We look forward to seeing you there.

-- Euan Mason

5. The Solar System in December

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 Hours) unless otherwise stated. Rise and set times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ. The southern summer solstice occurs on December 22 at 5.48 pm NZDT (04:48 UT)

sunrise, sunset and twilight times in december

                         December  1  NZDT             December 31  NZDT
              morning        evening         morning       evening
      SUN:  rise:  5.40am,  set: 8.39pm    rise: 5.47am,  set: 8.59pm
Twilights
 Civil:    starts: 5.10am, ends: 9.10pm  starts: 5.16am, ends: 9.31pm
 Nautical: starts: 4.28am, ends: 9.51pm  starts: 4.33am, ends:10.14pm 
 Astro:    starts: 3.40am, ends:10.40pm  starts: 3.42am, ends:11.05pm

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

          Last quarter:  December  3 at  8.40 pm (07:40 UT)
  New moon:      December 11 at 11.29 pm (10:29 UT)
  First quarter: December 19 at  4.14 am (Dec 18, 15:14 UT) 
  Full moon:     December 26 at 12.12 am (Dec 25, 11:12 UT)

THE PLANETS in December Only Mercury will be an evening object during December and it will be difficult to see. The remaining naked eye planets will be spread across the morning sky. Saturn too close to the Sun for observation early in the month, all 4 spread widely across the easterly morning sky at the end of December.

MERCURY, an evening object, will set some 40 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, only 10 minutes after the end of civil twilight. As a result it will be too low to observed despite a -0.8 magnitude The planet moves rather further from the Sun during December until it reaches its greatest elongation 20° east of the Sun on the 29th. Even then it will set only 75 minutes after the Sun at the end of Nautical twilight. 45 minutes after sunset, Mercury will be only 4.5° above a level horizon towards the west-north-west, so still not an easy object despite its -0.4 magnitude.

VENUS, MARS, JUPITER and SATURN in the morning sky during December.

Saturn was at conjunction on the last day of November, so will be too close to the Sun to see during the early part of December.

On the 1st as seen at 5am, the other three planets will be spread out across the dawn sky. Most obvious will be Venus, due east and just on 13° up. Mars, magnitude 1.5, will be 14° away to its upper left with an altitude 20°. Jupiter will be 20° beyond Mars and nearly 27° up. Mars and Venus will be in Virgo with the latter 4° below Spica. Jupiter will be in Leo.

During December all three planets will be moving to the east through the stars, Venus most rapidly and Jupiter the slowest. As a result they will spread further apart. Venus will be in Libra by the 12th while Mars will pass Spica on the 24th some 3.5° below the star. Jupiter will remain in Leo but be close to the constellation´s boundary with Virgo by the end of the month. Saturn, in Ophiuchus, will move further into the morning sky to become visible by the end of December.

On the morning of the 31st the 4 planets, from Saturn, through Venus and Mars to Jupiter will be spread across some 77° of sky. Added to that, the Moon, 74% lit, will be 13° beyond Jupiter making a spread of a full 90° in all. At 5am with the Sun just over 8° below the horizon (at Wellington), Venus will be 15.5° up and in a direction 10° south of east. Saturn at magnitude 0.5, will be some 9° up just over 10° to the lower right of Venus. Mars will be on the opposite side of Venus 33° away and 33° above the horizon. Jupiter will be another 35° beyond Mars and 41° above the horizon. Finally the moon will be another 13° beyond Jupiter but at the same altitude.

Earlier in the month, the moon passes the planets. On the morning of December 5 the moon, 37% lit, will be 5.5° from Jupiter, 2 mornings later the moon now 20% lit will be 7° from Mars and the next morning, the 8th, just over 1° from Venus.

Outer planets

URANUS remains in Pisces during December at magnitude 5.7. It is an evening object. By the end of December it will be setting about 1.30 am.

NEPTUNE is also an evening object throughout December, by the end of December it will set at midnight. The planet is in Aquarius, magnitude 7.9 throughout the month.

PLUTO continues to be in Sagittarius throughout December at magnitude 14.4. At the end of the month it sets a few minutes after the Sun.

BRIGHTER ASTEROIDS: (1) Ceres is in Capricornus during December with a magnitude 9.3. It is about 20° from Neptune and like the planet will set close to midnight at the end of December.

(4) Vesta is in Cetus during December although it crosses a corner of Pisces mid month. Its magnitude fades from 7.5 to 8.0 during December. Vesta will be about 15° from Uranus, and will set at a similar time to the planet.

(15) Eunomia starts December in Pegasus but moves into Pisces on the 23rd. Its magnitude fades from 8.9 to 9.4 during December. It is an evening object, by the end of December it will set just after midnight.

(27) Euterpe is in Gemini, it starts December at magnitude 9.4, its brightness peaks at magnitude 8.4 when at opposition on December 25 and drops back to 8.9 by December 31. Euterpe is close to two red stars during the month. On December 14, with a magnitude 8.9, it will be half a degree below mu Gem, mag 2.9. Eight nights later Euterpe, at 8.6, will be 43 arc minutes below eta Gem, mag 3.3. In both instances it will be the brightest object immediately below the star.

-- Brian Loader

6. NACAA Easter 2016

At the Australian astronomy conference (National Australian Convention 
of Amateur Astronomers) hosted by the Sutherland Astronomical Society 
astronomers from Australia and NZ will come together to share their 
knowledge on a range of topics such as variable stars, spectroscopy, 
occultations, comets, pro-am collaboration, citizen science and more. 
The convention will be held 25 to 28 March 2016 at Sydney University. 
On the Friday (25 March) the Variable Stars South Symposium 4 will be 
held and papers are currently being prepared. On the afternoon of 
Sunday and Monday (27-28 March) an Occultation Workshop (TTSO 10) will 
be held.

Other activities will be a workshop on image processing, guest speaker Fred Watson at the conference dinner, and a tour of historic Sydney Observatory.

Registration packages will range from half day to the full four days. When registrations open sometime in December, go to http://www.nacaa.org.au/-- Copied from the NACCA website by Alan Baldwin.

7. Call for Papers 2016 RASNZ Conference

It is a pleasure to announce that the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Napier over the weekend of 20th - 22nd May 2016. Our guest speaker will be Dr. Michele Bannister (ex-Canterbury University and now University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), and the Fellows Lecture for 2016 will be delivered by Brian Loader. Titles and abstracts for these talks will be released when they are available.

Following the conference an Astrophotography Workshop will be held on Monday/Tuesday 23rd-24th May. Details of the registration for this workshop will be available with the registration form for the conference. Note that this workshop will only be held if there is sufficient interest, so please register as soon as you can.

The RASNZ standing conference committee (SCC) invites and encourages anyone interested in New Zealand Astronomy to submit oral or poster papers, with titles and abstracts due by 1st April 2016 or at such time as the SCC deems the conference programme to be full. The link to the paper submission form can be found on the RASNZ conference website given below. 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 submissions and seeing you at the conference. Please feel free to forward this message to anyone who may find it of interest.

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

Sincerely yours, Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

8. 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecturer

The RASNZ Lecture Trust is pleased to announce that the 2016 Beatrice Hill Tinsley lecturer will be Dr Michael Person. Dr Person is a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Planetary Astronomy Laboratory. His interests include observational astronomy, focusing on the techniques needed to observe stellar occultations, eclipses, and transits; and identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of solar system bodies. Dr Person has a special interest in distant solar system bodies, specifically Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects and so the lectures will focus on Pluto and the recent New Horizons mission. The lecture tour will take place during July-August 2016.

-- Gary Sparks, Secretary, RASNZ Lecture Trust.

9. Giant Solar Storms Confirmed in Ice Cores

An international team of researchers of have been looking for traces of solar storms in ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. Everywhere on Earth there are traces of cosmic rays from the galaxy and the Sun, such as low levels of radioactive carbon.

A few years ago researchers found traces of a rapid increase of radioactive carbon in tree rings from the periods AD 774/775 and AD 993/994. The cause for these increases was, however, debated.

This study aimed to work systematically to find the cause for these events. It found corresponding increases for exactly the same periods in ice cores. With these new results it is possible to rule out all other suggested explanations, and thereby confirm extreme solar storms as the cause of the mysterious radiocarbon increases.

The study also provides the first reliable assessment of the particle fluxes connected to these events. This is very important for the future planning of reliable electronic systems. These solar storms by far exceeded any known events observed by instrumental measurements on Earth. The findings should lead to a reassessment of the risks associated with solar storms.

For the complete paper see http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/151026/ncomms9611/full/ncomms9611.html

-- From a Lund University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

10. More Pluto Results from New Horizons

Four months after New Horizons' historic flyby, mission scientists are amazed by unexpected discoveries - and by how some preconceptions about Pluto were flat-out wrong.

Results from New Horizons' July 14th flyby of Pluto and its moons continue to trickle back to Earth. About 80% of the data remains unseen. Analyses of the data so far received were presented at the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences annual meeting, held in early November at National Harbor, Maryland. The following is abridged from a report by Kelly Beatty posted on Sky & Telescope's website on November 10.

Although several dozen presentations offered glimpses of all the mission results, the spotlight shone most brightly on Pluto's surface, its atmosphere, and its quartet of small moons. (Results about Charon, an amazing little world in its own right, will likely take centre stage next month at a meeting of American Geophysical Union.)

The spacecraft's images have already shown that Pluto has an unexpectedly dynamic geology, with towering ice mountains, fresh plains of nitrogen ice that have slowly oozed like glaciers, and a deeply fractured crust. Now you can add "giant ice volcanoes" to that list.

These are two broad, tall mountains that are at least 150 km across and topped with depressions at their summits. They're dead ringers for the kind of broad shield volcanoes found on Earth (think Mauna Kea) and other inner planets (Olympus Mons) - and very unlike anything ever seen on dozens of icy moons in the outer solar system.

The two mounds aren't immediately obvious in any given image, but they're obvious in the 3-D topographic maps created by viewing the surface from multiple angles. The taller one, informally named Piccard Mons, is 5 km high, and Wright Mons is 3 km high. The "lava" in this case would have been slushy mixtures of water and other icy compounds that became liquefied deep down and gushed out onto the surface. If these really are cryo-volcanoes, their summit depressions mark areas of collapse once the source feeding them shut down. Strange, hummocky textures on their flanks might represent individual flows.

Add "Piccard" and "Wright" to the growing evidence that Pluto's interior remained warm - and likely still is warm - for more than 4 billion years. Ordinarily, objects of this size should have frozen solid long ago. Interior heat could have been stoked by tidal interactions with another body, as occurs on Io. But Pluto and its big moon Charon are locked in a spin-orbit coupling that rules out tidal energy. The only other plausible heat source would be the long-term decay of radioactive isotopes in Pluto's rocky core.

Pluto's Surprising Atmosphere Ever since the 1988 discovery that Pluto has a thin atmosphere, researchers have pondered how it's managed to stick around. The surface is so cold - especially when Pluto is farthest from the Sun in its strongly elliptical orbit - that what little gas exists should freeze and fall to the icy surface. Calculations also show that ultraviolet part of sunlight, though weak, should be energizing atoms of gas to escape velocity.

New Horizons's pass behind Pluto, gave two sets of occultations: one of the sun and one of the Earth. These yielded profiles of Pluto's atmosphere's density and temperature with altitude. They showed that the exobase (essentially the level at which atoms can fly away freely into space) is about 2½ times Pluto's radius. So the atmosphere is far colder and more compact than expected.

This means the atmospheric loss must be thousands of times less rapid than predicted. Early assumptions suggested a rate rapid enough to lose the equivalent of a 1 km thick layer of surface ice over 4½ billion years. The New Horizons measures show its more like 15 cms. Moreover, the atmosphere's structure is defying expectations as well. The New Horizons team had expected to find a well-defined troposphere just above the surface, mimicking the 8-km-high layer found around Neptune's moon Triton (long thought to be a geologic sibling of Pluto). But the occultations showed a barely-there troposphere in some spots and none at all in others.

Cratering Tells a Story The spacecraft's good views of the daylit side of Pluto reveal more than 1,000 craters in the icy surface, but they're not evenly distributed. Pluto's northern and mid-latitudes, along with the enigmatic dark region that's been dubbed Cthulhu, appear to be oldest - surfaces largely unchanged for perhaps 4 billion years.

By contrast, the eastern half of the big, heart-shaped plain known as Tombaugh Regio might be just 1 billion years old. And billiard-ball- smooth Sputnik Planum, completely craterless, can't be any older than about 10 million years - and could be much younger.

Crater counters are also using the New Horizons images to learn about the bodies in the Kuiper Belt that created all those icy divots. Most of the impactors were no bigger than a few km across, but that's smaller than ground-based telescopes can detect. Observers using the Hubble Space Telescope have detected two ultra-brief dimmings of background stars that they attribute to Kuiper Belt objects only about 1 km across. Those HST finds imply that the Kuiper Belt teems with abundant small planetesimals - the building blocks from which larger bodies assembled.

But the cratered faces of Pluto and Charon don't bear out that scenario. Instead the distribution of sizes in the Kuiper Belt must be more akin to what's found in the asteroid belt. In that case, the Kuiper Belt's basic building blocks were tens of km in size. This is the likely diameter of the spacecraft's next target - icy asteroid 2014 MU69. So if New Horizons gets a green light from NASA managers to reconnoitre that body, planetary scientists might get a glimpse of a truly primordial object when it flies past in early 2019.

Chaotically Whirling Moons Dynamicists assume that Pluto's five moons - beefy Charon and much smaller Nix, Hydra, Kerberos, and Styx - all resulted from a titanic impact on Pluto, early in solar system history, that yanked its spin axis over to one side and created a ring of debris in its reoriented equatorial plane. July's flyby didn't provide lots of opportunities to view Pluto's four small moons closely, but images taken at long-range provided enough coverage to establish their sizes, refine their orbits, and clock their rotation rates.

Researchers suspect that at least two of Pluto's small moons - and maybe all four of them - resulted from mergers of smaller bodies. The moons' elongated shapes argue that they're clumps of smaller objects that merged at low speeds. Possibly Pluto once had hundreds of small moons that eventually got swept up into Charon and its four smaller siblings. (That said, such a winnowing process should have driven many bodies into Pluto itself, and there's no evidence for enhanced cratering around Pluto's midsection.)

Typically small moons end up, thanks to strong tidal interactions, locked in spin rates that match their orbital periods. That's the norm in the satellite systems of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But not so with Pluto's small moons! All four appear to be spinning chaotically: Styx in 3.239 days, Nix in 1.829 days, Kerberos in 5.33 days, and Hydra in just 10.31 hours. All of these rates are much faster than the moons' orbital periods - in fact, Hydra spins around 89 times per 38-day-long orbit. Moreover Nix is a retrograde rotator (its spin axis is tipped 132°) and that the spin axes of other three are tipped over sideways.

See Kelly Beatty's full article with images at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/pluto-stuns-scientists-111020155/?et_mid=798394&rid=246399573

11. The Curious Case of KIC 8462852

----------

The Kepler spacecraft recorded a bunch of irregular dimmings around one of its target stars, designated KIC 8462852. No natural phenomenon explains the dips well. Planets cause periodic dimming they cause when passing in front of their host stars. The drop in starlight is usually brief (hours long) and precisely repetitive.

But the light dips seen in a target star designated KIC 8462852 don't fit that phenomenon at all. Early in the mission, Planet Hunters volunteers spotted a dip of just 0.5% that lasted for an incredible 4 days. Over time, the behaviour got more and more bizarre. The recorded dips were ragged and irregular, sometimes shallow but sometimes blocking up to 20% of the star's light - and their timing was unpredictable.

So what exactly is going on around KIC 8462852? A team of researchers led by Tabetha Boyajian (Yale University) delves deeply into that mystery in an analysis published October 17th in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

First, the researchers ruled out variability of the star itself. It is 12th-magnitude and situated 1,480 light-years away in east-central Cygnus. There's no hint of giant starspots, pulsations, or other quirks. KIC 8462852 seems to be a perfectly normal F star, though it spins rapidly every 21.1 hours. They found a much fainter M-dwarf star just 2 arcseconds away, revealed by infrared observations with the UK Infra-Red Telescope and Keck II telescopes. But if that's really a companion, then the two stars are generously separated by nearly 900 astronomical units (A.U.) or 130 billion km.

Whatever is creating such deep dips in the star's light must be gigantic, far larger than Kepler's typical exoplanet finds. Boyajian and her colleagues assessed several possible explanations, but most are fatally flawed. For example, observers looked for excess infrared radiation coming from KIC 8462852, a tell-tale sign that the star is surrounded by lots of dust, but didn't find any. So the irregular dips can't be due to enormous clouds of opaque dust passing across the star's disk, clumps of debris from collisions in a putative asteroid belt.

"One can think of lots of ways stars can behave oddly like this, but almost all of them invoke young stars," explains Jason Wright, an exoplanet specialist at Penn State University. "This star is moving too fast to have formed recently, and doesn´t show any infrared signs of a big disk that you would associate with the material that could cause those dips."

One idea that fares reasonably well involves the breakup of one or more comets passing within 1 A.U. of the star. It's at least plausible - after all, comets break up in our solar system all the time when they venture too near the Sun (or near a planet, as happened when Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 came too close to Jupiter in July 1994).

A large, random assortment of cometary debris spread out along a single orbit around KIC 8462852 could explain the irregular dips seen by Kepler - but it's an imperfect solution, as the recorded light curves have some quirky shape characteristics that can't easily be matched by the shattered-comet model.

After the putative breakup these fragments would disperse quickly, so why was Kepler lucky enough to be watching precisely when this solitary comet just happened to come undone? The researchers sidestep this timing dilemma by postulating that that a family of comets are buzzing close to the star, perhaps perturbed inward by gravitational nudges from the distant companion.

There is one more hypothesis, not mentioned in the paper, that the team is contemplating: a partially completed "Dyson sphere." For those not up on your science fiction, that's a hypothetical mega-structure constructed by an advanced alien civilization around a star to capture all that radiant energy.

Far-fetched, yes, but as reported by The Atlantic's Ross Anderson, Boyajian has now teamed up with Wright and SETI researcher Andrew Siemion (University of California, Berkeley). They hope to use a sensitive radio dish to eavesdrop on any transmissions that might be leaking out from the aliens' construction site.

The radio search, though admittedly a long shot, would be simple and straightforward. Less sexy, but just as telling, would be to continue to monitor KIC 8462852 for more dips (perhaps they're periodic after all?) or for infrared energy coming from all the dust that would have been released during a comet's breakup. The American Association of Variable Star Observers has issued an alert requesting more observations of this star.

See Kelley Beatty's full article with graphs and pictures at: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/curious-case-of-kic-8462852-102020155/?et_mid=793431&rid=246399573#sthash.Q4q9O8qg.dpuf

-- Abridged from the above article by Kelly Beatty of Sky & Telescope.

12. Giant Online Image of Milky Way

Astronomers at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have compiled the largest astronomical image to date. The picture of the Milky Way contains 46 billion pixels. In order to view it, The RUB researchers have provided an online tool at http://gds.astro.rub.de.

The image contains data gathered over five years with telescopes at Bochum´s university observatory in the Atacama Desert in Chile. More than 50,000 new variable objects have been discovered by so far. The observed region is subdivided onto 268 sections. Each section is imaged at intervals of several days. By comparing the images, variable objects are identified.

To make the comprehensive image the team assembled the individual images of the 268 sections. Each section comprised images taken in several colours. This created a 194 Gigabyte file.

Using the online tool, any interested person can view the complete ribbon of the Milky Way at a glance, or zoom in and inspect specific areas. An input window, which provides the position of the displayed image section, can be used to search for specific objects. If the user types in "Eta Carinae," for example, the tool moves to the respective star; the search term "M8" leads to the Lagoon Nebula.

For the full text & images see: http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2015/pm00143.html.en

-- From a Ruhr-Universität Bochum press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. 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'.

14. 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 2016. 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.

15. 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

16. Headlines

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  • American Ships Head to Libya
  • Fund Set Up For Beating Victim's Kin
  • Super Caley Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious
  • Drunk Drivers Paid $1000 in 1984
  • Hitler, Nazi Papers Found In Attic
  • 20 Year Friendship Ends at Altar
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  • Priests Agree Sex Abuse Rules
  • Asians Working Hard to Overcome Workaholic Stereotype
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  • Statistics Show Teen Pregnancy Drops Off Significantly After Age 25
  • "We hate math" say 4 in 10 - a Majority of Americans
  • 4 Arrested In Math Lab Bust
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  • Parents Keep Kids Home to Protest School Closure
  • Barbershop Singers Bring Joy to School for Deaf
  • Rock's Papers Scissor Union
  • Pig in Australia Steals 18 Beers from Campers, Gets Drunk, Fights Cow
  • Anxiety May Be Inherited From Parents
  • China May Be Using Sea to Hide Its Submarines

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

RASNZ Electronic Newsletter November 2015 enews201511 2015-11-21 12:00:00