RASNZ Electronic Newsletter February 2017

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 194

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. 2017 Conference - Call for Papers
2. The Solar System in March
3. Variable Star News
4. Fast Radio Burst Source Identified
5. Conflicting Measures of the Hubble Constant?
6. The Ancient Star That Faked Its Age
7. Micrometeoroids in the Gutter
8. Space May Wreak Havoc on Your Body
9. Auroral Stamp and Coin Issue
10. How to Join the RASNZ
11. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
12. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
13. Quotes

1. 2017 Conference - Call for Papers

As you will know, the next conference of the Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand (RASNZ) will be held in Dunedin over the weekend of 12th -14th May 2017. 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 2017 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 www.rasnz.org.nz/Conference or you can email titles/abstracts to me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please note that you must be registered for the conference to give an oral presentation and papers will be lightly reviewed for suitability before being accepted. Once reviewed, papers will be accepted on a first come first served basis until the programme is full.

-- Warwick Kissling, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee.

2. The Solar System in March

Dates and times shown are NZDT (UT + 13 hours).

Sunrise, sunset and twilight times in march

        Times are for Wellington.  They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in 
NZ.
                  March  1  NZDT                 March 31  NZDT
                  morning  evening               morning  evening
       SUN: rise: 6.59am,  set: 8.06pm     rise: 7.32am,  set: 7.16pm
Twilights
Civil:    starts: 6.33am, ends: 8.32pm   starts: 7.07am, ends: 7.42pm
Nautical: starts: 6.00am, ends: 9.06pm   starts: 6.35am, ends: 8.14pm
Astro:    starts: 5.24am, ends: 9.41pm   starts: 6.03am, ends: 8.46pm

The southern autumnal equinox is on March 20 at 11:29 pm

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

          First quarter: March  6 at 12.32 am (Mar  5, 11:32 UT)
  Full moon:     March 13 at  3.54 am (Mar 12, 14:54 UT)
  Last quarter   March 21 at  4.58 am (Mar 20, 15:58 UT)
  New moon:      March 28 at  3.57 pm (02:57 UT)

The Planets in March 2017

Mercury, Venus and Neptune are all at conjunction with the Sun during March so will be too close to the Sun for observation much of the month. Mars will remain an early evening object rather low to the west at sunset. Jupiter will move up into the evening sky being a few days short of opposition at the end of the month. Saturn is mostly a morning object but will rise shortly before midnight by the end of March.

MERCURY is virtually unobservable throughout March. It is at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun at midday on the 7th, NZ time. At conjunction the planet will pass 1.5° south of the Sun as seen from the Earth. Mercury will then be 204 million km (1.36 AU) from the Earth placing it 55.8 million km beyond the Sun

Before conjunction it is a morning object, but rises only 30 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. After conjunction Mercury becomes an evening object, but even by the 31st it will set only 30 minutes after the Sun.

Evening Planets, Venus, Mars and Jupiter

VENUS sets some 40 minutes after the Sun on March 1. It is a very low object, only 4° up, 15 minutes after sunset, 30° north of the position of the set Sun. The comet Encke at magnitude 5.2 will then be 9° to the left of Venus and slightly lower but too faint to observe.

The angular distance of Venus from the Sun steadily decreases during the month until the planet is at inferior conjunction late on the evening of March 25. At conjunction the planet will pass 8° north of the Sun as seen from the Earth. It will be 42 million km from us and 108 million from the Sun.

After conjunction Venus will move into the morning sky and rise about 35 minutes before the Sun on the 31st but will be too low for observation.

MARS will also be a low early evening object. On the 1st it will be about 10° up 40 minutes after sunset, at the time Venus sets. Mars will be a little to the right of the position of Venus. Uranus will be less than 2° to the left of Mars but at magnitude 5.9 a difficult binocular object in the twilit sky.

Mars manages to keep ahead of the Sun during March, it sets 100 minutes after the Sun on the 1st and 85 minutes after on the 31st. The magnitude of Mars dims from 1.3 to 1.5 during the month.

On the evening of March 2 the 16% lit crescent moon will be just over 6° from Mars, above and to the right of the planet. A rather similar meeting of Mars and the moon will occur on the 31st, with the moon then 13% lit.

JUPITER will be the planet of the evening sky during March, although on the 1st it will not rise until 90 minutes after the Sun sets. By the end of March it will be up only 16 minutes after the Sun goes down.

On the 1st it will be 10.30 pm before Jupiter is reasonably easy to see 9° up to the east with Spica 4° to the upper right of the planet. The two form a pair throughout March, by the 31st they will be 6° apart.

On the 14th, two days after full moon, the latter will be 6.5° to the left of Jupiter as seen late evening, by the following morning the two will just over 4° apart. The rotation of the sky will bring the moon below Jupiter with Spica above the planet. The three should make an interesting grouping throughout the night.

SATURN in the morning sky.

SATURN rises an hour after midnight on the 1st and close to 11 pm on the 31st. Thus it remains essentially a morning sky object. The planet is in Sagittarius but some distance from the brighter stars of the constellation.

The last quarter moon will be just over 4° from Saturn on the morning of 21st NZ time.

Outer Planets

URANUS, at magnitude 5.9, remains in Pisces throughout the month setting 95 minutes after the Sun on the 1st, but only 30 minutes later on the 31st. It starts the month a couple of degrees to the left of Mars, but the latter moves steadily away from Uranus during the month. Also on the 1st the 9% lit crescent moon will be 7° to the left of Uranus with Mars 2° on the opposite side of Uranus, the three forming an almost horizontal line. The following evening the moon will be to the upper right of Mars.

NEPTUNE is another planet at conjunction with the Sun in March, on the 2nd. After conjunction it will become a morning object, rising nearly 2.5 hours before the Sun on the 31st. The planet at magnitude 8.0 remains in Aquarius throughout March.

PLUTO is in the morning sky rising about 2.35 am on the 1st and 12.40 am on the 31st. It will remain in Sagittarius about 2.5° from the 2.9 mag star pi Sgr.

Minor Planets

(1) CERES is an early evening object, magnitude 9.1. It starts the month in Cetus but moves into Aries starting on the 3rd. By the 31st it will set about 9 pm and be 4.5° to the upper right of Mars with the crescent moon 5.5° to the upper right of Ceres, the three not quite in line.

(4) VESTA an evening object in March will fade from magnitude 7.2 to 7.6 during the month. It is stationary early in the month and will then move slowly to the east. The asteroid is in Gemini and will be only 2.4° from beta Gem, Pollux, magnitude 1.2 by the end of March.

A loose cluster of asteroids are bright enough to be seen in binoculars at the beginning of March. On the 1st they are probably best seen about 11pm when they will be between NNE and NE. The asteroids are (9) METIS, (14) IRENE and (29) AMPHITRITE in Leo and (15) EUNOMIA in Sextans. Irene, magnitude 9.1, is just under 7° to the lower left of Metis, 9.2, while Amphitrite, 9.2, is some 14° to the upper right of Metis. Eunomia, mag 9.4,is further away, 21° above Metis. Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, is near midway between Eunomia and Metis, a little closer to the latter. At 11 pm the star will be about 30° above the horizon.

All four asteroids fade during the month and are likely to be lost to binocular view by the 31st.

COMET P/Encke (2P) is in Pisces fairly close to Venus with a magnitude 5.5 on the 1st. But it will be too low in southern skies following sunset to observe.

-- Brian Loader

3. Variable Star News

L2 Puppis has previously been classified as a Semi-regular variable because of its somewhat erratic brightness and has been observed by visual observers for a number of years. Part 2 of a report on observations of this star has appeared In the recent Variable Stars South Newsletter, 2017 January (Part I was in the 2016 July issue). In an analysis of visual observations (1984 to 1999) the visual magnitude has declined dramatically whereas filter observations in B-V remained essentially the same. This often occurs with visual observations of red stars in which the wavelength of maximum radiation moves during the cycle. Some recent observations (2012 – 2015) demonstrate that while the period is a little irregular the period has remained in a band of 130 to 150 days.

Recently some investigations have been carried out with very large telescopes to reveal the structure of the star and the reasons for its unusual behaviour. Firstly images from the ESO Very Large Telescope (SPHERE/ZIMPOL) in Chile revealed a disc of dust which would explain large changes in visual brightness. Secondly follow-up observations at the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have shown a companion. With the current estimate of its mass at approximately 12 Jupiters it is now classified as a brown dwarf; further observations over a long time base of 2000 days are required to pick up transits. The mass of the primary is estimated to be 0.66 solar mass and if it originally started at one solar mass it has undergone significant loss of material. The star is now regarded as a low-amplitude Mira, and it May be on its way to eventually forming a planetary nebula.

It is helpful to see the physical nature of this system being unravelled. Continuing visual and instrumental observations are warranted as well as long base line observations to determine the orbital elements.

Bibliography Aline Homes, Pauline Loader, John Homes, Stan Walker, Andrew Pearce (2017). Changes in L2 Puppis reflected in historic data – Part 2. Variable Stars South Newsletter, 2017 January.

Another paper on L2 Puppis was published recently in Southern Stars. Stan Walker, Neil Butterworth, Terry Bohlsen, Giorgio di Scala, Peter Williams (2016). The multiple periods of L2 Puppis. Southern Stars, December 2016, pp 5 -10.

-- Alan Baldwin.

4. Fast Radio Burst Source Identified

For the first time, a team of astronomers has determined the position of a fast radio burst in the sky and in space.

The first of these puzzling events was announced in 2007, when Duncan Lorimer (West Virginia University) discovered one in archived data from the Parkes radio telescope in Australia. What made that burst (and all following bursts) truly spectacular was the fact that it was also smeared over a wide range of radio frequencies, with lower-frequency waves arriving later than their higher-frequency counterparts. This dispersion implied that the radio waves had travelled some 3 billion light-years to Earth, making the faraway source — whatever it was — unbelievably bright.

And if that really was the case, then these fast radio bursts might just be entirely new, previously undetected astronomical sources. That thought prompted more theoretical papers than the number of observed bursts.

In the decade since, astronomers have detected 18 additional fast radio bursts. It’s a small number when you consider that they might appear as often as 10,000 times per day. Although every one appears to be an extragalactic voyager, traversing great distances before reaching Earth, astronomers hadn’t been able to precisely pinpoint where these bursts are coming from — until now.

However, FRB 121102, an ultrabright, ultrabrief burst radio source first detected on 2 November 2012 has flared up several times, making it the only fast radio burst known to repeat.

One of the most popular explanations for fast radio bursts is that they’re one-off events, like collisions between neutron stars or collapsing supernovae. But when FRB 121102 was found to repeat that scenario was abandoned, at least for this source.

Those repetitions have helped astronomers finally tie the fast radio burst to its home galaxy. It’s a long-anticipated discovery that will help shed light on these enigmatic bursts.

Astronomers had speculated that the culprit might instead be some sort of powerful outburst from a rotating neutron star or perhaps a pulsar. The trouble is that the burst doesn’t appear to follow the periodic pattern that you would expect for an object that regularly rotates.

In order to better narrow down the burst’s source, astronomers needed to find out where it was, not just on the sky but in the universe. So the team used the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array in New Mexico with the hope of catching another one of its outbursts in a larger scope. They were lucky enough to detect not one, but nine additional bursts, allowing them to localize it to within one-tenth of an arcsecond. That’s 18,000 times smaller than the diameter of the full Moon.

To improve the position the team then used the European Very Long Baseline Interferometer Network — an array of radio dishes spread across Europe — and Arecibo to further refine its location. That did the trick. Not only were they able to see that the bursts originated from a faint smudge (some 100 million times fainter than the faintest star you can see with your naked eye), but they also coincided with a persistent radio source at the same location.

Follow-up observations with the Gemini North Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, revealed that the smudge was actually a dwarf galaxy 2.5 billion light-years away.

This has allowed the first calculation of the intrinsic brightness of a fast radio burst. These affirm what many astronomers had suspected all along: these bursts are so bright they might push the boundaries of known physics. “Just for an instant, when this burst flashes, the luminosity of that burst outshines all the stars in its own galaxy by far,” said Sarah Burke-Spolaor (West Virginia University) at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society on January 4th. “It rivals the luminosity of an active galactic nuclei, which are formed from the power accreted onto a supermassive black hole.”

Although the nature of FRB 121102 remains unknown, hints can be gleaned from the fact that its host galaxy is a dwarf galaxy — disappointing news to those who argued for neutron stars. Because the galaxy doesn’t contain a high number of stars and because most of those stars seem relatively young, it likely doesn’t contain a high number of neutron stars, making this scenario less likely.

But if you’re looking for an intriguing culprit, don’t worry. Not only did the team pinpoint a host galaxy, but also a nearby persistent radio source within the galaxy. Although the exact relationship between the duo remains unclear, it’s likely that they’re somehow interacting. One scenario is that the persistent radio source is an active galactic nucleus that blows bubbles of plasma in space, which glow for a snapshot of time before they’re destroyed. That’s the fast radio burst. Since the galaxy will likely replenish those bubbles, this could happen again and again.

The authors are careful to point out that this is just speculation. The team plans to study the duo further with upcoming Hubble Space Telescope observations. In the meantime, they’re continuing to chase fast radio bursts with the hope that they’ll spot more repeating bursts and localize more in the coming years. “I would dare to say that every major astrophysical observatory is chasing this phenomenon,” said Burke-Spolaor.

Reference: S. Chatterjee et al. “A Direct Localization of a Fast Radio Burst and Its Host.” Nature, January 05, 2017.

-- Article by Shannon Hall on Sky & Telescope's webpage at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/astronomers-trace-fast-radio-burst-to-a-surprising-source/

5. Conflicting Measures of the Hubble Constant?

By using galaxies as giant gravitational lenses, an international group of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have made an independent measurement of how fast the Universe is expanding. The newly measured expansion rate for the local Universe is consistent with earlier findings. These are, however, in intriguing disagreement with measurements of the early Universe. This hints at a fundamental problem at the very heart of our understanding of the cosmos.

The Hubble constant — the rate at which the Universe is expanding — is one of the fundamental quantities describing our Universe. A group of astronomers from the H0LiCOW collaboration, led by Sherry Suyu (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan, and the Technical University of Munich), used the Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes in space and on the ground to observe five galaxies in order to arrive at an independent measurement of the Hubble constant.

The new measurement is completely independent of — but in excellent agreement with — other measurements of the Hubble constant in the local Universe that used Cepheid variable stars and supernovae as points of reference.

However, the value measured by Suyu and her team, as well as those measured using Cepheids and supernovae, are different from the measurement made by the Planck satellite. But there is an important distinction — Planck measured the Hubble constant for the early Universe by observing the cosmic microwave background.

The H0LiCOW team determined a value for the Hubble constant of 71.9 ± 2.7 kilometres per second per Megaparsec. In 2016 scientists using Hubble measured a value of 73.24 ± 1.74 kilometres per second per Megaparsec. In 2015, the ESA Planck Satellite measured the constant with the highest precision so far and obtained a value of 66.93 ± 0.62 kilometres per second per Megaparsec. (A Megaparsec is 3.262 million light years.)

While the value for the Hubble constant determined by Planck fits with our current understanding of the cosmos, the values obtained by the different groups of astronomers for the local Universe are in disagreement with our accepted theoretical model of the Universe.

“The expansion rate of the Universe is now starting to be measured in different ways with such high precision that actual discrepancies May possibly point towards new physics beyond our current knowledge of the Universe,” elaborates Suyu.

See the full press release with images at http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1702/

-- From the link passed along by Karen Pollard.

6. The Ancient Star That Faked Its Age

49 Librae, a relatively bright star in the southern sky, was until

recently believed to be 2.3 billion years old, or half as old as Earth’s Sun. Scientists have now proved this theory incorrect, finding that the star was in fact formed 12 billion years ago at the same time as the Milky Way. Researchers at the at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) led by Dr Klaus Fuhrmann and Professor Rolf Chini have now revealed the reason behind scientists’ decades-long assumption of the star’s age, publishing their study in the Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists determine the age of stars based on their chemical composition. Old stars that had been formed during an early stage of the universe do not contain any heavy elements; this is because those elements were generated later, following the nuclear fusion of many generations of stars. 49 Lib does contain heavy elements, which led researchers to believe that it was a relatively young celestial body. However, it was discovered in 2016 that 49 Lib is part of a dual star system, its partner being an almost extinguished star that is as good as invisible. At the end of its life, as the partner star expanded, its matter would have escaped into space and been attracted by the gravity of the neighbouring 39 Lib, which would have absorbed it. And what did that expelled matter include? Heavy elements, of course!

The RUB researchers were further able to determine the age of 49 Lib based on its spectra, breaking the light emitted by the star into its individual components and decoding the wavelength at which the star emits the most light. This method enabled the team to track the dual system’s entire evolution: they now know, for example, the masses with which the star’s life had begun and how those masses have evolved since then.

The researchers revealed that both 49 Lib and its partner would have initially had similar mass properties as the Sun. When 49 Lib took over the matter of its extinguishing partner, it gained a weight of approximately 0.55 solar masses. The more mass, the shorter the star’s lifespan. The weight gain has thus reduced 49 Lib’s lifespan dramatically, so that the star will soon become a red giant.

As a red giant, 49 Lib will no longer be able to keep its matter together, undergoing the same process that its partner underwent as it turned into a white dwarf. Furthermore, part of the matter of 49 Lib will be attracted by its extinguishing star partner, thus returning it from whence it came. “If that partner cannot rid itself of the matter in small eruptions, it will fully explode as a supernova,” explained Professor Chini.

Slightly abridged from the Labonline article at http://www.labonline.com.au/content/research-development/news/the-ancient-star-that-faked-its-age-1152020963

The Astrophysical Journal abstract is at http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.3847/1538-4357/834/2/114/meta

-- From the link passed along by Tony Ellis.

7. Micrometeoroids in the Gutter

Do you dread having to clean out the rain gutters. Try rethinking what it is you're cleaning. Mixed in with the muck and debris May just be a few tiny micrometeorites, debris literally from out of this world. A recent study out of Imperial College London, the London Natural History Museum, the University of Brussels, and a group known as Project Stardust has confirmed that there is a silent cosmic rain of micrometeoroids.

Micrometeoriods are small dust particles slamming into Earth's atmosphere as our planet orbits the Sun at 30 km/sec. They are notoriously difficult to study in their pristine state, but Project Stardust has been collecting the sediment from urban rooftop gutters for the past seven years in a bid to find them. And they succeeded: the recent study recovered a fascinating array of micrometeorites from the urban rooftops of Oslow, Norway and Paris, France.

Finding tiny bits of space debris isn't easy. Project Stardust collected and filtered through 300 kg of material from a total collection area covering 30,000 square meters. Of these, about 500 rocks passed stringent scrutiny.

To pick out these tiny needles from the metaphorical haystack, scientists first sifted through the collected debris with magnets, since most ordinary chondrite-type meteorites have a high iron content. Next, the scientists washed the remainder and then painstakingly sorted the rocks by size and shape. Finally, the final suspects were examined under a binocular microscope, where researchers looked for the lustre and spherical shape indicative of ablation during atmospheric entry. Of the 500 particles collected, 48 were then embedded in resin and polished for further characterization.

The micrometeorites collected are tiny, most just 300 to 400 micron in size. The largest of them are just under half a millimetre across, barely visible to the naked eye.

The idea of “rain gutter micrometeorites” is a matter of minor controversy in meteorite-collecting circles. The idea became vogue thanks to a 1940 micrometeorite study by American meteoriticist Harvey Nininger. However, later studies found that the abundance of magnetic microspherules dropped sharply away from urban areas, and modern pollution is full of metallic particulates that add a steady stream of false-positive “micrometeor wrongs,” confounding search efforts. Still, it's a fun and easy project to fit a bucket's bottom with an NIB (neodymium-iron-beryllium) super-magnet, place the bucket under the end of a rain gutter, and see what turns up.

In this study, the team specifically looked for micrometeorites that matched the mineral compositions of known samples, including deep-sea samples, as well as those from the South Pole Water Well in Antarctica, which also contain similar tell-tale iron-nickel and sulphide beads indicative of micrometeorites.

In addition to being the largest study to date of rooftop material, this also marks the first long-term measurement of the flux of incoming micrometeoroid dust. The team estimates that 100 tons of micrometeorite dust falls over Earth every day, with about one micrometeroid “hit” per square meter per year. Samples taken from the South Pole Water Well, Larkman Nunatak moraine, and Cap Prud'homme in Antarctica also chronicle the steady flux of micrometeoroid bombardment over the past million years.

Antarctic studies also find a subtle change in the composition of relic material as well. The rooftop study isn't carried out over a long enough timescale to confirm this result, but it can give context. “[The new study] is the only sampling of verified micrometeorites from roof tops,” says Matthew Genge (Imperial College London). “Because these are the youngest large particles, it allows us to make comparisons with those collected over a much longer period.”

NASA is also interested in the flux of micrometeoroids through the near-Earth environment. Astronauts have chronicled impacts on the International Space Station, such as one that ripped through one of the station's solar arrays in 2013. Shuttle engineers would also routinely find pits from micrometeoroid impacts on the windows of orbiters back when the fleet was in service. Spalling caused by micrometeroid impacts on the space station's exterior is also a concern, as the sharp edges of these tiny pits seen on exterior handles could easily rip a spacesuit glove.

Despite the challenges inherent in collection and analysis, Project Stardust founder Jon Larsen continues to encourage amateur urban meteorite hunters on his Facebook page. "The holy grail of the research on micrometeorites," Larsen says, "will be to find a way to separate micrometeorites from terrestrial contamination."

See the paper abstract at http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/45/2/119.abstract

-- Abridged from an article by David Dickinson on Sky & Telescope's webpage at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/new-study-hunts-for-rain-gutter-micrometeorites/

8. Space May Wreak Havoc on Your Body

Nothing in our lives is more pervasive than gravity. We can shield our senses from the effects of light, sound, or any other sort of input, but there is no way to shield ourselves from the downward tug of the Earth’s gravitational field. Our bodies evolved to function well in gravity; our bones support us, our muscles strain against it, even our organs sit in positions that respond to the pull of gravity. Venturing into space and away from the presence of gravity is not something that evolution prepared our bodies or our minds to do.

At first, people wondered if astronauts in space would be able to eat and digest food (they can), or if their blood would flow properly (it does, for the most part). That much was comforting; maybe this wouldn’t be so hard, after all.

But what happens in the long run? If humans are ever going to undertake significantly long journeys away from the Earth, we’d better be very clear about what impact living away from gravity, or in reduced gravity (like on the Moon or Mars) is going to have on our bodies.

Luckily for us, we have an absolutely amazing tool to learn more about how to live and work away from gravity: the International Space Station. It sort of boggles my mind that we’ve had people in space, continuously, for more than 16 years now. And last year, Scott Kelly and Mikhail Kornienko spent a year in space together — a year filled with every poke and prod and medical experiment they could do up there to try to nail down exactly what was happening to their bodies over time.

To make matters even more interesting, Mark Kelly, Scott’s twin and also an astronaut, stayed on the ground but volunteered to be subjected to the exact same experiments as a control sample. The data taken from these people will be invaluable in planning a journey to Mars, where astronauts will be required to make a journey of six months or more, then arrive strong, healthy, and ready to begin setting up habitats and begin exploring the red planet.

NASA anticipated some challenges: maintaining bone mass is a problem, and astronauts work out for hours every day to keep their muscles strong. But some things were unexpected, like degraded vision and a higher likelihood of kidney stones. Other issues seemed trivial at first, but they might wear down morale over long periods of time: how would you like to feel like you have the flu, or to not be able to taste your food for months on end?

So living and working in space isn’t so easy after all. Right now, we are honestly not sure how to get people all the way to Mars and keep them healthy. But it’s not time to get discouraged; it’s time to learn everything we can. We are getting better all the time at keeping our bodies working well in space, and we will be armed with that knowledge, someday, when we arrive on the surface of Mars. And above your head right now, careening around the Earth once every 90 minutes, is the laboratory filled with the amazing people that will get us there.

For links to the podcast by Michelle Thaller see http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-resources/orbital-path-astronomy-podcast/orbital-path-warning-space-wreak-havoc-human-body/

https://soundcloud.com/prx/you-had-me-at-pee-brittle---------- See 'Scientific American' February 2017, p.50-55, for more bad news for would-be interplanetary space travellers.

9. Auroral Stamp and Coin Issue

John Hearnshaw points out that NZ Post as a stamp issued featuring the Aurora Australis and Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve with images recorded from Mt John. The details are at https://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/new-zealand/2017/southern-lights The set of six stamps was first issued on 8 Feb.

They have also issued a pricey 1oz silver proof coin that replicates the auroral effect with holography. The web link is the same as above.

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 2016 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., Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

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 2017. 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. Nichola van der Aa, 32A Louvain Street, Whakatane 3120.

13. Quotes

"xkcd.com is best viewed with Netscape Navigator 4.0 or below on a Pentium 3±1 emulated in Javascript on an Apple IIGS at a screen resolution of 1024x1. Please enable your ad blockers, disable high-heat drying, and remove your device from Airplane Mode and set it to Boat Mode. For security reasons, please leave caps lock on while browsing." -- Randall Munroe.

"You Matter -- unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light… then you energy." -- Blackboard sign posted on https://www.facebook.com/scienceteeshirts/ photos/

Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6817
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