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.

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. RASNZ 2009 Conference
2. The Solar System in March
3. RASNZ Annual General Meeting
4. Land & Sky Getaway - April 24-26
5. June Fireballs?
6. C/2009 G1 (STEREO)
7. Galileoscopes
8. IYA 100 Hours Very Popular
9. Boötes-3 Scores Its First GRB
10. Meteorites Found From Asteroid Impact
11. Into the Eye of the Helix
12. Search for Pulsars at Home
13. Most Detailed Map of Nearby Universe Completed
14. Gifford-Eiby Lecture Fund
15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund
16. How to Join the RASNZ
17. Aircraft Maintenance Problems and Solutions

1. RASNZ 2009 Conference

This years RASNZ Conference is but a month away. Conference is on 22-24 May, at the Wellington Quality Inn, in Upper Cuba Street, Wellington. Plus of course there is the Variable Star South Colloquium on 22 May, and the Trans-Tasman Symposium on Occultations on 25-26 May.

It is most important registrations are now made urgently - firstly so registrants avoid the late fee which comes in at the end of April, and secondly so you are ensured of being fed - the venue have asked us to supply numbers for catering purposes by the end of April.

The feature Speakers for Conference are Professor Fulvio Melia of the University of Arizona, and Dr Chris Fluke of the Swinburne Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing. For the large majority of you, this will be your only opportunity to hear and meet our guests.

The programme is full - right up until 5pm on the Sunday!! So you will appreciate we have a fantastic line up of speakers and topics - something for everyone. For a full list of speakers - and indeed everything you wanted to know about Conference, please go to the RASNZ-Webpage - www.rasnz.org.nz

For the Conference Dinner on the Saturday night - don't forget to come dressed as your favourite astronomer. This is bound to be a fun night - and of course we have Danny Mulheron to speak to and entertain us in the After Dinner Speakers slot.

OK - let's see you all at Conference. It's going to be a great weekend - and a great way to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy.

-- Dennis Goodman, Chair, RASNZ Standing Conference Committee

The speakers include: Dr Helen Anderson, CEO MoRST, Conference Opening Steve Butler: "Measuring Up". Bill Allen: "Constructing the new GRB 0.6m Robotic Telescope in Marlborough". Dr Grant Christie: "Science Objectives for the new BOOTES-3 Observatory". Bob Evans: "The Next Aurora Season". Dr Chris Fluke: "3-d Astronomy Visualization: From Data to Documentary". Sergei Gulyaev and Tim Natusch: "AUT Radio Telescope: current status and plans" David Herald: "Results of Asteroid Occultations 2007 and 2008" David Herald: "Video Astrometry" Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt: "Understanding cluster dynamics with next generation radio telescopes". Dr Warwick Kissling: "Zernike Polynomials and their applications in optics and astronomy". Brian Loader: "Lunar Occultations of Double Stars". David MacLennan: "Recent revelations from Mars". Jennie McCormick: "100 Hours of Astronomy, - Making History A Global Astronomy Celebration" Professor Fulvio Melia: "Supermassive Black Holes". Biographical note. Veronica Miller: "A search for variable stars and transiting extrasolar planets in the Galactic Plane". Gavin Milne: "Secondary School Astronomy Education" Owen Moore: "Building an Amateur Observatory in your Own Home". Danny Mulheron, after dinner speaker. Graeme Murray: "New Zealand's Starlight Reserve initiative" Yvette Perrot: "Parallax effects in gravitational microlensing" Alan Plummer: "The VSS RASNZ legacy and the evolving BV Centauri". Dr Andrew Rakich: "Status of the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT)" Dr Tom Richards: "Introducing Variable Star South". Friday night launch of the renewed VSS. Glen Rowe: "Tides and the Real World". Rachel Soja: "Dynamics of Resonant Meteoroids". Dr Denis Sullivan: "A physical description of gravitational microlensing events". Dr Phil Yock: "Gravitational Microlensing, and New Zealand's Contribution".

Poster Papers Steve Butler "Dark Skies". Alan Plummer "Visual Observation of Variable Stars". Erik Vermaat "Nga Whetu Resources; Supporting Astronomy Education".

2. The Solar System in May

The usual notes on the visibility of the Planets for May 2009 have been placed on the RASNZ web site: http://www.rasnz.org.nz/SolarSys/May_09.htm. Notes for June 2009 will be in place in a few days.

The planets in may

The evening sky - saturn (and mercury early may)

Saturn remains in Leo, and will be well placed for evening viewing during May. At the end of the month it will set a short time after midnight. Transit is at about 9pm on May 1 and 7 pm on May 31. Being stationary in mid May, Saturn will show little change in position during the month about 15° from Regulus, magnitude 1.4. The two will be nearly level mid evening, with the brighter Saturn to the right of the star.

The 76% lit waxing Moon will be a little less than 5° from Saturn on the night of May 4. They are closest early evening, with the Moon moving a little further away from Saturn during the evening. The Moon joins Saturn again on the last day of the month, this time it will be 53% lit with the two being closest about midnight close to the time they set in New Zealand. They are about 5.5° apart at 10 pm.

Saturn's brightest satellite Titan will be eclipsed by the planet twice during May. On the night of May 7 Titan will move into Saturn's shadow at about 7:22pm (NZST) and emerge again at about 12:41am NZST. On May 23 the disappearance into eclipse will be an hour earlier at 6:29pm with the reappearance at 12:07am. This eclipse, which occurs during the RASNZ conference, will be one of the most favourable in terms of the distance Titan is from Saturn when the eclipses occurs. It is also the last at which the eclipse disappearance occurs during the hours of darkness in New Zealand.

More details on observing these events and a table of the times of all the eclipses can be found on the RASNZ web page - click on eclipses of Titan and Rhea. There are also details of two shadow transits of Titan across Saturn which take place on May 15 and May 31. Both are partly observable from New Zealand with the start of the transits occurring before sunset.

Mercury also starts the month as an evening object, but setting only 40 minutes after the Sun on May 1 will make observation virtually impossible. The planet is stationary on May 8, after which it will be moving in a westerly sense through the stars, in the opposite direction to the Sun, so rapidly closes in on it.

The morning sky - all major planets except saturn

Mercury (continued): is at inferior conjunction on May 19, after which it moves up into the morning sky quite quickly. It is stationary for a second time on the morning of May 31 when it will start moving to the east again. By then Mercury will rise a good hour and a half before the Sun, reaching an altitude of 7°;, 50 minutes before sunrise.

At magnitude 2.3 it is likely to be a difficult object in the brightening sky, although readily visible in binoculars, nearly 30°; round to the north from due east. Mercury will also be nearly 30°; to the lower right of Venus.

Venus has been a brilliant object in the dawn sky since early April. By May it will be high, bright and obvious in the morning sky before sunrise. In the north of New Zealand it rises a little before 4 am throughout the month and about half an hour later in the south.

On May 1 Venus will be some 7.5°; below Uranus (magnitude 5.9) but its easterly movement through the stars will pull away from the latter planet during the rest of the month. Venus is also a few degrees above Mars throughout May.

On the morning of May 21 the Moon, a 17% lit crescent will be 7.5°; to the left of Venus.

Mars continues to rise at about the same time throughout May as in April, ranging from just after 4 am at Auckland to about 4.40 am at Invercargill. The effect is that Mars will stay at close to the same altitude at the same time of morning throughout the month.

Both Mars and Venus are moving to the east during May, and at about the same apparent rate. As a result Mars will remain 5 or 6 degrees below and a little to the right of Venus in the morning sky all month. At magnitude 1.2 Mars has less than 1% of the brightness of Venus, and will be lost in the twilight sky about 40 minutes before sunrise. It will remain visible in binoculars for about another 20 minutes.

The Moon, 10% lit, will be some 7 degrees to the lower left of Mars on the morning of May 22.

Jupiter will be much higher than the other morning sky planets in the hour before dawn. By the end of the month it will rise about an hour before midnight so beginning to move into the evening sky.

It will be in Capricornus, close to NEPTUNE throughout May. At the beginning of May, Jupiter will be just over 2 degrees above Neptune as seen in the pre-dawn morning sky. During May it closes in on Neptune, in the process passing the 5th magnitude star, mu Cap at a distance of 4 arc- minutes on the morning of March 21.

On the morning of May 28, the two planets will be just under 24 arc- minutes apart with Neptune, magnitude 7.9, to the lower left of Jupiter. Mu Cap will be half a degree to the upper left of the planets a little further away forming a small triangle with the two planets. The pattern should make locating Neptune fairly easy in binoculars and with no Moon.

There are two other conjunctions of Neptune and Jupiter during 2009, the May one is the closest.

There are a number of mutual occultations of Jupiter's satellites visible from New Zealand during May. Most of them are partial, but in all cases the two satellites will be seen, in a small telescope, to merge and separate over a time span of a few minutes

Brighter asteroids:

(1) Ceres is an evening object setting about an hour after midnight on May 1 and shortly before midnight by May 31. It will be in Leo about 16 degrees from Saturn early in May, reducing to 11 degrees by the end of the month. Its magnitude ranges from 8.1 to 8.4.

(2) Pallas starts May in Monoceros but moves into Canis Minor on May 12. By the end of May it will be 2 degrees from Procyon. It is an early evening object, setting before 11 pm on May 1 and about 9.30 pm on May 31. Pallas's magnitude varies from 8.4 at the beginning of May to 9.0 at the end.

(4) Vesta spends May in Taurus with a magnitude 8.5, starting the month some 3.5 degrees directly below Aldebaran and less than half a degree below the 3.5 magnitude star epsilon Tau in the Hyades. It will then set about 7 pm.

During the rest of May, Vesta moves to the east away from the Hyades but also sets earlier, to become lost in the evening twilight by the end of May.

-- Brian Loader

3. RASNZ Annual General Meeting

As usual the Annual General Meeting of the RASNZ will be held on the Saturday afternoon of conference following the end of the speaking session. The formal notice for the meeting is below.

If any member or society has any item of business they wish to raise under general business, please let the secretary know. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Notices of motion cannot be accepted at this date.

-- Brian Loader, Executive Secretary.

------------ Annual General Meeting

The 86th Annual General Meeting will be held on Saturday 23 May, 2009 at the Quality Inn, Cuba Street, Wellington, at approximately 4:15pm. This meeting will start following the close of the Saturday afternoon session of the Conference.

Agenda:

Apologies.
Respect for Deceased Members.
Greetings to Absent Members.
Minutes of the 85th AGM held in Tekapo.
Matters arising from the Minutes.
Annual report of council for 2008
Annual accounts for 2008
Election of Auditor.
Election of Honorary Solicitor.
General Business as allowed for in the rules.

Minutes of the 85th AGM (2008) are available on the RASNZ web site at 2008 AGM Minutes

The Annual Report of Council and the Annual Accounts for the year 2008 have been printed in the March 2009 issue of Southern Stars.

Brian Loader, Executive Secretary, 18 April 2009 ----------------- A rich-text version of the Notice of Meeting and Agenda will be attached RASNZ members' copies of the Newsletter. - Ed.

4. Land & Sky Getaway - April 24-26

Chris Picking writes: This may be of interest to people in the lower North Island. It will be a relaxed event for observing as well as presentations during the afternoon or evening depending.

Land & Sky Getaway ------------------ Friday 24 - Sunday 26 April 2009, Akitio, 75kms east of Dannevirke http://www.tararua.net/akitio/index.html

A weekend of relaxing, nature & observing. This is a getaway weekend to relax in an idyllic setting by a beach and bush with dark skies at night to observe deep sky objects. Accommodation is available in either the hall or dorms and a bbq-style dinner will be provided on the Saturday evening. You will have to provide your own meals for breakfast and lunch. Kitchen facilities are available. The cost for the weekend is $40 which includes the dinner on Saturday. Children are half-price. For more information please visit the following web page http://www.astronomynz.org.nz/iya-events/land-sky-getaway.html

5. June Fireballs?

Astronomers are encouraged to spend a few more minutes under the stars from the 1st-13th June this (and following) year.

Some New Zealand astronomers who are researching fireballs have discovered what could perhaps be a trend - more fireballs in early June than usual. This initial prediction is based on over 13 years of fireball reports by the NZ public and astronomers. The International Meteor Organisation (IMO) states that a meteor has to be brighter than magnitude -3 to be deemed a fireball.

The main direction to look - upwards naturally, but perhaps to the west as this is where the possible majority are seen. If you see any in the first two weeks of June (and at other times) contact RASNZ Comet and Meteor Section director John Drummond at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Fireball report forms (prepared by Jennie McCormick) are available from www.cometeor.co.nz

-- John Drummond

6. C/2009 G1 (STEREO)

This comet was discovered on Stereo spacecraft images. It was closest to the sun on April 16 and is now moving into our morning sky. It should be visible in medium sized telescopes. The following orbital elements and ephemeris by Brian G. Marsden are from Minor Planet Electronic Circular 2009-H14.

Orbital elements: C/2009 G1 (STEREO) T 2009 Apr. 16.477 TT MPC q 1.12951 (2000.0) P Q Peri. 175.412 +0.530032 -0.228044 Node 120.670 -0.805091 +0.167099 e 1.0 Incl. 108.275 -0.266263 -0.959205 From 33 observations 2009 Apr. 9-17.

Ephemeris: Date TT R. A. (2000) Decl. Delta r Elong. m1

  1. 04 19 22 51.21 -06 02.9 1.541 1.130 47.1 10.5
  2. 04 24 23 01.71 -09 30.9 1.458 1.136 51.0 10.4
  3. 04 29 23 13.48 -13 24.5 1.375 1.147 55.0 10.3
  4. 05 04 23 26.87 -17 47.6 1.295 1.164 59.2 10.2
  5. 05 09 23 42.40 -22 42.8 1.221 1.186 63.4 10.2
  6. 05 14 00 00.73 -28 10.9 1.156 1.213 67.7 10.2
  7. 05 19 00 22.80 -34 07.7 1.104 1.244 71.9 10.2
  8. 05 24 00 49.80 -40 22.4 1.067 1.279 75.9 10.2
  9. 05 29 01 23.24 -46 34.9 1.049 1.318 79.4 10.3
  10. 06 03 02 04.63 -52 16.7 1.052 1.359 82.2 10.4
  11. 06 08 02 54.67 -56 55.8 1.075 1.403 84.3 10.6
  12. 06 13 03 51.68 -60 06.3 1.118 1.450 85.5 10.9

To get predictions for a particular date and time use the Minor Planet Center's Ephemeris generating service http://scully.cfa.harvard.edu/~cgi/MPEph2 Enter object as C/2009 G1 The date is in UT, so date 2009 05 02.7 = May 2 1648 UT = May 3 04:48 a.m. NZST. One must also enter the number of lines of ephemeris required, the time interval, etc. For Observatory code enter 500 (Geocentric); the comet is distant.

7. Galileoscopes

Following on from last month's note about the Galileoscopes, Margret Munroe of Earth & Sky Ltd advises that the telescopes have been ordered. No price has been received from the manufacturer yet. She will be contacting all those who have placed orders as soon as the information is received.

8. IYA 100 Hours Very Popular

The International Year of Astronomy's 100 Hours was a great success locally. Jennie McCormick wrote in the RASNZ Affiliated Societies Newsletter: "New Zealand astronomical societies, groups, clubs and Universities registered 70 events, making NZ the 5th country behind the USA, Brazil, Iran and India with the most events world wide. I am sure the people who looked through our telescopes will never forget their first view of Saturn or of seeing the craters on the Moon up close for the first time. Thank you to all the NZ societies who took part in this event, your hard work paid off."

Several hundred people visited Mt John for a look through the Observatory's big telescopes and several smaller ones set up by Earth and Sky Ltd. The weather obliged magnificently.

Reports from other places would be welcomed. -- Ed.

9. Boötes-3 Scores Its First GRB

Last moth we reported the opening of the BOOTES-3 telescope in Bill Allen's Blenheim vineyard. Just two days after commissioning its first observations of a gamma ray burst source were reported in GCN 9058:

"Following the detection by Fermi LAT and GBM of GRB 090328 (McEnery et al. GCNC 9044), follow-up observations were performed by the 0.6-m Yock-Allen robotic telescope at the new BOOTES-3 astronomical station in Blenheim (New Zealand). A co-added 1500s unfiltered image, obtained on 29 Mar (22:12-22:41 UT, i.e. 36.8 hr after the onset of the event) shows a rather bright optical afterglow at the UVOT position reported by Kennea et al. (GCNC 9046). We measure R~19.7+/-0.3 (clear filter), calibrated against USNO-B1.0 stars. Additional observations are encouraged."

10. Meteorites Found From Asteroid Impact

Fortunately, it wasn¹t large enough to require intervention by Bruce Willis, but asteroid 2008 TC3 is the first space rock to have been spotted before it crashed to Earth. It streaked into the skies over northern Sudan in the early morning of 7 October 2008, and then exploded 37 km above the Nubian Desert, before the atmosphere could slow it appreciably. It was believed that the asteroid had fully disintegrated into dust.

A meteor astronomer with the SETI Institute¹s Carl Sagan Center, Peter Jenniskens, thought otherwise. After establishing a collaboration with Mauwia Shaddad of the Physics Department and Faculty of Sciences of the University of Khartoum, he travelled to the Sudan. The two researchers, together with students and staff from the university, collected nearly 280 pieces of the asteroid, strewn over 29 km of the Nubian Desert. Never before had meteorites been collected from such a high altitude explosion. As it turns out, the assembled remnants are unlike anything in our meteorite collections, and may be an important clue in unravelling the early history of the solar system.

Picked up by Arizona¹s Catalina Sky Survey telescope on 6 October 2008, the truck-sized asteroid hit the atmosphere only 20 hours after discovery. The incoming asteroid was tracked by several groups of astronomers, including a team at the La Palma Observatory in the Canary Islands that was able to measure sunlight reflected by the object.

Studying the reflected sunlight gives clues to the minerals at the surface of these objects. Astronomers group the asteroids into classes, and attempt to assign meteorite types to each class. But their ability to do this is often frustrated by layers of dust on the asteroid surfaces that scatter light in unpredictable ways.

Jenniskens teamed with planetary spectroscopist Janice Bishop of the SETI Institute to measure the reflection properties of the meteorite. They discovered that both the asteroid and its meteoritic remains reflected light in much the same way -- similar to the known behaviour of so-called F-class asteroids. "F-class asteroids were long a mystery," Bishop notes. "Astronomers have measured their unique spectral properties with telescopes, but prior to 2008 TC3 there was no corresponding meteorite class, no rocks we could look at in the lab."

The good correspondence between telescopic and laboratory measurements for 2008 TC3 suggests that small asteroids don¹t have the troublesome dust layers, and may therefore be more suitable objects for establishing the link between asteroid type and meteorite properties. That would allow us to characterize asteroids from afar.

2008 TC3 was made of material that was heated and partially melted early

in the solar system's formation, making it a polymict ureilite meteorite. The meteorites from 2008 TC3, now called Almahata Sitta are anomalous ureilites: very dark, porous, and rich in highly cooked carbon. This new material may serve to rule out many theories about the origin of ureilites.
In addition, knowing the nature of F-class asteroids could conceivably
pay off in protecting Earth from dangerous impactors. The explosion of
2008 TC3 at high altitude indicates that it was of highly fragile
construction. Its estimated mass was about 80 tons, of which only some
5 kg has been recovered on the ground. If at some future time we
discover an F-class asteroid that¹s, say, several kilometres in size
-- one that could wipe out entire species -- then we¹ll know its
composition and can devise appropriate strategies to ward it off.
Hitting such a fragile asteroid with an atomic bomb, as Bruce Willis
might do, would merely turn it into a deadly swarm of shotgun pellets.

As efforts such as the Pan-STARRS project uncover smaller near-Earth asteroids, Jenniskens expects more incidents similar to 2008 TC3. With luck these will provide other fragile materials not yet in meteorite collections.

-- from a SETI Institute press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

11. Into the Eye of the Helix

A deep new image of the magnificent Helix planetary nebula has been obtained using the Wide Field Imager at ESO¹s La Silla Observatory. The image shows a rich background of distant galaxies, usually not seen in other images of this object.

The Helix Nebula, NGC 7293, lies about 700 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer. It is one of the closest and most spectacular examples of a planetary nebula. These exotic objects have nothing to do with planets, but are the final blooming of Sun-like stars before their retirement as white dwarfs. Shells of gas are blown off from a star¹s surface, often in intricate and beautiful patterns, and shine under the harsh ultraviolet radiation from the faint, but very hot, central star. The main ring of the Helix Nebula is about two light-years across or half the distance between the Sun and its closest stellar neighbour.

Despite being photographically very spectacular the Helix is hard to see visually as its light is thinly spread over a large area of sky and the history of its discovery is rather obscure. It first appears in a list of new objects compiled by the German astronomer Karl Ludwig Harding in 1824. The name Helix comes from the rough corkscrew shape seen in photographs.

Although the Helix looks very much like a doughnut, studies have shown that it possibly consists of at least two separate discs with outer rings and filaments. The brighter inner disc seems to be expanding at about 100 000 km/h and to have taken about 12,000 years to have formed.

Because the Helix is relatively close -- it covers an area of the sky about a quarter of the full Moon -- it can be studied in much greater detail than most other planetary nebulae and has been found to have an unexpected and complex structure. All around the inside of the ring are small blobs, known as ³cometary knots², with faint tails extending away from the central star. They look remarkably like droplets of liquid running down a sheet of glass. Although they look tiny, each knot is about as large as our Solar System. These knots have been extensively studied, both with the ESO Very Large Telescope and with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, but remain only partially understood. A careful look at the central part of this object reveals not only the knots, but also many remote galaxies seen right through the thinly spread glowing gas. Some of these seem to be gathered in separate galaxy groups scattered over various parts of the image.

For more see http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/press-rel/pr-2009/pr-07-09.html http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/freesearch/helix/viewall/1

-- European Southern Observatory Press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

12. Search for Pulsars at Home

Einstein@Home, based at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) and the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI) in Germany, is one of the world¹s largest public volunteer distributed computing projects. More than 200,000 people have signed up for the project and donated time on their computers to search gravitational wave data for signals from unknown pulsars.

The Einstein@Home project analyses data from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The Arecibo Observatory is the largest single-aperture radio telescope on the planet and is used for studies of pulsars, galaxies, solar system objects, and the Earth¹s atmosphere. Using new methods developed at the AEI, Einstein@Home will search Arecibo radio data to find binary systems consisting of the most extreme objects in the universe: a spinning neutron star orbiting another neutron star or a black hole. Current searches of radio data lose sensitivity for orbital periods shorter than about 50 minutes. But the enormous computational capabilities of the Einstein@Home project (equivalent to tens of thousands of computers) make it possible to detect pulsars in binary systems with orbital periods as short as 11 minutes.

Discovery of a pulsar orbiting a neutron star or black hole, with a sub- hour orbital period, would provide opportunities to test General Relativity and to estimate how often such binaries merge. The mergers of such systems are among the rarest and most spectacular events in the universe. They emit bursts of gravitational waves that current detectors might be able to detect, and they are also thought to emit bursts of gamma rays just before the merged stars collapse to form a black hole.

For more see Einstein@Home: http://einstein.phys.uwm.edu/

-- from a Cornell University press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

13. Most Detailed Map of Nearby Universe Completed

Researchers from Australia, the UK and the USA have just completed the most detailed survey of galaxies in the nearby Universe, which will reveal not only where the galaxies are but also where they are heading, how fast, and why.

Galaxies are tugged around by each other's gravity. By measuring the galaxies movements, the researchers can map the gravitational forces at work in the local Universe, and so show how matter, seen and unseen, is distributed. "Light can be obscured, but you can't hide gravity", said Dr. Heath Jones, lead scientist for the Six-Degree Field Galaxy Survey (6dFGS).

The 6dFGS was carried out with the 1.2-m UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring in central New South Wales, operated by the Anglo-Australian Observatory. Broader and shallower than previous comparable surveys -- it covered twice as much as sky as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey -- it has recorded the positions of more than 110,000 galaxies over more than 80% of the Southern sky, out to about two thousand million light-years from Earth (a redshift of 0.15).

The survey shows strings and clusters of nearby galaxies on large scales in unprecedented detail, and has revealed more than 500 voids, apparently empty areas of space with no galaxies.

The special aspect of this survey is that it will let the researchers disentangle two causes of galaxy movements. As well as being pulled on by gravity, galaxies also ride along with the overall expansion of the Universe. For about 10% of their galaxies, the 6dFGS researchers will tease apart these two velocity components: the one associated with the Universe's expansion, and the one representing a galaxy's individual, or "peculiar", motion.

There have been previous dedicated peculiar-velocity surveys, but 6dFGS will provide more than five times more peculiar velocities that the largest of these surveys.

Calculating peculiar velocities is done by comparing a galaxy's distance predicted by its redshift with its distance measured using the internal properties of the galaxy. The technique depends on measuring the width of spectral lines in a galaxy, and doing this accurately needs a high-resolution spectrograph, such as the one purpose-built for this survey.

From conception to delivery, the 6dFGS has taken almost a decade. It was made possible by a purpose-built spectrograph and robotic fibre positioner, the Six-Degree Field (6dF) instrument, which allowed 150 spectra to be taken simultaneously. The survey also took advantage of the UK Schmidt Telescope's wide field of view -- 5.7 degrees, or 11 times the width of the full Moon -- which was key to the survey being able to cover 80% of the Southern sky in a reasonable time.

The sample of galaxies was drawn mainly from the 2MASS Extended Source Catalogue: that is, they were selected by their infrared light rather than optically selected. Selecting galaxies by their near-infrared (K band) magnitudes avoids bias against galaxies that are currently forming few stars, and instead selects by total stellar mass. [2MASS was the 2-micron All Sky Survey. - Ed]

For pictures see http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/~cfluke/6dF/0001.tga.jpg http://www.aao.gov.au/press/6dfgs/schmidt_small.jpg http://www.aao.gov.au/press/6dfgs/schmidt_large.jpg

-- from an Anglo-Australian Observatory press release forwarded by Karen Pollard.

14. 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., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

15. Kingdon-Tomlinson Fund

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

For an application form contact the RASNZ Executive Secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 14 Craigieburn Street, Darfield 7510.

16. How to Join the RASNZ

A membership application form and details can be found on the RASNZ website http://www.rasnz.org.nz/InfoForm/membform.htm. Please note that the weblink to membership forms is case sensitive. Alternatively please send an email to the membership secretary This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further information.

The annual subscription rate is $75. For overseas rates please check with the membership secretary, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

17. Aircraft Maintenance Problems and Solutions

Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humour. Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems, known as "squawks," submitted by QANTAS pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers.

P = The problem logged by the pilot. S = The solution and action taken by the engineers.

P: Left inside main tyre almost needs replacement. S: Almost replaced left inside main tyre.

P: Test flight OK, except autoland very rough. S: Autoland not installed on this aircraft.

P: No. 2 propeller seeping prop fluid. S: No. 2 propeller seepage normal. Nos. 1, 3 and 4 propellers lack normal seepage.

P: Something loose in cockpit. S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield. S: Live bugs on backorder.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent. S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear. S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud. S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick. S: That's what they're there for!

P: IFF inoperative. S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Number 3 engine missing. S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums. S: Reprogrammed target radar with words.

P: Mouse in cockpit. S: Cat installed.

-- forwarded by Orlon Petterson.

Alan Gilmore Phone: 03 680 6000 P.O. Box 57 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Lake Tekapo 7945 New Zealand


Newsletter editor:

Alan Gilmore   Phone: 03 680 6000
P.O. Box 57   Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Lake Tekapo 7945
New Zealand