NSAS General Meeting for July; special speaker

7 07 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for July will be on Tuesday the 17th July at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our speaker this month is Tibor Molnar. He is an Honorary Associate of the Department of Philosophy, University of Sydney. Tibor teaches Philosophy and Science at the university’s Centre for Continuing Education and the WEA. Tibor’s enthusiasm for Science in all its forms is well reflected in his presentation style. See the abstract below.

We will keep the new meeting format. Just a short meeting starting at 7:30 to discuss NSAS matters, then straight into our guest speaker’s presentation. This will be followed by tea and coffee where you can socialise (and talk astronomy/philosophy) with our guest speaker and other members.

As usual, visitors are most welcome!

Cheers
David Wallace

P.S. Just a reminder that this Saturday (7th June, i.e. tonight) is a member and visitor viewing night. There will be a member only viewing night next Saturday (14th July). The next solar observing will be on Sunday 19th August.

Abstract
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With ever-more-powerful instruments, we peer further and further into the unknown. And much of what we find is “unknown”: novel, unexpected, surprising. Indeed, this is what makes Science interesting and exciting – especially astronomy and cosmology. It is also what makes Science difficult. While technologically challenging, observation is the easy part. Description is even easier: a blue dot here; a red flash there; a vibration here; a difference there; etc. The hard part is the interpretation of what we see – the ‘making sense’ of patterns, correlations and invariances in our empirical data.

And not only is ‘making sense’ hard; it is, strictly speaking, not even scientific – observations/experiments don’t come with instructions for how to make sense of them. Rather, to the chagrin of many scientists, ‘making sense’ is a metaphysical issue… and metaphysics is something that scientists eschew with a passion!

In the absence of metaphysics, their preferred tool-of-choice is mathematics – the so-called “language of Science”. Produce the correct mathematical formulation, scientists say, and all is explained! Well, not so. Mathematics is powerful, but it is inadequate/unsuitable for the task of ‘making sense’. Mathematics can describe patterns and correlations, but it cannot make sense of them. Mathematics can describe relations between observations, but it cannot determine what those observations are of.

We all expect – nay, even demand – that Science ‘make sense’. In this presentation, Tibor Molnar explores this problem of ‘making sense’, and offers a little “Analytic Philosophy” to help achieve it.





NSAS General Meeting for June; special speaker

14 06 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for June will be on Tuesday the 19th June at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our speaker this month is Kirsten Banks, an undergraduate Astrophysics student at UNSW, and a proud Wiradjuri woman. Join Kirsten on a journey through the night sky from the perspective of an Indigenous Astronomer. Hear star stories and delve into the astronomical knowledge of Aboriginal Australians in a fun and engaging talk led by the wonderful Kirsten Banks.

We will keep the new meeting format. Just a short meeting starting at 7:30 to discuss NSAS matters, then straight into our guest speaker’s presentation. This will be followed by tea and coffee where you can socialise (and talk astronomy) with other members.

As usual, guests are most welcome!

Cheers
David Wallace

P.S. Just a reminder that this Saturday (16th June) is a members only viewing night. The next visitor night will be Saturday 7th July. Solar observing will be on Sunday 1st July.





NSAS General Meeting for May; special speaker

13 05 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for May will be on Tuesday the 15th May at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our guest speaker is Mark Wardle (Macquarie University) talking about “Star formation within one parsec of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre”. Abstract follows.

As usual, guests are most welcome!

P.S. For those of you who do not know, we are conducting the New Astronomers Group (NAG) course this coming Saturday 19th May. This course is open to members and non-members (fees apply). Tell your friends and relatives about it. Enrolments can be made at https://nsas.org.au/nag/.

Also, there is a members-only viewers night on Saturday 19th May. You can show off your telescope and tell the NAG participants (i.e. potential NSAS members) what a wonderful organisation NSAS is.

Macquarie University is also holding their Astronomy Open Night on Saturday 19th May. NSAS members will be there supporting Macquarie University as well as promoting NSAS.

Cheers
David Wallace

Star formation within one parsec of the supermassive black hole at the Galactic Centre.

Black holes tend to tear anything in their vicinity apart.  This has long been thought to suppress star formation in the immediate surrounds of the supermassive black holes lurking at the centres of galaxies.  But just last year it was discovered that stars are forming in interstellar clouds within 1 pc of Sgr A*, the 4 million solar mass black hole at the centre of the Galaxy.   In this talk I will present our results and discuss their significance for understanding the environment of Sgr A*.





Guest Speaker – 17th April

10 04 2018

Folks,

I am Very pleased to inform you of Mr John Mills as VIP Speaker for the 17 April Monthly Meeting.

Title: Telescopes for the Modern Astronomer

Abstract : “The current rise of quality optics at an affordable price has brought Telescopes within the reach of everyone, but how do you decide what is best for you and your lifestyle, the answer is easier than you think ….”

John’s Background

John’s career is over 10 years of customer and Logistics service in various blue chip companies – Siemens/Fujitsu and Apple both here Australia and the UK.

His current career is Business development manager at Bintel in Sydney supporting the Astronomers across the communities of Australia to ‘View’ or ‘Photograph’ the Night Sky.

John’s Astronomy hobby started properly in a small town in the North of England when he was 17 and joined my first Astronomy club.

John believes that currently what would be best described as an ‘Astro-imager’ and a little bit geeky when it comes to applying technology towards imaging.

Finally John will talk briefly on a new proposed Group on Astrophotography and Imaging for NSAS.

Sincerely, Krishan Anand

P.S. Visitors are most welcome.





NSAS General Meeting for March; special speaker

12 03 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for March will be on Tuesday the 20th March at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our guest speaker is Prof Orsola de Marco from Macquarie Uni Astrophysics. Abstract follows.

As usual, guests are most welcome!

Cheers
David Wallace

The common envelope binary interaction, a “grand challenge” problem.

When a star grows to giant size it can engulf a nearby companion orbiting it. This interaction leads to the shrinking of the orbital separation and the creation of either a compact binary or a merged star. Since the 70s we have hypothesised these interactions to give rise to compact binaries such as cataclysmic variables of X-ray binaries and to binaries that later on merge, giving rise to supernovae Ia and gravitational wave emission. Today, thanks to the advent of time-resolved astronomy on large scales, we have observed several common envelope interactions (which are fast, happening on day-month timescales) and we are therefore in a position to test our models. Here I will present the latest modelling efforts, the challenges and the benefits. I will also present a special class of common envelope interactions, happening between a star and its planetary system.





NSAS General Meeting for February; special speaker

3 02 2018

The NSAS General Meeting for February will be on Tuesday the 20th February at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our guest speaker is Tara Djokic, a PhD candidate at the School of Astrobiology, UNSW. Her abstract follows.

As usual, guests are most welcome!

David Wallace

P.S. For the observer types, Solar Observing will be on Sunday 4th February (i.e. tomorrow). Member + Visitor Night Observing will be on Saturday 10th February and Memebers-Only Night Observing will be on Saturday 17th February.

Hydrothermal systems, early life on Earth and implications for astrobiology
 
Astrobiology seeks to answer questions regarding the origins and extent of life in the Universe. Geology provides a window in time that offers evidence needed to address these astrobiological questions. The study of ~3.5 billion years old stromatolites from the Pilbara, Western Australia has shown that some of the earliest evidence of life on Earth was thriving in hot springs on land. This evidence provides a geological perspective that may be relevant in origin of life studies, and subsequently for implications in the search for life elsewhere.





NSAS General Meeting for November; special speaker

10 11 2017

The NSAS General Meeting for November will be on Tuesday the 21st November at 7:30 PM at Regis Hall, Regis Campus, St Ignatius College, Lane Cove.

Our guest speaker is our own Bob Fuller. He will be given a talk on “Did Aboriginal Australians record a simultaneous eclipse and aurorae in their oral traditions?”. An abstract is below.

As usual, guests are most welcome!

David Wallace

P.S. For the observer types, Member + Visitor Night Observing will be on Saturday 11th November (i.e. tomorrow night) and Memebers-Only Night Observing will be on Saturday 18th November.

Abstract: We investigated an Australian Aboriginal cultural story that seems to describe an extraordinary series of astronomical events occurring at the same time. We hypothesised that this was a witnessed natural event and explore natural phenomena that could account for the description. We select a thunderstorm, total solar eclipse, and strong Aurora Australis as the most likely candidates, then conclude a plausible date of 764 CE. We evaluate the different factors that would determine whether all these events could have been visible, include meteorological data, alternative total solar eclipse dates, solar activity cycles, aurorae appearances, and sky brightness during total solar eclipses. We conduct this study as a test-case for rigorously and systematically examining descriptions of rare natural phenomena in oral traditions, highlighting the difficulties and challenges with interpreting this type of hypothesis.