Astronomical Society of New South Wales
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The Astronomical Society of New South Wales (ASNSW) is an amateur astronomy club in the state of New South Wales, Australia. It was founded in 1954 and it has over 400 members.
The Society's objectives are stated in its constitution as follows: "The ASNSW exists to bring together people interested in Astronomy and related sciences, and to promote public interest and education in Astronomy. The ASNSW provides members and the general public access to Astronomical observing facilities, educational lectures, and assistance in selecting, using and even building telescopes and related instruments."
The Society has sections dedicated to providing support for members interested in specific aspects of astronomy, including astrophotography, computing, solar observing, the Solar System, double and variable star observing, deep sky observing and telescope making. It also runs two dedicated observing sites, one at Mount Bowen near Sydney and the other near the country town of Ilford, far from the city lights.
The Society was founded in 1954 as the "Sydney Amateur Astronomers" by Gordon Patston, an aerospace engineer lecturing at Sydney Technical College. The club started with about fifteen members, and Patston was the president. The first meetings were held in the garage behind Patston's house in the suburb of Belfield.
As the group attracted new members, it soon out-grew the garage, and the Patston family allowed their backyard to be used to build a permanent clubhouse. Nearly all the work was done by club volunteers, and on 18 September 1959 the new facility was officially opened by the astronomer Bart Bok, then Director of Mount Stromlo Observatory.
The club was very active through the late 1950s and 1960s, with general-interest events such as public open nights, and sections for special purposes such as a very active junior section. It also worked with professional observers on a number of research projects, including a flare star observing program at the request of the CSIRO, and measuring transits of artificial satellites across the moon as part of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's "Project Moonwatch".(p85) After the first Sputnik launch on 4 October 1957, a program for observing artificial satellites was set up at very short notice, and it succeeded in being the first group in the world to see the first satellite, Sputnik I, in October 1957 and they went on to record three of the first four Sputnik observations.
In 1964, the society's name was changed to the "Astronomical Society of New South Wales", to better reflect the scope of its membership.
In 1969/70, the Society suffered two major setbacks. First, the Society lost its headquarters when the Council re-zoned and subdivided the Patstons' block of land, and it was sold. Second, the Society lost its president when Gordon Patston moved to England to take up a Churchill Fellowship studying aeronautical engineering. That combination of events caused severe financial hardship for the club, and the lack of a permanent venue initially made it difficult to attract and retain members; at its lowest point in the mid-1970s, membership numbers dropped to less than fifty.("Ken Wallace") It took nearly ten years to build membership back up to previous levels.
In 1973 the Society acquired a long-term lease from the government for the Crago Observatory site on Bowen mountain, but in spite of being used regularly the official inauguration was not held until 20 years later, in 1993. Then in 1987, the society purchased the Wiruna property near Ilford, to get away from the increasing glare of the city lights which interfered with observing.(pp87,88)
The Society was an early adopter of computer and communications technology, establishing their Web site in April 1995.(p87)
The Society normally holds two general meetings each month.
South Pacific Star Party
Starting in 1993, the "South Pacific Star Party" (SPSP) is held each year at the Society's dark-sky observing site "Wiruna", attracting between 200 and 400 Australian and international amateur astronomers.
- UNIVERSE is the journal of the Society, published monthly since June 1964.
The Society has two main observing sites where regular observing sessions are held for its members:
- Wiruna (Aboriginal for "Sunset") is a 43 hectare (110 acre) site near the country town of Ilford, three to four hours' drive north-west of Sydney. The site has general observation facilities, and is the venue for the annual South Pacific Star Party.
- Crago Observatory is a permanent observatory located on Bowen Mountain, within the Blue Mountains National Park near Richmond.
Notable members' achievements
- Robert Evans holds the world record for the number of visual discoveries of supernovae by an individual amateur; as of January 2009[update], his total came to 42 visual supernova discoveries plus one comet. Supernova 1983N, spotted by Evans in 1983 in the galaxy M83 long before it reached its peak, turned out to be the first discovery of a new type of supernova, later named Type 1b. His efforts have been recognised by the American Association of Variable Star Observers awarding him their Nova/Supernova Award fifteen times, the Astronomical Society of Australia awarding their Berenice Page Medal in 1986 and the ASNSW the McNiven Medal, in 1996. He received the Order of Australia in 1988 for his contributions to science.
- Robert McNaught has been described as "the world's greatest comet discoverer" – he is a prolific discoverer of both asteroids and comets; as of 15 June 2014[update], the International Astronomical Union lists him as the discoverer of 458 minor planets, and NASA lists 72 comets and asteroids bearing his name. He is perhaps best known to the public for his discovery of comet C/2006 P1, also known as the "Great Comet of 2007", which was the second-brightest comet since reliable records began. He is involved in the search for Near Earth Asteroids. He was first to photograph Supernova 1987A in the LMC. His close association with the ASNSW over many years includes delivering the guest lecture to the South Pacific Star Party, and he was awarded the Society's McNiven Medal, in 1997.
- Gordon Garradd has been a diligent and productive discoverer of asteroids, supernovae and novae for nearly a quarter of a century; as of 15 June 2014[update], the International Astronomical Union lists him as the discoverer of 30 minor planets. Mr Garradd has an asteroid named after him, 5066 Garradd, and also sixteen comets are named after him, including C/2009 P1 which became well known in 2012 when it was photographed by the Deep Impact (spacecraft) spacecraft. He went beyond discovering these objects by also finding their astrometric positions, and he is also recognised for his search for Near Earth Asteroids using CCD imagery. He discovered four novae in the Large Magellanic Cloud as of 1998[update]. Mr. Garradd was recognised in 1998 with the presentation of the Astronomical Society of Australia's Berenice Page Medal. He joined the Astronomical Society of NSW in 1974, and he was awarded the Society's McNiven Medal, in 1998.
- The society's Sydney Moonwatch station was the first group in the world to observe the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957 and they went on to record three of the first four Sputnik observations.
- "CONSTITUTION of the Astronomical Society of NSW Incorporated" (PDF). Astronomical Society of NSW. 5 May 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- Flavin, John. "Gordon Patston – Founder of the ASNSW". Astronomical Society of NSW. Archived from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- Bryant, Greg (February 1999). "Astronomy Under the Southern Cross". Sky and Telescope. 97 (2): 84–89. Bibcode:1999S&T....97b..84B.
- "Astronomy for Amateurs". The Age. 3 June 1969. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- Campbell, Leon from the Optical Satellite Tracking Program of the International Geophysical Year, cited in Bryant, Greg (February 1999). "Astronomy Under the Southern Cross". Sky and Telescope. 97 (2): 85. Bibcode:1999S&T....97b..84B.
- "The ASNSW McNiven Medal". Astronomical Society of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014.
- "About the ASNSW". Astronomical Society of NSW. Archived from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 22 June 2014.
- "Meetings And Events". Astronomical Society of New South Wales. Archived from the original on 22 July 2014. Retrieved 27 June 2014.
- Smith, Bridie. "Sky the limit on galaxy quest". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
- "Minor Planet Discoverers". IAU Minor Planet Center. International Astronomical Union. 15 June 2014. Retrieved 8 July 2014.
- Evans, Rev. Robert. "Searching for Supernovae: A More Personal Story". Retrieved 5 November 2010.
This page is an extract from Rev. Robert Evans' upcoming book "Searching for Supernovae".
- "The Nova/Supernova Award". American Association of Variable Star Observers. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "The ASA Berenice Page Medal". Astronomical Society of Australia. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
- "Search Australian Honours: EVANS, Robert Owen". It's an Honour: Australia Celebrating Australians. Australian Government. 26 January 1988. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- Mobberley, Martin (2011). Hunting and imaging comets. New York: Springer. p. 75. ISBN 9781441969057. Retrieved 20 July 2014.
- "JPL Small-Body Database Browser search for "McNaught"". NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
- "Brightest comets seen since 1935". Harvard. Retrieved 12 January 2007.
- "JPL Small-Body Database Browser on 5066 Garradd". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "JPL Small-Body Database Browser search for "Garradd"". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
- "In the Sky This Month – July 2009". transientsky.wordpress.com. Comets. July 2009.
- "Deep Impact MRI Observations of Comet Garradd (C/2009 P1)". SAO/NASA ADS Astronomy Abstract Service. American Astronomical Society. October 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
- Flavin, John (2011). Our Belfield years: a scrapbook of some of the people and events of the early years of the Sydney Amateur Astronomers and the Astronomical Society of New South Wales (1st ed.). Vineyard, N.S.W.: John Flavin. ISBN 9780646562179.