Welcome to the WAS website

Wellington Astronomical Society is an incorporated society and registered charity for promoting astronomy in and around the Wellington region.

Upcoming Events

Our latest events are always in the Events section of our Facebook Page. (It’s public, so you don’t need to be a Facebook user to see it)

WAS Christmas Party

Tuesday 5 December 2023, 7.30 pm at Space Place and also on Zoom at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89857934315.

There will be lashings of pizza (with vegetarian and vegan options available).

illuminated by the stunning images from the 2023 NZ Astrophotography Competition and followed by our famous WAS Christmas Quiz.

Message from President Demi

Kia ora all

Thanks to all our members who attended the AGM on 7 November. Unfortunately, the turnout at our recent AGM was not as high as we had hoped. and we need to ensure we have a quorum to accept both President and Treasurer’s reports for the 2022/23 year. This is we need your participation as members.

We’re inviting you to a very short wrap-up meeting (no more than 10 minutes) right before our final gathering of the year on 5 December (the Christmas Party). The purpose of this meeting will be to accept both the President’s Report and the Treasurer’s Report for 2023 and introduce our newly elected Council for 2023/4. As we already delivered these reports at the November meeting in full, we thought we’d save time and send them out to you for your consideration in advance of our December meeting. The President’s Report is here.

The Treasurer’s Report is here.

We are asking members to commit to no more than10 minutes of their time, either online or in person (Tuesday 5 December, 7.30pm, at Space Place or on Zoom), to help us achieve our quorum.

For those who can attend in person, the brief meeting will be followed by pizza and the WAS Christmas quiz.

Your support is greatly appreciated. Look forward to seeing you soon to help us wrap our 2023 year!

Demi Kirkpatrick.

    RASNZ 2024 Calendar now available

    The perfect Christmas gift.

    Get yours now from RASNZ (via ASTRONZ).

    $25 for one; $20 each for 10 or more – and only $17 each if you are buying 50 (plus postage).

    Here’s the link.

    Membership fees 2023/24

    When we increased membership fees this time last year, we noted that in future years we would look to increase our fees each year by the rate of inflation. When we surveyed members last year on our membership fees, nearly 80 per cent of respondents agreed with this approach as a way to bolster the Society’s finances, especially in a time of high inflation.

    Our costs have been rising, just like everyone’s – inflation was 6 per cent to the year ended June 2023. We have reluctantly decided to increase most of our membership fees by about 6 per cent. However, we have decided to increase the Associate membership fee by a little more than the rate of inflation, reflecting that our offering to Associate members will be significantly enhanced when the Cretney observatory in Martinborough is fully operational.

    The new GST-inclusive fees that will apply from the start of the new financial year – 1 September 2023 – will be:

    Unwaged – $35.00
    Associate – $40.00
    Ordinary – $75.00
    Family – $100.00

    Our Treasurer has sent out membership invoices. It helps us a lot if you pay promptly!

    Gifford Observatory Refurbishment

    The Gifford Observatory was originally established in 1911 on the slopes of Mt Victoria, where Wellington East Girls’ College is located now. It was moved to its present location, above Wellington College, in 1924. It was named in honour of its original founder and benefactor, A.C. Gifford, also known as Uncle Charlie.

    The Observatory hosted a Zeiss 130 mm refractor and was operated by Wellington College students until the late 1970s, by which time adult support for its continued operation had faded out. The dome eventually rotted and collapsed, leaving only the shell of the building.

    In 1999, the Gifford Observatory Trust was formed. Its aim was to ‘restore, maintain and operate the original Gifford Observatory to establish a useable astronomical observatory for the recreational use of young astronomers in the Wellington region’.

    The Trust refurbished the building with a new 4.5-metre dome and reinstalled the 130 mm refractor. The Gifford was reopened on 25 March 2002 by one of its former student users (and New Zealand’s most distinguished rocket scientist), Dr William Pickering ONZ, KBE. (see below).

    In 2022, the Trust was dissolved, but not before it had transferred the ownership (and upkeep) of the Observatory to the Wellington Astronomical Society. We are now renovating the observatory with the aim of making it fully automated.

    Interested in helping Andrew with the refurb of the Gifford? Have a chat with him at the April meeting, or contact him at adfuller@gmail.com.

    William Hayward (Bill) Pickering (1910–2004) was a frequent user of the Gifford Observatory during his school days at Wellington College. He finished his BSc at Caltech, and completed his PhD in Physics there in 1936. A few years later, in 1944, he went to work at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. On 31 January 1958, his group at JPL launched Explorer I on a Jupiter-C rocket from Cape Canaveral, less than four months after the Soviet Union had launched Sputnik. It’s a tale of innovation on the surface, but it’s worth remembering that rockets for space could not have been developed so fast without the rocketry programme of the Second World War – as the Jupiter-C’s history shows. It was designed, eerily, by Wernher von Braun, who worked on the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany’s weapons programme during the war. Von Braun was spirited off to the US afterwards, as part of the innocuous-sounding Operation Paperclip. Similarly the R-7 rocket that launched Sputnik 1 was originally developed as an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, i.e. an offensive weapon capable of travelling thousands of miles.

    Wairarapa is now a Dark Sky Reserve

    Wairarapa has received official Dark Sky Reserve status. This means the night sky there is among the best places in the world to view the never-ending star filled skies above. Just an hour’s drive from Wellington, Wairarapa is arguably the most accessible dark sky destination in the world.

    It’s also the location of the new WAS observatory. See this video about the new dark sky reserve which features the new WAS observatory and Matt Balkham.

    If you have any suggestions for things you would like to see on our website then please email the webmaster or fill out the “Contact Us” form.

    Our Facebook page is at this link.

    Leave a Reply