Public Meeting Tuesday 23rd April 2019

Contrail screenshot (source SunLive)

Vapour trail caught on camera

A screenshot taken from a video sent to SunLive

(video: SunLive/Chris & Amber Wyatt)

Tauranga Astronomical Society features in a recent article published on SunLive – Tauranga’s Weekend Sun newspaper on-line news department.

Last week the SunLive newsroom contacted us via our website. They sent a video of an airborne object and asked us to comment. We did. Committee member David Greig responded and ……. well, read the SunLive article >>


A strange streak in the sky is being put down to a vapour trail thought to have come from an aircraft.

Chris and Amber Wyatt sent a video to SunLive [showing] the trail, which appeared to be emanating from the sun.

“It was taken at 2.44pm on Tuesday in the Waikato. It looks like it came from the sun”.

SunLive contacted Tauranga Astronomical Society [TAS] to see if they could shed some light on the video.

“It is indeed an aircraft contrail (condensation trail)”, says David Greig.

“We don’t often see contrails from Tauranga, due to flight paths, altitude and temperature. At 2.44pm on Tuesday, as seen from Hamilton, the sun was in the north-western sky at an altitude of 34 degrees. This indicates to me that the flight was most likely from Auckland and flying south. I have no doubt whatsoever that it is just an ordinary aircraft contrail that we see in the video.”

The trail is reported to have been seen in Auckland, Raglan and Hamilton. Other media have reported that the trail came from a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster aircraft.

C-17 cropped

The RAAF Globemaster C-17 aircraft seen flying above Uretiti Beach south of Whangarei.

(Photo: NZ Herald/Sion de Prinse)



Our next meeting is this Tuesday 23rd April

The Program

[1]  Black holes

[2]  Angular momentum

[3]  Occultation of Saturn


[1] On-screen presentation

Black Holes

What they are

Their origin

Recent visual evidence of their existence.



The first image ever made of a black hole

(Photo: AP/NZ Herald)

The first image ever made of a black hole after assembling data gathered by a network of radio telescopes around the world. A halo of dust and gas, tracing the outline of the colossal black hole, at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy, 55 million light years from Earth.  (Source: NZ Herald)

blakole NZH

(Graphic: NZ Herald)


[2] On-screen presentation

Angular Momentum

Why stars & planets revolve and are constantly in motion.

circling canine cropped

Round and round



[3] Address

Occultation of Saturn by the Moon, April 26th 2019.

by committee member David Greig.

In the early hours of Friday 26th April, a rare and interesting event will take place – the occultation, or hiding, of the planet Saturn by the Moon. As viewed from Tauranga New Zealand, the Moon will begin to pass in front of Saturn from 12:33am, hiding Saturn from view. Saturn will be hidden from view for about an hour and 10 minutes as the Moon glides by in its month-long orbit around the Earth. Saturn will emerge from behind the Moon at 1:44am, apparently appearing from nowhere as it emerges from behind the dark half of the Moon.

All the stars, planets and the Moon appear to move from east to west across the sky. This is due to the 24 hour rotation of the Earth from west to east. The Moon is in fact orbiting the Earth from west to east – and we can see this motion against the stars and in this case, against Saturn.

Saturn will be 9.75 AU away which is about 1.46 billion km. The Moon will be about 395,000 km away from the Earth at this time – further away than its average distance of 384,400 km. At 1:44am, Saturn will reappear with its magnificent rings leading the way.

Saturn occultation_

An occultation of Saturn as seen from the UK in March 2007

(Source: ABC Science/Damian Peach)


Like a solar or lunar eclipse, this is a rare event so if you have the opportunity to view the Moon through a telescope or a good pair of binoculars, this event would be worth staying up for.

Let’s hope for clear skies in the early hours of Friday 26th April.


David Greig



Our next public meeting then –

 Black holes, Angular momentum, & the Occultation of Saturn

Tuesday 23rd April at 7.30pm

Fergusson Park Observatory, Tilby Drive, Matua, Tauranga.


Admission to our meetings –

A donation of $5 is requested.

Members & children free.


Annual membership –

$30 each adult

or $40 each family

$10 students.



Telescope viewing is subject to cloud cover.


TAS large



Affliated With:


With funding support from:


Slooh Space Camera


NASA astronomy picture of the day