The Nelson Science Society

Welcome to the webpage of the Nelson Science Society (NSS) and its constituent, the Astronomy Section. The NSS is a branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand and exists to promote science within the Nelson/Tasman region - we do this by holding regular scientific talks from a variety of experts throughout the year and by promoting science education in schools and colleges.

The Astronomy section is run as an independent constituent of the NSS and maintains its own program of events (see Astronomy Section pages for full details and newsletter). Please bookmark this website to see details of all upcoming events sponsored by the NSS and its Astronomy section (and other events of interest), and to see details of past activities etc. 

As of September 2015 we have over 170 paid up members and a mailing contact list of over 500. If you have any interest in science either give us your e-mail address so we can send you details of our events or join our growing society. Science is alive and well in Nelson!

SCIENCE STORY OF THE WEEK:Limits to Growth (Club of Rome) Revisited:


Monday May 2nd, 7.30pm. Ignimbrite: ‘rock’ of the central North Island and the global volcanic phenomenon of pyroclastic flows. Adrian Pittari, President of the Geological Society of New Zealand. NMIT, Room A211, free for members, all others gold coin donation.


Newly elected presidents of the Geoscience Society of New Zealand undertake a tour of branches of the society. Although there is no local branch of the society, there are a large number of geologists and others interested in earth sciences resident in Nelson and it has been customary, through the courtesy of GSNZ, for the presidents to come here. Dr Adrian Pittari will be presenting his president's lecture, which will be modified to suit a more general audience.

Abstract: In the 1930s New Zealand geologist Patrick Marshall coined the term ‘ignimbrite’ for many of the vitric tuffs across the central North Island and Coromandel landscape and likened their origin to the ‘sand flows’ of Katmai or nuées ardentes of Mt. Pelé.  Ignimbrites are now recognised on all continents as the sheet-like, pumiceous deposits of pyroclastic flows.  As a geological resource, ignimbrites have played an important role in the development of civilisation, particularly ancient Rome, and elsewhere across the Mediterranean.  Today they are still a useful resource, particularly as a building stone, including in the Waikato.  As a geological hazard, ignimbrites represent the deadliest and most destructive volcanic phenomena and their presence in the central North Island allude to the worst-case threat from the rhyolitic caldera eruptions of the Taupo Volcanic Zone.

Variations in the internal deposit characteristics reveal complexities in the physical processes of pyroclastic flows as they travel over topography and rapidly accumulate.  Evidence for key physical parameters, particularly dynamic pressure and temperature, can be inferred from diagnostic features within ignimbrites.  This talk will review the variation in physical characteristics within and between different ignimbrites, including findings revealed in ignimbrites from the Las Cañadas caldera on Tenerife, the Colli Albani volcano near Rome and the Pliocene Waihi and early Pleistocene Mangakino calderas in New Zealand.

Adrian Pittari is a senior lecturer in volcanology at the University of Waikato, and has lived in New Zealand since 2007. An Australian by birth, with volcanic Aeolian Island (Italian) heritage, he grew up on the alluvial plains above the boundary of the Cretaceous Gippsland Basin and the Palaeozoic Lachlan Fold Belt, Victoria.  He has a BSc(Hons) in Earth sciences from the University of Melbourne and a PhD in volcanology from Monash University.  Before arriving in New Zealand he studied volcanic processes associated with an ignimbrite on Tenerife (PhD) and kimberlites in Saskatchewan, Canada (postdoc.).

Thursday May 5th, 7.30pm. Astronomy section meeting.
  Simon Crase, President of the Nelson Science Society, will talk about 'Free computer imaging tools and courses for amateur astronomers'. 
The meeting will be held in the Milton Room at the Cawthron at the corner of Milton and Halifax streets in Nelson. All welcome. Non-NSS members $2 donation at the door please.

Simon will first outline a range of free courses that you can use yourself on your home computer called SAOImage DS9. Using data from the Chandra XRay and optical data from observatory archives he will look at the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant.
Simon will then detail a case study from Prof. Terry Matilsky’s MOOC Analyzing the Universe that shows his students how they can discover the facts for themselves. He will show the rotation of Nova GK Persei, and DS9’s Power Spectrum tool to discover white dwarfs.Simon has a degree in mathematics from Victoria University of Wellington (no astronomy department in those days), and worked as a software engineer ever since. He has worked on several interesting projects, such as building computer networks during the 1970s, medical applications around 2004, software for In-Vitro Diagnosis, and work on the automation of a novel cancer treatment. Simon keeps up to date with many other science subjects, including planetary science.

Friday May 13th, 7:00 pm.Star Party - public astronomy. Cawthron Atkinson Observatory which is on the grounds of the Clifton Terrace School.Entry: All welcome. Gold coin donation.

Tuesday, May 17th, 7.30pm.Leanne Pressman, CEO of the Ministry of Inspiration, NMIT, Room T309, free for NSS members, gold coin donation for all others.

 “Ministry of Inspiration (MOI), a registered charity based in the Tasman region, is all about encouraging youth to explore the art of science! We host all kinds of events thoughout the year aimed at exciting and inspiring students of all ages to look at how they can become innovators of the future - and not just consumer users of what's already out there.”

For reference: Go to select Science. Complete the details required after this and each day you will receive items of scientific interest from Google. A brilliant free service.

A new view of the tree of life: