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: Predicting death:

STOP THE PRESS!!! CLIMATE CHANGE FILM SCREENING: "Thin Ice- the Inside Story of Climate Science", which is screening at the Victory Community Center on 29th June, 7.30-9pm, gold coin donation. There is a trailer here -


Tuesday 5th July, 7.30pm. Eric Verstappen from Tasman District Council.The effects of sea level rise/surges on our local geomorphology. Room A211 of NMIT, off Alton Street ( Free to NSS members, gold coin donation all other.

Eric is an “oddball” Civil Engineer who has shunned a fixation with shifting dirt and playing with concrete, in favour of following a pathway to better understand, assess and advise on beguiling river and coastal processes and hazards. He has been employed by Tasman District Council since 1992 and has been the Resource Scientist Rivers and Coast since 1999. “Coastal and estuarine shorelines, particularly when low lying and composed of unconsolidated sediments, are very dynamic and sensitive geomorphologies. Beach stability is affected by a wide range of factors that can be as remote as they are obvious, as insidious as they are instant and as exasperating as they are heart-warming. Understanding these factors and how they interact with each other provide the platform from which to explore and postulate what may happen to our glorious local shorelines under the influence of the 'brash new boy on the block' – the influence of projected climate change and sea level rise in particular. Come prepared to contribute your suggestions!”

Wednesday, 13th July at 7:30 PM. Beatrice Hill Tinsley Lecture: Dr. Mike Person, will talk on 'The Science of Pluto'. NEW VENUE: Elim Church Nelson - 625 Main Road Stoke, Nelson, 7011. This talk is FREE, but you MUST obtain a ticket by registering at:
Tickets are strictly limited - there are now only 30 seats left!
Dr. Michael Person is a Research Astronomer in MIT's Planetary Astronomy Laboratory, and Director of MIT's George R. Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. He specializes in the observational techniques needed to observe occultations, eclipses, and transits, including high-precision astrometry, and high-time-resolution photometry. His science interests include identifying and characterizing the atmospheres, compositions, and figures of distant solar-system bodies, particularly Triton, Pluto, and Kuiper Belt Objects. Dr. Person received his education at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA) where he received a Bachelor's degree in Physics, as well as Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  He trained in observational techniques and occultation science under the mentorship of the late Prof. James Elliot, one of the pioneers of modern occultation astronomy. Dr. Person’s current research focuses on the atmospheres of Pluto and Triton, and the use of the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observatory and other assets to identify and monitor their changes.

The year 2015 was truly the “Year of Pluto”. From the arrival of the historic New Horizons mission to the numerous dedicated Earth-based campaigns to examine Pluto near the flyby epoch, we potentially learned more about Pluto in 2015 than in all of the years since its discovery. During the weeks preceding the New Horizons flyby, a dedicated observation campaign was undertaken in New Zealand and parts of Australia to study Pluto’s atmosphere using the technique of stellar occultation, available only when Pluto passes directly in front of a star. A key component of this campaign was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a converted 747 with a 2.5-m telescope, which was based out of Christchurch for these events.
Dr. Michael Person of MIT will discuss the history of Pluto science starting with the discovery of Pluto, through the discovery and characterization of its atmosphere and moons, to provide context to the discoveries of 2015. Focusing on his own experiences aboard the SOFIA aircraft, and the New Horizons flyby, he will discuss the explosion of Pluto knowledge over the last year, and its context in our understanding of the outer solar system.

Friday July 15 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.

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: