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: Top 5 causes of death worldwide:


Thursday 4 February 7:30 pm Monthly meeting of the Astronomy Section. Cawthron Seminar Room, Milton Street. All welcome. Slow Boat to Centauri: Barry Korcheski talk about various interstellar spacecraft designs proposed by scientists over the past 50 years such as the Enzmann starship. He will also report on new spacecraft technologies such as the Dragon 9 spacecraft.

For more information go to:

Wednesday 10th February. 7.30pm. Citizen Science. A talk by Dr. Monica Peters (University of Waikato, and past National Wetlands Trust Trustee).
Lecture theatre T309, NMIT , which is in the Hospitality & Wellbeing block(NOTE- NOT IN OUR USUAL ROOM!).

This presentation provides an overview of citizen science in New Zealand, from large scale scientist-led initiatives to the ‘grassroots’ citizen science carried out by community groups engaged in environmental restoration. To enable community members without a science background collect to data, a range of monitoring toolkits have been developed – the Wetlands Monitoring and Assessment Kit (WETMAK) is a good example of this. Looking to programmes in other countries such as the U.S.A., we can see that citizen science offers tremendous potential for collecting a wide range of data as well as for creating a scientifically and ecologically literate society. With citizen science fast becoming a global movement, how can we grow and sustain citizen science in New Zealand? Although my PhD research on community environmental groups underscored the importance of long-term partnerships for supporting these groups and their restoration activities, a spectrum of attitudes from agency staff and scientists exists around the value of engaging the public in scientific investigations, for example, that seek to measure the outcomes of predator control. Several groups are carrying out novel approaches to monitoring in wetland ecosystems, yet their data remain underused. While obvious barriers include questionable data quality and poor institutional infrastructure for using community-generated data, how partners choose to engage with community groups is also of concern. The presentation will wrap up with 5 key areas that combined, form a foundation for developing sustainable citizen science programmes.

Thursday 10th March. 7.30pm The Missing Malaysian Airliner MH370: An Exercise in Applied Science. A talk by Dr Duncan Steel, Visiting Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham (England). Room A211, NMIT.

Abstract: The Malaysian Airliner MH370 has yet to be found two years after it went missing. In this talk I will outline what we know; what we don't know; and why most media reports have been wrong.By applying principles that should be understood by any competent scientist, it has been possible to narrow down the possible crash locations in the southern Indian Ocean.The principal sources of information (i.e. sources of fact, not speculation) are: (a) The radar trace from early in the flight; (b) The satellite communications metadata; (c) The known fuel load and therefore range limitations; and (d) The flaperon discovered at Reunion island in July last year.There are other constraints that can be applied, for example the standard autopilot behaviour, and the way in which the aircraft would act after fuel exhaustion based on flight simulator runs.The so-called Independent Group, of which I am a member, has exchanged upwards of 40,000 email messages on these topics, and has uncovered numerous mistakes made by the official investigators, many of which have yet to be publicly admitted (e.g. the fact that the satellite communications system software had a sign error on the latitude of its ground station, tantamount to assuming that Perth is in China).

Dr Duncan Steel is a space researcher and author who has recently moved to live in Nelson. He is a Visiting Professor of Astrobiology at the University of Buckingham (England), a Visiting Astronomer at Armagh Observatory (Northern Ireland), and a Visiting Space Scientist at NASA-Ames Research Center (California). Duncan is the author of four popular-level books, 140 peer-reviewed research papers, and over a thousand articles in newspapers and magazines such as The Guardian and BBC The Sky at Night. He conducts research on asteroids, comets and meteors; the possibility of life on Mars; space debris; calendars; and the effect on climate change of Earth’s shifting orbit. His personal website is


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.